CHEMIN DU ROY
This is my parking spot from last night - that service area that is actually on the central reservation of the motorway and I'll stop in this spot again, that's for certain. I'll pencil it in for my last night in North America.
Still suffering from jet-lag, I crashed out at 18:30 last night and I slept solid for 12 hours without the least disturbance and that was the best thing that I could have done.
And you'll notice that I was not alone either. I was, more-or-less, when I arrived but when I awoke I found that I had been joined by many other people, all of whom had the same idea as me.
The red truck just there by the way is an Eagle, although I can't see who made it and I forgot to ask Darren about it later. It has a diamond badge above the radiator grill coloured light green, with three curved silver lines going through it.
It's Cummins-powered (which rules out my initial thought that it was something fitted with a Rolls-Royce Eagle Diesel engine) so it's a big thing as you can probably tell.
If my description is good enough to tell you what it is, please to let me know. I like to keep my knowledge up-to-date, especially on North American vehicles. As William Holden said in The Wild Bunch, one of my Top Five films of all time
"What I don't know about, I sure as hell am gonna learn"
Here's a better view of our red truck, and there's also a view of the "facilities" in the background. A handy beichstuhl and wshing facilities first thing in the morning are always welcome.
I could have bought breakfast in there too had I so desired and a plate of beans on toast or beans and chips would have gone down a storm, but of course I have my bagels, strawberry jam, maple syrup and coffee. So after the beichstuhl and the breakfast (not to mention the two cups of coffee) I was feeling much more like it, and about time too.
I'm also well-impressed with my new little dictaphone - almost as much as with my galvanised steel dustbin - and if I were to have speech recognition software, it would be perfect.
And that will come, believe me, that will come.
So now it's time to hit the road, Jacques. We're still following our trail of Highway 138, the Chemin du Roy and our first port of call will be the small town of St Sulpice.
Here in St Sulpice we find some more of the Chemin du Roy near the coast. This is looking backwards in the direction of Montreal and as you can see, the road has disappeared abruptly just beyond that furthest tree.
If this is part of the original road, which seems quite probable, then it looks very much as if coastal erosion has had that.
I went up therefor a quick butcher's and found myself looking at the private lawn of someone's house. The lawn seems to be in two levels divided by a wall, and steps down from the upper lawn to a lower lawn. This wall and lower level lines up quite nicely with where I would have expected the old Chemin du Roy to have been.
It's something that might be worth a more careful enquiry.
Here's a photo showing a little more of the highway a little further on from where I was just now and looking eastwards in the general direction of Quebec.
The road is called the Chaussee du Bord de l'Eau - the Lane at the Water's Edge - and I can't think of a more appropriate name for it either. I bet that the trees on the right have had their feet in the water on more than just one occasion.
Now anyone who has been following my various voyages around North American villages will know that I have my own pet theory about life there. And it seems that I'm right, too.
According to the sign, Saint Sulpice is only open between the hours indicated, namely from 08:00 to 23:00 (and personally, I'm astonished that it's later than 20:00). During closing hours, they must switch off the communal battery and everyone goes to sleep.
We can't pass up a photo opportunity for my travelling companion, Strawberry Moose.
His story is that he was formerly the very controversial mascot of the students of the Open University in the UK and scourge of visiting dignitaries and Ministers of Her Britannic Majesty's Government.
He travelled the world being photographed in all kinds of exciting and interesting places and when he was demobbed, he somehow seemed to end up with me.
Instead of an Open University scarf, he wears an Alloa Athletic scarf these days. The Wasps and I have the same corporate colours
Leaving Saint Sulpice I drove past the house of Paul Gouin. I didn't stop and take a photo here because the house is of no particular significance and neither is the character.
He seems to be one of these people from a very wealthy and notable family who married into another notable family with rich connections. With his powerful and influential contacts, he was pistoné, as the French so delighfully call it, or bumped up into importance.
He had a considerable variety of employments and did so many different things that so many other people would have liked to have done had they had the same good fortune as he. In fact, his career was so varied and changed so regularly that one could be forgiven for thinking that he was not able to make much of a success of whatever it was that he was doing and that he didn't have the personal qualities necessary to persevere.
From here I stumble almost immediately onto some roadworks and doesn't this remind me of old times and our voyage along the Trans-Labrador Highway in 2010 ?
There's a ton of gravel being thrown up by the car in front so I want to keep well back. I can do without a broken windscreen, especially so early in the journey and so near to base.
They don't seem to be sparing any expense in carrying out the repairs either. They have all kinds of machinery here doing the work.
Even a few compactors too like this one here. In fact, I've seen more compactors on this couple-of-kilometre stretch of roadworks than we saw amongst all of the road (if that's what you call the Trans-Labrador Highway) repairs along the entire 1800kms of that particular route.
Clearly there's more money in Quebec than there is in places like Labrador if they can afford all of this.
There's a place called Le Paradis des Fraises - Strawberry Heaven - off to the right and in honour of my travelling companion Strawberry Moose, we go down there for a butcher's.
It's all closed up, and it's also plastered in signs such as no parking, no waiting, no loading, propriété privée and interdit de passer, and probably also no thinking, no breathing and interdit de regarder too, were I to look hard enough.
But it wasn't the signs that caught my eye. Down at the bottom of their field at the edge of what would be the flood plain of the St Lawrence there was something else that attracted my attention.
In between the final row of trees and the hedge, there was an indication of some kind of avenue and it looked broad enough to be suggestive of a highway. It is known that the earliest traces of the Chemin du Roy did hug the edge of the flood plain and this looked so interesting to me that I resolved to go for a closer look.
Not via the premises of the Le Paradis des Fraises though. With all of the interdiction signs about the place, the slope down to the bottom is probably mined.
To arrive at where I want to be, I have to retrace my steps a little in the direction of Repentigny and turn down a side road that leads to the local school on the edge of the flood plain.
Forgetting the Chemin du Roy for a moment, my attention is drawn to another one of my ... errr ... goals here in Canada - a football pitch. Ever since I found that one along the road wherever it was in 2011, and realised that it was the first one that I had seen in Canada, I'd been on the lookout for others.
Last place I expected to find one, though, was at a school. Schools, especially Francophone schools, teaching their children to play proper football was something that took me by surprise.
But it's a real football pitch right enough, with a pathway that goes to the school so they must have something to do with each other. The pitch is rather tight though - not much room down the wings. It would have cramped my style of play.
A natural two-footed right-winger I was when I was younger, which explains why I always ended up playing at left-back when I wasn't otherwise engaged in keeping goal, which was the position I preferred.
You can tell that they expect the St Lawrence to burst its banks on regular occasions. I mean - why else would they have floodlights?
I'll get my coat.
A little farther round behind the school field I notice a gap between the two houses. And the fact that there is a "No Quads" sign and no "No Nothing Else" signs indicates to me that any other form of transport is permitted and that this must therefore be a public highway.
And a public highway that lines up quite nicely with that avenue between the trees that we noticed at the Paradis Des Fraises. I might be on to something here.
Mind you, if it is a public highway, it won't half make a mess of that guy's marigolds.
That above was the view to my left as I rounded a bend. This 'ere is the view straight ahead and you can see just how close we are to the water.
It might look far out to you but you can see how flat it is there and so a rise of just a few centimetres in the height of the river would quickly overwhelm all of that. However the owners of these brand-new, quite expensive houses don't seem to worry too much about flooding, ice sheet damage and coastal erosion.
Not as must as the custodians of the Chemin du Roy anyway.
I retrace my steps to see if I can find what might have been the westerly part of the Chemin du Roy. This takes me along the road that you can see in the photograph.
However at the westerly end the modern road swings abruptly to the right and what would have been straight on is now a cornfield. So if this really was part of the old Chemin du Roy then that has been overwhelmed too.
It was round about here that my reverie was interrupted by Crosby Stills and Nash and in particular the track "Long Time Coming" from their self-titled album
"Speak out, you got to speak out against the madness"
"You got to speak your mind if you dare"
And that got me thinking, which is always dangerous.
In the 1960s we had Graham Nash and his
"Military Madness was killing our country"
We had Steppenwolf and their Monster track
"Here's to all the draft resisters"
"who will fight for sanity"
"Will we march them off to prison"
"in this land of liberty"
And other protest and anti-militarist songs far too numerous to count.
Here in Quebec we had Camillien Houde who would rather skulk in an internment camp at the back of Fredericton than allow any of his Francophone supporters to be conscripted to fight, even when the enemy was the Nazis.
So, as Hugh Cornwell famously sang
"Whatever happened to the heroes?"
Perhaps Crosby, Stills & Nash can give us a clue. In "Long Time Coming" they go on to sing
"Don't, no don't try to get yourself elected"
"If you do you had better cut your hair"
Yes, all of our protest and anti-war singers have cut their hair and one or two of them have even been elected.
The rather uncharitable thought then started to go through my head. What did almost all of these anti-war singers and protesters have in common back in the 1960s and 1970s?
Yes, you've guessed it. They were all of an age at which they would be expected to join up and fight. Nowadays, they are all in their 60s and 70s and as Micky Jones famously said
"Man it ain't their fight"
so why bother protesting about it?
Our heroes are telling us that war is only a bad thing when it's they who have to fight it. Whenever anyone else has to fight it, who gives a ... care? In other words, our heroes weren't heroes - they were cowards.
You have no idea how much that thought left me bitterly disillusioned with the heroes of my adolescence. Take Pete Seeger for example.
"Where have all the soldiers gone?"
"Gone to graveyards every one"
"When will they ever learn?"
"When will they ever learn?"
Yet when he died in January 2014 the media was full of stories of how much time he had spent weaseling up to Barack Obama, a person who considers himself to be the Commander in Chief of military farces waging aggressive war on the soil of several countries.
Yes, the heroes of our adolescence have sold themselves out well-and-truly to the "establishment"
"When will they ever learn?"
"When will they ever learn?"
Shame on you all!
Anyway, this isn't the time to be loitering around. There's plenty of work to be done and I need to be moving on. It's Saturday, of course. Weekend! And that means "Garage Sales"!
And at one particular local garage sale here someone is selling a folding snow shovel. What on earth is folding snow all about?
But it occurs to me that I haven't told you anything about the town of St Sulpice yet. How remiss of me. I have to turn to my notes, and find that in 2012 I spent a while in the town having a look around, and made copious notes.
But first, just before entering the town proper, I suddenly find myself side-by side with the St Lawrence. As you know, this is my most favourite river in the world, and driving along Highway 138 on the north shore of the river is the best way to see it, at least around here, anyway.
There is a useful car park here right in the town and it is blessed with another really nice view of the river.
There's also an ice cream parlour. Québec goes in for ice cream parlours - the bar laitière - in a big way, and so do I, as it happens, even though I don't eat animal products. These places often do an amazing range of frozen fruit sorbets and further down the road a few weeks later I made a startling discovery, more of which anon.
But if anyone thinks that I would have been eating an ice cream back in April 2012 they are very much mistaken. It's absolutely taters out here, and I mean it too.
So what can I tell you all about St Sulpice then? The land all along here was originally part of the diocese of Montreal but in 1663 an area of land with a river-front of 2 leagues and a depth of 6 leagues, situated 2 leagues from the confluence of the Rivière de l'Assomption and the St Lawrence (a league, of course being about 3 miles but you knew that anyway, didn't you?) was detached from Montreal and ceded to the Order of the Sulpice de Paris.
A little-known fact is that the French author Jules Verne visited here during the spring floods, and this was the inspiration for his novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ... "Are you sure about this?" - ed.
By 1681 there were 12 people living in St Sulpice, said to be some of the oldest family names in Québec (but no Tremblays, apparently), and the land was divided up amongst them. The most important of them received 360 arpents, and the peasants received just 60. Obviously, the idea that "all men are created equal" only applied in theory as far as the Saint Sulpicians were concerned, as did the "give all thou hast to the poor".
For centuries, the village soldiered on as an agricultural settlement where the farmers supplemented their income with what they could obtain from the river. This all changed in the 1950s, when improvements to the road network and the motor vehicle explosion made this area a favourite location for the new breed of long-distance commuters. In the space of just 50 years the population increased from something a little over 600 to round about 3500 and shows little sign of abating.
The most famous native of St Sulpice is said to be one Albert Lacombe. He was born here in 1827 and went west to be a missionary to the Cree and Blackfoot tribes.
There are certain people in Canada who are known as Métis. They were the offspring of what were known in the old days as "irregular unions" between a First-Nation indigenous woman and either a voyageur or a farming pioneer of European descent. The contemporary English word to describe the Métis, by the way, is no longer acceptable in polite company.
Anyway, the way that the treaties between the European Canadians and the First-Nation indigenous Canadians were drawn up led to the startling discovery that the strict legal interpretation of these documents meant that the Métis had no rights in First-Nation indigenous Canadian affairs, as they had European ascendency, and no rights in European Canadian affairs as they had First-Nation indigenous Canadian blood. In other words, they possessed no rights at all under Canadian law, and the Canadian Pacific Railway quietly shunted them out of their entitlement to land grants when the survey of the Province of Saskatchewan was undertaken.
The Métis quite properly found this to be unacceptable and in 1885, after a series of "negotiations" which were more like the Métis simply banging their heads against a stone wall, they broke out into open revolt and there was something of a series of dreadful incidents in Saskatchewan. The claim to fame of our hero, Albert Lacombe, is that he persuaded the Blackfoot to sit out the rebellion, thus preventing what could have been a bloodbath all over the Prairies.
So what about the church?
I would ordinarily have stepped back further to take a photo of that church, but not in this weather because the St Lawrence isn't frozen, although how come it isn't right now I really do not know because as I said a short while earlier it's bitter out here. If I had stepped any further back I would have been up to my neck in ice-cold water, but in the middle of winter I would have had no problems at all. You can do things like that on the St Lawrence in January and February, but not at the end of April no matter how cold it feels.
The first church here at St Sulpice was a wooden one built in 1706 and I'm sure you can guess the name of the Saint to which it was dedicated. That church was replaced by a stone one in 1724 (No-one has said why but by the time you have finished this journey with me, you will be making an educated guess just as I am) and the church in the photograph dates from 1832.
Amongst the important items within the church are a font which has been carved from a tree trunk, and the original 1706 altar, which is also wooden and has intricate sculptings.
You are probably wondering what I can tell you about the Order of Saint Sulpice. It is in fact a French Order of Priests and was founded in 1641 and spread across France and then across the Atlantic to Baltimore and Montreal, where they had an important presence. They take their name from St Sulpice the Pious, Bishop of Bourges and Royal Chaplain to the Merovingian King Clothar II round about the turn of the 7th Century.
They are apparently well-known for their devotion to Mary, mother of Jesus, and that is something that I, a non-Catholic, find very hard to understand. I can't come to terms with this obsessive devotion to her when, after all, as Christians it is the words and actions of Jesus that are supposed to be the crucial tenets or doctrines of the faith. I've asked many of my devout Catholic friends to explain it to me but when it all comes down to it, they seem to be as much at a loss as I am. So if you can explain it to me, then feel free to .
But to return to our journey in the footsteps of the Chemin du Roy, there is a considerable number of little vestiges of road around here, all going down to the water's edge. I explored a few of them but there was no evidence of anything that might have been an earlier version of the historic road.
I can't therefore say where the road might have gone to if it was down here. It's probably long been swept away if, indeed, it ever was here.