12% grade. That's the answer to the question: How steep is the hill before Molly will walk her bike? I figured it out very quickly today. We knew that crossing the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula in the Forillon National Park would mean long steep hills. We stopped at the bottom for a fortifying snack before beginning our ascent. The pause was more to gather our wits than it was about needing sustenance. I gritted my way though the first big hill, surmounting it only by standing and pedaling. And breathing hard. After only a brief downhill we were soon ascending again. The road rose, increased in pitch and turned into an even steeper grade. That's the one that did me in. I set my sights on a reasonable goal up the hill, reached it and then allowed myself to succumb to gravity. Rich long ago determined that walking requires far less energy, and sticks to that philosophy. I still prefer to try and conquer each hill under pedal power, but I do have limits. I found them today. But only on one hill!
That passage through the hills also divided our day in two. We started off under calm and sunny skies as we skirted Gaspé Bay. The quiet protected waters provided pastoral views reflected in the bay. It was easy cycling which we savored, knowing what was yet to come.
Upon reaching the other side of the peninsula, we were greeted by the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse. Loving lighthouses as much as I do fishing harbors, I was thrilled by the sight. It happens to be the highest lighthouse in Canada. For us it also marked the entrance to the St. Lawrence Seaway. For two Duluthians, that has particular significance, as we live on the extreme opposite end of the seaway. One could sail from that lighthouse all the way through the Great Lakes to our home town!
The St. Lawrence Seaway also changed our day dramatically. Suddenly open to the large body of water we were slammed by the wind racing down the seaway. It brought a bitter chill off the water, and combined with the clouds that materialized, it quickly became the coldest day of cycling that we've had yet. The coastline also delivered its own set of steep repeating hills. We hadn't expected to encounter them quite so soon, and combined with the headwind we got quite a workout. It was an easy decision not to camp for the evening. We both heaved a sigh of relief when we checked into a motel, with red wind blown faces and chilled fingers and toes. Was it really just this morning we cycled on the flats in the warm sunshine?
Looking ahead, the forecast is for continued headwinds. We already know that BIG hills lay ahead. And I know I'm going to have to walk again. But I'm not going to apologize for it. That's life.