Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tour des des Laurentides et des Outouais - Fables and foibles

So I got this idea in my head after last year stumbling across an essentially similar route posted by a friend (who never did end up doing it) on ridewithgps.

The window of opportunity opened for me this last week of August 2012 and the weather forecast was making that window sparkle....so with a borrowed set of panniers and rack it was a relatively last minute, minimal planning, “just do it” adventure. Now of course that being the case there were a few typical little snags and adversities - but all were managed !

1) Installing the rack the night before leaving - snapped a bolt in the stay lug just above the derailleur. Luckily a friend lives close by with all the appropriate tools to help out in this case and after a bit of work - got ‘er done...Thanks Ian !

2) I wanted to follow the actual Route Verte to Laval and up to the start of the p’tit train du nord, now the route verte website is really kind of crappy from a user perspective so was up til 5 am trying to cut and paste screenshots of various sections of the winding route through Laval and get them printed....not too much sleep for what I had planned to be a 170 km day !

With an eventual 12:20 departure, tentatively rolling along the western pathway with 35 extra pounds on my rear axle I had little faith in actually arriving at my intended destination (Oka park). So far so goo though, and every km I tick through Ottawa and Gatineau towards the 148 East instills a bit more confidence. Most of the route is path til east Gatineau then the 148 to Masson is not too bad. Masson to Montebello however sucks rocks...lots of fast big traffic including logging trucks....I REALLY hope it is not like this all the way to Laval !!

3) The next snag turned out to be a couple of loose spokes...in the rear wheel of all things, my Stans 24 spoke CX race wheel - (ya foible number 3 - did not think to put my old heavy duty mavic wheel back on the bike). Nevertheless I managed to get that fixed up in Montebello, and with the spokes tensioned of course the wheel was a bit out of true, so a bit more work to make that manageable. Riding after that just felt more solid and confident !

Riding east of Montebello was a real pleasure - very light traffic and lovely hills to the north, meadows to the south. The actual route verte takes a few turns but as dusk was aproaching I stuck mostly to the 148 and 344.

4) Next foible - a little niggle in the left knee....only 120 k into a 670 ride...!

Stopped at dusk for pizza in Sainte Andre with about 30 k to go to Oka. Decided to stop now as I did not think there would be much open down the road and had no intention of cooking after a long day. 1.5 hrs riding in the dark (augmented with moonlight) in the very light traffic was quite fine. Arrived at Oka park at 9:30 and just set up tent in a small clearing in some bush.

5) After a fitful 4 hrs of sleep I woke to ....you guessed it...a flat...on the rear no less. Pumped it up and it held for a while but slow leaked. Finding a decent spot to effectuate my tube change at the east park gate I discovered a tiny wire in the tube (never seen something stay in the tube before -usually it stays in the tire). Got that fixed up but then discovered (foible number 6) a loose cassette, for this I need a shop. The very helpful girl at the desk mentioned that there was a shop about 7 km up the path in Sainte Marthe sur le lac. Got that fixed up lickety-split and on my way again on a beautiful sunny (albeit windy...again) day !

Rode through some lovely neighborhoods in Laval. Took a bit of getting used to the bike lanes in the opposite direction of vehicle traffic...a little disconcerting with opposing traffic turning right (almost into me), all manner of skateboarders, walkers, rogue squirrels and bikes all over the lane. The tour de Laval took me to Bois de Fillion where I stopped for lunch and the start of the p’tit train....it is actually the -30 km mark as the zero km mark is up in St. Jerome. I did get off track at one point and got the GPS going to get me back to the track in Ste. Therese at the -17 km mark. Heading north out of Laval is quite nice with lovely green fields and meadows, the beautiful Riviere du nord...of course the nice weather helps but the wind is now in my face and even the smallest hills felt tough with the weight. Felt pretty cooked for the last 20 km and finally found the campground at Val David 4 km off the trail. Shower, steak, wine, beer...ahhhhh !

Day 3 is the shortest day (100 km) and the only one completely on the p’tit train du nord. 12 noon departure with blue sky and a plan to soft pedal flats and downhills and spin uphills in order to preserve my knee from that niggle that appeared on day one. The omnipresent wind however (while not too too strong) was nevertheless unrelenting.

Foible 7 - well not really a foible but shortly into the ride a bit of a concern regarding tingling numb fingers...had not experienced this on other days so was wondering why so early into today’s ride. Also on this day I started to feel this weird blissfully ethereal somewhat hypoxic sort of out-of-body state on the bike, similar to a nice cool buzz. I even thought a few times that I might keel right over to the side while riding. Not sure whether to attribute that to three nights of crappy (quality and quantity) sleep or the “Arthur’s green energy” smoothy I had before take-off.

This day brought some beautifully idyllic meadows, fields and pastures, lovely rivers, rapids and tree covered hills, even a turtle crossing. There were also some rather forgettable sections, particularly km 57-67 ish which is mostly along the 117 and quarries. At km 67 was a nice (finally) downhill...it is amazing how even a 2% grade lets one fly downhill with 35 extra pounds strapped to one’s ass - of course the uphills at even such a shallow grade are thusly accentuated ! As I approached Lac Nominingue I had to use some half-assed rusty french to get directions and the info I needed. People were mostly very helpful.

Day 4 - 9:55 departure - forgot water bottle 5 k up the trail, return, 10:20 departure. Some grey clouds interspersed with occasional tranches of blue. Today I had none of the finger fuzzies, but there were a lot of dive bombing jays and some crazy (sorry - PC - “emotionally unbalanced”) squirrels. My old friend the wind hitherto came again ! While the remaining trail is asphalt, some sections here are alas reminiscent of typical Quebec roads. There are some great views but many are obstructed by trees along the trail. At Mont Laurier I was on a desperate search for ham and cheese on a croissante...mission accomplished and after some chill time headed off on the 117 west. The next 7 k were thoroughly unenjoyable with the quadrefecta of traffic, hills, wind and construction. Next 10 were reasonably decent with paved shoulder, traffic was likely exacerbated by the impending long weekend. Lots of big honking land yachticals towing big honking motor boaticles.

At 107 south there is no shoulder, crappier road and shorter steeper hills, but there is less traffic (save for some teenage pustules of discontent driving their wanna be formula one frankenmobiles), and was maybe more sheltered from the wind. Alas my old nemesis the wind spared little mercy...peut-etre un petit peu. Cependant, j’ai bien profite’ du grace a’ on ami Monsieur Soleil !

Eventually to Maniwaki (my first time there) and on to the veloroute des draveurs. The first 15 k is essentially unmaintained by the municipality as it goes through Kitigan Zibi Indian Reserve and is used by trucks, ATV’s etc. As I’ve been known to like a little adventure with my adventures I figured what the hell. While it starts paved in Maniwaki it switches quickly to gravel then compacted sand, some parts smooth, others a rutted pitted minefield requiring adept navigation and mental concentration. I stopped along a lovely lake with impending gorgeous sunset and considered commando camping there. But it looked like well used by the local yutes on dirtbikes / quads with beer and bonfires. Not knowing how appreciative said yutes might be to a pale interloper squatting on their land I decided press on to Lac Grenon. Basically this is mostly a seasonal RV camp but I was afforded a nice patch of grass near the water and after a massive wind whipped up, later settled to a peaceful starry night.

Day 5 was perfect weather, this time 70% blue sky interspersed with puffy white clouds. Stopped at the Pinewood restaurant in Low for a DEEEEE-licious BELTO on rye, (bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and onion). Then down the 105 for a ways to Farrelton where it was decision time....decided to rid myself of the highway and continue the adventure on the east side of the river. While the gravel itself was pretty decent, the underlying washboard was somewhat disconcerting given the 35 extra pounds on my rear and a diminishing supply of tubes. Eventually came out to the Wakefield covered bridge (upon which a wedding was occurring), and waited for the “walk down the isle” to finish before proceeding across in the remaining space as innocuously as possible. Ran into Neil here and he snapped this fuzzy (but only) photo of me on the trip.

From here there is still a ways to get home but I really feel like it is my “backyard”. Some Pipolinka baked goods, then down to Chelsea, through the park, back to the mighty Ottawa river and finally home to Britannia. A long day and longer journey fulfilled....topped off with Baja Burger and beer on Britannia beach...what more could one want !?

And so another moderate adventure filed away in the annals of Mike’s repertoire.
A’ la prochaine !

(Day 2 and 4 the profiles are actually reversed...and the order below is day 5 first then down to day 1...yes as you can tell this IT stuff is not my forte'!)

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