With a recent transfer at work and the fun task of learning a new job, life has been a bit hectic for me.  Never mind adjusting to the recent addition of the 75 lb toddler that is King, Chase’s passing, and Leo’s recent surgery. Then one day it hit me: we haven’t been anywhere since our trip to Chicago all the way back in February.  Oh sure, we had gone for day trips but King had yet to experience life as a real AdventureDawg.  Well my friends, it was time to change that. 

When I got home from work one day at the end of June (yes I’m a bit late I know), I was utterly exhausted so I packed up as much as I could and finished packing before we left the next morning.  I had decided that on this trip we would take it easy instead of the usual frantic dawn-to-dusk drive that we often do. Because we were going to be going east, we were able to avoid the dreaded morning drive across Toronto so there was even less pressure to hit the road early. 

When we entered Bowmanville about an hour after we left home, well, Skylight Donuts is right off the highway and I did need breakfast and coffee. And breakfast is the most important meal of the day so it would be irresponsible if I didn’t stop.  This was the first time that I have ever seen a line-up for the donuts but then again, we’re usually through either much earlier or later in the day.  With a cherry cruller, a coconut cream donut, and coffee in hand, we jumped back onto the 401 to continue east.  

We did make a few short stops for pee breaks and leg stretches but once we crossed into Quebec, traffic got so bad that I didn’t want to stop as often as I normally would have.  In fact, as we were walking around one rest stop, I looked up and noticed that what had once been a smoothly flowing highway had ground to a complete halt.  I tried to wait it out but it just wasn’t getting better so I joined the slow crawl and a few kilometres down the road, we passed the collision that had brought everything to an almost standstill.  Then we were into construction in Montreal.  Needless to say, the drive was not flowing as it usually does.

My initial plan had been to find a campsite for the night but as we drove east, my car-bound kareoke was suddenly brought to a halt when I noticed black clouds and lightening ahead of us.  Not just dark skies but absolutely black skies.  A quick check of the weather confirmed that it was supposed to rain all night.  It was also a small comfort when I saw that every campground we passed by had signs indicating that they were booked.  Most hotels were booked too.  Eventually I was able to book a room at Motel au Vieux Piloteux in Riviere-du-Loup.  We made a few stops on the way there. I thought that I had written these places down…I didn’t. But if you’re driving along Highway 132, you can’t miss this gorgeous church or the trails along the St. Lawrence River.

I went to check in and was promptly eyeballed by the gentleman behind the counter as he was assisting another guest.  They made some joke about “L’anglaise” (English) and they laughed heartily.  I wish I understood what they were saying but they were speaking so quickly that I couldn’t even figure out when one word ended and another began.  

Eventually she left and I stepped up.  Everything was going fine until I mentioned dogs.  He looked at me and asked how many.  “Three but two are little so really only two dogs,” I answered with a smile.  Oh he did not like that answer.  I thought this was a little strange since I had booked the room through Expedia while I drove (using the handsfree of course) and specified that I needed a dog-friendly room.  Now, this was when I started to get a bit irritated with him because his whole tone became a lot more condescending.  “Please not on the bed miss,” he asked.  Here’s the thing: I’m paying money for this room.  You don’t tell me that I can’t jump in the river mud across the road and then roll on the floor or eat greasy food on top of the covers and I’m betting you don’t tell parents not to let their kids jump on the bed so why do you think that you can tell me that my dogs can’t sleep on the bed? I’m assuming (and hoping) you wash the bedding after every guest. I know I’ve seen plenty of people coming out of hotel rooms that I don’t even want to be downwind of never mind sleep in the same bed.  I get that not every dog is well-behaved and not every owner is responsible but I was cranky and tired and hungry and not in the mood to deal with some guy metaphorically talking down to me since I towered over him by at least a good six inches.

Then he told me the pet fee.  Yes I know and held my credit card out to him.  He told me the total that I would have to pay.  Yes it’s the same amount that I figured and here’s my credit card.  He even wrote it all out on the payment slip which he then turned around, and pointed at it, even going so far as to tap the total.  Sweetie, I know that when I’m travelling I look like I can barely rub two quarters together but take my freaking credit card because Visa is everywhere I want to be and right now I want to be in bed.  

At least the room was nice and clean.  The dogs promptly jumped up onto the bed and made themselves comfy as I unpacked the car before we went out for a walk in the falling light.  There were some ominous clouds way off in the distance that offered up a nice sunset but I think we were too tired to appreciate the view for long.    

A view of the St. Lawrence from Riviere-du-Loup.

In short order we were curled up on the bed and drifting off to sleep.  As if I put much effort into keeping them off the bed.

Day 2

When I peeked out the window the morning of our second day on the road, I half expected to see a downpour.  Or at the very least puddles on the ground.  Nope.  It looked as though nary a drop had fallen overnight.  Well then I’m sooooooo glad that I dropped money on a motel room after dealing with Mr. Crankypants for nothing.  We went for another walk to explore the neighbourhood then went back to the room to pack up.

I was, shall we say, indisposed, when King decided that he wanted to play.  He looked at me and I just knew he was going to bark.  And bark he did.  Two loud, deep barks as he backed up with his stump wagging furiously.  The kind of barks that seem to come from the deepest depths of his body. Dammit.  Finally I was able to get to him and shush him.  I was hoping that no one would have figured out it was a dog barking at 7:35 in the morning (and yes, I checked the time).   The last thing I wanted was for someone to complain to the front desk because in my head, I could just see that guy smirking.  

The car was soon packed up and we drove to Mike’s where I picked up breakfast.  Yes, Mike’s is a chain but it’s a small, local chain so it doesn’t violate the Standard Road Trip Rules. We had passed a sign for a park and waterfall nearby so what better place sit and to chow down.  The dogs were good enough to help me eat the bacon then we went and walked the park a little.  Jack was sore from all the walking we did the day before so in short order we were in the car and back out on the road.  

I decided to stay on Highway 132 and hugged the shore of the St. Lawrence as we continued east to Forillon National Park.  The last time I had gone to Forillon was during our tour of Canadian National Parks in 2017 and I had been blown away by the beauty of the park and I thought that it would be a good place for King’s first camping trip.  We stopped a few times on the way so the dogs could stretch and thave fun playing in the water.

Click here to read more about our tour of the Canadian National Parks

The young man working the booth at the gate of Forillon was a hoot and I had a blast chatting with him. I had reserved a site before we left home thinking it was the same site that we had stayed in previously. Nope. Not even close but still freaking awesome. Our site (#34 in Cap Bon Ami campground) was nice and private even with the two girls and a guy in the site next to us that were drunk and had no idea about a quiet voice. 

There was a big field across the road so I put King on the longe line (a 30′ horse lead) and took them over to burn off some energy.  As we moved away from the road I “accidentally” dropped Leo’s and Jack’s leashes (nudge nudge wink wink).  I think they were more tired than King was because they didn’t take advantage of the sudden freedom.

Some little girls started playing nearby and I think that they wanted to meet the dogs.  As they were playing, they kept looking at the dogs and slowly finding a reason to get closer and closer. King saw them and started running to meet what he thought were new friends.  I grabbed onto the longe line so that he wouldn’t scare them and wouldn’t tear my arm off when he hit the end of the line.  Well the problem was that nylon webbing moving at top bulldog speed will burn the skin off your finger.  The resulting rope burn on the middle joint of my middle finger was so bad that it didn’t even hurt.  At least not until I sprayed it with alcohol before bandaging it up.  You better believe there were some salty words going through my head at that point.

At least I was able to set up the camp stove (which makes me love my Trangia that much more) for ramen and hot chocolate before we climbed into the tent.  I wasn’t quite sure how King would handle spending the night in the tent. I had set it up in the yard and let him get used to it before we left but it’s a totally different experience to be so far from home. Add all the excitement of a day of travelling and hearing new sounds outside and it has the potential to get crazy. Nope; he climbed onto my sleeping bag and shot me some serious stink eye when I pushed him off before he curled up on the pile of blankets and passed out.  Leo kept trying to sneak onto my sleeping pad (as usual) and Jack humped blankets into a pile before he fell asleep (as usual).

Day 3

The day started out foggy and calling for rain so I decided to go visit the town of Perce.  A friend from work had told me that it would be worth it so naturally, we had to check it out.  As we drove out of the park, we passed by La Chute trail and stopped for a walk.  We were the only ones there so early so we were able to wander around and take our time taking photos at the gorgeous little waterfall at the end of the trail.  King seemed to be a bit freaked out by the waterfall but was otherwise a good boy.

The fog and the field.

The drive to Perce would have been pretty if not for the thick fog that covered the forest around us.  As we descended into the town, the fog suddenly cleared.  It was so sudden it was like something from a movie; one second there’s a thick blanket of white and the next, clear skies.  I was so taken by the town that I almost rear-ended a car making a turn halfway down the hill.  OK not really but it sure felt that way.

Halfway down the hill is where we almost hit a car. Not really.

One of the tourist attractions of this small town was Perce Rock and this was what my friend told me that I had to go see.  The rock is so simple but so picturesque and well worth the $1.00 to walk to the top of the hill to see it.  I was taking photos when King started to pull and try to get under some of the stairs.  Obviously there was something that he could see but it took me a while to see a groundhog under the platform.  Then I saw a group of them clustered together nearby.  Luckily King didn’t see the bunch of them and I was able to get a few pictures.  We walked back to the car and I toyed with the idea of launching my drone but it was so windy that I didn’t want to risk it.  And I didn’t want to be that obnoxious tourist.  There are trails from the rock into town but after a short distance, Jack was dragging and sore so we turned back and hopped in the car.  The town itself seemed really touristy and reminded me of Peggy’s Cove.  Although I don’t know what industry they would have here other than fishing and tourism.

We drove back to Forillon and the rood that our campground is on went to Cap Bon Ami.  It was so close that we could have (and probably should have) walked it.  Once we navigated the parking lot full of cars and people, we followed the trail to a viewing platform where you can get some great views over the water. From there, a set of stairs takes you down to the rocky beach.  As we were walking down the stairway, everything was fine until the last set of stairs.  It wasn’t until we were already partway down that I realized the bottom eight steps were the metal grid ones.  Crud.  As I was standing there looking around to see if there was another way down, King jumped down and was pulling on the leash.  OK great.  I’ve got King at the bottom and Jack and Leo at the top.  Jack didn’t want to go down and a woman that was walking down behind me kept saying that it wasn’t good for their feet.  Yeah no kidding.  Do I make King come back up and we abort visiting the beach?  Do I shuttle the two little ones down knowing that if I take them one at a time, the one left behind will try and follow anyway?  Meanwhile the woman was still beside me saying that she could carry them down.  Thanks but then what do we do when we’re done?  It almost felt like I was frozen as my brain tried to work out a solution.  Leo finally got tired of waiting and jumped his way down. So I scooped up Jack and we followed behind him.  Problem solved.  For now.

I put King on the longe line and let him splash in the ocean and then run away when the waves rolled in.  Jack was content to just sit near me while Leo seemed upset when he couldn’t find anywhere soft to roll.

When the pups appeared to be tired of the beach, we walked back to the stairs.  Even though there were other dogs, we kept enough distance between us so that King didn’t have a chance to really act up.  He actually did quite well, even when we had a couple with their little dog that seemed to be determined to get in front of us.  Folks: you have the entire beach.  Go somewhere else.

Then we were back at our nemesis: the stairs.  King’s big feet had seemed to have no problem with the stairs so I wrestled Jack up under one arm, Leo under the other, and we powered up the stairs.  Easy peasy. 

I took the dogs back to the big field across from our site to let them sniff and stretch but after the obligatory pee, they all just looked at me like “Now what?”  Well I guess now we go back to the site and I make up some ramen.  I should probably buy shares in ramen companies with the amount that I eat when we travel.

If I thought King had done well the night before, he was even better on the second night.  After I pushed him off my sleeping bag, he curled up next to Leo and was soon dozing.  I don’t know why all the dogs seem to prefer my sleeping bag to the big pile of blankets.  Maybe it’s the human scent or they like the inflatable sleeping pad I use instead of the double layer of sleeping pads and blankets they have.  Who knows: maybe I’ll splurge and get them an inflatable as well.  

Day 4

We woke up a little after dawn and walked down the small trail to Cap Bon Ami.  I was hoping that we would find another way to get down to the water that didn’t involve those blasted stairs but unfortunately we couldn’t.  After a pause to enjoy the view, we walked back to our site.  It would have been nice to go to Land’s End but there was no way that Jack could handle that distance.  At least we had been there the last time we passed through (follow this link to read about our trip to Land’s End).

I toyed with the idea of making pancakes then decided that I would rather get on the road and so I set about breaking camp.  While Leo and Jack watched, King seemed intent on voicing either his displeasure that his room was being packed up or excitement to be back on the road.  Either way, a barking dog in the early morning does not make any friends so he had a bit of a time-out in the car.  When the seniors saw King in the car, they wanted to get in too.  I must admit: it does make packing run a little smoother when I’m not tripping over anything or anybody.  Soon we were back on the road and heading for home.

Of course we stopped at the trailhead for the Du Banc Trail so the dogs could splash in the water.  King was getting a bit more comfortable with the waves but he won’t be bodysurfing like Piper used to any time soon.  Although I did notice that he enjoyed chomping on any piece of lobster shell that he could get his mouth on.  At first I thought he was sniffing out all the seaweed since he will eat nori with me.  Then I heard ominous crunching sounds.  My first thought was “oh that’s cute” quickly followed by “OH JEEZ DON’T RIP OPEN YOUR MOUTH OR GET THAT STUCK IN YOUR THROAT!”.  He thought we were playing a game as I was trying to scoop every piece of shell out of his mouth. Then when I would turn to see what Jack and Leo were up to, I’d hear King chomping on another lobster shell.  You want lobster?  Fine.  We’ll get lobster.

We stayed on Highway 132 and travelled west along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, keeping our eyes peeled for any interesting places to stop.  Well we found one at Resto La Capitainerie in Riviere-la-Madeleine.  The restaurant is bright and airy and next to a marina so you know the seafood is fresh. Especially the lobster rolls: big chunks of tender lobster in a creamy sauce on a hot dog roll.  Of course fries and a Quebec specialty called sugar pie rounded out the meal.  What did the dogs think?  The dogs love lobster.  They’re my dogs; of course they’d have fancy taste in food.

A few hours down the road, I started to get a tad bit peckish.  When I saw Capitaine Homard, well it had to be a sign.  They serve lobster rolls? Well of course we had to compare them to the ones we had earlier.  We will happily eat all the food to save everyone else from a bad meal.

There was a line of picnic tables behind the restaurant on the edge of the shore and we made ourselves comfortable as we waited for our meal.  A German Sheppard lost it’s mind when it saw us and while King did react to it, it was nothing like he has in the past.  Either the other dog was too far away for King to be too bothered or he was just fixating on the smell of lobster wafting from the back of the restaurant.  Either way, I found a table with a camper between us and the Sheppard and waited until our meal was brought out to us.

The verdict: the Capitaine Homard lobster rolls were far superior although more expensive.  If I had to choose between the two we had, these are the rolls I would pick.  The bun was buttered and lightly toasted which kept it from turning into a soggy mess.  Both had delicious lobster fillings so the buns were the deciding factor for me.  In fact, the rolls from Capitaine Homard reminded me of the lobster rolls we had eaten in Maine and those were insanely amazing. I had left my phone in the car otherwise there’d be a photo of a lovely meal with a stellar view.

Pleasantly full, we turned back onto Highway 132.  I toyed with the idea of driving straight home but then I realized that would mean that we would be getting home around 3 in the morning. That was a bit late so I decided that we would find a place to camp for the night.  As we rolled into Trois Pistoles, I saw a large sign for a municipal campground and steered the car in to check it out.  I half expected that all of the sites would be taken and was surprised that they had lots of spots available.  The young woman working there helped me pick out a site and it was perfect.  When going to any campground, put your faith in the staff to pick you a good site.  They will never let you down.  

Our site was huge and close to the facilities but not so close that it was a bother.  The only downside was that the site next to us had a dog named Mimi.  How do I know her name was Mimi?  Because I heard it called all the time.  Mimi even got loose once.  Luckily she went chasing after her kids instead of trying to make friends with the dogs next door.  Fortunately there was so much brush between our sites, I don’t even know if my dogs knew how close they were to her.

Food…the priority

Once the tent was pitched, we went for a wander around the campground.  I was surprised by how nice everything was: from the numerous garbage and recycling bins to the impeccable buildings it was spotless.  This municipal property was far nicer than some provincial and state campgrounds we’ve visited over the years.  We found a nice trail and headed into the forest until the thickening swarm of mosquitos made us turn back.

By the time we got back to our site, the dogs were poking along behind me and I could barely stop yawning.  Even though it was still light outside, we curled up in the tent and we were soon fast sleep.

Day 5

I’ll admit I woke up a lot later than I had planned and enjoyed a few extra minutes of cuddle time before it was time to drag my lazy backside out of the tent.  The dogs and I walked around the campground hoping for a chance to find some beach.  Unfortunately, we were much farther from the water than I had thought we were.  We did have a nice view across some trailers to the river far below but there was no way we were going to saunter to the water so we went back to the site and began packing up.

I had hoped that King would just eat his breakfast but I guess he had used up all his patience over the trip and whenever he lost sight of me, he would start barking and whining.  Even when I opened the window of the tent so that he could see me, well that was not good enough for him.  I guess he was feeling needy and a little out of sorts.  As it was cool out and the car was parked in the shade, I put him in the car and he immediately settled down.  I had just shut the door when I turned around to see Leo looking at me with one big brown eye.  I opened the door and Leo and Jack both jumped inside with no hesitation.  With a car now full of watching dogs, I lowered the windows and packed up as quickly as I could before we left the campground.

I made a mug of coffee as I broke camp rather than try to make food.  Funny how I can justify making coffee and then stopping later on rather than just making something and then hitting the road.  The humour is not lost on me.

We continued the drive along Highway 132 and I’ll admit that I was tempted to stop at a microbrewery and wait until they opened but decided to keep going until we stumbled onto Kamouraska.  There was something about Cafe Restaurant Les Matines that appealed to me and we stopped there.  Unfortunately dogs were not allowed on the patio (or terrace) but they were allowed to be tied up outside it.  I had already placed my order by the time we had the seating all figured out (damn my lack of french fluency!) so the dogs had to content themselves with being tied up to the outside of the railing.  As much as I prefer having them right next to me, it was good for getting King used to a little bit of separation so it wasn’t completely pointless.

The cafe au lait in a large bowl was fantastic and the breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and potatoes was exceptional.  I pretty much inhaled it but made sure that I dropped little pieces of bacon for the mutts when they were calm.  While King had been a little stressed at first, he did calm down and soon joined Jack and Leo in waiting for bacon to rain down upon them.  

With breakfast safely stowed in my belly, we were back out on the road; until we saw Chocolaterie et Boutique La Fee Gourmande that is.  Now I’m not sure what a lot of that name means but I do know “Chocolaterie” and I turned in there without hesitation.  With a car of dogs, I wasn’t going to be browsing the wares for too long, so I snatched up a few assorted chocolate bars and some dark Tanzanian chocolate for a friend and I was out.  

As we drove, I wanted more of the Quebec experience with road food from a cantine.  Unfortunately, I tended to go right by them before my brain registered the often small signs.  Not to mention the day was getting later and even though I was enjoying the leisurely drive along the St. Lawrence, I wanted to get home without spending another night on the road so I hopped onto Highway 20 to speed things along.  We did stop at a rest area on the side of the highway and I brought the dogs out thinking that they could go for a cooling dip in the river.  We walked along the trail watching as the water in the distance got closer.  Then it stopped getting closer when I realized that there was a whole lot of marsh between us and the actual water.  I don’t know if it was low tide or just that the water level had dropped but we were not about to trudge our way through knee-deep mud.

After  few hours of driving and stopping for quick leg stretch breaks for the dogs, I decided to stop at Rose Cafe in Drummondville.  This is the kind of place that is right up my alley and I would have been quite happy to spend lots of time there if there weren’t three pups waiting for me.  I placed an order for a coffee and sandwich and went back out to the car to wait with the dogs, looking wistfully at the shady patio that was obviously dog-friendly as there was a contingent of dogs already present.  King is doing better with other dogs but I didn’t want to wrestle with him on a small patio so once I had my food, I drove to a shady part of the lot and sat on the bumper while I enjoyed an amazing sandwich complete with locally made cheese and some cranberry jelly.  A wonderful coffee and delicious salad made for a perfect lunch. Then back on the road we go.

For some reason, I couldn’t get the thought of a burger out of my mind.  I had wanted one from the little cantines just for the satisfaction of a greasy chunk of meat in a little bun but by the time we crossed back into Ontario, the opportunity had passed us.  So I did the next best thing and found one in Ontario.

Boy did I ever find a burger.  Billy K’s in Brockville is almost within spitting distance of the 401 so it was no problem hopping off the highway.  I walked into authentic greasy spoon and I am glad that this place is nowhere near home because I can imagine going there way too often.  When the woman working there asked if all I wanted was the burger, well my mind said “yes” but my mouth said “let’s add a poutine as well”.  In no time flat, I had a heavy bag passed to me and I was in the car, glad that the dogs were strapped in before they could climb onto my lap to help me out.  And they did help me with the poutine.  I mean, how could I not share little pieces of gravy-soaked fries with little bits of cheese?  They may have had little samples of the burger too.  OK of course they had little samples of the burger.  Delightfully stuffed, we continued westward to home.

It was dark by the time we pulled into the driveway.  The dogs practically rolled out of the car and seemed barely able to make their way to the couch before they all flopped over.  They even ignored the sound of their food filling their bowls.  The only activity I saw was when it was time to go to bed and then I was again surrounded by the sounds of snoring.

Oh and here’s a fun fact: did you notice there were no photos from our last day on the road once we left the campground? Well, that’s because I forgot to take any.  How’s that for a kick in the pants?  Total facepalm.