Sunday, 5 July 2015

On the Spring's Challenges

Yes, I know I haven't been writing much what with one thing and another. On the other hand, Mummy has written about her takes on the first two Vélo-Québec Challenges (or Défis) of the year as well as the Tour de l'Île which I will include in this entry along with my take.

Défi Métropolitain
Regarding the Metropolitan Challenge (Défi Métropolitain), I found it not atypical of what I think of as the the Chateauguay circuit. While the precise layout changes, this is the third time I have done a Challenge starting in Chateauguay, the first one being the first one I ever did.  The route landscape is very flat and open which makes it prey adverse winds. The forecast had been for light winds, but unfortunately, there were some stiff headwinds on the outward leg. To add insult to injury, the winds proved relatively fickle later in the day, so I didn't get "my deposit back" on the homeward leg. Otherwise the weather was decent with only a little rain.  Unfortunately, as I set out, I discovered my rear tire was flat. This meant a quick inner tube change and a trip to a handy Wal-Mart for a new spare. I have been having bad luck with my rear wheel of late.

Mummy's take:

We had a party at Naisi’s on the Saturday night. Should we go into Daniel’s on Saturday, quite late, or leave early Sunday morning?  In the end we opted for early Sunday, which meant Daniel had to rent a car, but that seemed easier for him than tidying his condo for us! 

After having been rude to Daniel about his often being late, he was early and we were a minute late at the Tutti Frutti in Chateauguay. 

We had done practically no biking before this excursion, what with the trip to BC and other things, so we were a bit concerned about not being in shape.  But then it is always an effort, and we always get there.

We started biking at 8:15.  We 100 km people went anti clockwise, the 75 and 150 km people went clockwise.  Léry (it seems to me we always called it Ville de Léry) had some interesting houses.  And some that were awful.  It started to sprinkle.  I stopped to put on my jacket and said to a man doing the same, that as we were putting on our jackets, it was bound to stop raining.  I trusted the other bikers would be grateful to us. 

Lots of lovely lilac out.  Three trees at one farm were sadly downwind of a pig farm.  But often there was a lovely smell, oh yes, there are the lilacs.  There was a strong wind against us until we got to Ormstown.  My average at that point was 15 km/hr.  Ormstown was a very pretty town, with lots of old buildings.  I stopped in front of the church to take off my jacket and put on sunscreen.  Then we turned and went with the wind behind to Howick.  It was easy to do 30 km/hr.  We got to Howick and lunch just at noon.  By then my average was 17 km/hr.

I sent a text to Daniel.  A bit later I got one from him, ‘Where are you?’  ‘Under the white tent.’  So he was able to join us, which was very nice.  Poor him, the tire he had just replaced had a flat.  He changed the tube, then went to Walmart, which was right there, to get a spare.  I had been surprised that he wasn’t at lunch before us, as he had 70 km to go and we had done 60.  But that explained it.

The afternoon, although mostly downwind, had quite a bit of side wind, and almost headwind, so it wasn’t all easy.  Hugh and I had decided to skip one little bit up and back a river.  I was there first and waited quite a bit, a bit down the short-cut, so I wasn’t going to confuse people, until I saw Hugh come by.  He slowed, so I thought he was going to turn, but then he went by.  I would not have been able to catch him, so I biked on.  Then I thought of phoning him.  He answered very quickly, knew he had missed it, but it was not easy to communicate.  I biked on, till I stopped to rest and eat and drink on the church steps in Mercier.  I called him again, and he was just coming into Mercier, so I waited and he caught up. 

Last bit together.  The very last bit was beside a highway, hot, lots of cars, into the wind, tired, tough!  Finished 3:30.  Daniel showed up soon after.  He had to get his rented car back by 5 pm, so he couldn’t hang around much.  He and Hugh picked up t-shirts.  I have enough.  Chocolate milk and an apple.  Bathroom.  Find cars, change, and off home. 

Hugh drove, I dozed.  Baths, PJs for me, bagel and smoked salmon.  Asleep before 9 pm.

My statistics:  98.89 km, time 5:42, average 17.3 km/hr

Daniel: 123? km, average over 20

I noticed a few men who might have been over 70, but I didn’t notice any women my age.  I did pass a few rather plump young women.

Daniel suggests I negotiate to borrow a road bike from Laurent to see if I like it.  But a new bike for a few excursions a year seems extravagant.  I thought this bike would be my last bike.

Tired but pleased on Monday morning.

Tour de l'Île
Last year, I found the Long version of the Tour de l'Île took me through too many bits that I had already done and those bits weren't the most interesting.  Consequently, this year I opted to be a volunteer again as a "Bénévélo méchano" i.e. a volunteer bike mechanic riding with the crowd. As I don't have the training to be an "encadreur", this meant I was dealing with the 50 km version of the event. As the Parents were going to do the 100 km version, they left my flat a little before me. However, I caught up with them after a few street corners whilst they were putting on their rain gear.  We rode to the start on Parc Avenue where I left them to collect my volunteer gear and meet up with the rest of my group of volunteers.  One of these was JP, the friend who got me into the volunteering gig.  We collected the relevant bits, then as our start time was only in an hour or more, he invited me back to his nearby apartment for breakfast and to collect his nephew who would be riding with us. At least in theory.

In practice, it didn't happen. When we got to the start, I took out my big bike pump and walked up and down the line of waiting cyclists trolling for customers as inflating tires is the most common thing we do.  A little before the time to start came, I was asked to replace an inner tube on someone's mountain bike. After taking the old inner tube out I noticed there seemed to be a bit of sand inside the tire. As the guy said he'd had several flats of late, I thought I would make sure all the sand was out of the tire in case that was the issue. It wasn't as I soon and painfully found out. There was a sharp nail in the tire which cut my finger quite badly. That together with the fact that I have rarely changed 26" tires made the operation fairly lengthy.  Once he was on his way, I sought out a first aid volunteer to get a band aid for my cut.  By this time, our team's departure time had come, so JP and his nephew headed off, hoping I would catch up. Unfortunately, I never did.

In an underpass, I saw a water bottle fall off someone's bike and two other water bottles lying treacherously on the ground. I picked up all three and gave one of them back to its owner. The surface of the road was quite potholed and combined with the speed of the downhill, the water bottles had been jarred lose.  Less than a kilometer later, I stopped to help someone deal with a rack that was rubbing against a wheel. There were a couple more tires in need of inflation before I got to Westmount. I was startled to learn that several méchanos didn't have bike pumps with them, something I found very surprising given how often they are needed. Also, they are prominent in the list of things to bring for méchanos.  Coming down the Glen into St-Henri, I was unsurprised to hear warnings about an accident up ahead. I have been using the Glen on a daily basis for years. Like many Montreal streets, it is in bad shape and a flash flood a few years back didn't do it any favours. In fairness, the City of Montreal did patch a few of the potholes prior to the Tour: you can no longer see the old street car rails. There I found another water bottle knocked loose by the combination of speed and rough surfaces.  At this point, I made a detour of a few blocks to my flat for pit stop and to dump the water bottles. As I was coming out, I saw my downstairs neighbour Jacques and his girlfriend about to set off on the Tour!

The route then took me under the Lachine canal and then along beside it. A kid of about 12 or so fell off his bike more or less in front of me.  I stopped and diverted traffic around him while his father picked him up and with the help of another volunteer got him to the sidewalk. I tried my best to remember what I should do in such an event. I settled on asking a few questions whilst looking up the stream of cyclists in the hopes that a first aid volunteer would show up. Another méchano commented that the boy looked a bit dazed, but the father assured him that was the kid's normal look!

I set off again and started chatting with a cyclist from Ottawa who commented he had forgotten how back Quebec roads were.  A little later, I "alerted" a parent towing a bicycle that he seemed to have lost the kid! ;-) In fact, the kid had got tired and had opted to ride in the bike trailer hauled by the other parent!  I saw several such "events".

Coming back along the ride, I helped some more people, changing inner tubes, inflating tires. I came across one older man who was sitting out a leg cramp. I flagged down a first aid volunteer for what good it did. Somewhere in Old Montreal, I was asked to oil someone's very rusted chain.  I did quick job but it really needed more attention than I was really about or supposed to give.

At the end, among the displays was a dump truck with mats around it.  The intent was to educate the people about the significant blind spots big truck have. The mats represented the places the driver couldn't see from the cab. Members of the public were invited to sit in the driver's seat and have a look. In practice, people were getting in the truck with their small children in order to have their picture taken!

Mummy writes:

The usual suspects [i.e. Joey, the Mole, the Parents and Daniel] were all doing different things at different times this year.  Hugh and me : 100 km starting between 7 and 7:30.  Daniel : bénévélo - mécano, meet at 7.  Joey and Michael – the 50 km, starting at 8:30 or later.  So there was no rendez-vous on the Charlevoix Bridge, nor breakfast together.

Hugh and I had breakfast at Daniel’s.  Daniel figured he’d get his instructions and then find breakfast.  In fact, he ran into the friend who had got him into volunteering and was invited to his place for breakfast.  We biked together to the start.  Ours was a bit on St Laurent, to get ahead of the polloi lining up for the 50 km

Saturday had been very hot and muggy.  So it was a surprise that Sunday was so cool, 8° at times.  We started as soon as we got there, at 7:20.  Raining a bit, I wore my rain pants for warmth, even when the rain stopped.  Goretex jacket the whole way.  My hands were cold at the start, but soon warmed up.  I could have used a buff around my ears.  So many different neighbourhoods!  Some horrible pretentious huge expensive new houses.  Some pretty old ones.  A few lilacs.  North up Parc Avenue, wiggle in Park Extension, TMR, Ville St Laurent, Cartierville, Dollard des Ormeaux, Ste Geneviève, Pierrefonds, Roxboro, Senneville (sheep!  MacDonald College?), Ste Anne de Bellevue (nice old narrow main street, oh, that’s where John Abbott Cégep and MacDonald College are!), Baie d’Urfé, Beaconsfield (How nice, Lakeshore Blvd is one way west, with the other half reserved for bikes and pedestrians.), Pointe Claire (nice old narrow main street), Dorval – lunch (provided by Vélo Québec, which is new) at last!  We’d done 75 km by then, although it was only 11:30.  I was hungry, although I had nibbled a bit.  Chilly, but we put on more clothes and ate outside.  We’d been passed by a couple on a tandem, with ‘Jane and Dave, Seattle, WA’ on the back.  I saw them as I was going in to the bathroom and chatted.  They had come partly for a week of bike festival, had been in ‘Un tour la nuit’ and said it was great.  Next year!  They found the tandem great for staying together and communicating.  They didn’t seem to have the troubles some have!

All day I heard quite a bit of English.  Anglos or Americans up for the event?  Some of each, I guess.

Leaving lunch, I saw that we were just opposite the Yacht Club.  I guess I was focused on lunch on the way in.  Just before lunch, we passed the Forest and Stream Club, which I remember my father being a member of.  Now that I’ve looked it up, I don’t think hunting and fishing play any part of its focus today.  It looks like a social club only.

Lachine, La Salle and into the closed roads, lots of people, last section of the tour.  In fact it seemed less dense than usual.  Daniel thinks it thins out the further you go.  Verdun, Pointe St Charles.  We stopped at Joey’s since we were going right past on Wellington.  Only Lucy at home.  Right past Michael’s house.  I had contemplated turning back to Daniel’s after the old port, but in the end I went to the finish.  It wasn’t even 2 pm.  Hugh turned to Daniel’s at Notre Dame St.  We didn’t go right to the old port, but we did go past Notre Dame Basilica, which was nice.  Just before it, a woman to my left called out a ‘merci’ to a volunteer on the right hand side walk.  As I was thinking, how nice, she and a man crashed into each other and landed on the sidewalk in a heap.  I couldn’t tell if she veered left because she was distracted, or was the man too close anyway on her left.  Whatever, it looked painful.  But I didn’t stop and get in the way.

Going up Berri, I thought of saying to the young woman beside me, ‘We can do it’.  But then she said it to me.  A father on my other side was encouraging his son, who looked a bit plump.  When we got to the top, I said, ‘Bravo pour nous tous!’

I moseyed a bit at the finish, got a chocolate milk, would have been glad to have a banana something that looked good, but the line was too long.  Started to Daniel’s and at the corner of Parc and Pine saw Jennifer Roberts biking towards me!  She was on her way home from a weekend in Sherbrooke and Magog.  She had left her bike at Lionel Groulx where she got her Amigo lift out.  And was relieved to find it still there on Sunday afternoon.  We chatted quite a while, then I suggested she join us for supper at Joey’s.

Back to Daniel’s, shower and rest.  Supper at Joey’s:  mushroom lasagna and fennel and apple salad by me, caesar salad and bread by Joey, cheese by Jennifer, tiramisu bought by Michael.

Joey had started out, got to the canal, and decided that it was no fun, spitting rain, cold, and she was alone.  I feel badly abandoning her to do our 100 km circuit.  I’m sure she wasn’t properly dressed.  Michael had done it all, until it went past his house. He wasn’t properly dressed either and was cold.  Daniel had had a good day, multiple tires pumped up, handlebar adjusted, man on crutches helped across the street, chain greased.

Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, was featured in the media.  He had promised last year that he would participate this year.  He had trained, lost 45 pounds and did the 50 km tour with a bunch of his colleagues.  Good publicity for him, but also for a healthy life style and getting in shape, as well as making Montreal bike friendly.  The media says there were 25 000 participants.  I wonder how many on each version.  We were never crowded, just the right density.

I was less tired than last week.  All in all, a very good day, in spite of the weather.

My statistics:  111.97 km, average 17.5 km/hr

Défi de Lanaudière - Mauricie

For no reason(s) I can figure out, I acquired a pain around my tailbone which while it didn't prevent me from partaking in the Défi I was leery about pushing myself too hard. In addition, we were invited to a barbecue at James' afterwards. Consequently, I wasn't very ambitious.

The night before, the Parents and I watched a DVD of an episode of a francophone TV series about general stores in Québec. This one put the spotlight on LeBaron's store and featured interviews with Joey (the owner) and Mummy as well as other locals. In addition, there was a segment about North Hatley's popcorn cart which featured two little girls in Dreamland park getting popcorn, one of whom was Désirée!  In my opinion, the episode featured too much about the various antiques on display in the store and not enough about the incredible selection of stuff available in the store, the efforts Joey puts into getting said exotic stuff and more context including the fact that despite the name the LeBarons are an English family hence Joey's accent. In addition, the filmmakers were a little naughty in using some stock "olde tyme" footage that didn't relate to LeBaron's.

This is relevant, as just after lunch, I stopped at what was labelled a "general store" in the hopes of buying a banana or two. It turned out that it was in essence a recreation of an "olde tyme" general store and that I was out of luck regarding bananas.

A further on, I came upon the municipality of St-Cuthbert which was proudly declaring that it was turning 250.  I have recently been reading a series of novels set in Alfred the Great's day and therefore noted that Saint Cuthbert was an English saint and therefore a relatively odd choice for a place name in Quebec.  I did the math (2015-250=1765), remembered that the Treaty of Paris ceding New France to Britain was 1763, and concluded that choice of saint was likely due to the place being settled by demobilised British soldiers or in order to flatter the new British masters of New France. Mummy later told me that she had seen a sign that said the name was because the land was in a seigneurie assigned to a British officer/administrator. When asked by his French tenants for a land grant for a church, he agreed provided they dedicate the church to Saint Cuthbert as one of his names was "Cuthbert". I wasn't far off!

Mummy's take:

On Friday, Hugh and I had been going to do a loop near the north end of the Richelieu river, but the weather didn’t seem promising and my knee was very sore.  So we did odd jobs at home and left after an early lunch, and tootled around Granby, which I had regretted not having time for last September.  Interesting.  15 km.  And my knee not sore a bit!

Daniel made us a good supper of fusilli and Italian sausage and wine sauce.

We got up at 5:45, out of the house before 7, on our bikes in Berthierville by 8:10.  A gorgeous day, sunny, but not too hot.  We kept our jackets on for a short while.

Such an interesting and pretty trip!  Leaving Berthierville we were on a narrow street with old houses, all well kept.  That was the tone of the whole day.  Village after village with attractive houses, pretty church, no suburbia!  I figure it is beyond commuting distance from Montreal.  Prosperous old farm houses, some brick, with verandahs, well painted.  What a discovery!

Berthierville, Maskinongé, Louiseville, St Léon, Ste Ursule, St Justin, St Viatur, St Barthélemy, St Cuthbert.

Daniel did a bit extra, just 8 km more than us, and sent a text that he was at lunch, when we were 3 km away from it.  So we were able to eat lunch together.  The afternoon extras didn’t tempt him so he was relaxed about his afternoon, and stopped to buy us bananas.

There was a bit of wind against us when we were heading west.  I managed a few kilometres close behind Hugh, but it is always scary!  Either he or I can so easily make a false move.

St Cuthbert was our last village before the end.  I was curious about why it was called St Cuthbert.  The answer was on a plaque.  James Cuthbert, aide de camp to Wolfe, was seigneur there and gave the land for the church stipulating that it had to be named St Cuthbert.  At the end I asked Daniel if he knew why it was St Cuthbert.  He had been speculating that as the town was obviously celebrating its 250th anniversary (signs on every house), it must have been founded just after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and so the English had named it.  When I told Joey about my findings and Daniel’s near guess, she said it should have been the Défi of the Librarians.

Back at the car at 2:30, to find Daniel waiting for us.  He went for chocolate milk, while I went to pee and change.  Slow drive back.  Getting out of the car at Daniel’s Hugh and Daniel were obviously having trouble.  I gaily said that I was not feeling stiff, nimble Sue would hop out.  And when I did I had a painful cramp in one leg!.  Quick showers, barbecue at James’, home by 9 pm.

A great day!

My statistics;  97.38 km, avg 18.5 km/hr
Daniel: 103 km avg 23 km/hr

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