Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 7 - 9: Five down, five to go!!

July 7 - 105km to Montebello

Bienvenue a Quebec!

Well, five down, five to go: today we are finally out of Ontario and into the next province. We left Nepean soon after 8 on a gorgeous morning and Andrew escorted us all the way into town on the Ottawa River Parkway trail, which was a beautiful ride past the beaches and through the forest along the river. We then came out on Wellington Avenue and came up the hill to see Parliament and take the obligatory pictures in front of it. Probably there are half a dozen touring cyclists coming past that spot every day, especially in July when most cross-country cyclists will be in this area.

I must say that spending such a great time with Andy made me a bit homesick again, but the novelty of getting into the next province cheered me up immensely and I am quite excited about seeing the rest of the country. Since I have been no further east than Ottawa before, every day puts me into completely unexplored territory, and so the rest of the trip is definitely going to be more exciting for me, just for the novelty. Mike and Mary have trodden this ground before, as they have family (that we'll be visiting!) in Quebec.

Andrew, again many thanks for putting us up and escorting us around - it was really fantastic to have such a great host, with such great cats.

Anyways, after parting ways with Andrew (he went off to cycle 20+ back to Kanata to work) and taking pictures at the parliament buildings we went down past the National Gallery and across Alexandra Bridge into Quebec. How exciting! First we visited a tourist info for some Route Verte (Quebec's cycle route system) information and then a bike shop for parts, and went down to the waterfront in Gatineau looking across the water to the Parliament buildings, which now seemed so far away, in another province no less... we got onto the Route Verte Route #1, which goes from Gatineau all the way to Montreal, and more or less followed it all day to Montebello. We stopped at Walmart, which we passed outside of town, so Mike could get a new digital camera, Mary a new watch, and all of us some lunch food. The Route Verte #1 was quite nice, a paved offroad path until well outside of Gatineau, and then it mostly followed the highway 148, which has gloriously enormous shoulders, in good condition, which is a fantastic contrast from any Ontario road we've been on. We stopped at just about every town we passed for slushies, as it was quite hot and humid all day - there may be thunderstorms tonight. We got to Montebello by 5 and checked out the tourist info before they closed, and went down to the municipal park/marina/campground/sports field area, and registered to camp at the Auberge on the corner. Happily the Auberge has a pool which we could, and did, use!

I saw a drive-in movie theatre today, still operational. Really!!

Oh yes and we had our first taste of that European officiousness that Quebeckers tend to share with the French. We registered and paid for a non-serviced campsite, but the lady told us to just set up anywhere, as there weren't that many people around. So we set up in the (nicer) serviced sites (the ones with electricity and water, for the RVs), next to the water. But of course at 7:30 some official dude came around and told us to move to the unserviced sites, all of 50 feet away, even though there was lots of space in the serviced sites and it was quite clear we weren't going to be an issue. But we should have been in the unserviced sites, so we had to move! Very amusing. We are almost still on the waterfront, but the grass is longer over here. And I think it's buggier.


July 8: Montebello to Ste. Agathe des Monts
119 km
17 km/hr averge

7:05 on the bike

This morning we checked out the Chateau Montebello on our way out of town, which is apparently the largest log house in the world. Now it is a fancy resort hotel, but it is quite handsome with black and red logs all over the outside. We then headed away from the Ottawa River on Highway 323. It was a great ride all day, with some nice windy parts along rivers, interesting little resort-y towns to pass through, and nice hills and farming scenery.

We stopped at Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix for second breakfast and at Lac des Plages for a quick swim. It was super humid all day and fairly warm so being sweaty was the order of the day! At St Jovite, a bustling town which is part of the bustling Mont Tremblant resort area, we visited the tourist information centre and found out about the P'tit Train du Nord, which is the fantastic rail-trail that travels for 200km north-west from Montreal. We followed this trail for 30km down to St Agathe, including climbing from 212m elevation at St Jovite to 424m, and then along to St Agathe.

This rail trail is everything the Galloping Goose in Victoria could be: it has excellent facilities and signage and it certainly appears that there is a regional commitment to continuously funding and maintaining the trail. This route is Route Verte #2 and we will be following it tomorrow down to the end and then following the bike route into Montreal, which will be a long day.

At Ste Agathe we are staying with Emily, Mike's niece, and Francis, who are being wonderful hosts in their apartment south of St Agathe. Pizza and beer, excellent cycling food! So many many thanks to Emily and Francis for their great hospitality.


July 9: Ste. Agathe to Montreal
127.2 km
17.5 km/hr ave.
7:15 on the bike
We had a wonderful evening with Emily and Francis. We even slept in and didn't get on the road until 9:30 am. Once again, we were lucky to be under a roof -- it poured in the night. Indeed, the morning was overcast and it rained on us for the first hour or so of our ride. However, it was warm and Mike and I didn't both to put on rain jackets. Mark put his on, but took it off fairly soon. It was very humid today, but we are slowly getting used to it.

The ride today was wonderful-- La Route Verte did not disappoint. We were on Le P'tit Train du Nord from St. Agatha to St. Jerome (49 km). This is a rails-to-trails conversion over 200 km long. The highest point on the grade is 427 metres (we hit that yesterday). The route is in top condition and we were able to travel at a fairly high rate of speed. After P'tit Train we were on a bike route to Blainville (18 km -- where they make Polaris beer), and then on roads until we came to Laval. Here we hopped back on the Route Verte and crossed Laval. We rode on to the Ile de Montreal over a railway bridge over the Riviere des Prairies.

Riding into Montreal was spectacular. We were on dedicated bike lanes on some of the most famous streets in Montreal -- Brebeuf, St.Urbaine, Jean Talon, Cristoph Colomb, Rene Levesque, etc. We rode with all of the Montreal communters and they must have thought we were three crazy anglos because we were ohhing and awhing and looking at our maps. Several people asked where we were from. We were riding through right at rush hour, and it was so much fun to whizz through the city as everyone in cars sat and fumed. Bikes are king in Montreal -- at least on these laid out bike routes. This may have been the most fun I have ever had riding into a big city.

We went right down to the Old Port and continued along to the Lachine Canal bike path. We crossed into Verdun and rode right to Corrine (Mike's niece and Emilie's sister) and Jean-Francoise's house. They were ready for us with great conversation, a shower, fine wine, a lasagna dinner, and a place to sleep for the night. A big thank you to both -- and to little Liam too for letting us use your room!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you guys are off those horrible Ontario roads. You seem to be making incredible time - way to rock the bike!

I should be on the road instead of screwing around on the Internet.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic to hear that all is going well. I have been offline for the last couple weeks and sitting at the cabin wondering how you are all doing! 5 more to go,congrats. Nice to see Mark is still wearing the same hockey jersey.