I had not biked at all this year but I was determined to have an active holiday with my partner. Sam recommended this delightful route and boy-howdy was it worth it.
The route is a reclaimed rail line that has a combo of asphalt and crushed stone surface. Since it was used by a train, it’s not too hilly and it goes from Mount Laurier to St. Jerome, delightful little towns north of Montreal. The route is about 200km and so serves almost every biking need.
There are multitudes of Bed and Breakfasts along the way, camp grounds and amazing restaurants. I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad restaurant in Quebec people. That province understands food.
I had a lot of favourite things about this trip and it was very different from substantial bike riding I had done in the past. My partner is an occasional biker and he is not a road biker so we took hybrid bikes on this trip. His was a pretty fancy aluminum frame with a famous name. I had a steel frame that has served me since I bought it second hand in 1990. I also had the pannier holders. Because the grade never exceeded 3% none of this was an issue. We scheduled the trip to take 4 days and none of them were farther than 60k. We also had a shuttle service that took out stuff from place to place so we weren’t weighted down with kit. I would totally do this ride in a self sufficient way though, now that I know where all the camp sites are.
Biking is so delightful for so many reasons. It can be a solitary pursuit of meditative aloneness or it can be social in ways that running never matches for me. When you bike, there is always a choice to go hard or not. I don’t have that kind of option when I run, it’s always hard, so I’m always more focussed on my discomfort than being social. Biking equalizes me and my partner too. I’m experienced and he isn’t so I get to revel in that and he is very gracious to let me take the lead in all things bike. As we peddled along the forested route that first day, smelling the pine needles and enjoying perfect weather, I was astounded that I forgot how much I love it. Last year was a year of running, a half marathon and a fast 10k. Now I’m content to leave that behind. I’ll run again but I’m only running so I can bike better. I just don’t like running much, it’s a fact.
I may have hooked my partner on biking. He is wondering about doing a longer trip, elsewhere, maybe Newfoundland? I so want to do this trip.
I will end this rather jaggedly written post with two stories of the trip, one poignant and then weird and one hilarious.
The story of Jannette (name has been changed):
One of the B&B’s we stayed at had a magical feel. There were endless gardens and exceptional buildings, obviously built with love and care. Our host, I’ll call him Mark, was, well, a bit dour. The place was so meticulous and perfect and he obviously worked all the time. He was also particular about the schedule, the times for check-in, for driving us to town for dinner, for breakfast. The place was for sale and my partner was trying to create some conversation with the man in the car on the way to dinner. He told us that he wanted to get back out in the world and hike. He had been a very accomplished adventurer. I noticed he only used a singular pronoun.
When we got back that night, we were looking at the things in the common room, the photo books and the art on the wall. Jannette was mentioned everywhere. The notes were signed “Jannette and Mark”. She was in all the pictures. She was in the oil painting with Mark in their beautiful and sacred garden. I suddenly felt as if I knew what happened, that Jannette had died, probably of breast cancer and Mark was grieving. He was selling the place and keeping it up so meticulously to honour her but once he found a suitable buyer, her was going to walk to the end of the earth until he died of a broken heart. I know, I was a dramatic story, but it fit. I felt more compassion for his demeanour, poor grieving Mark.
The net day we arrived for breakfast in the main house. I was weird to have Mark preparing us breakfast in the kitchen he and Jannette shared. I felt her spirit everywhere, in every perfect detail of the place that Mark had not changed, and would not change, until he walked away into some wilderness forever.
Near the end of the meal, my partner looks up and says, “Oh, thank god, there’s Jannette”.
And there she was.
She whirled in, said hi, ran upstairs, came back down, had a conversation with Mark in French that we didn’t understand because they talked so fast and then she left again. Very alive was that Jannette.
I still don’t know what was up with Mark, maybe it was divorce, maybe this is his nature, who knows. Anyway, I was glad she wasn’t dead. The place is totally worth going to even with the slightly dour host. If you are interested, pm me somehow, I have a Facebook Page, and I’ll tell you. I feel bad naming him as dour in this post, but the story was too good not to tell.
Second story. . the derailleur:
Oh, people who are cyclists already know there is a bit of a poop-show coming.
We were on our last day and it was raining. We were coming into St. Jerome and there was a lot of stopping and starting. During one start, I heard a terrible sound behind me, the sound of skidding and clanking. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m good but I think I have a technical problem. Oh yes, definitely a bad technical problem.”
The derailleur was shorn off and the chain was destroyed. One big man crank too many I guess. Anyway, the good news was were were only 3 k out and it was mostly down hill. So, we scootered in the last bit, a fitting end to a glorious adventure.
Interested in the trail? Here is a link to start you off.
Two happy people in bike helmets and sunglasses. Seriously happy people.
Rivière Du Nord in the background and a birch tree with a smiling bicyclist wearing a maple leaf shirt in the foreground.