Fingerbanging along the Gaspé peninsula PART ONE: Montreal to our great nation’s capital.

So it’s FINALLY spring here in Montréal.

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).

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Pre-season tune-ups

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.

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Like I said, 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.

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HOLLA

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.

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Dismounting for passage to our private suite with a farmland 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.

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Montreal to Quebec to Gaspe to Perce

 

It’s so easy, you should totally do it.

IT’S FALL. And biking in fall is literally one of the best things in the world. Or at least in the fall, in this soon to be ice-cube of a country. Like, light neck-tube and hand warmers weather. You know.

About a month ago, still in the sweaty throes of summer, my partner and I took a day trip to Chambly and back. Why? Because it’s not CLOSE close, but also not FAR far. And the sun was shining. And our legs were itching. And he swore that there’d be beer at the end of the line.

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At a teense 32km each way, it’s an easy there and back tip ride.

Once you get off the island and do the old uppy downy on Mr. Cartier, it’s a breezy two dozen kilometers on mostly bike paths and side roads. We left sometime well past noon (as is our signature move) and got there in time for an early dinner/beers AND were back on the island before dark.

If you have a free day kicking around before the air gets cold, you should hit up this trip. Even if you are a bixi rider. I’m pretty sure you could bike to Chambly and back on a bixi without too much problem. I mean, if their invisible tethers reach that far, or whatever.

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Obligatory celebratory brews picturrrre

 

 

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

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.

Bike parking!

Bike parking
Bike parking

Yesterday I went to go buy groceries. Grocery shopping at my chaotic little supermarket is a good think to do on a weekday because in the throes of samedi madness there is literally no parking. Similar to when I attend a more popular yoga class in the same neighbourhood on busy St. Laurent, you sometimes circle around, shiftily trying to size up whether or not your u-lock will fit around that little sapling and how likely it is the Plateau policiers will come by and ticket you for willful destruction of borough property.**

Imagine my happy surprise (and that of probably many Segal-ers) when I pulled up, paniers in tow, to discover a butt-ton of once perma-occupied bike parking liberated by an official bike rack. Oh, and it was on the street in what I assume were once spots for automobiles.

I don’t like to be competitive with the whole bike vs car thing, but WE WIN THIS ONE, SUCKAS.

Ahem. It’s the little things.

**And yes, in the Plateau, it is a ticket-able offense to lock your bicycle to a baby tree. I’m not sure if the same rules apply to grown-ups (trees) because it was about that time that my French reading became lazy and I threw the newsletter into the recycling bin.