We’ve been on the road four days now, and mostly have been dealing with challenges!  But we have managed about 120 km, and have met the nicest people, seen more of Quebec than we expected, gotten caught in quite a rainstorm, listened to Michelle Obama’s speech, heard the results of the Quebec election as they came in, caught some US Open tennis, and gotten both our bikes road ready, we hope!  No need to go into the gory details but Mike’s bike has had a couple of fatal flaws and mine a couple of inconvenient hitches… but the amazing bike shops, which just happened to be right there when we needed them, and the extremely knowledgeable and helpful fellows, (thanks Luc, Didier, and Deane!), have helped us out.

Quick overview:  Sunday September 2, we flew to Montreal, arrived 12:30 am, in bed by 2 — tired but glad to be here.  Waiting for the hotel shuttle at 1 am we met someone who works in airline risk management, and whose company, AQD, has Cargolux, the airline my son flies for, as a client.  Small world!  He was there to bring Air Canada into the AQD fold. Kinda glad Air Canada wants to manage their risks!

Monday, we reassembled the bikes (including first major set of glitches), and managed to cycle out of the airport area and on to Beaconsfield, QC resting our heads at the Chalets Beaconsfield Motel.  Free spirits at last 🙂

Tuesday, we moved along as far as Coteau du Lac, on the Soulanges Canal, and were pleased to come in out of the rain at Des Erables Motel, and order in pizza and a chef salad  🙂

Wednesday we limped in to the bike shop in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and left in good spirits thinking all was well. We made some progress, even so, about 65 km, crossed the border, and at dusk rolled into Malone, NY, to the melodious sounds of a church carillon.  It was lovely, food for the soul and spirit.

Thursday, we thought we were headed in to the Adirondacks, toward Saranac, and maybe our first campsite, but a broken chain delayed our start sufficiently that we thought it better to stay one more night, and head out early on Friday. especially in light of the looming thunderstorms and prognosis for a wet night. Another  opportunity for growth and reflection!

A few more details:  We didn’t really get a sense of the city of Montreal, but our three days in QC gave us a real flavor for the the lower part of the province.  I speak only a little French, but found people to be very helpful and friendly.  I loved trying out my few words, one time to talk to the reception at Des Arables Motel, (Mike hunches he was a Vietnamese, maybe from the Boat People time, as there were Buddist images around, and he only spoke French, which was the QC policy at the time), attempting to get more towels, an extra pillow, and order the pizza!  We both laughed a lot, but the missions were accomplished.

The next day we managed to get in to the Velo Station in Valleyfield.  Owner Luc and his son Didier dealt efficiently with our mysterious woes, and had them sorted out in no time.  When we want to pay, they refused, saying they liked helping people touring on bikes, and that it was their gift to us!   Now those are the kind of friends it’s good to have!  They told of a family with five kids, youngest 10, who had stopped by sometime ago.  They had cycled from Vancouver and were headed to Cape Breton!!  Wow  — makes out trips look like chicken feed 🙂  Cross country with five kids. Imagine.

That afternoon we travelled through the village of Ste. Anne, by that campus of McGill University, along Bord du Lac Lakeside, for many km, through quiet French neighborhoods, stopping to get fruit at a small produce shop on the corner, continuing on through Duval, Lachine, Pointe Claire, and then to Beaconsfield, where we sat out for an enchanting period of dusk and sunset in the mild evening air, listening to night sounds, crickets, cicadas.

Our route has taken us up and over various parts of the St. Lawrence River, around little islands, along a charming old canal with a rich history from the time of the Napoleanic Wars.  No longer in use, now, there is a multi-use trail beside it.

Overall our route has been very pleasant, and the weather, excepting the significant rain Tuesday afternoon, has been perfect… and we have enjoyed the signs of fall, turning sumac, goldenrod, crimson vine and maple leaves, we even came across an abandoned orchard along the canal and could replenish our apple supply.

The history of the places are rich with the French-English entanglements, empire boat building, the logging off of the virgin forests (deja vu, eh? — we just keep doing the same old thing!)  In this case they were shipped up the Chateaugay River to the St. Lawrence.  (Chateugay features in my family history, so it was fun to see the river, picnic on the shore, and read the stories.)

Then we rolled further south, through Huntingdon, farm country, lots of corn, open spaces, and very flat!  Great rural cycling.  A cold water melon stop was most refreshing!

Finally we approached the Frontiere USA, crossing over at Constable, north of Malone.  The only thing the border guards asked was whether we had signifcant sums of money.  Answering in the negative, we were pleased we didn’t have to gobble down our apples and grapes!

We rolled in to Malone at dusk, to the sweet sounds of a church carillon. What a beautiful welcome.  We treated ourselves to a locally made ice cream cone at Stewarts.  I had Peanut Butter Pandemonium 🙂 We went out on foot in the warm evening air to make a few purchases and felt ready to head off in to the Great North Wood the next day!

But it was not to be.  Just as we were heading up the hill of route 30 toward Saranac, Mike’s chain broke.  Happily we were within walking distance of Frederick’s Bike Shop, and after a leisurely afternoon, picnic supper, we are just settling in for our final evening in Malone.  We hoped.

Every now and then I take a video. You can check these out at http://www.youtube.com/user/jillschroder?feature=results_main   I like the one of the fall goldenrods… I’m pretty sure those are frogs you can in the background.  (We have seen a number of squished froggies along the road :-(, and one bright green and yellow one hopped across our path.)  We have seen lots of flickers, and ducks, and some herons so far.  A bunny too.  And a highlight was the crowd of wild turkeys that crossed in front of us!

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward AuthenticityBECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Your feedback is most welcome.

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