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When moving back to Canada at the beginning of summer 2019 I decided that a summer of unemployment was the perfect time to arrange a bike tour and re-discover some of my great country. Between all the usual things such as visiting family, buying a car, renting a house, etc. I was able to free up a couple weeks for an adventure. While discussing it with my, she decided that she would like to join me for the trip. Of course, for her first bike tour, I decided to carry all the bags and she would just have to cycle.
Check out my video of the Cycling Along the Saint Lawrence (to be made)
Ottawa to Montreal --> 236km (76km, 76km, 84km)
The first part of the trip, which actually started in a town south of Ottawa called Kemptville took us three days of riding to reach my cousin’s place in Montreal. It just so happened that the first day of the trip was also our first anniversary, so I planned for us to ride 75km to the town of Maxville so that we could go to the Glengarry Highland Games, the largest highland games outside of Scotland. Although it was a little on the expensive side to use their campgrounds and attend the games, it was an interesting experience nonetheless and a different kind of way to spend a first anniversary. The riding that day was quite on the boring side, as we were predominantly riding along county roads with farmland all around, which got a bit on the boring side after a while. Sima complained that he knees were a bit sore, but was otherwise in good spirits.
Day 2 took us out of Maxville as we headed south towards the Saint Lawrence River, past the beautiful town of Williamstown, which was first settled in 1785, by a largely Scottish diaspora that settled Upper Canada. When we reached Lancaster, we turned east and followed the South Service Road past a couple campgrounds, which would have provided excellent sleeping options had we not wanted to cycle further. In the end we made it all the way to Le Fort at Coteau-du-lac, where the remnants of an old British Fort stood, which was erected in order to defend against possible American aggression against Montreal. Le Fort was build in a location where the French had previously built a small canal that would enable boats to get past the shallow waters of the St. Lawrence. The British increased the size of the canal so as to allow bigger ships through and then build the fort.
After Sima’s first night of wild camping at Le Fort, we woke up early to pack up camp before people showed up, cooked breakfast and then had a little wander around the fort before getting on the bikes and continuing on the way to Montreal. Once you reach the Province of Quebec, the cycling infrastructure gets much better than on the Ontario side, and you can follow the Route Verte as it winds its way all over the province. Heading towards Montreal we were able to follow the Route Verte along the Canal de Soulange nearly all the way to the Island of Montreal. Crossing the bridge into Montreal, you arrive in what they call West Island, the part of the city where all the rich live. The ride along the southern side of Montreal towards the city centre is truly beautiful. We were lucky to be there on such a beautiful day and the parks and bike paths were filled with people making the most of the great weather.
After 3 days of riding, we were due for a rest in Montreal and a chance to catch up with some cousins, an aunt and an uncle. We went out and had some amazing Montreal poutine, which is a famous French Canadian dish of french fries, curd cheese, and gravy, with the possibility of adding meat to it. With a short ineffective stop at a bike shop to drill out Sima’s rims to fit schrader valves, we went to my uncle’s house to use his drill and do it ourselves.
Montreal to Quebec City --> 240km
Leaving the Island of Montreal, we followed a route that took us up to the north side of the island as we cycled towards Repentigny. Everything seemed to be going nicely, until I heard a loud bang. I immediately knew that the sidewall of Sima’s tire had exploded. After some careful consideration and realizing that all the bike shops are at least 10km away, I fixed her tire with some duct tape, inflated the tire to a low pressure and we pushed on 20km to Repentigny where we bought her a new tire and carried on another 35km until we reached a campground called Camping Chez Denise. The rest of the day was uneventful. We stopped at a grocery store before getting to the campsite and got some beer and food. We were lucky to meet some great people at the campsite and they allowed us to put our stuff in their fridge. Good times.
Day 5 of cycling took us 83km to Trois-Riviere. The day was beautiful and easy going with beautiful stops along the way. We arrived at our Warmshowers host in the late afternoon and had a really wonderful time with our wonderful host Lester, who’s wife passed away a couple years earlier, at which time he opened up his house to Couchsurfing and Warmshowers guests, in order to meet people and stay social. Considering his age (ask him, not me), he was very active and took us to town to show us around the city and explain to us its history, and we ended the night with dinner at a great little restaurant on the Rue des Forges. The next morning we had a bit of a sleep in and late breakfast before parting ways with Lester and heading off towards Quebec City.
While we didn’t expect to cycle the rest of the way in one day, we were about 40km into the day and Sima thought we might be able to make it all the way to Quebec City. The route was once again fantastic, often following along the side of Hwy. 138, with occasional detours through historic towns dating back to the early 1700s. If not for us leaving so late that morning we would have definitely made it all the way to Quebec City, but as nightfall was arriving, we decided to call it a day at Neuville, which is about 40km before Quebec City. As it were, my cousin lives on the other side of the St. Lawrence River about 40km away from Quebec City, so he came to pick us up and we would finish the last 40km after a couple days of rest and relaxation with family I hadn’t seen in about 9 years.
On our rest days, we went and saw many of the sites of Quebec City, such as the Chaudière Waterfalls (Chutes-de-la-Chaudière), the views of Old Quebec from the Terrasse du Chevalier-du-Lévis, strawberry and blueberry picking with my Aunt, a hike up the Montmorency Falls, a drive around the Île d’Orléans, and a evening stroll around Old Quebec, with a food stop at Chez Ashton, a restaurant famous for its poutine and smoked meat sandwiches. All this would be incomplete without a BBQ at my cousin’s house and lots of alcohol to wash it down with.
Saint Agapit --> Quebec City --> Ottawa
No more rest days until we reach home.
Our return trip started with us riding 50km to my other cousin’s house on the north side of Quebec City. The first 30km took us straight as an arrow down an old train track until we reached Levis and had to cross the bridge to the north of the St. Lawrence. The only bridge with a walking path is the old Pont de Quebec, a 100 year old bridge and the last bridge that crosses the St. Lawrence River on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The only problem with this bridge is that the walking path was extremely narrow and when a bike would come in the other direction, one person would have to stop and get as close to the barrier as possible for the other to get by. Other than that, it was pretty awesome. After crossing the bridge, we rode the route verte along the Promenade Samuel de Champlain, which takes up along the river down the hill from the Plains of Abraham, where the French lost the most important battle to the British, past the Citadel, and finally past Old Quebec, before heading uphill for the next 15km all the way to my cousin’s place.
When we arrived at my cousin’s place, she was standing outside with my aunt cheering us on up the last hill. Only once we arrived did they say to us that we could have called and they would have taken the truck down and picked us up. I was laughing but Sima was ready to kill me. We spend the rest of the day chilling out with her family, eating shish kabob, drinking her husband’s homemade beer and his brother’s homemade gin. Overall a great night. We were fortunate that it was raining the next morning and we were in no hurry to leave, so we were able to sleep in a bit.
Day 8 of the ride took us downhill as we made our way back towards Trois Rivière. We rode about 30km before getting back to the St. Lawrence, where all of a sudden we started to feel the wind a lot more and Sima was forced to stay right behind me in order to keep up. This time around, with some prior planning we found hosts in a small town called Saint-Marc-des-Carrières. To get there we had to cycle uphill at Donnacona in order to cross the river that flows way down below. When we reached Deschambault, we turned off the route verte and headed to our hosts’ place. When we got there they showed us to our room, told us to get showered up and then the husband, Regent, took us for a drive to Saint Alban to show us where the Sainte-Anne river cuts through the layers of rock as it makes its way to the St. Lawrence. It was absolutely gorgeous. After taking lots of pictures, we went back to Regent’s house and his wife had prepared a wonderful dinner which we finished off with the dessert we brought over.
Day 9 took us back to Trois-Rivière and went pretty well. Nothing much happened except Sima’s bike continued to have issues with a slow leak that I had to fill up daily. I check the tube several times, but could not find the leak. We were very fortunate and ended up staying with Lester again for a night. The following morning we saw him packing up his bike. When I asked him what he was doing he said he would ride with us for about 40km and we could then all have lunch together before he turns around and heads home. What a legend. Even at XX years old, he was still ok to jump on his beautiful Marinoni bicycle and ride an 80km day. I can only with that I will be in shape like that when I am his age.
Day 10 started with Lester riding with us. We stopped in Louiseville at the St. Anthony of Padua Church where we had a private tour. This church’s inside was something like 95% marble. Very nice. Not too much later we reached Maskinonge where we stopped at Restaurant La Caillette, ate lunch, had some ice-cream for dessert and said our goodbye’s. We finished up our 100km day detouring my a small town called Saint Paul, which is just next to Joliette, where my mother’s cousin lives. I got a message from my mom telling me where she lives and mentioning that I should call and invite myself. So I did. I hadn’t seen her and her husband in years, and they cooked up a turkey and made us feel so welcome that words can’t describe. My mother’s cousin’s sister even drove over with her husband from Repentigny to see us for a couple hours. They invited us for lunch the next day, but it was unfortunately out of the way from my other aunt and uncle’s place in Laval where we were heading the next night.
Day 11 was only 55km. This was our ‘rest’ day. We started at almost 11am and arrived at their place by 5pm, having taken our time, stopped, rested, bought beer, and all that. When my uncle got home we were at the edge of the river drinking beer and eating sour candies. Perfect day. That night my aunt made homemade gnocci and another one of my cousin’s came over with his new wife and baby, and we had the chance to meet after many years of not seeing each other.
Day 12 of riding was tough, as Sima and I decided that we were going to push it all the way back to Kemptville in the next 2 days. For this to happen we would have to ride 115-120km per day. Unfortunately that morning while crossing the island of Montreal, Sima took a small spill while riding up onto the sidewalk, when her tire slid out from under her. Although not seriously hurt, it took her a bit of time to shake it off and she then started to complain about a sore knee. We made some adjustments to her saddle height, and it got a bit better. Although we should have probably stopped earlier, we decided to push all the way to the original campgrounds we passed on day 2 and managed to get a spot for $10. Since Sima was still uncertain about wild camping this worked out quite well and was relatively cheap. We got there after a long day of listening to podcasts, chatting, eating, and her drafting me. We met a couple of bike tourers, Misty and Luc, that were making their way back to Montreal. After a few shared beers and stories we all went to bed and got on our way in the morning.
Day 13 was by far the least interesting day of the trip. The roads were mostly all country roads taking us through farmlands that were not very interesting. We were pretty motivated to make it back that day and Sima seemed to be doing really well with her re-adjusted seat. We got home just as the sun was setting and were welcomed back by my aunt that we were staying with.
Overall, Quebec is a much better place to cycle than Ontario. There are a lot more bike paths than in Ontario, the shoulders are wider and the drivers are more respectful.
1000km went by pretty quickly and Sima did extremely well for a first bike tour. Trip trip afforded us with the chance for me to see a lot of family I hadn’t seen in a long time and for Sima to have the chance to meet my mom’s side of the family. It also allowed us to have a place to stay almost everywhere we went, and in hindsight, I probably wouldn’t even have brought the tent and just rented a hotel for those few other nights.
Either way, it was great to have the chance to tour with my wife and for us to see if we like it and if it’s something we would do again in the future.
Thanks for reading.
Keep on pedalling.