Introduction: The who, the why and the wherefores
To introduce myself, I’m a an expatriate Englishman, in my late forties, living in Boston MA. This summer I’ve decided to ride north through rural Vermont and up to Montreal. I’ve never been to Montreal, but friends tell me its a fantastic city and I’m excited to see just how European it feels.
The idea for this trip came to me after reading several ride reports of the Boston-Montreal-Boston (BMB) brevet. I looked at the official BMB route and decided that it was unnecessarily masochistic as it includes a couple of nasty passes, so I looked for a gentler route and came up with RT 100 through Vermont. This is a well known scenic route and goes through lots of villages with inns and hotels. There will still be a lot of climbing, but it’s not as aggressive as the BMB route and I’m planning on taking a week to ride the 400 miles from Boston to Montreal rather than the two days the brevet riders take. I’ll stay in Montreal for a couple of days and then rent a car and drive back to Boston. I looked into coming back on the train or the bus, but both are very inconvenient and don’t exactly make it easy to travel with a bike. By far the best way back seems to be to rent a car in Montreal, put the bike in the trunk and just drop the car off in Boston.
Itinerary and Route
The nature of a credit card tour is different from its camping cousin. When you camp there’s far more flexibility in schedule as you always have the option to stop and stealth camp, however, the attraction of credit card touring is the certainty of a warm bed and a shower at the end of the day. I’ve divided the tour into stages of about 50 miles, which should make for cycling days of reasonable length. My route avoids many climbs; because I won’t be in too much of a hurry I don’t mind going around a mountain rather than over it. Even so, going through Vermont there will be a couple of days with a fair amount of climbing. The climb into Ludlow and into Killington will be challenging.
Day 1, Gardner MA, 63 Miles
West out of Boston on RT117 getting onto 2A at Fitchburg. I’ll follow that until Gardner. This day promises to be pretty urban, but will be an easy start to the tour.
Super 8 Motel, 22 Pearson Blvd Gardner, MA 01440 (978) 630-2888
Day 2, Brattleboro, 44 Miles
A short day up to Brattleboro. I’ll take RT2A through Orange to Miller’s Falls and get onto RT63N and follow that all the way to Brattleboro. This is not the most direct route, but I will be avoiding a couple of climbs on the BMB route that goes through Warwick NH.
Latchis Motel, 50 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301 (802) 254-6300 latchis.com
Day 3, Ludlow, 54 Miles
RT30 north out of Brattleboro and head for Jamaica to pick up RT100, follow this to Ludlow. First major climb of the tour.
Best Western Ludlow Colonial Motel 93 Main Street Ludlow , VT 05149-105 Phone: 802 228 8188 Fax : 802 228 7731
Day 4, Rochester, 42 Miles
Continue on RT100 to Rochester. This will probably be the hardest day of the trip, I’ll climb up to Killington.
Huntingdon House, 19 Huntington Pl, Rochester, VT 05767 (802) 767-9140 huntingtonhouseinn.com
Day 5, Burlington, 62 Miles
Rochester to Burlington, Take RT100 to RT100B through Morestown and then get onto RT 2 and take that into Burlington.
Lang House, 360 Main St, Burlington, VT 05401, (877) 919-9799 langhouse.com
Day 6, Alburgh VT, 46 Miles
Follow RT 2 across Lake Champlain
Thomas Mott B&B, 63 Blue Rock Rd, Alburg, VT 05440-4002, 1-802-796-4402, 1-800-348-0843
Days 7,8,9, Montreal, 55 Miles
Follow RT2 to RT225 and cross the border. Take RT225 and RT113 to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and bike path to Chambly. Get on RT 112 Chemin de Chambly. Cross river on Pont Jacques Cartier
Absolument Montreal B&B, 1790 rue Amherst, Montreal, Quebec H2L 3L6
Day 10, Boston
Drive back to Boston. Hertz, 1475 Aylmer St, Montreal, Quebec 514 842 8537
This is going to be a credit card tour, so I won’t be taking any camping equipment, no need for a tent or sleeping bag this time. The bike I’m using is my Rivendell Rambouillet. This is just about the perfect bike for a relatively lightly loaded touring trip. It has a relaxed geometry so that it’s comfortable over long distances, but it’s still quite fast. I’ve set it up with a 42/26 crank with an 11/34 cassette which gives gears from 103″ to 21″, an appropriate range for touring. I pack my gear in a Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag and use a Carradice Junior bag on the handlebars. I’ve modified both bags by sewing D rings to them so I can attach shoulder straps to carry them off the bike.
One rule for packing lightly is to take things with multiple uses and that goes for clothes too, so no lycra cycling shirts or shorts. The Smartwool T-shirts I’m taking are great on or off the bike and the nature of wool means that it doesn’t smell if you miss washing it for a couple of days…. My cycling shoes have recessed cleats and I can walk in them all day.
I intend to update this journal using the linux version of the Asus eeePC 900. This is a small PC (8.9″ x 6.5″ x 1″). I can upload pictures from my camera over the USB port and then connect to CGOAB using the wifi connections at my hotels. My initial experiences with this have been very good, in fact I’m writing this at a Panera Bread as they offer free wifi
Here is my equipment list, its exactly the same as my fully loaded gear except that I’ve left off most of my camping equipment and I’m taking some deck shoes instead of flip flops – I don’t want to look like too much of a bum walking around the hotels. The total weight of the gear is just under 20lbs and the bike comes in at 25lbs.
* Touring Shorts
* Convertible Long Pants
* Padded Cycling Underwear
* Smartwool Long Sleeve Zip T-Shirt
* Short Sleeve Seersucker Shirt
* 2 x Smartwool Socks
* Boat Shoes
* Marmot DriClime Windshirt
* Cycling Cap
* Toothpaste and Brush
* Mounth Wash
* Dental Floss
* Toilet Paper
* Talc Powder
* Bike Cable Lock
* Leatherman Juice
* 2 x Kevlar Spokes
* 2 x inner tubes
* 2 x Patch Kits
* Tire boots
* 2x Powerlink
* Brake Cable
* Gear Cable
* Brake Pads
* Misc Nuts and Bolts
* 4x AA batteries
* 2x AAA batteries
* Cateye Front and Rear Lights
* Plastic Bags
* Duct tape
* Cable ties.
* Notebook and pen
* First Aid Kit
* Sewing kit
* Phone/Camera and charger
* Small AM/FM radio
* Asus eeePC 900
* BIC Lighter
* 50′ Cord
* Emergency Blanket
* Padded Cycling Underpants
* Long Sleeve Smartwool Zip T-Shirt
* Cycling Knickers
* MTB Cycling Shoes
Day 1, Boston to Gardner
Saturday July 5, 2008, 56 miles (90 km) – Total so far: 56 miles (90 km)
……and so we’re off. I left the house around 8:00 AM, after a bagel, lox and scrambled egg breakfast and cycled into a damp drizzly Boston morning. The clouds were low and grey, but after 10 miles they lifted, the rain stopped and it turned into a nice day for cycling; cool, and slightly overcast. I headed out on Rt117 and stopped in Stowe for breakfast number two, a coffee and butternut doughnut at Dunkin Donuts. The road was often shaded by trees and I made good time into Leominster rolling through downtown around noon. I headed towards Rt2A on Merriam Street, but missed a turning at Electric Avenue and ended up in downtown Fitchburg. However, I know the area and I navigated through Fitchburg and eventually got onto Rt2A going towards Westminster. I passed what must be one of the few “British American” clubs in MA. I wonder what they do on July 4th. There are plenty of “Italian-American” and “Irish-American” clubs, but “British-American” clubs are pretty rare.
From Fitchburg on the hills started to get a bit steeper and longer. I spent a lot time in my 26t front chain ring spinning upwards, but there was nothing too tough. I passed the weir at the bottom of Snows Mill Pond which looked quite spectacular. This is the sort of thing you never see in a car, but on a bike you can hear it as you ride by and it’s a simple matter to stop and enjoy the sight for a few moments. I continued on Rt2A and arrived in Gardner around 2:00PM and checked into the Super8 Motel, and at $75 its a great deal.
The only annoying thing that happened today was that my earphones stopped working….well they would work for a second or so and then, they wouldn’t for a second, it was sort of l… and then ..ey wou.. tur. .n again. See it’s really annoying. So as soon as I got settled in at the Super8 I used the Asus to locate a Radio Shack and headed out to buy a new set of earphones. So the Asus has already proved it’s worth for more than just updating CGOAB journals.
Tonight its dinner at the Friendly’s as it’s right next door. Tomorrow the hills will be a bit steeper, but its only a 40 mile day.
Day 2, Gardner to Brattleboro
Sunday July 6, 2008, 52 miles (84 km) – Total so far: 108 miles (174 km)
The day started pretty much like yesterday, overcast. I rode into downtown Gardner and had breakfast at the Blue Moon Diner which is a nice example of an old Worcester dinning car. I was on Rt2A heading west by 8:00AM and made steady progress through the old mill towns of Athol and Orange only stopping to take a photo of a great old Bauhaus factory building in Orange. I turned North on Rt78 towards Warwick and a few miles up this road I hit my first real climb of the tour. It was a climb the makes you say ” OK hill you win, I know that you could crush me if you wanted, but let’s come to an agreement. We are going to be together for a while so let’s try to get along”. I swallowed my cycling pride and shifted down to my lowest gear, 21″, and just accepted the pain and pushed forward. Eventually the gradient eased and I slowly recovered. There’s a sort of Zen to climbing, you get into a rhythm and accept the pain and just live with it as you embrace the hill, well that’s what I think. it’s as good as anything else and I’m going with it.
At 10:30AM I came to Warwick: a country store and a crossroads. I took a sharp left and got onto Northfield Road which was very aptly named as it would get me to Northfield and Rt68. Little did I know just how wonderful this road was going to be. After a long gentle gradient the road turned down through dense forest and wetlands. Down, down went the road and still more down. I noticed a Speed Limit sign, 35mph, and looked at my cycle computer…..it read 38mph and stayed there for a couple of miles. All good things have to come to an end I suppose and eventually the road leveled out and spat me out at Northfield. The market was open and I took the opportunity to buy some water, chips and Sprite. It was still before 11:00 so I was making really good time and the sun had come out too, this was turning into a great day.
On Rt68 I lost reception of the NPR station WFCR so I hunted for one with a stronger signal and hit upon a classic hits station that was playing blocks of Pink Floyd. The sun was shinning, I was listening to “Wish you were here” and my legs felt strong. I even rode some of the small hills along the way out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals in a pathetic imitation of those dudes in the Tour de France. However, I stopped doing this as I didn’t want to tempt the cycling gods too much – I thought that my arrogance might be punished further into this tour – I hope not! This was great cycling; the countryside was beautiful, full of farms on either side, cows in the fields and crops in their early summer optimism still green and not far enough above the soil to have forgotten it. The only thing that could have made it better was if I’d been touring on a tandem with Keira Knightly. But it was still pretty damn good.
No Responsibilities, No Annoying Distractions, complete independence – No Club Affiliations.
I had just dismissed Keira and her tandem from my thoughts, when I arrived in Hinsdale and took a left onto Rt119, the road to Brattleboro. It was not going to be easy all the way to Brattleboro as a steep hill immediately loomed in front of me. I got back into my grinding mode and made the top without too much sweat. From there on Rt119 turned into a big road that was quite busy, but had a good shoulder. The Connecticut was to my left and a cliff rose to my right. I passed a Walmart and thought, “a sign of civilization”, but immediately took it back as, of course, Walmart spells the end of civilization as we know it. Then the road took a sharp left and headed down and around 12:15 I pedaled across the bridge, over the Connecticut River, and into Brattleboro.
My hotel, The Latchis Hotel, is right opposite the bridge and I thought I’d see if I could leave my bike there and do some sightseeing as I was probably too early to check in. Well I was wrong. The desk clerk checked me in and the maid rushed upstairs to finish my room before the others…..great service. The hotel is in an old Art Deco building and there’s also a cinema and a brewery in the building…..PERFECT! All the fixtures are old, but they gleam and sparkle. My room was spotless and I gratefully had a shower before going for a walk around town.
Brattleboro reminds me a lot of a smaller hillier version of Northampton MA. Lots of stuff going on and Victorian houses with gingerbread and gardens with hollyhocks and blackeyed susans. Tonight it’s dinner in the Flat Street Brew pub , I might just have a beer.
Day 3, Brattleboro to Ludlow
Monday July 7, 2008, 56 miles (90 km) – Total so far: 164 miles (264 km)
Well there was some pay back for the fun of yesterday, today was a lot tougher. I had a muffin and some coffee at the hotel and was heading north on Rt30 by 7:30AM. The day started well, an easy ride along the West River to Newfane and onto Townshend. It was humid and my jersey quickly change to a darker shade of green as it became wet with sweat. I was regretting leaving Brattleboro without a proper breakfast so I asked a woman in downtown Townshend if there was a good place to eat around town. She recommended the “Dam Diner” a few miles further up Rt30 just beyond the Townshend Dam. There were some hills between me and the diner, so I was glad to swoop around a corner and see the diner at 9:00AM. I went in and ordered steak, eggs and homefries which I devoured. An elderly couple came over to me and offered me a lift in their van. I thanked them but declined their offer, I didn’t look that tired already —-did I? They left saying “it’s all up hill whichever way you go”. Oh great!
I left the diner and quickly reached Jamaica. I immediately began to think that maybe I should have accepted the old couple’s offer. The hill out of Jamaica is tough and it tested my intestinal fortitude. The hill went up in teasing steps, a steep gradient that leveled off making me think that I might be close to the top, but then the gradient would kick up again. The sweat was now dripping from the brim of my cap and I matched my tempo to the 3 left and right sways of the bead before it dropped on to my handlebars…….Did I say how much I like cycling? Eventually I got to the top and rode the rollers into Rawsonville where I bought a Snickers and more water from the gas station.
Rt100 and Rt30 part company at Rawsonville so I turned north and headed on Rt100 to Londonderry where I stopped at noon for a lunch of turkey sandwich and orange juice bought from the supermarket. I rested for half an hour and massaged my legs as I could feel the lactic acid building up in my thighs. I still had the biggest climb of the day to come, I was worried.
Leaving Londonderry my legs felt like molten lead, not just heavy, but painful too. I crawled up the little hills in my lowest gear and limped along at 11mph on the flats between them. I passed through Weston and was tempted to stop for an ice cream, but I put my head down and continued to where Rt100 makes a sharp right and heads up “Mount Terrible”. Yep that’s what it’s called, a 1000 feet climb, 2 miles long after 50 miles riding a bike and gear weighing 50lbs.
I started up and quickly got into my lowest gear, I was going at between 4 and 5 mph. I climbed and climbed, around every corner there was more hill, my legs screamed, but I pressed on. A couple of motorbikes passed me and even their engines were laboring on the long gradient. My legs were now going numb with pain and I began to feel a bit sick – a definite sign of exhaustion and over heating. I considered offering my first born to the cycling gods just to get me to the top, but then I realized that I don’t have any children. I was so tired I was becoming incoherent. I just had to stop. I pulled over to the side of the road and sat on the guard rail. I sipped water for 5 mins and slowly the sick feeling in my stomach receded. I looked at my bike computer and estimated that I was 3/4 of the way up. Oh well, I swallowed my pride, washed it down with a final sip of water, got up and began to push the bike up the hill. Dam it felt heavy, even pushing my bike up the hill was an effort, but then I looked up and saw some sky, and a right turn sign on the horizon just ahead. I knew that at the top, the road made a sharp right before heading down to Ludlow. I prayed that this was the sign showing that right turn. I pushed on, literally, and as I came level with the sign I saw the road falling away beyond it…..
Suddenly cycling became fun again. I crested the top, got on the bike and sped downhill touching 45mph before my better judgment made me feather the brakes. The down hill kept coming and I had to work the brakes to keep my speed below 40mph. A couple of left and right turns between some houses and I thankfully pedaled onto main St Ludlow at 2:30PM. I’d been riding for under 5 hours, but with all the topographical and mental highs and lows of the day, it felt longer. I’d done 56 miles and climbed 4500 feet, an achievement for an overweight, middle aged, Englishman. I checked in at the Best Western and had a half hour soak in a hot bath,
Day 4, Ludlow to Rochester
Tuesday July 8, 2008, 42 miles (68 km) – Total so far: 206 miles (332 km)
Today has turned into a rest day. When I was planning this little jaunt I guessed that I’d need an easy day after doing Mount Terrible, but the advice of strangers has turned this day into almost a full day of rest.
Yesterday I’d noticed that the Hatchery Restaurant on Main Street Ludlow opened at 6:00 for breakfast. So I checked out of the hotel early, unfortunately the Hatchery was not open a 6:00, 6:15 or 6:30. I figured it was slow so maybe they’d put back the opening an hour or so, Dunkin Donuts was open so I got a coffee and a paper and waited. At 6:35 a guy showed up to open the restaurant and explained that they opened at 7:00 during the summer. I followed him in and read the paper until he was ready to serve me. I ordered the “Downhill”, 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 rashers of bacon and home fries. Wow it was good. I got into a conversation with the guy and he asked where I was going, I replied “over Killington and into Rochester”. He said “You know you don’t have to go over Killington, there’s a dirt road in the valley that goes around it” What was this? I’d stumbled onto cycling nirvana, the much talked about, but never found flat road, that goes around a mountain! The restaurant guy assured me it was a great road, very picturesque and with only a small climb at the end, “Turn right just before the church at the bottom of the climb” he said. Great I thought.
I rode out of Ludlow on my constant companion Rt100. Another easy river ride. The gradient was gently upwards, but it was so slight that I hardly noticed it. I passed many ponds and lakes with vacation homes. I went through Plymouth Union and now all the gentle climbing I’d done in the first hour had a big payback, a wonderful downhill into West Bridgewater where I turned left as Rt100 joined Rt4 for a while. This section of the road is long and flat and goes past the Killington Ski lifts. Just as I came to Killington proper I could see the road take off towards the sky and there was the church. “Hallelujah I’m saved” I thought. I turned onto River Road and looked at Rt100 going up as I went down towards the river, could anything be better. I had a brief Donner Party moment where I wondered if getting off the accepted route was going to lead me into a hell of bad road, bushes and briars, but I didn’t have to worry. The road was beautiful. It followed a wetland nature reserve on the left and passed the Killington town offices. Eventually the paved surface was replaced by hard packed dirt, but it was very well maintained. After a couple of miles there was a short climb and the road joined Rt100 again. Fantastic.
I’d come out about half way down the descent off Killington, but I still had a lot of downhill to come. I came off Killington fast and had to pay close attention to the road as the surface was badly cracked and there was the odd pothole. Pittsfield came and went, Stockbridge came and went and it was only 10:00AM, 9 miles to Rochester. Oh well I thought no point in stopping just cruise on down the road and check out Rochester for the day. I was now riding in a narrow valley with farms on either side.
I arrived in Rochester at 10:30 and rode passed tonight’s B&B, The Huntington House, it looks very nice. I swapped war stories about Mount Terrible with another cyclist and just rested for an hour in the shade. I spent the rest of the morning in a funky coffee/book shop with free wifi drinking the best mint iced tea I’ve ever had. Just what I need to refresh myself. I updated the blog and then had lunch, cold cucumber and dill soup and a massive piece of mushroom quiche. Then I slept in the park for a bit and read the paper in the library. What a tough day. Tomorrow is Granville Gulch, which I’ve heard is very pretty, but its the longest day of the ride 69 miles. Shouldn’t be too tough though as its generally down hill into Burlington after Granville. I’ll be stopping at the Warren Country Store for Lunch as their food is famous up and down Rt100. Tomorrow is Nori Roll day at the store, that’s their lunch special….well this is Vermont.
Day 5, Rochester to Burlington
Wednesday July 9, 2008, 74 miles (119 km) – Total so far: 280 miles (451 km)
Today was a big day and man I’m happy to be in my hotel for the night, ‘The Lang House’ in downtown Burlington. It’s a very comfortable, if rather chincy, inn and it wins over all the other places I’ve stayed as it has nice soft bath robes. I don’t think there are many more pleasant feelings than having a shower and pulling on a soft bath robe after a grueling day of cycling.
Last night I had the best meal of the trip so far in the Huntington House Tavern bar, leek and mushroom soup, followed by seared duck breast, dauphinoise potatoes and asparagus. I finished with chocolate cake. Hey, I’d burned a lot of calories during the day.
The morning forecast was for very hot and humid weather with thunderstorms moving into NW Vermont late in the afternoon. I went down to breakfast a bit worried. When I entered the dining room I was surprised to see that at almost every table there was a kid with a violin. It turned out that there was a Suzuki Institute meeting in Rochester that day. At about 8:30 am I started out north on Rt100, a later than usual start that I’d come to regret.
The first land mark on the road was Granville Gulch a gentle, but long climb through a tree lined gorge with a fast stream running on the right of the road. It was beautiful. Then I came to the waterfall half way up the climb and I stopped to take a photo. After that the climb got a bit steeper, but I soon came to the top and started the downhill to Warren. I turned off Rt100 and into Warren to get a late morning stack of lemonade and peanut sesame noodles. Refreshed and refueled I continued on towards Waitsfield and South Duxbury where I turned onto Rt100B, a longer, but less hilly route to Waterbury than continuing on Rt100. By now the heat and humidity were getting to me and when I turned onto Rt 2 towards Waterbury only to see that the bridge was closed my heart fell. It looked like I had two alternatives, take the detour onto I89, not a good idea, or retrace the 9 miles of Rt100B and do the climb over the Duxbury hills on Rt 100. Neither option was attractive. There was a construction crew across the road so I asked them if I could cross the bridge on my bike, no go, however, they told me that just 2 miles back up Rt100b there as a dirt track called Lover’s Lane that connected with Rt2 on the other side of the bridge, it was ok for bikes, So I retraced my path and found an unmarked track on Rt100b. I took it and went down a steep hill and over the river on a foot bridge. I wasn’t sure where I was, but I heard someone chopping wood down the path, so I rode on until I saw the guy with the axe. I asked him if I was on Lover’s Lane and he said yes and that about 1 mile on I’d hit Rt2. Excellent! So a bit of mountain biking latter I came to Rt2 on the Waterbury side of the bridge and waved to the construction crew, now gloriously on the other side. I got into Waterbury at 12:30 with 46 miles under my belt. I was thirsty, hungry and tired. I bought 2 large glasses of lemonade at a stall in the town square, then got a sandwich, an iced tea and 3 bottles of water……..I was drinking lots!
After lunch, and a rest, I was ready for the final 30 miles into Burlington. it was a straight shot along Rt2 paralleling I89. I made good time, but after 10 miles the forecast rain began. It was a fine drizzle, not hard enough to stop cycling, but after a few miles my shirt was soaked. I put my rain jacket on to stop me from getting chilled on the downhills and kept going. Twelve miles from Burlington the drizzle stopped and I took my jacket off. About a mile up the road I started to climb a nasty little hill and was half way up when the heavens opened. This was a full on rain storm. If I’d started an hour earlier I would have been warm and dry in my hotel, but now I was in the middle of a downpour. I got under some trees and put my umbrella up. I stood there for half an hour as streams formed in the road’s gutters. It wasn’t a complete waste as I was listening to Terry Gross on NPR interviewing Don Barchardy about his life with Christopher Isherwood. Now whenever I see “Cabaret” I’ll think of a rainy Vermont road. At last the sun came out and the rain slowly stopped. I got back on the road and braved the beginning of Burlington’s rush hour. At 4:30 I got to the Lang House, tired and soaking wet having ridden 74 miles. But my aches and pains were soothed by a hot shower and the discovery of bath robes in my room. Small luxuries can mean so much.
After a rest I went for a walk around town. Burlington reminds me a lot of Boulder CO. It has a similar pedestrian street running through town, with lots of bars and cafes on it. I had dinner at the Vermont Brew Pub, Pablo the Cask Dogbite was really good.
Tomorrow I’ll ride up to the US/Canada border.
Day 6, Burlington to Alburg
Thursday July 10, 2008, 50 miles (80 km) – Total so far: 330 miles (531 km)
My bed at the Lang House was really comfortable and that combined with my 75 tiring miles of yesterday made for a great night’s sleep. The couple of cask Dogbite beers I had at dinner probably contributed too…..Breakfast was an omelet and sausage links. I talked to a guy at the next table who was there on business. It turned out that he has a marketing company in Harvard Square, lives near Fresh Pond, and was in Burlington to do some business with a big snow board manufacturer.
I set out on Rt2 West at 8:00 headed for the islands in the north of Lake Champlain. There were a few small climbs going out of Burlington, but nothing difficult and I soon crossed over the causeway onto South Hero. The weather was cool and there was a bit of a wind coming out of the West, the islands are well known for the winds that whip across them making life frustrating for cyclists. The islands are flat with farms on either side of the road and frequent views of the lake. By 11:00 I was in North Hero and stopped at the general store for an early lunch. I bought a sandwich and then saw a woman using a PC at one of the tables, the store had wifi so I sat down and decided to update this blog and rest. I was making good time and didn’t want to arrive at my hotel for the night too early.
I left North Hero at 1:00 and slowly pedaled the remaining 15 miles to Alburg. just after 2:00 i rode into Alburg. I was bit early to check in and my B&B so I checked out the general store, ate an ice cream and generally killed a couple of hours in idleness. I could get used to this.
Around 3:30 I arrived at the Thomas Mott house which is an old farmhouse right next to the lake. It’s owned by a very nice couple who made me feel part of the family and fed me in great style with the best grilled chicken breast I’ve ever had, tasty salads and strawberry shortcake.
Tomorrow I cross the border
Day 7, Alburg to Montreal
Friday July 11, 2008, 69 miles (111 km) – Total so far: 399 miles (642 km)
Voila, je suis ici. Montreal!!!!!!!!
There was a point today riding along the River Richlieu canal when I sat up on my bike and thought “F*ck I’m in Canada”.
The day started with an excellent breakfast of stuffed french toast, sausage, melon and coffee. The weather was chilly and there was the lightest of rain, I only noticed it when every so often a rain drop would hit me in the crease of my eye. I was riding north on Rt2 by 8:00 am and as soon as I got out of Alburgh I turned onto Rt225. This would take me to the small border crossing at Noyan, avoiding the 2 mile long bridge to the larger Rouses Point crossing. I soon reached Canadian customs and pulled up behind two other cycle tourists. I had a nice conversation with the very fresh faced border guard and voila, I was in Canada. I spoke to the other two cyclists as I caught up with them. We exchanged a few words in franglais. They were a married couple on holiday from Montreal, I told them I’d started in Boston a week ago. The guy puffed out his cheeks and said “Merde”. I felt good.
The road was a bit rutted and broken up by farm traffic near the border, but it soon got better and the countryside opened up into fields of corn as far as I could see. The road was straight and flat and there was no head wind so I zipped along at 16 or 17 mph. I soon reached the junction with Rt133 and turned towards St.Jean Sur Richlieu. Rt133 was busy, but had a good wide shoulder. I got off it at Blvd Iberville and headed into town looking for the Pont Gouin across the River Richlieu. Before I got there I bought a couple of oranges and apples from a roadside stand as I was feeling a bit hungry.
As soon as I crossed the river I got down onto the gravel canal path that is part of “La Route Vert” to Montreal. My pace slowed a bit, but it was a nice ride with no cars and soon enough I arrived in Chambly and stopped for lunch in a riverside cafe. I ordered croque-monsieur and a labatts Blue. The sandwich came with soup and a salad too and the total was $14, pretty reasonable.
Coming out of Chambly I lost “La Route Vert” and headed towards Montreal on Chemin de Chambly. This deposited me in a very abrupt manner at an interchange with multiple lanes doing a very passable impression of a bowl of spaghetti. I turned my map this way and that, but I had to face it, I was lost. 380 miles and I get lost in the last 20, typical. But wait a minute, a cyclist came up the hill. I asked directions and he was going towards Montreal so I followed him for a couple of miles out of the worst of the motorway madness, thanks Ralph!
Ralph got me to St.Lambert and Rue Riverside. St almbert has lots of British road names and looks very English, were was all this French stuff I thought. On Rue Riverside I got back on the bike path, but after a couple of miles I realized I was heading in the wrong direction as the Pont Jacques Cartier loomed in front of me and I needed to be heading towards Isle Notre Dame. So I did a 180 and retraced my steps. Eventually I saw more cyclists and a bike bridge. I started over the bridge, but got caught in a bike jam on a steep bit. There must have been 50 cyclists stuck on the approach to the bridge. There was no room to pass so I just got off my bike and joined the queue. Once the line was on the level I managed to pass and navigate across the St. Lawrence. That’s when I got my first sight of Montreal. Frankly I was disappointed, it’s not an impressive looking city from across the river. But worse was to come, the bike path entered Montreal via the docks and I challenge anyone to show me a good looking working dockyard. The path went by disused warehouses and under the freeway. yuck! Then it came out at Rue McGill and I was in Montreal proper and things began to look a lot better. I looked at my map and plotted a route to my B&B, Absolument Montreal. I got in at 4:00 pm and locked my bike in the garden. It had been a longer day than I’d expected, mostly because of the frustrations of getting into Montreal.
I showered, updated the blog and went out to explore Montreal and after walking around for a bit my immediate thoughts are that I know understand why “Cirque du Soieil” are the way they are…….those wacky Quebecuois.
I’ve had an email since my last post showing me where I went wrong coming into Montreal and I made it difficult for myself by loosing the Route Verte. I’ve had a very interesting weekend here in the middle of the festival, the spirit of the people here is amazing.
I walked out of my B&B and a couple of blocks away there’s a street fair going on
Weekend in Montreal and drive back to Boston
Monday July 14, 2008
Saturday My initial impression of Montreal from the opposite bank of the St Lawrence wasn’t that good. The most prominent building was the Molson brewery, and while I strongly support breweries and everything they make, the Molson builing is not very attractive. I also approached the city through the docks and it wasn’t until I biked through the old town that I got to see some of the more attractive parts of the city.
I spent Saturday walking around the Latin Quarter, through downtown and to the old port. Montreal reminds me of a funky Boston and what it lacks in architecture it makes up for with its people. It has a young feeling that you don’t get in downtown Boston. In the morning I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art which was a lot of fun, and then went to a couple of history museums in the old port to learn about Montreal’s past. I had an excellent meal in the Museum of Archeology and History and the views from the balcony of the port and Jacques Cartier bridge are great. Then I walked through the old town and ended the day at the Museum of Fine Arts. They had a Yves St Laurant exhibit which was a little poignant as he recently died.
Sunday was a bit damp, well it rained most of the day so I got a lot of use out of my umbrella. I walked through McGill University and up to the park, but the persistent rain forced me to take cover in a band stand for a while with a group of volleyball players. Somehow that strikes me as rather surreal. Anyway we passed an hour in conversation until the rain eased enough for me to head out again. I made a bee line for Rue St Denis and Les 3 Brasseurs as I needed a beer and some food. One turned into two and then four. Eventually the rain stopped and I walked up and down the street watching the street performers before wandering back to the B&B.
On Monday I was up early and left Absolument Montreal at 7:30 with a bag of pastries for the road. I rode to the downtown Hertz and picked up my rental car. It was a Chevy Aveo hatchback. The forecourt attendant wasn’t sure my bike would fit in the back, but I knew it would, that was if we could figure out how to open up the trunk. The attendant messed around with the key and pushed and pulled without success for about 5 mins. Then I stumbled on the latch, it was to the right hand side of the trunk lid and not easy to locate. Advice to Chevy, make your latch placement more intuitive. I took the front wheel of the bike, moved the front passenger seat forward and the bike went in easily.
The next problem was to get out of Montreal. I had the route marked on a map and I’m glad I did as there were no signposts for Rt10 or the Pont Champlain in downtown. I got onto Rue University which becomes Rt10 and I was heading south towards I89 and Vermont. The route south to Vermont isn’t very busy and is along Rt133 which becomes a small road after St Jean sur Richelieu. I reached the border in good time and made sure I’d eaten all the pastries before I got to customs. On I89 the miles zipped by, Burlington, Montpelier, Concord, I93, Manchester and then I was back in Boston at 2:00. It had taken me 6 hours to drive what it had taken me 7 days to ride.
So here are some thoughts and advice to follow while on tour.
Eat before you’re hungry
Drink before you’re thirsty
Slow down before you’re tired.
Most useful/necessary things I took.
Chamois Butt’r – a must for comfort
Gold Bond Powder, cooling and good after a log day in the saddle.
Rivendell MUSA long sleeved searsucker shirt. Great off or on the bike, I washed it every other day and it dried quickly.
Boat shoes, these are a bit heavy, but are a fantastic 2nd pair of shoes for off the bike. They are comfortable and work well in any situation, from a restaurant to walking around town or a campsite. This is a test of how well I can type with the iPhone
Smartwool long sleeve zip T-s. Great for riding. I washed them each night and they were dry the next morning
Asus eeePC worked very well, although it has problems with WEP wifi connection.
Umbrella. I wouldn’t travel without one.
The D rings that I added to my Carradice saddlebags made then easy to carry around.