Friday, August 10, 2007

letter to a friend

Subject: Ste-Herménégilde

Hi M.

While the memory (I think I might mean mental scars) is still fresh I need to ask you, when you visited St-Herménégilde, did you take a dirt road, through a mountain pass where the road kind of dries up into a mountain bike trail?

Because I did and I did because on google maps it looked like any other road, and on the ground it was a dirt road, but it was well maintained (at the start anyway) and the road was even marked as a bike road. I later learned that they have a big mountain biking thing going on at East Hereford and some dirt roads are rugged and adventurous (= steep!) enough to ride as mountain-bike rides.

It was still a road, and I was still road biking!

A good mountain bike ride, except I was on my road racing bike. Happily I don't use really skinny tires, my frame permits 700x25 tires (which just fit in the rear triangle area) so non-rugged off road is generally rideable.

Anyway this dirt road became one lane, and then became quite washed out, even though it was mostly rideable if one has a high level of adventurousness, since it added a lot of adventure (and the inevitable fear of "what if this isn't the right road?") , and of course the risk of being eaten by bears.

I thought I could hear them tracking me in the woods along the trail, I mean road, but I could be paranoid, it might have just been wolves, or packs of wild dogs. At least I know it wasn't lynx, which wait in the tree and jump on bike riders as they ride past (not unlike the anaconda... maybe my imagination is a bit too vivid...).

Happily, I eventually got out of these woods and noticed the sign at that end of the road identifying it as a cul-de-sac! I didn't have too much real difficulty besides the uncertainty and dealing with the practical reality of having to walk up the steepest hill (which even had a sign telling bikes watch out on the descent!), but the walking I don't mind, the forest is a nice place to be - and there were no cars!

Of course, I was genuinely happy to get back on asphalt-covered road and soon arrived next at St-Malo, which did have quite the good observation tower - thanks for this tip; it was a real highlight of the ride. The woman at the depanneur asked me if I was in the "Orage" that morning? "No," I said, "timing is everything" words that would return to bite me in the butt.

After St-Venant de Paquette and East Hereford I went down to the US border along the flat valley floor of the scenic Hall river valley road, when it started to rain a bit, which wasn't too bad, but when I turned around and headed north again, it began to rain a lot, and more importantly, lightning a LOT (like 10-30 blasts a minute), then I got worried, for a good reason.

I was at the exciting side of a thunderstorm cell, and this cell must have been pretty big because I had impressive lightning for the next hour. I was quite worried about me getting turned into toast (burnt toast), because my mode of transportation involved riding on top a big hunk of lightning-attracting metal. So I waited under a tree for an hour until I became convinced that the lightning was slowing down, and a local woman even offered to take me in out of the rain (actually I was under a pretty good tree) because I must still have resembled the proverbial drowned rat.

The rain slowed down a lot sooner than the lightning, but eventually the lightning tapered off (i.e. I optimistically imagined (believed... I believed!) It had moved further south) and I rode home the last 20 km to the car in Ste-Herménégilde in light rain and distant lightning. (I recently read that if you can hear thunder, you are in the lightning risk zone!)

After 20 km of riding in lighter and heavier rain, I got to the spot where I could see Ste-Herménégilde in the distance. Unusually, the black skies actually opened up and sun shone down above Ste-Herménégilde (and only above Ste-Herménégilde!!!!) in a kind of biblical heavens-parting – golden glow - here come the angels to take me home - moment. My blog (google "cycle fun Montreal") photo shows this detail well, it was kind of very encouraging, and I managed to get back to the car in one piece, and I sure wasn't dehydrated!

Natch, the fun wasn't over yet. Just as I got to the car (to the second) and opened the door, the HAIL arrived.

Yeah, the weather gods were pissed at me, that's the only conclusion I can reach. But my timing was ok: If I had waited another five minutes under the tree I would have been outside on the road during the hail storm, and probably would have impressive bruises from the hail all over my body. I was certainly glad and thankful to have avoided that!

One conclusion I have is if I had not dawdled (=stop a lot) on the ride I probably would have entirely beaten the rain and weather excitement. So on Sunday's sunny ride in Lanaudiere I didn't dawdle, and had a nice 24 km/h avg speed for a 96 km ride, and this with at least five 16% hills. Sunday's weather was a lot nicer too, I have to say. And on Sunday my avg speed moved from 23.9 to 24.0 in the very last kilometre of riding, which was nice of it! It had been a while since I focus on riding speed, rather than my usual taking it easy too much.

Conclusion: I now know what it means when the weather report says risk of severe thunderstorms.

Otherwise, it was a great ride, and I can't wait to discover what your actual ride route is supposed to be, because the ride imagined and mapped, and the ride I actually did, and the ride you did are all quite different.

Conclusion: a nice ride... for a sunny day!


Re: Ste-Herménégilde

Hi D,

Always an adventure when you are out on your bike!!!!!!!!!!

When are you going to write in the ''real world'', like a book, perhaps a ''recueil de nouvelles''!!!!!

My Grand Tour experience was great. Three days of great scenery. Our average speed was exceptionally high. I think the masse of bikers creates a vortex that you get pulled along by because I've never rode so fast so easily. The last day was an epic 128km on the 172 from Jonquière to Sacré-Coeur. We got into about 40km of rain in the Parc du Sagnenay but spirits were high with good company. 128km is my new record for one day!

It is quite an organization moving a village on 2,400 bikers from one town/city to another! The food was exceptional with emphasis on ''les produits du terroir''. The best lunch was a wild rice salad with a piece of poached salmon and ''terrine de bison'' and a blueberry chantilly dessert!

I got up one morning at about 5 o'clock to go to the bathroom and took a picture of the village of tents with the sun coming up...pretty amazing!

2,000 bikers continued on yesterday in horrible rain and wind but today they will be riding the Charlevoix hills with the sun and, I suspect, wet shoes!!

I'll some it up to this: It is a great, but like Las Vegas, three days is enough!

Ride safe (bring a map!),


Re: Ste-Herménégilde

Hi M.

It sounds like you had a good time in blueberryland.

128 km is a good distance for a day, on a road bike distance is easily conquered, and yes, a group does move quite a bit faster than solo (it's sort of the opposite of the workplace). And of course, if there's a tailwind....

When everything goes good, there's nothing better on this planet than a few hours of bike-induced happiness. And if it is fully supported riding, well, let the good times "roll!" (Seriously, can life get any better than this?)

For me the problem with rain isn't the riding in it, (that is "good" misery) it's putting on wet shoes the next day (ugh - bad misery!).

For the record, it's not always an adventure when I go for a ride, but it does make for better email. For real adventure, I go to Chinese restaurants and order Ma-Po tofu, which is the only food I ever ordered that is a totally, completely, different dish from restaurant to restaurant. (But always delicious).

Mmmm blueberries....


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