Thursday, August 30, 2012

Petit Train Du Nord - Part Three

Friday morning was bright and sunny. We lazed around a bit and I enjoyed a birthday call from my sister and her husband in Israel. Guy and Dianne fed us a gourmet breakfast to rival dinner the night before and sent us on our way.

Day two had us cycling from Nominingue to St. Faustin-Lac Carré, about 80km down the trail. The trail was paved for a little while but, as the map had warned, it switched to crushed stone. I was a little worried about that it because we had our road bikes but it turned out to be ok....for the most part. The path was packed and hard but there were tiny sections that were loose sand and, every once in a while, our bike tires would fishtail a bit.

It was at that point that I was grateful that we decided to forgo the clip in shoes in favour of regular pedals and running shoes. I was much more comfortable riding over the slippery sections knowing that I could plant my feet any time I needed to.

Before breakfast, I had decided to switch my basal rates to 70% for 7 hours. It seemed kinda crazy but we were planning to be out there for a long time and I didn't want to be fighting lows the whole way. Turns out that was a pretty good plan. I had great blood sugar all day (staying between 5-8) and only dropped below four once, when we were about 5k from our B&B at 4:00pm.

The day turned out to be a scorcher. Thankfully, you don't feel the heat as much on a bike because of the breeze. Every time we stopped, we immediately realized how hot it was. The trail is quite well organized though and, every few kilometres you can find water and washroom. And every 10-15k there is another converted train station with shade, water fountains, nice washrooms and often a restaurant too. So we cycled, we chatted, we stopped, we changed our one and only flat tire of the trip and we enjoyed just being part of this wonderful little cycling world.

One of the many gares we stopped at: water refills, washrooms breaks and friendly French-speaking staff there to answer any and all questions. 

We'll take your photo if you take ours. Photo courtesy of the lovely family we saw multiple times each day and who stayed at the same B&Bs that we did every night.

We discovered about 10k from our B&B that not all rail trails are flat. While there were never any arduous climbs, we found out that there are slow, long, gradual ones. Like 10k of long slow gradual. At first it felt fine, then it felt a little less fine, then we were slowing down and then I felt like I was pedalling through sand. That's when I begged for a blood sugar check. It shouldn't be this hard I panted. A quick check confirmed a 3.8 so I had a quick snack. That's when Doug told me that we had been cycling uphill for several kilometres. "So it's not just my sugar then? This is really getting harder?"


Sufficiently recovered, we made it to our B&B but with significantly less energy than the night before. No hikes through the woods or swims in the lake. I just wanted a shower and a glass of wine. And dinner.

And that's what we did. The family of three also arrived and we were all happy and thoroughly enjoying ourselves but significantly less energetic than the first night.

Gîte La Bonne Adresse

Funny thing though - a good night's sleep and I was ready to hop back on the bike again the next morning. My body was loving all the fresh air and exercise.

One of the many rivers that kept us company along the route. And a cute little water sprite I found.

Hip-hopping back to shore

Day three and I dropped my basal rate to 60% for 7 hours. I wanted to avoid that end of the day low if possible. We hopped back on the trail and found ourselves heading uphill immediately. For probably 30 minutes straight. Between my increasingly sore behind and the slow, constant climb - I was quickly developing a lot of respect for the Tour de France guys.

Once we crested whatever mountain it was that we were climbing, we found ourselves going We coasted through several kilometres at 26-30km/hour hardly touching our pedals. Long slow uphills = long downhills. We made great time and found ourselves in Val David by 11am. A quaint little town with a Saturday market and lots of tiny shops. We parked our bikes and headed off to explore. It felt like a tiny town in France.

We found a fun little spot for lunch and I ordered "Un croque-monsieur et de l'eau svp". I expected Doug to say "la même chose svp" (the same thing please) but instead he said, without a moment's hesitation "un croque monsieur svp et est-ce-que vous avez du thé glacé?" (one croque monsieur please and do you have some iced tea?)

Wow! Three days in Québec and the man is bilingual.

Monsieur Thé Glacé

Croque-Monsieur (aka a very yummy ham and cheese sandwich)

We ate, we laughed, we refilled our water bottles for the upteenth time and we headed out for our last 42km of the trip. Two hours later, we pulled in to St. Jérome and rode under the arch we had first seen three days before.

Three days. Two hundred kilometres. Countless French accents, lots of stories, pile of photos and enough memories to last until our next adventure.


  1. I loved all three posts about your adventure. Looks like you had a fabulous time with great people, food, wine and the views are amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  2. How fun! I'm going to have to do something like that someday, too.

  3. I love your vacation stories it’s like I am following along with you. Oh and I love, love the pictures too :-)