Tag Archives: bike trails

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!

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Bonjour Canada!

10 Jul

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Today, after a two day drive, we finally get to hop on the bikes!  A trip to Canada to tackle Le P’tit Train du Nord has been something we’ve daydreamed about for a long time.  And it’s finally here! The P’tit train du Nord (the little train of the North) is a converted rails to trails, 200 kilometers long (124 miles).  It is rated as one of the best bicycle trails in North America. The old railway bed that the trail was built upon, was closed in the late 1980’s.  The trail is relatively flat, which is quite impressive considering that it winds its way through the Laurentian Mountains, but more on the trail later…

We left home a little before 4:00 am and made it all the way to Hamilton, Ontario, crossing the border in Detroit.  The border crossing was easy.  It only took about twenty minutes to move ahead in the car lane until it was our turn to speak to the officer.  We passed him our passports, he asked where we were from and why we were coming to Canada.  We answered satisfactorily and he barely made eye contact with us before clearing us to pass.  We were warned by one of the workers at the Michigan welcome center that the crossing back into the US will not be as easy.  She said, we’ve had some trouble in the US, Canada has not…

Our first night was spent in Hamilton, Ontario.  We checked in to our B and B and the innkeeper made reservations for our dinner while we unloaded our bags and stored our bikes in the walk-in basement.  Hamilton is on the Niagara escarpment and is home to 100 waterfalls!  We were able to enjoy one of them. The restaurant where we ate dinner was a converted historic mill built right beside a large stream with a tall waterfall running right along side it.  The mill was a beautiful ivy covered building, reminiscent of  one you might see in England.

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We enjoyed a delicious breakfast the next morning, prepared by the innkeeper,  and we were ready to go. We left Hamilton, drove through Toronto then Ottawa, and finally left the main highway for a little two-lane country road that brought us to tonight’s destination.

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We are staying in a B and B called Auberge Le Sainte-Boheme.  We had no trouble whatsoever while we were in Ontario.  In fact, when we crossed the border, the first thing we saw was a McDonald’s and a Dollar Tree.  All of the road signs were in English and French.  You would have a hard time knowing you were out of the US based on the businesses in the area. But when we crossed into Quebec, it was a different story.  All the road signs are in French and very few of the businesses have English wording. We have not become very adept at converting kilometers per hour to miles per hour, but Jimmy is getting quicker.

Lunch was a welcome break from the driving when we found a place beside the river and were able to be seated outdoors.  The temperature is a delightful 75 degrees with no humidity! We noticed poutine on the menu, and had to order this Canadian staple! Poutine consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy.  It was actually delicious.  Not a combination I would have thought of, but it worked!

Back on the road for more driving after lunch, then we finally arrived.  We pulled into the B and B, got out of the car and found the entrance to the inn.  The entry way opened into a small dining room where several people were enjoying the evening meal.

The server looked in our direction, acknowledged us, then said something very rapidly in French as she walked our way.  She stopped in front of me and said another rapid French phrase that seemed to end in a question.  I froze like a deer in the headlights.  All of my French words and phrases were gone!  And at that moment, it seemed everyone in the restaurant, paused, mid-bite, with food on their forks to listen to the exchange that was to follow.  Jimmy (always to my rescue) stepped up beside me and boldly said, “Hello, we are here to check in”.  (He didn’t even try one French word!) The hostess  said something else very rapidly in French, then turned and walked away.  She came back with the owner (we learned later).  He came straight to me, looked me in the eye and said, “Do you speak French?”  I shook my head no, with a very sorry look on my face. He said, “Well I do not speak English, so we have a problem.”  (Bear in mind, this was all spoken in English, lol) He then cracked a big smile, and in broken English, welcomed us and took us upstairs to show us our room.  At that point, those in the dining room were able to resume their meal.

We were given a cozy little room with a tiny balcony overlooking the front of the property and a postage stamp sized bathroom but there is something so charming about this place!  It’s an old farmhouse built in the early 1900’s.  Michel, the owner, told us to come down for dinner whenever we were ready.

When we went down for dinner, the lady that had greeted us, and by now knew we didn’t know a lick of French, pointed to a table for two, indicating that we should sit there. She came out with the menus (which were completely in French) spoke some French words to us and left.  I used the Google translate app on my phone and we tried our best to decipher each menu item.  This took quite a bit of time.  She came back, tried to talk to us in French again, realized it was futile and left, saying the word “chef “as she went. I knew that word, so there was hope!

A young man in a chef’s uniform came out to the table and said, “I understand we have a little translation problem”.  I smiled and said, “we have a big translation problem”.  He smiled and said, “No, we will call it a little problem.”  He then started at the top of the menu, pronounced every menu item in French, then in near perfect English, explained in great detail, what each meant, even going as far as to tell us how they would prepare it in the kitchen.  He took a great deal of time with us and it made our meal that much more enjoyable having been fully informed of everything we were about to eat.

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The menu offering on weekends is a multi-course meal, so when the waitress returned to take our order, she looked at me to go first.  Since the chef had pronounced everything in French, then explained what it meant in English, I decided the courteous thing to do was to at least take a stab at the French pronunciations .  I wanted her to know that I respected the French language, so as I pointed to each course on the menu, I did my very best at pronouncing as I went.  I’ll be honest, she seemed to have a bit of trouble understanding me.  She even chuckled and corrected me more than once.  How much easier could I make it?  I was pointing directly at the words I was pronouncing?  Jimmy on the other hand, didn’t even put forth much effort at all.  He didn’t point to any words.  His menu choices sounded like this, “Caesar” (that means he wants the Caesar salad), “Hot” (that means he wants the soup that is hot, not the cold one I ordered when she corrected my pronunciation of  froide, which does not rhyme with Sigmund Freud, it means cold and is pronounced “fwah”. ) When he got to the entree choice, he simply said “Pork”.  Nothing French sounding about that, yet she smiled and nodded approvingly, and appeared to appreciate someone who didn’t, try to fake it.  To me, he was beginning to sound like Briscoe Darling on the Andy Griffith Show, when he was eating dinner and was letting Aunt Bea know they were running low on food, Meat!, Taters!. Good grief!  The last choice he had to make was dessert.  We had the choice of Creme Brûlée, Citron (lemon) tart, or fruit.  He says, “Pie” and bingo, she smiles and says Merci.  By golly, she brought him the tart when he ordered pie!

It was a delicious meal, and after we were all done, the English speaking chef came back out and we enjoyed talking to him for quite some time. He told us he had worked at the inn for 15 years, having first been a plumber, then an electrician!  But he loves what he’s doing now, and it shows in the quality of the food.  It was a good day, and we are looking forward to the next.  Au Revoir! (Good bye!)

 

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…