Monday, September 18, 2006

Lanaudiere - the fameuse 347

Another week, another weekend, so I returned once more to the north.

This time I went to route 347 in Lanaudiere, a 30 km road through hilly hills from Notre Dame de la Merci to Saint-Come. I discovered along the drive there that there was an autoroute 25, an autoroute I'd never heard of before. It's not all completed, meaning that there's a village that needs to be bypassed, Ste-Julienne. This village had "the small village red light" which was the bottleneck of this fine route.

Anyway, I got to Notre Dame de La Merci and paked the car at the town hall. It was about 120 km from home, and took about two hours, including the red light bottle neck and a bit of minor car troubles. It should be about 90 minutes, which is what it took to come home. The drive up was very scenic, with lots of scenic hills, and they were being covered with scenic fall colours. In other words, very nice! Notre Dame de la Merci is a very small village, and a fair bit of tourism must be 4-wheeler because I saw tons of cars and trucks with empty 4-wheeler trailers parked in the village. I was on bike and got a better parking spot then these guys, in the town hall parking. There was a new "halte routiere" (tourist rest stop) which included a tourist info stand, a separate washrooms building, and a park with a pond with beach, kids play area, and nature trail. I took a swim in the little pond on my way back. It was refreshing because the water wasn't warm anymore!

Anyway, I got the skinny on the road I wanted to take, the 347, from the lady at the tourist stand. She even informed me where the fatalities had occurred. (uh, thanks.). Then I sat on the bike and rode, rode and rode, feeling very fresh in the legs department. It turned out I had a very nice tailwind on the out section of the ride. The scenery was excellent. Sometimes these hilly roads are covered in forest and a view is rarely enjoyed. Not this road, the view and the road are concurrent. And with the aurumn colors, the view was great. There were also rivers and some lakes, and even some cliffs to gawk at. The road passes through the "foret ouareau" which is a protected area with separate trails for hiking, mtn biking, and 4 wheeling. Sometimes when I stopped along the road I'd hear 4-wheelers in the woods. Every body was having fun. There was another group of fun loving rebels I have not yet mentioned: motorcycle riders. It seems that the 347 is a legendary motorcycle road for Quebec riders. Why? For the same reason it attracted me: the road twists and turns and goes up and goes down and never is straight for more than a couple of hundred feet! Woohoo! The motorcycles were a lot more dense on my later-afternoon ride back from the turnaround point of St-Come. I would guess that more than a hundred passed me, possibly much more. I did see six other cyclists during the day.

So the ride wasn't very long, about 30 km each way, but since the terrain wasn't flat it filled up the afternoon. It was hilly and climb-descend, which makes even a shorter ride interesting and keeps the average speed under control. I averaged about 22.7 km'h for the entire ride. I made many stops for scenery, so the ride wasn't as short as its 60 km total distance would indicate.

I was away from home from 10 am to 7 pm. I didn't get a chance to ride one village further to Sainte-Emile de l'Energie, where I have ridden through several times in the summer. This is because I didn't actually read my map when I was in St-Come and the road sign I looked at gave a distance to a different village that was further away and I didn't read the map to see that St-Emilie was quite close. Still, I used up the day light pretty effectively I thought. This did leave a 10 km gap in my trans-lanaudiere exploration, with another 15 km gap between Notre Dame de la Merci and the big town of Saint-Donat. Thiese are the only two gaps left to ride, then next year I'dd ride the whole shooting match from Tremblant in "laurentians toruist zone, to Saint Alexis des Monts in La Mauricie, traversing the complete Lanaudiere region. This will be a big one-way ride so I'll try to recruit Maxi as my car support for this sure-to-be-epic ride.

Riding back towards the west from the turnaround town of St-Come meant I now had a headwind, although it wasn't too fierce. ALso, some hills were steeper on the return leg it seemed. This ride has a greater number of shorter hills and fewer big or super steep hills that some other rides this this year. In fact it was a summer that was chock full of great hill rides, one of the best summers of my life for good road cycling. I really chose well when I decided to explore Lanaudiere late last summer and this year. It was everything I had wanted, hills hills and more hills! Oh, and good pavement and preferably, paved shoulders. You can judge the age of roads by whether the shoulders are paved. I used to not think about this, but now I really notice it, paved shoulders are good things!

Getting back to the car I went for a swim in the little lake, and wondered why I had no towel with me. I swam in my bike shorts and dried off with my cycling shirt and my cottony absorbant gaunch -- meaning I went home commando! (they were clean, I had driven up in bike wardrobe for a quick start once I park the car and they were part of my drive-home normal garb)

The rest stop at Notre Dame de la merci was great. I didn't explore the town very much,. because there wasn't very much town to explore. I am still not sure if there is either a dep or a restauant or hot dog stand. For once I made an effort to be home for supper and we had sushi which is the fastest and closest take out we have. Plus, it was still summer so I don't feel guilty, I really think of sushi as summer food.


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