Update on George (sort of)

LOCATION: Quebec Heart and Lung Institute

Since my last post….

George was flown with 6 other patients on a 20-passenger air ambulance from the town near our campground on the Gaspe’ Peninsula to the Heart and Lung Institute of Quebec. The air “bus” stopped in 4 different places on the way, including a stop on an island.

I drove over the next day here to Quebec City, an 8-hour drive.

They did an angio-cath and found too much blockage for a stent, so decided to do cardiac bypass surgery.

Then, the wait again. This time for a slot in the surgery schedule.

Meanwhile, people have continued to be beyond kind. At the campground, when they heard the news, they (led by the 911 lady) came to help me. I left the Airstream in their hands. They talked with the campground owner about my leaving the Airstream there, and also collected my keys so they could check on it. They promised to move it to a nearby friend’s driveway if the campground closes for the season in mid-September.

The hospital here in Quebec City has a hostel-like dorm area for patients’ families. I’m staying there, which is such a convenience since it is connected to the hospital by a tunnel. There is a kitchen with a refrigerator, so I’m eating leftovers from the Airstream refrig.

I found a mall near the hospital with an English bookstore, so bought George some newspapers and books. He has been super bored.

In any case, all is well. George is in good hands here and in no pain; I’m comfortable in the hostel; and the Airstream is in a safe place.

More kind things…..the English-speaking wife of George’s former hospital roommate, just called to offer to send a relative with me to pick up the Airstream and bring it back here (two 8-hour drives). Then, she invited us to stay overnight with her and her husband if I drive to/from Gaspe. Incredible! Yesterday, I went to a Lebanese take-out for lunch. The owner/server could speak English and he asked why I was there. When I told him our story, he felt so bad that he didn’t want to charge me for my food!

I will post again once we have any other update.

Here is baldy —- a new look that he gave himself. At least he doesn’t have one of those man-buns, a look that is extremely popular around here!

My commute to Gaspe’

LOCATION: Grande-Vallee’, Quebec, on north shore of Gaspe’ Peninsula

CAMPGROUND: Au Soleil Couchant. Excellent. See previous description

WEATHER: Beautiful again. I think it is unseasonably warm and sunny. High 75

I did the 1.5 hour drive to Gaspe’ City Hospital to visit George. The trip is about 50 miles each way. It is a bit harrowing….very steep inclines that descend into villages with a 50 km/h (30mph) speed limit so one has to pound the brakes. It is a beautiful drive.

I did a “George” today…..I almost ran out of gas. I thought I had enough to get halfway to Gaspe’. My GPS gave me the signal that a gas station was only a mile away when I had about 40 miles left in the tank. However, it was closed up. I was down to less than 20 miles in the tank, and with the steep hills, my gas gauge was below empty.

I made it, thankfully to the next station. They are few and far between here. Gas is SO expensive. To fill up the tank, it was $120!

Today at the hospital, there was more activity. They did a lot of the prep work for his trip tomorrow to Quebec City. They loaned him a shaver to shave off hairs on his arms and “private parts” to prepare for the catheter. While he was shaving, he decided to shave off all his head hair, so now he is bald!

The campground looks totally different today. A group of 39 big rigs has come in, a rally of the Quebec Camping Club. As I drove in this evening, there were small groups in front of their RVs, drinking wine and socializing. Everyone waved to me. Then, as I was unpacking the truck, a small delegation of this new group, about 20 people, came over. One lady introduced herself, saying she could speak English, and asked if they could help me in any way. It was so kind that I just broke down. Obviously the 911 lady has been spreading the word.

DINNER: Not too exciting to cook just for myself. I’m using all kinds of leftovers, some with interesting combinations! Usually, I’m pretty good about labeling containers before I put them in the freezer. However, this one was an unlabeled mystery. It turned out to be chicken and rice. I added some veg and voila’ – dinner.

Getting to know the Canadian healthcare system

OCATION: On NE side of Gaspe Peninsula. Grande-Vallee’, Quebec

CAMPGROUND: Au Soleil Couchant. One of the best we have been to. See previous description

WEATHER: Lovely. Sunny. Highs in low 70s

Sorry I haven’t written sooner. We have been in a headspin for several days. We arrived here on Monday, planning to spend just one night, and then continue our circle around the peninsula.

However, George woke up during the night with heart-attack-like symptoms. It was 2:30 AM. We don’t have a Canadian phone. What to do? We finally decided to wake up a neighbor to ask them to call 911. Luck was with us. The neighbor lady is probably the only English-speaking camper in the campground. Not only that, but she is actually from this area, and pointed out that we are literally right behind the clinic. She called the ambulance for us and they took us there. After several hours, they decided he needed to be seen by a cardiologist, so they took him by ambulance to Gaspe’ City Hospital, about 1.5 hours away. They don’t have a cardiac unit, and decided that he needs an angio-cath, which is only done in Quebec City. They have an air-bus that picks up patients from all around rural Quebec and takes them to Quebec City. But, this is socialized medicine, so things take time. Every day since Tuesday, we have been waiting to find out what is happening, waiting for a space on the air-bus and an appointment with the cardiac cath lab in QC. George is totally bored, with no wifi, no TV, and just a few of my trashy novels to read. I drive over to visit him daily, sneaking in some hot sauce and salt to make the hospital food more tolerable. Finally, today we got the news that he will be transported to Quebec City on Sunday. We think the procedure will be on Monday, and hopefully he will return here on Wednesday or so.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t be in a better place. This campground is right on the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, so I have beautiful water views, and the weather is just perfect. The price is about $21 USD/night. Since we had planned on just one night here, we chose a non service site. A few days ago, the battery on the Airstream started getting precariously low. I asked them if I could plug in to a 20-amp plug and they said sure. I’m right next to the “clubhouse” that has a dishwashing sink and microwave, so I’m all set, without sewer or water hook-ups.

We cannot remember the lady’s name who called 911 for us, so we secretly just call her the “911 lady”. She has been terrific. She stays here all summer, so knows everyone. She has spread the word about our situation, and all the campers wave to me and say “bon jour”. On the first day, I had to unhook the pickup from the Airstream so that I could go to Gaspe’ City Hospital. Ashamedly, I don’t know how to do that. She got a man to help me do it. It certainly wasn’t the precise way that George does it, but we got the job done. Every day when I pull in, returning from Gaspe’ Hospital, she or other ladies rush over to ask me how things are going. The day I needed electricity, I was trying to figure out the cord. She came by and said she had an appointment and had to run, but did I need help? I said I could probably figure it out. Next thing I knew, she marched 2 men over to help. She said they couldn’t speak English but knew about campers. After they hooked up the cord, one of the guys hugged me. So sweet! All in a mix of French/English with lots of smiles and “merci’s”

It turns out that the office person at the campground has a sister who works on George’s floor at the hospital. So, we have been communicating via the 2 girls. (So much for patient confidentiality!). The campground continues to tell me that I can extend, whenever I ask them, and in cute English say “no problem”.

I’ll write again when we know the next steps. We think we will continue our planned trip – north from here, then up to Labrador, down to Quebec City, and then south to the Eastern Townships which border Vermont.

Rounding the Gaspe’ Peninsula

Rounding the Gaspe’ Peninsula

LOCATION: Grande-Vallee, Quebec on the north central side of Gaspe’ Peninsula

CAMPGROUND: Au Soleil Couchant. Right on the St. Lawrence. Commercial campground with everything you could ask for….spacious, flat site -right on the water, hook-ups, wifi, laundry, great bathrooms, community building with log fireplace, tables. Small swimming pool (and no noisy kids). Fire pits, picnic tables. We chose a non-service site for $22USD/night. Full hook-ups $26 USD/night. 5 stars out of 5.

WEATHER: Perfect. HIghs 70

After saying good-bye to our friendly, local ground hog, we said left Perce’ and headed north. The peninsula highway took us first north, then west, then east, then west around the tip. We stopped at the national park visitors’ center and inquired about camping. They are completely booked, so we drove onward. The drive through the park is magnificent, closely following the coast.

One of the best things about having an RV is that we can stop for a picnic at any time. The villages of Gaspe’ provide great municipal parks, so we stopped at this one, right on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I warmed up leftover clam chowder and we enjoyed it with a superb view.

Most of the villages along this route do not offer much. It seems like the tourists tend to stay in the southern part of the peninsula. There was virtually no traffic. We found this campground in a small town, and stopped to check it out. Perfect!

It is one of our best finds. We are literally feet away from the Gulf. No other camper is in front of us to block the view. Great wifi to catch up with folks. We chose a non-service site as it was cheaper.

We took a walk along the beach. Just beautiful to watch the Northern Gannet flying to Perce, a few freighters at a distance, and a few sail boats.

We bought some firewood and the kind kid manning the front desk delivered it to our site.

DINNER: I will make this again. Simple,, inexpensive, and good: Pasta with salmon cream cheese as the sauce. Added a few capers and a bit of half and half to water it down. Topped with smoked salmon slices. Side was sautéed carrots and dill in a butter sauce. Everything together was smashing!

An All-day Hike on Perce’ Rock

LOCATION: Perce’, Quebec on the eastern point of the Gaspe’ Peninsula

CAMPGROUND: Geoparc de Perce’

WEATHER: Perfect for hiking. Sunny. High mid 70s

Today was spent hiking Bonaventure Island, Perce’ Rock, a very popular national park. We walked just a few feet to the harbor to catch the boat. The hour-long boat ride was pretty choppy. (The woman behind us threw up the whole way). We circled the rock with the arch, then circled Bonaventure Island in order to see the gannets clinging to the cliffs.

This island is most famous for the Northern Gannet birds. They spend summers here and migrate to the Gulf of Mexico in the winter. We hiked about an hour across the island, ending in the bird colony. Wow! More than 100,000 birds call this home from March to October. We could hear them before we could see them. The birds mate for life and return to the very same nest every year. We watched the parents feed the babies (almost ready to leave the nest) and were fascinated with the behaviors of others – fighting, preening, fencing, and swooping.

From the bird colony, we took another 2-hour hike around the south end of the island, following the cliffs. We watched seals cavorting while we had a picnic of bread, cheese, and pate’. Very nice!

No one lives on the island now, but in the 1800s and 1900s, there were about 100 people living here, mostly cod fishermen.

We were pretty bushed after our all-day hike, so relaxed in the evening.

DINNER: Leftover shrimp and rice. Added sautéed cole slaw to it as a stir-fry.

Camping without electricity is not bad when A/C is not needed. Need to charge up ipad, though. Will have to wait until tomorrow and charge it while driving. Bummer not having a book to read!

Exploring eastern point of Gaspe’ Peninsula

LOCATION: Perce’, Quebec on eastern point of Gaspe’ Peninsula

CAMPGROUND: Geoparc de Perce

WEATHER: Mostly sunny. Highs 70s

The French Canadians are a bit cavalier about nudity. Last time when we were here, I was shocked to see a guy in the ladies’ bathrooms, showering with his wife. I guess they were trying to economize on the $.50 showers! This morning, the cleaning MAN ushered me into the bathroom as he cleaned other stalls. He continued working as I took a shower. Why not?

We took a scenic drive up on the hills of the peninsula to see the view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the famous “Rock” near the town of Perce’ below. Then, we stopped at the brewery where they make the beer for the pub in our campground. It has a beautiful location on the beach.

A shared “Gaspe’ Platter” was our lunch at a restaurant that used to be a cod fishing processing plant. The platter consisted of pickled whelks, cod mousse, maple-soaked smoked salmon, and regular smoked salmon. Quite tasty!

DINNER: Leftover chili with leftover grill hamburger, over couscous. Side was cole slaw.

Circling the Gaspe’ Peninsula

LOCATION: Perce’, Quebec on the eastern side of the Gaspe Peninsula

CAMPGROUND: Geoparc de Perce. Commercial park. Only sites available were non-serviced, which means we are in a large, grassy, parking lot. Sites are spacious so we are not up close to our neighbors. In town, which is convenient. Part of a tourist attraction – UNESCO’s Geoparc. So-so bathrooms. Pay showers. Fire pit and picnic table. $25 USD. 3 stars out of 5.

WEATHER: Beautiful. Windy. Highs in 60s

We were allowed a late check-out, so we took a nice walk around the bay in New Richmond. The local residents have built an absolutely beautiful park with a bike path full of artwork. Really well-done.

We liked the look of our Airstream, nestled among the trees at the end of the road at the campground.

We said good-bye to the area, and took off to follow the peninsula road east, then north around the bend. We only had about a 2-hour drive.

We had a hard time finding a place to eat. You would think with all the tourists that there would be a lot of restaurants, but none of the little towns we passed through offered anything. Finally, we found a resto/bar at about 1:30. The waitress didn’t speak English and we had a lot of fun ordering. Our friend Tony had been on a quest for the best poutine in the area. George continued his efforts today by ordering the poutine house special. It was the normal French fries with cheese curds covered in salty, beef gravy. The specialty was added salami on the bottom. I ordered a glass of wine. The bartender, in his broken English, asked me if I wanted it hot or cold. I figured out he was asking me whether I wanted it room temperature (hot) or refrigerated. The hot variety was quite good! Cute!

We were in Perce five years ago, and boy has it exploded! Motels, campgrounds, restaurants, and people everywhere! We just couldn’t believe the change. One thing that hasn’t changed is the brewpub right at the campground. (Guess why we chose this campground again!)

After settling in, we took a walk on the seafront boardwalk (new) and enjoyed the views.

DINNER: Clam chowder. I used the frozen, leftover broth from the mussels we had last week. I thickened it with a little roux, then added sauteed carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, and canned clams. Stirred in a bit of white wine and half and half. It turned out quite tasty. The only problem is that it made a LOT, and we will have leftovers…..again.