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  1. #1
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    388 mile vacation in Quebec

    Hey, all!

    As you may have heard, I had a nice riding vacation the week before last. The drive home was a bit pressured because I was trying to stay out of the path of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, but until then, I had a great time.

    Later posts will talk about different legs of the trip, but for now, I'd like to review the highlights.

    Start: North Hero State Park, VT
    Day 1: VT to Montreal
    Day 2: Montreal to St. Jerome
    Day 3: Shuttlebus from St. Jerome to Mont Laurier; then ride to Labelle
    Day 4: Labelle to Val-David
    Day 5: Val-David to Montreal
    Day 6: Montreal to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu
    Day 7: St-Jean to North Hero, then drive like mad before the storm!

    I had wanted to go to Quebec because I was looking for a long rails-to-trails conversion, something like the Great Allegheny Passage that I had ridden the year before. Quebec has the P'tit Train du Nord, a 125 mile trail between Mont-Laurier and St. Jerome. Quebec also has an extensive network of conventional bike paths, called the Route Verte. As an added bonus, I would not be surrounded by the sounds of English. To me, a vacation feels more exotic if I need to work to communicate.

    My biggest ride thus far was the GAP/C&O combo between the outskirts of Pittsburgh and Washington, DC last year. I will freely admit that I did not particularly train for this ride -- and I paid the price for it on the road. A few more high-mileage days in June and July would have done wonders for me.

    I have very different impressions of the two main stages, the Route Verte and the P'tit Train du Nord. The PTdN, as mentioned, is a rails-to-trails conversion that goes through the Laurentian mountains. The northern end is paved; the southern half is packed gravel. They advertise a maximum 4% slope -- and that slope, I need to let you know, extends for kilometers at a time. I expected it to feel like the GAP, with plenty of stops along the route, little towns eager to support riders (and get some income in the process.) Instead...

    Between Mont-Laurier and Labelle, it was a long way between towns. Sure, there were outhouses and waterfountains on the trail, and these were much appreciated. But after being spoiled by the GAP, I was surprised to come into towns and not find a bike shop, for example, near the trail. There are B&Bs and hotels, sure... but it was clear that tourism was not the focus of the towns along the trail. Better for the towns to have other sources of revenue and jobs, but I missed being fussed over.

    Hotels and campgrounds that earn the "Cyclists welcome!" seal to use in their advertising have to do certain things to prove themselves bicycle-friendly. Hotels need to have indoor, secure parking for bikes. Both hotels and campgrounds need to have tire pumps. Warning: they are not required to have good pumps. At one campground, I was offered a pump that appeared to be designed for inflating volleyballs: Schraeder only, and no gauge. Bring along a converter if you have Presta tires.

    On the lower half of the PTdN, towns were more frequent with more touristy activities right along the trail. Mont Tremblant, for example, had lovely restaurants and a bicycle shop right on the main road; there were also kayaks and boats to rent, should you feel so moved. This section felt more welcoming. Of course, the path was packed gravel and it still had 4% inclines. For Mr. Beanz this will be no obstacle -- but for me, pedalling 90 pounds of bike-and-stuff, it was a nice challenge.

    The southern terminus of the trail, St Jerome, really goes out of its way to attract cyclists. The trail ends at the town train depot. There's an archway that marks kilometer zero -- no scrabbling around Georgetown to found a well-hidden milestone, the way you need to on the C&O!

    And then, there is the entirely separate Route Verte system. Route Verte encompasses a huge swath of Quebec. Trails extend in all directions, between Montreal and Quebec City; then up into the Laurentians, along the water to Ottawa, or out the Gaspe peninsula. There are multiple numbered routes, just as with the US interstate system.

    The good and bad part of the RV is, they didn't set out to build it from scratch. The network uses whatever roads and trails were there to begin with, and tries to find low-traffic stretches of asphalt. RV2 from the US border to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, is just normal local low-traffic roads. There are no bike lanes, no paths, nothing. The route goes past some public parks with toilet and water facilities, and town that have food for sale are marked on the maps. In contrast, between Saint-Jean and Chambly, RV1 runs along a canal path conversion (gorgeous!) In Montreal, RV1 jinks across city bike paths alongside main streets. And in the Montreal suburbs, the route uses any available blacktop. For example, I was directed across a high school parking lot -- from the sidewalk, across the parking lot to the school building, along the front of the building, then cross the parking lot again and out to the street. At another point, the trail ran across the platform at a commuter train station -- not around the building, but up onto the loading platform and then back down. Good thing I wasn't going through at rush hour!

    Signage along the Route Verte was a problem. The guidebook features low resolution, triptik-style maps. If there's construction involving the streets that comprise the RV, well, be psychic to figure out where to pick the path up again. The route was fairly well marked in the countryside, but in the suburbs key signs were missing. Since Quebec is civilized enough that there may be more than one bike path, it's not enough to follow the bike markings on the pavement -- they may not be taking you where you want to go.

    The most annoying problem with signage was in a suburb of Montreal called Longeuil. There, the path splits for the approach to the city: a 26 km northern route to a ferry, or a 20 km southern route to a series of bridges. Since the tour book mentioned that cyclists would need to carry their bikes up and down some stairs to access the ferry, and since my bike with its luggage weighed 90 pounds, I picked the southern route. 16 km later, I come to a sign that says that the first bridge in the sequence is closed for the weekend. AAAARGH! Why didn't they tell me that at the decision-point?

    Of course, tricky hills, flat tires, rain storms, and bad directions help give a vacation its flavor. The vacation wasn't just about the 388 miles; there were also countless smiles along the way.
    - Jeneralist

  2. #2
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Day 1: North Hero VT to Montreal

    I started out by driving to North Hero State Park, about 12 miles from the Vermont-Quebec border, the day before. The park has very minimal services -- clean water and portajohns -- but it's a great place to camp for the night and leave the car for a week. North Hero is on a peninsula that sticks into Lake Champlain. Before bridges were built, you could reach in from the US on a ferry -- or drive to it from Canada. I took the ferry in, just because I like ferries.



    On Sunday morning, after saying good-bye to the park ranger and giving her my phone number in case there's a problem with the car, I start pedalling around 9:00 AM. I cross the border with no more than, "you're going how far?" for trouble. Get to Noyan, QC and almost immediately "bonk".


    Have a huge breakfast a diner on Rt 202. Cross Lake Champlain and start riding along the "Route Verte 2", part of a network of official provincial bike paths. Get caught in the rain: cows to my right, corn to my left, rain above and puddles below. The rain clears up by the time I get to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.


    There, the path moves from streets to a mostly-gravelled former canal towpath to Chambly. The canal, as you can see, is still in use.


    Each house along the canal has its own little dock. The bike path takes up more pavement than the one-way street does!


    Somewhere in here, I realize that I've vastly underestimated my planned first day's travel. I had thought the ride to Montreal, where I have hostel reservations, would be about 70 miles, but somehow it's looking a lot longer.

    I follow the Route Verte through Chambly into suburbs of Montreal. Briefly lost when the signage fails to indicate a right turn, I recover with help from my GPS. Then I come to a decision point: do I cross the St. Lawrence river at a ferry (turn right, go 26km) or at a bridge (turn left, go 20km)? I choose the shorter route. As night begins to fall, I realize that I have chosen unwisely: the bridge is closed for a NASCAR race! (Of course, they put this notice just before the bridge, instead of at the decision point.) With a GPS that's schitzing out in the rain, I desperately ride north, looking for another way across the river. My map shows another bridge _somewhere_ north of me. Pedalling frantically as night begins to fall, I realize that I'm on the far side of the main road. There are very few people around. It's starting to feel like one of those neighborhoods my mother has taught be to avoid!

    More and more nervous, I miss the bridge (cars only, as near as I can tell), but eventually find the ferry, which miraculously is still running. I get to Old Montreal and my hostel after dark, after the restaurants have closed, but safe. The hostel maintains a collection of food that previous guests have left behind in the shared kitchen; dinner is Earl Grey tea and someone else's ramen. 90 miles.
    - Jeneralist

  3. #3
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Thanks. I too spent a while riding in Quebec this year, in my case as part of a loop starting and finishing in Toronto and going out through Ontario and Quebec to Gaspe, then returning via New Brunswick, New England, upstate New York and Niagara.

    I liked riding in Quebec (except for the dogs!). Obviously the scale of the Province is vast, and by my European standards, the traffic is amazingly light. I used the RV network a bit, but frankly most of the roads are so quiet it didn't seem to matter.

    You mention hosteling in Montreal. Was that the one on Rue Mackay? I thought it was pretty good, spent a couple of nights there while I looked round.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  4. #4
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    Good reading! Let's hear the rest!
    HHCMF - Take pride in your ability to amaze lesser mortals! - MikeR



    We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!

  5. #5
    Neil_B
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    Bravo! And I can't wait for the next installment!

  6. #6
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    You mention hosteling in Montreal. Was that the one on Rue Mackay? I thought it was pretty good, spent a couple of nights there while I looked round.
    I stayed at the Auberge Alternative on the Rue St-Pierre. It had co-ed dorm rooms, from 6 to 20 bunks in a room. To keep bedbugs out, the management wouldn't let you bring in your own sleeping bags. Single-stall bathrooms and single-person showers in a cluster at the end of the hall. The common area had lots of comfy chairs and coffee tables; it looked like a great place to sit and chat with visitors from who-knows-where. There was also a shared kitchen; guests were encouraged to bring their own ingredients and cook their own meals. Anything left over after a guest checked out got put into a "free food" pile -- that's how I managed to have dinner on someone else's ramen.

    Very hippie-feeling.

    Well, I like that sort of thing; and since I didn't get much of a chance to sit in the common room and chat on the night of my arrival, I made reservations to stop there again on my way back.

    Did that work out any better than my first night there? Stay tuned to find out more!
    - Jeneralist

  7. #7
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Day 2: Montreal to St. Jerome

    I wake up Monday morning realizing that I did something amazing, and dumb, and possibly amazingly dumb, the day before: I rode 90 miles on a 90 pound bike! As I head into the auberge's common room for their $5 breakfast (coffee, bagels, nutella, and bananas -- yum!) I realize that I will not be able to ride back from Montreal to North Hero in a single day. That means that I need to plan on getting back to Montreal on Thursday night -- and lucky for me, the "Alternative Auberge" hostel where I'm staying has a vacancy for Thursday night. I tell them to expect me by 10pm that evening.

    After dawdling as long as I think I can, I set back on the road. My day starts in Old Montreal, a neighborhood of close-packed streets and old (by North American standards) buildings. I'm reminded of what I once heard on a visit to England: in America, 200 years is a long time; in Europe, 200 miles is a long distance.





    One thing that I quickly discover is that Montreal is a cycling town on a scale that puts Philadelphia to shame. There are bike paths everywhere. Along several roads, there are three separate pieces of pavement: the road, the sidewalk, and the bike path. Similarly, the intersections have 3 different traffic lights: one for cars, one for pedestrians, and one for cyclists. There is a network of bicycle rental kiosks dotting the city. You can rent a bike for a small fee, ride it to your destination, and leave it at a kiosk there. These rental bikes were heavily used; I saw dozens of people using them to get around the city that morning.



    Montreal is on an island in the St. Lawrence. The suburb of Laval is on the next island to the west, before getting back to the mainland. Which means that my morning had more bridge crossings in it. Once again, I couldn't find my way. On Sunday night, the bridge into Montreal was closed; on Monday morning, the bridge out of town was under construction. I followed detour signs past torn-up "Route Verte" signage near the bridge, and came to a sign directing cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge to Laval.

    So I did that. In Laval, there was more construction; but I managed to follow the bike path markings for a mile or so before I began to realize that something was fishy. Wasn't I supposed to be heading mostly north? Then, why did it feel like I was heading eastwards instead? And why did this bike path take me over the equivalent of an interstate highway -- when my Route Verte map showed the highway as being well to the east of the correct path? I then realized that I hadn't seen a Route Verte sign since getting to Laval. Just because it's a bike path, doesn't mean it's the right path...

    Time to backtrack. I found myself heading up a major roadway, 2 lanes in each direction, 50 mph speed limit, no shoulders, bristling with shops and strip malls on either side. The drivers there let me know that I was intruding on their turf in no uncertain terms! So much for following the main road for a few miles, until the Route Verte was shown to intersect it. I needed to head still further west, even though to get off the island I'd need to head east again later.

    I finally found the RV. Here, it was a bike path along power lines, behind the back of industrial parks. No cars, though, so that was a relief. It felt cut off from the world.

    Eventually, I crossed Laval and managed to successfully cross a bridge to Rosemere. Now the RV followed roads, twisting its way through busy downtowns. I made sure I had my GPS turned on as a backup, and I closely scanned the street signs, not wanting to get lost yet again. Lunch was had at a little sandwich shop that had the distinguishing feature of being halfway up a hill.

    The rain started again just as the route straightened out in Blainville. Here, I started seeing signs for the P'tit Train du Nord, letting me know how many km I was away from its southern terminus. Unlike the RV signs, which appeared at turns, the PTdN signs came every kilometer -- reassuring me that I was indeed doing it right.

    By the time I got to St. Jerome, I was tired. My original plan had called for me
    to ride north along the trail from Saint Jerome, getting maybe 20 miles into the trail on Monday. But I'm pooped out from my 90 mile, 90 pound feat of the day before. Making it the 40 miles to St. Jerome is all I can manage, especially since I get lost on the way. I also realize that tackling the gravel end of the trail first is not something I'm up for. So I make a reservation for the shuttle van to take me to the far end of the trail the next morning -- and then spend the night at a chain hotel. With a private bath, and nice hot water to soak in. It's been a long time since I felt so worn out by a 40 mile trip. Why should it have taken from 10am to 5 pm to go 40 miles? Oh, right -- getting lost, 50 pounds of gear, and 90 miles the day before.

    The soak in the tub felt wonderful.
    - Jeneralist

  8. #8
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Day 3: van to Mont-Laurier, then ride to Labelle

    Tuesday, 8/23:
    The train station at St Jerome is where the trail begins, and where the shuttle leaves. There's a beautiful public courtyard, with a map of the trail laid out in the paving-stones. The folks who run the shuttle are experienced hands.





    I got to the train station an hour before the van was scheduled to leave, as I had been instructed to do. That gave me a chance to see other tourists come in with their cars, bicycles hanging on racks on the rear. I did a double-take, though, when I saw folks unload their suitcases (instead of panniers).



    Turns out that the shuttlevan offers an extra service: they'll drop you and your bike at one town, and your gear at the B&B of your choice down the road. There's no need for you to carry your own gear if you don't want to !



    Three hours later, the shuttle arrives at the northern terminus, at Mont-Laurier. In the parking lot for a McDonald's. No maps in paving stones on this end. It seems like some towns take this more seriously than others!


    After about an hour or two of riding, I hit my first sustained uphill grade. My mental dialog has as much whining as Luke Skywalker on Tatooine ("But I don't want to do my chores! I don't want to need to pedal! I want to hang out at Tashi, er, Labelle Station with my friends!") A candy bar, a half-liter of chocolate milk, and that most elusive of bikeway friends, a tailwind, stop the self-defeating chorus. At 3pm I stop in one of the little towns along the way for lunch, and I meet up with some Americans I had sat next to in the van. They're set to take 4 days to do the trail; so they're already stopping for the night. I keep going and make it to Labelle, where the pavement gives way to gravel. I set up my tent at a private campground in the rain before heading off to a lovely dinner of mushroom ravioli at a nearby restaurant. Live music in the restaurant and rain outside -- I'm starting to feel content. 60 miles.
    - Jeneralist

  9. #9
    Member Duckles McGee's Avatar
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    Wow... looking forward to the rest!

  10. #10
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    moar
    HHCMF - Take pride in your ability to amaze lesser mortals! - MikeR



    We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!

  11. #11
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    A digression: dealing with the rain

    A few times in this narrative, my Gentle Readers may have noticed that four-letter word, "rain." Until recently, my rain jacket for use on the bike was a thin yellow Canari jacket. In the few times I've ridden in the rain in Philly, the rain soaked into the jacket -- but at least I didn't get stung by raindrops. Riding through a 90 degree summer shower, that's enough.

    But I had checked the climate info on the area before I left: average highs in the mid-70s, and a pretty strong probability of showers. Wait a minute -- you mean rain can be cold and chilling instead of refreshing? This required a re-think.

    A few days before I set out, I picked up a Showers Pass touring jacket. It's thick, and very waterproof. Ventilation doesn't come from some weird Goretex membrane -- instead, there are strategically placed zippers and vents. It's also got a huge flap that folds down covering one's backside even when leaning forward over the bike.

    The thing just worked. I don't have a better way to describe it. Yes, it was hot, and I took it off when it wasn't raining. I'm not sure I'd want to wear it in a 90 degree Philly July shower. But for the weather I had, it was just great.

    Other "rain gear" -- my usual Mt. Borah baggy shorts (the outer nylon "short" dried quickly, and the inner layer didn't get very wet); my usual Keen sandals (no socks to get wet!); and a shower cap over my helmet. Hey, it worked.
    - Jeneralist

  12. #12
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Day 4: Labelle to Val-David

    Now, in the southern portion of the trail, the towns are closer together and somehow the lakes have more boats on them. The Laurentians feel like the Catskills (except without the bad comedians and good bagels). Brunch at Mont-Tremblant gives me a chance to sit outside and admire the sunny day. I get to people-watch the people watching me. Today's hills feel just as steep, and this time they're in gravel; I get to appreciate the very low end of the gearing on my bike. A view up the trail to a horizon at a much higher elevation fills me with dread.


    It drizzles. It rains. My MP3 player goes into the waterproof pocket of my rain jacket, and then (when the rain stops and the sun comes out again) gets strapped back on to my handlebars. The rain stops. I keep pedalling. Eventually, I see a hopeful sign.


    Ahem... I said, "I see a hopeful sign."

    Thank you, Douglas.

    Again, I realize that I won't be able to make the distance I had hoped. Initially I had planned on going all the way to the end of the trail at St. Jerome; then I had planned on stopping at an inn in St. Agathe -- or was it St. Adele? I get mixed up with my saints, and converting between kilometers and miles in my head just made things worse. Eventually, I give up in a town called Val-David. Last-minute phone calls find a lovely inn for the night, the Auberge du Vieux Foyer. When I saw the stained-glass window in the main door, I knew I had found the right place for the night.



    Leafing thru the newspapers in the common room after dinner, I see mention of "l'ouragan Irene" for the first time. Still, as I soak in the hot tub, I'm not too worried. 40 miles.
    - Jeneralist

  13. #13
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Day 5: Val-David to Montreal

    Thursday, 8/25: My goal for the day is to make it back to the hostel in Montreal in time to hang out in the common room. I find it hard to leave the auberge (that wonderful combination of French dinners and English breakfasts!) I spend a few moments meandering through the grounds, admiring the views while I can.





    I somehow manage to get on the path in good time, but somehow I just can't muster much speed. I make it back to St. Jerome a little before 1:30. I feel pleased that I arrived at the end of the trail before the shuttlebus arrived from the north end -- I had gone faster than I would have if I had "cheated" and used a car! Suddenly, the sky opens with a downpour that sends me (and everyone else) running for cover. The squall only lasts about 20 minutes, but now I'm running late by my own schedule.

    I get back on the path, and eventually I notice that there is a train to my immediate right. Since I'd just spent several days following a rails-to-trails conversion, seeing an actual train was something of a surprise. And this is a working train, a commuter train, and (as a rushed check of the signage reveals) a train that allows bicycles. Yippee, I exult -- just as it pulls away.

    No problem, say I. I have the train schedule -- there will be another at 5:17 pm -- and I have a book ("Agatha H and the Airship City"). I haul my bike up to the platform, and sit down to read. At 5:00 or so, a train approaches from Montreal. I sit, thinking it's another 15 minutes until my train comes by. After 10 minutes, the train that arrived at 5:00 leaves the station -- headed TOWARDS Montreal. Uh-oh! It's only then that I realize the significance of the single set of train tracks in front of me: it must be a spur line. No matter whether the train is headed towards or away from Montreal, it will always approach the station from the same direction. I missed my train -- and that was the last one of the night!

    By the time I realize what has happened, it's 5:30 at night. Remember, back at 4:00, I thought it would be nice to take the train so I could spend more time in Montreal. Now, instead of looking forward to spending the night chatting amiably with travellers from all over the world, I get to make a mad bicycle dash for the city. First things first -- I need to cross the island of Laval, where I got so badly lost on Monday. The pathway jinks and jogs, using any available bit of asphalt. I'm directed across an active train platform, then in between what sure seemed like two railway containers, before I find the bridge to Montreal. I realize that I had taken the wrong bridge on my trip north -- that was an automotive bridge; tonight, I get to cross a train bridge instead.

    I get to the west side of the city at about 8:30 pm. Just when I was thinking everything should be fine after all, I hit a curb badly and get a sudden flat. I get the opportunity to change a tire after dark at a busy interesection in a foreign country where I don't speak the preferred language. (How many XP do I get for that? I think I must have levelled up!) Before reaching for the tire irons, I get out my cell phone. "Hello, Alternative Auberge? You're expecting me by 10:00. It looks like I won't be there until midnight...."

    The good news is, dinner wasn't someone else's ramen; dinner was a sandwich from a convenience store. I bought an extra, so I could donate to the "free food" pile at the hostel when I got there, tired and grimy, at about 10:30. 65 miles.
    - Jeneralist

  14. #14
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    And now, a word from our sponsor.

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    - Jeneralist

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    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    Oh those Heterodynes, always getting up to some bit of sparky mischief.
    HHCMF - Take pride in your ability to amaze lesser mortals! - MikeR



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  16. #16
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Day 6: Montreal to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu

    This was the pleasant, leisurely day. (The other days were pleasant, too, but I'm not sure how leisurely many of them turned out to be!) I rode back toward Vermont along the path I had meant to use on the way into Montreal. But first -- a ride back north along the trail, to a combination bike shop/cafe I had noticed on my first pass across the city.



    At last! A place that had a Presta-friendly manual air pump, with a gauge! A place where I could replace the Kryptonite cable that went with my U-lock! ( I had left the cable behind at the campsite at Labelle, and the two other bike shops I stopped at -- Mont-Tremblant and Ste-Adele -- didn't have a replacement. It seems that the towns along the trail didn't see enough bike theft to understand why anyone would want to make sure the front tire AND the rear tire AND the frame were all secured to the U-lock.) I bought a tire tube, to replace the one I had used last the night before; and got to sip some darn good coffee while someone inflated my tires for me. (I had asked to just borrow the air pump, but they wouldn't hear of it.)


    The bridge across the St. Lawrence was open this time, so I got to see the beautiful park at Ile Notre-Dame and ride my bike along what had been a NASCAR track just a few days before. How many cyclists do you know, Clyde, 'Theena, or otherwise, who can boast that they've ridden their bikes on a NASCAR track?



    Retracing my steps from what had been a confused ride a few nights before, I found myself wishing that I had brought along a can of green spray paint to mark the turn that I had missed. Ah, well. At Chambly, I stopped to admire the view out across the lake, munching happily on an ice cream cone as I did. One benefit to a bike tour like this -- there are no guilty calories.



    Then another afternoon on the canal path at Chambly before getting to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in the late afternoon. I heard a roar of air as I rode into town, and looked up; there were hot air balloons just lifting off into the blue sky.



    I had time to check in at that night's hotel, and then walk into town. My leg muscles were confused by this new request -- back&forth instead of around&around? -- but eventually, things worked out. Once back at the hotel, well-fed and sleepy, I had a moment to take stock of my situation. My arms were sunburnt from where my short-sleeved jerseys stopped to where my gloves started -- and tanned again from the second knuckle to the end. There were two distinct tan lines, one darker than the other, across my thighs -- one pair of cycling shorts is a few inches longer than the other. My right calf was covered with scrapes, presumably from the times I walked my bike only to have the pedal swing 'round and catch me in the leg. My feet had tiger stripes, tanning through the pattern of my cycling sandals. And what's this? A tick? Oh, Slartibartfarst....The newspaper continued to talk about "l'ouragan", in bigger print than before. I sprawled out on the hotel bed, knowing that the next day would be the last of my trip. 40 miles.
    - Jeneralist

  17. #17
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    I had heard about Quebec's bike trails, and even read a guide for the railtrail you went on - thanks very much for your writeup of the trip.

    4% grade on a rail line? crazy.

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    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brando_T. View Post
    I had heard about Quebec's bike trails, and even read a guide for the railtrail you went on - thanks very much for your writeup of the trip.

    4% grade on a rail line? crazy.
    Yup, 4%. (For comparison, the Great Allegheny Passage has a 2% max.)
    You can find another nice write-up about the railtrail at the NY Times website: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/13/travel/escapes/13Ptit.html?pagewanted=all

    The NY Times author clearly did her ride at a different time of the week, and a different time of the year; she emphasizes how busy the trail was, and for me it was almost deserted.
    Last edited by jeneralist; 09-09-11 at 10:24 AM. Reason: added an extra paragraph
    - Jeneralist

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeneralist View Post
    Yup, 4%. (For comparison, the Great Allegheny Passage has a 2% max.)
    You can find another nice write-up about the railtrail at the NY Times website: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/13/travel/escapes/13Ptit.html?pagewanted=all

    The NY Times author clearly did her ride at a different time of the week, and a different time of the year; she emphasizes how busy the trail was, and for me it was almost deserted.
    The two per cent grade figure for the GAP is is an article of faith to trail fans, but it's an urban legend. The grade is 3 per cent in stretches through Ohiopyle State Park according to the PA DCNR.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil_B View Post
    The grade is 3 per cent in stretches through Ohiopyle State Park according to the PA DCNR.
    Being in the biz, I have serious doubts about the accuracy of its assertion.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Being in the biz, I have serious doubts about the accuracy of its assertion.
    It feels accurate.

  22. #22
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    Day 7: St-Jean-sur-Richelieu to North Hero, VT, USA! Plus, Irene.

    Saturday, 8/27: I woke up well before my alarm clock sounded, which usually means I have a reason to be awake -- whether I know it or not. For the first time in over a week, I turned on the TV. The US stations, now in reach, were talking nonstop about preparations for Irene. There were many scenes with meteorologists in heavy raincoats in places like North Carolina getting very wet indeed. I concluded that my original plan of a leisurely ride back to Vermont, a night at the state park, and a Sunday drive back to PA needed to be revised. I rushed out of the hotel, getting under way before 9AM for the first time all week.

    Back on the Route Verte, except this time I cut some of the scenic wiggles out of the path. Thus I discovered that when (car) Rt 223 was part of Route Verte 2, it had shoulders -- but when the Verte turned onto the back roads, it was because the highway didn't have shoulders anymore. About 3 miles from the diner that rescued me from a bonk on the way north, I felt myself fading fast -- so a found a different diner, and still had a breakfast that couldn't be beat. I didn't mind spending time to get "refueled" -- but I did begrudge the time I spent in line at the border crossing. On the way north: no line. On the way south, 45 minutes waiting. I started wondering if Irene had taken out the internet connection to some huge government database near DC.

    Got thru customs with no trouble ("Buy anything in Canada? Any agricultural products?" "Well, I've got an egg salad sandwich for later....") Got to the state park around 3pm, much to the relief of the ranger, who was starting to worry about me and my (abandoned?) car. I had ridden to the park with my bike on a rack on my trunk, but the thought of having that huge protuberance sticking out from my car in 60+ mph winds didn't seem wise. I spent some time disassembling by bike into frame, fenders, and tires, so that I could put it in the back seat. This greatly amused a couple from Nova Scotia who had parked their RV next to my car. "You just got here, and you're simply taking off?" "Yep. There's a hurricane headed north, and I don't want to drive through it, so I'm driving now. You might want to check in with the ranger." I find myself wondering how they made it through the weekend; they had been parked about 20 feet inland from, and 2 feet above, Lake Champlain.

    50 miles on the bike. Total for the trip: 388.37 miles

    Then at about 4:30 I started driving south and west, making for my parents' place outside of Scranton and (hopefully) to the west of the storm's track. The first hour or so on the NY Thruway was uneventful; around 6 pm, I started listening to Prairie Home Companion on one radio station after another as I kept moving south. The sky grew dark long before night fell. After the sun set, I had my first rain shower. Scared, I started looking for a local news station. Owing to the odd properties of AM radio after dark, I couldn't find anything local -- but I could listen to stations from New York City, Boston, and my own home of Philadelphia. It was already raining hard in Philly and Manhattan, and Boston was hunkered down. The rain had stopped where I was -- maybe it wasn't from Irene, yet -- but I knew it would be back.

    My GPS was taking me to my folks' house along twisty country roads. I had asked it for speed, rather than a route I recognized, and it was doing its best to meet my request. "If I break down here," I thought, "no one will ever find me; there's no cell phone signal, and no one else is on these roads!" The wind whipped up, then the rain came down; the treetops moved in their eerie traces above me. I got to my parents' place just before midnight, about 15 minutes after the rain had started for them. Safe, warm, and dry, I joined my folks as we waited to see what the storm would bring.
    Last edited by jeneralist; 09-11-11 at 06:50 AM. Reason: paragraph break
    - Jeneralist

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