BACK!

 

Hi! So it’s been a year since I’ve visited this place. Since my last post, which is only Part One of an epic British journey, I’ve cycled to Gaspe (Remember? The trip that never happened?), hiked through the Himalayas and thrown a bike on the back of a boat in Myanmar.  A friend recently commented that I had been up to quite a lot recently and didn’t I have a blog for that?

Riiiight.

So maybe it makes sense to start from the now and then move back in time? I’ve been back for almost six weeks now. And last weekend two of my friends got married and saw it appropriate to invite not just me but my cycling partner to their wedding. I use the word appropriate because we were obviously the ones to yell BIKE TRIP and consequently show up on bikes: smelly, sunburned and paniers full of PBRs.

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Rosemont to Oka loop

Going someplace, and then retracing your steps back is decidedly the inferior way to travel, so we opted for a loop from Montreal to Oka (wedding territory) through Laval on the way there and through Hudson on the way back. A solid 120km all in, which is perfect for cyclists that chronically wake up late and start drinking early.

Sometime dangerously close to noon we were on the road, heading Montreal North (which is more accurately known as north west to the rest of the world). After skirting through Laval’s bike lanes to nowhere, we crossed into Deux Montagnes and made it to the venue a good 45 minutes before wedding time. Just enough time to pitch a tent, kill a few PBRs and change into our wedding clothes. Sadly I don’t have any pictures because we probably had heat stroke and let our phone batteries die. But we cleaned up as well as could be expected and the whole thing was beautiful.

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The bridge from Laval to that place across from Laval

Weddings being weddings, we stumbled into the tent at some unknown hour and were doubly sweaty and disoriented when the sun came up way too soon. In our typical style, we accepted a ride into town for breakfast and all the diner coffee we could drink before returning to pack up the tent and prepare for the trip home. This time we left early (before 11am!) and zoomed down to oka in time to catch the ferry across to Hudson.

The trip back was longer but even more beautiful, not necessarily because we avoided Laval, but because we hugged the shoreline (not to mention tailing packs of cyclists in spandex) most of the way. Hudson became all the mysterious variations of Vaudreuil, a quick roll across the top of L’Ile-Perrot and then Finally Montreal. We arrived home the same way we arrived to the wedding, sweaty and tired and a little sun-delirious.

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Thumb up

England by pedal bike: The trip where despite the hills and rain, nobody cried (and we considered that a success). Part One!

Last summer my little sis and I did something pretty cool. It was one of those last minute here-goes-nothing kinda things, and for me, the wicked result of a series of disappointments interesting life hiccups.

So we meet at the Montreal airport and have to face the typical shit-storm labyrinth associated with bringing a bicycle on an airplane. Like seriously airport guys, with the exception of Porter Airlines (who seem to have a well oiled system and an endless supply of Steam Whistle) this is not brain surgery: Bike goes in bag, bag goes on plane, everyone is kind to one another. /Rant.

Alright, REWIND a moment and let me provide a little context. This happened to be my first ever overseas bicycle trip. This also happened to be Sis’s first ever bike trip. I was recovering from a broken foot. Sis hadn’t owned a bicycle since training-wheel days. And we hadn’t traveled together since we were shit-disturbing children. Context is everything.

Ready for take-off.
Ready for take-off.

ANYWAY, since flying to England means time-travelling into the future, we arrived there at 6am (or 1am our stupid sleepy time). Also, since a good night’s rest is for the weak, we had planned to reassemble our bikes and make the 60km ride to Reading that day. Nothing a couple of dozen coffees can’t fix.

Unanticipated Challenge #1? Finding our way out of Heathrow Airport. Since there is only one way out and it’s designed for those fast moving vehicles with motors, Sis and I played chicken with the cars until some nice airport employees threw our bikes into the back of a truck and drove us out of the compound and into freedom.

A cheater start, but then we were off- wobbly and powered by cheap caffeine, we were off.

We caught Bath Road (appropriately named as technically we were on the way to Bath) and headed West. This took us through places named Slough and Maidenhead. We got caught in rain, got a little turned around and were baptized by fire into the roundabout-heavy, high-hedged and narrow-laned left-sided experience that is cycling across the UK.

Upon arriving to Reading we were so very warmly welcomed by our first host and soon-to-be best mate in all of England. Here we rested our weary jet-lagged bodies for two nights.

“You guys wanna see my swords?” says the strange man we met in a foreign country.

Day #3 saw us leaving Reading and getting hopelessly lost. We took a detour off of our trusty Bath Road to visit Stonehenge and got caught in circles of nameless streets and towering hedges and had our first brush with scary-fast A grade roads. The sun was setting by the time we hit Hannington  (as my sister fondly describes it: The village in the middle of nowhere surrounded by walls of hedges) and we were fall-down happy to find a pub that would meet all of our immediate needs (food, drinks and camping in their back yard).

The next day had us waking up in Hannington to a pot of tea and a parade of hounds.

You thought I was joking.
You thought I was joking.

So we took the next logical step and hitched a ride with our new best mate to Stonehenge. And then proceeded to break into Stonehenge.

We got this close and snapped a pic before we were politely asked to get the fuck out.
We got this close and snapped a pic before we were politely asked to get the fuck out.

 

Our saviors with a motor then kindly dropped us off at our next destination after snooker and a pint. Day 4 and only 2 day of biking (4 days of rain). We were killing it. We crashed in Devizes with a lovely couple from warmshowers and in the morning we were back on the bikes for what we expected to be a leisurely 50km to Bath.

The road to Bath was predictably less leisurely than we had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, despite the on-and-off rain, it was a beautiful ride following the Avon canal which was full of adorable longboats we can only surmise were full of hobbits. Parts of the route, however, saw us cycling through rubble and fields, particularly tricky for Sis on her shmancy road bike. All that aside, Sis happily remembers this part of our trip as the day with lots of downhill,

So quaint it hurts.
So quaint it hurts.

We made it to Bath with more than enough daylight to spare. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures, but believe me when I tell you that this city is gorgeous. Like, totally worth the google image search. We crashed with another warmshowers host (who offered us the standard cup of tea upon arrival despite it being a zillion degrees out and him being smack in the middle of carnival prep). Sis and I spent the night consuming the standard unholy amount of pub food and drink. The we helped the carnival folks fasten CD’s to a fishnet until bedtime. Standard Bath experience, I’m sure.

Avon Canal
Avon Canal samsies

 And that concludes part one of our trip. Stay tuned for part two: Bristol, Brigdwater (I know, I know) and beyond!

Psst. Guys.

Hey guys. GUYS.

Did you hear?

It’s mutha-effin’ spring time in Montreal.

And then there were bike lanes.
And then there were bike lanes.

Everything about this makes me over-the-moon happy. I didn’t realize it, but I had somehow convinced myself that winter would quite likely last forever this time around. I didn’t know how much I had missed spring (summer?!) until it snuck up outta nowhere and smacked me right in my stupid smiling face.

Downhill free fall and uphill sweat-fests. Pothole dodging and traffic weaving. Fisticuffs with taxicabs and is that a ferris wheel in St. Henri? Sounds of protest, birdsong and holy shit our city just tripled in size. It doesn’t quite feel like hibernating until the sun comes out and we all remember that we have a whole wide world in our own backyard. I kid you not, the swings are singing and the reason I avoid bike lanes is all coming back to me now.  Smiling at girls on longboards and cursing bixis under my breath. Finding my breath somewhere on Peel St and losing it again on St. Laurent. Bike grease on everything and secretly loving it.

Guys.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Anyone who knows me a little more than a little knows that I have a very attainable dream of cycling from Montreal to Gaspésie.

The dream.
The dream.

Beautiful coastline cycling through some of Quebec’s most scenic spots. (Psst. I also heard whispers that there are tailwinds the whole way).

Magical, right?

Unfortunately my plans last summer were botched following a break-up and a real fear of setting out solo. On the bright side, it was replaced with this fabulous adventure to the far reaches of our east coast. This summer’s trip was also redirected following a long-distance relationship shuffle, and again I was stuck with the prospect of striking out on my own. I’m sure there’s a moral in here somewhere about trip-planning with lovers, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Then again, maybe not.

ANYWAY. That combined with THIS:

Yes, THAT'S a broken foot.
Yes, THAT’S a broken foot.

And I was all “Well to hell with any fun this summer.” So I applied for a Vipassana (because 100 hours of meditation and 10 days of silence is anything but fun). However, as you might be surprised to hear, Vipassana spots are booked solid until something like November, so that was a no-go.

So I did a lot of sitting, a lot of breathing and played a lot of chess.

But lo and behold the universe works in mysterious ways because my lovely sister (and newbie cyclist) was like:

“Let’s bike England.”

And I was all:

“When do we leave?”

Get ready England.
Get ready England.

Stay tuned for the adventures of Malorie and Audrey in Return to the motherland: Which way to the pub, mate?

***

**England is not by real-true definition our motherland, but we lived there long ago for some pretty formative years of our lives. We even developed accents and started using words like rubbish and fancies. We also have a squishy spot for British comedy**

The Fall of an Empire

Montreal is a beautiful city. It is full of old buildings covered in new art. We are presently smack in the middle of Montreal en Lumiere, a festival that combats the dark and dreary winter with lights and shows and art installations that I whole-heartedly appreciate and half-heartedly understand.

Over the summer, during our graffiti festival (which is exactly what it sounds like), I fell in love with a local neighborhood installation.  These guys fit so well into my stereotypically hipster borough that I needed to immortalize them on a minimally visited cycling blog with low-quality cellphone pictures.

Yes, I am aware of the irony here.

Couple of hipsters.
“A long time ago at a party you probably never heard about….”

.

Something
“I find your lack of obscure band knowledge disturbing.”

.

Something
“May the fixie be with you.”

.

Something
“Aren’t you a little beardless for a stormtrooper?”

.

Something
“Uh, we had a slight wardrobe malfunction, but uh, everything’s perfectly retro now.”