Part II: Off Island: New Discoveries in Unknown Territory
Saturday, June 7, 2003
|Looking towards Repentigny|
I rode across the new Le Gardeur Bridge and reached Repentigny at 13:30. I rode down off the bridge and stopped at the first corner. There was located the familiar Harvey's restaurant which had traditionally been my lunchtime stop on Bout de l'Ile excursions, and usually marked the eastward extent of my rides. I crossed the main road to head left on Bouleveard Notre-Dame-des-Champs, towards the Assomption River and Charlemagne. Only once have I gone this way in the past (during my 1995 Bout de l'Ile Ride, which terminated at Sheryl's college). At that time, my very brief exploration of Charlemagne barely took me away from the main street corner at the centre of town.
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|Repentigny: Oft-Visited Harvey's|
Almost immediately after setting out, I came to the bridge over the Assomption River, and then down into the tiny village of Charlemagne.
|Rivière l'Assomption from Charlemagne Bridge|
I turned right at the town corner and headed upriver along the narrow and winding Notre-Dame Street, which was also Route 344.
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Very quickly I came to the entrance to the next town, Le Gardeur. At first the road remained quiet and narrow. There were even some feeble stretches of bike lane, painted along the side of the road. Once I passed beneath the Hwy 40 freeway, however, Route 344 was transformed into a busy and wide suburban corridor. Off to my left, behind the row of buildings lining the street, I could see the CN rail line and the vast industrial park beyond.
|Welcome to Le Gardeur||Le Gardeur: Historic Church|
I came to the point where the four-laned, concrete-divided Route 344 headed off to the left, while the narrow, and presumably original road continued to the right, alongside the river and through the older section of town. I followed this latter route. I could see, through the houses, the big shopping centres and big-box stores off to my left, along the main road. I was happy not to be there.
The only difficulty came when I had to cross the road coming off a bridge from Repentigny on the opposite side of the river. I had a stop sign and the unending stream of cross traffic had none. It was a long, long wait before I finally got a break to get across.
|Le Gardeur: Detail|
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Eventually the old road rejoined the new, but by then the traffic was less. Le Gardeur's bike lane sputtered along the left-hand side of the road, with occasional breaks, until it finally came to an end at the final housing development at the east side of town. I shunted back over to my side of what soon became a country road, heading through the green fields alongside the river. At 14:00 I had just passed the sign indicating that I was 8km from L'Assomption. [When I later related this ride to a friend of mine who grew up in L'Assomption, he advised me to take the road on the other side of the river next time. Apparently it is quieter and keeps its country air for a much longer distance. I will try it next time.]
|Highway to l'Assomption, past Le Gardeur||Rivière l'Assomption|
|East from Le Gardeur|
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I reached my destination half an hour later, at 14:30. At the time, I was totally ignorant of the bizarre geography of this little town - An oxbow in the river only two blocks wide at its narrow neck. (I still had in my mind's eye memories of what must have been the next town, L'Épiphanie.)
The first sign of things happening was another bridge from the opposite shore and a main highway heading staight-as-an-arrow off to the left. There was a short cluster of modern urbanisation, and then the street I was continuing along became much quieter. Up ahead I caught glimpses of an older, metal bridge. Soon older houses began to spring up along the left hand of the street, which the river continued to run below on the right.
|l'Assomption: Approaching Old Bridge|
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I reached the historic Reed-Sequin Bridge, which faced the town's church and dated form 1920. I rode over the bridge to the other side, and then returned.
|l'Assomption: Old Bridge||l'Assomption: Bridge & Church|
|Rivière l'Assomption east from bridge|
|l'Assomption: The Old: Houses by Church||l'Assomption: The New: Main Street|
From the quiet, riverfront street, lined with old, stone houses, I climbed up a block to the newer and more trendy main street. At this point, I began to realise that this was not the town that I remembered. The two to three block main street was lined with nice restaurants, boutiques and craft shops. I rode to its end at the bridge and then back.
As I approached once again the narrow neck of the oxbow, I was now on the busier back street, but still along the river. I came out at the main highway leading up towards l'Épiphanie, but it was already late and I knew I had a long way to go to get back. Reluctantly, I turned away and headed back in the direction I had come.
|l'Assomption: Street Heading Across the Back||Rivière l'Assomption Across the Back|
Just as I was on my way out of town, the clock struck 15:00 and it was time to check in with Sheryl. I told her where I was, but I do not think she could visualise it, nor did she have any idea how far away I was. My exploration of L'Assomption had only lasted half an hour.
|Highway Between L'Assomption & Le Gardeur|
It only took me 20 minutes to ride the short 8km through the country and back to the Le Gardeur line. I quickly picked up the bike lane and continued along until I could cross the main highway and cut through the older neighbourhood along Notre Dame. On the far side of town I continued to retrace my way until soon, 15:45, I was back at the crossroads at the centre of old Charlemagne. I stopped briefly to get a photo before proceeding on northwards.
My plan was to head along the north shore of the Mille Iles River, along Route 344, until I came to Terrebonne. There I was going to cross the bridge and cut across Laval to St. Martin and the Viau Bridge.
The road north became bike-unfriendly almost immediately upon leaving the Charlemagne crossroads area. It widened into a divided four-lane highway, in preparation for soon becoming the Hwy 640 freeway. I was able to ride along the paved shoulder until I came to the Route 344 intersecton, the last traffic light, beyond which all further progress was interdicted by the "No Bicycles" sign. I crossed the highway and headed off down Route 344, which immediately left the town behind, descending to the open river amidst the expanse of vast green fields.
|Charlemagne: North of the Crossroads|
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|Lachenaie: CN Rail Bridge from Route 344|
As the road wound down through the empty quarter, I was able to get a clear view of the CN Rail Bridge and a bit later of the whole river valley.
As I rode on, I soon reached the Hwy 40 overpass. It was 16:00. On the far side, the road had a more populated air. Next to the exit was a modern gas statio and depanneur, where I stopped in for some water. Off in the distance inland I could see the blocks of new housing developments and suburban shopping centres. Route 344 began to be lined on both sides by houses.
|Lachenaie: Looking South towards Varennes||Lachenaie: Looking South towards Bridge|
|Hwy 40 Crossing: Looking East towards Charlemagne||Hwy 40 Crossing: Looking West towards Montreal|
I was soon even with the tip of Laval Island, where I had been a couple of years earlier. Facing me, thenceforth, would be the Mille Iles River.
|Bout-Ile of Laval from Lachenaie Shore|
|View of Lachenaie Shore from Tip of Laval (2001)|
The village of Lachenaie was stretched out along the road and never really had any centre. I stopped at a certain point and treated myself to an iced cream at a small, roadside "bar-laitier". The quiet, tree-lined road continued peacefully alongside the river and offered me many vantage points and vistas. Eventually I would reach the rapids, which marked the head of navigation on the Mille Iles. Soon thereafter I came upon Terrebonne.
|Lachenaie: Mille-Iles River - Downriver||Lachenaie: Float plane on Mille-Iles River|
|Lachenaie: Church across on Laval side||Lachenaie: Rapids begin - End of Navigation|
|Lachenaie: CP Rail Bridge ahead||Terrebonne: CP Rail Bridge|
The CP Rail crossing marked the boundary between LaChenaie and Terrebonne. It was 17:00 when I arrived. On the far side of the track embankment, a bike trail picked up immediately and I was able to leave Route 344 and descend down to the water's edge. The trail brought me around to the old bridge and I was devastated to see that it was closed. There was no chance whatsoever of sneaking across, for a whole span was missing. Faced with little other choice, I continued along the waterfront until I came to the centre of town and the historic Ile des Moulins park. This was only the second time I had ever cycled in Terrebonne, but I knew the way well for subsequent to my first 2001 visit, I had driven several times to the town.
|Terrebonne: Old Bridge is out!|
|Terrebonne: Old Bridge||Terrebonne: Rapids|
I decided to try crossing at the Highway 25 bridge. Although it was a freeway, I hoped there would be protected pedestrian walkway or bicyle path. I did not realize yet that Ile Saint_Jean, upon which the bridge alights, was the same island at the far side of the Moulins dam. Instead, I rode up the hill the Route 344 and followed the old road along the river and out of town, along the same way I used to go with my parents when we lived north of Terrebonne.
As I approached Hwy 25, my hopes increased, for I saw a bike path leading down a side street to the river and up and over the bridge. I rode across on the protected lane with glee, figuring my problems were solved. The bike trail ended abruptly on the far side, where I found boulevard that led around the island. When I got to the far side, I did not see any way up onto the second span, to one actually connecting with Laval.
I continued around the island, passing underneath Hwy 25, and came up to the freeway entrance. I was hoping that there would be a bike path across, but when I finally reached the "No Bicycles" sign, I had to admit defeat. I retraced my route and stopped at the point nearest the Laval shore to reflect on how close it was. Alas, I had to return all the way I had come, and it was 17:30 before I reached the beginning point of my detour. My only hope now was to cross at the Bois-des-Filion bridge, but I knew this would take me far out of my way. I would no longer be able to take the short cut across Laval.
|Looking downriver from Ile Jean||Across to Laval from Ile Jean - Old mill works|
Once back onto the mainland, there was no way to cross over the Hwy 25 freeway except for climbing high up to the main road, almost half a kilometer. Once across, I descended the far side to a point only a hundred meters or so from where I had originally stood. It's too bad they did not think of a tunnel or a path underneath the bridge.
Doggedly, I set out along Route 344 in the direction of Bois-des-Filion. The headwind which had been with me since I had started along the river at Lachenaie began to take it toll. What would earlier have been minor ups and downs in the road took on an ever greater, hilly presence. I could feel my knees were getting tired, and I was not looking forward to the more than two hours further cycling would be required before I got home.
When 18:00 came, I was about halfway to Bois-des-Filion. It was time to check in with Sheryl. When she inquired when I would be home for supper, I admitted that it would be two hours more, and that I was already tired. I guess she could hear it in my voice, for she offered to come out and get me. After a moment's thought, I readily accepted. The thrill of the day's ride was wearing thin. I told Sheryl I would ride on into Bois-des-Filion and would settle into a restaurant where I could sit and wait for her.
I rode into the little hamlet of Bois-des-Filion at 18:10. It had been many a year since I had seen this town, and I was hoping there would be at least one restaurant where I could stop and wait. I was not prepared for the vast development I was to see: A major intersection and a giant shopping centre!
|[See Full Map]|
I spied a Belle Province friterie on the left-hand side which had an outdoor terrace and figured this would be a perfect place to wait and easy for Sheryl to find. I chained my bike to the rail and staked out a corner table with all my stuff. Then I walked in to get an order of fries.
What a surprise! When I had paid for my meal and was on my way out, I heard someone call, "Roger?" I turned around and found my friends.. They were nice enough to come outside and sit with me and we had a great visit while waiting for Sheryl, who finally arrived at 20:00
|La Belle Province in Bois-des-Filion||My friends
at Belle-Province in Bois-des-filion
After Sheryl had eaten as well, we packed up the bike and returned home along the new Hwy 335 extension of the Hwy 19 freeway, whose construction I had seen back in 2001.
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