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.
|Starting Out: Home to Valois Bay|
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.
I stopped in Ville Ste. Pierre to top off the air in my back tire. The pump was very strong, and I felt lucky I did not pop to tire right there. At least, though, with the tire as hard as a rock, the going was much easier.
|Bike Path Along Victoria in Lachine|
My bike was pretty heavily loaded. My paniers in back were full of gear and clothing, and topped with tent and air mattress and sleeping bag. As an experiment, which would end up working very well, I further topped off the back with a small cooler, full of ice and covered with a white towel to keep off the sun. All was held on with a serious rigging of bungee cords. In my front paniers, dropping to either side of my front wheels, I had dry food, fruits, and and extra 2 litres of water. On the top in front, I had a small bag for easy access to camera, binoculars, and map. As usual on my trips, the bike handled like a truck. I can only estimate that the bike and gear must weigh 150 to 200 lbs. I'd love to weigh it someday. At least, though, I personally was 35 lbs lighter because of the new diet I had been on since Christmas.
There were two routes I could have taken from Ville Ste. Pierre to Lachine. I could have cut over to the Lachine Canal and followed the bike path along the Canal and waterfront of Lachine, until I come out at the Lighthouse on Lac St. Louis. A shorter, less interesting route, would be to take the bike path along Victoria Ave. in Lachine, which also comes out at the Lighthouse. I chose this latter route, as my goal was to get on my way, and there would be ample time for sightseeing further on.
|Lachine Bike Paths|
I made the Lachine Lighthouse at 08:10, 45 minutes along my way.
|Lighthouse and Pier at Lachine|
From the Lighthouse to the Dorval town line, one follows the specially groomed bike bath through the parkland along the Lachine waterfront.
|Bike Path Along the Shoreline in Lachine|
|Valois Bay at Dorval|
At the Dorval line, one is dumped unceremoniously onto Lakeshore Drive along with the cars. I got to the Dorval line at 08:17, after only 7 minutes along the waterfront.
The ride in Dorval is not so bad. The traffic is light. One rides past a large park, which they are just now grooming, and then along past houses that slowly give way to businesses, until one comes to Dorval Centre. Here is the end of the road that would lead one over to the airport and shopping centres.
Past Dorval Centre, and a block or so more of apartment buildings, Lakeshore Road becomes entirely residential. There is a marina to the left and another big park to the right, then a few tantalising glimpses of water, and then finally the road crosses a point and comes out on Valois Bay. Across the bay, one can see the church at Old Pointe Claire. Heading up into the bay, the houses on the lake side give way to a narrow park separating the roadway from the water. After just a short ways up Valois Bay comes the Pte. Claire town line.
|Looking Across Valois Bay from Dorval to Pointe Claire|
I crossed into Pointe Claire at 08:35
Lakeshore Road in Pointe Claire continues on around the bay. At the head of the bay one is very close to the Highway 20 freeway, separated only by a spate of high rise condos. The road then circles out again, towards the far headland (which remains out of sight) All along this way, there are only the occasional houses on the lake side, so one has spectacular views of the water. The houses themselves are modest, but very nice to look at. Eventually, Lakeshore Rd. cuts inland to cross the point and climbs up to the heights by Stewart Hall. Stewart Hall is an old, stately mansion which has become a civic centre and whose grounds are now a park. Descending the far side of the hill, one comes to a stoplight at the end of St. John's Road and then goes past where the old night club used to be and into the Village of Old Pointe Claire. The Village stretches for five or six blocks and is made up of tinier, older houses, all clustered tightly together. The main street is lined with trendy shops and bistros. Right past the Village is the Beaconsfield town line.
|Valois Bay to Soulanges Canal|
|Historic Church on Pointe Claire|
I made Beaconsfield at 08:58, having spent just over 20 minutes crossing Pte. Claire.
Lakeshore Road was closed in Beaconsfield, and was completely dug up for major construction. There was a detour sign, but I was not about to head off on a long detour. I was certain I could nose my way through the construction on my bike, and this proved to be true.
Once into Beaconsfield, the town fathers would have most traffic take a sharp right and follow Beaconsfield Boulevard inland. Beaconsfield Boulevard becomes a very busy and uninteresting artery. A small turn off to the left at the same point, however, allows one to continue along the old Lakeshore Rd, through an area of ever finer houses, and past the Beaconsfield Marina. At a certain point, a lane reserved for cyclists only begins. At the end of this short way is St. James Park, a very nice waterfront park, set down the hill from the roadway. I often stop here as I pass this way. This time, however, all the benches were taken, so I stopped at the creek outlet at the far end of the park, at the foot of St. Charles Road.
|At the foot of St. Charles Boulevard|
It was 09:05, and was time to call Sheryl for my 09:00 check-in. I stopped for 5 minutes to relax and stretch. I gauged the sun and decided it was time to put on my sun-screen. I took out one of the oranges I had brought along, but it was very dry and I could not eat it. I pitched the oranges. I set out again at 09:10
The first part of Old Lakeshore Road in Beaconsfield curves around and becomes the foot of St. Charles Road. Half a block later, one is at the intersection of Beaconsfield Boulevard and has no choice but to follow it to go further west. This is a busy section of road, and in the past was one of the worst sections of the ride to Ste. Anne de Bellevue as it was all torn up and with next to no shoulders. Now that it was newly paved and they had provided for a nice, wide bike lane, the way was very pleasant. For a couple of kilometres or so Beaconsfield Boulevard climbs up and down gentle hills. To the right are modest houses, interspersed with schools, civic buildings, etc. To the left (lakeward) are either large, closed off estates, or very private cul-de-sacs with fancy houses. It is no wonder no one ever put a road through there along the water's edge.
At the top of a hill, with a school on the southwest corner, there is a road which descends a block or so to the resumption of Old Lakeshore Road. It is not marked in any way for cyclists. One just has to be in the know. Along this very nice and quiet section of Old Lakeshore Road is a marked bike path. Beautiful houses, on quite respectable properties, line both sides of the tree-lined, shady street. There are virtually no cars. This continues on until Beaconsfield Boulevard and Lakeshore come together again at the Baie d'Urfe town line.
|Lakeshore Road exiting Beaconsfield|
into Baie d'Urfé
It was 09:30 as I crossed into Baie d'Urfe. The wind in my face had died down and I was running in the middle gear of my five gears in the back.
Lakeshore Road is fairly narrow through Baie d'Urfe, and most like one imagines the old, unimproved road of yesteryear must have been. Thankfully the traffic is light, as there are no shoulders. All the way is residential and heavily treed. The trees come together over the road to give it a very shady, homey feeling. All the houses in Baie d'Urfe are pretty substantial, with some quite large estates on the lake side, but one is kept far from the lake by the immense properties and only gets a few glances at the water. At the certain point, the road comes up to the old town hall, a tiny, white, and very historic building. Then one passes by a large park encompassing a small bay, and passes by the municipal pool, which was packed as I rode by. Soon one comes to the old cemetery road and the Ste. Anne de Bellevue town line. I made Ste. Anne de Bellevue at 09:42, having passed through Baie d'Urfe in a record 12 minutes.
|Historic Town Hall of Baie d'Urf&ecute;|
In Ste. Anne de Bellevue are the massive grounds of McDonald Campus College of McGill University and the McDonald College Cegep, which stretch for a kilometre or more along the lakeshore road. Alongside the road and through the campus grounds is a bike path, which one picks up right at the old cemetery road that forms the town line. I always take this bike path, which provides a very pleasant change from sharing the roadway with the cars. As it traverses the lawns of the campus, one sees first the on-campus housing of various professors, and then an excellent view of the beautiful architecture of the campus buildings.
|Bike Path along MacDonald College in Ste. Anne|
At the end of the campus nearer the town, the path comes to an end and one must re-join the traffic, just as the road enters the built-up section of the quaint, old town. After just a few blocks of sharing the tight, narrow street, one can typically descend down to the waterfront boardwalk where, although one must dismount and walk the bike, the scenery and ambience are very pleasant. Frequently Ste. Anne de Bellevue is the objective of my ride, a ride I try to take at least once a year.
On this occasion, though, I did not descend to the waterfront, for Ste. Anne was not my destination. Instead, I continued along the narrow, main street. Ste. Anne de Bellevue is becoming ever more of a tourist Mecca, and although most new development happens along the popular boardwalk, some is beginning to spill over onto the main street. Still, however, there remain a number of tiny, older stores from bygone ages when this was just a small French Canadian village.
|Ste. Anne Waterfront from Bridge|
|The Locks at Ste. Anne de Bellevue|
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.
|Railway Trestle at Ste. Anne de Bellevue|