Bike Trips: Gaspé Peninsula:
July, 1992


Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2002

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Preparations & The Trip in Context


[Preparation] [Day 0] [Context] [Preparatory Trips]

Preparations & Lessons Learned

I had made two previous long distance bicycle trips in my life, prior to my Gaspé experience, which was to be my most ambitious to date:

In my youth, my friend Donald and I cycled from Montreal to Ottawa, a distance of 150km. We surprised ourselves at how little time the ride actually took, only about 10 hours.

Despite many afternoon excursions over the years, my trip from Montreal to Quebec City, 300km in 1990, proved to be a major undertaking. Though difficult, it was a refreshing experience and strengthened my confidence that I could still do these kinds of trips, despite being nearly 40. I learned a lot on that trip about how not to do it as well, lessons that would be applied to the current trip.

My gear had been a major problem in the 1990 trip. At that time I had an old, clunker of a Canadian Tire racing bicycle, one with no suitable gears for climbing hills. Loaded down like a truck, I had to make most of the trip in the second to easiest gear, leaving little room for adjusting to the even modest hills as I approached my destination of Quebec City. I had only the most makeshift of paniers: A plywood board, extending my back carrier to a foot in width and a couple of feet in length, bore most of my gear. I used my normal car camping gear. The sleeping bag alone measured nearly a foot and a half in size when rolled up and must have weighed at least ten pounds. The result was a very heavy and unwieldy machine.

In addition, I had not really read up on or prepared well for the demands and rigours of inter-city cycling. Thus, through not eating properly nor consuming nearly enough water, I had quickly faced low-blood sugar and dehydration problems. Once I started studying, these symptoms became all too clear. While I had cycled extensively to and from work, and even around town a bit for some afternoon excursions, I had not really trained in any systematic way.

Not that all these ills would be corrected this time around. While I had a better bike, it was still not regulation issue for touring. The mountain bike was just as heavy as the other one had been, but at least I had a better gear ratio, including a "granny gear" for hill climbing. I had bought new front and back carriers and paniers, to distribute the weight properly, along with lighter sleeping bags and such.

Many things were still the same, however. I still had my old Canadian Tire pup tent. Some balance had to be struck between the cost of an absolutely correct outfitting and the depth of my pockets.

In terms of physical preparation, besides commuting to and from work, I had made a point of doing at least once weekly runs up and down the mountain and along the length of the Lachine Canal. In addition, I added a series of ever-longer excursions, both around and outside Montreal. (These are described in the appendix below.)

I was unsure until only a few weeks before leaving as to exactly where I wanted to cycle. When I was forced to abandon my trip at Quebec City in 1990, I had looked longing­ly downriver in the direction of the sights and adventures I was missing. This exerted a strong pull that was, finally, to be decisive. But I also wondered about taking the old Highway Two west along the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario and Toronto (a trip I was to make in 1992). I considered a trip down into the mountains of Vermont, perhaps towards Maine (which, in retrospect, I am glad to have rejected, for I never would have been able to make it over the mountains at the time.)

As the circled date on the calendar drew nearer, I began to anticipate with great excitement my touring adventure.

Tuesday, July 21, 1992:
To the Staging Area

At last, the final day at work before the beginning of my vacation! The children were dropped off at their mom's on the way to work and the day was spent finishing off the necessary last minute details before a month's absence. I must admit to not having been totally effective. All through the day I was anxious to be out and on my way. By 16:30 the pull was just too much. So long, Concordia!

There were last minute equipment purchases to be made at Canadian Tire, I'm not sure exactly what. Then I hurried home and began loading the already-packed gear into the van. By 19:00, the bike was in the back I was ready to take off.

My goal was to be at the point, by the next morning, where I could immediately get on my way with the bicycle. To accomplish this, I had to reach the staging area at Mont Joli before I stopped for the evening. Mont-Joli is basically the beginning of the Gaspé region of Quebec and is about 500km downriver from Montreal, about 5 hours by car. I chose Mont-Joli as the point to leave the car and because it was on the rail line by which expected to return. There, the train tracks turn south, away from the coastline and towards New Brunswick.

Starting out at 19:00, it took me until 20:00 just to get clear of the city. Once well out of the city on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 20), heading east towards Quebec City, I felt I could stop for a good plate of spaghetti at the Pizza Hut in Mont St. Bruno. One of the things I had learned from my previous trip and from my research into long distance biking was the importance of loading up on carbohydrates.

Once on my way again at 21:00, I drove pretty well non-stop the 450km to the end of the Highway 20 freeway, near Rivière du Loup [Wolf River]. At that point the Trans-Canada turns south towards New Brunswick. I had a beautiful nighttime drive, especially once I was past Quebec City. The road rose up above the shore of the river, which was now widening into an estuary. The sun set behind me, bathing everything in a warm glow. The lights of the towns on the far shore began to sparkle, slowly moving further and further away as the St. Lawrence River turned into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the twilight were dimly seen the shadowy shapes of the towering gulf islands, like giant bowling pins, that pepper the St. Lawrence estuary along that stretch.

In preparation for a week, at least, of living entirely in French, I tuned in to local radio stations. I would come to know well the hit song of the day, "L'Aigle Noir", which would be played several times an evening on every radio station.

As the freeway turned away from the river at Rivière du loup, I exited onto Route 132 east, the two-laned road that hugs the water's edge along the entire south shore of the St. Lawrence through Quebec. Route 132 was to be my companion for the entire week.

I reached Trois-pistoles [Three Pistols] at about 01:00 the next morning. Being pretty tired by then, I was relieved to find a handy, quiet roadside rest area, just across the street from a re­stuarant. I pulled in, parked inconspicuously off in a corner, and had a chance to test out my new, lightweight sleeping bag for warmth. It was quite cold outside, about 4c degrees. While these roadside rest areas [Haltes Routières] were not supposed to be used for over­night camping, I had found that there was seldom any problem when one pulled in after midnight. I certainly slept like a baby and was not disturbed by any passing police.

The Bicycle Trip in Context

I had a month's vacation coming, and only a vague idea of what I was going to do with it all. The vacation period was to be divided into two parts, the first a solo excursion on my own and the second a road trip with my children.

I was not sure how long my cycling trip would take, which included a consideration of how long I would want to continue before abandoning the effort. It was, after all, my most ambitious attempt to date! I had vague notions of driving Down East afterwards. It was for these reasons that I selected Mont Joli as my staging area, for the train from Gaspé looped back through this town. Thus, wherever I was, I could always hop on the train and return. (At least, I could do so once I had reached the railhead at Gaspé, for there was no train along the North Shore.) When planning the trip from my armchair perspective, I expected at least to reach the town of Percé, and so the question was really how far along the South Shore would I get.

I started the bicycle portion of the trip as soon as my vacation arrived, as can be read below. When that portion was done, and I found myself once again in Mont Joli, with my bike and all the gear from the trip, lodged once more inside my van. I headed south towards New Brunswick.

The Trip Down East
I would drive back through the Matapedia Valley, whose scenery I had missed the night before when coming back on the train. I stopped at the historic site at Restigouche, before continuing across to Campbelltown, New Brunswick. I drove across New Brunswick, nosing in briefly at Shediac and Sackville before stopping at the Irving truck stop in Amherst, Nova Scotia, for supper. After supper, I drove on to another truck stop just outside Halifax, where I parked in amongst the trucks and slept in my van.

The next day I spent visiting Halifax, and in the late evening I drove up towards Cape Breton Island. I slept in my truck again, at the Irving truck stop just on the south side of the Canso Causeway.

The third day I spent visiting the West Coast of Cape Breton Island. I stopped at Marguerite's Bay and at Cheticamp before driving up and over the Cape Breton Highlands and coming down into North Sydney. I saw that I could take the ferry the next day across to Newfoundland, and return the same day on an overnight crossing.

The fourth day was spend on the ferry and visiting Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland.

I got off the ferry on the fifth day and visited Louisbourg before driving south again, ending up once more at the Irving truck stop at Amherst, where I slept.

The sixth day was spent driving non-stop from Amherst, Nova Scotia to Montreal.

Rest and Relaxation
I spend a couple of days holed up inside my apartment, recuperating from my trip, and writing the first account of this bicycle ride.

Preparatory Trips

Besides travelling back and forth every day to and from work by bicycle, a daily distance of some 20km, I had made several preparatory excursions earlier in the Summer. I had learned from my Quebec City trip how important it was to be in proper shape. I won't mention several times weekly jaunts up to the mountain or down to the waterfront:
  1. Early Spring: Regular bike ride to St. Anne de Bellevue and back: Noon to 18:00

  2. Late Spring:: Ride to Old Port and across Jacques Cartier Bridge to St. Helen's Island. Continue west as far as the Victoria Bridge and discover, for the first time, the South Shore connection. Come back along the Concordia Bridge to the Lachine Bikeway.

  3. 920606, Saturday: To Lachine and along the river to Verdun, coming back along the Lachine bikeway. Estimated distance: 40 km in 2 hours:

    It is a rainy morning, portent of a rainy weekend. I had hoped to make a nice trip, but gave up for the rain. I promised myself to get some work done. Instead, I wasted away the morning. I was about to start work when I saw the sun had come out. I decided to get in a nice, quick ride. I left at 15:00. I decided to do the river road for the first time that year. I reoad west until I connected with the Lachine bikeway, then continued west to Lachine. From Lachine, I headed south along the river. The bikeway along the river is really nice. It follows the rapids through Lasalle and then goes into Verdun. I ran into Denis, my colleague from work, as he was tending to his boat at the Verdun Marina. At the end of the bikeway, near Nun's Island, I spent some time unsuccessfully exploring the road that direction before turning around and heading home.

    I found a way through the city streets to connect with Lachine Bikeway, which was only a few blocks away. I then headed home via the Cote St. Paul exit, coming up the St. Jacques Hill, and along the DeMaisonneuve Bikeway. I got home at 17:00, and in much better mood for the work I had to do.

  4. 920607, Sunday: To the St. Catherine locks along the South Shore Seaway bikeway: Estmated distance: 33km ?? hours

    I caught the Lachine Canal bikeway at Cote St. Paul and continued east to Cite du Havre, and then went over bridge to Ile Notre Dame. I went west along Seaway bikepath, which was gravel as far as Champlain bridge. From the Champlain bridge on it was a paved path.

    It was the second time I had been on the gravel section. I passed by the "bird area", where the an island can be seen which is just white with sea gulls.

    The paved section of the path has a distance of 11km each way, and this was the first time I had ever been on it. (I had been to St. Catherine the night before, with the car). I got to St. Catherine by 15:00, having to head back by 16:00 in order to make it in time to pick up kids. I explored the now-closed provincial park at St Catherines. I had some french fries and a hot dog at a casse-croute by the waterfall, and then I started heading home.

    A Big black cloud came up behind me. I rode fast and only encountered a few drops at first. As I raced across the Ice Bridge, I could see the black storm approaching across the open water. It caught me on Nun's Island and I got soaked, even though I was wearing my rain poncho. I was forced to negociate the muddy ways of the Nun's Island connection, which was a veritable river. (At that time, there was still no bike path connecting Nun's Island with the City. Cyclists had formed an impromptu path along the slope of the highway.) By the time I made the Lachine bikeway, it was beginning to dry out. The sun returned and I was nearly dry by the time I got home.

  5. 920613, Saturday: South Shore to Repentigny, North Shore Back: Estimated distance: 80 km in 7 hours.

    I left at 11:00, with my rain gear in tow, as it had been raining. There was one final shower, five minutes into the trip, then I had clear, sunny skies for the rest of the day.

    I took the DeMaisonneuve bike trail to the Lachine Trail at Cote St. Paul. I headed east along the Lachine Trail towards Old Port. At the Des Seigneurs Bridge I stopped and answered a question­naire posed by a cute, young volunteer - questions on the Lachine bikeway (I feared they were planning major work on the canal). I then continued on to the Old Port.

    I was about to pass right by when I saw a cruise ship tied up by Clock Tower, so I rode over to investigate. It was a St. Lawrence cruise ship, The Victorian Empress, docked in Montreal to pick up passengers for 8 day excursion to Sage­nay and Kingston. I picked up a brochure. The old, fake wooden pirate ship was also tied up at the wharf, and I feared it was to become a permanent Summer fixture, a restuarant or something, for a permanent walkway has been built to reach it.

    As I continued on eastward, and was about to veer off to take the bike path, I had second thoughts and doubled back once through the port. I headed east on the restricted road that ran within the Port of Montreal. It wass the first time I had ever been on this road and I found it very interesting. It continued east to end, finally, at Viau. Along the way, there were few chances to get off and join the regular road outside the gates.

    Once I had left the restricted area, I found myself once more on the regular east-end bike trail, where I had last gone two years earlier on my Quebec trip. It was still as poorly kept up as it had been then, mostly no more than lines painted on the sidewalk. In Montreal East the marked trail stopped altogether. Still, there were a few waterside passages. At Boul. St. Jean Bap­tiste, in Montreal East, I was able to descend to the waterfront, at the point where Port of Montreal begins and where the river pilots have their boats. I had been there only a couple of times in the before, once on a car outing with the kids, and then on the '90 trip.

    I went on then, to Bout de l'Ile, where I discovered that my long-held wish that the little spit of land at the easternmost tip of the island be made into a park had finally been realized. There was a very nice little park on the promontory, beneath the "trembles".

    I crossed the bridge to Repentigny and continued as far as the Dunkin Donuts where I had had lunch in '90, before doubling back to eat at the Harvey's near the Bridge.

    Once back across the bridge into Montreal, I took a few minutes to connect with the eastern end of Boul. Gouin. I was now on road that I had not seen for ten years or more (on a one-day bike excursion while I still lived on St. Urbain Street). In the beginning it seems much the same as it had been, an almost deserted country road running along the river. The river looked really dirty. Coming east the riding had been easy, heading west again I was fighting a very tough headwind. Soon I come upon the markings of a bike path. At first it was just a line of paint on the side of the road, but it soon developed into more.

    None of the bike path development had been there 10 years ago. It was much nicer now. The bike path was sometimes just a sidewalk, sometimes a road through the park, but it was with me, unbroken, all the way to Cartierville. Around the dam it had been turned into a really nice right-of-way. Despite the wind, the ride was very pleasant and I was left wanting to go back for more.

    I continued west to the Cartierville bridge, before heading south along Laurentian Blvd. to get the kids at Heidi's. I stopped and re-tanked up on liquids at the Orange Julep. What with forgetting my helmet and having to go back, I ended up having three Orange Juleps.

  6. 920624: Wednesday, St. Jean Baptiste: Montreal to Mont St. Bruno & Back: Estimated distance: approx 72 km, travelling time 5 hrs + 15km on site

    It was a cloudy day, with the threat of rain. I left at 10:30 for the nearer mountain which had always been visible, off in the distance, on the South Shore. I followed the DeMaisonneuve trail to St. Jacques, which I took to connect with the Lachine Trail. I took the Lachine trail east to it end near the Old Port, then followed the further trail out by Cite du Havre and over Concorde bridge. I rode back along bike path which followed the Seaway, until I approached the crossing at the St. Lambert locks, a crossing I had only discovered earlier that year. This phase of the ride took about an hour.

    Just after my crossing, the gates went down for approaching ship. I waited half an hour at the Seaway while the ship approached and went through. I was then onn my way again around 12:15.

    I was new to the South Shore on bike. Crossing over highway, one dropped down at Rivermere Street in St. Lambert. I followed along Rivermere, a quiet residential street, to Queen Street. I took Queen over a couple of blocks to Bridge Street, which was now called Sir Wilfred Laurier. I followed this around to Victoria, where I stopped to buy map at the depanneur on the corner. It was a good thing, too, as my intuition about the route was totally wrong. I always had trouble with directions on the South Shore.

    At the corner of Victoria, what had been Wildred Laurier continued straight into Ville LeMoyne, where it became St. Louis, a kind of a run down Main Street. After a few short blocks, it then connected with Sir Wilfred Laurier, Hwy 116, at a major freeway intersection with Boul. Taschereau.

    Hwy 116 was a busy highway, straight as an arrow, following the main-line railroad tracks on out of town. It headed directly towards where I was going. At first the highway had wide shoulders and so presented no problem. I just kept away from the traffic. Once into St. Hubert, however, it became a freeway, with no bikes allowed. I was shunted off onto a service road, but was just as happy. I rode along this for several kilometres before coming to the next major intersection, that of Hwy 112.

    There as a diversion at this point, as no service road continued on the far side. It seemed I would be forced to take Chemin Chambly, which angled well away from the mountian, which remained my visual beacon. I consulted the map and saw that what I had to do was to pick up Avenue Raoul on the other side. This would keep me right next to the freeway as I headed out into the countryside.

    At the intersection with Autoroute 30, I was thrust back into civilisation as I come upon the massive shopping centre: Les Promenades St. Bruno. My road became Montee des promenades as it crossed the autoroute. Then it became Montee Sabourin, narrowing to two-laned country road and I was out into the fields.

    I left this road at De La Rebastaliere, turning towards St. Bruno. At this point I was even with the mountain, and right next to it. I crossed the main highway, Hwy116, and the railroad tracks, and then was on aresidential artery within the town of St. Bruno. At Boul. Montarville, I stopped and had lunch at MacDonalds. I Then continued on Rebastaliere, climbing up the mountain until I reached the gates of the park.

    I followed the gravel road around Lac Seigneurial, and then went off on a trail towards Lac des Bouleaux, a trail where bikes were really not supposed to be. I followed trail on to Lac à la Tortue. As a trail it was not too bad: About 3 feet wide and nicely gravelled. Only over its last part did it begin to get rather savage. I stopped at Lac Tortue, after having had to portage the bike up and down a couple of really steep hills. It looked like the trail onward would be just more of the same. I retraced my route back to the main gravel road, where bikes were allowed, and followed it to the "Acceuil", where I picked up a map and folder. I then continued over to the Rebastaliere exit again and started on out, along the same route. All totalled, I had ridden about 15km in the park.

    The other, higher mountain, which was just a bit further, Mt. St. Hilaire, looked quite accessible from Mont St. Bruno. It looked like it might be about an hour further on down the road.

    I got back into Montreal in two and a half hours, at 18:00.

  7. 920710-920711: Friday & Saturday: Montreal to Lancaster, Ontario and back. Full Gear dress rehearsal: 200km, 100 each way.

    Setting off for the dress-rehearsal of the main trip planned for the Summer, I left Montreal on my fully-loaded bike at around 11:00 on a bright, sunny Friday morning. I had taken the day off for this event. My initial destination was the KOA campground at Coteau du lac, about an hour west of the city by car, and where my parents had stayed on numerous visits.

    I took my usual route out to Ste. Anne de Bellevue, along the bicycle trail to La­chine and then along Lakeshore Boulevard out through Dorval, Pointe Claire, Beaconsfield and Baie D'Urfé, to Ste. Anne. For the first time ever, I satisfied my curiosity and biked up over the Pont Galipeau, leaving the Island. The bridge was under construction and, with the squeezed traffic, the crossing was rather dangerous and was not fun at all. The road on the far side continued to be pretty mean for cyclists, with four-laned, high speed traffic, on across the corner of Ile Perrot and then across the Pont Taschereau into Dorion. I reached Dorion about 13:00, in time to stop at a bakery for lunch. I was trying to do things by the book, drinking a couple of litres of water per hour and eating every hour or so.

    It was pleasant to turn off the main highway at Dorion and to follow the two-laned Highway 338 south along the Ottawa River. At the promontory of Pointe des Cascades, there was a clear view of Lake St. Louis and the St. Lawrence river. The area had changed a bit since I was last there, eleven years previously, in 1981 and on my last trip with the yellow Volk­swagen. Where there had been wilderness there was now a well-groomed park. Pointe-des-Cascades is the eastern terminus for the Canal des Soulanges, used for river traffic prior to the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The locks are still there, with the water cascading over them, a drop of about 75 feet, hence the name of the area.

    I remembered from '81 that Highway 338 west along the canal was straight and boring, with no trees. So I crossed the canal and found a tiny residential road called Chemin du Fleuve [River Road]. I made sure to ask if I could get back across the canal at the far end. I was sort of worried about a 10km dead end. I had never been on this road before. It was very pleasant for cycling. It ran right along the river, with lots of trees and shade, and many interesting things to see. I passed an old dam and powerhouse, for example.

    Not much was left of the mighty St. Lawrence along this stretch. With the building of the Seaway, most of the water had been diverted along the Canal de Beauharnois. What was left was a wide but shallow riverbed, with lots of small pools and rocky areas. What water remained sort of drained slowly from one pool to the next.

    Chemin du Fleuve began to get busy as I came into Coteau du lac, a sort of suburb of the regional centre of Valleyfield. When I passed by the KOA campground, my original destination, it was only 15:00, so I decided to head on towards the campground in Ontario where I used to stay 11 years earlier.

    At Coteau Landing, the tiny river road ended and I rejoined the main highway, Route 338. There were lots of trucks on this section of road, close to the Ontario border. At Coteau Landing, the river widens into Lake St. Francis, backed up by the dam at Valley­field that diverts water into the Beauharnois Canal.

    The next town was St. Zotique, at which point the road left the river. This stretch was a little boring. I had never noticed by car how the edge of the lake was such a vast marsh. The road led on through towering fields of bullrushes, with standing water on either side. I was getting a little tired by now, too and was growing anxious about getting a site at the campground, being so close to Montreal on a Friday night.

    As I approached the Ontario line, I was overtaken by a fellow cyclist, a woman in her sixties. She was in great shape and properly equipped with the lightest of gear. We talked for a short while, she indicating that she was heading for the same campground. Then finally she exclaimed, "I can't go this slow", and she took off leaving me in the dust. I tried to quicken my pace, but at the end of a long day of pedalling, it was impossible.

    I was feeling pretty good about myself as I passed the Ontario border sign. I was also quite ready to call it a day. This campground, by car, had always seemed just across the line. It was not so by bike. I slogged on along what was now the frontage road to the 401 freeway for at least half an hour, past three overpasses, before I started to see anything familiar looking. I reached the Glengarry Provincial Park campround at Lancaster, Ontario at about 17:00. It was filling up fast. A line of campers was waiting to be processed at the gate. At such times, it is nice to be on a bike. I passed all these unfortunate people, and breathed a lot easier once I had my site.

    This trip had the purpose of being a dry run for my main trip, and I found that I needed it. It had been a couple of years since I had unpacked at a campsite and set up my tent. It took some re-learning. And then I was almost defeated by, of all things, a missing plastic nozzle at the end of my air mattress pump. (Air mattress? What a softy! But I had learned from my Quebec City trip that a good night's sleep is worth the extra weight. Those foam rolls just do not insulate one enough from the cold ground. But then air mattresses have that fatal weakness...the pump.)

    I took a gander on into town to find a hardware store, but it was too late. All the shops in this little town had closed at 6:00. I found a pizzeria right by the railroad station and had a sumptuous pizza while being treated to several trains rolling through (this being the main line from Toronto to Montreal.)

    On the way back, I passed a highway sign indicating 102km to Montreal. I felt pretty good about myself again. To have done 100 plus kilometres in six hours (11:00 to 17:00) meant I had averaged 16km per hour. [Or 60 miles, for an average of 12 miles per hour.] This had been with an almost constant headwind. Though hardly noticeable, there had also been an almost imperceptible climb. (I realized this the next day, when I went back.) It's not accident that the Seaway has a whole series of locks along the area I had covered.

    I was in my tent by 9:00, after having borrowed a pump (Hard to find! Most camp­ers are too cushy to use air mattresses anymore.). It started raining heavily, which put a damper on the usual Friday night partying. I didn't feel too sorry for the people, I was glad to have quiet.

    It was still rainy the next morning. I got out and tested my rain gear as I rode back into Lancaster to have breakfast at the same restuarant. My raingear failed. My shirt, pants, shoes, and socks got soaked. Luckily I had brought seconds, and the weather cleared by the end of breakfast. I realized that I would have to re-think the rain outfit.

    Returning to the campground, I packing up the wet gear, and found the lady who had passed me the day before. It turned out she did Ottawa-Montreal-Cornwall every weekend all Summer long. No wonder she was in such great shape.

    The first part of the return trip was along the same road I had come by. I quickly noticed the double effect of the wind at my back and the slight downgrade. I felt like I was flying! I stopped at Coteau Landing and spent some time out on the wharf watching the ships on Lake St. Francis in their approach to the Seaway entrance.

    Then I decided it would be interesting to return via the south shore of the St. Lawrence. I crossed the bridge at Valleyfield , took the tiny Chemin du Fleuve to avoid the city centre, and met up with Highway 132 as it exited Valleyfield.

    Within no time I was at the tunnel under the Seaway locks at Beauharnois. It's an impressive enough tunnel by car. By bicycle it's breathtaking! Suddenly, out of nowhere, the road drops down into the bedrock, water dripping from the moss-covered sides as in a wet bathroom. Then one drops out of sight under the massive overhang of the seaway itself. It's strange knowing that one is tunneling under enough water to float heavy ocean going freighters. The climb out the other side was a little tough, but the fear of the speeding traffic whizzing past me on the tiny road inspired me to move quickly.

    I stopped at the Seaway restuarant for lunch. From there on, I was in familiar territory, having travelled this road often, though never by bike. Just past the town, starting at Maple Grove, I left the main highway and followed the quiet residential road along the waterfront. I ignored the turn-off for Châteauguay, which I would usually follow by car. I already knew that route, and was sure it would be much more pleasant for cars than for bicycles. I decided to try my luck on the tiny residential road, now called St. Bernard.

    I was now in uncharted country. I had never been this way before, and had a fairly undetailed map. I was not sure if the road I was following went through or not. My goal was the Indian reserve of Kahnawake, whence I could make my approach to the Mercier Bridge. I had recently been told it was cyclable, which I fervently hoped was true, as next bridge would easily add 20km to my trek.

    My road almost went through. The view along the lake was fantastic. As I ap­proached the Châteauguay River, which I knew would be the barriar to cross, I saw an upcoming bridge and had hope. When I got to the bridge, though, the sign read, "Private Access Only". It turns out the bridge went to a private development on an island in the river mouth. Otherwise, the road did not go through.

    I followed some paths along the waterfront as I hoped I would not have to backtrack too far. A little over a kilometre inland, I came to the bridge of old Highway 3, on which I crossed the river.

    My next obstacle was the checkpoint at the entrance to the reservation. Since the stand-off a couple of years earlier, the Warrior Society mounted armed checkpoints at all entrances to Kahnawake. No one was permitted through unless on valid business within the reserve, and definately not just to use the roads to cross it. I was worried that they would turn me back. They seemed a little unhappy (and when one is talking to men armed with powerful looking weapons, one notices their unhappiness.) They mentioned that I should go around, but took pity on my mode of conveyance and finally let me through with a warning not to do it again.

    I admit to being a little nervous crossing the reserve on a bicycle. I noticed and was wary of every car that drove by. Maybe I was being overly paranoid. Perhaps it was the guns. Then, to make matters worse, I got totally lost and turned around in the town of Kahnawake, trying to find the bridge approach. Before I knew it, I was directly underneath the bridge and had to backtrack. Angry looking teenagers watched this lilly-white idiot passing back and forth in front of them. From my youth in the Los Angeles ghetto, I had learned that this was not a healthy situation. I finally found an exit road and was able to ask at the exit checkpoint how to get onto the bridge.

    There is a sidewalk over the Mercier Bridge, but authorities obviously do not want pedestrians to take it. Or, one can clearly see that those who built it knew darned well that it ended at an Indian reservation. The sidewalk ends at the bridge approach. To reach the sidewalk, one must walk up the gravel embankment along the heavily eroded and gullied shoulder of the highway, barely a couple of feet from cars coming off the bridge at 100km/hr or more. The sidewalk itself is quite narrow, only about two feet wide. When meeting an oncoming cyclist, one has to stop and scrunch up right next to the railing to let them pass. And then I discovered that the bridge had a bounce. In the centre, as trucks would cross the span, it would oscillate up and down at least a foot or so. I felt like I was in an earthquake! Boy was I glad to reach terra firma on the Montreal side!

    I was back by 16:00. It had taken me an hour less on the return trip. I imagine the average was over 20km per hour, as the distance must surely have been greater.

    I felt ready to tackle the Gaspé in a couple of weeks.

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    [On to Day 1]


    Prepared by Roger Kenner
    January, 2002