Friday, April 11, 2008

A ride to Olympic Stadium

Spaceship Stade Olympique

Tonight we took a little trip to the stade Olympique, Montreal stadium from the 1976 Montreal summer Olympics.

Following up on our never-ending urge to explore the world, preferably on-bike, we combined the two and rode east on Van Horne and Rosemont over to the Stade Olympique/Olympic stadium.

To start, Van Horne transforms into quite a non-urban overpass (one of those relics of the 60s urban planning where "the car comes first" was the development mindset of urban planning). The overpass has a good side: there is a sidewalk and the views of the mountain from here are excellent. It's worth a look. Also, you can get this view from boul. St-Laurent, look for the stairs when you pass Bernard and head under the overpass and nearby rail tracks.

View from Van Horne overpass

Rosemont passed easily enough (you can do this route east on bike path if you take St-Zotique street). We stopped at all the red lights, as is the CFM plan for 2008. As is becoming common, people were surprised! Eventually we reached as far east as the Olympic stadium and we turned south in order to cross Parc Maisonneuve and the underpass under Sherbrooke to the Stade itself.

Parc Maisonneuve has a bunch of paved paths, and some of these were mildly barricaded because the water in low parts was 2-4 inches deep, easy to cross on bike. I took a direct route through the park and when I was within sight of the exit I turned to the direct route and discovered what looked like a little lake on the path. The water gradually got deeper and at first I pedaled, then I pushed the bike with one foot on the snow bank, but before I knew it the wheel and bottom bracket bearings were underwater. This is highly not good for bikes! So we stopped and pulled the bike out of the water and tried to walk on the snow.

Fat chance.

Warm weather had made the snow soft and bottomless. Bottomless until you hit ground. Before you hit ground you discovered that under the snow was a foot of water-soaked snow, so it was like walking in waterlogged slush covered in a foot of snow.

Not. Pleasant. At. All.

Since this was not just cold and miserable, but also very hard to walk through, I decided to walk on the path itself, at least it was cleared of snow, if full of water. But since my feet were now wet, it didn't make much difference I thought.

So I started to walk on the path.

The water got deeper. I kept walking.

The water kept getting deeper. I kept walking.

Eventually it was mid-thigh deep. Oh, we thought, this is going to a great story tomorrow, but today it's not so great at all.

A few inches more and family jewels would be submerged, and the bike shorts pad would become soaked in icy water.

But, just then the water got less deep, and a long-minute later I had waded back to dry land.

Almost back on dry land

Did I mention that the water had ice floating in it?

Lac Maisonneuve!

Anyway we picked up our spirits and got back on the bike and continued the ride. We took the road that goes underneath Sherbrooke street and down to the Big "O" as we call in english; we also call it the Big Owe, because we paid money on the cost overruns for 25 years.

Unlike two weeks earlier, the exterior plaza was now free of snow and I did a nice little ride around this strange "alien spaceship has landed" stadium.

We rode south from here through the Maisonneuve district, Montreal's poorest. I rode Ste-Catherine back westwards, at this location it is a two-way street. Then when it became one-way-the-wrong-way we went south to the bike path on Notre Dame, then took Rene Levesque as far as St-Laurent.

Coming north on St-Laurent I saw the new destruction/construction of the road surface by the awesomely incompetent Gaz Metro company.

2007 saw the near-total closure of this major and iconic boulevard for a once-a-century infrastructure renewal. The sewers, water lines, communications lines, and everything else that was underground was upgraded at the same time. Gaz Metro was contacted and they said, "Oh no, we don't have any work to do." "Are you sure?" they were asked. "Yes, we're sure," they replied.

So the boulevard was reconstructed from the bottom up and was awaiting only a final coat of asphalt to become a newly revitalized urban boulevard.

However, last week Gaz Metro decided to ask it's engineers one more time, "Hey, any plans for renovating our gas distribution network?"

"Yes sir, we're going to renew the boulevard St-Laurent."

"You mean the boulevard St-Laurent that we said last year we were not going to do any renewal on when the once-a-century rebuilding was going on?"

"Yes, that boulevard St-Laurent."

"Are you nuts? The city, the media, the citizens, and the merchants of boulevard st-Laurent are going to go ballistic."

"Yeah, well, we've gotta do it."

"And last year we didn't have to it?"

"You got that right."

"And this year we have to do it?"

"Right again."

Well the news hit the papers and the company now the most hated in the city. And for GOOD REASON.

Tearing up a brand new boulevard is something we were hoping to avoid for several years. We were hoping for perfect pavement for years and years. And now Gaz Metro is the going to destroy the huge effort made during an entire year, the end of which was promised to be a brand new and simply amazing urban boulevard.

Anyway, everyone is very disappointed in Gaz Metro, but I was on bike and could shortcut around the several huge traffic jams caused by their construction, of which there will be 40 separate construction sites in this one mile of boulevard.

And now, back to our story...

I arrived at Coco Rico, one of Montreal's better chicken joints (the chicken is good, but note that it's not a sit down resto). Trying to lock my bike I noticed a complete lack of bike-locking posts on this renewed ultra-modern boulevard. Thanks city of Montreal. You can't get your act together either I see.

Eventually I found a secure hydro pole on the side street, got my chicken and some slaw, and headed up St-Laurent to St-Joseph and soon I was home.

Coco Rico!

The first thing we did was get off the wet shoes, the wet socks, and dried my tootsies and put them inside my wool-lined fuzzy slippers that I got last christmas at the megabig crafts show at Place Bonaventure (salon des metiers des arts). No cheap chinese crap for us, we support local products.

These "pantoufs" are made in one of our favorite lanaudiere riding destinations, St-Emilie de l'Energie.

And then I ate almost a whole chicken! Cold feet are a good appetite stimulant we found.

So to conclude, a nice rode, but let's not get too fixated on the goal. There might be a better alternative route to the destination than the shortest one!


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