Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lower Laurentians Fall Foliage Ride

As a quick intermission from the series of posts about our Eastern Township trip, I present you a short ride report with lots of pictures from one of the best rides I've done in a long time.

As part of the car free week in Montreal, the local transit agencies were giving out free tickets, good for two trips on any of the networks. I almost always start my rides from home, but with the free tickets I decided to take the commuter train to Deux-Montagnes and head out into the Lower Laurentian mountains to get in some hills and the beautiful fall foliage.

The 8am train had only one other cyclist on it.

Near the river there was dense fog and only now would I get out of it.

Abandoned railway turned into a trail, primarily for the many horseback riders in the area.

The bridge across the Rivière-du-Nord marks the beginning of proper mountains.

The picture can't convey the wall-like impression of this first hill.

Fall foliage is almost at peak

Bridge construction on my planned route. As a result I had to take a detour on gravel roads.

One of the many lakes on the route. Unfortunately they're all on private land, which makes it difficult to get good pictures.

On the gravel detour. Not exactly ideal with my 25mm tires.

On the other hand, there was almost no traffic on the these roads and the scenery was gorgeous.

Gore Township...

Gore-y halloween decorations

Nice spot to build a house.

Still on the detour, but now back on pavement

Because of the dense forest there were relatively few open vistas.

Short break in Mille-Isles

Getting close to Saint-Sauveur, the turnaround point

A few km of meh riding on the shoulder of busy highway 364, but at least I got a good view of the mountains around Saint-Sauveur

Depanneur in Saint-Sauveur. Time for a coffee, V8, Gatorade, and sandwich

Saint-Sauveur ski arena

One pretty lake followed the other

Back in the flatlands, with the Oka mountains in the background.

There was complete traffic chaos in the little villages in the Oka mountains. It's high apple picking seasons and there was a traffic jam for several kilometers. I sneaked past in the grass, on the sidewalk, or somehow between cars. No fun.

Back at the train station where they have opened a secure bike parking facility this year.

Access control with your transit pass

78 spaces on two parking levels

A little tired, but extremely happy with my ride.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Eastern Townships 2013, Day 5: Mansonville to Frelighsburg

< back to day 4 > forward to day 6

Jacques and Allison's hospitality continued the next morning: after waking up we were greeted with a chai latte, yogurt with berries and other breakfast goodies.
Breakfast was great, our legs weren't. Yesterday's 95 km and the hills had taken their toll and it was obvious that today would have to be a short day. Our camping guide showed a promising looking campground in Frelighsburg, about 45km from our current location. Jacques told us that Frelighsburg was a very nice little town, and so we said goodbye to our hosts and headed off into the cloudy day.
The first 15 kilometers along the Missisquoi River were fortunately flat, but we could still hear our legs complaining.
Once again, we had the roads mostly to ourselves and could mentally prepare for the upcoming climb up Route Scenic.

On our club's 300 km brevets, Route Scenic is the one big climb. At that point, you've already ridden 160 km and so I wasn't quite sure how bad that hill really was. Well, it was a tough climb because it was long, but it was less steep than what we had encountered on previous days. We made a quick stop to check out the Chapelle Sainte-Agnès, a pseudo-romanesque chapel built by a rich Montreal antique dealer to complement her vineyard.

The humidity was once again pretty high, and combined with the sweat we were pretty drenched by the time we reached the top of the climb.
The descent into Abercorn was fun, as usual, even though I slowed down a bit more than usual because of the wet roads. In Abercorn we encountered this old schoolhouse that had been completely yarn bombed -- "knit graffiti welcome"

Other than that, there wasn't anything in Abercorn and we continued west, now again in unknown territory. Of course, there was more climbing, making the biketopus severely unhappy. Bravely, she ascended the first couple of climbs, but at the bottom of YAFH (yet another f****** hill) we had to stop and only after a force-fed Clif Bar and lots of encouragement could we continue
Fortunately, the steep and hard climbs gradually gave way to more manageable rollers. The whole time we were never more than a few kilometers away from the US border, probably contributing to the emptiness of the landscape.

Just before reaching Frelighsburg, we encountered the best downhill so far: dead straight, no intersections, cars, or driveways, and smooth pavement. I bombed down there at a top speed of 75 km/h, and even the usually timid biketopus enjoyed herself at her personal woo-hoo speed.

Frelighsburg was just as picturesque as promised. We stopped at Aux 2 Clochers, a restaurant with a great porch above the Rivière-aux-Brochets.

Aux 2 Clochers
After our late lunch, we walked across the street to a schoolhouse-turned-tourist office/gallery before leaving town again towards our campground.

Local artists on display

Le Grammar School, in the typical Frelighsburg red brick
The campground was about 5km outside of town, only a few hundred meters from the border crossing into Vermont. Camping Écologique was the best campground of the trip: our site was under large trees, right next to a gurgling creek -- pretty much the only sound to be heard there. A bonus feature were the two cute kittens that were hanging out in the common area. One of them followed us all the way to the campsite before jumping on the ATV of the a staff member to be taken back.

It wasn't that cold...

Having a beer while sitting on a rock in a creek -- what could be better?

The lazier of the two kitties
After setting up our tent, I quickly rode back into town to buy groceries for the evening. On the way I spotted this guy on the shoulder of the road:
It wasn't quite obvious in which direction he was headed and so I didn't carry him across the road. Fortunately, by the time I came back he was no longer there.

This wasn't the last wildlife of the day: While we were sitting next to the firepit, dusk slowly surrounding us, I suddenly spotted a skunk! This visitor wasn't exactly welcome and our knowledge of what to do in case of skunk encounter was spotty. I made hissing noises towards it but that scared the biketopus more than the skunk... Fortunately, the skunk seemed to be more interested in insects than us and continued on its way. Quickly we consulted teh Google for skunk advice and were relieved to read that them spraying humans is actually not that common.

Nonetheless, after dinner and spotting the skunk in the distance a couple more time we made sure to hang up all our food and other smelly items. As we didn't have anything to hang up the trash, I decided to walk to the trash containers near the campground exit. At this point it was pretty dark and misty. I was happy to have arrived at the container without any further wildlife encounters -- or so I thought. Just as I was about to throw the trash bag into the container, my headlamp reflected back from the eyes of three raccoons who were sitting right in the container, giving me a "What do you want here? This is our trash" look. Well, I decided to just hang my bag on the fence around the containers and quickly retreated to our tent.

> forward to day 6