|Photo credit: Adele|
(For a map of our route, check out Salaberry de Valleyfield ride.)
|I had problems putting a handle bar bag on Clementine without the bag rubbing on the frame or getting in the way of using the forward flat bar position. I rigged a bag, and though not perfect, it would have to do for the trip.|
|The bike trail has wonderful signage and waysides with picnic tables.|
Adele and I pedaled across the border, zigzagged on back roads, then connected with a wonderful surprise: our itinerary apparently included a bike path heading northwest, cutting off the usual right angles around Canadian farm fields. We still had to ride 54+ miles to reach our hotel, but we figured it shouldn't be difficult with a flat-as-a-pancake landscape.
|Roadside bike maintenance near an underpass. Photo credit: Adele|
|This is my favorite picture of the trip!|
I was leery about a forecasted headwind, especially riding upright on Clementine. By early afternoon gusts started to slow us down.
|A bridge in Beauharnois.|
In Sainte Martine another bike path beelined through tall cornfields, but new shrubs and young trees had yet to provide a wind break, so we moved slowly and rolled into Beauharnois, a community on the Saint Lawrence River and took a short break. By then I'd determined I was unhappy with my bicycle's stock saddle (too wide, chaffing my rear end) and apparently thirsty and tired, because while I was standing, straddling Miss Clementine, I lost control and she toppled, her weight digging into my thigh but at least I saved her from crashing to the ground. I recovered and we continued on, aided by Adele's homemade energy cookies, but as I confided with Adele, I'll feel so much better about riding a new bicycle once it receives it's first scratch, very much like the new car syndrome.
|A bridge in Beauharnois that crosses a Hydro Quebec spillway that dumps into |
the Saint Lawrence River. Photo credit: Adele
I imagine Adele was as delighted as I was to be pedaling alongside water again.
As we navigated fish ladders, spillways, and pedaled by a Hydro Quebec powerhouse we couldn't help but notice a ship listing in the water with cables tethered to a barge to keep it steady. I snapped a photo to identify the rusty behemoth, which later I discovered was an oil tanker, named Kathryn Spirit, abandoned in 2011, and has since caused ongoing environmental concerns.
|Tasty solace: chocolate pyramid and creme brulee.|
Adele and I were all smiles. We checked in at 7:45 pm. stowed our bikes in a locked conference room then dropped our panniers in our room, foregoing a shower until after we'd eaten dinner. We had originally planned to check out restaurants in town, but at the late hour we opted for dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was delicious. Adele and I toasted each other with a glass of wine, laughed at our mishap, and were thankful we'd both brought along lights. Over desserts: a chocolate pyramid and creme brulee, we decided to take it easy the following day, because we deserved it.
|Stopping in the lobby momentarily, before heading out to explore the nearby trails.|
|I stop on the dam to wait for Adele and listen to the water rush below the dam.|
Coteau du lac historic site sits on a prominent point overlooking the Saint Lawrence, strategic in both Revolutionary War and the French and Indian Wars. It also displays interesting steel replicas of canal boats in grassy remains of Canada's first lock system, opening the way for shipping.
|I liked the ingenious swivel guns.|
|The beautiful Solanges Canal path and pivoting railroad bridge that allowed canal boats to pass through.|
Afterwards we pedaled northeast on a narrow road by beautiful homes, hugging the shoreline. However, we quickly tired of that as we'd been there before with the group in years past. Our map indicated a parallel canal path, but we couldn't find the access so we decided to turn around and head back, but Adele detoured down a side street, and I followed.
Adele and I love second hand stores and garage sales. Even when traveling by bicycle, because there's nothing like self-imposed limitations. Of course that didn't stop Adele on one adventure from hauling a free Blackburn rack for 3 days...but that very rack now graces her new bicycle - a stellar find! So, it was no surprise that we spent an hour inside a crammed junktique store. The lady proprietor offered us coffee and cookies. Adele didn't buy anything, but I was tickled to get a lovely pair of green heart-shaped earrings and a lime-colored fleece headband.
We returned to the Saint Lawrence crossroads and discovered the side spur that led us to the Soulanges Canal path (map link located after I did more more research!). As was becoming quite evident, there are numerous safe places to ride a bicycle, yet the hotel's bike map (Adele and I booked a room with bike package) is lacking in easily navigated scale, supported by earlier research on the Web and city's Visitor Information, both failing to provided adequate information. And, as Adele and I later discussed, Isle de Salaberry de Valleyfield region is missing an opportunity for more bicycle tourism.
|A pedestrian suspension bridge at one end of the Soulanges Canal where it merges with Lake Saint Francois.|
I marveled at our luck to have found this special place. But we didn't linger long, wanting to allow ample time for the return journey. A local road lead back to a bike path, which connected with a familiar trail and from there it was an easy reach back to the hotel.
Later, Adele and I rested in our hotel room then walked to a Cajun restaurant for a nice dinner.
|Reading signs at a viewing area of a protected wetland. Photo credit: Adele|
|Many variations of poutine at Restaurant aux Pierro!|
Poutine is a rich combination of cheese curds and French fries, topped with meat gravy. There are many variations of course, and Pierro's version had smoked meat. It was very tasty, so tasty that I overate and felt full for the next 3 hours!
|I can't resist trying poutine. Photo credit: Adele.|
|Pierro and his wife are New York City aficionados; NYC kitsch adorns their restaurant. Photo credit: Adele.|
|Yeah Miss Clementine, these roads are made for you. Photo credit: Adele.|
|Photo credit: Adele|
At some point we beeline back to the bike path we had followed on the first day because it heads in the right direction, plus it allows wind protection.The sky had clouded over and we planned to get back to the car well before dark. This time, Miss Google does a stellar job and reconnects us with the path.
|Photo credit: Adele|
The bicycle easily handled the extra 20 lbs. on flat terrain. The true test of it's climbing ability under weight will come in 2017, when I camp and ride in the Vermont hills. I'd like to utilize a front, ideally lowrider style rack because I love carrying weight up front, which tends to calm my erratic steering. On that note, Miss Clementine turns easily, even one handed.
And, in spite of my initial trepidation with the Bosco handle bars, I have fallen in love with their functionality. My favorite position was sitting upright; the handle bar grips were perfect and I found I only reached forward on the alternate flat my bar position when my body needed a break. I love the thumbies; they are comfortable.
Both water bottle bosses worked well. The downtube version had ample space for storage, comfortably clearing my feet and the front wheel.
Sitting upright is still foreign, however, heightened by alternating between my too small Ross commuter bike and a larger, longer Clementine. Clementine feels too large versus the Ross feels too small. Ideally, I'd like to locate a 20" old step-through bike to replace my Ross, however I know this will be like finding a needle in a haystack, but if I could, this would alleviate the disparity between the two sizes - bikes I'm anticipating will be my main bikes going forward.
I am concerned with Clementines's overall weight. She is not as light as I would've liked and may be heavier than my Ross. I suspect the longer frame, larger wheels, wider rubber, large handlebar, plus fenders, etc. all add significant heft. And will the bike fit on a bus rack? I fear it won't. I imagine I will be satisfied if the bicycle and my own strength can handle climbing with camping gear, but that's a future test. All the more reason to pack lightly!
In general, I'm quite pleased with Miss Clementine on our first mini-adventure. You can bet Adele and I will plan another interesting journey in 2017. Stay tuned.
For a map of our route, check out Salaberry de Valleyfield ride.