Unlike is the case with many other directions setting out from Montreal, there are no vaguely remembered early rides to Valleyfield and SW Quebec. Although I had made some car trips into this region previously, it was the 1990s which saw my first bicycle rides into this area. In fact, my 1992 to Cornwall was my very first bicycle foray west of the Island of Montreal at Ste. Anne de Bellevue! Even to date, I have only made a handful of rides into this area.
The year 1992 marked a number of bicycle firsts for me: My ride towards the fondly-remembered KOA campground at Coteau-du-Lac, where my parents had sojourned during key Montreal visits in 1975 and 1986, ended up taking me all the way to Lancaster, Ontario. It was my first bicycle ride west of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, the first over the bridges and across Ile Perrot. It would be the first of three rides, thus far (1992;2001;2002), past Pointe-des-cascades and along the north shore of the St. Lawrence as far as the Valleyfield Bridge at Coteau-Landing. It would be the first of three rides, thus far (1992;1997;2001), from Coteau-Landing to Lancaster and beyond. It would be my first the first of a whole series of "overnight" bike ride excursions. It was, in fact, the dry run for the much more ambitious planned ride along the Gaspé, which I would begin withing a week. My return trip marked the first of three rides, thus far (1992;1997;2002), past Valleyfield and along the south shore of the St. Lawrence, through Melocheville, Beauharnois, and Kahnawake. Finally, it would my very first crossing of the Mercier Bridge by bicycle.
It was to be a return to the Pointe-des-cascades/north shore route, but fate intervened in the form of a train conductor who would not let me board. As a result, I returned to the south shore route, riding it in the opposite direction from before. I retraced my route as far as Lancaster, and then pushed my westward cycling boundary as far as the dam past Cornwall. This would mark the first time that Sheryl would come to fetch me at the end of the day's ride. Not having to worry about the return trip would give me greater reach.
My loop ride along the Chateauguay River to Huntington and then up to Lake St. Francis and back along the Beauharnois Canal was a bit of an unplanned fluke. Sheryl was to spend the day at a farm in the area along with her herb study group. I was given the opportunity to tag along and spend the better part of the day riding. I had always wanted to ride up the Chateauguay Valley. This would also mark my first ride, of three thus far (2000;2002a;2002b), along the Beauharnois Canal Bike Trail.
The trail as far west as Dorion had become quite familiar by 2001, but the road southward, towards Pointe-des-cascades, had only been cycled once (1992). (Although I had made many car excursions in that direction since then.) For the very first time, of twice thus far (2001,2002), I cycled along the Soulanges Canal Bike Trail. The road west of the Valleyfield Bridge was quite familiar territory. I bicycle-camped for the second time (1992) at the provincial campground in Lancaster, at supper at the same restuarant, and then crossed my western cycling boundary at the Cornwall dam the following day.
I was searching for new directions in which to ride, and I reflected on the fact that I had not ridden along the south shore west of Kahnawake for five years (1997). My brief ride along a portion of the Beauharnois Bike Trail had wet my appetite for riding its entire length (as shown in the brochure, which I still had). It was to be a long day, for I rode both out and back. It would mark my second ride along the Soulanges Canal.
The Beauharnois Canal section between Tete du canal and the St. Louis de Gonzague bridge struck me as such a nice ride that I offered it to Sheryl barely a week later, and we both enjoyed a nice cycling day together.
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