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It is the Summer of 1969 and my parents have installed us north of Terrebonne, on Chemin Martin, off Chemin Gascon, which headed north, up the escarpment, from Terrebonne. Terrebonne was, for the Summer, the focus of local shopping. In those days the Hwy 25 freeway ended just past the Terrebonne (Chemin Gascon) exit. Overlooking the town was the English hamlet of Terrebonne Heights, which overshadowed the town and provided a peaceful, green forest to look upon, but we never went up there. At the Hwy 25/Chemin Gascon interchange was a small shopping centre, with at least a hardware/feed store. There was little else. At the foot of Chemin Gascon, the road made an abrupt curve at the river, to run past the older, established houses of the town. Finally, all I remember of the town itself was a sort of town square. My parents opened up a bank account at the Banque Provinciale that was located there. We never did explore the town sufficiently to come upon the old bridge, past the town square, which led to Laval.
I did not know, or care, at the time, that Chemin Gascon was the direct road up to LaPlaine and then further north. All importance of this road stopped at Chemin Martin, which ran to the left (west). Chemin Martin ran along some creek. I did not care at the time that this "creek" was the Mascouche River. In fact, the name of Mascouche meant nothing to me. Our main axis that Summer was the Hwy 25 leading in/out of Montreal North. To a lesser degree, the Grand Cote, heading towards Rosemere took on a certain importance. Once we moved to Blainville, we seldom, if ever, returned to Terrebonne. And, of course, once my parents left and I was living in the city, Terrebonne faded from memory.
Fast forward to 1975, when I first started driving. Rawdon was, I believe, the destination of my very first outing ever. Fresh from just getting my license, I rented a Volkwagen from Rent-a-Bug and headed out with my fiancé and friends Steven and Loretta towards Rawdon. How I remembered the route is a mystery to me. In those days, one took the Metropolitain (Hwy 40) east to Pie IX and then went north through Montreal North. Across the bridge, Pie IX became Hwy 25 and still made its wide curve eastward, to run through the forests of Laval, coming out at Terrebonne. I would always recognize the Chemin Gascon exit as I would pass it, but I never got off. At first, the Hwy 25 freeway still ended just past Chemin Gascon and one was on two-laned road the rest of the way to Rawdon. We made many trips to Rawdon and St. Donat during the period of 1975-1978.
By 1980, when I became a landowner in Rawdon, things had changed a bit. The 640 was finished, as well as the eastern part of the 440. I learned to leave Pie IX behind, and to take instead Papineau north, across the Papineau bridge. There it became Hwy 19, which intersected straightaway with Hwy 440, which I took east. Hwy 440 just curved and became Hwy 25. For a while, one could still see the old bridgework and interchange of the earlier route, but later all trace was removed. Hwy 25 continued past Terrebonne, to just past the hwy 640 terminus at Mascouche. I continued to drive right by Terrebonne without giving it any notice, except for vague memories.
As the eighties progressed, I would drive alongside the freeway under development on the plaine of Mascouche. Eventually, Hwy 25 opened as far as the beginning of the escarpment. Then there would be a two-laned section through a couple of small towns. Then a short freeway would begin again, just before the turn-off at St. Espirit for Ste. Julienne and Rawdon. I remember well how this two-laned section would be a bumper-to-bumper traffic bottleneck on drives into town on a Sunday evening. I remember, too, that there was some sort of pig farm along that section, and the odour would be horrendous. Once we hit the escarpment, from which one had a panoramic view of the city, the traffic opened up and we could cruise the rest of the way at 120 km/hr.
Sometime in the Nineties, as I started making the trip with Sheryl, the final gap was closed. The Hwy 25 Freeway extended all the way past Mascouche and up the escarpment to the Ste. Julienne/Rawdown turn-off and beyond to Joliette.
And all this time I continued to drive right by Terrebonne, without ever returning to the town. Around 2000, I had occasion to exit and take Chemin Gascon north, in search of a junk dealer where I could replace the car's mirror. I noticed all the changes which had transpired over the 30 years since I had lived there. The former country highway was built up all along both side, to well past Chemin Martin.
In 1969, Hwy 25 was a freeway that lead from Montreal North up to Terrebonne. Coming off the Pie IX Bridge and over the ridge, the highway would make a wide eastern turn before heading northeast through the forests of Laval. The first place we looked for lodging, before settling north of Terrebonne, was actually in Laval, just off this freeway. (It may still be there. I would notice it for years and years.) Coming down off of or approaching the ridge near Montreal North, I always noticed the huge prison complex stretched out to the east, and always thought it would be interesting to go off in that direction some day. We never did. Once we moved to Blainville, we seldom, if ever, came by this route.
In later years, I subsituted the Papineau Bridge/Hwy 19 route for the Pie IX one through Montreal North and Laval's Hwy 440 led directly into Hwy 25 towards Terrebonne. I ceased looking out for the prison, or perhaps I could no longer see it.
I have never driven in Laval east of Hwy 25.
When we first lived on Chemin Martin, we always accessed the area via Chemin Gascon and Terrebonne. Once I started school in Rosemere, however, my parents discovered the back route, where Chemin Martin would connect with Route 335 (Montée Gagnon), which could be taken down to Grand Cote at Bois-des-Filion, and this latter to Rosemere. I remember passing the banquet hall with the large parking lot near the curve at the top of the ridge.
When I began taking the school bus from Blainville, it would cut over to Montée Gagnon from Boulevard Curé Labelle and then head north, as far as the banguet hall. There is would turn around and retrace the route south, as far as Grand Cote in Bois-des-Filion. At the end of the day, it would make the reverse trip. Thus, I saw this part of the world twice a day.
In the Spring of 1970, driving with my mother and my learner's permit, I drove once up Montée Gagnon, as far as the cutover to Boulevard Curé Labelle. After school was over and I moved into town, I never returned to this region by car. My 1974 bike ride was my first return to the area, not to be repeated until around 2000. I've never (to date) driven north of Chemin Martin on Route 335.
Sometime around 2000, I had to drive up to the Mascouche area, north on Chemin Gascon, to find a junk dealer who had our car mirror in stock. Since I was so close, we took a drive over and I had a look at the place where I used to live on Chemin Martin. I then drove west until Montée Gagnon and descended to Grand Cote, and then to Rosemere and the freeway.
In my school days of 1969-70, I passed by Bois-des-Filion twice a day. It was a tiny hamlet, with little more than a gas station, a corner store, and a few summer houses down by the river. Half a block east of the Montée Gagnon intersection was the access to the old, wooden bridge that crossed the Mille Iles River towards Boulevard des Laurentides in Laval. This was a secondary route, however, for the main road in Laval curved westward towards Ste. Rose and the Rosemere Bridge. On rare occasions would my parents cross using this bridge.
Once I lived in town and began visiting Rosemere on the buses of the Autobus Mille-Iles, I had a choice: The more frequent bus ran up Boulevard Curé Labelle, via Cartierville, but left me off at the four corners in Rosemere and I had to walk along Grand Cote. The Rosemere bus went up Boulevard des Laurentides and crossed at Bois-des-Filion, heading then west along Grand Cote. I did not take this bus often as it was less frequent.
Once I stopped taking the bus to Rosemere, in 1974, I never had the occasion to pass through Bois-des-Filion. The tiny, sleepy town with the wooden bridge faded from memory. I passed by briefly around 2000, but did not take notice of any changes. Only in 2001 would I see the new and dynamic suburban centre, with its new bridge and modern shopping centre.
Rawdon has long held a special attraction. Somehow my parents learned about Dorwin Falls early on and we made several visits there. I visited in 1974 by bicycle. I then returned in the Spring of 1975 by car. In fact, the Rawdon drive was my very first outing by car, once I had my driver's license. I went with my fiancé and my friends Steven and Loretta. We would return to Rawdon regularly. Often, after visiting the Falls, we would stop for hot soup at the Tournesol restaurant at the corner of Queen Street. On one occasion, we visited in the winter and I walked across the frozen river, and with some trepidation as it was the very first time I had ever done that
The next phase of the Rawdon visits began in 1980. The four of us, myself, my wife, my friend Steven, and his grrlfriend Isabel, camped up there at least a couple of times. My car was their only means of getting up there. On the first camp-out, I had to make two trips to bring everyone and all the gear in my tiny Honda wagon. While I was fetching the ladies, Steven built a bridge across the small creek. On that trip, we discovered Les Cascades above Rawdon, where everyone sunned themselves out on the rocks amidst the rapids and one could swim in the tiny pools withour worrying about being carried over. On another occasion, we had an evening cookout and then all fell asleep around the bonfire, awaking in the cold in the wee hours of the morning. I drove up once to try and get a Christmas tree and almost got stuck in the snow. At the highway, the snow was only a couple of inches deep. As I climbed the mountain on the side road, however, I never noticed it getting deeper. When my wheels slipped, I discovered I was in snow a foot deep. I had to very carefully back down the hill, keeping my tires in the same ruts I had made on the way up. As the years passed into the mid-eighties, visits were less frequent. Perhaps once a year I would drive up, just to make sure the land was still there.
Fast forward to 1993. I had my two kids in charge and wanted to take them camping. All the well-known destinations were full, so I decided to take them up to my land in Rawdon. The three of us pitched camp and remained for six days. During this time, we explored Rawdon more fully. I introduced my kids to Les Cascades. We discovered Rawdon Beach for the first time, and even rented a canoe together. The bridge that Steven had built had finally rotted away, and so we built another together. My children were impressed when I roped three pulleys together and we lifted a heavy log out of the creek with almost no effort.
We all returned with Sheryl the following year, to spend time together at Rawdon Beach. I brought my children up a couple of times by myself. One one occasion, my daughter wanted to go fishing, so I bought a line, a hook, and some worms at the local store and took them to Les Cascades. No one was there, as it was off season. Letting the line play out through the rapids, we eventually caught a small fish and my kids were thrilled. We let it go, of course.
Visits to Rawdon have settled back down to annual pilgrimages, simply to cheque out the continued existence of the plot of land. The second bridge finally failed around the year 2000.
On one occasion, after visiting Rawdon, my mom drove on up to the end of the road at St. Donat, and then back down.
I returned in the Spring of 1975, after stopping at Rawdon on my first automobile outing. We drove to the entrance of Mont Tremblant Park and, finding it still closed, stopped on a sandbar nearby on private land, built a bonfire, and had an evening together.
My wife and I returned to St. Donat beginning in 1977, to camp at Mont Tremblant park. There was a groomed campground just inside the park entrance, and not far from St. Donat. We stayed there at least twice. On another occasion, we tried out camping rustique a few miles further into the park. On each camping trip, St. Donat was the focus of our lives. We would come out into town several times, for grocery shopping, hardware store visits, and sometimes to eat out.
Once I discovered the shortcut from St. Donat to Ste. Agathe, and the autoroute, I ceased accessing the town via Rawdon. By the end of the Seventies, St. Donat fell out of favour and we never visited there again.
Fast forward to 2002. On an afternoon drive, for old time's sake, I took the two-laned road north from Rawdon, to show St. Donat to Sheryl for the very first time. We drove to the Park entrance, and then stopped in town for a walkabout. So much had changed, I could not longer remember what it had looked like. There as a section of the two-laned highway north from Rawdon which widened out into a few miles of freeway, out in the middle of nowhere, before collapsing back to two-laned road. I have no idea why this was built.
Beginning with the Summer of 1975, when I first was driving, I made many drives to Quebec City and often took the North Shore route. In those days, the Hwy 40 freeway did not go very far, and, just off Montreal Island, one was shunted over to the old highway alongside the river, Route 138. Later, the freeway was extended all the way to Trois-Rivières, and finally completed through to Quebec.
A fairly frequent afternoon drive was to descend to Sorel, usually via the South Shore, and then to return via the North Shore. I remember on one occasion, crossing at Sorel in the wintertime, and watching the ferry break through the ice as it crossed.
When I took my 1990 bike ride to Quebec City, therefore, the route along the river was not totally unknown to me. On a bicyle, of course, one sees things with different eyes.
During the Nineties, now with Sheryl, I continued to make the Sorel run, at least every three years or so. On the occasion of the visit of some friends, I took everyone for a drive down to Sorel and across and back. We all stopped at Berthierville for a snack.
It was with Sheryl, first on our North Shore trip in 1997, that we first first explored the little towns in detail. We stopped at quite a number of antique stores along the route. We repeated this drive about four years later, revisiting the same antique stores, but this time we only drove as far as Trois-Rivières. It was on this latter drive that I first explored downtown Trois-Rivières, having passed through it a countless number of times.
For more than three decades now, I have passed back and forth across the plaine around Mascouche, northwest of Montreal. During this time, I never left the main roads to explore the hinterland.
On one drive back from Rawdon with my kids in the early 1990s, we all stopped at an auction house in St. Espirit. On another occasion, we spent an afternoon with workmates of Sheryl's, northwest of Joliette. At the end of the day, we followed the river on up to Rawdon, coming in via the back way, along a route I had never taken before.
Around the year 2000, we drove up to visit a furniture store along the new freeway towards Rawdon. After buying a piece, we headed out along the side roads. We had hot dogs and fries in a tiny casse-croute in some tiny, forgotten hamlet. Continuing along, we suddenly came upon the major centre that was L'Epiphanie. I remember being surprised. It was a big town with a main street at least half a dozen blocks long. Sheryl stopped at an herboriste. We continued on in, along the L'Assomption River, coming out at Charlemagne and Repentigny. We drove by the town of L'Assomption, but did not go into it. Later, I was to mix up the two, and thought the town where we had stopped was called L'Assomption. This was the destination for my 2003 early Summer ride.
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