Tag Archives: bike rides

Veloroute des Bleuets; Biking the Trail of the Blueberry-Day 4-Dolbeau-Mistassini to Sainte-Monique

24 Jul

Today’s ride has been one of our favorite days (have I said that every day?). The morning started out clear and cool, just 44 degrees, so we took our time retrieving our bikes from the storage area in the hotel. Something we’ve appreciated about the lodging arrangements is that each place has had secure storage for the bikes. No need to leave them outside on a bike rack! The storage at this hotel was in an unused conference room. When we went down to get the bikes, it was apparent that we weren’t the only bikers staying here, and we weren’t the only bikers that don’t leave the bikes outside, lol.

It soon warmed up and we began to peel off layers. We began our ride with the trail travelling right alongside the river. It was beautiful!

Shortly after our ride began, really before we were even out of the town where our hotel was, we saw a home decorated with an abundance of blueberry lawn art.

The small sign at the end of the driveway was in French of course, but I was able to translate a few key words. The key words being bleuets (blueberries) , tarte (pie), etc. Funny how I’ve learned these words so quickly this week. At dinner tonight, as we enjoyed yet another slice of blueberry pie, Jimmy and I counted up how many pieces of blueberry pie we’ve eaten this week. That total is 11! Remember this is just day 4, so I’m probably on the path to coming home with the shape of a blueberry after this week.

But back to the house with the blueberry lawn art. I thought it might be a place to buy blueberry products, but couldn’t tell for sure if it was a private home or a business? There was no signage on the house itself, just the one small sign beside the driveway. I had to find out, so I went to the door and knocked. (I noticed Jimmy stayed back at the end of the driveway with his phone poised to take a picture, just in case it was something he could submit to funniest home videos). A lady opened the door and I said, “Hello, is this a market? For blueberries?” She smiled and said “oui, oui”, and motioned for me to come in. I called for Jimmy to come in, that the coast was clear, and he joined me as we stepped inside. We had stepped into a home kitchen that had been converted into a little home business.

She had a number of blueberry desserts on display, and though she spoke no English, she pointed to each and tried her best to use words we might know. It was charming! So we each picked out a dessert, blueberry cheesecake for Jimmy and a blueberry layered dessert for me. She asked us to sign her little guest book and we were on our way to find a bench to enjoy our desserts (even though we had eaten breakfast less than an hour ago!)

We rode through a couple of little towns and stopped to tour an old mill right on the river. The girl that conducted our tour did a great job translating into English, and it was a nice stop to stretch our legs and rest our bottoms!

 

We rode through some beautiful countryside again today. And the bright blue skies and mild temperature of 72 degrees made the day most enjoyable.

We saw many farms and large wild blueberry fields again. The most prominent crop was potatoes and there were also several large dairy farms.

At one particularly picturesque dairy farm, we saw an open door in the front building and heard voices inside. I had stopped to take pictures of the beautiful barns and decided I would like to find out if they had anything for sale or if they offered tours.

I could hear two women talking in the front office with the door open to the outside where I stood. I walked up the steps to the open door and said, “Hello”, they both stopped their conversation, looked at me and answered “Bonjour”. I asked, “Do you have items for sale or do you offer tours?” I didn’t see any type of sales in the room we were in. In fact it was just an entryway into a massive barn. They both looked at me for a second, and I rephrased my question a time or two to see if they could understand. Finally they did, and said excitedly, “ oui, oui, come!” The young woman explained (in very good English) that the two of them would show us around the dairy farm, and motioned for me to follow them. (I think my Kentucky accent was hard for her to understand initially. I sometimes have that problem even in the U.S.) I called to Jimmy to come on in (noticing that he’d hung back again, probably waiting to see if I would get escorted off the property, lol). The young woman explained that the older woman would give the information in French, and she would serve as interpreter. The Gaston Morin Dairy Farm has been in existence since the 1950s and is a family owned operation, passed down from father to son we learned. Together, the two women took us through every building, explaining the different groups of cows, how they are cared for (very well!) and all that goes into the production of milk. We saw a brand new calf struggling to get to his feet as the momma cow licked him.

They told us he was born just one hour ago! It was fascinating and the two women were so sweet. I knew we were taking them away from their jobs, but they were very thorough in their tour. At one point, we needed to cross a wooden boardwalk to access another section of the huge barn. The older woman, who did not speak English, held up her hand for us to stop. She then picked up a shovel and began shoveling off the wet wooden slats which naturally, had a light covering of manure. Once the slats were  clean, she spread out fresh hay for us to walk on. She would not let us cross the 8 foot span of boards and get our shoes dirty! It was such a thoughtful gesture.

The herd was a large one and the section of the barn we had just entered housed 470 Holstein cows. Other sections of the barn housed the newborn calves, the pregnant cows close to delivery, and cows that were recovering from illness.

We toured an additional barn as well where feed was stored and other cows were housed.

It was all absolutely fascinating. It was beautiful to hear the French language as the older woman explained things, then to hear her words translated into English for us by the young woman. We had our very own private tour (no charge!), and they paused often to ask if we had any questions. There was no indication that this farm was open for tours. I think these two women, knowing we were visitors from the U.S., willingly took time out of their day to show us their part of the world. When the very thorough tour was finished, they began to ask us questions about where we lived. They asked us where we were from and what we were doing on our travels. They asked us if it was rainy in Kentucky, lol. Then asked if it was hot and humid. YES! We answered! Jimmy did a quick calculation and gave them our temperature in Celsius on the day we left for our trip. They were surprised at that, and said they could only recall one time when the temperature had gotten almost that high in their country. As we ended our tour, the older lady said to the younger (which she interpreted for us) “I really want to learn English” I laughed and said, “well, I really want to learn French!” and that was interpreted back to the older woman. We all had a good laugh at that. We returned to where we’d left our bikes and said farewell. We realized we’d just encountered another couple of sweet Quebec residents that took the time to make our visit extra special!

Back onto the bikes to explore more of the beautiful Trail of the Blueberry.

We stopped for lunch at a small town beside the river and ate outside as we overlooked the water.

The remaining portion of the ride took us through beautiful wooded areas and close to the lake in portions. We rode to the sounds of songbirds and the sight of flowers and wild blueberries everywhere!

We arrived in Sainte-Monique and found our place of lodging with no problem. It is called Auberge Ile de Repos, and houses a campground as well as cabins right on the beach with volleyball court, fire pit and a beautiful croquet court.

We are staying on the second floor of a cabin overlooking the river. It’s very basic, no plush amenities, but it is beautiful. There’s no A/C, but it is so cool outside, we will sleep with the windows open. Bike storage tonight is our deck, so we had to take both bikes up a flight of stairs and through our room to access the second story deck. 

We ate dinner at the restaurant on site in the main building, and it was delicious! We ate outside overlooking the river. I ordered salmon and Jimmy ordered walleye. We started with a bowl of warm Gourgane soup again, which we will really miss once we return home. We could not resist another slice of blueberry pie for dessert, and I think it’s the best pie we’ve eaten yet! But we will try more tomorrow, so I will let you know!

After dinner, we walked along the small country road that led to our cabin, taking in all of God’s beautiful creation and sorry to realize that tomorrow is our last day on the Trail of the Blueberry!

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The Heavens Declare His Glory (day 4: Mont-Tremblant to Sainte-Adele)

14 Jul

Today, we saw a return to gorgeous blue skies and warm sunshine.  It felt great after the drizzly morning we had on the trail yesterday.  We were seated for breakfast and Jean-Claude, the owner of the inn, set steaming cups of coffee in front of us.  He then brought the cream and sugar right out, and sat it in front of Jimmy.  The little container that held the sugar appeared to be little crumbles of a natural brown sugar.  Fancy!

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Jimmy was preparing to add cream and sugar to his coffee when he asked me, “are you sure that’s sugar?”  I said, “Of course it’s sugar, what else could it be?”  He reached for it, and I thought maybe I should taste it first just to be on the safe side.  I took a little pinch of the granular stuff in my fingers and tasted it.  It was definitely not sugar, but I had no idea what it was.  It tasted like meat, which is NOT what I was expecting.  I stopped Jimmy from stirring it into his coffee, thank you very much, and as we sat there wondering (and chuckling) Jean-Claude came back out with a basket of bread.  He said, “I forgot the bread!” He explained that his wife had prepared a traditional dish of tourtiere for us to try.  He said it is a mixture of meats and seasonings and is somewhat similar to pate.  He said it was very good, and she made it herself from scratch. We thought it was good too, but I’m sure it was much better spread on the fresh French bread than it would have been stirred into hot coffee!

Our breakfast plates followed, we were given a choice of two different entrees and we wanted to try both!

I am not sure how I will return to a life where a gorgeous plate of breakfast is not placed in front of me each morning! Jimmy had French toast with fruit, I had something Jean-Claude described as ciabatta topped with egg, cheese, and veggies.

The section of trail we tackled today was a somewhat shorter distance (33 miles) but had the highest change of elevation on the trail. Also today, wae passed the half-way point of the trip.  We’ve logged 150 miles at this point, and should be at about 250-260 miles by the end of the week. The trail surface changed from asphalt to a crushed hard-pack pea-gravel, still a good surface but a little more effort required to pedal.

The gorgeous scenery we experienced kept us distracted from the feeling of fatigue in our legs. A verse of scripture kept coming to my mind today; “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”. Psalm 91:1. Boy is that ever true in this place! Words cannot adequately describe the beauty we saw today. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

For lunch, we stopped at a charming place right beside the bike trail in the little town of Saint-Faustian-Lac-Carre’, called La Stazione (the station).  We were seated on the deck in the warm sunshine and greeted by a sweet lady that brought us water (I don’t even try with the iced tea anymore, it’s not gonna happen here) and handed us menus.  We looked at the menu, using Google translate to decipher the words.  When she returned, she smiled sweetly and said in English, “How is your French?”  “Terrible!” I answered.  (Why not cut straight to the chase! Any bit of  confidence I gained preparing for this trip with Duolingo is gone!) She laughed and said, “ok then, so do you have questions about the menu?”  We did, and she answered them all, explaining different menu items and options for us to consider.  Jimmy settled on a pizza and I had soup and salad.  The soup du jour (of the day) was wonton of all things, and it was delicious.  The spinach salad was a work of art!

As we were waiting for our food, another couple pulled off the bike trail to eat, and stopped at our table to chat for awhile.  We enjoyed getting to know them as we waited. They were on holiday from New Zealand, and were interested in learning about the States and we about New Zealand.  We may have to plan a bike trip to their country after that conversation!

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Back on the trail for more of God’s handiwork! More photos below, no words needed.

I pulled to the side of a bridge to take a photo and struck up a conversation with a lady doing the same.  I asked her if she often rode the trail, telling her how much we were enjoying it.  She said, ” I get to ride it every day, it’s my job.” I said that it sounds like a dream job to me and she agreed, she said,” I can hardly believe it myself!” She is a riding trail ranger, carrying some first aid supplies, knowledge of the trail, and eager to lend assistance if needed.

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As we neared Sainte Agathe Des Monts, we spotted another restored train station and decided to take a peek inside. These old stations are treasures, each one offering a glimpse of days gone by and offering clean restrooms, a place to refill water bottles, and purchase food and snacks.  We sat on the front porch in big comfortable chairs and ate ice cream, watching the bikers and walkers go by.

We reached our B and B in St. Adele and checked in.  Very common with B and B’s here, is that a number of them offer an evening meal to the guests.  That has been very nice to not have to get back out and find dinner after a long day on the trail.

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The owner of the B and B explained that she offers a French fondue dinnner, and gave us a card to make our selections as to soup, meat and dessert.  We thought it might be fun, and it was! She had a table ready for us when we went down to the dining room and there was another couple already seated at the next table doing the same fondue meal.  They were very personable, and were from Ontario riding the trail for the first time as well. We enjoyed our dinner and getting to know them. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day!

Five Days on the Katy Trail – Day 0 – Prep

26 Jul

We’ve day-dreamed about this trip ever since we first rode the Katy Trail a couple of years ago.  On that trip, we parked the truck, rode our bikes out a certain distance, rode back, stayed the night in the town where we’d parked, then drove to another location the next morning and did the same thing.  But as we explored the Katy Trail on that trip, we realized that because the Katy Trail is an old rail line, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (M-K-T for short, further shortened to K-T “Katy”), it connects little towns all along it’s route.  The Katy Trail State Park is the longest rails-to-trails project in the U.S.  It is a beautiful route, following the Missouri River and weaving through some beautiful farmland and quaint little towns.  We thought it would be fun to see if we could pack everything we needed on our bikes, and ride the Katy Trail from little town to little town without having to double back to the truck at the end of each day.  There are many places to lodge, camp, or bunk for the night depending upon your desired luxury level.  And though we really enjoy camping in the fall and spring, we don’t enjoy it too much in the hot summer temperatures.  Plus camping would require even more gear, so we never considered that.

For this trip, we plotted our course, doing our best to judge the mileage that would be a comfortable distance for us to ride each day, and then began to research Bed and Breakfasts in the towns where we knew we’d be staying overnight.  The Katy Trail is 237 miles long and begins in Machens (near St. Louis) and ends in Clinton, MO.  The trail info we’ve read, claims that the whole thing can be ridden on a bicycle in 5 days.  I’m sure that is possible for some people, but probably not us.  We are your average mid-50 year olds with 6 kids (though the kids aren’t joining us on this one).  Our trip plans, were a little less ambitious.  We decided to travel from St. Charles to Booneville.  Though Machens is the Eastern most point of the trail, there are no facilities or services at that trailhead.  Many people consider St. Charles as the logical place to begin when traveling the trail from East to West.

There were a few unknowns in the planning, not the least of which was how our bodies would respond to consecutive days of riding with full saddlebags (we shall soon see…), and the unpredictability of the weather.  I’ve been praying alot about both, so I think it’ll be fine.  But even if we are delayed by body aches or weather, the distance is still reasonable (we hope!).  I’ve waffled back and forth between extreme confidence and total trepidation.  We’re no teenagers, but I’m confident we will do the best we can, enjoy being together, and encounter nice people and memorable experiences along the trail!  If we have to stop early and pack it in because of something unforeseen, well at least we tried and had fun doing it.

Now for the gear.  We both have racks on our bikes with saddlebags.  I’ve never used mine.  On our other bike trips, we’ve just piled the stuff we’ve carried with us into Hubby’s bag. But this trip would require both bags, and this is where we had a difference of opinion.  I was determined to pack light and just use the bag itself, not the panniers.  (Panniers are on the side of the bag and are stored in pockets that can be unzipped and hang down on each side of the bike tire from the rack, giving twice the storage).

I wanted to take my iPad, a small wireless keyboard, a card reader, and my camera so I could upload pictures and update my blog in the evenings when we arrived at the Bed and Breakfast.  But other than those accessories,  I was determined to keep it minimal, not thinking much about other things we would need.  But what I failed to recognize initially, was the fact that I’m married to Mr. Double Contingency.  Hubby works at a nuclear facility and Double Contingency is his middle name, (and he’s very good at it).  While I was thinking about packing a sleep shirt and 2 sets of bike clothing with fabrics that could be rinsed in the sink at night, he was thinking of the “what ifs”.  So the logistics portion of the trip was right in his area of expertise!  I wouldn’t recommend, nor attempt this trip without some serious consideration to all the “what ifs”.

The trail is in a largely rural area and cell reception can be spotty.  There’s not the option of riding back to the truck if something goes wrong.  His approach was well thought out and doable with a couple of good saddlebags. Everything we’ve read in preparation for this trip has been clear on the extras that need to be packed;  spare inner tubes, chain links, water, snacks, etc.  Careful planning makes for a successful trip!  He’s a great trip planner, and when we travel, he’s always the one that does the research, plots the course, picks the restaurants, and makes the reservations.  And I’ve never been disappointed!  Once I had all my stuff gathered, (it was a bigger pile than I anticipated) I unzipped my panniers and packed for the trip.

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And so the weeks of planning will pay off beginning tomorrow!

Tomorrow, St. Charles to Defiance…