I had no idea until this last trip, but if you tour in the fall everything belongs to you.
I shit you not. We had our own private beaches. Our own private no-charge camp site behind a microbrewery (on multiple occasions). Our own private parks. Sometimes even our own private roads.
So yes. We very stylishly left Quebec City in a boat which delivered us back to the south shore of the St. Laurent. Here we jumped on and off the TransCanada until about Rimouski, about another 300km.
It was not uneventful. For instance, we met this man, who is old enough to be my grandfather, yet disappeared over the horizon while we very much did not disappear over the horizon.
We also found this thing. Omen or artwork, we weren’t sure. But it spun okay.
And we took shelter from the rain in this barn.
We were assholes in Trois-Pistoles.
And we watched seals in Le Bic
Oh, also I walked my bike up this mean hill.
And then, 300ishkm later, ta-da RIMOUSKI.
If memory serves me correctly, Rimouski was the last place I remember before the hills really started. It’s a cute enough town by the water. We visited a local microbrewery, stayed in the ‘burbs with our lovely warmshowers host and terrorized the local Walmart (because by this point we were feral cycletourists and you couldn’t take us anywhere).
We will return to the past in my next post, BUT GUESS WHAT. We are presently gearing up for a three month tour through Scandinavia and northern Europe. Quit our jobs? Check. Buy new rain gear? Check. Dehydrate EVERYTHING? Check.
For the first time EVER I am going to attempt to keep this blog updated in real-time. So you (is anyone out there?) can bare witness to our flats and sunburns and stroopwafles. Fingers and toes crossed.
Following last year’s sweaty winter under the Indian sun, this winter felt like an eternity (seriously, these are the scenes of our city from just last month). So in a world where shoulder season (apparently defined as travel period between peek and off-peek seasons; by this logic, I would consider the entire span of November-April as one long shoulder season) still means parkas and boots and sticky metro rides and all of that snow that you apparently just can’t ignore out of existence, I’ve had my fingers crossed that come April 1st I would not feel seasonally pressured to throw more money into our once novel transit system (ie BIKING WEATHER).
Now we’ve swapped snow clouds for rain clouds. BUT.Once upon a time it was warm and sunny and I was biking, biking, biking. Once upon a September 1st 2015, my now-partner (then almost-partner) set off with our bikes all packed, in the direction of the now near-mystical Gaspe. I had recently sold or packed away all of my worldly belongings, quit my job, and had a flight booked to Mumbai for October 1st, so I was feeling especially light and liberated.
Our route basically took us along the south shore of the fleuve St Laurent.
(Bonus knowledge! A fleuve is not a rivière. A rivière flows into another river, while a fleuve flows right into the ocean or the sea.)
After leaving the island several hours post-sunrise, we crossed the same highway multiple times on these very safe and convenient ramp and stair combos. Once we made our way inland, the 300km ride to Quebec City was exactly the melange of farmland and poutine that you might expect.
The roads were pretty quiet, it was sunshiney and we had all of the choice campsites. Being that both my cycling partner and I prefer late mornings and lots of food stops, doing the 100km a day we needed to have us in Quebec City for the weekend was a bit of stretch. BUT WE DID IT. JUST IN TIME FOR PRIDE.
A note about cycling touring in Quebec: Like much of Canada, this province is huge and sparsely populated between cities (even the in-between towns are super sleepy). That said, as long as you’re not a complete asshole, the don’t ask, don’t tell mentality will ensure that you always have a decent campsite with a privacy and sometimes a view.
We arrived in Quebec just as the sun was setting on day three. After a little bit of navigation we found our wonderful Warm Shower hosts (as well as their adorable cats with leashes). If I remember correctly, they greeted us with the standard WS hospitality (beers and showers first, food and conversation later), and so kindly hosted us for the weekend, helped us with minor bike repairs and toured us around their beautiful city.
GUYS. Even if a tour along the Gaspé Peninsula seems like a stretch, definitely consider the Montreal-Quebec City mini-trip. It was flat, pretty quiet and scattered with bike lanes or wide shoulders along the way.
We left off in beautiful bath, in which as I stated before, we didn’t get too many pictures, but is a reminiscent mix of Harry Potter and high society. Like, magical and unaffordable all at once.
We hopped on to the Railway Pathway, a 13 mile stretch of paved path linking Bath and Bristol. While it was quite straight and, as one of our hosts claimed “bloody fucking boring,” we enjoyed the break from roads, cars and roundabouts.
We arrived in Bristol and were greeted by our CS host who led us up hills and past Banksy street art to his flat. We stayed for two nights and played tourist for what I assume is the genuine club-hopping, bridge-sighting, card-playing Bristol experience.
This was totally Sis’s time to shine as I fell prey to much too young British men offering me far too many shots at the bar. Thankfully, being the capable adult that she is, we navigated the Bristol streets under the cover of darkness and drunk and got home in one piece.
When it was time to say good-bye, our host took us to the outskirts of town (over the bridge crossing the gorge, our memories are like 85% sure) and we were off. Although it was slightly off route, our intrigue had us headed in the direction of Cheddar Gorge. Chedder? Like the Cheese? And let’s be real, what exactly is a gorge if not just a giant hole in the ground? FILLED WITH CHEESE? We had to see.
As with most of our biking days, it rained on and off, and somewhere in beautiful cider country Sis’ back rack snapped clean in two. Thankfully we were able to macgyver it into place with the help of a few bungee cords, and then left our bikes at a shop in Cheddar to be repaired as we took a tour of the village. Once in the village it was all we could do not to ask passersby “Excuse me, but where is the cheese gorge?” because apparently this was not as obvious as it could have been. But, since nobody else looked lost and we didn’t want to be those dopey Canadian cyclists, we wandered until we found its entrance, got a sadly underwhelming peek and headed back to get our trusty steeds.
We camped that night at what we soon learned was a typical British camping field with tents and RVs all lined up beside one another. We moved a little slower the next day and due to some creative map interpretation, accidentally found ourselves in Bridgewater (based on our own experience and chats with other Brits, it seems about equivalent to our Hamilton).
The day after was equally long/hilly/rainy and Sis was starting to feel a little bike tripped out. Thankfully that day saw us finishing in Dulverton which is just at the entrance of beautiful Exmoor National Park (Sis’ request that she would regret while we spent the better part of the next day climbing mountains).
Our Dulverton hosts were a couple of young guys who’s parents were away and seemed all too eager to invite our drenched, sweaty selves into their home. Well, kinda. I pitched our tent in the back yard while Sis was terrorized by the giant and curious chickens (“all of my greatest fears are being challenges today”). But! Fresh eggs and warm showers? No real complaints.
We took off early the next morning and got to see Exmoor in all of it’s very hilly glory.We biked, walked and cried our way through the park, reached its highest elevation, and then careened down to catch our first glimpse of the ocean.
And this isn’t the end -I swear we did more. More biking. And even more squishing our bikes on to planes, trains and automobiles. 2017 promises to be a big year for biking so it is my goal to have this and my other past trips spewed on these pages and archived away for future emergency nostalgia. You know, to make space in my little head for the big adventures to come.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 disappointmentsinteresting 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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
And that concludes part one of our trip. Stay tuned for part two: Bristol, Brigdwater (I know, I know) and beyond!