I planned the route using my local knowledge of the region, gained on my long solo rides and brevets, the Route Verte guidebook, and the Strava global heatmap. I knew that 600km in one week would be pushing it, especially if you keep in mind that as a rule of thumb you have to add about 10% distance in order to get a realistic estimate. But since the last part of the ride would be in well-known territory I knew that I could always come up with a shortcut if necessary.
Preparation for the ride was a bit hectic. As per usual, Wolfgang, my trusty Surly Cross-Check, would be carrying most of the gear, and as I had recently switched out the fork to a disc-brake compatible one, I had to install a new front rack, a Tubus Tara. Other than that and switching one of Wolfgang's badly worn tires, both our bikes were in pretty good shape. The night before our departure, we finished packing all our gear, and on Friday morning it was time to load up. Wolfgang was burdened with two Ortlieb Front Rollers, my recently acquired Back Roller Pluses, the REI Half Dome Plus tent, and a little army surplus handlebar bag. All together, bike and gear weighed in at about 39kg, if our luggage scale is to be trusted. Madge, the Biketopus's Fuji Touring, had one rear pannier and the classic Thermarest on the rack.
All the preparation paid off, and on Friday morning, at 9:30 we left home -- even half an hour earlier than planned! Originally, the first stage of the ride would have led us almost to Granby, but since one of the campgrounds there was full and the other one didn't have potable water(?!), we aimed for a campground near Ange-Gardien.
At the request of the Biketopus, we left the island of Montreal via the Champlain Bridge Ice Control Structure (Estacade) and were then planning to get to the South Shore at the Saint-Lambert locks. Unfortunately, a big ship was just about to enter the locks, which would have meant at least a 30 minute delay. Instead, we decided to detour via the Jacques Cartier Bridge, adding a few kilometers and, more importantly, the first steep climb of our trip. Pushing Wolfgang up that incline was a sharp reminder that I was no longer riding my 11-34 MTB cassette like on the last tour, but merely a 13-26. Oh well, too late.
|Cockpit panda of Wolfgang and me|
On the South Shore, we took our first little break on the Route Verte 1, which we would follow for the next 30km into Chambly -- a familiar route to both of us.
|Time for a second breakfast|
|Wolfgang and Madge|
|After getting out of the suburbs, the nice riding begins|
Before we got going again, I had to re-tighten Madge's handlebars. Unfortunately, somewhere in the process of packing up again, I left behind both my bike gloves and the padlock for our bikes -- something I realized only many kilometers further along.
After passing the first set of locks on the Chambly Canal, we left the Route Verte, crossed the Richelieu River and got onto the Route des Champs. This involves some confusing zig-zagging in the towns of Richelieu and Marieville, but also a newly paved stretch of road with wide bike lanes. The first half of the Route des Champs is on well-maintained gravel. As the name of the route implies, it leads mostly through fields and isn't particularly exciting.
|Gravel portion of the Route des Champs|
|A happy Biketopus|
The final stretch of the ride dragged on a little longer than expected and we re-checked Google Maps to make sure we were on the right track. Indeed, we were, and after the next turn Camping Mon Repos appeared. We were happy to see that their sign included a cyclist:
|Not bike campers...|
Somewhat less pleasant was the fact that one had to pay for hot water in the showers. Not so much a problem for me, as I always shower cold anyway, but the Biketopus instead chose to just go for a swim in one of the three pools. After a big dinner and a couple of beers, we crawled into our sleeping bags and dozed off.
> continue to day 2