Monday, July 31, 2006

Northern Adirondacks New York ride

Malone, Northern Adirondacks (New York state)

This ride starts about five miles from the Canadian border in Chateaugay New York, just across the border from Huntingdon Quebec at the Herdman border crossing. I parked at the school parking lot.

The ride starts at the intersection, and goes west to Malone on Route 11 for 13 miles. At Malone turn south on Route 30. Ride 32 miles to Paul Smiths, turn around and come back. Pretty easy directions!

The village of Chateauguay shows little signs of economic life, the economic life seems to have mainly ended about 70 years ago when the iron ore mine at Lyon Mountain closed (It was cheaper to strip mine the ore in northern Minnesota, this resulted in Bob Dylan emerging from the woods a few years later).

The quality of the roads is excellent. Wide paved shoulders, with a lot of new smooth asphalt.

The first scenic item of interest is the Chateauguay River, which route 11 crosses at a height of about 100 feet. Upstrean is a waterfall and park (pay). This river will cross the US-Canada border at Powerscourt Quebec (where there is a covered bridge) and continue to Chateauguay Quebec near Montreal (where it enters the Saint Laurence river, for a total length of 137 km). The river starts at Chateauguay Lakes (upper and Lower) upriver from the town of Chateaugay New York. Yes, the towns are spelled differently in the USA and Canada.

This road (route 11) parallels the US-Canada border all the way to Malone. Malone is called "the Star of the North" and has many architectural remnants of a more prosperous era. Current economic growth in the region is from the growth in the prison industry and the "war on drugs" causing massive incarceration of new Yorks City’s urban black male population. Then these people are shipped north for warehousing to create jobs upstate. Not exactly the most moral way to create jobs is it? Especially when prison guard unions lobby for tougher incarceration laws.

Malone has an tourist information centre in the Chamber of Commerce building along main street, beside the Civil War cannon in the park. There is an open-24-hour brochure and map section (inside the door on the building’s east side). The brochure on Malone architectural heritage is interesting and offers a self-guided tour with maps. Other sights in town are the Salmon River (yes, once there were salmon here!) and main street is scenic.

On the west side of Malone is the turn for Route 30 south. This road will take you all the way to Paul Smiths, a small college town nestled in the forests. (you can also take Route 25 to reach Route 30)

Riding south on Route 30 the road elevation slowly climbs, Malone is at 600 feet and Paul Smiths is arounf 1500 feet. So the ride south from here is a bit of a grind, the reward comes with the return trip. Happily the road is good quality: a few miles south of Malone the shoulder is rough, but this is the only bad section on the entire trip, after that it is great, and there's plenty of perfect pavement to warm a roadies heart. Some sections had new asphalt.

The main attraction is now... scenery. Mountains and rivers and lakes and streams and trees occupy your visual senses. There are almost zero services along this section of road, so stock up at Malone, which has everything you'll need (supermarket at start of Route 30 in Malone). There is a restaurant and ice cream stand in Duane, and not much else anywhere, including at Paul Smiths.

NOTE: In Duane there is an option to do a loop ride back to Chateauguay: Take the turnoff for route 99 (east) (look for a tiny sign (“old route 99”) a few yards further than the main sign at an intersection), take route 99 to Loon Lake along what can only be described as a paved mountain bike trail(!), then go northeast along route 86. After a few miles you will reach the turnoff (north) for Standish & Lyon Mountain, this will climb gently for a few miles, there is a water spring on the roadside uphill after Standish. From Lyon Mountain, you will descend with gravity-assist back to Chateauguay. This is a nice loop, and can also be done from Paul Smiths, where the 86 intersects Route 30. However, route 99 is a special deep-woods treat. This would be about a 130 km ride.

Once you arrive in Paul Smiths you will notice that there is no village, just a very nice college campus. You can refill your water here and use the bathrooms, and there is some sort of Adirondack Visitors Centre either at the campus or at the nature centre a mile north (I’m not quite sure where). The Paul Smiths campus also has a lake you can relax beside. And there’s quite a beautiful new library. But, make note that I didn’t see any convenience sotres or anything but the college itself.

Anyway, Now you will turn around and ride back. This time, with the road trending downwards! Yahoo!

Now is a good time to mention to bring your rain gear, even on hot summer days. I mention this not just because my guidebook said so, but because I got hit with a major rainstorm on the ride back. And with a major rainstorm comes the risk of hypothermia, even, and especially, in the summer. Any ride in the Adirondacks should include a rain jacket, thin under-helmet tuque, liner gloves, and maybe some lightweight quick-dry pants. The less desireable alternative, which is what I did, is to ride as hard and as fast as I could, meaning many stretches of sustained 35-40 km/h! Woohoo! I always seem to ride hard in summer rain.

The section of the ride back to Malone flew by, and the last leg back to Chateaugay went well, if riding slow and coasting is defined thus. Normally you have will have a tailwind from the prevailing west wind on this section so you can take it easy and still get home before dark! I was apparently doing a bit too much coasting, a young girl spotted this and shouted at me to "Ride that bike!" Ok, Ok, jeez. Soon I was back at the car and the ride was over, I changed out of my wet clothes and headed back across the border to home.

Ride summary:

Distance: approx 140-150 km ride (70-75 km each way)

Weather: sunny/cloudy/rainy/sunny 80 degrees F before rain, 72 afterwards.

Services: mainly in Malone.

Optional routes:

1) Loop ride variation turning off Route 30 at Duane to Rt 99/Rt 86/Standish/Lyon mtn.

2) Skipping the section between Chateauguay to Malone is feasible, just park at Malone.

3) At Malone ride Route 25 south to route 30 and heading back (north) at this point

4) At Paul Smiths, take 86 back north to road to Standish/Lyon Mtn/Chateauguay

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lanaudiere hill ride v3.0 - The Best Yet!

Map Legend:
Red Dots - Main circuit
Purple (blue?) dots - Recommended side trip Ste-Beatrix on Chemin Belle Montagne
Green Dots - side trip to Park Regional Chutes Monte-à-Peine et des Dalles

I visited Lanaudiere again on Saturday. I explored some other roads to avoid some of the less nice eastern section along busy road and a section of hilly dirt road. It worked great because this was the best ride yet: more and bigger hills, and more great scenery.

Starting in Saint Jean de Matha (parking at the Halte/Musee Louis Cyr across from the church), we cross the 131 and take the road to Saint Gabriel, but don't turn off so this road loops back to the rt 131 just north of town. It is a nice warm up and has some good hills, starting at the 4:00 minutes into the ride!

Then we take rt 131 north a few miles on good paved shoulders to Rang St Catherine, which takes us to Rang des Seigneurs which is both hilly and has, once one reaches the top, a multi-million dollar view! There's a parking and a lookout there for checking it out. When starting this climb, you can stop for raspberries at a raspberry farm. THe climb is very steep and long, and the pavement is a bit worn out, but it was easily manageable to avoid the bad spots. This is called steering.

Once down the hill you arrive in Saint Emilie de L'Energie, arriving by the road beside the church. I again went over to the tourist office (expo moulin) for a break on the boardwalk beside the mill pond/little lake.

Leaving the town I took the long climb of chemin de feuille d'erables (turn at the bottom of the big hill going west from town). This hill seemed just as steep as always, but not nearly as long as before. The descent on the other side was again amazing!

You'll know when you're at the top! (<-Video!)

The descent starts here. Note that this road name changes to Chemin de la riviere Blanche. Keep right.

I took a scenic side-trip on the attractively named Chemin de la Belle Montagne (blue or purple dots on the map). To do this side trip you turn at depaneur Lau-Dan. This is also the next rest stop after the big climb/descent. If you are in a group, this is the spot where you should regroup.

To take the side trip to Belle Montagne or all the way to Ste Beatrix, at depaneur Lau-Dan cross the bridge, then turn left. Continue on "Rang St-Laurent" over to the next landmark: the bridge across the L'Assomption river, where I u-turned and rode back the same way. Sometimes I didn't feel like riding all the way to Saint Beatrix and back, so it is useful to know that this bridge makes a good u-turn point. In this section of Belle Montagne you are riding in a high valley, and is totally scenic. (note: if you continue to Ste-Beatrix, you cross the bridge and take Rang Ste-Cecile south to Ste-Beatrix)

I U-turned at the bridge and was again crossing beautiful Belle Montagne and I was soon back
at depanneur Lau-Dan.

Turning right we rejoin our big descent and take this down to the Rt 131 a few short Km from the starting and ending point in Saint Jean de Matha. Before I got there I checked out the entrance to the (regional) Parc des Chutes (three entrances: the Saint Jean de Matha one I was riding, and also at Saint Melanie and Saint Beatrix) which has paths along the l'Assomption river and has some waterfalls. I rode down the hill (steep!) to the entrance and discovered it is open 9 am to 8 pm and is $6.00 to enter. I'll be back some hot day when I get an earlier start to explore it. My trips to Launaudiere this year have all been crack of noon, so there's not much time left at the end of the day to explore.

Then it was back up the hill and back to the car and back home.

If you have any questions or comments you can leave me a comment: I think this is an area totally worth visiting for any intermediate or expert hill-loving cyclist.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Montreal bike path - North

Montreal's main (only) north-south axis bike path easily crosses Montreal Island, and is an easy ride with some good destinations . It's ideal for the no-big-rides type rider.

Disclaimer: riding a bicycle in the city is dangerous, Keep your head up, your ipod turned OFF, and always yield to cars. Every intersection id dangerous, cars don't see you, and it they do, they wil try to run you over. Be careful out there. And be nice to other people.

The Bike path north starts right in Old Montreal, at the corner of Berri and de la commune where the old port bike path enters the city and heads north.

You pass under the old railway bridge's stone arch and cross Viger Square, the art and fountain-filled three-block park. It's an island over the ville marie expressway. When this land was deeded to the city a long time ago, the land was specified to remain as an open space/park. Some of these were more successful than others. Each block is worth a quick ride around, they are quite different, from each other, and in general! Also worth a look is the Archives National at the corner of Saint Hubert and Viger. rom there look out over the park(s) and look at the old ex-railway hotel building (in the Canadian "Chateau" style) on the south side of the square.

Heading north you arrive in a few minutes at the "Latin Quarter, the highlight being the new Bibliotheque National super library. It is the best new thing to happen to Montreal in quite a while. Just past this is the hill to get to the Plateau Mentreal (which we just call the Plateau). It's a little climb, but worth it. THe path now turns right and goes to Park Lafontaine. You can also take a ride up (north) Saint Hubert street. It is Montreal's most beautiful street.

Arriving at Parc Lafontaine you ride off the road on a bike path at the edge of the park. Take a turn and enter the park and ride around the two lakes. It is so worth it!

Exit on the north side of the Park Lafontaine where you will cross the east-west Rachel Street bike path, where you can ride right up to (and then up to the top of) Mount Royal. (This is another blog item to come later). On the corner of this intersection is the headquartes of Velo Quebec and it's Maison de Velo. This is the main bicycle advocacy organization in Montreal and Quebec. They don't do everything that I think they should (where are the on-island mountain bike trails, where are educational campaigns, etc), but they do a lot!

The path continues north through incredibly pretty plateau. Stop and shop on Mont Royal avenue less than 50 feet to pick up picnic food at la Diabilissimo), and for Montreal
s best bread go east on Laurier to La Fromentier, which also has a cheeserie and an charcuterie on premises. It's next door to the Jean Coutu. This area is Laurier Village and is an underlooked gem of the plateau.

Continuing north we cross Laurier Park. Then it's under the railroad tracks and onth the next section of town. The bike path takes a left through a little (newly updated as a kids) park, before turning north and taking Boyer? street north a long way. Note: at this point you can turn left and take a bike path ("reseau vert") along the train tracks. They connect (west or uphill side) to the Mile-end part of the Plateau's Clark Street bike path via Saint Urban street which has a big bike path under the train tracks. It is hards to locate as it is totally unmarked. Better signage is needed and this is one of my complaints with the bike path network.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Isle La Motte / Lake Champlain Islands Vermont

We took a slow "couple's ride" around Isle La Motte in Vermont's scenic Lake Champlain Islands. We parked along beach at Sainte Anne's Shrine / Samuel de Champlain monument (the 400th anniversary of his visit here is in 2009). Champlain is the real "discoverer of Quebec. While Jacques Cartier arrived in Quebec first and "discovered" it, it was Samuel de Champlain who was the real explorer of the region. The statue of Champlain was carved during Montreal's Expo 67 at the Vermont Pavilion.

This parking had lakeside beach for swimming and free parking. And for Catholics, a shrine and outdoor church.

We rode south along the lake's edge on West Shore Road. It has great views across the lake to New York State's Adirondack mountains. (the Adirondacks are a completely different mountain chain (Canadian Shield) from Vermont's Green Mountains (appalachain chain). The island itself was someting else: it was originally equitorial and has sea shell fossils in the rocks.

After a few miles we arrived at Fisk Quarry Preserve, a nature preserve in an old quarry, with fossils! This particular spot is originally equitorial and was a reef and has fossils. Continuing around the island we rode back north along "main street" and stopped at general store for some Cokes. Deviating from the mapped route, we headed west on this side road (school street), avoiding the busier main road a bit farther north.

The ride is about ten miles, and is scenic and fairly quiet. There's a little bit of dirt road. It is a small island off the beaten path.

Ride Information source: "25 Bicycle tours in the Lake Champlain Region" by Charles Hansen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Saint Donat - Tremblant road - 50km version

Last time I rode this great all-newly-built 32km mountain-crossing road I went all the way to the end, and then some! This time I brought a buddy on a bad bike and we rode only 26 km out and then took a break and returned.

We stopped where the far-side descent occurs, and had lunch on top of the rocks with the big view of tremblant mtns, and this is specifically at the top of the big steep road cut, sort of easily identified by the large lunch rock on the left side (looking west) when the big descent starts down to val de lac/lac superior.

This spot is one of a few places along this amazing new road that would benefit greatly from having a picnic table placed there for rest breaks.

The weather was great, 25 C, and we had a great sunset sitting at the beach at the Parc Pioneer park in Saint Donat (not far from tourist info office). At the tourist info office I got a hand-drawn map of the new road.

I love summer.

Monday, July 10, 2006

bike path modifications

I have noticed many bike path modifications this year, where the transitions between two bike paths are clarified with additional street markings (lachine canal and old port intersection), improved signage (much needed - se Lapress article on Sat July 8 about trying to take route verte west from Km Zero), and path infrastructure modifications like the sidewalk corner "wheelchair ramp" section is widened (parc Lafontaine & Cherrier), sometimes the sidewalk and the bike path are physically separated Park Laurier & Laurier avenue.

Let's see more mods to make bike paths safer and more accessible!

And, of course, let's see some educational activities so people don't blindly cycle down the wrong side of a bike path, ignorong the arrows painted on the ground and the oncoming cyclists!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rented a Tandem bike

Rented a tandem and rode south through plateau to Bibliotheque nationale on Berri bike path, then to old port and bassin bonsecour for a break. Rode over to Atwater market for lunch. Back to Old port and I took one of the Ferries. I took the Ferry from old port (jacques Cartier pier) to Ile Saint Helene. We rode to western tip of island and back via gargantual sculpture "Man" (L'Homme") by Alexander Calder. Then it was past the aquatic pools (and through the fountain!), and into the giant geodesic dome where we checked out the "biosphere" water and saint laurence river museum. Then it was over to Ile Notre Dame for a one lap of the circuit gille villenuve F1 race track. From here got onto Pont Jacques Cartier and stopped at Parc Lafontaine for butt relief management, then home. A great ride that got a fast rider and a slow rider to ride together at the same speed. It was a longer and happier ride than anticipated. A very nice tour. A couple little hills.

blainville to domaine vert

rode from old blainville through woodsy Domaine Verte to far eastern end and continued to Saint Agustin. Rode further but big headwinds were too big. OK easy ride except for headwinds!

Lanaudiere hill ride v2.0

I went back to St-Jean de Matha for another excellent day of lanaudiere hills. I did the same circuit as before (st-J-de-M to Lac Maskinonge (near Saint gabriel) -> st-Emileie de L'energie, chemin feuille d'erable to St-J-de-M. but near the end I took a side road (at dep Lau-Den (which has an air hose!) to Ste-Beatrix called chemin belle montagne (beautiful mountain road!). It was so good that I took it back from Saint Beatrix too. The alternative was 10 direct Km of highway, so going back via belle montage was a good choice. This was an "experimental route" and it worked amazing.

I explored the Saint Emilie de L'Energie sawmill museum/tourist centre. It had benches tables and rapids outside. Inside there was a nice model of the old sawmill. The dirt road section between Saint Damien and Saint Emilie was much worse than before. Loose sand and gravel road. It's only a mile, but it could be paved, and it would be an amazing ride 100%, bit this dirt section really sux. You really appreciate the asphalt when it arrives back under your wheels.

Chemin Feuille Erable was just as good as before, but there were a few repair spots to watch out for. After the top comes a fast rolling section, then another little steep climb and then it's downhill for a long time, and a great time!

Monday, July 03, 2006

amazing Saint Donat to Tremblant hill ride

Sometimes you have to wonder if the government roads department is competent. The roads are bad, they wear out fast, there are no paved shoulders, etc. Then one day you hear a rumour, there's a new road cut through the mountains, there are wide shoulders, the pavement is as smooth as a billiard table, and there are more cars than bikes... for 30 kilometres. What, was that a dream? Reality is never like that. Or... is it?

Well, it's not a dream, I rode such a road on Saturday. They have cut a new road from Tremblant (technically, Lac Superior) to St-Donat, skirting the southern edge of Mont Tremblant provincial park, and the pavement is indeed as smooth and flat as a pool table. The road surface is flat, but the road is as hilly as can be: 10 good climbs in 30 km (some major league), with wide shoulders. No traffic. dozens of bikes. few cars. no trucks. No condos. No cottages. No lumbering. No deps, no mini-malls. Nothing. Well, except for lots of views. Lots of hills. Then some more views. Some more hills. big climbs, big descents (I hit 77.5 km/h on the biggest descent). Oh, and there were lots of happy cyclists.


This road opened in 2004 and was written up in quebec's Velomag last year. My coworker told me about it when I said I did a great hill ride the weekend before in Lanaudiere. So on friday I went to the library and looked it up the magazine article, and then hit the road early on saturday. Would the hype match the reality? This is always the mystery, the risk, and the TEST.

This road passed the test with flying colors. It's not even on any map, not on e-maps, not on printed road maps, it's just a new side road that seems to be designed to make cyclists very very happy.

I was riding at a pretty relaxed speed on the outward leg. At the far end I went past the end of this amazing road onto the more traditional Quebec road (i.e. very crappy) up to the La Diable entrance to Parc Tremblant where I turned around and stopped at a deppaneur for a half litre of chocolate milk, my current mid-ride energy drink of choice.

Then I began the return leg of the trip. I was immediately passed by a much faster cyclist. After a while a group of three cyclists from vancouver kept catching up to me at the top of climbs but then they rested or took a look at the view or something while I made up time on the descents. They never actually passed me all the way for the next 25 km. But they definitely kept me on my toes on the climbs, it is motivating to have someone nipping on your heels!

The best thing?-- it's just a one hour drive from Montreal, and gas is ten cents a litre cheaper there.

So that's two excellent hill rides I have done in as many weeks.

Sunday I went for an easy ride just north of Montreal in the big BIG wind.

I hope everyone had a happy canada day. We're 139 years young.