Dispatches from Québec: A ROUGH START

(above) Tanook after his first run of the season below zero here in Quebec.
ST. ANNE DES LACS, QUEBEC: It is now minus one below zero fahrenheit  at noon in St. Anne Des Lacs, Quebec Tanook has just had an insanely energetic forty minute run on a ski trail  right outside our back door. So we’re  now settled in our log cabin studio for the winter but not without some struggle to get here.
We were on schedule to arrive about three days ago but I got hit with a bug that I thought was the flu on Sunday in Binghamton NY. Also, New England was hit with a warm January rain storm. that flooded rivers in the Adirondacks and turned Quebec into a sheet of ice.
 (Above)1998 photo of Quebec’s devastating ice storm
Exactly twenty years ago, Quebec  was hit with the most devastating  ice storm in it’s European history. The entire province lost power for months due to power lines destroyed under over 10 cm of ice (4″). I was there in 1998 and missed getting stranded in Quebec by one day. I driving south over the Adirondacks in eery 50 degree weather as creepy bluish storm clouds threatened exactly one day before the storm hit.
So when I heard the report over the internet of “code red” road conditions in Quebec and I was experiencing flu symptoms in Warrensburg in upstate New York, Tanook and I were happy to stay put in the coziest Super 8 motel I’ve ever stayed in. Note:  Super 8 motels are forever damned in a brilliant parody country song “Don’t Wanna Die in a Super 8 Motel” by former Drive By Truckers singer Jason Isbelle.
So yesterday, as my fever broke in the morning and my flu bug turned out to be a bad head cold, we made the  decision to push on to Quebec. Road conditions had improved from “cope red” to “code green” on french weather site “MeteoMedia.com.” So we had an easy four hour drive into sunny Quebec on salted dry frozen roads.
Most noteworthy for me, however, was the fastest and most pleasant border crowding into Quebec from the U.S. ever. It took took me over fifty border crossings into Quebec (since 1995) to finally learn that  speaking french to the border agent is not only respectful but apparently is a guarantee of the quickest route to defuse any suspicion of motives in Quebec.
 “Would you please roll down your back window?” the attractive young Qubequoise asked me
“Bien sur!” I offered and she saw the giant sled dog in back.
“You speak French?” she asked cooly, without looking at me as she looked up my tag number on the internet.
” Bai oui! C’est pourquoi oh est la! Afin d’amelliorer mon Français!” I responded in my best Quebec dialect I could muster. She smiled and began to thaw.
She took an interest in Tanook and, since no one was behind us, we had an unhurried friendly french conversion (though she responded mostly in English) but we parted friends and she left me with a smile “Amusez bien en Quebec!”
(Above: “Première Neige”, 11″x13″, pastel on paper, SOLD)

About Walter Cumming

Walter has created several travel portfolios for publication and for gallery shows. This will be his first live blog with sketchbook images uploaded from on location. Walter Cumming created award winning art for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 28 years. In 2008 he chose to leave the paper and become a full time, independent artist. In his final year at the AJC, Cumming received his highest national and international recognition, winning both the 2008 Best of Cox portfolio for illustration and first place for illustration in the 2008 international Society of Newspaper Design.
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