Day 40 – July 17th -Bancroft to Renfrew – 136 kms
A tough day today. Not huge mileage, but the high humidity has made exerting any effort twice as challenging. With the humidex factored in, temperatures felt (and still do) as if they were in the 40’s. Thundershowers just started as I pulled into Renfrew, so perhaps a good storm tonight will clear the humidity up. I’m holed up in a motel tonight, waiting for the big storm; I sure hope that it happens, because I’m pretty drained after today. The air outside is just putrid and even discounting the rain, trying to keep cool and breathe in my tent would have been impossible tonight. I’ve found that there’s nothing worse, in humid weather, than laying in my tent with everything zipped up to keep the bugs out, and trying to keep cool and get some sleep.
Today was definitely the worst humidity that I have encountered up to now for the whole trip. To add to that, this morning I rode the steepest grades of the trip so far. On leaving Bancroft, I had about three “good morning legs!” hills – but they were just the warm-ups. Highway 28, between Bancroft and Denbigh is VERY hilly. I rode some knee-knackering posted grades of 12% to 18%! And before my second breaky too! Once again, I thought that I’d be out of luck for a cafe, but when 28 joined 41, there was a lonely motel, with a lonely restaurant, waiting for the lonely (famished, sweaty and jelly-kneed) cyclist. Fortuitous! The waitress was talkative very friendly too, even to the extent of some of extra – free – pancakes for me! They didn’t go waste, I can tell you!
After that, the rest of the day’s ride was still hilly, but much less so. The taxing part was the humidity; it was like riding in a sauna! I drank, sweated, drank, sweated and unfortunately there were not many places to pick up cold drinks either. Luckily this morning, I set off with a full complement of water/Gatorade – about 2.75 litres. I replenished some of this at my breakfast stop, but didn’t have chance to restock again until I turned off 41 onto 132 at Dacre – I was pretty well dry by then! Needless to say, the roads that I travelled were pretty quiet, and basically, apart from aforementioned killer hills, very good riding. The scenery wasn’t the greatest though; I passed a lot of swamps today, so I had the usual troupe of bugs for companions as I crawled up the grades.
Renfrew’s a busy little place. It’s at the junction of Highways 60 and 132, with the TC 17 on the doorstep; not to mention the Ottawa river and Quebec border very close by.
I’m planning on some more county roads tomorrow to take me to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and then the parkway through the city. I don’t plan on stopping there, but that will all depend on the weather! At least I’ve got air-conditioning for tonight, Basil demanded it!
By the way, as I rode into Renfrew, the odometer turned over 5000 kms!
Day 41 – July 18th -Renfrew to Cumberland – 146 kms
Thankfully it rained quite a bit last night and the winds started blowing from the north, so it was much cooler this morning. Even though the wind was in my face much of the day, it was easier to take than the humidity of the previous day.
I took all the county roads that I could find to get myself into Ottawa and avoid the TC17. I did end up riding on the TC, but for only about 3 kms coming out of Arnprior. Some of today’s ride was alongside the Ottawa river with views of the Quebec countryside on the opposite bank. The river is quite wide at this point and dotted with numerous islands. The rest of the ride was through the lush farmlands of the Ottawa valley. I had some fantastic landscape vistas over fairly flat terrain. I also passed many large country houses; I guess that some of Ottawa’s rich and famous frolic on the banks of the river – or play at hobby farmers! I also passed through the village of Carp, which we all should know is the home of the “Diefenbunker.”
I was already getting a bike lane when I was still 25 kms out of the city centre, which made Ottawa seems very cycle friendly until I hit a road without a bike lane, then I really had to look out! However, from about 15 kms out, I rode all the way to the Parliament Buildings downtown on a bike path.
And about 10 kms riding out of the city was on a bike path too. Nevertheless, any other roads that I had to ride in, or close to, the core of the city were very busy. Fortunately, I have visited Ottawa before (not as a cyclist though), so I had a fairly good handle on which direction I wanted to go. Ultimately, taking the back roads and bike paths, made for a longer day, but I got some quick sightseeing in and the ride really was very pleasant. Lots of local cyclists here, so I got to chat with quite a few during my travels along the bike path and a snack stop at a street vendor’s cart. I should have a placard on my back with the standard answers, you know – I’m from Vancouver Island. Yes, I’ve ridden all the way here. I’m going to the east coast; yada, yada, yada! Seriously though, I do like to talk about my trip to anyone who’ll listen.
I’m in a campsite on the shores of the Ottawa river about 3 kms east of Cumberland, or 6 kms west of Rockland, whichever way you want to look at it. Actually, the campsite is on the shores of a small inlet of the river, more like a swamp when I really look at it! I guess that the mozzies will be out to visit later! But I’ve camped in worse places and the location was a good stopping point for today’s ride.
Well it’s time to cook up another wonderful one pot creation, let me see, rice or pasta? …Tomorrow’s episode: Escape from Ontario!
Day 42 – July 19th -Cumberland, ON, to St. Canut, Quebec – 125 kms
Bienvenue a Quebec! I’m finally in another province! That took 2570 kms to get through Ontario – give or take a few pedal strokes. Admittedly, I did cross Ontario at almost it’s widest point, and also took the Manitoulin Island/Bruce Peninsula route, which added a few “klicks” on. Nevertheless, it was still a big task to cross no matter which way I would have gone.
Once again, I only had to ride the TC17 for short while to just east of Rockland, where I breakfasted at a Tim Horton’s. I then found the “Old Highway 17,” which hugs the banks of the river for much of its route, all the way to Hawksbury. Another delightfully quiet road through some great countryside. Too bad that I had a headwind all day, as that spoiled the ride a wee bit.
I had my second breaky there, at Hawksbury, and picked up some supplies, then crossed the bridge to Grenville, Quebec. It was recycle day there, so I stuck my Ontario map into somebody’s blue bin – Yeay!
From there, Highway 148 had a nice shoulder all the way to Lachute; I then turned onto 158 where the shoulder is spotty to say the least, luckily though, not too busy. The area that I’m in is north of Montreal, which is not very far away; hence, I’m in an area of Montreal’s bedroom communities so the traffic comes with the territory. As I travel further east, I should lose some of the hustle and bustle from Canada’s second largest city. Do I want to visit Montreal on my bike? No way, that’s why I’m staying north of the place; I’m more interested in visiting Quebec City to be honest – I might opt for some layover time there?
Well, I do feel like a foreigner in my own country and I’ve only been here half a day! Many people do not speak any English, or choose not to, so even deciphering the amount of money someone is asking for, in a store etc., is quite taxing. I’ll get by though, I’m sure. They do sell beer in the grocery stores here though, so not everything is lost!
I’m camping at a family campground, and much like Ontario, many of the RV’s at these places will never move again. They are blocked up and have permanent plumbing etc. Really, they’ve been made into cottages with additions and little gardens etc. It also appears that the Quebec trailer/RV parks mostly all have bingo sessions on an evening. I guess that I’ll have to try it when I figure out how to count that high in French! I’m only up to 29 at present! After Rockland, it was surprising to see how quickly the language of the locals started changing as I headed east, even though I was still in Ontario. In Hawksbury, more people spoke French than English. The towns actually look different here too; and I have seen magnificent churches in each of the villages I have passed through. I’m sure that these are a result of the French Acadians that populated much of Quebec.
I plan to stay on the 158 until Berthierville, when I’ll switch to the 138, which should eventually take me to Quebec City. Hoping for that tailwind tomorrow, it’s about time I had one! St. Jerome is not far away, so I might go for that double bagel breakfast again at Timmy’s in the morning!
Day 43 – July 20th -St. Canut to Trois Riviere – 170 kms
Much more than I wanted to cycle today, but chances for lodgings or camping were not readily available. I ended up at the hostel here in Trois Riviere, so at least I found somewhere to lay my weary bones. I had a quick shower and ambled downtown; of course all the restaurant/bars have outside seating on the main streets, as per the cafes in France and much of Europe, and they’re all packed (Oh I forgot!… It’s Saturday!). I’ve managed to squeeze into one and ordered a mound of food and a beer while I type this journal report. They found me an English menu; I guess they don’t think much of my French. I did manage through the day though, to receive everything that I asked for, but everyone guessed that I was English, I wonder why?
The first 120 kms today were brutal, a strong northeast headwind dogged me down. It faded a bit this afternoon and shifted to the south, so that’s how I managed to survive the day. I can’t understand all these headwinds that I’m getting, they sure are spoiling my days riding and making for a lot of extra effort and fatigue. The countryside that I rode through on 158 was ho-hum, and I’ve been riding the flattest roads since eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It sure felt like the prairies too, with that strong wind and open fields – nowhere to run, nowhere to hide came to mind! Perhaps tomorrow will be better; keep them fingers crossed!
The best part of the ride was when I left 158 and picked up 138 at Berthierville. 138 is part of Quebec’s “Route Verte” and has a nice marked cycling shoulder all the way to Trois Riviere. I’ll be continuing on 138 to Quebec City tomorrow, so let’s hope for a prolongation of the cycling lane. And the best part of 138 today was the final 15 kms alongside the banks of the Saint Lawrence seaway; this section is known as “Lac St. Pierre.” Why they call the river a lake is beyond me, but there you have it!
Today, I saw more Harley Davidson motorbikes than I have for a long time, the roads were full of them, all cruising the same route as me it seems. And not just guys, but lots of female riders too. Lots of recreational cyclists out too, I guess because it’s the weekend and nice weather that everybody has their two wheeled toys out for a run.
I can’t believe the amount of people that I see every day. No lonely little villages here, they’re all packed with civilisation. Fortunately, some major highways parallel my route, so the bulk of the traffic (and trucks) use those those routes.
I’m a tired old guy tonight, and the beer and food have made me even more lethargic. There’s a comfy bed waiting for me at the hostel, which fortunately is not too far away. I’ve just got to brave the Saturday evening crowds to get there – man, oh man, there’s a lot of people here! The main streets are all closed to vehicle traffic for the evening, so the crowd is wide and deep! Lots of street artists and performers to entertain the throng too!