Bonjour, mes amis!
Jeneralist sends greetings from Montreal!
I'm on my exploration of the great cycling paths of Quebec, headed for the "Petit Train du Nord", a 150 mile long rails-to-trails conversion.
Friday night, I packed. I packed the same gear on the same bike I used for last year's vacation along the C&O/GAP. I stepped on the same scale. Last year, I said, "Great! The weight of the gear is less than the weight I've lost over the past several months. This should be fine." This year, I said, "Ack! the bike and the gear together weigh ninety pounds!"
Yes, friends, 90 pounds.
So Saturday I threw things in or on my car and drove to a state park in Vermont about 10 miles from the border.
Sunday I woke up to the sound of rain. No problem, I was wonderfully dry in my lean-to ($5). I rolled up my sleeping bag and my air mattress, and by the time I was ready to load things onto the bike, the rain had stopped. I wore my new Showers Pass touring jacket, though, because the day looked threatening.
No problems crossing the border. I started to bonk about 3 miles into Canada when I found a diner. (Key words to look for: "restaurant", "cafe", "omelette", and most important of all, "Ouvert" (open)). Refreshed, I set back out along the Route Vert, following the map past farmland. Cows to the right of me, corn to the left of me, rain above and puddles below.
There's a lovely section along an old canal near Chambly. The rain had stopped by then, and it was just beautiful.
I was going to tell you how great the riding here is. There are places where the bike paths cross a street. The drivers will have a stop sign: not a "yield to crosswalk", but an actual stop sign, and the drivers actually stop. But instead I'm going to gripe about the signage.
Most of the route is well-marked, with "Route Vert" signs placed reassuringly before turns and after ("yes! you did it right!"). But near Montreal, there were two problems. The first wasn't too bad -- the sign saying that folks headed toward Montreal needed to turn right to take the pedestrian bridge over the highway was missing. The going-straight bike path petered out after a mile, and I was able to retrace my mistake.
But the other ---
Montreal is on the other side of a big river. The official Route Verte map shows two river crossings. The northern crossing, via ferry, is marked with the warning that cyclists will need to carry their bikes up and down a stairway to get to the path. Remember that my bike and gear weighs 90 pounds. So much for that! The other crossing, a bit more to the south, is via a bridge. No warning about stairs. That's the one for me! The two routes diverge 20 km out of the city.
Now, if *you* were going to close a bridge to an island in the middle of the river because a NASCAR race has taken over the whole island, you'd put a warning sign right before the bridge, of course. I hope, dear friends, that you would ALSO put a sign at the decision point ("do I take this bridge, or go the other way?") 20 km before.
Let me set you the picture: I can see the city, of course, taunting me on the other side of the river. It's 19h (they use 24 hour time here), getting dark fast. I'm travelling alone. My waterproof GPS, on which I have depended without problems for 10 years, has succumbed to the day's weather; the switches don't work. I can't reliably turn it on, turn on the backlight, etc. I've got a map that shows me where the ferry leaves from, some indistinct distance to the north.
Time to pedal like mad!
Eventually, I get to something that looks like it might be a dock. But the signage there talks about pleasure-boats, and jet-skis. It's 20h now, and dark. Time for a backup plan to my back up. I reach into my tankbag to pull out my cell phone, which I've kept turned off all day because roaming fees are so expensive. Will it wake up and connect me to Google?
No need. As I stand up and look around, waiting for the phone to wake up, I see a sign behind me: "Route Vert", and a right-turn arrow, down toward the dock.
So down to the dock, find the little kiosk selling ferry tickets, wait for the ferry, and check in at my hostel before they give my room away. Of course, by the time I shower and change, all the nearby restaurants have closed and it's far too wet for anything but the nearest restaurant -- but that's not too bad, is it?
90 pounds. 90 miles. Yay me!