Monday, September 03, 2012

Plessisville/Chaudiere-Appalaches scenic hill ride

Descending the road from Vianney to St-Ferdinand = perfection

After a two year hiatus, we return to Plessisville for a ride in to the hills and valleys of the Chaudiere-Appalaches region of Quebec.  This is a cycling paradise ride.

Getting up (and leaving) early has its rewards. Today's ride is a First-Prize kind of reward.

The drive to Plessisville is a bit far, but late summer rides sometimes take us that extra hour from home that is required to get us to any of the many excellent-but-faraway cycling destinations the Quebec countryside has to offer the road-tripping cyclist.

Today's ride is based partly on the "Le Quebec en 30 Boucles" guidebook #20. In fact we stuck closer than usual to the guidebook's directions, but of course with some minor and and a couple of major variations that combined to make today's ride both highly excellent and killer.

This view is made for biking!

We visited this region for three rides a couple of years ago. These rides were in a clockwise direction, but the guidebook's ride map showed the route in the opposite direction, ok, that's a variation that works for us.  Except the first hill of the ride is at Ste-Sophie-de-Halifax, and it is both steep and endless! As a warmup first-hill of the ride it was a bit much, but we got up it and took a few micro-pauses along the way to look back to enjoy the view of the valley we were climbing.

The guidebook notes that the Ste-Sophie hill might cause some cyclists to have to walk their bikes. That's ok, just don't turn around and abandon the ride, because all the hills after this one are easier.

Of course no hill goes up forever. This means it is reward time (humans love reward time!) and the reward is a series of downhills towards the lakeside village of St-Ferdinand.  But wait, when you arrive at St-Ferdinand you are now warmed uo so it is no time to stop. Here we turned right and climbed a gentle 5km uphill to the hilltop village of Vianney.  The climb is easy, but steady and although you have to u-turn at the village and descend the same road (partly because it is the only paved road accessing this village) the u-turn is a reward because the Vianney road in the descent direction is a freshly paved magical descent.  Warning: trying to access or leave Vianney in any other direction than the paved road to Ste-Ferdinand will be very tough dirt and gravel road conditions. Trust us, we learned this the hard way!

Back at Ste-Ferdinand we still manage to avoid stopping and continue south on Chemin Godford, then shortly turn left onto Chemin Craig. Both these roads date from the first road that was built between Quebec and Boston (more accurately, between Quebec and the USA, of which Boston was the closest major city - it was a six-day stagecoach ride back in the day, and a rough ride it must have been!) 

Chemin Craig was the first road that was built, and it is no longer used for direct Quebec-Sherbrooke traffic, it is now a perfect road for cycling.  We now take the third climb o the ride, but the steepness is completely under control and it's an easy ride to the next village of St-Jean-de-Brebeuf. Along the way you must stop at the Irlande cemetery (right after crossing the river) to see the most disorganized and ancient cemetery in all rural Quebec.  Definitely not the typical straight line of stones kind of place, it is full of giant and ancient trees and very old and very long-dead anglos. The ride covers the region now called "The Celtic Route" and it was first settled bu the very first wave of british immigrants to Quebec/Canada. Then these immigrants moved west, and that demographic trend continues to the present day.

St-Jean-de-Brebeuf has a surprise for us. Riding partner (longest ride this year was only 75 km) seems strong, so we suggest riding up the big hill on Chemin Craig, a 5 km x 2 out and back ride to the climb summit where there is a lookout where you can see Cap Tourmente (110 km and it is the start of the Charlevoix!).  This hill is hard, because the 17% hill is 1 km long, and it looks formidable. But with some standing on the pedals and with the occasional micropauses to recover, anyone can get to the top.  The view is worth it. We suggest riding the brakes when you return back down this hill because otherwise you can attain speeds where airplanes take flight - and you probably don't want that.

Looking back down (westward) the Chemin Craig hill, many miles of happiness for cyclists in both up and downhill directions

On the climb or the descent look for the slightly hidden sign (says Chapel) for another old anglo cemetery a bit hidden in the woods and when you find it be sure to stop here: it is an an excellent location for a little siesta. 

Back at St-Jean-de-Brebeuf the route heads to Inverness on the highway. We had hoped that the highway to Inverness would be a good route, but it wasnt - no paved shoulders and since it was labour day weekend it was the Inverness Festival e la Boeuf (Beef Festival) and the traffic was heavy (unlike the 51 other weekends of the year).  The alternate route to Inverness had some bridge construction, but we strongly suggest taking the quiet-road option of Chemin Hamilton, because a ride should be relaxing and fun - Route 267 was neither of these.

But we got to Inverness is one piece, stopped for water and fuel (read: chocolate milk) and headed out of town heading west to St-Pierre-Baptiste. This is a lovely road. The only downside is that there is 2 km if crappy dirt road. Our bike has no problem on this but buddy non-stop complains his his fancy crapon bike and wheels don't like rough roads. Hey: your bike is called a Roubaix, time to soak up a little patrimony and heritage!

Eventually, like most bad things, the bell rings and the torment is over, and the ride hits asphalt again. Our route turns here to St-Pierre-Baptiste - but a good option is to continue on Chemin Gosford to St-Ferdinand and then finish the ride by exiting the hills via the entry-road we took through Ste-Sophie-de-Halifax. The Ste-Sophie hill descent is amazing, just make sure there's enough daylight left to see where you are going - this is not always the case with Cycle Fun Montreal's frequent crack-of-noon ride schedule.

The descent brought us back to today's route, still surprisingly based more or less on the ride #20 in the 30 Boucles guidebook, we soon are passing through St-Pierre-Baptiste.  Buddy makes another valiant effort to force a sit-down break but the Cycle Fun Montreal motto is "Slow for the first two hours, then ride fast-like-hell for the rest of the ride!"  We again reminded buddy that if he hadn't raced up the first two major hills of the ride he'd be having fun now instead of suffering, as well maybe take a lesson from the fact we ate a ton of food before (Laurier est's Le Fromentier bakery fueled most of this ride) and during the ride so we could have lots of energy at the 5 hour point of the ride. Sadly, he never, ever, has learned these two important lessons for a successful 100km+ ride.

After St-Pierre-Baptiste the ride (which by now everyone hopes is about to leave the hills of Chaudiere-Appalaches and finally and relentlessly--in a good way, unlike say mashed potatoes-- descend to the plains of Centre-de-Quebec and back to Plessisville. Ha!) Has a couple more hills past the Mont Apic ski hill and does eventually take you out of the hills, just not as soon as expected. Also the road surface becomes what we think is called chipseal: spray tar on road, coat with a layer of crushed stone and roll smooth. This was fresh so it was smooth and fast, but we can see it decaying once a few frost cycles occur.  However, it was fast enough that we missed the turn to Rang 10 - oops!   This took us to the T-intersection at Rt 267 and busier traffic for the last few kilometres back to Plessisville.  Because the rod shoulder was not paved, we went ultra-safety and sometimes stopped to let traffic pass when it was a truck or a motor home passing us. Why ruin a great ride with a near-death experience?

We hit Plessisville and got back to the car in one piece. We were very happy, and knowing that we had just done a fantastic ride, we were highly satisfied with our state of exhaustion.  This is what muscles, cardio fitness, and bikes are for!

Starting at Plessisville church: Two bikes easily carried inside the car: station wagons are miracles.

Church at Ste-Sophie-de-Halifax is shy and hiding from the camera

The climb after Ste-Sophie-de-Halifax is hard but very scenic

Energy Capitalists want to ruin the scenic countryside scenic value with large profits for a very few people who don't give a f*** about scenic value

Moo. Translation: "Save my countryside"

Beautiful countryside: would it look as nice with 100 giant wind towers?

Farmland is more scenic that capricious wind energy development

And back to to riding: after Ste-Sophie climb comes a series of nice descents into the hills and valleys of the Appalachians

Arriving at Vianney after a 5 km easy climb on PERFECT pavement

How perfect is the Vianney road's surface? Completely perfect!

Irlande cemetery is very free-form in its layout, with massive trees

Yes, we are back on the Circuit de Découverte Chemins Craig et Gosford

Artisanal mailbox

Old school road sign!

Fresh asphalt and quiet roads and nice hills = cycling perfection

yes, this is a "Danger: UPHILL" sign!

Danger sign receives some minor clarification

And there in the distance is the unavoidable 17% uphill funfest (micro-pauses optional). Motivation: there is an excellent belvidere on top with amazing 100km views

A rare English language historical sign, English language being not so popular in Quebec these days as the government is mandated to get rid of any trace of the English language in day-to-day life

The view from the top of the Craig Hill summit lookout is amazing. Today was a clear day and we could see Cap Tourmente in the Charlevoix - over 100 km away!

This is NOT a cell tower

The tower is a hydro-quebec tower!

Click to see the cyclist descending the Chemn Craig 17% hill

Old school cemetery marker

Church with an surprisingly modest steeple

Country church (with buttresses)

Bug cyclist keeps spinning his wheels

Another fine looking old barn

Road betwen Inverness and St-Pierre-Baptiste has a very crappy gravel road section, and buddy is NOT happy

St-Pierre-Baptiste church is the last stop before arriving back in Plessisville

Buddy tried hard to take a off-bike rest stop in St-Pierre-Baptiste - hey back on the bike it's all downhill from here! (it's not, but he bought it!)

Chipseal (?) road surface was fast but dubious and relentless visual focus on choosing a good line meant we missed the turnoff for Rang 10's quiet-road return to Plessisville (sadly not the first time this happens to us)

Arriving back on the plains of Centre-de-Quebec region after leaving the hills of the Chaudiere-Appalaches cycling paradise region

Arriving in Plessisville - food and cheap gas for the drive home!

Plessisville church, or back to the car after a fantastic ride. 

This is a really great ride, even though a couple of sections need some asphalt. We added extra hills and this made a good ride into a fantastic ride.

This is a ride we will repeat every year. That's a promise.


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