The Joys and Sorrows of a Rail Trail

14 06 2016

Edmunston, NB, 62.92 km, 16.3 km/hr

We’ve spent the last 2 days on a rail trail. The Petit Temis is a 134 km rail trail running from Riviere de Loup, QC to Edmunston,  NB. It’s quite special because it crosses 2 provinces. Rail trails are tralls which follow abandoned railways and have been repurposed for recreational use, usually not allowing motorized vehicles of any kind.

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The best thing about rail trails is they are safe,  completely separate from traffic. It’s so refreshing to not have to worry about whether or not the vehicle coming up behind actually sees us.  They’re quiet,  it’s amazing how much noise there is on the highway. They can be beautiful;  bodies of water,  trees,  other plants of various kinds,  are right there. All those people rushing on the nearby highway often don’t even realize the trail is there.

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But they’re not perfect. Rail trails are often,  even usually,  surfaced with stone dust. When done well,  it’s an OK surface to ride on,  but only OK. It’s never as fast as asphalt; when it’s wet, there’s a fair bit of drag, making the ride more work than it ought to be.  They’re also difficult to maintain.  In the last 2 days we’ve dealt with wash-outs, fallen trees  (from both wind and beavers), loose gravel at intersections, mud,  water across the trail,  grass growing up the middle and one time the trail completely disappearing into a Tim Hortons parking lot.

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We made it to New Brunswick!

We’re happy to have made it to New Brunswick and are looking forward to seeing what this province is like to cycle in.  We’re also hoping for some better weather,  forecast has improved, maybe we’ll even camp tomorrow night.





Memories

12 06 2016

Back in the day,  when our kids were young,  we would go camping for our family vacations.  If it rained,  everyone would load up into our vehicle and head for the nearest urban center.  We’d have a meal in a restaurant and do a little shopping,  either clothes or some piece of camping equipment and invariably a trip to the grocery store for more food.

Today felt a lot like those rainy camping days.   We woke up to a cold, wet, miserable day.  It took a lot of discussion but we decided to stay an extra day in Riviere du Loup.  After breakfast at a neighboring hotel,  we stopped at the office to ask if our room was available for an extra night.

We were taught, once again, how kind people can be, especially to those traveling by bicycle. The owner was at the desk, insisted her husband drive us to the mall, lent us her umbrella and upgraded our room for the second night.  Her husband was happy to drive us and took us for a tour of the entire town before dropping us off at the local “commercial centre”.

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The sky was much more grey. We saw this from the comfort of our host's car!

We wandered the mall for a few hours, and had a bite to eat, just like rainy days during family vacations.  The big difference–we bought very little, though we did make a stop at the grocery store to replenish our supply of snacks and found a new flag for the trailer.

The forecast for tomorrow is better than today,  but still not great. I think we’re going to ride anyway.

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Our new flag. Found at Canadian Tire!





We Are Going to do This!

10 06 2016

Day 15, 96 km, 22.8 km/hr

It was hard to get back on the bike today. 

We had spent a lovely,  relaxed day in Quebec City.  Some shopping,  some walking,  a food tour, sleeping in. ….

Quebec City was one of our goals, the day we planned as a rest day,  and in some ways it felt like we should be done. But we’re not.

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Ken walked our trailer down the hill to the bike shop.

So today,  we gathered ourselves together and started pedaling.  We began by picking up our bike at the bike shop.  Two new tires, new front pedals, and a tune-up.

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We leave Quebec City behind.

Within a couple of kms we boarded a ferry to take us across the river, while on the ferry we met a local cycling group. They, of course, flew by us shortly after we began riding and we never saw them again.

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This ferry has lots of room for bicycles and the people who ride them.

As we rode along we noticed several more long distance riders, our b&b host has hosted cyclists 4 nights in a row.  Yes,  we’re under a roof again,  the plan was to camp tonight,  after all it’s not raining,  but the temperature is going to drop and the weather is somewhat unstable.  In fact,  we expect rain for the next 3 days and are hoping we can dodge  the showers.





A Good Day

8 06 2016

Today was a good day,  in so many ways.

1) We arrived at our destination dry. Except for our feet,  our cycling sandals did not dry overnight and our feet were wet the entire day.  But the rest of us remained dry and so did our stuff.

2) It was a shorter day,  only 63 km. We were off the bike by 2pm,  nice! Though we were defeated by one hill getting here,  granny gear just wasn’t good enough.  And this hill was in the city where lots of people could see us!

3) We made it to Quebec City! This was one of our mini-goals for the trip,  now it feels as if this trip is do-able.

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Can you spot the laundromat? We couldn't either, but we could smell it and knew it was nearby.

4) Clean laundry.  Clean  (and dry) laundry always makes me happy!

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We explore the Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica- Cathedral while the laundry dries.

5) There is a good bike shop near by. Ken wore out  a set of pedals,  broke a piece off his clip.  The front tire needs replacing, the treads are worn through. What’s with that? It only has 8000 km on it, but we decided we really didn’t want the tire exploding part way down a hill. At the half way point of the trip a little attention is a good thing.

6) And the high-light of the day?  We met some lovely people along the way.  Jalyssa and Ryan, you made my day!

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Wind on our Back

6 06 2016

Louiseville, QC, 124.48 km, 22.6 km/hr

Such a contrast between yesterday and today.  The sky was a mix of cloud and sun,  but only a few drops of rain. When we got out of the city, we realized the wind was on our back,  yes!!! The last 30 km into Louiseville were the easiest cycling of the day.

But that doesn’t mean the day was not without its challenges.  First I neglected to ask for cycling directions from Google maps, I’m grateful I noticed before we ended up on a major road.  Then the GPS seemed to be a bit sluggish and we would miss critical turns,  ended up pedaling about 8 more kms than we expected to.  We learned that the pedestrian/cycle bridges crossing major roads are very useful,  but carrying the bike and the trailer up and around huge staircases is work!

I’m struck by the variety of places we are staying.  In the days since we’ve left,  we’ve camped 3 times.  Camping is a totally fine thing to do,  but often a bed is better.  We’ve stayed with 2 Warm Showers hosts, such a good way to meet other cyclists! We stayed with a friend; we so much appreciate the hospitality of Cathy and her help in getting us and our stuff dry again. And tonight we are spending the 3rd night at a b&b.

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Thank you, Cathy!

Overall,  the trip is going well,  but I confess that after 11 days on the road I’m looking forward to a rest day. Two more days of cycling should put us in Quebec City and our first real day off.





Racoons!

1 06 2016

Presqu’ile to Bath–108 km, 21.4 km/hr

I admit today was a tough day,  probably because of a distinct lack of sleep. Years ago we had a bad experience with racoons while on a cycling trip.  So,  I bought a bear bag.  A bag meant to keep critters out of your food supply, made of fabric that creatures can not get through and a sturdy tie that unless you have opposable thumbs you can not open.  It works well,  WHEN YOU USE IT!!!

We had no trouble the night before in Darlington and when we arrived at our campsite in Presqu’ile it never occurred to me things would be different. Ken is a very light sleeper and it didn’t take long for him to hear our nocturnal visitors,  he got up,  chased them away,  moved the food (mostly chocolate and granola bars) to the tent. I know,  rule #1 of camping–no food in the tent,  but locking our provisions in the trunk of the car wasnt going to work.

By then,  I was awake enough to realize I needed to use the bathroom,  while I was gone,  Ken checked his e-mail–big mistake. Before we drifted off to sleep, the racoons came back.  This time they took our bag of pills,  they make a very distinctive rattle and Ken was up and out like a shot.  Some of those pills are expensive!

I’m sure,  in the future, the vision of Ken chasing a raccoon up a tree, in the park,  in the dark,  wearing nothing but his underwear will make us laugh.  But for today,  it made for some tired bodies.

Tonight we are in a b&b.





Diversity

30 05 2016

Day 4, 121 km, 17.5 km/hr

We have successfully completed day 4 and have made it to Darlington Provincial Park. Our first  night of camping.

This morning we said goodbye to our Warm Showers hosts,  Tricia and Doug.  We were their first ever warm shower guests,  I hope their experience was positive enough they’ll do it again.  I know I’m happy to recommend them,  good conversation and a welcoming home,  what more could wandering travelers ask for?

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Our route today took us through the urban areas of Toronto and surrounding municipalities. I know that each of these communities see themselves as quite distinct but to me it’s one big blob, country bumpkin that I am.

Following the Waterfront Trail,  we cycled through residential areas,  recreational trails,  a few bigger roads and one harrowing construction site (we had about 12″ between the construction pylons and the streetcar tracks,  I appreciated Ken’s steady nerves and exceptional navigation skills!) Other than the construction zone,  I never felt unsafe.

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We learned to navigate these without stopping!

However,  it was impossible to make any speed and the day got longer and longer,  we did not get to the park until 6 pm,  both of us grateful to get off of the bike. We even splurged on a bag of ice to make our beer and cider really cold!

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