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Althought the Seventies saw my making countless trips between Montreal and Toronto along the 401, the towns along the way remained almost completely unknown to me. I can recall a short drive-through of Cornwall with my parents in 1969. The only image I retained was that of the trolley buses of the day. Most landmarks along the way were the roadside rest areas, of which I became an expert. The first such rest area on the Ontario side sported a Canada - 1867 restuarant, where I would often have breakfast when starting out very early. I may have stopped once or twice at the Lancaster exit, to enjoy the Dairy Queen which was there.
The area of Valleyfied and SouthWest Quebec was totally unknown. I cannot recall ever crossing the Valleyfield bridge before 1986. My parents first stayed at the KOA at Coteau-du-lac in 1975, and they drove us there one evening to have dinner with them. I remember we did out laundry, and my father had to go driving off in the night to get more change. We never left the campground.
It was only the route through Chateauguay to the Beauharnois Locks that I knew well. I might have first visited them with my parents. Certainly, once I had my own car, the Locks and the park attached became a frequent destination. I can recall one afternoon in the Summer of 1977 when I led my friend Steven and family, in tandem, to this park for a picnic. In those days, the route led over the Mercier Bridge and through Caughnawaga, around the traffic circle, and into Chateauguay. At the first major right-hand artery in Chateaugauy, one turned and followed the city boulevard through the old section of town and cross the Chateauguay River. One came out at what seemed to be the middle of this straight road alongside an equally straight railraod track. I never explored what was to the right, for the way to the Locks led to the left. I seem to remember, in those days, commuter stops along the railway, at each major intersection. Behind the railway, rose a forested embankment of fifty feet or so. On my right were residential towns with lots of tree-lined streets. I never explored the shoreline road, but always stayed on the main highway. This came out in the town of Beauharnois, where it split into two one-way sections. Past the town was a bridge over a tiny river, and then the factories and dam of Beauharnois.
At some point in the early years, we explored the falls on the river running by the edge of the town of Beauharnois. There were trails and old, rickety wooden bridges over the falls, and the water stank.
It was in the Summer of 1979 or 1980 that we felt the sudden urge to go camping again, something we had given up for the previous few years. It was right after seeing the movie, Lost Lagoon (?) The old Volkwagen was on its last legs, and could not drive more than 30 mph the front-end shaking violently. I looked on the map for the closest campground and came up with the provincial campground at Lancaster, barely an hour from Montreal at normal speed. Of course, we were not travelling at normal speed. We were stopped by a provincial transport vehicle on Hwy 40 as we drove west, and were warned to get off the freeway. (We continued as I knew of no other route.) We managed to make it to the campground where, although it was Friday evening, we managed to get a good site off by the back fence. (Behind this fence was another, priviate campround. It was a wide-open space strewn with small waist-high saplings which have since grown to tall pine trees.)
We spent the weekend around the park and at the beach, driving only east as far as the local convenience store and west as far as the Raisin River marina. We were frequent visitors at the Dairy Queen. We never went into the town of Lancaster itself. On the Sunday morning, after everyone had left, I went around and collected the remains of their burning embers to prepare a breakfast fire, which was kindly received.
On the return trip, I decided to forego the freeway and return along the two-laned service road, which at the Quebec border became Highway 338. I made my first drive alongside the Soulanges Canal, and remembered how straight and boring that section of road was. I was still driving, though, at a top speed of 30 mph.
We stopped at Pointe-des-cascades, where we took a hike through the bush, down to the lower levels of the locks and waterway. There was no groomed park in those days. All was wild, with thick grass taller than a person's height.
I believe there were two or three camping visits to Lancaster that Summer of 1979 or 1980. Afterwards, once I had my new car, we found other, more interesting places, and never went back to Glengarry Provincial Park. I would always notice the exit and look for the campground as I would drive past on the 401.
Chateauguay slowly became more than just a town on the way to Beauharnois. When one of the original Michelin tires on my Volkswagen died, I shopped around and found this tire dealership in Chateauguay where I could get pair of Pirelli's at a good price. When I bought my new Honda in 1980, then, I returned to this place to exchange the factory installed tires and some additional cash for for six Pirelli's
Somewhere in the mid-eighties, we made our first and only visit to a drive-in theatre way on the outskirts of Chateauguay.
The time came, on some return from Beauharnois, that I explored the main road past its turn-off for Chateauguay. This led me to the old Highway 3 bridge and the old road into Caughnawaga.
My parents arrived for their annual visit in 1986 and returned to the same KOA west of town where they had stayed 11 years earlier. We drove out to spend the day with them. While everyone else lounged at the pool, I went with my dad and the truck and camper for a drive to find a welding shop where they could effect a repair. We were directed into Valleyfield. This was the first time I saw the Route 338 side of the campground (though I guess I had driven by it, unknown, in 1980) and the first time I crossed over the Valleyfield Bridge of the St. Lawrence.
It was a Sunday drive to Beauharnois, but I decided to explore further. I followed Route 132 through the tunnel for the first time. I must have gone around Valleyfield proper, but found my way over the bridge on the Beauharnois Canal. This would have been my first crossing. I noted the big curve at Ste. Barbe, after which the highway runs right alongside the water. The drive ended at Dundee, as far west as one could drive in Quebec without crossing into the U.S. (I was left with a desire to see the town of St. Regis, which the map showed as being right on the point.) On the way back, we had to help a motorcyclist who had an accident and ended up in the ditch only moments after speeding past us like we were sitting still.
I set out on a solo drive, just a month or so after getting my new Dodge Caravan. I drove down into SouthWestern Quebec, in the direction of Dundee. It may have been on this drive that I first explored the town of Valleyfield proper, and discovered the lookout on the Beauharnois Canal. I retraced my path of the year before, but this time crossed into the U.S. After driving a mile or so in the U.S., I found the road back out to St. Regis, Quebec. It was only at this time that I became aware that St. Regis was part of the Asekwasasne Mohawk Reserve, and the Indians did not recognize boundaries such as New York, Ontario, or Quebec. Nevertheless, I found the small community on the point. The international border was marked only by a stone set at the side of the road. There was a small police station, where I found parked two Quebec Provincial Police cars with Ontario license plates, quite a sight. I would have explored more, but I had developed a tail of a carload of Indian youths curious as to what I was doing driving around. I decided to leave.
After gassing up in the reserve, I crossed over the International Bridge, for perhaps the first time, and came down into Cornwall. I followed the river road out from Cornwall, back to where it joins the 401 at Lancaster.
(This may not have been the first time I drove this road. It is possible that on some previous Toronto to Montreal drive I exited the 401 into Cornwall to eat, and then followed the river road out of town.)
Once I had discovered the lookout onto the Beauharnois Canal at Valleyfield, I returned several times. Each time, I always had difficulty finding it. I would follow the main road past downtown, along the old canal, and then around the point. Each time I came to a street heading further towards the water, I would follow it. Somehow, I always got there.
At that time, the lookout was at the end of all city streets. The final street ended in a turn-around. There was nothing but grass and trees further on. A path led through the grass, seemingly up over the dunes, to a wooden platform overlooking the water.
I was alone with my kids every other weekend, and had heard that the county fair at Ormstown would be great place to take them. (I already had experience from previous of years taking Tannissa to the Champlain Valley Fair in Vermont.) For the first time I drove south of Valleyfield. We had a great time at the fair, although it cost much more than I had anticipated. The hit of the day was the demolition derby!
I went to my first Kahnawake Pow-wow in 1992, with my kids and Diane & Jennifer. This was probably my first real experience with Kahnawake. It soon after the events of 1990 and the Warrior Society still mounted armed checkpoints at all entrances to the town. This first visit would have been just week or so before my first bicycle ride through the area. Seeing Kahnawake up close may have given me confidence to try that route when I did. I am not sure when I learned that one could cycle over the bridge. Perhaps I just noticed the sidewalk. I believe we all ate out at the restaurant in the town centre.
I returned to the Pow-wow for several years thereafter.
I was alone with my rented car and the evening was young. I just headed out for a drive and eventually found myself cruising past Pointe-des-cascades and along the route that I had cycled the year before. I crossed the Valleyfield Bridge and ended up at the Beauharnois Lookout in the late evening.
I continued to bring my kids out to Beauharnois, although this time on my own. I remember bringing both of them one sunny afternoon for kite flying. They enjoyed having all the room to run around. On one occasion I came out with Alex and we took the tour of the Beauharnois Dam, although he could not understand it because it was all in French.
Beginning in 1995, I used to take Alex to the Anchor Park. I recall the day I took him there the first time, after buying him some Cub Scouts material out on the Trans-Canada. . Thereafter, it became a frequent popular location for our afternoon-long outings. Alex and I discovered the re-furbished port, which has been converted into an opera house. One time I even drove out the dirt road to the point. In 1998, I brought my camera.
I believe that may have been just prior to the first time I took Sheryl out to the same location.
In 1998 , I took Sheryl to spend the day at Upper Canada Village. After visiting the resort, we spend some time plant-foraging over on a small causeway to the east of the Village, a spot that I would ride by in 2001. We then drove out to the rest area on the 401, so she could get some more plants. I recognized it as the same rest area where I had made my first stop with Lelana, Tannissa, and Alex in 1989, although the picnic area was now all deserted and abandoned. We ended off the day with dinner in Cornwall. As I drove in along the old highway, I noticed the bike trail accompanying us on the right. I knew this to be the continuation of the trail from the Cornwall dam to Long Sault and waited for the day when I would be able to ride it.
In 1999 we took Alex camping at Long Sault, ending up on the second day once again at the park outside Upper Canada Village. On the way back into town, Sheryl saw a sign for an antique store at Cornwall, but was frustrated because we were on a timetable and could not stop.
I did, finally, bring Sheryl to the vast antique emporium in Cornwall, where we spent an afternoon. It was a very nice store. So nice, in fact, that I brought her back on her birthday the following year (1999)
In early 2001, just a week or two before my major bike trip along the same route toward Niagara, we took a drive out along the SouthWest. I drove by Pointe des Cascades and out along Chemin du Fleuve to Les Coteaux, and then along Route 338 by the Lake. I noticed how much had changed since my last visit to the area in 1997. The most noticeable feature was the new bike path which ran along Route 338. We drove on to Lancaster, where we bought food at a small market and sat out on the terrace having lunch. Then we explored the antique shop across the street. Heading towards Cornwall, we stopped at an antique barn near the Lancaster line, one which was usually closed. Sheryl enjoyed very much the drive along the river. Once we got into Cornwall, we started looking for a place to get sugarless iced cream. We stopped into a number of small places, but they all looked at us like we were crazy. Finally, we parked at the shopping centre in the middle of town and went into the supermarket. There we discovered, for the first time, the sugarless iced cream we typically buy today. We took our litre-sized tub back to the car and drove to a lookout over the waterfront park and finished it off. Heading back out of town, we drove by the antique store of previous visits and continued north, finally taking the road east to Alexandria. I could not find a way to continue east and so had to follow the road back to Lancaster, where we re-joined the 401. On the way back into town, we stopped at a couple of antique stores near the Les Coteaux exits. Because of this drive, everything in the town of Lancaster was quite familiar to me when I returned on bike.
In 2003, returning from our Summer trip, we finally found the way east from Alexandria, to return to Dorion on the two-laned, country roads rather than on Hwys 401 and 20. For Sheryl's birthday in 2003, we returned to the same Cornwall antique store. When we were done, we drove into town and found a delightful used book store on the old main street. We ate, then, on the commercial strip.
Also in the Summer of 2003, we had occasion to take a drive out in the direction of Ormstown, to which I introduced Sheryl for the first time. We looked in some shops, and then bought food for lunch at the supermarket, eating it in the town park (Down the hill from the church). I drove her along the same route I had cycled three years earlier, until we came to Huntington. At Huntington we found an antique storefront run by this old, interesting gentleman. After Sheryl talked him up for a while, he invited us to the back, where we saw that the shop was just a front to an old church hall. He took us out back for a tour of his vast, waterfront property. He had been there since he was born in the early 1900s. His father had built the storefront on the old church back in the early part of the previous century. After Huntington, I drove Sheryl over to Route 132 and followed it out to Dundee, to where I had not been for many, many years. I was looking for the bar shown in the 1976 Canada book, where the border crosses through the middle of the bar. Alas, I was told by the Canada Customs agent that this bar had been closed for more than twenty years.
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