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It was the long weekend, the end of the Summer, and Sheryl had already planned something for the Saturday. Even a week earlier, when she had first told me of her plans, I had mentioend the vague notion of taking a longer, perhaps two-day, bicycle ride. I had not made any overnight bicycle trips during the 2003 season.
The exact plans remained vague, even as I got up at 06:40 (alarm 06:20) on Saturday, in order to prepare for an early departure. I had chosen a return to Ottawa as my goal, a bike ride I had not made since my youth in 1974. I naively held out the possibility that I might even make it to Ottawa the same day, provided I got an early start, as back in 1974, Donald and I had made the trip in ten hours.
Alas, it was not to be. At the end of the first day, I made it to roughly the same location where Donald and I had overnighted. On the second day, after more than 16 hours cycling, I was forced to abandon the attempt while within sight of my destination, a bare 20km from Ottawa.
What made the difference? Certainly the wind was a factor. During both days of riding, I was faced with the strongest wind I had ever encountered, and I was riding directly into it. All the leaves on the trees were rustling; the grass and reeds I passed were blowing over; and all the flags were taught in my direction. Another factor may be age. Then I was 20 years old and in better bicycling shape. Donald rode out in front because he had a speedometer and he kept us at a contant 12mph pace (18km). My speed would be half that. Then I must consider the weight I was carrying. My bicycle was heavy to begin with, and then the weight of the saddlebags must have doubled that. This ride has left me with the realization that I must get new and lighter gear.
All these factors combined to cause me to stop at a restaurant and to call Sheryl, who was already in Ottawa, at 16:30 of the second day. While I probably could have struggled on, my knees were already feeling the stress and, as I was going slower and slower, the last 20km across Ottawa to the side she was on might well have taken me another two or three hours.
Despite the lack of completion, it was a good ride. I settled an issue which had bothered me for some time. I saw some new road upon which I had never cycled, or even driven, before. I had a nice ride along the river, with frequent pleasurable vistas. Finally, I enjoyed the experience of spending an evening out on the bicycle road.
All of this was still ahead of me as I sat at the early breakfast table with Sheryl. My plans for the day were vague. I might or I might not want to stay overnight. I might call Sheryl and ask her to come and get me. I might call her and ask her to come and stay with me. We decided to leave it all until later, when I and she would have a better idea how the day was going.
Despite my early rising, it would be 08:30 before I could get out the door. I packed all my rain gear, including shoes. I packed on change of street clothes and one change of bike underthings and socks into plastic bags. I packed the phone charger, as I was nearly out of charge on my cell phone. I packed some grapes and cheese into my tiny cooler, along with a small ziplock full of ice. Fully loaded, then, except for camping gear, I rolled up Beaconsfield towards Monkland. As the morning was quite nippy, I was wearing both sweater and windbreaker.
The first part of the ride would consist of my typical Ste. Anne de Bellevue route, although speeded up a bit. I took the Victoria route through Lachine, along which I doffed the sweater at 08:55. The windbreaker would remain on my shoulders until well into the day. Already, the hard bite of the headwind was telling on me.
|Lachine: Stoney Point - Looking out on Lake St. Louis|
As I rode by the old Ross-Jensen house in Dorval, next to the yacht club, I noticed preparations there for a big garage sale (which would be an estate sale actually). I did not stop. One hour into the ride, at 09:30, I was just crossing the Pointe Claire line on Valois Bay (15km).
|Pte. Claire: View of Point from St. John's Road|
Through Beaconsfield, I took neither of my usual 'Old Lakeshore" detours, but remained on Beaconsfield Boulevard. There was a short bit of construction through old Beaurepaire, which entailed a few blocks of riding on gravel, but I took it in stride.
Two hours into the ride, at 10:30, I was just at the Ste. Anne de Bellevue line (+13km=28km). Already the slowing down effect of the headwind was making itself felt, for I would normally have already arrived at the centre of the old town. As it was, I did not make the centre of town until 10:45. I was feeling like a coffee and had planned to stop at the MacDonald's when I was surprised to find it gone and the windows papered over.
|Ste. Anne: Historic G. Daoust Sign|
Without dallying, I rode up and over the first bridge along the bike path.
Ile aux Tourtes Bridge from Ste. Anne Crossing
Train Crossing Trestle from Bike Path Ramp
|Vaudreuil to Hudson|
On the Ile Perrot side, a new, tiny green bicycle sign pointed the way to a shortcut leading from the bridge to connect with the northern route across the island. Thus, I did not have to ride all the way to the first light before having to double back. I rode quickly across the northern route, the trees sheltering me a bit from the wind. I had a few false starts at the far end before finding the right street to cross back over the tracks. I think this may have only been the 3rd time I have ridding this route, and only the second time going westward.
I rode under the Hwy 20 interchange and around by the shopping centre to connect with the bike path across the second bridge, which is on the south side. This bike path leaves on the wrong side of the road once into Dorion. I had to ride along sidewalks and through parking lots before I got to the first light. Even with the light, getting across the 20 was difficult. When my light was green, I was cut off by the two lanes of traffic turning left onto the 20. It took a couple of lights before I got my timing right, setting out just as the through traffic was slowing for the yellow light.
As I rode along St. Charles Boulevard through Dorion and into Veaudreuil, I quickly noticed the effect of my change in direction. I was now headed northwest and directly into the teeth of the wind. Once into the commercial area near Hwy 40, I made a 15-minute stop at Tim Horton's for a coffee and a bagel. I decided not to wait until 12:00 to call Sheryl, but to call her from a pay phone so as not to deplete the remaining charge on my cell phone.
|Looking west on Hwy 40, towards Ottawa|
At 11:30, three hours into the ride, I was atop the Hwy 40 at Veaudeuil (+10km=38km).
|Country road comes into civilisation in Vaudreuil||Looking on, south towards town of Vaudreuil|
Not far off the far side, I was able to turn onto Chemin de l'Anse and finally escape from the urban setting. Normally, this would be a very pleasurable part of the ride, as the road makes a large curve around the cove and there is only a single row of lakefront houses on one side and the open water on the other. On this sunny but mercilously windy day, though, the open water offered no resistance at all to the strong wind. As I slogged along, waves were hitting the shore. I bought some relief as I turned the corner and the wind was partially blocked by the trees.
|Road curves around cove, right by water|
Lake of Two Mountains from Chemin de l'Anse
At 12:30, four hours into the ride, I was the Hudson side of the Oka/Hudson ferry (+7.5km=45.5km)
|Hudson: Welcome to Hudson||Hudson: Hudson/Oka Ferry|
Fall Foliage along Road in Hudson
West of the ferry, to Hudson, I had only cycled twice, first in the early 1990s and then again when I made my first Oka/Hudson tour in 1997. I rolled through the centre of Hudson at 12:45. Past the ferry, the road undergoes a number of undulations as one crosses over the ridge connecting the highlands of St. Lazare with the Two Mountains. Compared with the wind, I felt nothing from climbing the hills.
|Hudson: Main Street in Hudson|
|Hudson to Pointe Fortune|
At 13:00 I was even with Finnegan's Marker, where Sheryl and I have come many times for shopping. It was packed, as usual. (A ride to Finnegan's Market would thus take me four to four and a half hours, depending on the wind.)
|Hudson: Finnegan's Market|
|Hudson: Road beyond Finnegan's Market|
Finnegan's Market is on the downslope of the hills around Hudson. The road opens up into farmland again and flattens out. Just across the Hudson line was a big, new condo-apartment development called 'Hudson' something-or-other. It is precisely by keeping these sort of developments out that Hudson has remained as Hudson is.
Road beyond Finnegan's Market:
Looking Inland towards Hills
Road beyond Finnegan's Market:
Looking Out on Lake of Two Mountains
At 13:30, five hours into the ride, I was at the junction of Main Road (in Hudson)/Chemin de l'Anse (on either side of Hudson) and Route 342 (+13km=58.5km). I followed Rte 342 on into Rigaud, the centre of which I reached at 13:50.
|Rigaud: Onto Rte 342 - Approaching Rigaud||(Closeup)|
|Rigaud: Welcome to Rigaud|
|Rigaud: River - Looking Upstream||Rigaud: River - Looking Downstream: Old Rail Trestle|
|Rigaud: Monastery along River|
|Rigaud: Looking Back on Town from Hwy 40 Overpass||Rigaud: Historic Church|
I stopped for a couple of minutes to get some pictures and then headed out, still on Rte 342, towards Pointe Fortune. At 14:00, I was atop the overpass of Hwy 40, as it headed towards Ottawa. I stopped there briefly to open my cooler and have some grapes and cheese while watching the traffic. Heading off after, while pushing along the high curb with my feet to get forward motion, I took a tumble, right down to the ground. I was lucky I did not get scraped or damage anything on the bike.
|Rigaud: Hwy 40 Overpass - Looking East||Rigaud: Hwy 40 Overpass - Looking West|
|Rigaud: Closeup from Hwy 40 Overpass|
|Rigaud: Mountains from Hwy 40 Overpass|
I passed a sign just past which announced that Pointe Fortune was 10km away. It was 14:10 when I passed the sign and would be 14:50 when I reached Pointe Fortune. Thus, it would take me 40 minutes to go 10km, or 4 min/km
|On the Road towards Pte Fortune|
I passed by the campground where I had overnighted during my early 90s visit. I also passed by the farm where Sheryl and Alex and I had gone rasberry picking not too many years ago.
|Pte Fortune: Campground from 1993|
At 14:40, six hours into the ride, I was halfway between the campground and where the road splits to lead off into Pointe Fortune proper (+10km=68.5km).
The road splits, with Route 342 going on to join the freeway at the border and a small road leading down into Pointe Fortune. I reached Pointe Fortune at 14:50. I was fortunate (pun intended) to find a pay phone right outside the casse-croute at the ferry. Montreal was surprisingly still a local call, so I called Sheryl, who was out with her teacher and students from Ottawa. I still had no firm idea what I wanted to do, but I realized I would only make it to Hawkesbury that day. I promised to call again at 17:00. I ordered some fries at the casse-croute and quickly consumed them. I was ready, then, to set out on the discovery portion of my trip.
|Welcome to Pte Fortune|
|Pte. Fortune: View Across the River|
|Pte. Fortune: View Into Town|
|Pte. Fortune: Ferry Crossing from Carillon|
|Pte. Fortune: Ferry at Dock|
The ferry at Pointe Fortune is as far as I had ever ridden in this direction. In fact, when I was last there, I had not even ridden up to the dam on the south side, and had not discovered until later that a small portion of the town is actually in Ontario.
Ontario Border - Looking back on Pte. Fortune
|Pte. Fortune: Ontario Border - Looking West|
|Road Across Dam Crest - Is there a way through?||Pte. Fortune: Dam at Carillon|
|Pointe Fortune: Lake and Dam from Causeway||Pointe Fortune: Causeway towards Park Voyageur|
|Pointe Fortune: Downriver from Causeway|
The road seemed blocked at Pointe Fortune. The nearest road that went through was the Hwy 417 freeway, along which I could not go. All previous maps I had consulted indicated a forced detour well to the south for bicycles. (The map I would pick oup on the far side would show me for the first time that a concession road ran just alonside the freeway, on its southern side.
My hypothesis, which I was about to test, was that I would be able to get through Voyageur Provincial Park, which occupies the land just upstream of the dam. Before leaving, I had consulted a park map on the Web. It showed a road leading across to the easternmost campground, and then just continuing east. It seemed inconceivable that these two points would be so close and yet there would be no connection. Anything can happen, though, and I knew I ran the risk of having to make a major detour if I were wrong.
I rode up to the top of the earthen dam and started south along the gravel road of its crest. Down below I saw a trail leading alongside, through the park and brush. These two would meet at the end of the dam, and so I need not have ridden along the top. The trail led westward to a small parking area for cars, right alongside the water.
|Across Voyageur Park|
Just beyond was a closed steel gate with lots of signs indicating that this was Provincial Park property and that everyone needed a permit to proceed. The gate had a pedestrian/bicyle opening built right into it, so I rode through. At first the trail was rocky and unkempt, but it very soon turned into a nice, soft-gravel road. A bit further on and I was into the first campground. From there on the road was paved. I wound around and around, though ever westward, through the park. Many other roads joined in, and I am sure I would have great difficulty finding my way across the park in the other direction. As it was, all I had to do was keep following the signs directing me to the 'Exit'. I got nervous every time I passed a park ranger, but none challenged me. There is no indication that one can ride through, so I am sure the practice is frowned upon. At worst, coming west to east, I guess one would have to pay for day access.
I was crossing the park from 15:15 to 15:50 (5km). At 15:30, seven hours into the ride, I was about mid-way through (+10km=78.5).
At the far side, I stopped into the registration kiosk at the entrance. The rangers were quite busy with campers and so no one took notic of me. Besides a park map, for future reference, I was able to pick up a more detailed map of the area I would be traversing, from there to Ottawa. This map would prove invaluable.
|Voyageur Park: Out the Other Side|
At the park gate, I turned north along County 4, in the direction of Chute-a-Blondeau. I was riding along new road, past marshes which had clearly been formed by the rising waters of the reservoir. As I came out upon the lake, I could look back along the coastline of the provincial park, back to the dam whence I had come. At the curve, I came upon the old road, which had once led straight. Before the dam was built, the road must have run directly alongside the river down into Pointe Fortune.
|Chute-à-Blondeau: Looking Back on Dam from Route 4|
|Chute-à-Blondeau: Voyageur Park Shoreline||Chute-à-Blondeau: The Old Road - Now Submerged|
|Pointe Fortune to Hawkesbury|
Chute-a-Blondeau was atop a steep hill.
|Welcome to Chute-à-Blondeau|
|Chute-à-Blondeau: Old Ferry Street|
|Chute-à-Blondeau: View Upriver|
At 16:30, eight hours into the ride, I was well past Chute-a-Blondeau (+10km=88.5). At 16:35, I could see the bridge at Hawkesbury off in the distance.
|West of Chute-à-Blondeau: Road Alongside the River||East of Hawkesbury: View Upriver - Bridge in Distance|
|East of Hawkesbury: Bridge in Distance (Closeup)||East of Hawkesbury: Bridge is Nearer|
|Welcome to Hawkesbury|
I reached Hawkesbury around 17:00, after eight and a half hours of riding (+10km=98.5). The distance I had travelled was almost 100km, and all in the face of some of the strongest wind I had ever ridden in. I had an average speed of 98.5/8.5 km/hr.
As I reached the centre of town, where the bridge from Quebec comes in, I noticed a tourist information sign. I followed it out over the first part of the bridge, to alight on a small island. There, on one side, was a bandshell with live music and a small crowd. On the opposite side, across the highway from me, was a small shack by the marina bearing the tourist information sign.
I had already resolved to ask Sheryl if she minded if I stayed overnight, to continue on the next day. This was all dependent on my finding lodging, of course. When I asked the young kid about lodging, he told me there were only three motels in town. The two he recommended, one a Best Western, were out on Hwy 17, "only about 10km from here". He did not recommend the one that was in town.
Still, I figured, how bad could it be? I left him and rode back across the bridge and down onto Main Street, where I found a phone and called Sheryl. She had just been dropped off and was saying goodbye to her friends out front. Thus, first the cell did not answer. Then I left a message on the phone. Finally, I called the cell back, and she did answer. We agreed I would stay, and she would meet me the next day in Ottawa. This would give her a chance to visit with her friend and teacher once more, and she could get a free massage from the students. This was all contingent upon my finding lodging.
I rode to the Inn, The Holiday Hotel, which was just around the corner. It had clearly seen better days. I was greeted by a young asian fellow. Of course they had rooms. No, none on the ground floor. In fact, the room (#185) was to be on the third floor. Non-smoking, no problem. Cable TV, yes. I could leave my bike in the restaurant if I wished, as this was no longer open. I paid $55, $57.78 with tax, for the room.
I took a quick look at the room. It did seem a bid dowdy, but it was not really so bad. I turned on the air conditioner to freshen it up. The bathroom was well-stocked with shampoo, etc. There was a small coffee machine in the room. The bed was like a rock,though.
|Hawkesbury: Church at Centre of Town|
It was 17:40 when I checked into the motel. By the time I left, I just had time to zip around the corner to the LCBO to get some wine for later. I noted a restaurant at the corner, which looked promising, and a nice cafe which held promise for breakfast. I was the last customer in before he closed at 18:00. I stopped at the pharmacy to buy some more film.
I then headed back towards the bridge, intent on getting some good photos of the river and on visiting Grenville on the far side. I stopped in once more at the information kiosk and picked up more brochures. I spoke to the kid in French this time, as asked him about the restaurants. He said both were good choices.
The music was still continuing on the other side, so I decided to ride over and check it out. I found a bikepath around under the bridge, so I did not have to cross the traffic.
|Hawkesbury: Revival Meeting in Riverside Park|
It turned out to be an old-fashioned revival meeting. They were singing about Jesus, in both English and French. It was pleasant music, so I leaned up against my bike to listen. As I was listening, a young man approached, "Connais-tu Jesu?" I explained to him that I felt Jesus presence strongly as my companion when I was out on the road alone on my bicycle. I stayed about 20 minutes, until the music stopped and the preaching started.
I rode on over the high bridge to Grenville.
|Bridge to Grenville|
|Hawkesbury: View from Grenville Bridge||Hawkesbury: View from Grenville Bridge (Returning)|
|[See Undoctored Original]||[See Undoctored Original]|
|Hawkesbury: View from Grenville Bridge (Closeup)|
|Hawkesbury: View from Grenville Bridge (Returning: Closeup)|
|Grenville Bridge: View Downriver|
|Grenville: View from Hawkesbury Island Side||Hawkesbury from Grenville Side|
I had last passed through Grenville in 1974, on my bike ride with Donald. I had never really explored the town though. Clustered around the bridge were a series of strip clubs, catering I guess to the Ontario crowd. I rode west and up the hill into the town. I was almost ready to turn around when I caught sight of the old canal, complete with its locks. The dam had caused the water to rise to the point where it was at equal height through the old canal. The locks were gone, but all the old stonework was still there. I tried to take photos as best I could in the setting sun.
Riding back across the bridge on the west side, I noticed other signs of the canal below, and tried to get photos of that too.
|Grenville: View from Bridge (Returning)
|Grenville: Church||Grenville: Historic Building|
|Grenville Canal: View Upriver||Grenville Canal: Bridge|
|Grenville Canal: View Upriver from Bridge||Grenville Canal: View Downriver|
I rode back to the motel, where I unloaded my bike and carted first the luggage and then the bike up the two flights of stairs to my room. I felt safer having it nearby. I unpacked my street clothes and took a quick shower before heading over to supper.
I had supper at 'Goodies Restaurant': Cheese omelette, fries, and extra salad finishing off with some coffee. It was 19:30-20:30 when I ate. The meal was very good and I cleaned every drop off my plate.
Standing outside the restaurant, I gave Sheryl a call on my cell. My goal was to talk until the battery died. Then I would be able to give it a full charge for the morning. We talked for ten to fifteen minutes. She told me about her day and I told her some of mine. We made plans to get together the next day, and she gave me the address and phone number of the woman, Pat Hall, whom she was going to see in Ottawa. As we neared the end of the conversation, I started getting the low-battery beep warnings. Just after she hung up, the phone went into discharge. Mission accomplished.
I heard this loud music coming from across town and so decided to wander over and investigate it. I homed in on the sound, crossing town diagonally until I was a few blocks from the hotel. I saw a large crowd of people gathered under a large tent listening to a Beatles revival band. When I saw it was on church grounds, at first I thought it might be a wedding. When I talked up the guard at the entrance to the parking lot, though, he told me it was 'Festivale Familiale', offered by the local Knights of Columbus, and it was free. I wandered in and listed to the music for half an hour or so, until 21:30.
|Tribute to the Beatles|
Having heard enough Beatles, I walked back to the hotel, where I settled in to watch some TV and relax with some wine. I channel-hopped for an hour or so, until I finally retired at 22:30.
I slept soundly.
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