Sophie was on her little piece of real estate, tucked in and ready to fall asleep. Ben and Ellie had their pillows set up as I slid the van door shut. Québec was turning into a bit of a flop. My luck had run out with just winging it.
I got into the driver’s seat and it was well after nine. I rolled back the flap on the lid of my coffee cup and placed it in my cup holder. I looked back at the kids. Everyone was good to go. I was grateful that they were rolling with it as well as they were. We pulled out of Lévis and hit the highway in the dark.
It was quiet in the van. I formulated a simple plan: we would get a hotel in the next town.
Eventually, the next exit appeared and I veered off the highway, following the hotel signs. I pulled in behind another truck and camping trailer that had passed me a little earlier on the highway. I noticed that there were a number of people standing at the entrance. I parked the van off to the side and got out to go inquire about a room. A person walking back to their car shrugged at me and said, “Don’t bother going in, no vacancy.” I looked up and saw the paper getting taped to the window, “no vacancy.”
What is with Québec?! Obviously, I should’ve planned better for these parts. I got back into the van and saw another hotel a few blocks down the road. I headed that way. When I pulled in there, I noticed the same truck and trailer again, and also a Subaru stuffed to capacity with a roof rack and bike rack, parked at the entrance. There was a sense of urgency and a certain level of tension in the air. I looked at the front door of the hotel and saw another piece of white paper, ‘no vacancy.'
Wow. Québec must be extremely well sought after! I had no idea.
I realized, like it or not, I might be on the road for the better part of the night. I got back on the highway and recognized some of the vehicles I’d seen throughout the evening. We were all in the same boat. Unable to find a place to rest our weary heads.
I decided I wasn’t going to try to get a hotel in the next town so I drove past that exit…and the next. It was just about eleven and I was starting to feel the sting behind the eyes. I would stop at the next highway rest stop and we would get comfortable in the van for the night. But when we got to the next one like that, it was already full of RV's and trucks pulling camping trailers, not its usual transports trucks.
Everyone was in the same predicament.
There was nothing available. I drove some more.
And then I drove even more.
My eyelids were starting to get heavy.
I thought about the places we’d tried: la Mauricie campground, hotels in Lévis and Quebec, surrounding campgrounds, hotels in neighboring towns, transport rest stops, and a walmart parking lot. We couldn’t seem to catch a break tonight. I could imagine Matt reminding me that I should’ve booked something. I was starting to miss Ontario’s parks.
After midnight, I was getting too tired to drive anymore. I saw an exit in the distance with a hotel sign. I pulled over to find that the exit housed a PetroCanada with a motel on the back. I didn’t see much more than that. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the same truck and trailer and Subaru. I went to check for a room, but the same paper with the handwritten ‘no vacancy’ note was on the door.
I opened the van sliding door and said, “There are no rooms here either but we’re parking it for the night!”
Ben, a bit anxious asked, “Are we allowed to? What if we wake up and we're getting towed somewhere?”
I said, “Ben, that won’t happen. Nobody will bother us. And if they do, it'll all be part of our adventure. One day, we’ll think of this trip and remember the night we slept in a parking lot."
For the next twenty minutes I worked on shifting bags to make beds. When I finally lied down on the bench, I thought, if someone knocks on the van door and tells us we can’t stay here, surely they would take pity on a mom with three kids.
The knock never happened. I slept wonderfully.
The next morning when I woke up, I saw that there was a Tim Hortons attached to the garage. Perfect! That meant we could all pee, I could get coffee, and we could all get something for breakfast. We were on the road in record time.
Less than an hour later, we crossed into New Brunswick. I immediately felt the Québec tension lift and got a whiff of easiness associated with east coast lifestyle. We were so happy to be in New Brunswick but sad that Québec hadn’t worked out better.
I guess we will give Québec a second try on our way back.
***(I have very few pictures of our time in Québec which reflects the quantity of time we actually spent there.)