Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cycle Fun Montreal Visits... The Beauce!

The Beauce Valley, south of Quebec City, sits in a river valley lined with villages and, surprisingly, bike paths!

A useful reference to this area is the free cycling guide Chaudiere-Appalache - Guide Velo (edition 2006). This guidebook has many bike route suggestions in the region of Chaudiere Appalaches, the large section of Quebec south of Quebec city, about 100 miles wide.

The Chaudiere river enters the Saint Laurence in Quebec City. This river is the heart of the Beauce valley.

Where it enters the St Laurence is in the town of Levis. Many bike path routes are around here. If you are short on time, park here and ride across the Quebec Bridge and into Quebec City, passing the Plains of Abraham, the parliament buildings, and ride down into old Quebec, then back to Levis either by the ferry to Levis and back along the river, or follow the river on the Quebec city side until you are near the Quebec Bridge and return that way.

Now that we visited Quebec city, we go south intothe Beauce Valley. There is a long bike path in the northern half of the valley. In the Southern half the bike route follows the quiet side of the river. on public roads. If you are camping, I suggest the public campground in St-Joseph de Beauce. Why? Because it has its own waterfall!

Because of rain I didn't bike any more in the Beauce valley, but I did explore, in Saint Georges de Beauce I saw Saint George slaying the dragon. In Notre Dame des Pins I saw and explored the longest covered bridge in Quebec: Pont Perreault. This bridge has been fully restored and although cars no longer drive through it, it does have the bike path going through it. There is a small interpretive centre here also. A great example of restoring our history.

From Notre Dame des Pins, a "connector" bike route connects the Beauce Valley with the area known as Lac Etchimin. The rain had stopped and I parked the car at Lac Etchimin and proceeded to do the suggest route in this area. This is in the heart of the Quebec part of the northern Appalachians, and is very near the Quebec -Main USA border. Translation: there's hills.

The ride starts heading north of town, and soon turns on to a quiet road on the left. A long steady hill in peaceful countryside. Time passes, you hear birds, bugs, the wind. A peaceful state of relaxed hill climbing continues. You reach St-Luc where you turn south. I don't recall much in the way of services here. In fact, until Saint Justine it's pretty quiet. Be prepared to be self sufficient for a couple of hours.

Continuing south you will ride between two little mountains (ok, hills) on a "pass" between them. Here's a unique idea I took advantage of: there's a hiking trail going up the one on the left side (east side) and I went up and up and toured the loop at the summit and checked out the terrain where I had been and where I was heading. Not much in the way of urban metropolis! In fact, just lots of peaceful countryside.

Then I herd thunder. And more thunder. It seemed the morning’s rain had not been all the rain for the day. I deluded myself into believing that the noise was sonic booms from F-16s patrolling the Maine border. I walked back down to my bike, enjoying more and more the nice hiking interlude in the middle of my climb. I dug the bike out of its hiding place, and started back on the road. Still no rain, so I thought I was ok. Then the rain started. Then, really heavy rain started, and stayed with me to the next town Sainte-Justine. Here I cut the ride short and headed west to return a shorter route back to Lac Etchimin. This was direct, but busy. I had avoided the southern half of the ride's loop, so I will be heading back one day to finish it. It is good and I look forward to it.

Back to our story, as I approached the town of Lac Etchimin I noticed the rain slowing, then stopping. When I got to the car, no rain, and the sun was out again. But my shoes were all wet so I didn't keep riding, I packed everything away an got supper.

It was a great ride, reminding me a lot of Vermont. This was my first trip to the region of the eastern quebec for riding, and I am going back soon to do more in this wonderful region.

Note: There is a professional bike ride here each year: The Tour de Beauce. It might be a junior race, I'm not sure.


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