This was to be an eclectic trip: Ideas thrown together at the last minute. The Summer had arrived without our having made any real plans, for our situation made it hard to plan anything long term. Sheryl had no plans of her own and no strong feelings about where we should go; she just wanted to get out of town for a while. Thus, when I finally cobbled together plans for a long-distance bike ride that tied together a number of smaller projects which had been rolling around in the back of my mind, she agreed and the die was cast.
This plan combined three separate ride projects. A fourth project was left out as ideas became firm plans and it became clear that including it would not be practical.
I had long had the notion of repeating my bike ride from Montreal to Quebec City, first done in 1990 as my first intercity bike trip as an adult. Originally, I thought I might want to follow the same route as I had fourteen years earlier. Then I mused that it might be nice to ride along the North Shore, along a route I had driven, but never cycled. For a while I entertained the idea of including both in my Summer plans, beginning the trip by riding up along one shore and ending it by coming home along the other, with Sheryl picking me up and dropping me off as she began and ended her part in the trip. This was the fourth project, which, it became clear, was not going to work. While I was still left wondering which route to take, even as I began work on more detailed planning, it was the placement of campgrounds, in the end, which decided the issue. As I sat outside at the backyard table, my newly obtained Quebec tourist guides at my side, I tried to match daily distances with campgrounds. I simply could not get the South Shore route to work. I would face a long, long day between Sorel and Bécancour, with the campground at the end of the day being 10 kilometers off my route. I opted for the North Shore route.
I would begin by riding to Sorel, continuing the ride up along the Richelieu River which I had cut short earlier in the Summer. I would reach the Richelieu at exactly the point where I had left off, at Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu, by retracing in reverse the diagonal route through Saint-Amable which I had pioneered while coming home from that day-long outing.
My plan was to camp out along the Montreal to Quebec City portion of the trip. When I had originally made the trip in 1990, it had taken two nights and three days. As I sat and figured distances and matched them with available campgrounds, I realized I could no longer make it in the same time. It would take me three nights and four days. I guessed I was either getting older or wiser.
The plan was for Sheryl to meet me once I had arrived in Quebec City. The two of us would then to spend the day together as she drove me downriver as far as Rivière-du-Loup. I had ridden the Quebec City to Rivière-du-Loup portion of the Bas St. Laurent two years earlier, in 2002, as I was bicycling to St. John, New Brunswick.
At Rivière-du-Loup, I would return to the bike and continue riding down along the St.Lawrence shoreline, as far as Sainte-Flavie, the gateway of the Gaspé. It was at Sainte-Flavie that I began my bike ride of 1992. I estimated the Rivière-du-Loup to Ste. Flavie portion of the trip would take me two days.
In riding from Rivière-du-Loup to Sainte-Flavie, I would be complete the last stretch of the St. Lawrence along which I had not yet cycled: Kingston to Montreal (2001), Montreal to Quebec City (1990;2004), Quebec City to Rivière-du-Loup (2002), Rivière-du-Loup to Sainte-Flavie (2004) & Sainte-Flavie to Gaspé (1992).
We would pause at Sainte-Flavie to spend a second day together, during which time we would visit the Métis Gardens,which we had missed the last time around. I had ridden by them in 1992 without giving them any notice. In 1998, while returning from the Magdalene Islands, we had stayed overnight in Sainte-Flavie and had had the opportunity of visiting the Gardens, but opted instead for an early start in our homeward direction.
The final bike project involved riding up and over the spine of the Gaspé Peninsula, in order to descend the spectacular Matapedia Valley. I had passed through this valley many times since I first saw it in 1992, and each time I had told myself that I wanted to cycle it one day. Only on a bicycle does one travel at a speed that allows one to fully absorb the majesty of the scenery. I figured this final leg of the bike trip would take me two additional days.
We would then arrive at Cambellton, New Brunswick, and would still have about four days left to our vacation time. I had no real plans as to what we should do at that point. I decided to leave it open, so that we could decide at the time, based on how we would feel.
Thus was the plan. It allowed me eight days of highway cycling, and gave Sheryl and I six days together. I decided it would be best to wait until the end of the Quebec Construction Holiday, so we spent the first two weeks of my Summer vacation working on the laundry room.
I received an unexpected bonus when Sheryl arranged to attend a weekend outing in the Eastern Townships, giving me the opportunity for a three-day riding/camping trip from Montreal to Ayer's Cliff. This, coupled with my Summer trip and with several day-long outings, would make 2004 a good cycling year. In day trips, I had returned to l'Assomption, off the East End of Montreal Island, extended my reach to l'Epiphanie, and had returned via the Rivière-des-Prairies, riding the route for the first time in an east-to-west direction. I had taken a ride along the South Shore, riding out to Sainte-Catherine along the Seaway and then from Ste. Catherine to the Port-de-Plaisance in Longueuil, returning along the east side of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. I had pioneered the new route to Chambly, and had ridden along the Richelieu River, past Mont-Sainte-Hilaire, as far as Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu, and then had found a diagonal route home through the back side of Longueuil. Finally, on Labour Day, I would ride off the west end of the Island to re-visit Pointe-des-cascades and Valleyfield. On this final ride of the season, I would take the ferry across the St. Lawrence at Les Cèdres for the first time.
I had originally planned the departure date for our big trip to be the Friday of my second week off, but then this got pushed to the Saturday when our neighbours invited us to attend Shakespeare-in-the-Park with them and other friends.
We had gone to the Tourist Info office in downtown Montreal earlier on that Friday, to get all the information brochures we needed and I had spent the afternoon sitting outside planning the trip as Sheryl began arranging her newly completed workroom downstairs.
In planning, I worked out how far I could go and the kilometrage between each town. I matched these with campgrounds (for the first three days) and B&Bs (for the rest), establishing a day-by-day itinerary. This was something I had rarely done before, usually just letting fate carry me each day and then searching out lodging. I called ahead and made reservations at the campgrounds and at a B&B in Lévis, across from Quebec. All was thus set for the first four days.
I had pioneered this new approach the weekend before, while planning my ride to the Eastern Townships. Although it required more planning, and did sort of ‘lock me in’, it gave me the great feeling not having anxiety over lodging. In cycle-camping, the worry about having a space at the end of the day is too immense. I had always had to stop early for fear of being told, "Sorry. Full!". The fore-planning had worked out well on my way to Ayer's Cliff, for in Magog I did not arrive at the campground until nearly 19:00 and the campground manager was already turning people without reservations away.Top