Saturday, September 5, 2009

Path: LA-3

YouTube  l  Panorama
LA-3 Lapalme Waterway / Cours d'eau Lapalme
September 6, 2009

Day 1 – September 5, 2009

My waypoint (LA-3) was only 50 km away  — as the crow flies  — according to my GPS. Instead of taking a northern route, I decided to go east and stay overnight in L’Assomption. The next morning I would have time to find the waypoint and return to Montreal via Laval. I had passed through L’Assomption while doing the Chemin du Roy on my LA-5, LE-4 trip. The Route Verte often bypasses cyclists away from traffic on the main strip and into the suburbs, but then you don’t get a sense of the town. I wanted to explore further.

It was a crisp, sunny Fall morning, but with headwind. Very few cyclists on the roads. I took the cycling trail on Notre-Dame to get off the island but avoided the pock-marked-labyrinth-like cycling trails through the smaller streets and stuck to Notre-Dame and Sherbrooke as there was little traffic. Left before the GPS had tracked all the satellites so it was in searching mode for the first two and a half hours. The interface also had lines going across the screen. It may be on its last leg. I didn’t get a reading until I reached the intersection of 100e avenue and Sainte-Maria Goretti — the bridge crossing to Repentigny. Passed the Céline Dion globe in Charlemagne and immediately saw the Route Verte trail that I had completely overlooked the last time. It took me all the way to L’Assomption through fields, suburbs and industrial parks.

Pleasantly surprised to have arrived before noon, I ate and strolled around town to survey the local architecture. I am always drawn to humble structures: the tiny chapel always outshines the ostentatious basilica. Chapelle Bonsecours was covered in vines and harboured a small cemetery with a few weathered tombstones intermixed with new ones. I was glad to see a few stone houses with the characteristic metal low sloped roofs which date from the Ancien Régime. There were also fieldstone houses with their bulbous walls, dwellings which touch me as I admire the adaptability of the early settlers, merging traditional French methods of construction with the materials at hand.

I tried to visit the Thérèse-Beaudry garden but it was closed. The panel explained that it was an example of an 18th century garden with its combination of fine herbs (thyme, sage and chives) and topinambours, sureau and pimbine. I’ve always had trouble remembering the French equivalent to English plant names (as well as fish species and trees).  Had to look up certain terms after my trip. A topinambour is the Jerrusalem artichoke or sunflower, which made sense as the tuber is edible, while sureau is the elderberry bush, again an edible berry. Pimbine was not in my dictionary. Like the fieldstone houses, this functional garden was exemplary of the determination to survive in this new geography and climate. Thérèse Beaudry was the wife of a soldier from the LaSarre regiment. Married in 1760, she gave birth to 16 children before she died at the age of 35 years c.1778. She was pregnant for almost every married year of her short life. It was sobering to read about this woman. I know I sometimes take my freedom for granted. Almost 250 years later, my everyday reality is quite different. I travel alone in relative safety when at one time unmarried women were discouraged from venturing unaccompanied outside the home.

I came across a few explicative panels by the river.

Il sort des terres une autre petite riviere du costé du Nord, nommé des François la riviere de l’Assomption, et des Sauvages 8taragauesipi, laquelle se iette dans cette grande étendue d’eau qui se rencontre a la pointe plus basse de Montreal.Relations des Jésuites, 1642.

The Outaragavisipi placename, meaning “rivière tortueuse”, was fitting as the river is indeed winding, almost forming a figure 8. In fact, there was a popular First Nations portage spot where the land almost meets at the middle of the loop. Rivière de l’Achigan and Rivière Saint-Esprit, which feed into l’Assomption are even more twisting. The Lapalme waterway is an offshoot of the latter.

Though it was a short cycling day, my knees were sore. Headwind is tiring on the body. I had pulled my inner thigh muscle. Having tired of limped through town, I retreated to the B&B and its sun dappled rooftop terrace.


Day 2 – September 6, 2009

“Au postillon de l’Assomption” is a B&B in what used to be the town’s original post-office. The owner told me its history over breakfast. Before leaving I asked her if “postillon” was a diminutive term for post office. I didn’t realize that it meant the drop of saliva that is projected forward when speaking to someone. She added that the word used to refer to the person who drove the mail coach, a horse-drawn carriage. Lovely metaphor the "flying spit" as messenger, airborne gossip. I laughed to myself as I am aware of my limited vocabulary in French. Growing up in a largely Anglophone environment, I did not often hear French. A bookworm, most of my French vocabulary was acquired through the act of reading. As I would often try to approximate the meaning of unknown words, this led to confusion at times. For instance, when I first got to the B&B, the owner tried to show me how to unlock a fussy door latch. She told me I had to “trousser” the handle which was an unfamiliar verb to me. When I looked it up later, I saw that the verb was a familiar form of retrousser (to pull up) as in “trousser la jupe”. In a similar vein there was also a “trousseur de jupons” (un coureur de filles).

Once on the road, I cycled on quiet country lanes enjoying the cool breeze. Something hissed at me as I checked my map on a small road in the middle of two cornfields, the dry husks crackling in the wind. My GPS, an older model, does not have detailed maps. The rangs are often not displayed. All I see is the trace of my path on a blank screen. I use it mostly to lock in my waypoint and situate myself in relation to it. I have always had trouble with cardinal points, with determining left and right. My orienting style tends to rely on landmarks. It is hard not to notice the towering Croix de chemin that line the Chemin du Roy.

I backtracked all morning trying to find my waypoint, up one lane and down another. I passed right by my destination the first time. At a crossroads I checked my GPS to discover that LA-3 was situated about half a kilometre in the other direction. I turned back and cycled at a slower pace, scanning the fields. I knew from prior trips that unlike a river, a waterway is usually discreet and could possibly be dried up. I hadn’t seen another body of water apart from the serpentine Saint-Esprit. But at the base of a hill, in a shady grove of trees, I dismounted almost by instinct. I could just discern a rivelet of water in the weeds. It reminded me of the LE-10 waypoint, where I could only hear trickling in the bush with no water in sight. This location was more picturesque with its wild flowers and the surrounding fields with their regular rows swaying in the wind.

After taking my photos in the round, I started packing my things back into my bike panniers. A transport barrelled around the corner and down the small hill, its wheels spinning into the gravel where my bike had been initially placed. He most probably was going high speed on a straight stretch of road and didn’t anticipate this sudden slight dip. It had been calm, with little traffic and then with no warning, this thundering charge. I thought of the small white crosses decorated with flowers by the side of the road that I had passed in my travels. I shivered, certain that the driver had also had a fright.

I stopped to eat in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan. I asked if the crêpes were made with buckwheat flour. The waitress said no, that would be the “Galette de Sarrasin”, made from local flour. It looked like grey shoe leather but slathered with butter and thick brown molasses, it tasted incredible. Certainly gave me the energy needed for the long ride home.

The smaller roads were not always well marked so I was constantly altering my route. I also went the wrong way twice. In St-Vincent de Paul I couldn't resist following other cyclists going downhill until I realized that the bridge to Laval was nowhere in view. In Montreal North I couldn’t remember the street which took me all the way to Van Horne. So I passed Christophe-Colomb, only to backtrack once again after asking a fellow cyclist for directions. The trails were congested and it took longer than anticipated to get home. It was difficult to switch gears – the fast pace of a crowded city after the tranquility of country roads with wide open spaces.

Day 1 – September 5, 2009


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average
8:00 Arrive:
100e Ave/ Sainte-Maria Goretti
Apx. 40 km
GPS not working
  Céline Dion Globe, Charlemagne
N 45°43'071"
W 73°29'143"
N 45°49'574"
W 73°25'40"
17.8 km + 40 = 58 km 1:02 + 2:30 = 3:30 8 min 42.1 k/h 17 k/h

Day 2 – September 6, 2009


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average
N 45°53'833"
W 73°37'546"
33.5 km 1:48 20 min   18.5 k/h
N 45°51'393"
W 73°35'310"
43.9 km 2:22 30 min    
Terrebonne Bridge to Laval 76.1 km 4:08 51 min   18.3 k/h
St-Vincent de Paul (backtracked) 93.5 km 5:04 1:03    

Christophe-Colomb (backtracked)
N 45°33'779"
W 73°39'839"

104 km        



Van Horne
N 45°31'678"
W 73°36'316"
Avg: 17.7 k/h
        17.7 k/h
  125 km 7:11 1:22    


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