Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rawdon Laurentians Exploration-Adventure ride

Green are explorations or dirt-road sections

I was not eaten by bears.

So overall, the exploration ride proved to be a positive experience. We explored many new roads, some were dirt roads (some ok, some were loose gravel-FTS-where we turned back right away) some were dead ends (as expected), some were dead ends and NOT expected (damn these internet maps!), these was even a private road around a lake (a vos risques!) which meant dirt and walking a couple of steep little non-road-bike hills). Oh, and some roads were even completely amazing and superfantastic.

Our explorations started in the town of Rawdon. We got there by the Rt 341, which we announce is NOT RECOMMENDED for car or bike.

In Rawdon we parked behind the catholic church on dirt beside a school. We headed west and tried to go through the streets over to our first major road north to Chertsey (brennan) but these streets turned out to be dirt. (Aieee!) This theme would be continued theough the day. For a better road bike experience, we recommend chemin de lac Gratten from the Rt 341 to start.

Arriving at the pont gouvernmental on the Ouareau river, we recall that this bridge was missing last summer. But happily the construction is finished and we crossed the bridge and explored north on the other side of the river. We went as far as Grande Vallée and then the asphalt ended and crappy gravel started. Since this road dead-ended in a couple of miles we u-turned and came back to the bridge, and went north and explored the other side, chemin castor.

Going north of this road we had some nice views of the river. But here too it changed into loose gravel after a while, and we tried to ride it, hoping to reach the mythical Rang 9, but it was not to be. A map we looked at showed it to be a snowmobile and quad trail, so it really not be road-bike friendly! Nothing destroys a trail like those damn quads!

Since Rang 9 was off the agenda, we turned our sights to rang de 7eLac. To nobody's surprise it went up hill. We were in the hills, and we were heading deeper, and higher into them. Sooner or later there would be descents, and they would be good descents.

Before these glorious descents, we discovered that there would be sandy gravel roads. Not as loose as the gravel roads of earlier in the day, these were generally rideable on our 700x23 tires. We don't ride tiny road tires for a reason! The road continued, and finally seemed to be getting worse and as we started swearing.... the road turned into brand new perfect asphalt. Translation: we had rejoined civilization. We passed a beaver pond with prominent beaver lodge in the middle, and then came upon giant hydro-electricity transmission towers. THat James Bay energy has to get here somehow... These towers were located on a prominent hill that was close enough to walk to for a little snack break "with view."

Then it time for the descent to St-Alphonse-Rodrique, where we joined the Rt 343 for a couple of kilometres until we turned at the Rona store and took the Assomption river road to one of our fav places, Chemin de Belle Montagne near Ste-Beatrix. After the rugged dirt roads of earlier, we really enjoyed this road, scenic and paved! We passed some white-water boaters at the bridge to Ste-Beatrix. Eventually we turned down "pied de la montagne" to the Rt 337 our most-eastern point of the ride had been reached. This took us to the Rt 337, until we turned off to pass the bridge over waterfalls at the Parc Regional des Chutes (waterfalls). Here we did the beautiful cross-country roads with good views and took the road past St-Tropez (a couple of klicks of crappy paved road), and then come to the hardest hill of the day, as this road passed a little river valley--with a super-sustained-steep ride up the other side. Eventually, of course, it ended, and we were happy to see the speedometer regain the double-digits!

We didn't miss the turn to Ste-Melanie, the road now descended and we turned at chemin d lac Rocher to head in the direction west--back to Rawdon. This reminds us of a funny story. Our first visit here was based on one of the velomag quidebooks and we missed this turn (maybe if we had brought the guidebook with us, things would have been better!) , and did a lot more riding than we had planned on. Today was the first time we actually have riden on the Lac Rocher road, and it was as good as hoped. Then we did a zigzag at the end oand took another "pied de la montagne" road which we had been on before, also scenic was king here.

This brought us to Ste-Marcelaine de Kildare, where we continued our zig-zagging west. We went south on the Rt 343 highway and turned on Rang 10. Our internet map was clear, it zigged south at the end and would rejoin another road and continue west. Our internet map was wrong. This was a cul de sac. On this road we noticed that our gloriously beautiful sunny day was changing, the predicted late-day-clouds-and-rain was arriving overhead. Oh shit. We u-turned and headed back to the highway, and at the end (the start of the road) we noticed a small, discreet cul-de-sac sign on the other side of the road from the side that people entering this road would notice. Live and learn we guess.

The next road, Rang 8, was better. It had better signage and at it's western end it did turn south to the highway west-directly to Rawdon. It did turn to rough gravel too, but the end owas in sight, and we had avoided as much busy highway as possible.

We turned on to the highway, Rt 348, and right about when our hopes for a happy ending to our big and hard ride were definitely looking up, the rain started. The rain, and wind gusts of 40 km/h. From the west. Right in our faces. Oh joy.

But we endured, and a few miles and one hill later, we arrived back at the car, 125 km of excitement and exploration since we started.

And we didn't get eaten by bears!


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