Johnny, a natural leader, and myself, accustomed to doing things on my own terms, were the two strongest heads in the group.
Sunday had come to Kouchibouguac National Park. Johnny wanted to cover some ground on this day. I, however, felt that Johnny wanted to overachieve and move too fast; I wanted a peaceful day in the park to swat bugs and write. Adam and Julie pretty much didn't care either way.
Most of the day was spent on the beach, with Pierre from Montreal, playing catch and lying about. Adam picked Pierre's mind to learn some French. Adam cracked up to say things in a foreign language, like: "J'em la femme shoad et le bierre foi," meaning, "I love hot women and cold beer."
Pierre spotted some cute French girls on the beach and disappeared to talk to them. We wondered if the girls liked it when Pierre did his thing where he looked at you and raised his eyebrows up and down a bunch of times fast.
I disappeared into the sea with my snorkel mask and flippers. My decision to carry two big flippers on this long trip - in Canada! no less - was highly questioned by everyone. Johnny kept joking he was gonna mail them home the next chance he got. But, boy, that was a great snorkel. The flippers carried me far into the cold sea. To be in the green water, twisting and turning and diving like a dolphin, is one of the most rehabbing activities for my ailments, physical or otherwise. There was nothing to see but sand and the "soleil" above, and that was plenty.
Even Julie went into the water. She played some catch. She left the water and let her black, neck-length hair down to dry. It was weird to see her hair out of a ponytail, splayed out about her head and her brown, ostrich-egg eyes. Her eyes were reserved. They sat back and looked around to study if the situation was safe for her to speak up.
Johnny spoke up first, saying we were indeed going to travel this Sunday. We said our "au revoirs" to Pierre, and we four travellers made our way to the highway.
Julie, quiet around us guys, was quickly becoming a source of humor for Adam and us. Johnny and Adam teased that Julie had had a romance with muscular Pierre and that she'd left her and Johnny's tent at night and snuck into Pierre's. Johnny kept looking at her and doing his "Pierre" impression, raising his eyebrows up and down a bunch of times fast. I think this freaked Julie out.
At six p.m., we split up to hitchhike. Adam and I watched Johnny and Julie get a ride, and then we waited. And waited. And waited.
Many full cars passed, and my morale grew low. Eight o'clock came around. I wasn't good at operating when decisions were made for me, and I became a bit tiffed at Johnny. I preferred hitching on weekdays, when there are more single drivers due to work.
Adam, too, may not have wanted to hitchhike then. But, he handled the evening with a more-military "it's-gotta-be-done-so-stop-whining-and-let's-do-it" attitude and greater optimism. I admired this, and I stopped whining to let Adam pull me through.
"Hey, Johnny," Adam asked me, "have you ever been picked up by a yellow car?" I said no, not that I remembered. Adam felt that a yellow car was going to pick us up.
A half-hour later, "Here's the one!" said Adam. A bright-yellow sportscar approached. I felt it too.
A young guy in a red, Hawaiian shirt saw us and stopped. Woohoo! Our longest wait was ended.
Ramund was the driver, and he'd just bought this car the day before. Ramund had a girlfriend, but it wasn't the girl beside him. The girl beside him had one of the best smiles I've ever seen. Her name was Marilyne. I would've waited days to be picked up by Marilyne.
She was thin and cute, with a smooth, purple smile that lit up like a planet. Her hair was dark-brown. She spoke with a French accent, but she also said, "aboot."
Adam and I crammed in the tiny backseat. We were buried beneath our large backpacks like two potatoes.
By looking in Marilyne's side rear-view mirror, I could see her through my bags as she spoke to us. Twenty-one-year-old Marilyne played volleyball, and they'd been at a southern beach.
I asked Marilyne if she knew what "kill percentage" was. (My .750 career kill percentage holds my college team's all-time record. The coach only let me play one game, but it was a prolific forum of athletic dominance.)
Marilyne said she didn't know, but Ramund did, from Nintendo volleyball. I said, "I think Ramund on Nintendo could beat Marilyne in person."
For this, Marilyne said, "Aww," and gave me a playful slap on the knee. I was glad I'd said it.
Fifty miles down the road, they stopped for us and opened the door. Adam and I fell out with our bags. We found Johnny and Julie, and our yellow car and smiling Acadian girl drove on.
Around Johnny, Adam and I turned sour. We both secretly suspected Johnny of monopolizing Julie for speedier hitchhiking benefits. I said Adam and I would just hitchhike all across Canada together, then, because we were men.
Johnny raised his hand to calm us. He suggested we eat apple pie and ice cream, play cards, and swat mosquitoes. And, once more, our faith in Johnny's wisdom was restored.
In small city, Miramichi, we found a dark spot on a large baseball field to set up our tents. Julie spoke up to say this was the sketchiest place we'd yet camped. But, if she was feeling insecure, I think it was probably just because she missed her dear Pierre's eyebrows.
No. Julie was a tough chick. Not just any chick would hitchhike across Canada.
After passing the night on the baseball field (a spiritual experience, if you ask me), we split our group again. This time, we planned to meet next in Perce, Quebec - even if it took us two days and we had to spend a night apart in getting there.
A funny thing happened that morning. Adam and I were hitching together on the nearest on-ramp in Miramichi. Adam stood up front, with the sign. Using the "stagger" technique, I stood behind him. To pass the time, I juggled a tennis ball with my feet. The ball got away from me, so I reached out and kicked it high through the air, where it landed in the far-away limbs of a pine tree.
I couldn't lose that ball, so I ran down a small hill to the pine tree and hoisted myself up into it. Meanwhile, Johnny and Julie appeared on the on-ramp; they'd been unable to get a ride on the highway itself. Adam banished them from our on-ramp, and they started hiking away. At which point, a car stoped for Adam.
The driver spotted Johnny and Julie a short ways off, and he became upset because he didn't want to take that many people. Adam explained that, no, they weren't with him, but he did have one friend up in a tree. The car took off. Adam blamed and was mad at Johnny and Julie, but I said I was up in a tree anyway. I found the tennis ball, woohoo!
Three quick rides carried Adam and I the remaining two-and-a-half hours to the northern edge of New Brunswick. During the first ride, we saw a moose by some woods. Our second driver was a fragile, 80-year-old man. Our third driver, Monique, took us past beautiful, green, oceanside cliffs at Eel River. When she said she'd drive us over the bridge into Quebec, Adam used his limited French to say, "J'em Monique." (I love Monique.) He wasn't sure if she had liked that.
Adam and I were excited by being in Quebec so early. New Brunswick had been very good to us. We were only in New Brunswick for three days, but I would say it had a unique feel to its air: peaceful beauty, a beauty subtle but certainly there. There in its woods, in its Acadian coast, in its people, in its smiles ...
Quebec, now, was not as excited to see Adam and me as we were to see it.
Two-and-a-half hours passed there. Hundreds of cars passed also - Johnny and Julie waved from the back of one of them - but none stopped.
We were hot and sick of waiting. I couldn't believe it, and I complained about the cars who didn't stop.
"None of these cars is obligated to stop for us," Adam reminded me. "Someone will stop." Adam wanted a ride too; but, complaining wasn't going to get us one.
We accepted an offer from Weena in the Quebec Tourist Info center for a ride once she got off work.
She took us along the Gaspe Peninsula to a place called New Richmond. In the town's park-by-the-sea, Adam and I played volleyball with four Frenchmen (the triumphant return of Justin "The Killer"), then explored to set up camp.
The place we mounted our tent was in an unforgettable scene. Atop flat land and wild grass, our tent sat in front of a young forest and lush hills that climbed to town. Before us, bay lapped a pristine, one-log beach; a sandbar island full of seagulls rested offshore; and the gray-silver ocean rayed out to the green mountains of New Brunswick.
Hardly a man-made object could be seen. The moon shone bright into our tent, as sea-sprinkle masseuses breezed by.
In the morning, we got two rides to take us within fifteen miles of Johnny and Julie and Perce.
Here, we had another good wait.
It was a little tough at times to agree with Adam on hitching decisions. I wanted to walk out of the town we were stuck in; he thought we could just wait there and catch something. Usually a loner, I had to get used to working with someone.
We waited, then walked. A crashing sea beat up the rocks beneath the hilly coastline we tread. We ducked into a restaurant.
The waitress there spoke no english. She requested help from a lazy-posture guy seated at a table. He didn't rise up from his slouch. In a gruff voice, he yelled at Adam from across the restaurant: "Hey, guy. What do you want to eat?"
When I didn't order anything, the waitress felt bad and brought me soup, french fries, and bread. She was very sweet. I forget the name of the restaurant, but it's on the road east between Chandler and the next town. "Whale" might be in its name, but I forget.
When we got outside, "Hey, guy. What do you want to eat?" Adam and I repeated and laughed. Finally, our teamwork succeeded in landing us a ride to Perce.
Young Simone and his girlfriend, Jenieve, were the drivers. Simone had a backwards hat, a surfer's blond haircut, and thin, young Frenchman's face. The two spoke almost only French, and we all had a good old time.
Simone discussed with Jenieve in French everything he wanted to say in English, and we anglo's waited as he slowly spoke to us. "You ... do ... work?"
I thought he was offering me a job. I said, "Yes."
He laughed. He was actually asking if I had a job. He was a mechanic.
Simone laughed at almost everything. Adam tried out his French repertoire and said, "J'em la femme shoad et le bierre foi." This got a good reaction. Adam thought back to one of the more inappropiate things Pierre had taught him, and he announced he knew something else in French.
"J'em te gros bu!" he said. (I love your enormous breasts!)
Simone and Jenieve laughed as festively as guests at a Greek wedding.
We were probably still laughing when we went over the hill that gives your first view of Perce. This stunning Gaspe Peninsula view stole away our laughter like a whale steals french fries.
Those french fries I'd eaten earlier, I should comment, tasted almost exactly the same as all those french fries I've had in English-speaking lands, only slightly better. It was rather a letdown.
See you in Perce! - "The Killer" Breen
with Johnny, Adam, and Julie
Thanks to Evangeline + 3 native-Canadians; Ramund & Marilyne; Don; Comeau; Monique; Weena; Eric; Jean Poirir; and Simone & Jenieve for the rides!
NOTEABLE WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS: moose