Friday, March 23, 2012

Ride report: Going west, to the Canal de Soulanges

One temperature record is following the other here in Montreal, and after my rather foggy Saturday ride, Sunday was forecast to be sunny and warm. Despite not having gotten much sleep, I decided to go for a long ride, getting to the mainland west of the Ile de Montreal for the first time this year. After taking the usual way west, along the Lachine Canal and then following Lakeshore/Bord du Lac to the western tip of the island. Then you cross the Rapides de Sainte-Anne next to the motorway and go across Ile Perrot on the fairly busy and unattractive Grand Boulevard/5e Avenue (a nicer alternative is to go around the island, but that adds a lot of distance). Another bridge next to A20 will take into Dorion where after half a kilometer of very dangerous contra-flow riding on the shoulder of the A20 you turn left onto Avenue Saint-Jean-Baptiste and then merge onto Route 338. Route 338, running mostly parallel to the A20 is not very busy and has a nicely paved shoulder all the way to the hamlet of Pointe-des-Cascades. Pointe-des-Cascades is the end point of the now derelict Canal de Soulange. According to Wikipedia, the canal was built as a replacement for the original Beauharnois Canal but became obsolete with the opening of the St. Lawrence seaway on the other shore of the river.

Canal de Soulange
Large parts of the Canal de Soulanges were still covered with ice

Route 338
Route 338: as straight as it gets
A very nice bike path is following the old canal on its entire length--something I didn't realize before already having ridden on the parallel Route 338 for a couple of kilometers. On this stretch, the nice paved shoulder was replaced by the typical Canadian unpaved shoulder, but as traffic remained light riding was very pleasant. Following the canal, the road is dead straight for many kilometers, interrupted only by a big construction site at the crossing with the future Autoroute de l'Acier.
Construction at the future A30
Building a southern bypass for Montreal
Having now realized that there was a bike path on the other side of the canal, I rode across a bridge and initially was very happy to find a nicely paved, wide path. However, happiness didn't last for more than a couple hundred meters, as in the shade there were still significant amounts of ice and snow on the path. the first few patches I precariously rode over, but it only got worse and I decided to turn around and continue on the 338. (Probably a wise decision, as on the way back I encountered a roadie who had just crashed on one of the icy patches).
Canal de Soulange bike path: here without snow
Not having eaten too much, I slowly started bonking and I decided to stop at the next little village, Coteau du Lac, have some food and then head back home.
Crackers and Pepsi: the lunch of champions
Having de-bonked and with the benefit of a slight tail wind I just glided back, first on the 338 and for the last part to Pointe-des-Cascades on the bike path.

Ceci n'est pas un dirt road. Just a bike path at the end of winter.
The rest of the ride was rather uneventful, but provided the opportunity for taking a bunch of nice snapshots:
Still a lot of ice on the river
Big ice sheets floating down the Rapides-de-Sainte-Anne

Contra-flow bike/ped lane on Bord-du-Lac
A final rest stop
Just before the sun set I arrived home, after 140km.

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