Excerpt from: Niagara Falls: July, 2001
Across the SouthWest:
Dorion to Cornwall


Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2002

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Foreword to this Excerpt:

In July of 2001, I set off to follow Highway 2 along the St. Lawrence River in the direction of Toronto and Niagara Falls, an objectives I would reach within eight and eleven days respectively. The first part of this ride retraced already covered paths across the West Island (See West Island Excerpt under that heading) and SouthWest of Quebec, from Dorion to Cornwall. Only those parts of the ride are covered herein. For the full description, look under the heading: Bike Trip to Niagara.


Day 1: Montreal to Lancaster (Excerpt)


At the End of a Long Day

I am sitting outside at a picnic table at the Lancaster crossing of the 401. The sun is beaming down from its sharp angle to the west, through the gathering storm clouds. Perhaps they will miss me!

I've gone well over 100 km today, this first day of my Summer bike trip. God willing, and only with his help and grace, I hope to ride west to Kingston and Toronto and the Niagara Peninsula, even as far as Fort Erie, on the shores of Lake Erie. I hope to ride along the St. Lawrence River, following the old Highway Two, except when I can escape it by taking as many bike trails as I can find. When I reach Lake Ontario, the source of the St. Lawrence, I hope to explore the islands to the southwest of Kingston, which I have always bypassed during my myriad drives to Toronto along the 401. Once past these islands, I hope to connect with something called "The Waterfront Trail", which should lead along the shores of Lake Ontario from Quinte West, past Toronto, and all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake. At Niagara, I hope to ride the length of the Niagara Parkway, from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie. Finally, if Providence smiles upon me, and I have enough energy, I may return along "The Seaway Trail", which follows the south side of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, up through New York State. I have up to two weeks to accomplish all of this.

Unlike my bicycle trip to New York City last Summer, my current trip has not been long in the conception or planning, nor in the preparation. My wife Sheryl had wanted to stay somewhat close by Montreal this Summer, as she was studying and preparing for the exam at Summer's end which would culminate her year-long study to be recognised as a registered herbologist. I therefore sought a direction that would begin with Montreal and head somewhere along the water. Riding along the water is important for me for I find it to be most soothing and refreshing. I could have gone down river, but I have been in that direction many times recently by car. Thus came the notion of travelling up the St. Lawrence, along the old Highway Two, towards Kingston and Toronto. Although I have been to Toronto countless times along the freeway, only once did I drive it along Highway Two, and that was back in 1976 and more than twenty-five years ago.

The furthest I had heretofore cycled in this westerly direction was to Cornwall in 1997. I remember on that ride that, while I waiting for Sheryl to come fetch me by car from Montreal, I continued even a little west of Cornwall along the bike trail,. I took the trail as far as the dam before turning back and leaving the yet unridden trail stretching on before me, calling to me. On subsequent drives beyond Cornwall, to Upper Canada Village, I would remark on sections of this trail where it ran along the highway.

For my New York Trip in 2000, I had prepared by training every day for two weeks. I would get up at 06:00 and cycle for an hour each morning. Although I should have done the same this time, I did not. I only managed to get in a couple of those early morning training rides. I did continue to ride to work and back every day, and once again I kept this up even through the Winter. This made for a daily ride of half an hour or so in each direction. Earlier in the Summer, I had taken a couple of day-long rides. The first was west to Ile Perrot, and around that island. The second was around the eastern end of Laval Island and up to Terrebonne.. I cannot say, however, that I have really prepared for this trip as I should have. May God forgive me this laziness and give me the strength I need to make my goal.

This first day I stopped at 16:00, which was rather early, but I wanted to give my knees and my body a chance to adjust. As it was, my knees were already feeling the effect. These last 13 km in Ontario were mostly along the South Service Road of the 401, not a very inspiring vista, and wide open to the wind. I've had a headwind all day. I guess I shall have to resign myself to travelling with a headwind, since I am riding west and into the direction of the prevailing winds. Over this last stretch I was going very slowly, riding in my easiest gear in the back and the middle gear in front..

The Glengarry campsite was a welcome sight when I finally arrived. I knew the route well enough to be able to count off the final landmarks: Just across the Ontario Line, Old Highway Two comes out to the 401 freeway and crosses to the freeway's north side on an overpass. At this location is a huge truck stop. Just before going over the overpass, one can take a small road turning off to the left which becomes the South Service Road. The South Service Road stretches along, straight as an arrow, with the highway on one side and fields of corn on the other. Distant trees hide the lake behind them. After an interminable time, I finally came to the first overpass that meets the Service Road. The Road curves far to lakeward, to meet the intersecting road coming down off the overpass, which ends at that point. Then the Service Road curves back to resume its former position along the freeway. Along the second leg, I passed the housing development of Greg Quai, which is always advertising on Montreal radio. It is a development for rich Montrealers who prefer to live in Ontario and commute, one where every house is served by both a driveway and a boat dock. Then, again after riding seemingly forever, I came to the second overpass, a replay of the first. It was a sign of hope, however, for I knew that Glengarry was not far. After returning to the 401's side, I passed a small conglomeration of houses, with an old convenience store. Then the open corn fields gave way to woodlands. Finally the Glengarry sign appeared.

I know this area well, for in the late 1970's and early 1980's, I used to car camp here at Glengarry. At first it was with an old Volkswagen which could no longer drive safely at freeway speeds, and so I was relegated to the very same route I had been cycling along. Then, in 1992, I made an overnight bicycle ride as far as Lancaster, and camped at once again Glengarry. In 1997, during my bicycle ride to Cornwall, I passed once more by this very spot.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken on prior ride: 1997
An Earlier Visit
 

Earlier this very year, I had driven by car out along this same road on an afternoon pleasure and antiquing drive with Sheryl,. On that drive I would make a stop at Lancaster. Indeed, over the years, I would look out for the familiar landmarks along this stretch of road every time I would drive west along the 401.

Lancaster, Ontario, the first major town across the border into Ontario, has a rich history dating back to the first Scottish Catholic Loyalist settlers in the 1780s.

As I rode up to the campground office, the worry struck me that they might be full. Of course I knew better, for this was only Monday, nevertheless I get this deep-seated uneasiness about my night's lodging as the late afternoon looms, an irrational uneasiness which is instantly calmed once my place is secure.

It being Monday, they had lots of place. I was able to get a nice campsite right by the water, something I had never managed any of the previous times I had been there. It was a very pleasant site, with a great view of the water. There was a little path that led down ten feet or so to my own personal rock, upon which I could sit and look up and down the shore, and could put my feet out into the water. The gentle lapping of the waves on the shore was a pleasant contrast to the ever-present hum of the trucks on the nearby 401. For the Glengarry campground is nestled on a narrow piece of land between the freeway and the St. Lawrence, just shy of the Lancaster exit. Along with the 401 are the main lines of both the CN and CP rail systems, so the hourly train whistles would be a pleasant companion all through the night.

It did not take me long to set up my tent and explore the site. I took a few minutes to rest and relax on my rock, with my feet in the water, as I scanned the opposite lakeshore with my field glasses. At this point, from Valleyfield all the way up to Cornwall, the St. Lawrence is widened into Lake St. Francis, which is backed up by the dams at Beauharnois and Valleyfield. Although I was now 13 km into Ontario, the far shore would still be Quebec, as far as Cornwall where it would become New York State.

My load lightened by half with the dropping of my tent and gear, I set off to ride the last 2 kilometres into the town of Lancaster. The South Service Road continues, past the private campground right next to Glengarry, past the Ontario Welcome Centre on the far side of the 401, and past the weigh station for trucks, also on the far side. It then bends around for a third overpass. Here the Old Highway Two comes back to the south side of the 401, and indeed descends all the way to the lakeshore before turning and going along the St. Lawrence. There is the small community of South Lancaster, made up of a factory outlet store, a gas station, a Dairy Queen, and a motel.

The town of Lancaster itself is just over the bridge on the other side of the 401. Coming down off the bridge, Highway Two becomes the three-block long Main Street of the tiny town, yielding a few trendy shops, some older stores, a market and a tavern. The business section ends at the railway level crossing. A residential area continues a number of blocks beyond before giving way to open countryside. The road through Lancaster is the first north-south road west of Quebec which traverses Ontario all the way from the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence.

I rode into town and, after visiting the market to get supplies, settled down to begin this writing.

Starting Out

I set out this morning at 07:35, after having gotten up at 06:00 and having a nice breakfast of whole wheat cereal out on the terrace with my wife Sheryl. I had packed my bike up the night before so there was little left to do except take a starting out photo and get a big, parting kiss. We would be in contact several times a day, as I checked in by cell phone, and the plan was for Sheryl to join me by car at the end of the third or fourth day en route.

As I set out I was both excited and scared. Would I be able to do this? Or would my knees give out and would I have to abandon as had happened in 1999? I prayed to Jesus that he guide me and give me the strength I would need.

It was a clear morning above, but hazy and cool at ground level. I would wear my windbreaker jacket as far as Lachine. I followed my usual route towards Lachine: Down Monkland Avenue to Westminster, and over St. Jacques and down the hill into Ville Ste. Pierre....

[There follows an account of my ride across the West Island.]

 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken on prior ride: 2001
The Locks at Ste. Anne de Bellevue

[The story picks up as I am climbing up onto the bridge to leave the Island of Montreal at Ste. Anne de Bellevue]

After a few blocks, the road passes under the bridges of the Highway 20 freeway and the CN and CP train lines as they prepare to span the Rapids of Ste. Anne, connecting the Lake of Two Mountains with Lake St. Louis. It is under the bridges that are found the historic locks of Ste. Anne, which now serve only to allow small pleasure boats to pass between the two bodies of water. It is these boats, tying up along the channel to wait for the next passage that provide much of the maritime ambience of Ste. Anne de Bellevue. On the far side of the locks channel is a very nice park, where I often sit under the railway bridges and watch the rapids.

I had only recently learned how to find the Ste. Anne end of the bicycle path that leads over the highway bridge. One picks it up, unmarked, at the back of the small municipal parking lot which is under the bridge approach. There a ramp leads up in switchbacks to a protected pathway along the newer of the twin highway spans.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken on prior ride: 2001
Railway Trestle at Ste. Anne de Bellevue
 

Ile Perrot

I rode up and over the bridge and came down on the Ile Perrot side at 09:54. It had thus taken me from 07:35 to 09:54, two hours and twenty minutes, to cycle from my home in N.D.G. to leave the island at Ste. Anne de Bellevue. Counting the five minute break in Beaconsfield, I had been cycling for 2 hours and 15 minutes so far.

Ile Perrot is the island just west of Montreal and is the location of some of the first of the off-island suburbs. The highway only crosses the northern corner of the island, most of which stretches far to the south and forms the western boundary of Lake St. Louis. The island divides the Ottawa river, coming down from Lake of Two Mountains, into two channels. One flows to the east of Ile Perrot, through the Rapids of Ste. Anne. The other flows to the west of the island and joins up with the St. Lawrence as it empties into Lake St. Louis at Beauharnois and over Les Cascades.

Ile Perrot is the large, still mostly rural island just to the west of Montreal. .

I have been across Ile Perrot a number of times, mostly along the shoulder of the Highway 20 freeway. Only on my last ride to the island did I finally discover the quiet bike route which noses its way through the woods and suburbs of the northern tip of the island, north of Highway 20.

I have only made a few visits to Ile Perrot, but they have been memorable.

This time, however, I was anxious to put miles behind me, and opted for the more direct route. While it is somewhat intimidating riding along a highway where trucks are zooming by at 120+ km per hour, at least there is a very wide, paved shoulder. The authorities must be aware that this is the only direct bike link, as there are no restrictions on bicycles along this section. Along this way, I took the opportunity of taking a picture of my bike underneath the sign reading "Toronto-510km". At this point, it seemed more like a distant dream than a reality.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~10:00)
Crossing Ile Perrot: Toronto 510km
 

At the far side of Ile Perrot, in the suburb of Pincourt, is a large, modern shopping mall. Stops at the Canadian Tire store in this mall, for last minute hardware, have become a ritual of many car and bike trips westward. The access to the bike path which crosses the bridge to the mainland is just behind this shopping centre, on the south side of the bridge. As usual, I cycled down from the highway along the exit to the underpass and turned left with the traffic to come out on the south side.

As I was riding by the shopping centre, I noticed the supermarket and decided it would be a good time to stop and get some additional food supplies for my little mini cooler. I had left with some ice I had taken from our freezer and with a large hunk of left-over salmon fillet. At this ten-minute stop, I raced in and picked up some cheese and a package of baba-genouj. I was a nervous in that I had not locked up my bike, and it was sitting at the entrance, out of my sight and loaded with all my gear. I got back to it as quickly as possible.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken on prior ride: 2001
The Bridge at Dorion
 

At 10:26 I was midway across the bridge leading from Ile Perrot to the town of Dorion, on the mainland. Again, there was a protected bike path across the highway bridge, although this time it was facing south. I stopped again for 5 minutes, first to take picture of the bridge and bike path, and then of the river below. The river was very shallow, but there was on narrow, marked channel for boats. I had an apple for a snack.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 10:25)
Crossing the Bridge: Ile Perrot to DorionOttawa River from Bridge - looking south
 

Dorion

As I rolled down off the bridge into Dorion, I realised that the bike path would put me on the wrong side of the road. The only two previous times I had taken this bike path across the bridge, I had been returning from the west and so it had been on "my side of the road". Back the early 90's when I last road westward through here, there had been no bike path, or I had not been aware of it, and so I had been on the shoulder of the roadway.

Dorion is a small, once anglophone community, of railway extraction, and is the first suburb on the mainland.

Knowing that I had only a few blocks to go before I would be turning off to the south, I decided to negotiate the sidewalks and parking lots of the roadside businesses as I made my way against traffic. The river curves up behind these first few blocks of Dorion, allowing only short, dead-end streets with a few houses to exit the highway. At the first opportunity, I took a substantial street that seemed like it went through and headed south through the residential part of town, away from the highway and along the waterfront.

It was a very pleasant street, and much nicer riding than the one previous time I had bicycled this way, back in 1992. At that time, being on the right side of the road, I had taken the main highway. Towards the centre of Dorion, Highway 338 exits left off the Highway 20 and heads south, through a somewhat industrial section of town. I have come this way many, many times by car, mostly to bring my son Alex to the Anchor Park in Pointe des Cascades, one of his favourite places for short hikes.

The back street I was on eventually met up with the same Hwy 338 at the edge of town. Just as I was resigned to riding along the highway as I had done in 1992, I saw another smaller road turning off to the left, to lead down along the river. I had noticed these when driving, but had never thought too much of them, for they just come back out to the highway again. This time I decided to follow the quiet road.

It was very, very pleasant. To the landward were country houses, while on the waterside were just tiny lawns and boat docks. Only a couple of cars would pass me as I rode along. The main highway was at least a few hundred feet away, behind the houses and some trees. As expected, my little street came back to join the highway, but then it took right off again to the left, without my even having to cross over to my own side of the road.

At this point, one can see a wooded escarpment running along about half a kilometre to the west, along the entire length of the roadway. Between the road and the cliff is room of one depth of a farmer's field, and all sorts of crops are represented. Then there is the two-laned, and moderately busy highway. It is cut off from the river view most of the way by trees, and then a row of houses. It is along the face of these houses, along the water, that I was riding.

The second time the side road rejoined Highway 338, it was for good. The escarpment had turned to the east and had cut off the valley. There was no option other than to climb the couple of hundred feet up to the top of the ridge. Across the road was a small development, with a new golf course stretching to the west, and clusters of new houses. Then the highway crossed the crest of the ridge, passed high above a creek and came up again at the town of Pointe des Cascades.

Pointe des Cascades

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 11:10)
Arrival at Les Cascades
The main road, Highway 338, makes a sharp turn to the west at Les Cascades, to run along the north side of the old Soulanges ship canal, towards Les Coteaux and Valleyfield. A small turn-off to the left leads one into the old town of Pointe des Cascades itself. There are only a few, small businesses, and a couple of streets worth of houses. A bridge leads across the old Soulanges Canal, to come out at Chemin de la Riviere on the far side, and another cluster of houses, arranged along that road as it follows river's edge. The St. Lawrence lies at the foot of a hefty cliff, at this point much debilitated by the series of dams upriver.

I took the left turn into the town, catching a photo of my bike at the town entrance. It was 11:10. It had been 1 hour and 15 minutes since I had left Ste. Anne de Bellevue. Subtracting the 15 minutes of stopping time, it had taken me an hour's cycling to reach Les Cascades

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken on plane ride: 2000
Pointe des Cascades
 

At this point, one is at the westernmost arm of the calm waters of Lake St. Louis. Most of the water of the former grandeur of the St. Lawrence has been siphoned off via the Beauharnois Canal, west of Valleyfield, and only rejoins the lake at the Beauharnois dam. The St. Lawrence Seaway follows this route. All that is left at the cascades is a modest trickle winding its away across the exposed rocks of the former rapids. And even here, what is left has been controlled by a series of dams.

All along my ride I would be seeing the traces of the important St. Lawrence River trade, the culmination of which is today's Seaway.

Along The Soulanges Canal

The Soulanges ship canal was used in previous years, but fell into disuse when the Seaway was opened in the 1950's. From the Anchor Park, so named because it is decorated with the rusting anchors found in the riverbed at this point, one can hike down along the ruins of the locks, as they step the water of the canal down to lake level. Along both sides are campgrounds. On the north side is an old village, refurbished as a country theatre. On the south side is a vast, regional park. Many people find ways to bring their cars down through the park to launch there boats, or to swim, or just to fish along the piers leading out into the lake.

The only other time I bicycled this way, in 1992 on a ride to Lancaster similar to what I was doing this day, I had cycled along Chemin de la Riviere. It was a quiet, pleasant and little used country road. The through traffic takes Hwy 338. Chemin de la Riviere goes right along the river's edge, past various dams and powerhouses. At the quaint, French Canadian town of Les Cedres, it passes along the waterfront section of the old town, and makes a sharp right at the old Church, to curve up around the now wider river, backed up by the dam. One passes by the historical site of Coteaux du Lac, where they have excavated an old canal for canoes and lakeboats that had been constructed in the late 1700's. Then that route enters the suburban streets of Coteau du Lac and one rolls along past the houses on both sides until one comes out at the road coming off the bridge from Valleyfield.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~11:15)
Soulanges Canal at Les Cascades - looking east
 

On several recent visits to Pointe des Cascades, I had noticed the new bicycle trail that had been constructed along the old Soulanges ship canal. I had seen, as well, on an earlier drive this way, how they had groomed the shoulder of Route 338, from Les Coteaux all the way to just shy of the Ontario border at Riviere Beaudette. The shoulder was now marked off as a bike trail. I was debating whether I should follow my old route along Chemin de la Riviere or whether I should try out the new bike trail My memories of how boring the drive along Route 338 by the canal had been back in 1979/80 weighed on me. Was the trail along the canal going to be as boring as the highway had been? I pondered this, but finally decided to take the plunge and try something new.

Just past the bridge and right at the trailhead is a small park and parking lot. Many cars were parked there, and several people were in the act of disgorging bikes and getting themselves ready for the day's outing. The Soulanges Bike Path is one of those for which the annual ARCQ (Association Recreo- Cycliste du Quebec) Permit is required. Funds from this permit go towards upkeep and grooming of a whole host of cycling trails across the province. Club organisers had themselves set up across the entrance to the trail like a customs house, making sure that all had, or bought, the required permit. At only $10 for the season, it is a worthwhile investment.

I added my 2001 permit to the 1998 permit I had bought for my trip along the Parc Lineaire du Petit Train du Nord and the 1999 permit I had bought for my trip across the Eastern Townships along a whole series of fund-supported trails.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~11:15)
Permit Checkpoint on Trail
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~11:15)
My 2001 Trail Permit My 1999 Trail Permit My 1998 Trail Permit
My Eastern Township Bike RideMy Ride North Along the
Petit train du nord
Trail
 

The full Soulanges Trail is 35km long, from Pointe des Cascades to Riviere Beaudette, but only on the first section, along the canal section for 17km, does the bike path have its own right-of-way. It turned out to be pretty straight, but not as boring as I had thought it would be. I was on the high ground, alongside the canal, and could see out over the orchards, pepinieres, and even people's back yards. At many points there were marshes below. A lot of trees lined the way, breaking the sun, and doing a fair bit to break the power of the wind which, as always, was coming in my face. Although I was not right by the river, I could often see it in the distance on account of my height.

The Soulanges Canal was the main ship channel for the first half of this century, until supplanted by the Seaway.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~11:20)
The Trail begins… 35km to go
 

Just a few kilometres along, I came to the ruins of yet another lock complex, and so took a few minutes out to explore.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~11:30)
Along the Canal: An old lock complex aheadExploring the old lock
The view back the way I cameThe old lock mechanisms
 

At 11:55, I passed the Les Cedres crossing. The town itself was a kilometre away, but I could see the steeple of the church I had passed in '92. A couple of minutes further along, I pulled over to a park bench to give Sheryl her 12:00 check-in call.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 11:55)
Les Cedres crossing
 

I reached the Coteau du Lac line at 12:20. Right at the town line the trail passed behind the top of an old 1899 power station. It was a most interesting old building which bore further examination, so I took a ten minute break and climbed down the bank to get a full photo. The two-storey Victorian brick building was built up against the side of the canal. From the canal side it appeared as only a low building. It's full height could only be seen from below. From on high, though, one could look out on the river that it fed, taking water from the canal. This river flowed into the St. Lawrence and the old road crossed it on a bridge. I must have passed over that very bridge when I cycled this way in 1992, but I do not recall the powerhouse.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 12:20)
Coteau du Lac: The Old Powerhouse
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 12:20)
The Powerhouse - from below
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 12:20)
Closeup: Built in 1899View out from the Trail at the Powerhouse
 

Continuing along, I passed by a most odd concrete bridge abutment which was listing 45 degrees, like a sinking ship. . When built, it was probably the resting pillar for a swing bridge.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~12:30)
Concrete sinking like a ship
 

Riding along the canal right of way, I missed all the houses of Coteau du Lac. Sometimes I could peer into their back yards through the trees. Across the canal, I could see that the way along Route 338 had become quite built up and industrial. I saw the KOA where my parents had stayed on a visit back in 1986.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken on prior ride: 1997
End of Soulanges Canal
 

The canal right of way comes to an end as one reaches the town line of Les Coteaux. Before proceeding, I had to pass by another "customs" gate, and had to show my pass. It was 13:07. "Les Coteaux" is a new creation. Formerly, there had been the towns of Coteau Station and Coteau Landing. I guess these names sounded much to English for the Commission de la toponymie.

The lake end of the canal was most interesting. There were a series of abandoned, broken locks, with all their various pieces of equipment. The trail shifted over to a gravel road along the northern side of the canal. This gravel road eventually became a bike-only right-of-way again. As one approached the embankment of the main highway from Valleyfield, coming off the Mgr. Langlois Bridge, the trail dove right into the embankment through a tunnel made from a big steel water pipe, of the type used under bridges. On the far side of the highway bridge is a rail trestle. Dropping immediately out of the tunnel, the trail comes out onto a wooden, floating section that takes the rider out onto the water itself, and thus under the trestle. In the olden days, this trestle would have been a swing bridge, for one could clearly see all the rusted hardware to this effect.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken on prior ride: 1997
Broken Locks on Soulanges Canal
Looking East
 

Along Route 338

I recalled from previous visits a government wharf extending out into Lake St. Francis at Coteau Landing so I decided this would be a good place to stop and have my lunch. It would only be a few minutes ahead.

A number of historic towns dot the northern shore of Lake St. Francis.

At its the far end, a campground comes to occupy both sides of the canal, and there is a private bridge linking the two parts. The Canal des Soulanges trail would have had me cross Route 338 and take off at right angles into the woods on the far side, to run alongside the Highway 20 freeway for some 6km. I decided not to follow it. I was right at the corner of where the trail meets Route 338, but was able to turn left and follow "rue principale" along the waterfront of old Coteaux Landing.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 13:15)
Coteau Landing: On the Pier
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 13:15)
Coteau Landing: From the Pier
 

I came to the government wharf at 13:13 and rode all the way out to the end, several hundred metres out into the calm waters of Lake Saint Francis. I spent some time looking around at the lake, and at the shoreline, with my field glasses. I could see across to the far shore, where I identified the opening of the Beauharnois Canal and could see the pier where I had cycled on a day trip the year before. There were lots and lots of boats out on the lake, and a few ships could be seen heading into and out of the canal. I looked back up the way I had come, but it was already nearly impossible to make out the entrance to the Soulanges Canal.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 13:15)
The invisible entrance to Soulanges Canal
 

Lake St. Francis is a natural widening of the St. Lawrence, much like Lake St. Louis at Montreal and Lake St. Pierre at Sorel. It is hard to know how much the control dams, many of which pre-date the St. Lawrence Seaway, have increased the depth and size of the lake. I imagine, though, that its banks have not changed much, for several of the town along the shore seem to have been there for some time. There are no "lost villages" such as those above Cornwall.

I found myself a nice rock to sit on and took my small cooler and a water bottle off the bike. My lunch was to be the big chunk of leftover salmon, with about 2/3 of the 15% fat content Mozarella cheese I had bought at the market in Pincourt. This seemed in keeping with my special diet.

As I ate, I looked out once again over the sun-glistened Lake St. Francis through my field glasses. I could see the hills rising up behind the shore, both the low, near hills, and the higher, far hills. I could even make out some details on the far hills, fields, farm buildings, roads, etc., though these hills must be as far away as New York State and on the slopes of the Adirondacks. What I could not make out, in the near haze, was the road I had ridden along the south shore the summer before, nor where I had first come upon the lake during that ride.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~14:00)
Trail alongside Rte 338: Minibridge
 

My lunch break was half an hour altogether and I was on my way again at 13:45. I rode along the shoulder of the main road, Route 338. The bike path had left the road, to make its 6 kilometre loop one kilometre to the north. I was riding on a narrow stretch of highway with no shoulder. Still I was content to be riding along the water. It was for this reason, besides not wanting to go out of my way, that I had given the loop section of the Soulanges Trail a pass

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~14:00)
Marsh inlet - from bridge
 

I was riding through the town of St. Zotique, a narrow community that stretches lengthwise along the shoreline. Between the road and the lake were people's summer cottages. On the land side was a single row of houses and businesses behind which were trees.

I was at the St. Zotique town centre by 14:00.

Along the way, the bike path had rejoined the highway, as a new lane on the north side. I went through marshland and crossed several creeks that wound inland and offered an open-water glimpse, although covered with floating algae, into the sea of reeds to the north. On the river side were a number of small communities where people had boat canals right up to their houses. The canals were like laneways, running behind the houses, with streets running in front. These sections were about six streets deep, and I could catch glimpses of the lake at the end of each canal.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Left taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~14:00)
(Right taken on prior ride: 1997
St. Zotique: Homes on Canals
 

I could see a line of thunder clouds far to the south, but over my head it was bright and sunny. Earlier the day had been hazy and the sky had seemed very unstable. Now the clouds had coalesced, and around me they were tiny islands amidst the expanse of clear blue sky. To the casual observer riding in their car it would have seemed like the perfect day, but riding along Lake St. Francis I felt a distinct headwind, and there was little in the way of trees to block it. It was enough to push me to my -1 gear on the average, and sometimes up to -2, my easiest gear. Perhaps my energy level was beginning to decline as well.

I made Riviere Beaudette at 14:30. I stopped at Riviere Beaudette for some photos. At this point, the road crosses a bridge over the river and then climbs a sharp ridge that rises on the north side of the river, almost like a wall shielding Quebec from Ontario. The bike path ends abruptly at this town, which consists of nothing more than a depanneur and a few houses.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 14:30)
Rivière Beaudette: Looking inland from bridgeLooking out towards Lake
 

Along Old Highway Two

Coming down off the ridge, I could see the Hwy 20/Hwy 401 freeway to the right, across the width of a single cornfield. The Ontario border was about one kilometre past the town so I made the line at 14:45, entering Glengarry County.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 14:45)
Crossing the Ontario Line
 

This section of road just across the line, now called "Old Highway 2" is just a country back road since the 401 came into being. It angles slowly towards the 401, which it meets, and crosses over, at Curry Hill. There is a large truck stop a Curry Hill. I guess it is the truckers' last chance to stop and gas up before crossing into Quebec.

I reached Curry Hill just in time to make my 15:00 call to Sheryl. This was the first call where my cell phone informed me I was "roaming", that is, I was outside my own calling area. After the call I had to leave my bike outside and unattended as I made an extended visit inside. I hate to do this, but there is no avoiding it short of unloading everything and locking it up. I was very nervous and was glad to get back outside. All in all, I took a ten minute break at Curry Hill.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~15:15)
Along the 401: Toronto 457km
 

Where the old Highway Two crosses over to the north side of the 401, there is a small turn off to the left for the "South Service Road". This section is a killer, for it seems never to end. It runs right along the 401, out in treeless open country, with the river only visible from time to time to the left.

I was now plodding along in my -2 gear and facing a strong headwind. Any thought I might have entertained of going on to Long Sault that day was given up at this point. I passed a sign on the 401 that showed Toronto to be yet another 457km, with Cornwall to be 36km. Earlier on, while crossing Ile Perrot, Toronto had been 510. So I had made 53 km as the cars would have travelled. My distance had been greater, however.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~15:15)
The South Service Road
 

Along the South Service Road one must pass two overpasses before coming to Glengarry Provincial Park. I knew this from my previous rides along this way, both in 1992 and in 1997. At each of the overpasses, the service road curves far to the left, to meet the cross road coming down off the overpass. The cross roads each end at the point of meeting the service road.

Arrival

It was 15:33 when I made the Glengarry Campground. Thankfully, they had lots of space. (There was actually no anticipation of a problem with space. It is just a sickness that I have. I get very anxious about having a place to stay, and dread the thought of being turned away at a full campground. Despite my constant anxiety on this issue, it has yet to happen to me.)

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: 15:35)
Glengarry Campround: A Welcome Sight!
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Source Document)
Glengarry Campground: Map showing site
 

My tent was set up by 17:00. While seting it up, I had a snack of 1/4 of the fine whole wheat bread that Sheryl had baked for me the day before, along with half the baba genouj. This bread would be my staple for many a day to come. It was just what I needed for energy. I also consumed a full bottle of water.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~17:00)
Glengarry: My Campsite
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~17:00)
Glengarry: My Private Rock
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 1: ~17:00)
Lake St. Francis - from campsite
 

Evening

I left the campsite to ride into Lancaster, a distance of two to three kilometres, at least. My bike was now much lighter, but I was still plodding along due to fatigue and the head wind.. When I got to town, I headed straight to the market, for I was worried they would close. It was a well-founded worry, for I got there at 17:35 and they closed at 18:00.

Perhaps I over bought. I bought grapes, oranges, apples, yoghurt (low fat, but with sugar). I had to buy a whole bag of ice, even though my little cooler had room for less than half. What a waste! I buried my 600ml bottle of diet coke into the ice bag to get it real cold.

I tried to settle in near the railroad crossing at one end of Lancaster's three-block main street, but there was no suitable place. This rail crossing is very interesting as it is on the main line from Montreal to Toronto and so is very active. I had the luck to see a Via high speed LRC pass through, like a bullet. I saw these train headlights way down the track. They still seemed very far away when the gates came down and the bells started to ring. Then there was a ZAP and, with a large noise, the train passed by instantly and was gone!

I rode back to over to the other end of town, carrying my ice bag and the coke nestled within, and found a picnic table where I could sit down and watch the 401. I called Sheryl at 18:00, and then settled in to write, from 18:00 to 19:20, the beginning of today's account.

About halfway through my writing, I rode back to the tracks and settled into the terrace at the Super Mario restaurant. It was here that I had had supper and breakfast back in 1992, when I had last stayed overnight in Lancaster. I had grilled chicken and some fries and coleslaw and a coke and coffee. I continued writing from 19:30 to 21:00, eating slowly as I wrote.

Several long freight trains came through the crossing while I was eating.

At 20:45 I had to move inside, as a thunderstorm was passing by. I put all my stuff in the bike paniers into plastic bags, hoping it would stay dry. I had no choice but to sit inside and wait it out, as there was lots of lightning, and I did not feel safe riding in a lightning storm.

I decided I would call Sheryl at 21:00, as scheduled, even though I would still be in town and not back at my tent.


Day 2: Lancaster to Morrisburg (Excerpt)


It is 18:10 on day two. I am sitting in the Mall "Square" of the tiny mall in Morrisburg, having set up camp 5 km away, bought supplies, and called Sheryl.

It has not been a great day. I lost a lot of time this morning sitting out two thunderstorms in series. Then, in the afternoon, I somehow strained my knee, and it hurts. I really hope that I can take care of it and nurse it back to health.

Lord, I pray. Please let my knee be okay tomorrow so that I can continue. I ask this in Jesus' name.

I have only gone 70 km today, as measured on the map with the special map measuring instrument that my neighbour Paula gave me.

Last Night

I did not sleep well last night. After I called Sheryl from the town of Lancaster, I had to wait out a big thunderstorm. I have a great respect for the danger that lightning storms pose to cyclists on the open road, and do not want test fate by cycling in them.

As I rode back to the campsite after the storm had passed, I could still see the brilliant flashes of the storm's lightning in the pitch dark to the south. I imagine the storm would have been over the state of New York by then.

When I got back to the campsite and got settled, I noticed more flashes coming from the north and the west. Storm cells seemed to be all around. The previously quiet water of Lake St. Francis was practically boiling, with huge waves crashing onto the shore right below me. I lay in my tent watching the flashes and listening to the pounding surf.

Suddenly I heard the crack of very nearby thunder and so left the tent and took refuge in the solid, cement washroom building, under its outdoor awning. Soon all hell broke loose. It was pouring torrents of rain. High winds were whipping the trees. Chain lightning was striking all around. It was 23:30 at this point.

After a few minutes, it all passed and I returned to my tent. I was somewhat surprised to see to see my camp still there where I had left it. I envied those in nearby trailers, who had slept through the storm undisturbed. As when on a bicycle, I did not feel safe in my tent under the trees as lightning was striking nearby.

I had barely fallen back asleep when I had to repeat the entire drill again at 00:30. I felt somewhat stupid standing outside the washroom in the middle of the night and all alone, for this time the storm barely grazed us. There were but a few sprinkles, and the lightning was really not that close.

Once again I went back to the tent and fell asleep to the distant but constant sound of thunder. I kept my ears peeled for that "closer" sound. Whether another such storm passed during the night I cannot say. I was too tired to stay awake and fell into a sound sleep.

This Morning

Only to be awakened by my watch alarm at 05:00. I was out of my tent by 05:10. The sky to the east was clear and blue, and the pre-dawn orange light was beautiful. A look to the north and west, however, showed a sky that was black and threatening.

I went for a shower and by the time I came out the sky had become overcast and it was raining lightly. I could hear distant thunder. Strangely, I could still see the sun, just climbing above the horizon to the east and shining in underneath the clouds. This phenomenon created for a strange rainbow arc effect which was very beautiful.

Despite the light rain, it was still dry enough under my tree for me to have a little breakfast. One of the new yoghurts I had bought the day before at the market in Lancaster was covered with mould when I opened it. While the other was okay, I wondered how old they were. I had this second yoghurt with some of Sheryl's home made bread. I then packed up my tent and was on my way out by 06:45.

I rode back along the Service Road to the Lancaster overpass, to scope out a place for morning coffee. Alas, to the north west I could see yet another thunder cloud approaching and could see sparks of lightning below it.

I found the "Impala Cafe" in a motel near the overpass, just a block or so south on Highway Two. It was 07:05 when I got to the restaurant, which was a good thing for it had only just opened at 07:00. All else was closed.. While I sat inside and had my coffee and whole wheat toast, the storm cloud passed over and I watched it pour outside, complete with thunder and lightning.

While eating I watched the CBC morning show on television. The regional weather report called for this sort of thing to last throughout the day: Scattered, but violent thunderstorms.

I cooled my heels at the restaurant until 07:45, by which time the storm cell had passed and the sun was coming out.

Lancaster to Cornwall

From South Lancaster to Sommerstown, the road passes through some pretty empty countryside. It was for this reason that I was keeping my eye on yet another storm cell that was not too far off. I could see the rain falling below it, and the sparks of lightning, but was not sure if it would pass by me before I got to Sommerstown. A sudden flash of lightning close by to the right decided me. I had already entered the empty area, but I turned around and high-tailed it half a kilometre back to take refuge under the awning of a restaurant that was closed.

I had to wait yet again for about 15 minutes while the main storm passed. Finally, my impatience got the better of my nervousness, and I set out through light remaining rain, with the sun already angling in from behind the trailing end of the storm. I was still feeling a bit frightful, knowing that I was still somewhat at risk of a strike. Thankfully, I could see no more thunderstorm cells following from the north.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~09:00)
Sommerstown: Rejoining the River
 

I did not make the Sommerstown line until 08:50. It had taken me 2 1/2 hours to go 10km. At Sommerstown, the road comes out of the wilderness and starts to go along the river, with houses to the landward side. I saw a ship heading down river through the Seaway.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~09:00)
Sommerstown: A Ship in the Channel
 

I tried calling Sheryl at 09:00, but got only a fast busy signal. After several tries, I rode on with my phone turned on. Sheryl finally got through to me at 09:20.

By 09:25 I had made the town line of Glen Walter. The road was still hugging the river's edge. Glancing north, I began to see yet another line of low, white clouds. To the south east, I could still me my last big, black cloud, now pounding people in New York. In the midst of all this, over my head, it was bright and sunny.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~09:00)
Sommerstown: The Road Along the River
 

I was facing another day of tough headwind, though. This wind would be the source of my knee troubles, although I did not yet realise it. I was pushing ahead at my normal level-ground speed and gear settings, unknowingly putting a great deal of strain on my knees. Not being used to riding in a headwind, I gauged the speed I felt I should be achieving based on the terrain, which was flat. I unconsciously pushed myself to maintain this speed.

Cornwall

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~09:45)
Cornwall: Town Line
 

At 09:45 I reached the Cornwall line and stopped to take a picture by the town sign. The off-road bike path began here. At first it paralleled the road, but ran right down along the water's edge. Later, the path would wind its way around behind the industrial buildings of the old port, always keeping to the water. At one point, the bike trail even went down onto the water's surface, out on a floating deck, so that it could go behind a factory that was built right up to the shoreline.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~09:45)
Cornwall: The Bike Path Begins
 

On the far side of the channel was Cornwall Island, a part of the Asekwasasne Mohawk Reserve, but still officially a part of Canada. It would be just past Cornwall, at the other end of this island, that the far shore would become New York State. Looking west I could see the imposing span of the International Bridge at Cornwall.

The City of Cornwall has a rich history as an important regional and industrial center, as well as being a former river port.

As I reached downtown, the approaching clouds I had been watching were nearly upon me. Their leading edges were beginning to cut off the sun. I got to the waterfront park, and the clock where Sheryl had picked me up in 1997, at 10:17. I stopped at the bandstand and climbed up on the stage to look north and study the weather situation. Should I stay and take shelter, or risk heading on out, away from the safety of downtown Cornwall. Was this line of clouds a storm or wasn't it? It was hard to tell, but as I scanned it carefully with my field glasses, I did not see any lightning flashes. The sun was appearing to burn off the big black cloud even as it passed overhead.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~10:00)
Cornwall: Waterfront - Bridge in Background
 

I stopped for a meal break by the water, parking the bike next to a bench in the park. I had some of the grapes I had bought the evening before along with the rest of the cheese. I was on my way at 10:40.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~10:15)
Cornwall: Waterfront - The Town Clock
 

The Town Clock brings back memories of my earlier bike ride to Cornwall..

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~10:40)
Cornwall: Under The Bridge - Towards TownCornwall: Under The Bridge - Across the River
 

At the western end of the city's waterfront park starts the St. Lawrence Parks Recreation Trail. The beginning of the trail is was not too well marked. The main city bike trail follows the north side of the old canal, and I knew from experience would curve north under the bridge and head into town. I knew from 1997 that the trail I wanted as on the south side of the old canal, but there was a big sign that said "Do Not Enter". I went anyway, and sure enough, found the trail there.

St. Lawrence Trail to Long Sault

The St. Lawrence Trail begins by following along the cliff between the old ship canal and the St. Lawrence River, some fifty feet below. There were stupendous views of what in past days must have been the St. Lawrence River Gorge, complete with rapids at the bottom. There were no longer any rapids, but the water was still running pretty fast. Looking across the river, I saw the channel separating the Canadian island from the U.S. one. Henceforth the opposite bank would be New York State. Down river the gorge was abruptly cut off by the imposing presence of the Garrison Dam, which straddles the U.S./Canada border.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~10:45)
St. Lawrence Bike Trail at Cornwall: Along River
 

I had been this way in 1997, and had read all the information plaques at that time. Long before the Seaway had been built, this old canal had served to move lake freighters (but not ocean going ships) up and down past the rapids. With the advent of the dam, there were no more rapids. And the dam cut off the canal completely, although one could still see the gate in the dam where it had once passed. (I guess they had to keep it operational while they were building the dam). Ships now pass through the Eisenhower Locks on the American side.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~10:45)
St. Lawrence at Cornwall: The Channel Between U.S. & Canada
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~11:00)
Old Cornwall Canal: Looking Back Towards Bridge
 

It was 11:10 when I got to the point where the old canal comes to an abrupt halt at the dam. This was as far as I had come in 1997. I was going into new and unexplored territory.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~11:00)
Cornwall: The Moses/Saunder Dam
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Taken en route 2001: Day 2: ~11:10)
Old Cornwall Canal: Ending at the Dam
 

I had expected the trail to climb up onto the top of the earthen levee which formed most of the reservoir's edge. Instead, it took off into the woods and made a wide arc around the reservoir. For a long time I lost all sight of the dam and of the lake.

The Trail cut north through the bush as far as the highway. When it reached the old highway Two, it followed along this highway in its own grassy right-of-way on the south side. How far away from the levee I was was unknown, for any view was blocked by forest. There were lots of ups and downs along this way. I guess, in the aggregate, I had to climb at least the hundred of so feet of the difference in water level engendered by the dam. I was still facing a constant oncoming wind, and was straining my knees, but did not feel it yet...

[The story continues, then, to cover the rest of that day, as I reached Morrisburg, and the following ten days.]

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Prepared by Roger Kenner
September, November 2001
Excerpt Prepared: December, 2003