On September 6 (our 40th anniversary together) we flew to Burlington and planned to stay with Camp Ukandu friend “Drool” and his family. As life happens, they were having too many balls in the air to deal with company so they generously hosted us at the nearby Hampton Inn. We did manage to have dinner at their condo which they were about to have staged and listed for sale.
The next day Spencer unpacked and reconstructed Tess2 (4 hours due to challenges). We went out for a short test ride and got drenched. The thunderstorm was so powerful it knocked out the power! But wait, there’s more. Sadly USPS botched delivering our battery so we had to ride this entire adventure without electric assist. You might notice it missing in the photo at the top. Fortunately it’s a relatively flat tour and we were well prepared.
In total, we rode 612 miles in ten days. We spent 3 days in both Montreal and Quebec Citie and one more in Montreal on the return. In both cities we stayed with fabulous Warmshowers hosts. (WS). In case you haven’t heard of WS it’s a reciprocal community of touring cyclists. We’ve hosted and been hosted. It’s a great part of our travel experience. All the people we met and visited with were the highlight of the trip. And you’ll read about our adventure when we came upon a Route Barre sign on day 6. We had rain about half the time with overcast and/or full-on sunshine too. We continue to function very well as a team and take on any challenges with aplomb, in part thanks to our daily meditation practice.
A quick note to any new followers: you can click on the first image in each group and see it larger then click through all of that group and see the captions.
Sept. 8: Burlington > Alburgh – 44 miles
Our entire trip was planned around being at the ferry on Fridays, because it only runs on the weekends after Labor Day. We needed to catch the bike ferry to get across the gap in the causeway as you’ll see in the photos.
We left at 10AM, as planned, and the sun was shining! A happy surprise based on yesterday’s onslaught and the forecast. We rode the Burlington Greenway bike trail for about 14 miles, eventually getting on the causeway in Lake Champlain. We stopped for a chain wrap issue on the trail and then on the causeway it got worse. One cyclist stopped to help. He’s a mechanic and rode tandems and was able to diagnose the problem. He didn’t have the necessary tool, nor did we. We were contemplating riding the hour back to Burlington to get to a bike shop when a group of 4 cyclists stopped to offer help. One of them had the most amazing all-in-one compact bike tool and Spencer was able to adjust the chain so we proceeded on to the ferry. There’s a little gap so boats can get through and a donation-supported ferry to shuttle cyclists across. Check out how windy it was. The day remained sunny and warm until the last 4 miles when we again got drenched! We’ve already ridden in the rain more in these two days than the entire summer in Seattle and it certainly looks like there’ll be more coming.
We enjoyed a lovely stay with Lorraine & Ric at the Ransom Bay Inn in Alburgh, VT. Very friendly and comfortable, great breakfast and bike storage. Glad we’re book to stay here on the return trip too.
Sept. 9: Alburgh > Montreal: 65 miles
It was a flat, mostly trail ride with only 1150′ gain and it was dry all day with mostly sunshine. YAY!
The first half of the ride was zig-zagging around corn fields with some potatoes thrown in. The second half was mostly following the canal trail. Because it was the weekend, the trails were busy. So much flat reminded us of the Skagit Valley and our butts got tired more than when there’s a variety of terrain.
Quebec has a series of bike trails called the Route Verte, the Green Road. We were able to ride Route 1 for almost 30 miles into Montreal. Most of it was paved, separated from traffic, and very well marked. They made planning and riding a breeze.
The forecast is still 100% chance of rain for the 3 days we’ll be exploring Montreal off-bike. We’re staying with our WS host, Lora. We failed to ask about a place to keep the bike. Turns out we’re in a second floor apartment with narrow, steep and winding stairs up to our room! Guess we won’t take any in-city rides while here.
September 10-11: Off-bike in Montreal
After our “warm showers” and getting the bike upstairs last night we strolled Mont-Royal, an easy walk from our host and in the summertime a no-car zone. Very well used including pedestrians, cyclists and other wheeled folks. This morning we woke to the sound of heavy rain so we lounged around in bed. By late morning, it dried up, so we ventured out for our pre-arranged walking tour of Old Montreal. We found the nearest underground station and mapped our way to the tour by 1:15. Our guide was a Montreal native who told fabulous stories about her city. She covered the influence of the Catholic Church, the transition from French rule to British rule, the growth of an educational system which included girls, and the movement for Free Quebec in the 70s. She tied in how effects from those intertwined and evolved to create a city that welcomes everyone, no matter their skills, color, language, or level of ability. We saw Canada’s first Wall Street, high-domed bank buildings and the newer underground city built partially to give people warm places for the winter.
The next day we walked through the newer downtown all the way to the highly recommended vegan restaurant Lov. They were offering a 2-for-1 burger and of course Sheila can’t pass up a deal. But when we got there it turned out you had to order it as take-out on their app which we hadn’t downloaded. It looked so nice we just stayed. Spencer got a burger and fries and Sheila enjoyed curried veggies that came with a “small” salad. We thought if we went back we’d skip the burger and have plenty of food with the very delicious curry and salad.
Montreal impressions on our first visit:
- excellent bike infrastructure
- excellent public transportation system
- so many vegan restaurants
- it’s an island with lots of bridges
- parks galore
- everyone is bilingual
- lovely to hear all the lilting French
- feels quite international & diverse
- everyone uses a 24 hour clock!
Sept. 12: Montreal > Berthierville – 58 miles
A thankfully dry day and VERY flat with only 528 ft of gain. Many of our photos are of getting out of our host’s home. We remain quite impressed with the Route Verte #5 as we head to Quebec Citie. That said, our new Garmin computer for navigating was sometimes confusing and we ended up adding about 4 extra miles due to missteps. We had plenty of time when we arrived for hot showers and a 4 mile RT walk for a vegan dinner in tiny Berthierville. Too bad the bed was so awful neither of us could sleep.
Sept 13: Berthierville > Ste Anne de la Perade – 75 flat miles
We’ve known all along this day was coming. We woke up to heavy rain and a forecast for 100% rain ALL day. We got dressed for the rain. It’s much easier to do in a dry motel room than on the fly. We consider ourselves very lucky that the first 30 minutes were surprisingly dry. From then on it mostly rained for the next 50 miles. Finally the last 10 miles managed to be not only dry but even offered some blue sky and sunshine! How lucky can we get?
Well… there was that little road improvement project happening for 6 of the last 15 miles. It was so rough Sheila’s step-counter thought she’d walked 10K steps while seated on the bike! Plus, when we stopped for a break near the end of the construction, our front brake didn’t work because a mounting bolt had gone missing. We had the tools and an extra bolt, so no problem. That bit of road was a bit grueling and draining for both of us. But it was dry so we’re not complaining.
We did a great job with our packing for the rain. All essentials were still dry in the panniers and dry-bags. There was only minimal dampness in the little front bag which only had a plastic bag around it and our trunk which has a built-in rain cover that turns out to be inadequate. But no harm.
Our accommodations are particularly luxurious in juxtaposition to last night’s where the bed was so hard we couldn’t sleep! They generously allowed us use a hose to clean everything off and even had a secure place to store Tess overnight.
Sept. 14: Ste Anne > Quebec Citie – 59 miles & 2201′ elevation
You may’ve noticed our rides have been unusually flat AND yesterday’s ride was excessively wet. Today made up for all that. It was a cloudy cool day and we doubled our highest elevation gain on this tour. Oh and did I mention we had multiple climbs with double-digit grades! One great thing about today is that we had a tailwind all day long.
Sept. 15 & 16: Off bike in Quebec Citie
We met our WS host Anne-Christine last night when we arrived and immediately felt a warm kinship with her, partly because we’re all vegans. In addition to being a midwife she is also a professional musician on fiddle and harp! She turned over her apartment to us for our 3 nights while she stays nearby. And being vegan she was able to point us to all the great spots. The first being vegan pizza in walking distance. They sat us at the bar so we indulged in a drink for our anniversary. Spencer posted on FB: The rarest sighting in the world: S2 in a bar in Quebec Citie celebrating 40 years together.
The first full “off” day Anne generously drove us to our one must-see attraction, Chutes De La Montmonrency, as well as to a miraculous place called Bulk Barn. We need a place like this in Seattle! An entire large market with all the aisles dedicated to bulk goodies like dried fruit, nuts, grains, anything you could imagine. You can get just the right amount of anything. Great for us as we’d depleted our initial supplies.
The next day we walked through the old town of Quebec City and around the 18th century fortifications. We met Anne & her beau for brunch at Don Vegan in the Quartier Petit Champlain. That part of the city is very quaint and crowded with tourists as it’s full of boutiques, galleries, bistros, etc. We used to think Seattle was hilly but Quebec has us beat by a long shot. This was supposed to be a “rest day” but it was a lot of walking and pooped us out!
Sept. 17: Quebec City > Sainte Anne de la Perade – 59 miles
Today we were back on the road again, this time reversing our direction and beginning our return to Burlington to fly home in a week. It was a good omen that the weather was sunny. First we had to get the tandem back down the steep stairs we’d taken when we arrived!
It was a rare treat to ride with our WS host. They led us out of town on a route without 15% climbs! She and her friend Thiebeau mapped out a course which would be a bit longer, but theoretically easier for us.
The four of us rolled out just after 10AM and wound our way through paths just starting to fill with Sunday riders. It was quite pleasant and they knew how to work around the occasional construction closure. They were easy and fun to ride with. We said our goodbyes at a bridge, 20 miles into our ride. Shortly thereafter the paved path turned to hard-packed gravel which was an easy ride. Their cue sheet was well marked and the route was protected by trees while passing by lakes and rivers for the next 20+ miles.
Until it didn’t. It turned into a gravel road with a 12 percent climb, in soft, sandy gravel! We immediately got off to push our bike up this isolated road. Then we noticed a group of friends on the porch of a distant house. We exchanged waves as they were trying to communicate with us in French while we crawled up the hill. One of them came running out and in English offered to fill our water bottles. That was a life saver. We hadn’t seen any amenities since shortly after our riding companions departed.
We eventually finished the climb and rode 2 miles before being stopped by a ROUTE BARRE (road closed) sign with tall piles of dirt and concrete blocks to enforce it. Sheila exclaimed, “Now what do we do?!” We couldn’t tell until we stopped and walked up over the heaps that there was a creek 12′ below road level. We didn’t have a choice except to find a way through. While I unpacked the bike Spencer bushwhacked a path determining the simplest way across the flowing water. We got all our bags across without mishap. I waited on the other side while Spencer muscled the bike to the creek and across with minimal water contact. Then up the drainage ditch to where I was able to help hoist it up to the roadway. Then we had to reload the gear on the bike. But we felt like we’d conquered a HUGE obstacle without freaking out.
Still on gravel for 3-4 miles with 15 more to go, it was getting late. The sun was dropping. We both had multiple bug bites and we just wanted to get in. But we ended up on another long gravel trail. Would it never end? On the last 3 miles we returned to paved riding. What a joy. We arrived at our hotel only 30 minutes before the proprietor had to leave. He did offer us vegan chili and salad (free since he was closing for the season) if we could shower quickly. We did. It was delicious and we shared the meal with another traveling couple from France, sharing stories from the road and our lives.
Sept. 18: Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade > Berthierville – 73 miles
Our return trip is a bit like running the tape backwards. The advantage is we know where to stop for food and water. And just like on day 4 of riding it was forecasted to be a rainy day. We had an early croissant, blueberries, and protein drink for breakfast with our two friends from France, then hit the road. You might remember this road as the one with 10 km of rough road due to construction. Turns out that they’ve gotten to the point of repaving it. So we had some nice new roads and close encounters of the giant pavers. Traffic was low and we felt good.
The first 30 miles remained dry. Clouds scudded but didn’t leak. When we stopped for a rest break the clouds convinced us to pull out rain jackets, though. Before we could get 4 minutes down the road, it rained steadily, then heavily, then the skies started to empty on us. We hid beneath a tree and got all our rain gear on. We had to keep moving to better trees since evergreens can be spotty umbrellas. We hid until the deluge slowed.
It rained lightly for much of the next 10-15 miles. This route is pretty flat so we moved along as best we could. We were getting tired and checked the maps to see if beating it straight to the hotel would save us enough time to make the busy road worthwhile. Eventually we opted to continue on the back roads where it was quieter.
About 3 miles from the hotel you could see large, dark, angry clouds headed our way. We put it into another gear and arrived before we got soaked again.
It took quite some doing to get the gear offloaded, unpacked, set out to dry, then into showers and dry clothes. We went across the street for our planned birthday dinner. They were out of what we’d been yearning for but enjoyed an alternative. Sheila noticed a Nova Scotia accent from the table next to us and we had a delightful conversation with two guys who were buying a motorcycle in Montreal. Then we stopped by the nearby grocery store for breakfast extras, and shared a celebratory birthday drink before calling it a night. What a wonderful day. OH yeah, nearly forgot to mention, we’d rebooked this night at the Days Inn because the bed at B&R Motel where we stayed heading north was not conducive to sleep.
Sept. 19: Berthierville > Montreal – 55 miles
Today we had a variety of weather. We had heavy rain, light sprinkles, steady & hard rain, misty rain, rain you could see but not feel, more heavy rain, rain with sunshine, rain with heavy cloud cover. Every now and then we didn’t have rain, but it never lasted more than a mile.
We took off in the morning in heavy rain. We were soaked through in less than 2 miles. But, hey, that was expected, so we took it in stride. We had originally planned the return to be more rustic, with about 20 miles of gravel trail. The rain made us switch back to an all-pavement route. It turned out to be a great choice.
We went back on the same route we rode last week. We made sure we stopped regularly to decompress, eat, and relax. That helped keep us relaxed no matter what the weather was doing.
We saw shiny spots in the clouds every now and then which we assumed was the sun. It never broke through the clouds though. But one thing we realized was that the road grit was more pervasive than was imaginable. Every time we’d grab a bottle to drink, we’d first have to wash mud off the spout. Then the grit would transfer from our hands to the handlebars. It was a mess.
About 4PM we arrived at Lora’s, our WS host again. Thankfully the rain finally stopped. We spent an hour cleaning Tess and ourselves off before we could even bring her up the stairs. Then we showered, started our laundry, bought and consumed LOTS of food and slept well (with warm feet and hands).
Sept. 20: Rest day in Montreal
Today was our final rest day in Montreal, necessitated specifically so that we’d get to the ferry on a Friday. We enjoyed lots of sunshine and blue skies, a relaxing morning at home and a fabulous afternoon.
We took the Metro to the Biosphere, a relic of the 1967 World’s Fair. Designed by Buckminster Fuller for use as the US Pavillion, it is now dedicated to environmental education. Fun fact: it has no acrylic panels acting as the “skin” of the dome anymore. A welding spark during a repair in 1976 set a fire which burned all the panels out IN 15 MINUTES! Now it’s an open-air structure with wind turbines and educational spaces.
One of the interior exhibits was a hands-on light-table painting which responded to gestures. That was fun to play with. As were the films on living with seagulls and a series of animated shorts.
It was a gorgeous day, so we spent time looking at huge outdoor exhibits of starling murmurations in UK and glacial ice bergs at solstice in Antarctica. The two combined were called “Still and Movement”. You walked along and saw all the murmurations on one side of the panels then walked the other direction to view the glaciers.
Speaking of movement, the wind was brisk today. It allows a good view of the City of Montreal flag with emblems for the Indigenous natives (pine cone in the center), the French (fleur-de-lis), the British (rose), the Scots (thistle), and the Irish (shamrock).
The Expo site is on an island in the Saint Lawrence River (which we’ve been riding alongside for days) and was a gorgeous site. We had a long chat with a cyclist about which bridge we should take tomorrow and the joys of cycling.
Made it home in time to change clothes again and take Lora, our WS host, out to dinner at Aux Vivres , one of the original vegan restaurants in Montreal.
Sept. 21: Montreal to Alburgh, VT – 63 miles
Our next-to-last ride of the trip. The weather was lovely, just a bit cool at the start, but quickly warming up. Most of the day was sunny and pleasant. It was SOOOO nice to not worry about rain all day AND to have our arms, legs & toes exposed.
We zipped downtown to the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. While negotiating construction detours (not an uncommon occurrence any day we’re riding), Sheila wanted to find a good view of the bridge we were about to cross. Instead she found stairs made into a sort of Mobius Strip piece of art. We let it go and found the real passage. We had 6 semi-open gates to pass on the way across. Each one required her to dismount and for me to walk the bike around 2 overlapping gates. But we were now definitely on Route Verte #1. It was a quick trip away from downtown and included a 4 level, spiral path to get over the train tracks. Our pictures don’t do it justice. But from that point we rode almost 30 miles on protected (and often separated) bike lanes. Eleven miles of that was along the canal-side bike trail, all trees with water on both sides of the bike. Since it was Thursday, there were practically no other riders out. Easy pedaling! We stopped as needed for snacks and stretches. It was as stress-free as riding can be.
When that path ended, we quickly got on Route Verte #2. This was the road which wandered through corn and potato fields. We took a longer break at a park where we used a teeter-totter for the first time in many decades. We laughed and laughed and laughed. Then we got on the swings for a while. Teenagers having childish fun is what it felt like. Everyone should do this occasionally.
Soon we were crossing the border into the US. Immediately the traffic picked up. The shoulders shrunk. The general nature turned from relaxed to driven. We were only in New York for about 20 minutes. Once in Vermont, we had 7 miles to ride to our evening’s accommodations, a return to the Ransom Bay Inn. It was such a relaxing day. Tomorrow is slated to be shorter and sunnier. It’s looking like a great culmination of our Quebec exploration.
Sept. 22: Alburgh > Burlington, VT – 48 miles
Last day on the bike for this trip. Great breakfast at the Ransom Bay Inn visiting with a guest who had cycled the Empire State Trail. (Spoiler alert: it’s not ready for prime time yet.) We knew we only had about 43 miles planned for the day, so we got a verrrrrry leisurely start around 11. The day started on the cool side, but sunny and dry. Fairly early on, as we rode along the side of Lake Champlain, we hit a short, steep hill. It got up to 13% grade AND we made it. Remember we’re riding without the benefit of electric assist and we’re carrying about 50 pounds of gear!
We stopped whenever the mood struck us and visited with several riders on various stages of bike tours as well as day trips. We had some fun on the way. A single was up ahead going just about our speed. We decided to put on a little extra push up a hill, then went flying past on the downside. We took the right turn indicated by the Lake Champlain Bike route and left him completely in the dust. Of course, he might have just skipped that turn, but it was fun to pretend to be running from him.
We met cyclists hanging out at a winery and jabbered with them a bit, then followed them toward the causeway bike ferry. On the way we passed a magical forest filled with rainbow-colored bird houses. It even had a couple of dinosaurs. It was HUGE. Be sure to read their story in the images.
We had a splendid causeway crossing. On the far side, we rested up for the last 5-8 miles of our trip. We rode along smooth and scenic bike paths until we realized we weren’t on our expected pathway. Turns out, the course was still routed to Drool’s house, which had been the original plan. But they were all suffering from colds/flu/who-knows-what. So we had to change the route on the fly to get us to the hotel we’d reserved. That was hard to find as most hotels are fully booked and charging exorbitant rates due to the weekend and the fall colors.
Sept. 23-24 in Burlington
On our return to Burlington we’d again planned to stay with Drool but sadly everyone in the household was in various stages of colds. So we again stayed at the Hampton Inn while Spencer took apart and repacked Tess2. We were able to enjoy some outdoor time with Drool et al and gratefully were able to use their second car to get to the airport. Like hotels, car rentals were at a premium on the weekend as the fall colors seem to be coming in early.
PS: For the geeks...
Just a few post-tour thoughts to share. We were very happy with our packing choices for both clothing and food/drink. We took 3 cycling kits and minimal off-bike clothing. Tess2 has one more water bottle cage than we had before. We used our Blender Bottle for our breakfast protein shake and then had it in a cage with spare water. We also used an insulated Takeya water bottle for one cage. This provided chilled water if it’s hot (which it never really got). But it also allowed us to buy chocolate soy milk and refridgerate overnight then bring it in the thermos for mid or post ride. It was lovely.
The tried and true soy-based protein shake we’ve always used went out of business during Covid. Being vegan it’s sometimes challenging to get enough nourishment on the road. Bringing our own allows us to know we at least have something with protein. We took two different meal replacement options with us to try. We used both Kachava and Wellious Almond Protein Powder. Sheila doesn’t like the taste of pea protein or stevia which were just about impossible to avoid. Spencer is not as picky. Turns out Almond Protein tastes a lot like pea protein. Who knew? When searching online on how to cut that taste, we found that adding coffee was effective. That helped a lot.
The last area to share about is technology. Spencer used the app Ride with GPS to map all the routes with cue sheets. Sheila updated her ancient b/w and tiny Garmin 500 bike computer to their newest big screen, color and swipeable Edge 1040. It worked great after a challenging couple of weeks learning to use it because it’s so feature-rich. We also indulged in their Varia Radar Tail Light. We didn’t use it to display on the 1040 but we like that the flashing varies and intensives as cars approach which seems like a great feature on such a variety of roads.
And finally a reminder for us to bring our helmet covers and figure out booties for non-cycling shoes on the bike.