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  1. #1
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    A non-direct route from Albany to Quebec City

    I’m considering riding from Albany, NY to Quebec City via a non-direct route.

    I’d fly into Albany (from my home in Salt Lake City) in early June and spend ~14 days biking ~850 miles to Quebec City where I’ll meet my spouse who will be there on business.

    From other posts, it seems like most people ride from NY to Montreal via Lake Champlain and then ride up the Saint Lawrence River to Quebec City, but I have more time and prefer less-travelled roads. As shown on my map, I’d take back roads and wind through national parks. I’d primarily be camping but would probably spend an occasional night in a hotel.

    I’m curious if I’ll be able to camp (preferably wild) along this route (especially in NY) and if I’ll find provisions (aka food) along my off-the-beaten path route in Quebec (e.g., it’s 160 miles from Grand-Mère to Saint-André-du-Lac-Saint-Jean). I’d appreciate comments from folks who’ve ridden portions of this route.

    FWIW, last year I rode from Salt Lake City, UT to Durango, CO via mostly back roads (see my Crazy Guy tale). That trip averaged 60 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing per day. I expect to ride a similar distance each day with much less climbing.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Macro Geek
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    That's a very ambitious route! I have motored through the Reserve Laurentides (which is beautiful), and I don't remember seeing many services (food, restaurants, etc.) along the way. You may need to carry several days of food.

    An alternative route, which would also be beautiful, is to continue east to the Saguenay River, follow it south to Tadoussac, and then head west through Charlevoix (along the north shore of the St. Lawrence) to Quebec City. Both Saguenay and Charlevoix are stunning. Think fiords and mountains and whales. There is even a gigantic meteor crater near Baie St. Paul. But it's a much longer route, and the hills, especially between Tadoussac and Baie St. Paul, are challenging. My bike trip from Quebec City to Tadoussac was my all time favourite in 25 or 30 years of touring.
    Last edited by acantor; 04-29-12 at 09:11 PM.

  3. #3
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    Part of your route through Mont Tremblant park is gravel. Highway 155, 169 and 175 are the major routes from the south to Saguenay and Lac St-Jean so they aren't really less-traveled.

    I rode the 155 up to La Tuque and drove the rest. It has a decent shoulder until somewhere north of La Bostonnais, then the shoulder is spotty. Most villages between Grand-Mère and La Tuque have a convenience store or bigger. It's a nice ride despite the traffic and you can wild camp on some beaches (some are private). La Tuque is a big town. North of La Tuque is more remote with lots of wild camping spots. Traffic is lower but it's a winding road with fast trucks so be careful. You're back in civisation around Lac Bouchette.

    Highway 175 is high-traffic, freeway-like in parts with wide shoulders. From what I hear, safe enough but noisy. I never biked it, or highway 169, which I hear is neither fun nor safe.

    Another, better option IMO, is highway 381 or 170 and 138/362.

    Or you could ride a different route: http://g.co/maps/4ce3d

    There are interesting options depending on how flexible on mileage and/or don't mind taking the train. Any reason you need to fly in Albany?
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

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    As far as the Adirondack's, your route will take you thru many heavily forested areas between towns. The land can be private or state land, most times not really posted as to ownership. No services between towns, so stop when you are in Tupper Lake/Saranac Lake, etc. There are a couple of state campgrounds in the area. The roads are generally nice and wide with good shoulders. You could also look for river/lake access areas to stealth camp, but be warned that state police/rangers do patrol the parking areas and will kick you out if found.
    1965 Moulton Speed 4, 1974 Fuji 12 speed, 1987 DB Ascent EX, 2006 Dahon Speed TR, 2009 Salsa Fargo, 2011 Gravity 29.4, 2011 Salsa Casseroll, 2012 Surly Moonlander

  5. #5
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    Thanks VT. Good info.

    After a "fly by" with Google Earth, I'm quite concerned with "bug" issues (i.e., mosquitoes) on my off-the-beaten-path through Quebec. There's a lot of standing water between Parc national du Mon-Tremblant, La Mauricie National Park, and Jacques-Cartier National Park, and I my be the one item on the dinner menu.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    Thanks Cantor and Erick.

    Good to know that part of my proposed route through Mont Tremblant is gravel! I'm okay with a bit of gravel, but it definitely changes the mileage I can cover. I'm having a hard time finding Hwys 175, 381, and 170 on the map (and Google has an inconvenient "feature" where it reduces the size of the map labels as you zoom in). FWIW, I don't enjoy noisy roads (e.g., hwy 175?) even if safe.

    I proposed flying into Albany because it seemed like a good starting point given my time frame and destination, and I can also get an okay flight, but I'm open to other starting locations. My only constraints are an airport, ~15 days of riding (800-1000 miles), and a final destination of Quebec City. Erick, your alternative route (http://g.co/maps/4ce3d) is extremely interesting. It's the right length, it looks like it might be more scenic, and it includes Cantor's suggestion of the Sagueny River.

    I feel like a wimp saying this, and I can handle long days and mountainous terrain, but per my reply to VT Speed, I'm now concerned about flying critters (i.e., mosquitoes) devouring me--I have the misfortune of attracting those bloodsuckers. The route you (Erick) suggest up the SE side of the St. Lawrence looks more scenic and possibly less buggy than my inland ride by standing water.

    Thanks for the input. This forum is an outstanding resource thanks to people like you.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Freakin'Chickin's Avatar
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    Hello Sachelis,

    I would say as Erick L.: I wouldn't ride the higway 155 all the way. It's a beautiful road, but north of La Tuque - La Bostonnais it gets narrower (no shoulder) and there is lots and lots of traffic, and heavy truck traffic. I did ride sometimes from Chambord to Lac-Bouchette, which is not "so" bad, but I wouldn't recommend it either (I was looking for an old foot trail that goes from Lac-Bouchette to Chambord): two times out of three I almost got hit... badly! It's sad because it's a very scenic road, but I wouldn't do it. Nor I wouldn't cycle hwy 169. It is narrow, very hilly and twisty, no shoulder and there is waaay too much heavy traffic there also. It is also a shame because it is one of the most beatifu sights in the Laurentian mountains. I used to live in Lake St-Jean, travelling often to Qc city by this road. I would never bike that one (it would be a great challenge though), except if one day it is closed to automotive traffic . Since last year, hwy 175 has been completed as a divided four-lane highway. Lots of heavy traffic, so very very noisy, but I would consider it safe, in daylight only (even with good lightings, there are too much distracted drivers that can swerwe to you). Huge shoulder has been built, and now it is way safer for all users than before (that three-lane highway, before, was a real widow maker. All year long!).

    Erick's proposal for the 381 and 170 is an excellent choice, for more quiet roads and more scenic ones! I don't know how you could get to Saguenay region without using hwy 155 (use a bus ride, maybe? You could still get along by biking, but I would definitely use the gravel shoulder if you choose to do so - it would be for about 120 km). For taking either the 381 through Ferland-Boileau or the 170 through Sagard, you will need to go through La Baie (now part of Ville Saguenay). Rd 381 is very remote between Ferland-Boileau and Saint-Urbain. No shoulder, but almost no traffic. Very hilly, very scenic road. A good challenge for sure! You'll descend rd 381 all the way to the pretty town of Baie St-Paul, which afterwards can lead you to Qc city by going west. Pavement there is BAD, really bad. It's a remote road, quite dangerous in winter, and it might snow on you in late may - mid september. Unlikely but possible. Defitinely snowing in october.

    Rd. 170 passes on the south shore of the great Saguenay river. It doesn't follow it all the way, but you will get some great views of it in St-Felix-d'Otis and l'Anse-St-Jean (nice microbrew pub there). The shoulder is paved all the way there (which is not the case with hwy 381 - no shoulder), and pavement is usually good. Not much traffic, a very very nice itinerary. That road leads you to St-Simeon, from where you can either take a ferry and come back to Qc city by the south shore of the St-lawrence (hwy 132 is nice), or follow hwy 138 to Quebec city going west. One small blimp: hwy 138 is very rideable, wide and with a wide shoulder, but it can get traffic heavy, as it is the sole way (or close enough) of transporting goods to and from the "Côte-Nord" (i.e. lower north shore of St-Lawrence). If you choose that itinerary, and you want a bonus, in La Malbaie continue following the St-Lawrence with rd 362. More scenic, and a tad bit less traffic (more hills!).

    Oh.... mosquitoes, and black flies. They can get BAD! And indeed, by sticking closer to the St-Lawrence, you'll get more wind, which means harder work, but less mosquitoes for sure! Be prepared anway, because there is nothing too frustrating than hurrying in your tent for dinner while being eaten alive! That said, in the forested lands of northern Qc (including Mt Tremblant, Portneuf, Jacques-Cartier park and Réserve des Laurentides) you can have bad swoons of black flies and mosquitoes. If you choose that direction, bug spray is mandatory, and sometimes from mid-may/late may to mid september. Citronella soaps and spays work ok, be sure to wear as much light colored clothing in camp to minimize the attacks. Wind is your friend for sure, which is why on the bike you'll be fine, but off you're on your own against their airstrikes :-D
    "Cyclistes, fortifiez vos jambes en mangeant des oeufs mollets" - Pierre Dac

  8. #8
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acantor View Post
    That's a very ambitious route! I have motored through the Reserve Laurentides (which is beautiful), and I don't remember seeing many services (food, restaurants, etc.) along the way. You may need to carry several days of food.

    An alternative route, which would also be beautiful, is to continue east to the Saguenay River, follow it south to Tadoussac, and then head west through Charlevoix (along the north shore of the St. Lawrence) to Quebec City. Both Saguenay and Charlevoix are stunning. Think fiords and mountains and whales. There is even a gigantic meteor crater near Baie St. Paul. But it's a much longer route, and the hills, especially between Tadoussac and Baie St. Paul, are challenging. My bike trip from Quebec City to Tadoussac was my all time favourite in 25 or 30 years of touring.
    I'd vote for this idea. I did this in reverse last year on my way from Toronto to Gaspé. The hills are steep (mainly courtesy of the ancient meteor strike, I believe) but few of them are very long, and the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Tadoussac is a nice little town, and the whale-watching is terrific.

    I went at what was supposed to be the worst time of year for black flies, but they weren't that bad. On a scale of one to ten, rating the Scottish West Highland midge as a ten, I'd give them a six. Seven on a bad day.
    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.

  9. #9
    djb
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    re black flies, I camped and canoe camped all my childhood, so am fairly used to bugs. As chasm states from his experience with Scottish midges, an individuals experience with bugs can be a big diff in what is considered "bad", "tolerable" or just plain hell. Many years ago when our kids were very young, we did a weekend camping trip with other friends to the Tremblant area, where I had never camped before.

    I will have to ask my wife for details, but I do recall it was early in the summer (probably June) and the black flies were just atrocious and really did take the fun out of the trip. People later told us that camping in that area is really better much later in the season, as the black flies die out as it gets hotter. In general, black flies are bad in the beginning of the season, as they need cold running water to reproduce, as it gets hotter and the water warms up, they lessen.

    I certainly dont want to dampen the spirit of this trip, but being well informed about the bug life in a given area at a given month is a very good idea. Its tricky not knowing what experience you have had with mossies or black flies, but while Ive hiked and canoe camped dealing with the little buggers, Ive never bike toured where slow uphills, or taking breaks meant being nibbled on.

    This year has been strange weather wise, not a lot of snow, and earlier warmer temps, so maybe it will be drier (Im thinking perhaps less blackflies) but who knows, I would however echo being prudent about the Tremblant area, and second the idea of the St Lawrence river having more winds, which is always better for camping with bugs.

    I also echo the comments on how hilly it is past Quebec City going towards Tadoussac along the north shore. Ive driven a car along it a few times, and there are some seriously long hills.

  10. #10
    djb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freakin'Chickin View Post
    ...be sure to wear as much light colored clothing in camp to minimize the attacks. Wind is your friend for sure, which is why on the bike you'll be fine, but off you're on your own against their airstrikes :-D
    this comment concerning light coloured clothing is very important, DO NOT wear dark clothing, black, dark blue etc, as it really does attract bugs more. My theory has always been that large animals are generally dark (moose, bears, deer etc) but who knows, all I know is that it makes a difference (doesnt make them go away, but you will have more on you if you wear dark stuff)

    very light head nets are useful, they pack small like a single sock, but are great when its a "Walking Dead" moment. Im not a big fan of strong bug spray, hate having it on me, but long pants, long sleeved shirt and a hat and/or bug net at least covers up a lot so you dont have to slather yourself with stuff you really dont want tasting on your food as you eat a sandwich.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    Merci, Freakin'.

    Based on your and others', comments, hwy 155 is off the list. When "dropping the man" from Google on Hwy 169, the shoulder looked reasonable, but if cars/trucks are flying by at 60 mph, 'taint fun.

    Thanks for commenting on Erick's 172/381 and on 381 vs 170. Most of these appear to have narrow and/or gravel shoulders, but being less traveled, they look much more enjoyable. I'm fine with pulling on to the gravel to let the cagers by.

    From the photos and your descriptions, I think I'd like the remoteness of 381 versus 170, unless there's a significant difference in the bug situation. The solitude between Ferland-Boileau and Saint-Urbain appeals to me.

    And I think I'd prefer to return on the NW side of the St-Lawrence (138) when returning to QC City, because I'd already have ridden 132 on the SE side, although if I come down 381 I'll have missed the scenic 362.

    Merci beaucoup.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    I'd vote for this idea. I did this in reverse last year on my way from Toronto to Gaspé. The hills are steep (mainly courtesy of the ancient meteor strike, I believe) but few of them are very long, and the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Tadoussac is a nice little town, and the whale-watching is terrific.

    I went at what was supposed to be the worst time of year for black flies, but they weren't that bad. On a scale of one to ten, rating the Scottish West Highland midge as a ten, I'd give them a six. Seven on a bad day.
    Thanks Chasm. I've never experienced the Scottish midge, so the reference is out of context for me. Maybe Scottland will need to be another adventure for me.

    What time if year did you ride to Gaspé?

  13. #13
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by djb View Post
    I certainly dont want to dampen the spirit of this trip, but being well informed about the bug life in a given area at a given month is a very good idea. Its tricky not knowing what experience you have had with mossies or black flies, but while Ive hiked and canoe camped dealing with the little buggers, Ive never bike toured where slow uphills, or taking breaks meant being nibbled on.
    Thanks djb. I've ridden in the Rocky Mtns where the mosquitoes have bitten me through my bike shorts and where I've hidden in my bivvy on a hot day to avoid the bloodsuckers. I'm fine with DEET if it's what lets me coexist with them. I know that later in the season is usually better, but I do have a fixed date. When I saw the number of lakes in my Tremblant to Lac Saint-Jean itinerary (and the remoteness), I was ready to go elsewhere for my trip (and it's still an option). The latest plan along the St-Lawrence seems like it might be a little more hospitable.

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    djb
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    Have fun planning and doing this trip. I hope you have a few days in Quebec city at the end, its a neat city to walk around.
    Re deet, do be careful as it does eat away at synthetics,.bike shorts, goretex etc. You don't want to ruin a nice piece of clothing. Just a heads up.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sachelis View Post
    Thanks Chasm. I've never experienced the Scottish midge, so the reference is out of context for me. Maybe Scottland will need to be another adventure for me.

    What time if year did you ride to Gaspé?
    Left Toronto early May, got back there early July. Hit Tadoussac at the beginning of June, then took the ferry across the St Lawrence to Gaspé. Rode round, and returned to Toronto via New Brunswick, New England, New York. Didn't visit Albany, though...

    Do try Scotland. It rains, but it is fantastic touring territory. Come in May or June - the midges don't really get going until July.
    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.

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    I'm not sure if this hasn't already been mentioned. I scanned but didn't read every word in this thread, but you would do well to factor in La Route Verte into your planning. It would be hard to go from Albany to Quebec City without intersecting it at some point or other and it might be a good alternative to the highway you would have otherwise taken.

    I would +1 the suggestion for a bug headnet. I have experience touring in northern Maine as well as Quebec & Labrador. The headnet is essential. Couple that with long sleeves, long pants, and light gloves and you'll be fine even if there are clouds of the bloodsuckers.

  17. #17
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    There are aspects of Erick's route that are very nice. The south shore of the St. Lawrence is flat and scenic; I enjoyed it.

    If you decide to cross the St. Lawrence, check whether the ferry still runs between les Escoumins to Trois Pistoles; it was closed the summer I was there. Other nearby ferry crossings from the north shore: Forestville (a fairly easy day's ride east) or St. Simon (a day's ride west). I would be tempted to cross at St. Simon as the route is stunning, albeit there are mind-boggling steep and curvy hills. There are several towns along the way where you can go whale watching, including St. Simon.

    The Chaudiere River route is pleasant: rolling hills, nice villages, etc. Camping might be a challenge; I stayed at inexpensive B+Bs. Erick's route misses the town of Lac Megantic, which might be worth a visit, even if it is touristy. But people flock there for good reason!

  18. #18
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acantor View Post
    ... check whether the ferry still runs between les Escoumins to Trois Pistoles; it was closed the summer I was there ...
    Thanks for the heads up! That would have been a surprise.

    Quote Originally Posted by acantor View Post
    ... The Chaudiere River route is pleasant: rolling hills, nice villages, etc. Camping might be a challenge; I stayed at inexpensive B+Bs. Erick's route misses the town of Lac Megantic, which might be worth a visit, even if it is touristy. But people flock there for good reason!
    I'd seen that the camping looked scarce (from Google), but I was planning to blast through. It now sounds like it might be worth slowing down here.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Sachelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hilltowner View Post
    I would +1 the suggestion for a bug headnet. I have experience touring in northern Maine as well as Quebec & Labrador. The headnet is essential. Couple that with long sleeves, long pants, and light gloves and you'll be fine even if there are clouds of the bloodsuckers.
    Does DEET stop the flies? Are the flies active when the mosquitoes are (dawn and dusk)? Thanks hilltowner.

  20. #20
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sachelis View Post
    Does DEET stop the flies? Are the flies active when the mosquitoes are (dawn and dusk)? Thanks hilltowner.
    DEET worked fine for me. The flies seemed indifferent to the time of day.

    Acantor is right about the need to check the ferries' schedules. My experience was the opposite of his - the one from Saint-Simon to Rivière du Loop was out of action, so I crossed to Trois Pistoles from Escoumins. Phone ahead or check the schedules on their website.

    This is making me nostalgic.
    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.

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    DEET will often keep the bugs from landing on the places you've spread it but unless you take a bath in the stuff they'll find a place where it isn't. With a head net, long sleeves, long pants and gloves there aren't any places for them to bite. They can be crawling all over you and it won't be a problem. For example, a bit of the stitching was coming loose on the Mountain Hardwear glove liners I was using on the 389 in Quebec. It was a gap of about 2 mm. They found it and that was the only place I got bitten.

    My experience with the bugs on that trip: blackflies until sunset which got replaced by mosquitoes through the night.

    Be careful to get no-see-um sized mesh on the headnet.
    Last edited by hilltowner; 05-02-12 at 09:28 PM.

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