Tuesday, September 4, 2012

QC-MTL, Day 1: Quebec to Saint-Alban

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Quebec City finally behind us

Lovely country road, unfortunately closed for construction further down
Both the biketopus and I are not known for being fast in the morning. Thus it was somewhat surprising that we managed to get on the road by 9 am. The breakfast options near the hotel were limited and therefore we started the day with only a gas station muffin for the biketopus and a coffee for me. Our route continued down the same busy road that we had been on the previous night. But the further we got away from the city center the better it got. After about 13 km we finally met up with the Route Verte and the Chemin du Roy, and got our first views of the mighty St. Lawrence. The Chemin du Roy, or King's Highway in English, is a historic route that was built to connect the 17th century settlements on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence. The first kilometers on the Chemin were on really lovely country roads; this shouldn't last long, though, as the road was closed for construction further down and we had to ride up a short but ridiculously steep hill to get to the detour on Route 138. We encountered lots of other cyclists but almost all of them looked like they were only doing day rides or at most credit card touring. The wind kept blowing in our faces -- the dominant wind direction along the St. Lawrence is west/southwest -- and our wimpy breakfast took its toll. We stopped near Neuville in a pretty little park for a Clif Bar break and decided we would get lunch in the next town, Donnacona.

The Route Verte weirdly steers cyclists clear of the city center, probably due to the fact that downtown is located at river level and the bypass on the 138 saves you some climbing. But the strip mall along the highway didn't look too appealing and we went into town. Donnacona is a rather small town and the lunch options were limited but we did find a nice place with an outdoor patio.

Over lunch we finalized our destination for the day. The camping options directly on the route were sparse but we did find a nice sounding campground a little bit further inland. After several attempts we got someone on the phone and they confirmed that they had spaces available. They told us that their office closed at 5 pm but that they'd leave us a map with available sites in case we wouldn't make it in time.

Neuville, one of the pretty little towns along the route
For the rest of the day we would be riding on the shoulder of Route 138 which was generally pleasant. After 70 km it was time to leave the river to get to our campground. We quickly stopped at a fruit stand to stock up for dinner and then continued northwest on Route 383. This road was quite different from the pleasant riding on 138: plenty of fast traffic, including a good number of trucks. A paved shoulder did exist but it was narrow, making this a very unpleasant experience. To make things worse, I accidentally left the biketopus behind after she had some mechanical issues with her pannier -- I guess that's what happens if you're too busy fiddling with your GPS.
Nice spot for a break, with a great view of the St. Lawrence

Rarely does the road run right along the river. Here it does.
Well, eventually we made it to the campground and the bad riding experience was quickly forgotten: the campground was even better than we had imagined it after looking at their website. It's a big park along the the Sainte-Anne river which is deeply cut into the land here. At the upper end of the park is a hydro dam and lake, including a beach with camp sites right next to it. We chose a site a bit further downriver, in the middle of the woods. Aside from a couple of ATVers that were perusing the park's trails we were pretty much by ourselves.After a long struggle with wet firewood -- since we arrived after 5 we couldn't buy wood at the office -- we had a well-deserved dinner and quickly climbed into our sleeping bags.
Our REI tent sent up at the Secteur des Gorges de la Riviére Sainte-Anne

> forward to day 2

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