Bike Ride - Summer 2004:
Quebec/Bas St. Laurent/Matapedia
& New Brunwick
Day Four

Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2006

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Quebec/Bas St. Laurent/Matapedia
& New Brunwick
Day Four: Neuville to Quebec City (Lévis)
Tuesday, August 3, 2004

My watch alarm went off at 06:00 and I was up, ready and packed to go by 07:30. The campground was still quiet and the restaurant closed as I cycled out past the main building. Just one or two of the campers were just beginning to stir.

I had decided to climb back up the steep driveway to Route 138, high on the ridge, rather than to return to town along the lower route that I had taken the evening before. I wanted to see what the town looked like as one descended into it along the main road. I did not even attempt to ride up the 30-degree slope, but dismounted and, with great difficulty, pushed my loaded bike back up to the motel level.

Not too far beyond the campground entrance, Route 138 descended to the next terrace of the ridge, at the same level as the campground. I was able to stop and get a photo in the early morning sun, looking back across the fields to the campground. It was the same neighbouring field the farmer had been working with his tractor the evening before. Little did I know this would be the last photo taken by my good, old Pentax camera on this trip!

I descended into Neuville only as far as Des Erables Street. I had seen the main road as it looped below town and it was not too interesting. Besides, there was no point in dropping further down than I needed to, for I knew I would only have to climb back up again. It was much more interesting cutting across town on Des Erables, which clearly had once been the highway through town. Well past town, I met once again Route 138, as it climbed up from the river’s edge. I turned right to backtrack at bit, for I thought I had seen the back of a restaurant below. Alas, it was out of business. I doubted the Manoir Neuville served breakfast, and I was little interested in descending all the way to the bottom of the hill to find out. I set my breakfast hopes on the next town of Saint-Augustin.

The road climbed up to the flat land atop the ridge and then turned well away from the river, heading inland across the plain. At 08:00, I came to the Saint-Augustin town line. Here also was the beginning of Quebec City's 'Littoral Bike Trail'. To mark the spot, there was a small 'halte' for cyclists, complete with benches and a map. The marked trail led off to the right, along an old farm road and towards a distant line of trees which marked the top of the riverside cliff. Had it not been for my desire for breakfast, I would have left the road at that point and followed the trail. I figured, though, that I would have no trouble catching it after visiting Saint-Augustin.

I went to take a photo of the location and my camera totally jammed! The film would not advance, nor would the shutter-release button go down. Frustrated, I sat down to carefully extract the film, listening with the camera up against my ear for when the film left the take-up spindle. I was thus able to preserve the shots I had taken so far. I still had hopes of re-inserting the roll. Even with the camera open, there was no way I could get it un-jammed. I lamented the great photo I was missing, and some others that I would miss over the next few minutes, as I descended the long hill into Saint-Augustin. Never again would I be without a backup camera!

Knowing that Sheryl would be on her way soon, I frantically called home and was able to get her. I asked her to find and bring her camera along with her, so that I could use it after we met up that evening. That resolved all but that day, which I knew would prove to be one of the more interesting days visually.

I set out again at 08:15. The town of Saint-Augusting began at the foot of a long, gentle incline in the otherwise flat plain. I could see the built-up section of town climbing the far slope, with the town church and centre about halfway to the ridge. I knew from the map that, just past the ridge, Route 138 joined the throng of Quebec suburbia and made its way towards town along the inland valley of the Saint-Charles River, separated from the Saint-Lawrence by the high ridge. I had no desire to continue in that direction. Once I was done with breakfast, I knew that I would be heading back towards the shoreline, to find the Littoral Trail.

I reached the village at 08:40 and noticed, to my right, a small shopping centre with a drugstore and a dollar store. I headed right on over, to check out the camera situation, but none of the stores were open yet, so I returned to the road and continued along the main street as it climbed the hill towards the center of town.

At the town center was a magnificent stone church, beautifully lit by the morning sun. Again, I lamented my lack of camera. Just across from the church was a restaurant with an outdoor terrace which was open, la Clef des Champs. I stopped there to have a breakfast of Eggs, toast, sausage and coffee. It was very pleasant eating outside in the cool morning air. While waiting for my breakfast to arrive, I studied my maps to determine the best way to proceed. The maps confirmed that the Littoral Trail was my best bet.

I was totally unsure what to do about a camera, though. Should I buy a cheap one? It seemed unlikely I could get decent camera at a drugstore. Had there been a camera store, I might very well have bought a new one. Once finished with breakfast, it was past 09:00 and the stores would be open. I rode back down the hill to the shopping center at the edge of town and visited both the drug store and the dollar store. In the dollar store, I managed to find three cheap disposable cameras. I knew they were far from the best quality, but they would have to do. They had many more than three and, as it turned out, I should have taken all they had, for I would be buying more disposable cameras all day long.

The street facing the shopping center, and at right angles to the highway, was a fairly major thoroughfare. It cut through the sea of square boxes that marked the suburbia of Quebec City, which started here in St. Augustin. Leaving the store at 09:30, I descended what became an ever increasing downhill, until I came to the lip of a steep cliff. At this point, the housing tracts abruptly ended and the wide street narrowed to winding country road. I stopped to get a photo of the point where the sharp descent began. It felt good to be back in the photo business! I could only hope that the photos from my cheap, disposable cameras would turn out! Whatever would come, I would have to make the best of it. It was better than no photos at all.

Once I had flown down the steep incline to the base of the cliff, I encountered the old 'Chemin du Roy', along which ran the 'Littoral Trail'. It was a well-marked lane along the right-hand side of the pavement. I had rejoined it 8km from its inception at the halte where my camera had jammed. Soon, at 09:45, I would come upon another trail 'halte', complete with benches and information plaques.

It was a very pleasant ride along the almost-deserted little road that ran along the base of the cliff. I knew the river to be at the right somewhere, but nothing could be seen through the thick trees. Alas, the pleasant ride was not to last. Almost immediately upon leaving the little rest park, the road began to climb. Soon, I was engaged in a serious climb. As I edged ever higher and higher up the slope, I could begin to see out over the way ahead. I saw a distant complex of buildings beyond the immediate fields and forests. I did not know yet that I would soon be riding right past them. The climb was so severe that near the top I was forced to ride back and forth across the road in little switchbacks. (This was only possible because the road was so deserted; otherwise I would have had to dismount and push.)

At 10:00 and at the top of the hill, my road came to an end at the busier Chemin de la Butte, which led along the crest of the ridge. I noticed from the road sign that the hill I had just come up was notorious enough to be given a name; it was called "La Cote a Gagnon" (Gagnon's Hill). I was 10km along the Littoral Trail.

I no more got used to riding on the flat, along the top of the ridge, when I came out upon another deep valley, cutting transverse to the ridge. I could see the road ahead descend and climb up the far side. I had little other choice. The buildings I had seen in the distance earlier now resolved themselves into a large CEGEP, occupying most of the far slope.

By 10:15, I had descended to the base and had climbed partly up the far side of the valley. I reached Rue Felix, a transverse road on the far side. Climbing up out of the valley, I had left the countryside behind and was now riding along suburban streets with sidewalks and little houses with two-car garages. I followed Rue Felix back along the side of the valley, until I came to the crest of the cliff overlooking the river. I found myself riding past the vast complex of the Seminaire Saint-Augustin. Unbelievably, this massive suburban sprawl, interspersed with these huge educational complexes, was the same quaint, small town in which I had eaten breakfast.

At the crest of the ridge overlooking the river was a small halte. I was now 13km along the Littoral Trail. I parked my bike and hiked over to the chain link fence that ran along the top of the cliff. On the street side was well-groomed grass, on the far side was dense underbrush. Still, I could get a glimpse of the river, far below.

Not too much further along, I came upon a road sign bidding me farewell to Saint-Augustin. Then there was another, tiny one announcing the town of Cap Rouge. I was at the crest of a hill. As soon as I crossed into Cap Rouge, the road began a sharp descent, which continued over several minutes. I had not realized how high I was, but would be dropping right down to the water's level.

Rounding a corner, I saw ahead the distinctive high railway trestle which had been such a prominent landmark when I had passed by on hydrofoil two years earlier. The road came out right of its descent right underneath the trestle, where there was a small bridge over the Rouge River. The far side of the bridge was a hub of activity. Boaters and sightseers were everywhere. Traffic was jammed trying to find parking around a small complex which included tourist information center, kayak and canoe rental and marina. I stopped in to look around and ended up buying a small booklet on the history of Cap Rouge. It was 10:35 when I arrived. I sat out on the terrace overlooking the mouth of the river for some minutes, watching the activity below. A large party were getting ready to kayak up the river.

A small, one-laned street led east from the centre, below the tall cliff of Cap Route which loomed overhead. Non-resident cars were not permitted along the street, which made it very pleasant for cycling. The street was open to the river on one side, while along the cliff was just enough room for a succession of very small houses on postage-stamp lots.

The roadway finally came to an end within clear sight of the Quebec City Bridge. The gravel foot path which continued on had lots of foot traffic. Signs announced that the path led on to a beach. What I was not sure of, however, was whether there would be any exit from the far side of the beach. Reluctantly, I opted to be on the safe side and turn back. By 11:24, I was back at the bridge.

Looping around the base of the tall cliffs, I followed the route of the through-traffic, which climbed up a very steep hill to the inside of the cape. A short ways up the hill was another ‘halte’. Signs indicated that those following the Littoral Trail should carry their bikes up a series of steep staircases. Although designed for cyclists, the staircases had not been designed for those with rigs loaded like mine in mind. There was no way I could carry my bike up those stairs!

I continued on up the steep, heavily travelled roadway, angering a number of motorists who had to wait to get a chance to pass me. At the approach of a rail overpass halfway up the hill, I found another set of stairs leading up the cliff side to my right. This staircase was flanked with flat flagstones on either side. These flagstones made for a "ramp" of sorts, steep but of a manageable distance of only twenty feet or so. With all my effort, and holding with my brakes at every pause, I was able to push my bike up the flagstone “ramp”, to the top of the stairs. At the top was a footway leading on up the hill. I remounted and rode along the footway, until it joined that of the "Littoral Trail". At this point, the Littoral Trail was a gravel bicycle trail, running along its own right-of-way through the woodland park. I was still climbing briskly.

The trail came out at the top of ‘Cap Rouge’ onto a small roadway that ran through the woods along the crest. Eastward, just past the railway underpass, the roadway would leave the park and become a tree-lined suburban street. I took a few minutes to follow a gravel path that led out along the railway line towards the cliff’s edge. There was to be found a wye joining the main line, coming from inland, with the older line that had once ran across the top of the high trestle marking Cap Rouge.

I continued eastward along the street as it left Cap Rouge and entered the town of Sainte-Foy at 11:30. The neighbourhood was transformed into a very upscale setting made up of grand homes on large and deeply tree-covered lots. I felt a sense of accomplishment at having reached Sainte- Foy, which synonymous with Quebec City as far as I was concerned. (Little did I realize yet that I was still hours away from my destination!) Upon crossing the Sainte-Foy town line, signs indicated that I was 20km from the inception of the Littoral Trail at the Saint-Augustin/Neuville line.

At 11:50, I suddenly came out of the residential trees to find myself on the overpass overlooking the major highways leading to the bridges. I paused for a moment to take in the scene and to look out over the towering structures as they crossed the majestic St. Lawrence. I noticed a small road leading down off the hill to the Sainte-Foy train station a short distance below. (Where the train comes in off the old Quebec Bridge.) I rode on down to catch a photos, but alas they would not turn out. By 12:00, I had laboured my way back up the steep hill to the overpass.

I knew from my maps that cyclists were able to cross the old Quebec Bridge, but could not see exactly how that was done. I rode past the overpass and on up to the large tourist information centre which overlooks the bridges. I reached the station at 12:10 and went in to ask my question. They gave me the fairly complex route by which cyclists ride down alongside the roadway until, once near the bridge, they reach their own right-of-way.

Following this torturous path, I finally reached the old Quebec City Bridge, which is quite a massive and solid construction when viewed up close. Cyclists cross on the pedestrian crossing. Owing to the path’s limited width, cyclists must walk their bikes across. I would stop for many many photos and so it would not be until 12:40 that I would finally reached the far side. I saw below the freeway approaching the bridge along the shoreline on the Quebec side. I had driven along this freeway, and knew that it made a big circle west of the bridge, to join the main bridge traffic flow at the top of the ridge. I saw ships pass directly beneath as I walked across the bridge. I saw the massive, steel structure of the bridge under reparation and being painted. The pedestrian walkway was in particularly bad shape. At many points, the railing was totally rusted through and needed only a good push to give way. (As indeed, it nearly would for someone else on that very day! [find news clipping!] As I approached the far shore, I could see the mouth of the Chaudiere River breaking through the cliff wall.

On the South Shore side, cyclists have many choices. They can continue eastward or one can pass through a tunnel, under the interchange, to head westward into Route 132.. Interested in getting some photos of what my approach would have been back in 1990, I took the westward path briefly, before returning to the junction point to head east.

The bike trail finally came out at the main road coming off the old bridge, where it followed a marked lane as far as a key transit stop. There all trace of the trail ended and I had to cross the road to ride with the traffic. I descended the same long hill I remembered from 1990, into the town of Saint-Romuald, coming out at the intersection of Route 132 and Chemin du Sault at 13:10.

I turned left at the junction, to follow Chemin du Sault back down to the water line. It was a thrill ride racing down the steep switchback slopes! Midway, I stopped at a depanneur in order to buy some more disposable cameras, but he had none. I was using up shots quickly and was worried about running out of film. I lamenting not having bought up all the cameras at the outset. Since I was there, I bought some other supplies: Water and ice for my little cooler.

Chemin du Sault finally came out at a point overlooking the rocky mouth of the Chaudiere River. I had been looking down at this very spot earlier. The towering iron spire of the Old Quebec Bridge loomed high above. Below, old, stone bridge abutments and supports spoke of an earlier railway trestle or roadway along this route.

The road descended on to the shoreline and led eastward. It was very pleasant. There was little traffic and the way was lined mostly with older homes and trees. I would come upon couple of waterfront parks, whence I could see upriver to the Old Quebec Bridge and downriver to Cap Diamant. Eventually, I came to the old centre of Saint-Romuald, the center of town before the days of the railroad and the new highway had shifted the town centre up and away from the river's edge.

Continuing along, the older commercial buildings lining the narrow street gave way once more to houses. No longer more modern homes on neatly groomed lots, these were now the side-by-side row houses of an earlier era. The street turned inland at the last moment and I came to the Saint-Romuald Bridge at 14:00, after having stopped into yet another depanneur looking for cameras unsuccessfully. At the bridge, the older riverfront road rejoined Route 132 , the new 'main drag' of town.

I rode west along Route 132 a short distance, to find a drugstore where I was finally able to obtain a couple more cameras. I came upon the end of the old railway line. As late as 1990, the train had come down by the waterfront to stop at the Levis Station. I had caught the train there. This line was now gone and the very tracks removed east of Saint-Romuald. I rode eastward from 'end-of-track' to 'beginning-of-bikeway', and then crossed the Etchemin River over the old railway trestle.

The ride in along the waterfront of Levis was most pleasant. Cyclists’ own right-of-way led along where the former railroad tracks had been, often right alongside the river. To the right was Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Along the right-hand side of this road was a single line of older houses, hugging the cliff behind. At one point, the narrow riverfront shelf opened up into a large park. More developed sections of town could be seen along the top of the cliff. There were numerous places to stop along the river. At one point, there was a massing tanker terminal, with pipes leaving the waterfront and crossing overhead to climb the cliffs and head towards some refinery inland. The oil company had groomed a large waterfront park near the terminal. At long last, the trail rounded the final curve and ahead was the old train station at Levis.

[I recall standing on that very platform in 1990, my gear in hand, watching the train round the corner as it approached the station at 23:00.]

It was 15:00 when I arrived at my destination. I had a few false starts finding the B&B, which was not well marked at all. Without the address, I would have been lost. I rode out to the street at the ferry entrance and rode down a short ways before realizing I had missed the B&B. I came back, checking the addresses. Just to the east of a parking lot for ferry-goers was a small building with the correct address, but no one was there and the door was locked. When I went into the depanneur on the other side of the parking lot to inquire, I discovered it had the same owner. The young lady behind the counter called her father, who came out to rent to me. I opted for a room on the second floor, at the back, one with its own balcony and private entrance.

Once I was checked in and partially unpacked, I gave Sheryl a call to tell her I was there. She was still at the antique places near Drummondville. No rush, I told her.

It had been my plan, if I had arrived early enough, to explore the Quebec side of the river by bike, as I had done back in 1990. I toyed with the idea of riding back out to Montmorency Falls. Setting out as quickly as I could make the turn-around, I managed to catch the 15:20 ferry, which put me in Quebec's Old Port about 15:30.

It was easy to follow the marked trail across the port. Along much of the way it consisted of no more than painted lines across the flat patios of the wharves. I came upon an American river excursion boat tied up at the wharf. Approach was blocked off and the boat was surrounded by guards. I followed the path up around the locks at the mouth of the Saint-Charles River, past where I had disembarked from the hydrofoil back in 2002. The trail then led up alongside the inner harbour, now along its own right-of-way through the parkland I had already rounded Cap Diamant and was looking as a seldom seen face of the old city up on the hill.

I stopped at a picnic table along the harbour and had a quick lunch of food from my cooler before continuing along.

The Trail eventually led up past the Gare du Quebec and cut underneath the trestle which brought the double track into the train station. Things got pretty busy for a few moments as different and equally busy bike trails met in intersections marked by concrete tunnels. I stopped for a moment to get my bearings and was almost blind sided by an angry cyclist coming from another direction.

Eventually, I found my way up and over the St. Charles River, to come down within the old rail yards of Quebec City's port area. The Littoral Trail follows a complicated path through these rail yards, including several dedicated level crossings, marked by flashing lights and barriers.

Coming out on the far side of the rail yards, the Trail runs along Boulevard Montmorency in the district of Limoilou. Alongside the trail and street runs a rail line. I encountered there the 'Véloasis', an iced-cream stop for cyclists, and could not resist a quick iced-cream cone. It was 16:45. I called Sheryl while I was there, to determine where she was. I wanted to know if I would have time to ride out to Montmorency Falls. She was on the road, and about even with Trois-Rivieres. This gave me about an hour and a half to two hours. I doubted if I would have enough time to get to the Falls, which were posted as still 10km distant, and back.

I decided to shift my destination to Beauport, which was much nearer. I followed the trail down along the tracks of Boulevard Montmorency, to the intersection with a major cross street. Here, the marked bike lane turned to the right and following this new street out to the freeway that ran along the waterfront from downtown Quebec. The bike trail passed under one side of the freeway through a tunnel and came up in the middle, between the two roadways, and in a protected right-of-way, sheltered from the sight and noise of the freeway by high earthen walls on either side.

I followed the Bike Trail eastward, away from the city and in the direction of Montmorency Falls. A few minutes brought me to the branch point: The way to Beauport was to the right, under yet another tunnel. I came out on the far side of the freeway, amidst a vast open parking lot, out in the middle of nowhere. The bike trail was little more than a painted set of lines running through the parking lot, towards the end furthest from the city and ending at the water's edge. The long detour was to get around rail spurs extending from the rail yards of the port. No sooner had the trail gone around the end of the fenced off rail lines, than it turned 180 degrees to go back towards the city almost the same distance. At the turn-around point, I was able to look across the water and tidal marshes to distant Montmorency Falls and the bridge to Ile d'Orleans. I was at my closest point to those two landmarks.

As I rode back in the direction of the city, I had on my right the fenced-off rail yards, with the open parking lot beyond, and beyond that the freeway. To my left were vast tidal flats, half- covered with water. I could not tell if the tide was going out or coming in.

The trail led up and around the head of the bay, and out onto yet another peninsula which jutted out into the harbour. At the head of this peninsula were the warehouses of the port of Quebec. Once the Trail had passed these by, it entered a park and campround set up on what was clearly some kind of reclaimed land. The access road to the beach, as well as the trail, led past various camping emplacements, mostly tents, with a few RVs.

It was 17:05 when I reached Beauport Beach and stood looking out from the very end of the peninsula across to the South Shore of the St. Lawrence and towards to passage to the open sea beyond. The beach was backed by a vast gravel parking lot, whose primary occupants were windsurf enthusiast collected around their vans and RV's, loading or unloading their gear.

As I began the ride back, I realized why the area was so popular with windsurfers. Any time I was riding towards the west, I faced an extremely strong headwind. Out on the flat, open spaces around Beauport, there was nothing to block this force. I began to worry that I might have overextended myself, for I had a long way to go to get back to the ferry.

I retraced the long, circuitous route back around the bay, up along and around the rail yards, across the parking lot, and through the tunnel leading to the main bike path. Only there, with the earthen berms on either side, Did I had some shelter from the wind. At the junction point, the sign indicated I was at 42.5km along the Littoral Trail from its beginning. I continued to do the ride I had made earlier, but in reverse. I rode up along the Limoilou street past the iced cream stop, through the rail yards, across the bridge of the Saint-Charles River, and past the inner harbour. I paused briefly to catch a photo of the hydrofoil, which had just arrived from Montreal. Then I made my way across the painted lanes of the wharves to the ferry terminus. Alas, I had just missed the ferry and now that they were on evening schedule, I would have to wait until 18:30 for the next one.

I still managed to get back to Levis before Sheryl. I unpacked my bike and carried it up the tightly wound circular metal stairs, to the private balcony of our room, where I locked it to the railing. Then I changed from my bicycle clothes into street clothes. Sheryl called and said she had just gotten off the freeway at Saint-Romuald, so I took a chair and went downstairs to sit at the entrance of the parking lot and wait for her.

It was good to see my Sweetie pull up in the white Honda. My directions had been flawless and she had enjoyed a pleasant drive along the river, finding the place with no problem. After quickly getting the car properly parked and bringing some stuff up to the room, we headed back to the ferry terminus, on foot, to cross back over to the Quebec side.

We never made it above lower town in our walkabout. We simply walked up Rue sous le fort and then down Rue du petit Champlain, checking out one or two shops. Near the very restaurant where we had eaten in 1994, Le Lapin Sauté, we encountered an outdoor chansonnier, entertaining the crowd. As luck would have it, a table along the sidewalk suddenly became free, and so we grabbed it, much to the consternation of others who had been waiting, but were too slow to act.

Sheryl and I enjoyed a pleasant dinner of rabbit, as we listened to the music. I would, unfortunately, forget my credit card at the restaurant and would not realize it until the next day.

After dinner, we finished our walk along Rue du petit Champlain, and then made our way back to the 22:00 ferry to return to our side. We had a pleasant evening crossing of the river, standing on the deck looking back at the brilliant lights of Quebec City.

We both retired to a good night’s sleep together.

On to Day 5

Prepared by Roger Kenner
January, 2006; lite-version: June, 2006