Two cottages by a lake

Mathilde reconnected with kayaking. She loves it.

I call Christiane my step sister since my mom and her dad (who passed away almost 10 years ago) have loved each other deeply for many years. Even since Jean-Maurice's passing, we have stayed very closed and I consider Christiane and Mikaël (her brother) my family. This summer, since we were finally here for more than a few weeks, Christiane and her partner François very generously offered to rent a beautiful big cottage for all of us to spend some time together with my mom and the grandchildren. Her brother and his partner also came to spend a few days. It was 5 days away from everything, on a lake, together, with beautiful bike trails and hiking trails nearby. A very welcomed break from bus life in an hectic campground, from a busy scheduled summer that seems to be riding on an unending heat wave.

 

Trying to ward off the deer flies.

Laughter knows no language barrier.

 Hike to Delaney Falls in Vallée Bras-du-Nord.

Hike to Delaney Falls in Vallée Bras-du-Nord.

We laughed hard, we talked lots, we ate well, we napped often. The girls got to connect with their sweet little boys and we all created incredible memories.

About 3 weeks later, we got to spend some time by Lac St-Jean, where Hélène's family (my dad's wife) owns a cottage on an rocky outcrop. The story goes that the man who built this cottage had the first pick of all the land around the lake and that he chose that spot. It's pretty easy to understand why. The lake is so big it's actually an interior sea with beautiful sand and clear water. It was such a joy to play in the water with my girls and see them laugh together so much. It felt like it had been a long time... 

And this is what confirmed that leaving for another winter on the road was the right decision. Spending time together away from the hectic pace of a more mainstream life. You see, about a month ago, one of the girls finally dropped the bomb : I want to go to school, I want to stop traveling. I want a new experience.

Of course, we knew it would come one day. We always kept the discussion open and asked the girls every year if they wanted to try school or keep traveling. One of our key education values is to raise children that feel empowered and in charge of their own lives. We know how important these teenage years are and we are listening. But we also need to sit back and assess where we want to settle down. We want to honor our agreements for the upcoming year and want to teach our girls that big decisions need to be reflected on carefully.  After 6 years of nomadism, settling down is as big a decision to us as it is for sedentary people to leave for a year on the road. You can’t just steer on a dime. We will stick to our original winter plan to travel and use that time to brainstorm on our options.

 The beautiful private beach by the cottage. Perfect water and sand.

The beautiful private beach by the cottage. Perfect water and sand.

 Sitting on the rocky outcrop at sunset for happy hour every night.

Sitting on the rocky outcrop at sunset for happy hour every night.

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 The girls and I loved to go sit on the warm black rocks after sunset.

The girls and I loved to go sit on the warm black rocks after sunset.

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We believe that our children have their own paths, their own agenda. We guide them and provide them with some tools we think will be useful, while trying to listen to their wisdom through our own fears (and vice versa). I wish for my girls to have healthy teenage years, far from selfies and that constant research for approbation… but I also know that the teenage years are there for children to separate themselves from their parents and to find their own tribe. Our girls have lots of great people around them, mentors and healthy relationships, but because of the transient nature of our lifestyle, they are always in the honeymoon phase of those relationships… Is it a bad thing? One can argue that this is not how real life is. I say: define real life.

Quebec Cups in Tremblant, Sherbrooke and St-Félicien

 The Quebec Cup in Tremblant was pretty rough. Just like in Baie St-Paul, it rained the night before the race and the course was wet in the morning.

The Quebec Cup in Tremblant was pretty rough. Just like in Baie St-Paul, it rained the night before the race and the course was wet in the morning.

 The Tremblant village is so cute!

The Tremblant village is so cute!

 Aisha and Mara crashed into each other during the warm-up and Aisha opted out of the race since she was in pain. Mara had a great start, but crashed on the course and collapsed after crossing the finish line, saying she wasn’t seeing straight. She was seen and patched up by First Aid and was OK once the shock subsided.

Aisha and Mara crashed into each other during the warm-up and Aisha opted out of the race since she was in pain. Mara had a great start, but crashed on the course and collapsed after crossing the finish line, saying she wasn’t seeing straight. She was seen and patched up by First Aid and was OK once the shock subsided.

 Mara just before the finish line. You can see her bloody knee and her unwell expression.

Mara just before the finish line. You can see her bloody knee and her unwell expression.

 Watching the daddies' race!

Watching the daddies' race!

 Martin (JF's cousin) asking us jokingly if he is first or second (knowing very well he is last!).

Martin (JF's cousin) asking us jokingly if he is first or second (knowing very well he is last!).

 Alex encouraging his dad Martin going uphill.

Alex encouraging his dad Martin going uphill.

The next day was much better as it began with a soak at the Hotel pool and spa where Isa and Martin were staying, then JF and I went for a ride in the beautiful trails and we came back to the village to watch the Downhill Canada Cup. 

The Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke was exactly a month later and had 2 events. There was a crazy heat wave hitting the south-East of the province and the girls raced in very high and humid temperatures. With a very good prep that included a strict hydration + electrolyte schedule more than 24 hours before the race, they all did great and did not suffer too much from the heat.

 Aïsha on the first lap of the Mont Bellevue XCO Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke.

Aïsha on the first lap of the Mont Bellevue XCO Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke.

 Mara in 3rd place on the first lap.

Mara in 3rd place on the first lap.

 3rd place finish!!! That's a victory smile!

3rd place finish!!! That's a victory smile!

 Chatting with teammates as they cross the finish line.

Chatting with teammates as they cross the finish line.

 My mom, her partner and Christophe (my step-sister's son). Christophe is explaining to Aïsha how her clip pedals are just like his ski bindings.

My mom, her partner and Christophe (my step-sister's son). Christophe is explaining to Aïsha how her clip pedals are just like his ski bindings.

 Christiane (my step sister), François and the boys, came to the race! It was such a treat to have them there!

Christiane (my step sister), François and the boys, came to the race! It was such a treat to have them there!

 JF was racing on a fat bike since he is waiting on Niner to replace his cracked frame. He still managed to finish in 10th place!

JF was racing on a fat bike since he is waiting on Niner to replace his cracked frame. He still managed to finish in 10th place!

 Aisha and Mara at the beginning of the race (turquoise and blue helmet near the front).

Aisha and Mara at the beginning of the race (turquoise and blue helmet near the front).

 Aïsha had a great race on the Sunday XCC event of the Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke, even with the crazy heat.

Aïsha had a great race on the Sunday XCC event of the Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke, even with the crazy heat.

 Mara got bronze on the two events at the Sherbrooke Quebec Cup.

Mara got bronze on the two events at the Sherbrooke Quebec Cup.

 The only picture I have of the St-Félicien Québec Cup (taken by Mathilde) since I had to stay back to work. Mara got 5th place on the XCO and crashed hard on the XCT the next day, but still managed to finish. Aisha had a great race both days and Mathilde did the XCT on Sunday and had a good time too!

The only picture I have of the St-Félicien Québec Cup (taken by Mathilde) since I had to stay back to work. Mara got 5th place on the XCO and crashed hard on the XCT the next day, but still managed to finish. Aisha had a great race both days and Mathilde did the XCT on Sunday and had a good time too!

Our summer is beating to the drum of mountain bike races. The girls could talk about mountain biking for hours, throwin in names of techniques and teammates I know nothing about, and rolling their eyes when I ask for explanations. Remember when your toddler was into dinosaurs or planes and was driving you bonkers chatting your ear off about everything he knew about it? Well, picture that, times 3, and throw in a good dose of teenager sassiness. I’m kind of glad I have taken a job at the state liquor store (SAQ) and can talk to other people about wines and spirits. It keeps me sane and pays for some of the unending list of mechanical problems that keep coming up...

Our summer is a whirlwind, probably like it should be. The bus is a mess, there are more showers in a day than there used to be in a week not so long ago and the girls are constantly hungry and complain that there is *nothing* to eat when there is literally no more room to stuff food in the bus… They are fire and water, expletives and superlatives from morning to night.

But they still ask me to clean their road rashes and give them a massage before bed. They still come and snuggle with me in the morning sometimes and tuck me into bed at night with the best hugs and I love yous.

I’m not gonna lie, these teenage years are quite the emotional ride. I’m not sure I’ve ever questioned myself as a mom as much as I do now. My years of know-it-all are far gone… I know full well that I’ll mess up and that good enough is the new perfect.

I’m not nostalgic of those little ducklings following me around like the center of their universe... Of course, I sometimes miss those chubby little hands reaching for mine to cross the street or those sparkles in their eyes when I told them a story with puppets...

From the moment you birth your kids, you are not the center of your own universe anymore. That was a pretty rough introduction to adulting for the 25 yo only child that I was. Fast forward 15 years and I think I managed OK, although not always as gracefully as I could have, like most. But when I look at those beautiful strong daughters of ours now, I’m so very proud of them, sassiness and eye rolling included!

A weekend in Baie St-Paul

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 The girls's start. I was the first time that the 3 of them were racing the same race!

The girls's start. I was the first time that the 3 of them were racing the same race!

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 It's no secret that bike races (or any other sporting events for that matter) are not my cup of tea. What's not to love about being woken up on a Saturday morning at 7:15 by “Eye of the Tiger” to spend all day on the sidelines, inhaling dust while cheering people you don't know, thinking: shouldn't she be here already? Who's this again? Look at those legs and ass (OK, I know I'm not the only one, that's the only perk...), while simultaneously having a near heart-attack when they call First Aid on the course during your kids’ race? There's also waiting for the award ceremony that is never on time (except for that one time you were late), being bossed around by an overzealous 15 yo who tells everybody that is 50 yards from the trail that THERE IS A BIKE RACE GOING ON PLEASE STAY AWAY (‘cause you know, I'm standing in the mud with a ridiculously heavy camera NOT KNOWING there is a bike race). What's not to love, indeed? But you know what the crazy part is? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else when they race by me and I see their eyes light up when they see me cheering for them.

It's no secret that bike races (or any other sporting events for that matter) are not my cup of tea. What's not to love about being woken up on a Saturday morning at 7:15 by “Eye of the Tiger” to spend all day on the sidelines, inhaling dust while cheering people you don't know, thinking: shouldn't she be here already? Who's this again? Look at those legs and ass (OK, I know I'm not the only one, that's the only perk...), while simultaneously having a near heart-attack when they call First Aid on the course during your kids’ race? There's also waiting for the award ceremony that is never on time (except for that one time you were late), being bossed around by an overzealous 15 yo who tells everybody that is 50 yards from the trail that THERE IS A BIKE RACE GOING ON PLEASE STAY AWAY (‘cause you know, I'm standing in the mud with a ridiculously heavy camera NOT KNOWING there is a bike race). What's not to love, indeed? But you know what the crazy part is? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else when they race by me and I see their eyes light up when they see me cheering for them.

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 Spotting daddy.

Spotting daddy.

 “Hit the jump!”I yell like an overly enthusiastic teenager, camera in hand, as he rides towards us. He gives me a grim look as he rides around it, which brings him close enough that I can see the twigs sticking out of his helmet. “He fell on his head!” Aisha says, worried. Look closely, you'll see his branch "horns".

“Hit the jump!”I yell like an overly enthusiastic teenager, camera in hand, as he rides towards us. He gives me a grim look as he rides around it, which brings him close enough that I can see the twigs sticking out of his helmet. “He fell on his head!” Aisha says, worried. Look closely, you'll see his branch "horns".

 Lots of love for papa who had two hard crashes during that race.

Lots of love for papa who had two hard crashes during that race.

 Ending the day in the village of Baie St-Paul.

Ending the day in the village of Baie St-Paul.

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 Gelato time!

Gelato time!

 Being twins in the world of competition is not always easy. In the past, the twins either did team races or competed in different categories (in AZ Aïsha raced with the 15-16 yo). But here, it's not an option. The 3 of them are in the same category and if they want to race, they will be racing together (or against one another, depending on how you see it). It was an excruciatingly hard week for Aïsha as she is still struggling with an injury and feels like she is not in race shape… but also wants on the race experience. So, at last, she told Mathilde that she would race if she also signed up for the race. And just like that, we had 3 girls on the course at once! They each chose an achievable goal for that race and reached it! Mathilde knew she would very likely be last and she was, but kept riding with a big smile, encouraging the boys that were lapping her and receiving cheers in return. I believe we all grew from that experience as a family.

Being twins in the world of competition is not always easy. In the past, the twins either did team races or competed in different categories (in AZ Aïsha raced with the 15-16 yo). But here, it's not an option. The 3 of them are in the same category and if they want to race, they will be racing together (or against one another, depending on how you see it). It was an excruciatingly hard week for Aïsha as she is still struggling with an injury and feels like she is not in race shape… but also wants on the race experience. So, at last, she told Mathilde that she would race if she also signed up for the race. And just like that, we had 3 girls on the course at once! They each chose an achievable goal for that race and reached it! Mathilde knew she would very likely be last and she was, but kept riding with a big smile, encouraging the boys that were lapping her and receiving cheers in return. I believe we all grew from that experience as a family.

 Cheering for Maghalie Rochette, their idol!

Cheering for Maghalie Rochette, their idol!

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 Mara during the XCT (the second event of the race, the other two didn't race that one).

Mara during the XCT (the second event of the race, the other two didn't race that one).

 Tired and proud to be 4th on 21 racers and to have been in the hot seat for a while.

Tired and proud to be 4th on 21 racers and to have been in the hot seat for a while.

 Wearing her team colors for the podium. So proud.

Wearing her team colors for the podium. So proud.

My childhood memories of Baie St-Paul involve lots of not-so-great art galleries and a mosquito apocalypse in that very same Westfalia at this very same campground which led us to leave for a chic restaurant to have dinner without being eaten alive. We were on a return trip from a Gaspe peninsula tour with my dad’s partner of that time. It had already been a tense trip (she didn't care for Bon Jovi and sang off-key to old French songs and it drove me nuts, so I spent a lot of time behind my walkman, lying down on the back bench NOT looking at the landscape that she nagged me to admire). She also loathed me for my bad manners. When we'd watch a movie together, she'd spend more time peeking in my direction than watching the screen to make sure she'd catch me picking my nose and call me on it.

So that night at the Mouton Noir (see, I remember the name of the restaurant 30 years later! That's PTSD!), she threw a scene because I had taken a bite off my bread roll instead of ripping a piece off with my fingers and THEN putting it in my mouth. I was ten. You might have guessed she had no children of her own. It went downhill from there.

I'm glad to report that the Mouton Noir is still in business and that the art galleries are still thriving, as well as the mosquitoes. So long Baie St-Paul, see you in less than 30 years I hope!

 

 

 

Reunion with friends and family, apple picking and more

Lots of apple crisp making!

Too many nights in a garage yard while the bus was getting fixed...

Beautiful cold fall morning.

The smell of maple leaves.

Lunch at a delicious village café (Les 3 Soeurs, Waterville).

A beautiful shared meal for Thanksgiving.

And lots of candle blowing!

For any full-time traveler, coming back home for a time is always a whirlwind of visits, dinners and obligations (I've stopped counting the hours we spent at the dentist and garage...). It's intense and full. It feels so awesome to have all these people waiting for us with open arms (and houses!), cooking beautiful meals for us and welcoming us with our crazy changing schedules (see garage appointments). It's a big change to our usually very relax day-by-day life on the road, it's a bit disconcerting for all of us to be so busy (and it's GOOD busy, just too busy...). We feel unbalanced. Too much time eating and chatting, not enough time moving outside. Too much time juggling schedules, not enough time for spontaneous activities... 

We've realized that when we come back to either Quebec or the Yukon, we need to spend at least 2 1/2 months there to not feel rushed to see our people. We need some time to settle down. Time to breathe. Time to do nothing and have nights in our pjs playing cards together. 

We're leaving Quebec feeling like we rushed through it. We're tired and feeling like hiding in the woods for a few weeks to recharge. We feel like we haven't seen our people nearly enough (some we haven't seen at all). But the cold is pushing us South. We'll be back with a better plan next time (or rather, no plans, but more time). We're still learning how to travel right for us. 

For now, Wisconsin, here we come!! Why Wisconsin? Stay tuned!!

A few days at the farm, Megantic, QC

Bunny transport for outside time.

Fluffing the angora rabbit before collecting the hair.

Hair collecting!

Oyster mushroom picking on a hike up Scotch Cap.

Cheese washing.

The white crust is what you want to grow! 

Learning to spin angora rabbit wool.

The result! So incredibly soft!!

There’s nothing like an ex-farmer to truly appreciate the farm products and all the work and time that got into it. Our friends Marie and Sylvain welcomed us in their busy farmers-homeschoolers-agronomy students life with open arms and a table covered in amazing food from their farm. There is so much satisfaction and pleasure in sharing your homemade cheese and sausages, your out-of-this-world chicken pot pie, your jams and butter, that it’s sometimes easy to forget (even as ex-farmers) how this comes at a price. No, it’s not cheap to run a family farm (most time, you don’t even break even!), but there’s the price of fatigue, of not being able to take time off and of so much to do ALL. THE. TIME. Passion is often not enough to be a farmer. You need commitment and lots of it. In 2016, it’s not uncommon that on a rough day, young farmers take a step back and wonder why the hell they are doing what they’re doing. It’s not the 1930’s, you’re not gonna go hungry if you stop farming. So, then you have to wonder if the satisfaction and great food I produce enough to justify all the work I need to do to keep this farm producing it? That’s a question many farmers ask themselves... 

We left with cheese and dry cured sausage and beets and raw milk and eggs (and a ball of angora rabbit wool!!!)... and a heart full of friends that share their passion and their precious time with us. We left with the memories of our farmer days. We know exactly how they feel. A part of us want to join in and be part of it... but the nomadic side of us is calling for now... What a dichotomy! Farmers and travelers. Could it be anymore extreme? Yeah, that’s pretty much us!

The past and the river

When went to visit Sébastien's (JF's brother in-law)  family house (from 1896). It was like walking into a museum.

In the garage, everything looked like it had been untouched for over 30 years...

When was the last time you saw such an antique TV?

Naomie loves trying every single princess bed in all the bedrooms (6 in total!)

Very low tables not made for 6'2'' men and very old Geometry books with annotations.

We went to spend a few days in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, a little town between Québec and Trois-Rivières known for his ice fishing for Atlantic Tomcod (petits poissons des chenaux), to visit JF sister's family. It was a few beautiful October days. They brought us to a gorgeous secluded beach along the St-Lawrence River. It was delightful to spend time with the girls' only cousin Naomie. She is such an adorable and funny little girl!

Rock climbing in Orford National Park, Quebec

But why, oh why, would you want to climb a wall??!

The beautiful Elvira! What a climber she is!

Father and daughter on the wall.

This climbing thing is tiring1

It's so great to now have 3 more belayers!

Mikael is so beautiful to watch on a wall!

Showing the girls how to climb a 5.13!

My step-brother is an awesome rock climber that knows this area like the back of his pocket. He actually bolted many routes there himself. A few years ago, on a rock climbing trip to Mexico, he met a badass rock climber named Elvira, and the rest is history! We got to meet her for the first time and I got to practice my very basic and rusty Spanish! 

We had an interesting discussion on how rock climbing is a discipline more than a sport... how you need to learn to fail with grace (or not!), how frustrating it can be a lot of the time. It's quite different than a sport like mountain biking for instance, where you can have fun without too much experience. The fun factor is through the roof, you smile, you yoo-hoo your way down a trail... yes, there is a learning curve and you can always get better and someday, you feel like you suck at it, but rock climbing is a different beast... I guess it takes a bit of a masochist streak...! It takes incredible passion and dedication to feel like you are actually getting better... If, like me, you've been climbing sporadically for 20 years, it's hard to feel like you are actually getting somewhere with it... Most days, I feel like I am fighting with gravity... but sometimes, you link a few (sort of) graceful moves and it feels exhilarating, you figure out that sequence you've been trying for a while and there's that sense of achievement, of feeling that your body is a tool more than an empediment.

On another interesting note, we always say that when we don't climb regularly, we loose strength (finger strength, forearms strenght, etc.). Well, my very smart step-brother and his friend created a way to measure this (with the Wii fit scale and a finger board among other tools) and discovered that we do not loose strenght, but simply endurance. He compared endurance to dust. He said that if you don't sweep your room 3-4 times a week, dust accumulates. Endurance is like that. In two weeks, you've lost most of it. If you leave your house for two weeks and come back, don't be surprise if there is dust everywhere! Whereas strenght doesn't go away in a few months (unless you are on bed rest!).

It was such a treat to climb with these two! We are looking forward to other outings!

El Campo: a van community meet-up

Two Wanderlodges! 

Les 4 Farfelus showed the kids how to make really cool macramé bracelets.

Some serious Adventure Mobiles!

There were over 90 vans that came to El Campo, from the highly customized Disney Van to the authentically restored VW Split,  to pretty much everything in between... 

...and some whose name you just can’t forget!

When was the last time you hugged a horse while still in your pyjama?

The last time we went to a van meet-up was about 15 years ago in Tadoussac, Québec, with our old VW '77 Bus. I was honestly a bit reluctant to go this weekend, but I really liked Julien and what he was doing with Go-Van, so decided to go. Most meets are organized by van types, but what Julien wanted to create was an event based on the lifestyle more than on the brand. And he sure succeeded! 

It was the same friendly atmosphere we remembered, a bunch of people who are passionate about their van and the freedom that comes with it, be it for fulltime living or weekend adventures. It was really exciting to meet people we have been following online for years, like Les 4 Farfelus (from France) and Bodeswell (from California), Simon (also on Instagram), and Marie and Francis who had just bought a Wanderlodge after reading an interview Cindy from Les 4 Farfelus did with us a while ago! It sure is a small world!

There were kids everywhere mingling with each other, playing by the river, feeding fresh grass to the horses, playing cards and tag and hide and seek. Kids being kids.

There was a best van modification contest (the guy that won had made a laundry chute in his Westy!), a Westfalia CV joint assembly contest to which JF participated and a photo contest (that I won!).r

The event was held in the Vallée-Bras-du-Nord, an awesome outdoor destination. We went to check out some of the mountain bike trails and understood why they are considered among the best in Quebec! We had never seen such manucured trails in our life (but we also never had to pay $40 to bike as a family for a day!). But with trails named Maple Butter, what’s not to like!

Being lulled to sleep in the bus by a bunch of people singing French Canadian songs by the bonfire was just the cultural bath I needed! Bodeswell sure had the full authentic Quebec experience!

We were surprise to see how curious people were about our bus, about our story. It felt like we touched some people by the choices we made. And that always feels pretty awesome.

Some people were dreading the return to normal life after such a fun weekend. And I get it. I used to be one of them. Now, we’re lucky enough to call this our normal life.