Cross Canada Tour 1995: Quebec

( part of 1995 cross-Canada bike tour)

Thur 20-July evening I am camping at Wendover, Rockland Ont. east of Ottawa after having cycled from central Alberta in 26 days. If you missed the first parts of the story it is archived on my home pages "" in the Cross Canada Cycling section.

Fri 21-July Lac Echo, Quebec [150km 780m]

I didn't have a good map of the area so I had to ride on Rt 17 for about 10 km to Plantagenet before turning off on County Rd 9 to get back to the river shore and County Rd 24. This is a nice road along the river. I saw several cyclists touring this morning, in fact, I think I saw more today than in the whole of the trip so far.

I can see the hills across in Quebec which are the southern flanks of the Laurentians. I had traversed those hills on the Canadian Ski Marathon in 1989. That was 170 km in 2 days from Lachute to Gatineau. At Lefaivre I get a view of Chateau Montebello on the other side. This is the world's largest log building, it was constructed in the 1930s. The only other time I had seen it was before dawn as we started the second day of the CSM.

The road is not quite on the river here. To my right, away from the river, the scenery is very pastoral, grain fields, pastures with contented cows. There are some fine old farm houses built of stone and sturdy barns of squared off timbers. The other side of the road, towards the river, is suburban lots. "Tacky" is the word for it.

By late morning I reach Hawksbury and cross over the bridge into Quebec, it is still part of Canada. On the other side is a tourist bureau for Argenteuil region. "Je voudrais une carte de Laurentides". They had some free tourist pamphlets and I also bought a map of the Laurentide-Lanaudiere region for $3.

I found that the maps in "La Cartoteque" series were very good. This one was scale 1:125000 and shows all the side roads and their names. There are 10 maps in the series. The only problems are that they don't have topographic info and each map doesn't cover much territory. I hoped that I could find other maps in the series.

Rather than take Rt 148, which had fairly heavy traffic, I took the slightly longer Rt 344 along the Ottawa River. These is a very nice road winding through woods. I stopped for lunch at a picnic area by a fish hatchery. It is getting very hot. The river is dammed downstream at the Carillon Dam and the road runs along a dike.

Then I turn off on Chem. Robert to join Rt 148 just out of Lachute. The main street is under construction and it is very hot. I was going to go looking for the start of the CSM but didn't.

So I rode out of town on Rt 158. There was a picnic area at the junction of Rt 329 so I stopped for a second lunch there. The usual afternoon thundershower hit so I waited a little longer under a picnic shelter.

It has been very flat riding for the past several days but I'm making a slight diversion and pilgrimage into the Laurentians. The road almost immediately starts climbing rather steeply. I see quite a few racing type cyclists so this must be a popular training ground. It is hot but the map shows several lakes along the road so I'm looking forward to a refreshing dip. The first disappointment comes. Any lake that isn't swampy is completely surrounded by houses or hotels. I'm not in Northern Ontario anymore! I did find one bit of lake right along the road where I did get in for a swim.

After 35 km I come into Morin Heights. The last bit is a very steep downhill. The place is pretty crowded but nothing compared to what lies ahead. I turned onto Rt 364 and it was mostly downhill to St Sauveur. For some reason I had expected quaint little villages in scenic valleys. This place is very commercialized. Fast food places, discos, etc. It's almost as bad as Banff!

There are over 4 million people living within 100 km of here. That's 5 times the population of Nova Scotia and about 20% of the population of Canada so I guess one should expect urbanization. I'm spoiled by the relative quiet of the Maritimes.

More disappointments happen. At the tourist bureau I learn that the southern section of Petit Train du Nord, the bike path along an old rail line, is still under construction and quite rough. I am also told that campgrounds will be all full tonight. The guy phones a campground near Lac Echo and says they will save a spot. "Merci, mais ...". That means I'll have to get to that campground.

I also found out that the "Jackrabbit" museum was closed, due to lack of funds. This was the main reason for coming here, but I'll go have a look anyways. So I get cross the Autoroute and find my way to Rue Beaulne in Piedmont. This is a much quieter neighborhood although there are threatening signs up for lots in a new subdivision. It is also a very hilly street. Then I get to #20, the house where "Jackrabbit" Johanssen lived the last 30 years of his life. Herman "Jackrabbit" Johanssen, a Norwegian immigrant, was the grandfather of Canadian skiing.

Enough of this. It's going to be dark soon and I've got to get to that campground. I get on Rt 117 which is a wide road with shoulders, the heavier traffic is on Rt 15 the Autoroute. Prevost (Shawbridge) has a lot of commercial development along the road so it was difficult to find Ch. du Lac Echo. There was a very tiny street sign on the other side of the road so I missed it on my first pass through. The road to Lac Echo is uphill and the 5 km seems a long way as the sun sets.

Finally I turn on to Rt 333 and it's downhill. I'm looking for Chemin du 1er Rang, but the road that I thought was it had a sign with a different name so I pass it going downhill. There is nothing else so that must be it so I go back uphill and turn off. It is quite dark now but I see a sign for a campground. Surely way out here in the woods it will be a nice quiet place?

When I see the entrance I am almost blinded by the lights of the place. It is a big trailer park. I see banners up "Joyeux Noel". Oh,oh. It's "Noel en Juillet"! I had actually experienced this phenomenon at a campground in NS a few years ago. It consists of putting very tacky Christmas lawn ornaments and playing very bad "Christmas" music on your outdoor sound system.

They had reserved a "tent site" for me. It was way at the back on in an area too steep and rocky for trailers. At least it was away from the noise and lights. It cost $16, the most expensive camp fee on the trip. I managed to find a semilevel spot with no too many rocks for my tent. I didn't secure my pannier with food. No bears here?

Later I heard something chewing and then my pannier being knocked over. I went out and got it. My worst fear was confronting a skunk.

Sat 22-July Pierreville [145km 84m]

At breakfast I could not find my bananas, I was sure I had 4 or 5 of them. I found the peals on the ground. Raccoons can neatly peal a banana! At least I still had some food left.

Finally I got away around 1000. It was a nice road through the woods downhill along the Abercrombie River to New Glasgow. Those names don't sound French! Then I came to Rt 158. But there are many back roads running parallel to it so I take them instead, that good map is very useful here. First I headed along Chem. Du Achigan Sud, then towards Crabtree.

This is farmland as flat as the Prairies but with more trees and varied scenery. The roads aren't as straight. In place of the grain elevators the chief landmarks are the spires of the big churches. I can spot St Jacques, St Alexis, Ste Marie-Salome. I see some club cyclists out on a ride. I found some shade near Crabtree for a lunch break. It is very hot. Rivers and pond here are very muddy looking so there's no swimming possibilities.

Then I pass by St Joliette and St Thomas and then take Rang St Philomene to Rt 138 at Berthierville. Here the St Lawrence has split into several channels. There is a picnic area and boat launch so I went down to it for a snack stop. Swimming here is not a possibility. The water is muddy brown. The boats launched here are not canoes or sailboats or little put-put motor boats, they are huge VAROOM speed boats. Even when they are idling they sound like big trucks.

Rt 158 crosses 3 channels before coming to the ferry to Sorel. So now I cross the St Lawrence, the most important of Canadas historical waterways.

Sorel had a lot of fast food strips. But there was one nice thing. I went into a convenience store at a gas station and discovered some excellent, fresh-baked, whole-wheat bread. There were lots of little bakeries in the next few days.

The road was a bit bumpy with fairly heavy Saturday afternoon traffic. I have gone off the edge of my good map, and couldn't find another. It looked like there were side roads parallel to Rt 132, but there may not be bridges across the rivers. After crossing a river at Yamaska, I turned off on some nice side road but there was no bridge across Riv St Francis so I had to go back to Rt 132. It was a nice ride along th river. I finally found a good map in St Francois. Rt 132 was getting better, anyways.

I had a quick supper in a little picnic park. I almost wimped out and checked into a motel! Most of the campgrounds I had passed had Noel signs up so avoided them. I'll look for a spot in the woods near Pierreville. The black flies were quite thick here so I got into my tent quickly.

Sun-23-July Laurier [145km 228m]

I got out of the woods before the black flies became active. It was about 10km to Nicolet. It was warm and humid with sunny periods. I had breakfast in a park by the Nicolet River, then left about 0830.

I rode north through the town, then turned on to Boul. Becancour which goes along the St Lawrence. Trois Rivieres is across the river and I pass under the bridge. Then I enter the Becancour Industrial Park. This is a long straight 4 lane boulevard with no traffic. There is a very noticeable 60 HZ hum. I pass the Reynolds Metal plant, maybe they make 531 tubing there. But the big event is where Cannondale frame material comes from. This is an enormous building with aluminum electrolysis plants. There must be gigawatts of electric power going into it. That's something to think about when one discards a aluminum pop can, how many mega-joules are you throwing away?. And last but not least is what makes all this possible, a nuclear power plant!

Now I have left the urban and industrial areas behind I'm getting into a very nice part of the province. Traffic is light along Rt 132. At Gentilly I stop at a old mill museum. This is an example of the old community flour mills. They even bake bread in a large outdoor oven. I see quite a few of these ovens as I head along the Lower St Lawrence. I buy a lot of fresh wholegrain bread in the next few days.

Coming into St-Pierre-les-Becquets it started to rain, heavily. I sought refuge under the overhang of a gas station. I heard a knocking on the window. "Entree, entree! ", the owner said. I put my bike in the garage and went into his office. Time to test my very rusty French, he doesn't speak much English. "Je vais sur velo a travers du Canada, d'Edmonton a Halifax. Quatre semaines"

Most of my French education was in reading. My translation algorithm is to try to mentally write the spoken words down, then translate into English. This does not work in "real time" !

Then he invited me in to his house. His wife and son spoke a little more English. They offered me coffee and cookies. The rain continued pouring down for at least an hour, then I left around 1400. "Merci beaucoup!"

I tried to ride fast while it wasn't raining but then I met a bilingual couple who were out on a tour of several days. They said that Rt 185, the TCH, was the best highway to New Brunswick, it had a wide shoulder. They also mentioned that the old rail line from Riviere du Loup was converted into a bike path. Just as we parted, it started to rain again. I found a picnic shelter in a park near Descaillons. There were signs up describing the natural features of the area. The most interesting was the TIDES on the river. That means I'm getting close to the sea!

During another break from the rain I rode to Leclercville where I had to find some more shelter for a while. Now I can use my map of Chaudiere (scale 175000). At Lotbiniere I decide to take a shortcut on Rg St-Eustache. This a very gentle rising road up to a ridge (an esker, perhaps). It would have been a pleasant ride if it wasn't raining and I wasn't drained of energy. I rejoined Rt 132 near Ste-Croix. It was about 1800 and I was ready to stop, I was totally bonked.

Ste Croix was a fair size village so I expected to find a motel. No luck. A local said there was a campground back about 10 km, on the section I bypassed. The closest motel was in Laurier 13 km away on Rt 20, the Autoroute. I bought some snacks and tried to get my energy back. After about 30 minutes I headed off on Rt 271. It wasn't raining and it was fairly flat with light winds so I made good progress but I couldn't go much longer.

At about 1930 I found the Trois Relais Motel in Laurier. "Je voudrais une chambre". The lady at the desk was bilingual and quite interested in my trip. The room was quite inexpensive, about $30, because it doesn't have cable TV! I'm not very disappointed in that! I found a convenience store and had a cold supper. I had lots of good bread and cheese.

Mon 24-July St-Jean-Port Joli [151km 436m]

I was a nice clear morning and I cooked breakfast outside. Then I went to the big epicerie across the street for some more grocery shopping. I left about 0845.

Instead of heading back to Rt 132, I decided to head towards Quebec city on the roads parallel to Rt 20. Rt 20 is very noisy. Even if bicycles were allowed it would not be pleasant. There are parallel farm roads on both sides so I took these to Bernieres. It was a nice morning and I had a tailwind. The last section from Berniere was interesting. This was a smooth, straight road with almost no traffic but there was a bike lane!. A little further near Charney I got on Rt 116 which is rough with heavy traffic and no bike lane. Where are they when I really want them?

Then I passed under the 2 bridges to Quebec City. Bicycles are allowed on one of them. Then I turned off on the shore road to Levis. One of the nicest things about Levis is the great view of Quebec City. Then there is a steep climb up the bank on to Rue St Joseph which leads back to Rt 132. I had lunch in the shade.

The tailwind continues. There are a few more hills but the scenery is great. Ile d'Orleans is across the main channel here. One of the biggest moments of my trip soon happens near St Vallier. As I come over the top of a hill I can look over water stretching the horizon, and it is SALT water! Although it is still called the river it is really the sea. The next village is called Berthier-sur-MER. I stopped at a picnic area and wanted to go down to touch the water but the tide was out and was a marshy shore.

On the north side of the water I can see high peaks of the Laurentians, some rising over 1000 m. To the east and south I can see the Appalachians, which I will have to cross. Further down river they reach over 1200 m in the Chic-chocs but I won't be going that far this time.

Past Montmagny i buy some tomatos and strawberries at roadside stands. Unfortunately the strawberry season is just abot over! The road is flatter and I still have a tailwind. It's a great day for riding, this was one of the nicest days of the trip, scenery and weather.

St-Jean-Port Joli is an artists town, specialising in wood carvings. I take a look at the campground. I have seen several "Noel" campgrounds in the last few days and avoided them. This place is a nice quiet municipal campground. It is also adjacent to the town swimming pool. I had a refreshing swim and a relaxed evening. But I am far east in the Eastern Time Zone and the sun is setting around 2030. I have been in this time zone since Thunder Bay. Tomorrow I will rest my watch to Atlantic Time.

Tues 25-July Notre Dame du Lac, Quebec [173km 856m]

Only one more mountain range to cross!

I had a nice tailwind again as I set out around 0830. At St Roche Rt 20 takes over the coast and forces Rt 132 inland. At Pocatiere I decide to take Rt 320 which continues inland through an interesting valley. There are peculiar looking rocky hills sticking up from the coastal plain. It is very hot but it is easy riding with tailwinds and light traffic. I was reaching the end of my map but I found the Gaspe and Bas-St-Laurent (300000 scale) map in a store in St Pacome. Rt 320 ends at St Alexandre on Rt 289. This is an alternate route to New Brunswick. There are some nice paved back roads that continue east past St Antonin to Riviere-Verte which is a suburb on Riviere-du-Loup. I went off to check the old railroad bed but it was too rough to ride on here. That was too bad since there is a big climb ahead and the rail line would have been an easier grade.

I expected to return to this area in about 3 weeks with our bike club for a tour of the Gaspe. Unfortunately this trip was cancelled, so I'll have to come back later.

So I'm back on the TCH, Rt 185. But it is nothing like the TCH in Ontario. Here it has a very wide shoulder and is quiet tolerable. It is a big climb. The highest point is 432 m but there a lot of ups and downs. It is mostly woods and is very hot. I turn off the highway to go into the town of St Louis-du-Ha!-Ha!. I still don't know why it's called that but I had to get a picture of the name on the post office. Now it's downhill. I have crossed the final divide. The rivers now flow into the Bay of Fundy. I cruise downhill to Cabano on Lac Temiscouata. I also reset my watch to ADT. The Quebec Map showed this as the time zone boundary but that might not be true.

I passed through the town once and missed the beach. Then I backtracked and found it. Then I had a long overdue swim. There was a campground but it was full. I had supper in a park by a bike path.

I think this is the present start of the bike path called Petit Train de Temis. It is mostly a smooth fine gravel surface. There are picnic tables every 5 km or so. So I headed along the lake to Notre-Dame du Lac. The campground here was also full. So I kept going although it would be dark soon. In places the old rail line leaves the road and houses and it is very nice along the lake. I found a semi-clearing big enough for my tent.

I'm near Degelis which is only 15 km from the New Brunswick border. Only one more province to cross:

"home in the Maritimes"