My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is part seven in the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In part six I was lucky enough to stumble upon the beautiful Chateau Frontenac, and see an amazing view of the old city port. We left Quebec City heading further north into Quebec wondering if we would find camp that night.
I washed the last bite of my sandwich down with a chug of lukewarm Tim Horton’s coffee and removed my Canadian Maple donut from the bag. As a general rule I try to keep my meals under ten dollars, despite my unique lifestyle I’m trying to live on a student budget.
We were now out of Quebec City driving down a beautiful highway. I say highway in the most liberal sense here, as it was much narrower and quaint than the highways I’m used to in the Toronto area. There was only a single lane each way and most of the time we only had a single car ahead or behind us, if any at all. The houses were the kind I could daydream about retiring in as an old man. Well maintained, quiet, and of decent size, though far from being mansions. The air was fresh, the grass green, and the hills full of trees. The best word I can use to describe this area is peaceful.
Up to this point I’d been frantically using my cell phone to ensure that we didn’t get lost but, once north of Quebec, getting lost was virtually impossible. There is one road, Route 138, and it runs along the entire north shore of the Lawrence River, no turns, no forks in the road, nothing but the one road. I really would have felt at peace if it wasn’t for the style in which Matt drove his car. When he hit the brakes, well, he really HIT the brakes. When he accelerated, you shot back into your seat. When he turned around the long bending turns, of which there were many, I literally leaned my whole body in the opposite direction hoping that my weight would counter balance the car and stop us from speeding right into the ditch.
After a few hours we arrived in Tadoussac where we came to a stop with several cars lined up in front of us. It was the line to board a ferry which would take us to the other side of the Saguenay River, the river which blocks Route 138 at the city of Tadoussac. Matt stopped the engine as we took our spot in line. He then pulled out two warm bottles of beer from under his seat.
One of Matt’s many unique skills is that of home brewing beer. It’s relatively easy to get started brewing your own beer at home. Yet Matt had taken it to another level. He obsessively researched for days while making different types of beer. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, one of the batches Matt had brewed was among the best beers I’ve ever had. While I prefer my beer chilled I was grateful to sip on a beer while we waited.
Despite this, I was nervous about drinking a beer when I knew we’d soon be talking to the guard who directs cars on to the ferry in only minutes. While Matt’s blood alcohol level would be well within the legal limit, our breath would surely smell of beer. The ferry arrived and we chugged the last bit of our beers. I nervously looked around for a garbage can. Matt called me a wimp and threw the bottles into the back of the car making me even more uncomfortable. He fired up the engine and we slowly moved towards the gate as the guard instructed each car where to go. When we got to the gate Matt rolled down his window as the guard approached our car.