Saturday, March 12, 2016

Le Petit Train de Nord - a cycling trip: Day 1

We all got up fairly early and made it to the restaurant for the breakfast that was included in our room fee. It was a decent breakfast. The cars were packed, the bikes retrieved and off we went to find our way to the parking lot for Mile 0 of the route. It was a bit more downtown, over a bridge, near a university, at the original train station. Easy peasy, right? No. There was a morning rush hour in tiny St.-Jerome. And our googling of the directions beforehand had failed to show us the nest of one-way streets the station was located in. After several failed attempts, we found the parking lot, paid for the required days of parking, got our bikes and bags ready and raced for the shuttle bus.

We needed to buy our shuttle bus tickets inside a caboose, which took a few inquiries to figure out. Meanwhile the shuttle bus was ready and waiting to leave. We just made it. The bus was very comfortable and pretty much full of passengers. It took a couple of hours to make the trip with various stops along the way. The scenery was breathtaking at times as we climbed into the mountains.

The second last stop before the end, a small group got off. The driver went around to unload their bikes from the trailer, the rest of us got off the bus to stretch our legs. One of the cyclists was using a special bike where she would be propelling herself with just her arms. It was humbling to think I was worried about how tough it was going to be for me, being able to use my legs.
Our shuttle bus
The bike trailer the bus pulled
The terminus in Mont Laurier was nice, well set up. It is at KM200. There was a cafe in the train station (a theme throughout the whole park - the use of the old train station buildings), we were all eager to get started so we didn't linger here. I estimate that there were around 20 of us starting from this point. Once we crossed the main highway, people spread out and we were mostly just us four for the day.

The route felt mostly flat, but there were some gradual uphill climbs. It took us all a while to get used to a comfortable pace. The surface for today would be asphalt the whole way.

When we were doing our planning, Munch, appropriately enough, was planning our snacks. How can you go on a cycling trip and gain weight? Just let me tell you. These snacks were amazing, nuts and dried fruit and M&Ms oh my! It wasn't long before we stopped for lunch. We thought the towns might be few and far between, so the first chance we had, we hopped off the trail and went to a corner store (known as depanneurs in La Belle Province) that had a bakery, sandwiches, poutine, french fries, pogos, and snacks. I bought a dozen freshly baked old style doughnuts for us to munch on while waiting for our fries and pogos. 

Poutine is a dish of french fries with cheese curds on them and gravy. Yum! Pogos are also known as corn dogs, battered hot dogs on a stick that are deep fried and usually served with sweet mustard.

One of the things we learned in hindsight after this trip is that we ate way too much, hopped on our bikes way too soon after eating - it made us feel way too sluggish to be riding. Burp.
Gumming up
The rest of the day went well. It wasn't overly hilly, that would be the third day. We arrived in Nominique, the town were our first B&B was located. It was a lovely building, originally a small convent next to the Catholic church. It was up a HUGE hill. Just what you don't want to have to do after several hours of cycling, climb a big hill.

Our B&B was Provincialart and is noted as being at KM121 of the trail. (Although we probably cycled under 60 km this day.) The address is:  2292 Rue du Sacré Coeur, Nominingue, QC

Our B&B for the night
Our hosts were wonderful. We felt very welcomed. After showering and cleaning up, I went for a little hike to the nearby lake. That evening our dinner was superb. I'll have to ask Nat what we ate. It was her birthday and for dessert our hostess had made Nat a birthday cake that was gluten-free. I have the recipe at home, it was made from hazelnuts.

That evening Nat, Chris and I played Rummikube. There were various board games in the living room and they had never played it before. Munch went off to bed early to read.

Overview              Day 2             Day 3              Day 4

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