Last night I packed my van in preparation for my trip to Sept Iles, via Route 138. I was going to Sept Iles for eye surgery and for the very first time I was driving there on the newly constructed highway. I couldn’t wait for my friend Mae to arrive so we could begin our trip early as I intended to call in every village along the way and all the new ones that popped up all up and down the coast from Kegaska to Old Fort Bay.
Our first stop was St. Augustine, this village now a town had flourished overnight because of the bridge that spanned the river. As you crossed the river and looked back amid the hundreds of newly built homes a mall centered in the town like other towns had a Walmart store, Canadian Tire Store, and Sears, bookstores, a Chinese restaurant and more, the blinking signs tell a story of a thriving way of life. We stopped overnight at a B &B and went to a concert only to find so many others from Blanc Sablon were already there ahead of us, waiting for the weekend hockey tournament at the Chesley Lavallee Stadium built in honor of the Raiders coach who found their rightful place in the National Hockey League. He would be proud. There’s even a parking place for all the snow machines that travel all up and down the coast still, and as far away as Quebec City, even though we have a road now.
The next day we traveled on, stopping out ports where there were none before, with their newly built wharves, corner stores, and libraries. I stopped for a book signing, ate lunch at a coffee shop locally owned and had some delicious pastries while meeting for the first time children of the people I once knew and hadn’t seen for several years because there was no way to travel there before.
Oh, what joy! What excitement exploring all those little coves and inlets that have never been explored before except by those who traveled by motorboat or dog team. That last frontier, the last 400 km failed to be recognized by Minister of Transport of its importance for so long is finally a reality.
It’s no longer called Route 138! It deserved a better name. It’s warranted after a hundred years of waiting. The strengths of all those who finally saw the light made its mark. The Coasters Last Stand Highway is in honor of all those who diligently fought so long and hard to get connected to the rest of Quebec. Several days later we reached La Tabatiere and Mutton Bay that 8 mile stretch of road where $47 million was spent and unaccounted for. In La Tabatiere I visited the grave of my late brother who died in 1973 and planted a snowball tree.
I was reluctant to Harrington Harbour, that beautiful quaint little island, where my sister once lived even though its more populated now, still maintained its beauty. Many of the old houses are standing still. The wharf is teeming with tourists that not only traveled over the newly built highway but by ships that stopped in to visit the new heritage site. It’s a romantic place, it always was, and with its many little shops strewn along the wooden walkway is a bustling place, it reminded me of a little resort called Noosa in Australia, so breathtaking with its extended boardwalks all around the island. Vehicles with license plates from all across Canada, United States and the Yukon, parked for miles on the other side of the causeway leading to the wharf. What prosperity, even though there are no commercial industries in the area, it’s a teaming place. All the children from away came back home, to make their mark where they were born. I couldn’t wait to surprise my sister who owned a small café on the waterfront. I finally made it!
Chevery is a different place, it’s a place of commercial trade, planes fly in from everywhere from all over the world on the newly built airport, called after a Strickland who was one of the founding fathers of this town. A new erected marine college and university for future generations so none will have to leave the coast like they did fifty years ago. A brand new hospital was built to replace the Dr. Hodd Pavillion in Harrington, connected by the new causeway. People no longer fly to Blanc Sablon, the hospital is equipped with everything including surgeons and a pediatrician.
Tete ta Baliene, the whale watching community is still a French-speaking community and have so much to offer to the traveling public, a town where movies are made, a way of life tabled for generations to remember, of gentle grandfathers and caring grandmothers, not unlike the Grand Seduction but with much more finesse. Upon reaching Kegaska where my cousin Garry lives we spent the night there and flew over the new marina in his plane. We could see the traffic moving along the highway below. Who would have thought we would see the day when all of this would become reality.
Later we drank wine and listening to him playing old tunes on his guitar while we reminisced about when we were young and foolish. Then we sang my song about my own little spot where I’m still residing in Bradore. There was no reason for me to leave “this little cove where I belong”. It’s a beautiful spot still. I have a tea room now, visited by many from May to October. It’s called Emma’s place and will be long after I’m gone. I hope she will carry on when I no longer can hear the rivers flowing, the sea roaring or see the birds flying.
Time was passing oh so quickly. I had to be in Sept Iles. We were just about to leave Kegaska when I a voice so loud and clear shouted, “there will be ice in hell before there is a road on the Lower North Shore!” I bolted straight up in bed. Former president of Group Pakatan, Randy Jones was on the radio talking to a reporter not to explain where the millions that were intended for the bridge in St Augustine have gone, but that there will never be a road connecting all of the Lower North Shore. Thanks, Randy, for ruining my dream!