Sunday 05 June. The morning sky looks as though a classroom of kids were maybe let loose in the playground armed with chalkboard brushes. They have run to wherever the sky starts, smeared a few faint clouds and headed back to school. I’m up at six but I’ve still got some chores – preparing the apartment to sit idle for weeks. When the bells from Saint Augustine’s across the street begin to toll at 9:15 I head out with my bike. There’s a mouse that’s been hanging around for weeks. He’s got the run of the place now.
I don’t ride more than a block before it becomes evident that the Montréal cycling festival, Le Tour de l’Île, is in full swing. My route takes me from NDG to Le Plateau and on the way I pass scores of recreational cyclists, many with their children, leisurely following the route lined with volunteers. Police have blocked vehicle traffic along multiple streets. As I veer north at Parc La Fountain I am swept up and surrounded by hundreds of people, young and old, pedalling for the sheer pleasure.
Farther north, on the old railway bridge, I and a dozen more cyclist are delayed as several testy geese are coaxing a clutch of goslings from off the tracks onto the narrow cycling path. Finally turning west in Laval, I’m glad I chose to leave on a Sunday. My route passes through a couple of major construction sites with some serious looking machinery tearing up the road. Had I waited until Monday, when crews would be working, I would have faced a long detour finding an alternative bridge over Rivière des Mille Îles.
Some short but challenging climbs along Chemin des Collines (Path of the Hills) weaving through Parc national d’Oka. Arriving at the campgrounds, I manage the whole registration process in hesitant French. Heading into the woods, the mosquitoes attack in force until I dig out some spray repellant and douse myself. Still a couple hours of daylight but I set up camp and retreat to my tent just to escape the pesky things.
Monday 06 June. Left the fly off the tent last night. I am awoken around 1 am by a couple of geese in the distance squabbling about something. Gaze up at the sky through the trees and count seven bright meteors in about as many minutes. Then the sound of a jet. Probably headed toward Mirabel.
Lots of different surfaces to ride on today. Smooth cycle paths through wooded areas; crushed stone through farmland; highways with a wide shoulder/no shoulder/shoulder busted up by farm machinery. The tricky part is passing driveways because there is always slippery gravel and loose sand churned up by turning vehicles.
See lots of ice fishing cabins stored away until winter. Some lucky sports fishermen are gonna stay toasty next winter. I can’t help but think that anyone living on the street in winter might find them cozy. You know... fill a parking lot with them or something similar. Set up some washroom facilities. Anyway...
Pass a curious sight. Several chestnut coloured horses are grazing in a field with blindfolds over their eyes and halfway down the muzzle. Essentially sightless. So I google it. When flies are abundant, the blindfold keeps flies out of the horse’s eyes. I can sympathize. Damn mosquitoes.
All along my route red winged blackbirds appear. I have an unsettling feeling that they are keeping tabs on me. As though Cardinal Richelieu suspects I’m off for a tryst with Milady and he wants all the details. I am d’Artagnan is this scenario, by the way.
Around 2:30 I sit in the shade at a gas station where I take water from the tap in the restroom. I eat a few nuts and raisins. No one notices that I am refuelling, as well. Cost is maybe a dollar for the next thirty kilometres.
Tuesday 07 June It poured rain last night at Parc National de Plaisance. There were no campers at Oka two nights ago. And none here last night. Before the deluge, my only company was a groundhog who waddled about chewing grass. And the mosquitoes. Then the sound of rain drumming on the tent fly. That kept up all night. Sometimes pounding; sometimes a gentle patter.
I woke around 5:30. By six o’clock there was a break in the rain so I quickly don warmer clothes and rain gear and set about packing up my sodden tent. I didn’t fancy making breakfast in the rain so I set off again. In about 20 damp kilometres with on-and-off-again rain, I come to a biker restaurant at the intersection of Routes 148 ouest and 315 nord. By biker restaurant, I mean a place catering to those folks on their Harley Trikes. So a giant egg, bacon, ham, sausage breakfast at a very good price.
I made our nation’s capital mid-afternoon and was very pleased to meet Lorraine and Bruce who are kind and interesting to chat with and, as experienced outdoors enthusiasts, shared a few of their experiences. They are graciously allowing me to set up my tent in their backyard - which I manage once there is a break in the steady rain. Tomorrow should see some sun. I’ll dry things out.
Bruce and Lorraine are friends of my friend Sharon Cheema. Sharon reached out on my behalf. If you take a look at my itinerary and know any kind souls along my route - maybe reach out? All I need is a backyard.
Anyway, apart from a few small chores, tomorrow is a rest day.