History of Rides along the Back River
& to Bout de l'Ile

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First Excursion East

It was the Summer of 1971. My parents were back in town, and had gone out to Pike River. They called me early in the morning, to tell me of the trouble they had had out there. They were upset with me for not caring more, but it was very early in the morning. They told me they were camped at a campground out on Notre Dame east. Later that morning, I woke up again and decided I would take the bus out to meet see them.

I recall it was the last day that my youth pass was valid, and I was buying up as many youth bus tickets as I could (at 8 1/2 cents each, rather than 30 cents). The driver on the Notre Dame bus balked at selling me the strip of tickets on the last day.

I rode the bus for an interminable period east, until finally I came to the campground, situated on the south side, between Notre Dame and the St. Lawrence. My arrival surprised my folks. We had lunch, and then my mom and I walked over to the Woolworth's, which was in the shopping centre across the street. While there, the electricity went out. The whole province was blacked out for several hours.

I recognized this shopping centre again the first time I saw it. It is now a McDonald's shopping centre, and is opposite the beginning of Belle Rive park, just east of the CAST Container terminal. There is no sign of the old campground.

I do not recall how long my parents were there. They must have driven me home, and we may have driven up and down Notre Dame some more. I recall driving by Parc Richelieu, the old race track, so we may have driven all the way east to Bout de l'Ile.

First Ride

I took my first ride to the east along Boulevard Gouin, along the Rivière des Prairies, sometime during the latter years I was living on St. Urbain Street, likely sometime between 1980 and 1983. It was a hot, summer day and I set out on my own, taking St. Lawrence Boulevard up to Gouin on the Back River and turning east.

I do not recall much of what I saw along the way, except for the distinct feeling of being well out into the country. I remember long stretches of open country, with no houses. I remember a roadside casse-croute, such as are found out along the roads to resort areas. The road stretched on and on. I had it in my mind to go all the way to the end of the island, but I did not make it. Either my time was running out, or I was getting tired. I remember that my knees really started to ache on the way home. Quite likely I was facing a head wind. I was never so happy to see the St. Urbain street underpass, a block from my home.

McLynn Rides

My first tentatives by bicycle east of the Old Port did not occur until Loretta had moved down to that area, around 1986. The first time I went east to visit her, on foot from the Baudry Metro, it was all new to me. Of course, I had driven along Notre Dame many times, heading towards the tunnel, and had noticed the bike path along the park-like sections. I began to ride out on my bicyle after work to see Loretta, as the walk from the metro was just too far.. The bicycle bridge over the CP tracks had still not been built, and the bike trail went to the sidewalk along the Notre Dame bridge. I remember watching the progress being made on the bicycle bridge, and then finally taking it when it was ready.

My first ride east along the Notre Dame shore was made late in the 1980s, perhaps 1988 or 1989. When I came back this way in the Summer of 1990, on my way to Quebec City, all was familiar to me.

I have fairly strong memories of the long, interminable stretch of empty woodland past Pointe aux Trembles, which I had felt beforehand was at the end of the island. I remember thinking as I rode on and on and on, would this ever end? And then I came to the Sherbrooke/Notre Dame interchange and saw the tiny collection of streets and small houses off the main road to the right. I think it is likely I rode straight over the bridge, and only noticed the "Bout de l'Ile" as I was heading back. Then I nosed my way through the tiny streets until I found it. There was a bus terminus there, in the turn-around, along with the new apartment building. The Bout de l'Ile was behind the parking lot of the apartment building. I remember seeing the empty land behind the apartment building at Bout de l'Ile and thinking to myself, "They should really make this into a park." (Which they later did.). Although I went over the bridge on that first ride, it was just to touch the other side. I had lunch at Harvey's, but would not ride further east through town until 1990. On the way back, I was tired and cut the way short by taking Dorchester Boulevard (René Levesque) all the way.

When I first took the bus out to the furniture factory near Montreal North, where I did programming work, I recall recognizing the interchange at Jean Talon and ??. I may well have ridden past there. Perhaps I rode out, or back, the full length of Jean-Talon at one point. I would have been going to, or coming back from the Rivière des Prairies, as there is nothing else out there. Most likely I was coming back. This could have been after 1990.

1990 Trip to Quebec City

At any rate, the way was known to me on that rainy morning in the Summer of 1990 was I set out on my way to Quebec City. I took the Lachine Canal bike path to the Old Port, and at the far end, rode up to René Levesque, to catch the Notre Dame Street bike path. Path the parklike section, I recall it degenerating into nothing more than lines painted on the sidewalk, was I rode through the industrial sections.

When I got to the bridge, I crossed over into Repentigny and, for the first time, continued riding. Well though town, I finally came to a Dunkin' Donuts, where I stopped and had a hot soup for lunch, as it was near Noon. Then I continued on east, out of town.

1992 Ride

I believe that it was the Summer of 1992 that I made my first complete ride around the end of the Island. It was on this trip that I first took the time to explore the surroundings a bit, for I recall suddenly being aware of things I had not known of before.

I rode up to Cartierville, by paths well known, and then east along Gouin. I think there were already the beginnings of a bicycle path, but it was not as well developed. I stayed pretty well along Gouin. There was no park to drop down into along Ile de la Visitation. I think, though, that this was the time I first explored the island. I crossed the tiny bridge and rode along the street to its end, and then back. The street ended in a field, with no paths.

I recall that the open areas east of Montreal Nord were more filled in than they had been during my previous visit (of ten years earlier). I rode by the same pontoon plane storage area that had been there earlier. This pretty well marked the end of the built up section.

I reached the end of the Island and re-visited the Bout de l'Ile. It has still not been made into a park. Crossing into Repentigny, I rode as far as the Dunkin' Donuts, where I stopped for nostalgia. I explored the shopping centres on the way back.

Riding back, I stayed on Notre Dame, though the beginning of bike trails off the main street could be gleaned. I recall stopping, for the first time, at the foot of St. Jean Baptiste Boulevard and seeing the beginning of the Port of Montreal and the harbour pilots' boats. (I would drive back later, with Diane and Jennifer and my children, to show them this new-found spot.)

I did not stop off to see Loretta on the way by, as I was quite tired. I came directly home along René Levesque.

Tour de l'Ile: 1994

It is 1994, and the occasion of my second Tour de l'Ile. Sheryl has returned to Florida and so I share my ticket with Tannissa, who seems old enough, at twelve, to try it. I bring along a friend of hers (which is a good thing, as she never would have completed it without having her friend along to goad her on.)

The Tour started at Jeanne Mance park and headed down Park Avenue and Bleury to points east. I recall two firsts: It was the first time I saw Belle Rive park, which was one of the stopping off points. We continued east to some cross-island boulevard, but I have no recollection which it might have been. We were deposited on Gouin Boulevard, which was too small to handle all the cyclists. Then, for the first time I saw the new Ile de la Visitation park along Gouin, which was another of the stopping off points.

Despite a lot of complaining, we managed to make it back to Jeanne Mance park and Tannissa was happy having completed the ride.

There was a ride...

I do not remember exactly when, but I feel it was around this period. All I can remember is heading east from the Old Port along the restricted "Port of Montreal" road. I had fallen onto it by mistake at the Old Port end, while trying to nose my way east along the marked bike trail. Once I had discovered my error, there was no way off the road without backtracking. Since no one was bothering me, I simply continued. It was nice to be able to see the waterfront and the ships for once! I came out at Pie IX Boulevard, conscious of having passed by Loretta's house, and I believe I then continued east along Notre Dame.

Ride in 1995

I set off for a day long ride. I think it was late Summer, and Sheryl had just started teaching at College DeMaisonneuve. I rode by my usual route up to Cartierville and followed the now-fairly-well-developed bike trail eastward. I think many of the park sections of the trail were open by this time. Certainly I was able to ride through the regional park at Ile de la Visitation.

(Sheryl and I returned to this park for an extended walk. I remember walking all over the Sault au Recollets neighbourhood with her, examining the old houses. We've since been back a few times, and once I went there with Alex.)

East of Montreal North, I recall riding by this roadside house with a vast riverfront property and noticing a "For Sale" sign. Along this section, the bike path was painted right onto the north sidewalk, and went around both sides of the telephone poles which sprouted right out of the middle of the sidewalk.

(Sheryl and I would return to visit this house. It was for sale by the owners, who wanted $200,000 for it. We hesitated. The property was wonderful, but the house, except for the newly built addition, was cluttered. The upstairs rooms were very tiny, with a cramped stairway. It had once been a duplex but had been united into one. I worried about where the Hwy 25 extension would come through. Finally, we did not take it, but it was close. We will always long for the possibility of boating that a house on the river would have offered.)

Continuing on east, I noticed that the built up area seemed to extend further path the pontoon plane storage area. There were many new houses. Only at the very end, near the end of the island, did I feel "out in the country". Even there, a new regional park was open on the north side of the road, and the bike path would have had to leave the river side to go into it. I continued along Gouin.

At Repentigny, I took a side trip to visit Charlemagne, crossing another bridge, before returning and having my habitual hamburger at the Harvey's.

This trip ended with my riding up to Sheryl's college and surprising her. She then drove me and the bike home.

Tour de l'Ile: 1996

Once again the Tour headed to the East End. This was my third Tour de l'Ile, and I was accompagnied by Sheryl and Tannissa. This time the ride began at Jarry Park, but we were soon heading east out along Notre Dame. We had a way stop at Belle Rive Park. Then we continued on our way.

Once again, we took some nameless boulevard across the island to the north shore. Along this way, in what seemed an interminable distance under the hot sun, both Sheryl and Tannissa sagged. It seemed like it took all their energy to get to the next way stop, in some unnamed park. There we all crashed, but soon we were told we had to move on. They were closing the way stop and soon would be opening the streets. Tannissa and Sheryl laboured east along Gouin. Just shy of the way stop at Visitation Park, Tannissa had a small accident. When I saw she was not really hurt, I made her get back on the bike and continue. We made a long stop at the "halte", and then continued on as they were closing down. Each block was now painful, as I coaxed Sheryl and Tannissa along. Both were clearly long past having "hit the wall". As we approached Jarry Park from the north, the follow-up cars were right behind us, lights flashing.

We crossed the finish line at 18:00, the very last ones to come in. It was a hard day, but I am sure that Tannissa felt good later, having succeeded in completing the ride.

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Roger Kenner
May, November 2002