Sunday, September 23, 2012

QC-MTL Day 4: Lanoraie to Montreal

< Back to day 3
With a view like that, breakfast tastes twice as good
The long riding on the previous had taken its toll and we felt pretty stiff after rolling out of our sleeping bags. However, we woke up to a picture-perfect sunrise over the still river. We figured that the distance back home would about 75 km, including a long stretch which I had ridden before and knew wasn't as pleasant as the route we had been on for the past couple days. The first 15 kilometers, however, were still very nice, with a quiet Route 138 meandering alongside the river.
Beautiful sunrise over the St. Lawrence
Right before we turned off of 138 towards L'Assomption we were passed by what was the largest group of cyclists we had encountered on our tour. It looked like they were some youth group with a few adult ride leaders and--their own follow vehicle. The follow vehicle passed me in a somewhat unsafe manner, but I'm always happy to see young people riding, especially in a touring context. It is a rare enough thing around here.

Whereas on my previous ride I had continued on Route 138 all the way to Montreal, this time we followed the Route Verte which turns north from the St. Lawrence and then follows the Assomption River to the island of Montreal. The stretch between the river and L'Assomption was very unpleasant to ride on: fast traffic headed towards and from the A40, including a bunch of trucks, and a narrow shoulder. Worse yet, around the A40 exit there was a lot of construction which rendered the shoulder unusable. I hope once the construction is done they will have improved the cycling infrastructure.

Dedicated bike ways and lanes did exist in L'Assomption but they mostly were of the horrible kind: zig-zagging through the town, bad pavement, pointless stop signs, frequent changes of the side of the road. In addition, the weather had gotten incrementally worse. What had started as a sunny day with no wind whatsoever had now turned into a gray day with a stiff headwind. At a gas station between L'Assomption and Le Gardeur we took shelter from the drizzling rain and nourished our tired selves with a coke and ice cream. The drizzle neither got better nor worse and after a while we continued on our way.

In Le Gardeur the Route Verte first leads through a suburban residential area and then runs on a bike path between a highway on the one side and what looks like an ammunitions factory on the other. Near the A40 interchange there was a big construction zone but they had done a good job of putting up signs for the bike detour. Once we had crossed the Assomption River into the southwest end of Repentigny it was high time for lunch. The biketopus had hoped for a nice restaurant somewhere on the river but based on my prior experience I was rather skeptical about the prospects of finding such a place. And indeed, the best we could find was a Harvey's.

By the time we got going again the rain was merely a drizzle; but only minutes later (that's how long it took to cross a ridiculously badly designed intersection) we found ourselves in a formidable downpour. We took shelter in a strip mall just opposite the Harvey's and fortunately the weather slightly improved again after a few minutes. Crossing the bridge onto the Ile-de-Montréal was unpleasant nonetheless, as the gusty wind regularly carried the passing cars' and trucks' road spray over the cycle path barrier.

East Montreal: a mix of parks, residential and industrial areas
For the rest of the day we struggled with increasingly strong headwinds, a route that ranged from crappy to not-that-bad, and our exhaustion. Had there been a convenient option to take a train or bus for the rest of the way we would've gladly accepted it -- but there wasn't, and so we just struggled on. For the last few kilometers we at least were back in familiar territory, and having the sense that you're almost home certainly helped. Exhausted but happy about the whole tour we finally arrived back home.

With the headwind, we certainly felt as if we were dragging along an anchor
Getting into the city from the east definitely sucks and it was the worst part of the whole tour (Trois-Riviéres was bad, too, but at least it wasn't as long). Unfortunately, there aren't really good alternatives. For the stretch on the Ile-de-Montréal  one could follow the North Shore on Boulevard Gouin which has sucky parts too, but overall is a little nicer. Another alternative would be to cross the St. Lawrence in Sorel-Tracy and approach Montreal on the south shore. The problem with this is that for long stretches this requires riding on a shoulderless 90km/h highway for long stretches. If that could be fixed -- and it probably will be at some point, as it is part of the Route Verte 3 -- I would definitely recommend this option.


  1. Wow! I would have hoped with how extensive the Route Verte was, it would find a better way into Montreal from that direction. I've biked into Montreal once, from the south (via Rouses Point, NY). The route was pretty good (canal towpath!) but got pretty serpentine the closer it got to the city. At least I didn't have to contend with fast and heavy traffic.

    1. Yep, coming from the south is a very nice approach. I regularly ride there on day tours. And even the last bit into the city has been improved quite a bit.