Bike Ride to Rawdon

Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2004

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Bike Ride to Rawdon

A Sunny, Summer Day: July 30, 1974


It was only a few months since I had purchased my bicycle and I was still intoxicated by the new-found freedom is offered me. From rides around town and out to the West Island, I had progressed to trips out to Rosemere. This was to be my very first forey into true intercity touring, and a precursor to the ride to Ottawa I would make later in the Summer. I chose Rawdon for it had been a favourite destination of mine during my short days here with my parents. Although I would return to Rawdon many times over the intervening years by car, it would not be until 2003 that I would retrace my bicycle route.

The account below is a revised and updated version of the one I wrote in October, 2000, as part of the description of my childhood [View Here].

One Sunny Morning

  • Rawdon Trip

    Click to Enlarge (BP Quebec Road Map: 1974)
    Across Laval (1974 Map)
    [See Larger Map]

    One morning, I got it in my mind to ride up to Rawdon, where I had not been since my mom had taken me back in 1970. I consulted the Quebec road map and found a more or less direct route, one which promised to avoid the busy highways and lead me along quiet, country roads.

    Instead of taking my typical route to Rosemere, along Boulevard Curé Labelle through Chomedey and Ste. Rose, I cut over towards Ahuntsic and the Henri-Bourassa Metro Station in order to cross Laval on Boulevard des Laurentides. It was a route I knew well, for it was the one taken to Rosemere by the Milles Iles Bus lines, which left from the Henri-Bourassa terminus. These buses would follow the main road at the top of Laval as it curved west towards Ste. Rose. I had, however, on occasion been along the alternate route that crossed the old, wooden, and somewhat rickety bridge at Bois-des-Filion.

    Click to Enlarge (Bibliothèque Nationale du Quebec)
    Pont Viau


    The ride up Laurentian Boulevard went through a more built-up area of Laval than did the Curé Labelle route and it was much busier. I did not reach the "country" until I was near the top of the hill, near Boulevard St. Elzéar, whereas along Curé Labelle the open farmer's fields began just at the top of the hill past the St. Martin Shopping Centre. Riding down the far side, I kept to the left, along the quieter road, as the main Route 11 highway took most of the traffic westward.

    Click to Enlarge (BP Quebec Road Map: 1974)
    North from Bois-des-Filion (1974 Map)


    Bois-des-Filion was still the quiet, sleepy town I first used to see every day as my school bus would descend the escarpment on Montée Gagnon, to turn right along Grand Côte to head towards Lorraine and Rosemere. The open fields were broken only by a cluster of old, summer cottages between Grand Côte and the river. At the corner were a couple of small busineses. The wooden bridge was a secondary route, avoided by most traffic.

    My climb up the hill and north along Montée Gagnon was a trip through memory lane. I had not been this way in four years, since I had last made the trip on my school bus. The road was a narrow and straight track, lined closely on both sides by scrub forest. Every few hundred feet would be the clearing for a house. I passed the road from the right, where my school bus used to meet Montée Gagnon, and then finally came to the curve and the turnaround point, which was the northern extent of the run of the bus.

    Past the familiar curve, I was into less well-known territory. The road dropped down off the ridge into the valley near Place Longchamp, where I had lived briefly with my parents back in 1969. Before we moved, my parents used to bring me to school along this road. I had forgotten how close I actually was to Place Longchamp, or I might have been tempted to make a small detour.

    Click to Enlarge (Taken on 2003 Rawdon Ride)
    2003 Views: Nearly 30 Years Later
    Montée Gagnon School Bus turn-around


    Then I was truly out in unknown country. It felt great riding along the country road and breathing in the fresh country air. I passed a number of small towns whose names meant little to me at the time. Coming up out of the first valley, crossed another ridge and descended into a second valley. The valleys seemed to run across my line of direction.

    I came to eventually to Ville des Laurentides, which stuck out in my memory as quite a sizeable town. I felt truly on a voyage of discovery, for this was the first I had ever heard of this town. I remember the main intersection, and a big two-storey hotel lined with second-floor galleries. The streets were quite narrow and clusterd with old houses that abutted directly onto the street.

    Click to Enlarge (Taken on 2003 Rawdon Ride)
    2003 Views: Nearly 30 Years Later
    Quiet Road Splits Off Approaching Ste. Julienne


    (BP Quebec Road Map: 1974)
    Ville des Laurentides to Rawdon (1974 Map)
    [See Larger Map]

    A short ways north from Ville des Laurentides, I turned off onto a very quiet road, where almost no cars passed. It was the back way into the town of Ste. Julienne. I did not remember the town by name, but I knew it as the last town along the main road before one reached Rawdown. It was the town in which, along the main road, one climbed up the final escarpment left the valleys behind for the beginning of the mountains.

    Not too much further along was the Rawdon turn-off from the main road. It was amazing how well I remembered everything, having been there only a few times, four years earlier, with my mom. Soon I was dropping down the steep hill and crossing over the river towards the entrance to the town of Rawdon and to the park at Dorwin Falls.

    It had been 11:00 when I had left and I came to the Falls at 15:00, after a ride of only four hours. I felt really good about my accomplishment. I had proved to myself that such country rides were, indeed, possible.

    I hung around the Falls for a short while. Then I rode on into town, up Queen Street, where I found a small casse-croute and had some lunch. I bought a postcard as a souvenir, and as proof that I had reached Rawdon:

    Click on photo to enlarge (Period Postcard)
    Rawdon Bike Ride
    Rawdon74 Rawdon74

    (Bibliothèque Nationale du Quebec)
    Rawdon's Queen Street Circa 1960


    Reaching Rawdon had been the goal. Once I was there, the town itself seemed an anti-climax. I spend only an hour there in total, half an hour of which was spend eating my lunch. At 16:00, it seemed prudent to begin the long trek back home.

    As I started back, I noticed the big, black clouds that had gathered overhead. I rode as fast as I could along the access road towards the main highway, hoping to outpace the storm. I did not succeed. As I was on the main road, just north of Ste. Julienne and the escarpment, the heavens opened with a massive thunderstorm. The salty water washing up form the pavement blinded me and I had to stop at the top of the hill. I had no rain gear, of course, and so was instantly soaked to the bone.

    Once my eyes recovered, I noticed I as at the top of a side road that cut straight down through town, to meet the back road along which I had come into Ste. Julienne. I retraced my route along the quiet country road towards Ville des Laurentides.

    Within half an hour, the sun was out again like nothing had ever happened. As I was riding along, and even beginning to dry out, I saw this beautiful, distant white cloud. Soon the cloud was not so distant and the sky blackened once more. There I was again, getting drenched in my second thunder shower of the day!

    After passing Ville des Laurentides, I began to feel fatique and realized I might not be able to make it all the way back home. I brought out my map and checked out a collection of side roads that could allow me to cut across to Highway 11 (Curé Labelle), just north of Rosemere. I would have a place to stay there if I could go no further.

    Riding along some quiet back road, I saw this young girl coming up towards me on her bike. I watched her and gauged the direction to shift, in order to be out of her way. She was like a magnet, though, and every move I would make, she would do the same. We finally crashed! Though both of us were okay, my front wheel was a bit bent.

    When I finally reached Rosemere, I realized I could go no further. I called my friend May and asked her if I could stay at her place. I got there at 18:15, and crashed almost immediately.

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    Prepared by Roger Kenner
    March, 2004