An Account of My 2001 Bicycle Trip from

 Montreal to Niagara Falls,

 ending in Fort  Erie

 

Monday, July 9, 2001

Day 1:  Montreal to Lancaster

 

I am sitting outside at a picnic table at the Lancaster crossing of the 401.  The sun  is beaming down from its sharp angle to the west, through the gathering storm clouds. Perhaps they will miss me!

 

I've gone well over 100 km today, this first day of my Summer bike trip.  God  willing, and only with his help and grace,  I hope to ride west to Kingston and Toronto and the Niagara Peninsula, even as far as Fort Erie, on the shores of Lake  Erie.  I hope to ride along the St. Lawrence River, following the old Highway Two, except when I can escape it by taking as many bike trails as I can find.  When I reach Lake Ontario, the source of the St. Lawrence, I hope to explore the islands to the southwest of Kingston, which I have always bypassed during my myriad drives to Toronto along the 401.  Once past these islands, I hope to connect  with something called "The Waterfront Trail", which should lead along the shores  of Lake Ontario from Quinte West, past Toronto, and all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.  At Niagara,  I hope to ride the length of the Niagara Parkway, from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort  Erie.  Finally, if Providence smiles upon me, and I have enough energy, I may  return along "The Seaway Trail", which follows the south side of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, up through New York State.  I  have up to two weeks to accomplish all of this..

 

Unlike my bicycle trip to New York City last Summer, my current trip has not been  long in the conception or planning, nor in the preparation.  My wife Sheryl had wanted to  stay somewhat close by Montreal this Summer, as she was studying and  preparing for the exam at Summer's end which would culminate her year-long study to be recognised as a registered herbologist.  I therefore sought a direction that would  begin with Montreal and head somewhere along the water.  Riding along the water  is important for me for I find it to be most soothing and refreshing.  I could have gone down river, but I have been in that direction many times recently by car.  Thus came the notion of travelling up the St. Lawrence, along the old Highway Two, towards Kingston and Toronto.   Although I have been  to Toronto countless times along the freeway, only once did I drive it along Highway Two, and that was back in 1976 and more than twenty-five years ago.

 

The furthest I had heretofore cycled in this westerly direction was to Cornwall in 1997.  I remember on that ride that, while I waiting for Sheryl  to come fetch me by car from Montreal, I continued even a little west of Cornwall along the bike trail,.  I took the trail as far as the dam before turning back and leaving the yet unridden trail stretching on before me, calling to me.  On subsequent drives beyond Cornwall, to Upper Canada Village, I would remark on sections of this trail where it ran along the highway.

For my New York Trip in 2000, I had prepared by training every day for two weeks.  I would get up at 06:00 and cycle for an hour each morning.  Although I should have done  the same this time, I did not.  I only managed to get in a couple of those  early morning training rides.  I did continue to ride to work and back every day, and once again I kept this up even through the Winter.  This made for a daily ride of half an hour or so in each direction.   Earlier in the Summer, I had taken a couple of day-long rides.  The first was west  to Ile Perrot, and around that island.  The second was around the eastern end of  Laval Island and up to Terrebonne..  I cannot say, however, that I have really prepared  for this trip as I should have.  May God forgive me this laziness and give me the  strength I need to make my goal.

 

This first day I stopped at 16:00, which was rather early, but I wanted to give my  knees and my body a chance to adjust.  As it was, my knees were already feeling the effect.  These last 13 km in Ontario were mostly along the South Service Road of the  401, not a very inspiring vista, and wide open to the wind.  I've had a headwind all  day.  I guess I shall have to resign myself to travelling with a headwind, since I am  riding west and into the direction of the prevailing winds.  Over this last stretch I  was going very slowly, riding in my easiest gear in the back and the middle gear in  front..

 

The Glengarry campsite was a welcome sight when I finally arrived.  I knew the  route well enough to be able to count off the final landmarks:  Just across the  Ontario Line, Old Highway Two comes out to the 401 freeway and crosses to the freeway's north  side on an overpass.  At this location is a huge truck stop.  Just before  going over the overpass, one can take a small road turning off to the left which becomes the South Service Road.  The South Service Road stretches along, straight as an  arrow, with the highway on one side and fields of corn on the other.  Distant trees hide the lake behind them.  After an interminable time, I finally came to the first  overpass that meets the Service Road.  The Road curves far to lakeward, to meet the intersecting road coming  down off the overpass, which ends at that point.  Then the Service Road curves  back to resume its former position along the freeway.  Along the second leg, I passed the housing  development of Greg Quai, which is always advertising on Montreal radio.  It is a  development for rich Montrealers who prefer to live in Ontario and commute, one where every house is served by both a driveway and a boat dock.  Then, again  after riding seemingly forever, I  came to the second overpass, a replay of the first.  It was a sign of hope, however, for I knew that Glengarry was not far.  After returning to the 401's side, I passed a small  conglomeration of houses, with an old convenience store.  Then the open corn fields gave way to woodlands.  Finally the Glengarry sign appeared.

 

I know this area well, for in the late 1970's and early 1980's, I used to car camp  here at Glengarry.  At first it was with an old Volkswagen which could no longer drive safely at freeway speeds, and so I was relegated to the very same route I had been cycling along.  Then, in 1992, I made an overnight bicycle ride as far as  Lancaster, and camped at once again Glengarry.  In 1997, during my bicycle ride to Cornwall,  I passed once more by this very spot.  Earlier this very year, I had driven by car out along  this same road on an afternoon pleasure and antiquing drive with Sheryl,.  On that drive I would make a stop at Lancaster.  Indeed, over the years, I would look  out for the familiar landmarks along this stretch of road every time I would drive west along the 401.

 

Lancaster, Ontario, the first major town across the border into Ontario, has a rich history dating back to the first Scottish Catholic Loyalist settlers in the 1780s. See 22. Visits to Lancaster, Ontario below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

As I rode up to the campground office, the worry struck me that they might be  full.  Of course I knew better, for this was only Monday, nevertheless I get this deep-seated  uneasiness about my night's lodging as the late afternoon looms, an irrational  uneasiness which is instantly calmed once my place is secure.

 

It being Monday, they had lots of place.  I was able to get a  nice campsite right by the water, something I had never managed any of the previous times I had been there.  It was a  very pleasant site, with a great view of the water.  There was a little path that led  down ten feet or so to my own personal rock, upon which I could sit and look up  and down the shore, and could put my feet out into the water.  The gentle lapping of the  waves on the shore was a pleasant contrast to the ever-present hum of the  trucks on the nearby 401.  For the Glengarry campground is nestled on a narrow  piece of land between the freeway and the St. Lawrence, just shy of the Lancaster  exit.  Along with the 401 are the main lines of both the CN and CP rail systems, so  the hourly train whistles would be a pleasant companion all through the night.

 

It did not take me long to set up my tent and explore the site.  I took a few minutes  to rest and relax on my rock, with my feet in the water, as I scanned the opposite  lakeshore with my field glasses.  At this point, from Valleyfield all the way up to  Cornwall, the St. Lawrence is widened into Lake St. Francis, which is backed up by the dams at  Beauharnois and Valleyfield.  Although I was now 13 km into Ontario, the far shore would still be Quebec, as far as Cornwall where it would become New York  State.

 

My load lightened by half with the dropping of my tent and gear, I set off to ride the last 2 kilometres into the town of Lancaster.   The South Service Road continues, past the private campground right next to  Glengarry, past the Ontario Welcome Centre on the far side of the 401, and past  the weigh station for trucks, also on the far side.  It then bends around for a third  overpass.  Here the Old Highway Two comes back to the south side of the 401,  and indeed descends all the way to the lakeshore before turning and going along  the St. Lawrence.  There is the small community of South Lancaster, made up of a factory outlet store, a gas station, a Dairy Queen, and a motel.

 

The town of Lancaster itself is just over the bridge on the other side of the 401.  Coming down off  the bridge, Highway Two becomes the three-block long Main Street of the tiny  town, yielding a few trendy shops, some older stores, a market and a tavern.  The  business section ends at the railway level crossing.  A residential area continues a number of blocks beyond before giving way to open countryside.  The road through Lancaster is the first north-south road  west of Quebec which traverses Ontario all the way from the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence.

 

I have been a frequent visitor to Lancaster, Ontario, beginning in 1980.. See 23. Visits to Lancaster, Ontario below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

I rode into town and, after visiting the market to get supplies, settled down to begin  this writing.

 

I set out this morning at 07:35, after having gotten up at 06:00 and having a  nice breakfast of whole wheat cereal out on the terrace with my wife Sheryl.  I had  packed my bike up the night before so there was little left to  do except take a starting out photo and get a big, parting kiss.  We would be in  contact several times a day, as I checked in by cell phone, and the plan was for  Sheryl to join me by car at the end of the third or fourth day en route.

 

As I set out I was both excited and scared.  Would I be able to do this?   Or would my knees give out and would I have to abandon as had happened in  1999?  I prayed to Jesus that he guide me and give me the strength I would need.

 

It was a clear morning above, but hazy and cool at ground level.  I would wear my windbreaker jacket at far as  Lachine.  I followed my usual route towards Lachine:  Down Monkland Avenue to  Westminster, and over St. Jacques and down the hill into Ville Ste. Pierre. 

 

The ride from my home to Lachine is one I make many times per year.   See2. My Typical Ride to Lachine below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

I  stopped in Ville Ste. Pierre to top off the air in my back tire.  The pump was very  strong, and I felt lucky I did not pop to tire right there.  At least, though, with the tire  as hard as a rock, the going was much easier. 

 

My bike was pretty heavily loaded.  My paniers in back were full of gear and  clothing, and topped with tent and air mattress and sleeping bag.  As an  experiment, which would end up working very well, I further topped off the back  with a small cooler, full of ice and covered with a white towel to keep off the sun. All was held on with a serious rigging of bungee cords.  In my front paniers, dropping to either side of my front wheels, I had dry food, fruits, and and extra 2 litres of water.  On the top in front, I had a small  bag for easy access to camera, binoculars, and map.  As usual on my trips, the  bike handled like a truck.  I can only estimate that the bike and gear must weigh  150 to 200 lbs.  I'd love to weigh it someday.   At least, though, I personally was 35 lbs lighter because of the new diet I had been on since Christmas..

 

 

·         After many years of bicycle touring, I have my "kit" fairly well established.   See 1. My Basic Bicycle Trousseau  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

·         A totally new factor in my cycling experience is the change in my diet after having been diagnosed with diabetes.   See 3. My Diabetes and My Diet below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

There were two routes I could have taken from Ville Ste. Pierre to Lachine.  I could have cut over to  the Lachine Canal and followed the bike path along the Canal and waterfront of  Lachine, until I come out at the Lighthouse on Lac St. Louis.  A shorter, less  interesting route, would be to take the bike path along Victoria Ave. in Lachine, which also  comes out at the Lighthouse.  I chose this latter route, as my goal was to get on  my way, and there would be ample time for sightseeing further on.

 

I made the Lachine Lighthouse at 08:10, 45 minutes along my way.  For the first  part of the morning, I would be following my well-worn trail out to Ste. Anne de  Bellevue, a ride which I had already done, in both directions, earlier in the  season. From the Lighthouse to the Dorval town line, one follows the specially  groomed bike bath through the parkland along the Lachine waterfront.

 

 

·         One of my favourite bike rides, one which I try to do every season, is the ride along the Lakeshore to the end of Montreal Island at Ste. Anne de Bellevue.  See 5. Rides to Ste. Anne de Bellevue  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

·         Lachine is a quaint, historic waterfront town, within minutes from my home.   See 6.Lachine below in the "Notes" section for more information.

·         The Lachine Canal was the first historic waterway in what would eventually lead to today's St. Lawrence Seaway.  See 7.Lachine Canal below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

At the Dorval line, one is  dumped unceremoniously onto Lakeshore Drive along with the cars.  I got to the Dorval line at 08:17,  after  only 7 minutes along the waterfront.

 

·         The section of Montreal known as "The West Island" is a mostly anglophone area of well-to-do suburbs.  See 4.The Lakeshore and the West Island  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

·         The Town of Dorval is the first of the West Island communities one crosses as one heads west. See 8. Dorval  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

 

The ride in Dorval is not so bad.  The traffic is light.  One rides past a large park,  which they are just now grooming, and then along past houses that slowly give  way to businesses, until one comes to Dorval Centre.  Here is the end of the road  that would lead one over to the airport and shopping centres.

 

 

Dorval Island is a tiny municipality of its own, on a small island off the shores of Dorval.  Too small even for automobiles, it can be reached only by ferry. See 9. Dorval Island below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

Past Dorval Centre, and a block or so more of  apartment buildings, Lakeshore Road becomes entirely residential.  There is a  marina to the left and another big park to the right, then a few tantalising glimpses  of water, and then finally the road crosses a point and comes out on Valois Bay.  Across  the bay, one can see the church at Old Pointe Claire.  Heading up into the bay, the houses on the lake side give way to a narrow park separating the roadway from the water.  After just a short ways up Valois Bay comes  the Pte. Claire town line.  I crossed into Pointe Claire at 08:35

 

 

Pointe-Claire is one of the most prosperous suburbs of the West Island, and has an historic section dating back to the 1700s.. See 10. Pointe Claire below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

Lakeshore Road in Pointe Claire continues on around the bay.  At the head of the bay one is very close to  the Highway 20 freeway, separated only by a spate of high rise condos.  The road then circles out again, towards the far headland (which remains out of  sight)  All along this way, there are only the occasional houses on the lake side, so  one has spectacular views of the water.  The houses themselves are modest, but very  nice to look at.  Eventually, Lakeshore Rd. cuts inland to cross the point and  climbs up to the heights by Stewart Hall.  Stewart Hall is an old, stately mansion  which has become a civic centre and whose grounds are now a park.  Descending  the far side of the hill, one comes to a stoplight at the end of St. John's Road and then goes past  where the old night club used to be and into the Village of Old Pointe Claire.  The  Village stretches for five or six blocks and is made up of tinier, older houses, all  clustered tightly together.  The main street is lined with trendy shops and bistros.   Right past the Village is the Beaconsfield town line.  I made Beaconsfield at 08:58,  having spent just over 20 minutes crossing Pte. Claire.

 

Beaconsfield is a much younger suburb, a creature of the automobile.  See 11. Beaconsfield  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

Lakeshore Road was closed in Beaconsfield, and was completely dug up for major  construction.  There was a detour sign, but I was not about to head off on a long  detour.  I was certain I could nose my way through the construction on my bike,  and this proved to be true.

 

Once into Beaconsfield, the town fathers would have most traffic take a sharp right and follow  Beaconsfield Boulevard inland.  Beaconsfield Boulevard becomes a very busy and uninteresting artery.  A small turn off to the left at the same point, however, allows one to  continue along the old Lakeshore Rd, through an area of ever finer houses, and  past the Beaconsfield Marina.  At a certain point, a lane reserved for  cyclists only begins.  At the end of this short way is St. James Park, a very nice waterfront  park, set down the hill from the roadway.  I often stop here as I pass this way.  This  time, however, all the benches were taken, so I stopped at the creek outlet at the  far end of the park, at the foot of St. Charles Road. 

 

It was 09:05, and was time to call Sheryl for my 09:00 check-in.  I stopped for 5  minutes to relax and stretch.  I gauged the sun and decided it was time to put on  my sun-screen.  I took out one of the oranges I had brought along, but it was very  dry and I could not eat it.  I pitched the oranges.  I set out again at 09:10

 

The first part of Old Lakeshore Road in Beaconsfield curves around and  becomes  the foot of St. Charles Road.  Half a block later, one is at the intersection of  Beaconsfield Boulevard and has no choice but to follow it to go further west.   This  is a busy section of road, and in the past was one of the worst sections of the ride  to Ste. Anne de Bellevue as it was all torn up and with next to no shoulders.  Now that it was newly paved and they had provided for a nice, wide bike lane, the way was very pleasant.  For a couple of kilometres or so Beaconsfield Boulevard  climbs up and down gentle hills.  To the right are modest houses, interspersed  with schools, civic buildings, etc.  To the left (lakeward) are either large, closed off  estates, or very private cul-de-sacs with fancy houses.  It is no wonder no one ever put a road  through there along the water's edge.

 

At the top of a hill, with a school on the southwest corner, there is a road which  descends a block or so to the resumption of Old Lakeshore Road.  It is not marked  in any way for cyclists.  One just has to be in the know. Along this very nice and  quiet section of Old Lakeshore Road is a marked bike path.  Beautiful houses, on  quite respectable properties, line both sides of the tree-lined, shady street.  There  are virtually no cars.  This continues on until Beaconsfield Boulevard and  Lakeshore come together again at the Baie d'Urfe town line.  It was 09:30 as I  crossed into Baie d'Urfe.  The wind in my face had died down and I was running  in the middle gear of my five gears  in the back.

 

Many fine houses dot this quiet, wooded town, which dates from the 1600s.  See 12. Baie d'Urfé  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

Lakeshore Road is fairly narrow through Baie d'Urfe, and most like one imagines  the old, unimproved road of yesteryear must have been.  Thankfully the traffic is  light, as there are no shoulders. All the way is residential and heavily treed.  The  trees come together over the road to give it a very shady, homey feeling.  All the  houses in Baie d'Urfe are pretty substantial, with some quite large estates on the  lake side, but one is kept far from the lake by the immense properties and only  gets a few glances at the water.  At the certain point, the road comes up to the old  town hall, a tiny, white, and very historic building.  Then one passes by a large  park encompassing a small bay, and passes by the municipal pool, which was  packed as I rode by.  Soon one comes to the old cemetery road and the Ste. Anne  de Bellevue town line.  I made Ste. Anne de Bellevue at 09:42, having passed  through Baie d'Urfe in a record 12 minutes.

 

 

In Ste. Anne de Bellevue are the massive grounds of McDonald Campus College  of McGill University and the McDonald College Cegep, which stretch for a kilometre or more  along the lakeshore road.  Alongside the road and through the campus grounds is  a bike path, which one picks up right at the old cemetery road that forms the town  line.  I always take this bike path, which provides a very pleasant change from  sharing the roadway with the cars.  As it traverses the lawns of the campus, one  sees first the on-campus housing of various professors, and then an excellent  view of the beautiful architecture of the campus buildings.

 

A key spot at the very end of the Island of Montreal, at the confluence of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers, Ste. Anne has been a popular tourist attraction for many, many years.  See 13. Ste. Anne de Bellevue below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

At the end of the campus nearer the town, the path comes to an end and one must  re-join the traffic, just as the road enters the built-up section of the quaint, old  town.  After just a few blocks of sharing the tight, narrow street, one can typically  descend down to the waterfront boardwalk where, although one must dismount  and walk the bike, the scenery and ambience are very pleasant.  Frequently Ste.  Anne de Bellevue is the objective of my ride, a ride I try to take at least once a  year.

 

On this occasion, though, I did not descend to the waterfront, for Ste. Anne was not my destination.  Instead, I continued along  the narrow, main street.  Ste. Anne de Bellevue is becoming ever more of a tourist  Mecca, and although most new development happens along the popular boardwalk,  some is beginning to spill over onto the main street.  Still, however, there remain a  number of tiny, older stores from bygone ages when this was just a small French  Canadian village.

 

After a few blocks, the road passes under the bridges of the Highway 20 freeway  and the CN and CP train lines as they prepare to span the Rapids of Ste. Anne,  connecting the Lake of Two Mountains with Lake St. Louis.  It is under the bridges  that are found the historic locks of Ste. Anne, which now serve only to allow small  pleasure boats to pass between the two bodies of water.  It is these boats, tying up  along the channel to wait for the next passage that provide much of the maritime  ambience of Ste. Anne de Bellevue.  On the far side of the locks channel is a very  nice park, where I often sit under the railway bridges and watch the rapids.

 

I had only recently learned how to find the Ste. Anne end of the bicycle path that  leads over the highway bridge.  One picks it up, unmarked, at the back of the  small municipal parking lot which is under the bridge approach.  There a ramp  leads up in switchbacks to a protected pathway along the newer of the twin  highway spans.  I rode up and over the bridge and came down on the Ile Perrot  side at 09:54.

 

It had thus taken me from 07:35 to 09:54, two hours and twenty minutes, to cycle  from my home in N.D.G. to leave the island at Ste. Anne de Bellevue.  Counting  the five minute break in Beaconsfield, I had been cycling for 2 hours and 15  minutes so far.

 

Ile Perrot is the island just west of Montreal and is the location of some of the first  of the off-island suburbs.  The highway only crosses the northern corner of the  island, most of which stretches far to the south and forms the western boundary of  Lake St. Louis.  The island divides the Ottawa river, coming down from Lake of  Two Mountains, into two channels.  One flows to the east of Ile Perrot, through the  Rapids of Ste. Anne.  The other flows to the west of the island and joins up with  the St. Lawrence as it empties into Lake St. Louis at Beauharnois and over Les  Cascades.

 

Ile Perrot is the large, still mostly rural island just to the west of Montreal.  See 14. Ile Perrot below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

I have been across Ile Perrot a number of times, mostly along the shoulder of the  Highway 20 freeway.  Only on my last ride to the island did I finally discover the  quiet bike route which noses its way through the woods and suburbs of the  northern tip of the island, north of Highway 20.  This time, however, I was anxious  to put miles behind me, and opted for the more direct route.  While it is somewhat  intimidating riding along a highway where trucks are zooming by at 120+ km per  hour, at least there is a very wide, paved shoulder.  The authorities must be aware  that this is the only direct bike link, as there are no restrictions on bicycles along  this section.  Along this way, I took the opportunity of taking a picture of my bike  underneath the sign reading "Toronto-510km".  At this point, it seemed more like a  distant dream than a reality.

 

I have only made a few visits to Ile Perrot, but they have been memorable.  See 15. Visits to Ile Perrot  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

At the far side of Ile Perrot, in the suburb of Pincourt, is a large, modern shopping  mall.  Stops at the Canadian Tire store in this mall, for last minute hardware, have  become a ritual of many car and bike trips westward.  The access to the bike path which  crosses the bridge to the mainland is just behind this shopping centre, on the south  side of the bridge.  As usual, I cycled down from the highway along the exit to the  underpass and turned left with the traffic to come out on the south side.

 

As I was riding by the shopping centre, I noticed the supermarket and decided it  would be a good time to stop and get some additional food supplies for my little  mini cooler.  I had left with some ice I had taken from our freezer and with a large  hunk of left-over salmon fillet.  At this ten-minute stop, I raced in and picked up  some cheese and a package of baba-genouj.   I was a nervous in that I had not  locked up my bike, and it was sitting at the entrance,  out of my sight and loaded  with all my gear.  I got back to it as quickly as possible.

 

At 10:26 I was midway across the bridge leading from Ile Perrot to the town of Dorion, on the  mainland.  Again, there was a protected bike path across the highway bridge,  although this time it was facing south.  I stopped again for 5 minutes, first to take  picture of the bridge and bike path, and then of the river below.  The river was very  shallow, but there was on narrow, marked channel for boats.  I had an apple  for a snack.

 

As I rolled down off the bridge into Dorion, I realised that the bike path would put  me on the wrong side of the road.  The only two previous times I had taken this  bike path across the bridge, I had been returning from the west and so it had been  on "my side of the road".  Back the early 90's when I last road westward through  here, there had been no bike path, or I had not been aware of it, and so I had been  on the shoulder of the roadway.

 

Dorion is a small, once anglophone  community, of railway extraction, and is the first suburb on the mainland.  See 16. Dorion  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

Knowing that I had only a few blocks to go before I would be turning off to the  south, I decided to negotiate the sidewalks and parking lots of the roadside  businesses as I made my way against traffic.  The river curves up behind these  first few blocks of Dorion, allowing only short, dead-end streets with a few houses to exit the highway.   At the first opportunity, I took a substantial street that seemed like it went through and headed  south through the residential part of town, away from the highway and along the  waterfront.

 

It was a very pleasant street, and much nicer riding than the one previous time I  had bicycled this way, back in 1992.  At that time, being on the right side of the road,  I had taken the main highway.   Towards the centre of Dorion, Highway 338 exits left off the Highway 20 and  heads south, through a somewhat industrial section of town.  I have come this way  many, many times by car, mostly to bring my son Alex to the Anchor Park in  Pointe des Cascades, one of his favourite places for short hikes. 

 

The back street I was on eventually met up with the same Hwy 338 at the edge of town.  Just as I was  resigned to riding along the highway as I had done in 1992, I saw another smaller road turning off to the left, to lead down along the river.  I had  noticed these when driving, but had never thought too much of them, for they just  come back out to the highway again.  This time I decided to follow the quiet road.

 

It was very, very pleasant.   To the landward were country houses, while on the  waterside were just tiny lawns and boat docks.  Only a couple of cars would pass  me as I rode along.   The main highway was at least a few hundred feet away,  behind the houses and some trees.   As expected, my little street came back to  join the highway, but then it took right off again to the left, without my even having  to cross over to my own side of the road. 

 

At this point, one can see a wooded escarpment running along about half a  kilometre to the west, along the entire length of the roadway.  Between the road  and the cliff is room of one depth of a farmer's field, and all sorts of crops are  represented.  Then there is the two-laned, and moderately busy highway.  It is cut  off from the river view most of the way by trees, and then a row of houses.  It is  along the face of these houses, along the water, that I was riding.

 

The second time the side road rejoined Highway 338,  it was for good.  The  escarpment had turned to the east and had cut off the valley.  There was no option  other than to climb the couple of hundred feet up to the top of the ridge.  Across the road was a small development, with a new golf course stretching to the west, and clusters of new  houses.  Then the highway crossed the crest of the ridge, passed high above a creek and came up again at  the town of Pointe des Cascades.

 

The main road, Highway 338, makes a sharp turn to the west at Les Cascades, to run along  the north side of the old Soulanges ship canal, towards Les Coteaux and  Valleyfield.  A small turn-off to the left leads one into the old town of Pointe des  Cascades itself.   There are only a few, small businesses, and a couple of streets  worth of houses.  A bridge leads across the old Soulanges Canal, to come out at  Chemin de la Riviere on the far side, and another cluster of houses, arranged  along that road as it follows river's edge.  The St.  Lawrence lies at the foot of a hefty cliff,

at this point much debilitated by the series of dams upriver.

 

I took the left turn into the town, catching a photo of my bike at the town entrance.   It was 11:10.  It had been 1 hour and 15 minutes since I had left Ste. Anne de  Bellevue.   Subtracting the 15 minutes of stopping time, it had taken me an hour's  cycling to reach Les Cascades

 

·         Pointe des Cascades, at the head of the Soulanges Canal, was once an important town in the river traffic trade.  See 17. Pointe des Cascades below in the "Notes" section for more information.

·         The old canal locks and the "Parc des ancres" make for interesting visits, and Pointe des Cascades is one of my favourite haunts.  See 18. Visits to Pointe des Cascades below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

 

At this point,  one is at the westernmost arm of the calm waters of Lake St. Louis.  Most of  the water of the former grandeur of the St. Lawrence has been siphoned off via the  Beauharnois Canal, west of Valleyfield, and only rejoins the lake at the  Beauharnois dam.  The St. Lawrence Seaway follows this route.  All that is left at  the cascades is a modest trickle winding its away across the exposed rocks of the  former rapids.  And even here, what is left has been controlled by a series of  dams.

 

All along my ride I would be seeing the traces of the important St. Lawrence River trade, the culmination of which is today's Seaway.  See 20. The St. Lawrence Seaway below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

The Soulanges ship canal was used in previous years, but fell into disuse when the Seaway was opened in the 1950's.  From the Anchor  Park, so named because it is decorated with the rusting anchors found in the  riverbed at this point, one can hike down along the ruins of the locks, as they step  the water of the canal down to lake level.  Along both sides are campgrounds.  On  the north side is an old village, refurbished as a country theatre.  On the south  side is a vast, regional park.  Many people find ways to bring their cars down  through the park to launch there boats, or to swim, or just to fish along the piers  leading out into the lake.

 

The only other time I bicycled this way,  in 1992 on a ride to Lancaster similar to  what I was doing this day, I had cycled along Chemin de la Riviere.  It was a quiet,  pleasant and little used country road.  The through traffic takes Hwy 338. Chemin de la Riviere goes  right along the river's edge, past various dams and powerhouses.  At the quaint,  French Canadian town of Les Cedres, it passes along the waterfront section of the  old town, and makes a sharp right at the old Church, to curve up around the now  wider river, backed up by the dam.   One passes by the historical site of Coteaux  du Lac, where they have excavated an old canal for canoes and lakeboats that  had been constructed in the late 1700's.  Then that route enters the suburban  streets of Coteau du Lac and one rolls along past the houses on both sides until  one comes out at the road coming off the bridge from Valleyfield.

 

On several recent visits to Pointe des Cascades, I had noticed the new bicycle trail  that had been constructed along the old Soulanges ship canal.  I had seen, as  well, on an earlier drive this way, how they had groomed the shoulder of Route  338, from Les Coteaux all the way to just shy of the Ontario border at Riviere Beaudette.  The shoulder was now marked off as a bike trail.  I was debating whether I should follow my old route along Chemin  de la Riviere or whether I should try out the new bike trail   My memories of how  boring the drive along Route 338 by the canal had been back in 1979/80 weighed  on me.  Was the trail along the canal going to be as boring as the highway had been?  I pondered this, but finally decided to take the plunge and try something new.

 

Just past the bridge and right at the trailhead is a small park and parking lot.  Many  cars were parked there, and several people were in the act of disgorging bikes  and getting themselves ready for the day's outing.  The Soulanges Bike Path is  one of those for which the annual ARCQ (Association Recreo- Cycliste du Quebec) Permit is required.  Funds from this permit go towards upkeep and grooming of  a whole host of cycling trails across the province.  Club organisers had  themselves set up across the entrance to the trail like a customs house, making  sure that all had, or bought, the required permit.  At only $10 for the season, it is a  worthwhile investment.

 

I added my 2001 permit to the 1998 permit I had bought for my trip along the Parc  Lineaire du Petit Train du Nord and the 1999 permit I had bought for my trip  across the Eastern Townships along a whole series of fund-supported trails.

 

The full Soulanges Trail is 35km long, from Pointe des Cascades to Riviere Beaudette, but only on the first section, along the canal  section  for 17km, does the bike path have its own right-of-way.  It turned out to be pretty straight, but not as boring as I had thought it would be.  I was on the high ground,  alongside the canal, and could see out over the orchards, pepinieres, and even  people's back yards.  At many points there were marshes below.  A lot of trees  lined the way, breaking the sun, and doing a fair bit to break the power of the wind  which, as always, was coming in my face.   Although I was not right by the river, I  could often see it in the distance on account of my height.

 

The Soulanges Canal was the main ship channel for the first half of this century, until supplanted by the Seaway.  See 19. The Soulanges Canal below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

Just a few kilometres along, I came to the ruins of yet another lock complex, and  so took a few minutes out to explore.  At 11:55, I passed the Les Cedres crossing.   The town itself was a kilometre away, but I could see the steeple of the church I  had passed in '92.   A couple of minutes further along, I pulled over to a park  bench to give Sheryl her 12:00 check-in call.

 

I reached the Coteau du Lac line at 12:20.  Right at the town line the trail passed  behind the top of an old 1899 power station.  It was a most interesting old building  which bore further examination, so I took a ten minute break and climbed down  the bank to get a full photo.  The two-storey Victorian brick building was built up  against the side of the canal.   From the canal side it appeared as only a low  building.  It's full height could only be seen from below.  From on high, though,  one could look out on the river that it fed, taking water from the canal.  This river  flowed into the St. Lawrence and the old road crossed it on a bridge.  I must have passed over that very bridge when I cycled this way in 1992, but I do not recall the powerhouse.

 

Continuing along, I passed by a most odd concrete bridge abutment which was listing 45 degrees, like  a sinking ship. .  When built, it was probably the resting pillar for a swing bridge.

 

Riding along the canal right of way, I missed all the houses of Coteau du Lac.   Sometimes I could peer into their back yards through the trees.  Across the canal,  I could see that the way along Route 338 had become quite built up and industrial.   I saw the KOA where my parents had stayed on a visit back in 1986.

 

The canal right of way comes to an end as one reaches the town line of Les  Coteaux.  Before proceeding, I had to pass by another "customs" gate, and had to  show my pass.  It was 13:07.  "Les Coteaux" is a new creation.  Formerly, there  had been the towns of Coteau Station and Coteau Landing.  I guess these names  sounded much to English for the Commission de la toponymie.

 

The lake end of the canal was most interesting.  There were a series of abandoned,  broken locks, with all their various pieces of equipment.  The trail shifted over to a  gravel road along the northern side of the canal.  This gravel road eventually became  a bike-only right-of-way again.  As one approached the embankment of the main  highway from Valleyfield, coming off the Mgr. Langlois Bridge, the trail dove right  into the embankment through a tunnel made from a big steel water pipe, of the  type used under bridges.   On the far side of the highway bridge is a rail trestle.   Dropping immediately out of the tunnel, the trail comes out onto a wooden, floating  section that takes the rider out onto the water itself, and thus under the trestle.  In  the olden days, this trestle would have been a swing bridge, for one could clearly  see all the rusted hardware to this effect.

 

I recalled from previous visits a government wharf extending out into Lake St. Francis at  Coteau Landing so I decided this would be a good place to stop and have my  lunch.  It would only be a few minutes ahead.

 

A number of historic towns dot the northern shore of Lake St. Francis.  See 21. The Towns Along Route 338  below in the "Notes" section for more information.

 

At its the far end, a campground comes to occupy both sides of the canal, and there  is a private bridge linking the two parts.  The Canal des Soulanges trail would have had me cross  Route 338 and take off at right angles into the woods on the far side, to run  alongside the Highway 20 freeway for some 6km.  I decided not to follow it.  I was  right at the corner of where the trail meets Route 338, but was able to turn left and  follow "rue principale" along the waterfront of old Coteaux Landing. 

 

I came to the government wharf at 13:13 and rode all the way out to the end, several hundred  metres out into the calm waters of Lake Saint Francis.  I spent some time looking  around at the lake, and at the shoreline, with my field glasses.  I could see across  to the far shore, where I identified the opening of the Beauharnois Canal and  could  see the pier where I had cycled on a day trip the year before.  There were lots and  lots of boats out on the lake, and a few ships could be seen heading into and out  of the canal.   I looked back up the way I had come, but it was already nearly  impossible to make out the entrance to the Soulanges Canal.

 

Lake St. Francis is a natural widening of the St. Lawrence, much like Lake St.  Louis at Montreal and Lake St. Pierre  at Sorel.  It is hard to know how much the control  dams, many of which pre-date the St. Lawrence Seaway, have increased the  depth and size of the lake.  I imagine, though, that its banks have not changed  much, for several of the town along the shore seem to have been there for some  time.  There are no "lost villages" such as those above Cornwall.

 

I found myself a nice rock to sit on and took my small cooler and a water bottle off  the bike.  My lunch was to be the big chunk of leftover salmon, with about 2/3 of  the 15% fat content Mozarella cheese I had bought at the market in Pincourt.  This  seemed in keeping with my special diet.

 

As I ate, I looked out once again over the sun-glistened Lake St. Francis through  my field glasses.  I could see the hills rising up behind the shore, both the low,  near hills, and the higher, far hills.  I could even make out some details on the far  hills, fields, farm buildings, roads, etc., though these hills must be as far away as New  York State and on the slopes of the Adirondacks.  What I could not make out, in the  near haze, was the road I had ridden along the south shore the summer before,  nor where I had first come upon the lake during that ride.

 

My lunch break was half an hour altogether and I was on my way again at 13:45. I rode along the shoulder of the main road, Route 338.  The bike path had left the road, to make its 6 kilometre loop one kilometre to the north.  I was riding on a narrow stretch of highway with no shoulder.  Still I was content to be riding along the water. It was for this reason, besides not wanting to go out of my way, that I had given the loop section of the Soulanges Trail a pass

 

I was riding through the town of St. Zotique, a narrow community that stretches lengthwise along the shoreline.  Between the road and the lake were people's summer cottages. On the land side was a single row of houses and businesses behind which were trees.

 

I was at the St. Zotique town centre by 14:00. 

 

I could see a line of thunder clouds far to the south, but over my head it  was bright and sunny.  Earlier the day had been hazy and the sky had seemed very unstable.  Now the clouds had coalesced, and around me they were tiny islands amidst the expanse of clear blue sky.  To the casual observer riding in their car it would have seemed like the perfect day, but riding along Lake St. Francis I felt a distinct headwind, and there was little in the way of trees to block it.  It was enough to push me to my -1 gear on the average, and  sometimes up to -2, my easiest gear.  Perhaps my energy level was beginning to decline as well.

 

I made Riviere Beaudette at 14:30.  Along the way, the bike path had rejoined the highway, as a new lane on the north side.  I went through marshland and crossed several creeks that wound inland and offered an open-water glimpse, although covered with floating algae, into the sea of reeds to the north.  On the river side were a number of small communities where people had boat canals right up to their houses.  The canals were like laneways, running behind the houses, with streets running in front.  These sections were about six streets deep, and I could catch glimpses of the lake at the end of each canal.

 

I stopped at Riviere Beaudette for some photos.  At this point, the  road crosses a bridge over the river and then climbs a sharp ridge that rises on the north side of the river, almost like a wall shielding Quebec from Ontario.  The bike path ends abruptly at this town, which  consists of nothing more than a depanneur and a few houses.

 

Coming down off the ridge, I could see the Hwy 20/Hwy 401 freeway to the right, across the width of a single cornfield.  The Ontario border was about one kilometre past the town so I made the line at 14:45, entering Glengarry County.

 

This section of road just across the line, now called "Old Highway 2" is just a country back road since the 401 came into being.  It angles slowly towards the 401, which it meets, and crosses over, at Curry Hill.  There is a large truck stop a Curry Hill.  I guess it is the truckers' last chance to stop and gas up before crossing into Quebec.

 

I reached Curry Hill just in time to make my 15:00 call to Sheryl.  This was the first call where my cell phone informed me I was "roaming", that is, I was outside my own calling area.  After the call I had to leave my bike outside and unattended as I made an extended visit inside.  I  hate to do this, but there is no avoiding it short of unloading everything and locking it up.  I was very nervous and was glad to get back outside.  All in all,  I took a ten minute break at Curry Hill.

 

Where the old Highway Two crosses over to the north side of the 401, there is a small turn off to the left for the "South Service Road".  This section is a killer, for it seems never to end.  It runs right along the 401, out in treeless open country, with the river only visible from time to time to the left.

 

I was now plodding along in my -2 gear and facing a strong headwind.  Any thought I might have entertained of going on to Long Sault that day was given up at this point.  I passed a sign on the 401 that showed Toronto to be yet another 457km, with Cornwall to be 36km.  Earlier on, while crossing Ile Perrot, Toronto had been 510. So I had made 53 km as the cars would have travelled.  My distance had been greater, however.

 

Along the South Service Road one must pass two overpasses before coming to Glengarry Provincial Park.  I knew this from my previous rides along this way, both in 1992 and in 1997.  At each of the overpasses, the  service road curves far to the left, to meet the cross road coming down off the overpass.  The cross roads each end at the point of meeting the service road.

 

It was 15:33 when I made the Glengarry Campground.  Thankfully, they  had lots of space.  (There was actually no anticipation of a problem with space.  It is just a sickness that I have.  I get very anxious about having a place to stay, and dread the thought of being turned away at a full campground.  Despite my constant anxiety on this issue, it has yet to happen to me.)

 

My tent was set up by 17:00.  While seting it up, I had a snack of 1/4 of the fine whole wheat bread that Sheryl had baked for me the day before, along with half the baba genouj.  This bread would be my staple for many a day to come.  It was just what I needed for energy.  I also consumed a full bottle of water.

 

I left the campsite to ride into Lancaster, a distance of two to three kilometres, at least.  My bike was now much lighter, but I was still plodding along due to fatigue and the head wind..  When I got to town, I headed straight to the market, for I was worried they would close.  It was a well-founded worry, for I got there at 17:35 and they closed at 18:00.

 

Perhaps I over bought.  I bought grapes, oranges, apples, yoghurt (low fat, but with sugar).  I had to buy a whole bag of ice, even though my little cooler had room for less than half.  What a waste!  I buried my 600ml bottle of diet coke into the ice bag to get it real cold.

 

I tried to settle in near the railroad crossing at one end of Lancaster's three-block main street, but there was no suitable place.  This rail crossing is very interesting as it is on the main line from Montreal to Toronto and so is very active.  I had the luck to see a Via high speed LRC pass through, like a bullet.  I saw these train headlights way down the track.  They still seemed very far away when the gates came down and the bells started to ring.  Then there was a ZAP and, with a large noise, the train passed by instantly and was gone!

 

I rode back to over to the other end of town, carrying my ice bag and the coke nestled within, and found a picnic table where I could sit down and watch the 401.  I called Sheryl at 18:00, and then settled in to write, from 18:00 to 19:20, the beginning of today's account.

 

About halfway through my writing, I rode back to the tracks and settled  into the terrace at the Super Mario restaurant.  It was here that I had had supper and breakfast back in 1992, when I had last stayed overnight in Lancaster.  I had grilled chicken and some fries and coleslaw and a  coke and coffee.  I continued writing from 19:30 to 21:00, eating slowly as I wrote.

 

Several long freight trains came through the crossing while I was eating.

 

At 20:45 I had to move inside, as a thunderstorm was passing by.  I put all my stuff in the bike paniers into plastic bags, hoping it would stay dry.  I had no choice but to sit inside and wait it out, as there was lots of lightning, and I did not feel safe riding in a lightning storm.

 

I decided I would call Sheryl at 21:00, as scheduled, even though I would  still be in town and not back at my tent.

 

Daily Report

According to a later, detailed study of the kilometrage, based on map readings and my hourly log:

·        I travelled a forward (towards my goal) distance of 88 km. Total distance travelled this day was 94 km.

·        I rode for 6 h 35, with an additional 1 h 15 in breaks, for a total of 7 h 50 on the road.

·        My average speed was 13.5 km/hr

[See the Kilometrage Study for details]