Montréal to Chambly - The Andersons at one - CycleBlaze

June 15, 2018

Montréal to Chambly

For weeks, Rachael and I have been working ourselves into a high state of excitement about our summer vacation plans.  Now that the time has arrived, it has a strangely dreamlike feeling to it for me - it is difficult to grasp that it is actually at hand.

We left Salem in the early evening, after taking Mike Bennett, a former AFS employee (our office), out to dinner at La Estrellita.  Mike, recently separated from his wife Karen, is carless at present - so we decided to offer him the use of ours while we're away in exchange for a ride to the Portland airport.

We arrived at the airport at about 9:30 PM, several nights before our midnight departure to Montreal by way of Chicago.  After checking our baggage (which was a fairly annoying process - American charged us @20 for two plastic bags, plus $120 excess baggage fee for the bikes) we went to the departure gate and made a futile effort to nap until departure time.  We were destined to arrive in Montreal poorly rested - between losing three hours from the time zone change and enduring quite uncomfortable seats both in the terminal and on board, we were both tired by our arrival in Montreal at 10:30 the next morning.

We weren't daunted by the lack of rest though.  After reassembling and loading our bikes we stashed he bike bags in the weeds behind a gas station, hoping that they woud still be there for reuse on our return, and then departed for downtown Montreal.

Our first goal was the Jaques Cartier Bridge, which my Quebec bike map described as the easiest traverse of the Saint Lawrence Seaway (I think - the map is annotated in French, of course).   It took us at least two hours to arrive there - two hours of heavy traffic, many trucks, pitted shoulders - in short, normal urban biking conditions.

Montreal is impressive for its size, and also for its cultural and ethnic diversity.  I was quite surprised to pass through a large Greek neighborhood, for example.  We got off our bikes once to wander around and explored the bakeries - they offered a delicious feta cheese filled pastry at one location.

We finally arrived at the bridge, after enduring several wrong directions, cul-de-sacs, and so on.  The bridge itself is high above the river  and several miles long.  There was a heavy headwind and much traffic, but it felt reasonably safe to bike over - there were high railings on both sides. (I also recall how difficult and frightening it was trying to cross the busy highway after we crossed the bridge).

For the most part, this was a pretty nerve racking day.  Even after we left Montreal we remained under its congested influence for several more hours.  It wasn't until toward the end of the day that we were out of the noise and tension of constant traffic.  in addition to the noise, we had to contend with unfriendly weather - frequently strong headwinds, and by the end of the day enough rain to leave us both thoroughly filthy from road splash.

In spite of the traffic and weather though, the day was sprinkled with the moments of delight that make bike touring such a rich experience.  My favorite memory from today was of asking three teenagers in Chambly if there was a motel in town.  None of the three spoke English at all, and communication was quite tortured.  It was a treat though to watch their giggling, nervousness and excitement as they tried to provide directions. 

Before proceeding to the motel, we took our mud-spattered selves into the grocery to assemble a dinner.  We had an abundance to choose from - rows of open bins filled with trail mix, cookies and other enticements.  The most interesting part of our dinner was a delicious pressed cheese that made an odd squeaky sound when chewed.

Our motel was a clean, pleasant place on the Richleau River next to an old French outpost, Fort Chambry.  The cheerful proprietor stored our bikes for us in his warehouse, and we retired to our room - where , after enjoying our meal and making a semisuccessful attempt at cleaning off the effects of the day, we rather abruptly discovered that we were exhausted and fell asleep.

Leaving the Montreal airport
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The Saint Lawrence seaway, from the Jacques Cartier bridge
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Today's ride: 55 miles (89 km)
Total: 55 miles (89 km)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesYour experience biking the same route today would be very different since there are now wonderful separate bike paths in to Montreal and a bike path over the bridge as well. Montreal has become a very bike friendly city in recent years.
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4 years ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesSo I’ve heard. I hope so - after all this time, it still scares me thinking about getting off that bridge. Our cycling career could easily have ended right there.

We may find out before that long. We’ve been talking about filling a Schengen Gap with a ride down the east coast from Montreal or Quebec City again one of these next summers. I’d love to cycle the same country again, 30 years later.
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4 years ago