The last ride of our Canadian cycling Odyssey

We went back to Ottawa’s Rent-A bike to check out two bike for our last Canadian ride. Two employees that we knew from the last ride were there, and they helped us to find good bikes.

We then set off in what we thought was a northeast direction toward Lac Leamy. But as sometimes happens, we went astray somewhere. After checking the Ottawa city map , we saw that we were off the map. We decided to turn around and ride along the St. Lawrence. This we managed to do for a time, but after crossing a bridge we lost the St. Lawrence, presumably something it takes a special talent to do.  By consulting our map, we worked out a cross-town route that led us to Dows Lake Park and a relaxing ride up the opposite side of the Rideau Canal from that which we rode before.

An added bonus on this side of the canal is the Canal Ritz, a charming restaurant with outside seating overlooking the canal. Adding excellent food and service to the ambiance made this a perfect stop.  Plus it was fun to watch a young couple who had arrived by canoe put their vessel back in the water and float away.

People leaving restaurant by canoe

Canal Ritz

After riding the few kilometers back to the bike shop, we chatted with the people there until a huge noisy group of school children appeared on the scene clamoring for bikes.

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A Sunday bike ride on the Rideau Canal

Our ride along the Rideau Canal happened to take place on one of Ottawa’s Sunday Bikedays. We rented two bikes at a bike shop called Rent-A Bike, just across the street from the Chateau Laurier.  There we were carefully fitted with bikes and all the accouterments, including a bottle of water.

A very good bike shop

We had planned to ride on the path right next to the canal, but the adjacent road was closed to cars because it was Sunday. And there was more room on the road because the path had lots of pedestrians on it.

The road closed for Sunday Bikedays

It was an easy ride on the road with only a few inclines where the locks are located on the canal. We followed the canal until we reached the point where the road closure ends and then took the bike path alongside of Dows Lake, on the advice of a friendly volunteer helping with Sunday Bikedays. After riding on the path next to the lake for a bit, we turned around and headed back,  with a brief stop to watch a boat go through one of the locks.  Reaching the bike shop again, we figured we had completed a ride of about 12 miles.

The Rideau Canal

Dows Lake

For Sunday Bikedays there are refreshment stations and volunteers manning the road closures. There are also paramedics on bikes, and we did indeed see an injured cyclist lying by the side of the road receiving medical attention, a  sobering sight. Also there was a bike repair station at one point.

Ottawa is a beautiful place to ride, and there are many paths spread around the city. For more information, go to canadascapital.gc.ca/biking.

P’tit Train du Nord

Arriving in the small Laurentian town of Val David, we were delighted to see the Parc Linéaire, also called the P’tit Train du Nord, an old railroad right-of-way converted to a wonderful cycling path which runs from St. Jerome to Mont Laurier. It is not a paved path, but it has a surface of finely crushed gravel or rock that we found to be relatively easy to ride on.

Upon inquiring at the information desk in the old train station, we were directed to a place a short distance away that rents both bikes and canoes. The friendly young woman at Pause Plein Air fitted bikes to us  and only charged us $15 for two bikes for a couple of hours.

The proprietor of the bike rental facility

We got on the path and headed toward Ste. Adèle. We rode through some inhabited areas at first and than past upscale homes on beautiful Lac Raymond, then past a cascading river, finally ending up between some granite cliffs, where we decided to turn around. It was an invigorating bike ride of about nine miles.

Lac Raymond

Riding around the villages of Mont Tremblant

First we tried the free bikes at our hotel, but although they found one to fit my husband, the bars on the bikes were much too high for me. So then we went to the bike rental place at the foot of the Tremblant Village. There we were both fitted with bikes for a cost of $20 a piece.

Looking toward the bottom of Tremblant Village

Merrily we set off on the well-marked path with the yellow line down the center. But soon we had some problems. The derailleurs on these bikes did not work well, and we were encountering some fairly steep grades (at least for us).

But we manfully carried on, walking the bikes when absolutely necessary. We finally descended into the village on Mont Tremblant where we found water at the grocery store and a very obliging pair of advisors at Serge Gauthier Sports (819-425-7430). Although the door was locked when we came to their store, they rushed to open it and to help us. They carefully laid out a route back to where we had started that was mostly downhill and included beautiful scenery as well. And it was a joy to ride in the forest and in the mountain air.

Our return ride saved the trip, and we saw interesting buildings and even a small waterfall and other areas that are a photographer’s delight.

Some spectacular Tremblant scenery

The waterfront in Quebec City

Our hotel room in Quebec City overlooked the beautiful vibrant Vieux Port. The minute I saw it with its enticing bicycle path, I knew that we had to do a ride there. So on the first clear day in Quebec, we rented bikes at Cyclo Services on St. Paul Street, 2 bikes for $50. The man was most meticulous about fitting the bikes, and it paid off. They were easy to ride, the best ones of the whole trip, with comfortable seats and good derailleurs.

The Vieux Port of Quebec

We set off to the west on the trail along the St. Lawrence River, first passing through the hubbub at the port. With three ships,  German, American, and  Canadian, moored in the harbor, even in the morning, crowds were gathering. Once clear of the harbor, we found less traffic but a rather ugly industrial area. However, after pedaling along for a bit, we rode up over a rather steep rise to behold a really attractively landscaped parklike area along the river.

The Pont de Quebec

We stopped at a rest area with a small refreshment stand just before we reached the Pont de Quebec. Restored by coffee and some photographic opportunities, we happily pedaled back to the bike shop, slowed by the crowds at the port and the invigorating sight and sound of an American military band playing the National Emblem March.

The band is playing

If we had only had another day in Quebec, we could have ridden the other direction to Montmorency Falls.

A ride on the Lachine Canal

We went back to our same Montreal bike shop where again we were given directions, and the guys carefully fitted bikes to us, even adding a rack to my bike for carrying my backpack. Because it was a week day, the cost was five dollars less per bike.
The canal trail was easy to follow; we stayed on the path next to the canal at all times. Even though the path was fairly flat, there were enough gentle slopes and curves to make it interesting. And we did cross over a couple of bridges. The tree-lined path is remarkably beautiful given that there are still lots of factories on the side of the canal opposite the path.

The leafy path along the Lachine Canal

We easily rode the nine miles to the point where the canal ends in a park full of interesting sculptures and where the canal empties into the vast St. Lawrence Seaway. These particular sculptures reminded me of  prehistoric stone circles such as Stonehenge.

Sculptures in the park where the canal empties into the St. Lawrence Seaway (Please click on this picture to enlarge enough to see carvings on the stones.)

We stopped often to take pictures and even ate ice cream bars before lunch (usually forbidden in my family), finally stopping for lunch at the Marché Atwater, a gardener’s and foodie’s paradise. Despite our poor French, we were able to make our wishes known, and we had delicious sandwiches for lunch.

Some goodies at Marché Atwater

An outing on the precursor to the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Lachine Canal, is a great way to spend a day.

Ride to the islands in Montreal

The first ride of our trip to Eastern Canada was to the islands in the St. Lawrence River that lie just across from Montreal’s old town.

We rented two bikes at a shop called Ca Roule Montreal on wheels. The people at the shop were very accommodating, carefully charting out a route for us to follow and fitting bikes to us. However, the rental was expensive, $60 for two bikes for three hours. But at the end of three hours we had reached the maximum for the day. My husband was satisfied with his bike, but I found the handlebar position on mine uncomfortable.

As per usual, we made a couple of wrong turns, but friendly natives helped us out. After passing the interesting architecture of Habitat 67, we crossed the St. Lawrence River on the Pont de la Concorde, a long bridge with a path comfortably separated from traffic. Exiting on to the Ile St. Helene, we came upon La Biosphere, a geodesic dome that now houses an environmental museum. Next we passed a robotic looking sculpture by Alexander Calder.

La Biosphere

La Biosphere

On the second island, Iles Notre Dame, the bicycle trail led us on the Circuit Gilles Villanueve, a track that is used for auto racing. A person could cover many more miles than we did on these two islands; there were athletic looking people everywhere on bikes and skates. But we found our ride of about 14 miles satisfying and memorable.