Monday, April 14, 2008

Letter to a friend april 2008

Not too cold and sometimes sunny (more more!)

The cycling season so far:

Week one explorations: the end (and beyond!) of Mtl island
week two explorations - the end (and beyond!) of Laval island
week three explorations - civilization's-end in northern lanaudiere (NE of Montreal)

So Sunday drove and parked car in snow-covered parking lot (uh-oh) at Louis Cyr Museum and tourist info office in St-Jean de Matha and started out on my standard northern Lanaudiere (aka eastern laurentians) ride.

Arriving in parking lot - winter wonderland? Uh-oh

I decided I would explore a certain unknown over-the-wild-hills back road connecting the two highway-filled valleys (outposts of civilization surely). usually my head is hanging down and tongue dragging on ground cuz of effort and as a result I never actually see the road signs (this is a sad truth), but today I made the effort and kept an eye open for a paved side road that looked like a real road, and not one of those cul-de-sacs into a real estate project.

To my surprise, I actually found the side road on schedule (I had ridden past it a dozen times previously without ever noticing it) and turned off from the dry clean road onto a sand-covered steep hill with lots of icky wet. The road appeared to be paved under the sand. Based on this I decided that this was the good road and continued.

A map would have been... helpful, but was not essential. Challenge and Adversity build character, they say. Adversity included headwind, freezing temperatures, intense snow flurries, bike-eating potholes, sand and mud covered climbs, sand and mud covered descents (Aieee!), flooding creeks, mysterious backroad sugar shacks, wild dogs, geese, pigs, bears, crows, horses, moose, elevated risk of deers, snowbound-farmers, ice-fisherman, snowmobilers, but no other cyclists.

All sorts of hazards were present

This sort of early-season ride sort of defines hardcore (or insanity, take your pick).

Anyway, I survived the back road connector exploration with neither wipeouts, breakdowns, wrong turns, or night spent huddled beside a fire listening to the howl of the wolves.

The village I was aiming for, St-Damien, came up on schedule. As did the snowstorm. I spent the next hour riding into the wind, with added snow flurries, at times intense.


This was not fun. But the kilometres rolled by and the town got closer and closer.

I was happy to reach the next village of Ste-Emelie de l'Energie where the ride takes a left turn: both out of the wind and into the direction of home. On the other hand, this road had a 16% hill. I grunted and grinded my way up it. I have taken it many times before and know what to expect: a great descent once the top is reached. Zooomoom wooohoooo!

it is a nice descent here, plus you are back in the sunshine, especially nice this time of year. This is actually a great descent. One of my favorites.

The only problem was that despite the expolrations and adversity of climate, the total distance was pathetic - a mere 54 km and I wanted to make at least 60 (and preferably more like 100, but that fantasy would wait for warmer weather). At the mid point of this descent I have the option of a turn right to a very pretty valley leading away from the car (the longest version of this ride is like a four-leaf-clover, there are sort of 4 lobes away from a central point. I essentially had done the first two lobes. But today I was cold, tired and definitely beat and it was cold and the car was the closest destination. .

But there was conflict. I wanted a semi-respectable total distance for the day's ride, and 60 km seemed like it was the minumum for that. I knew this region had a regional park along a scenic section of the Assomption river, and I knew that at the edge of the village where my car was parked was a nice descent into the river valley, so I descended to the park entrance and then climbed out again and got my 8 extra km and ended the day with a minor sense of accomplishment (survival surely).

Winter was the scenic theme - Fresh Ski-Doo tracks at upper right!

For a first hill ride it made me think that I need to practice a bit (a bit? more like a heck of a lot) more before I am king of the mountain, a classification that isn't really my skill, my skill is selecting hard hilly rides, not necessarily conquering them, but merely surviving them, a motivation aided by my joy at encountering the anti-hills, aka the descents! WOHOO!


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