But something clicked in her about a year ago and she began to see past those things and realized how much fun I was having and decided she wanted a piece of that fun too. So, one day, she asked me: "Do you think you could plan a bike tour that I could do?" - to which I replied "Of course!" So planning began for a bike touring trip and we quickly zoned in on Le P'Tit Train Du Nord in Quebec because it ticked all the boxes we needed for a fun first trip: basically flat, hotels instead of camping, we love visiting Quebec, no highways involved.
So off we went and here is our trip report. Leave us a comment if you have any questions.
Nadia has also graciously contributed her thoughts and experiences as someone who has never done a bike tour before, complicated but her ileostomy and recent surgeries. Her thoughts are in white.
I wouldn't consider myself a cyclist. Yes, I own a bike store with Sean, but I ride upright, pretty bikes with baskets on the front with my dog, Monsieur. Touring is a whole other world. Riding bikes more than one day, no way. I was of this mind set for many reasons, including my medical condition.
I have an ileostomy. I had surgery in 2011. This illness has governed my life for so many years that it's hard to remember my life before. When we opened the store I was an apprentice carpenter. I had only rode a bike for fun once in Amsterdam. Sean and I embarked on a couple of years of incredible bike dates and adventures. I was far from fit. I never broke a sweat, except if was warm. I rode exclusively for fun. I liked walking up hills. When the illness struck me I found myself very sad about missing the bike rides that brought me such joy. Really my happy place when I was feeling rough began to be the rides along the river, the colors of the trees, the smells of nature. Surviving mentally was the memories of me under my own power pushing along enjoying life. The illness and recovery was a long hard fought journey. Then some magic started to happen. I was in my own way getting back to life. The bike ride was my measure of success. The Legacy Trail became my goal. An hour and a half ride there and hour back (50Km) if I could do this WOW. I did it again and again. Last year we rode it four times total. So shocking for me. In the years since the ileostomy surgery I could now dream bigger for myself. The bike was my friend my best pal. I still have many fears. I don't like riding beside fast traffic. This is a fact that I don't think will ever change. So any trails that are safe from moving vehicles I'm in! Sean and his group have been doing this incredible bike tours in places I'd feel far from comfortable in. Could there be something out there for me? Sean was more than happy to find us a trip. This year we planned a big adventure.
Day 1 Laval to St. Jerome 35kms
|Our bikes for the trip: Tout Terrain's lovely custom bikes. The blue one is their bikepacking rig - the "Outback" - which I used the month previous on a trip to Kimberley (check out the post) and the lovely venetian red coloured "Via Veneto" mixte model setup with a Rohloff 14-speed hub, belt drive, dynamo lighting, and disc brakes. Both of these bikes are part of our TT demo fleet - come check them out in the shop soon. They worked perfectly over the course of the trip.|
|Before we knew it - BOOM! - we were onto the south segment of the trail which leads right up to Kilometre Zero in St. Jerome where we would spend the night and then take the Autobus up to Mont-Laurier the next morning to start the actual trail. There were quite a few roadie types on this segment comprises mostly of older men and women out enjoying the day.|
|The "flower child" in her natural habitat.|
Nice easy ride that was picturesque at times even though we were rolling through some suburbs at the beginning.
So day one was a little zip to the bus. We had done a ride on the Chestermere canal to see how far I could ride comfortably. 75KM there and back from our house. I had my electric Gazelle, which helped in the wind and the last 20KM or so. So I set my limit on 50ish as a distance I could manage unassisted. Sean tried his best to make this happen. I'd never ridden two days in a row. I tried not to think too much about he questions in my head about my abilities. Fear as we all know, can keep you from living. This was now happening, I couldn't believe it. I had to push the pedals, myself, and my 20lbs suitcase along a journey that turned out to be 289KM total. There was no calling a cab or getting on a bus or the train. Me and my bike had to get to the next place, there was no choice really.
Day 2 Mont Laurier to Nominigue 55kms
|Baguette onboard. The conditions on the day were perfect: overcast, cool temperatures, and no wind. We spotted this little free library and decided this was as good a place as any to stop for a drink break.|
|When in Rome... Local sausage, local baguette, local jam, local brie, and prosecco for lunch. So! Good. Protip: Bring lunch as there is not much along this leg.|
|One of the many beautiful marshy areas along the route. There is a busy beaver in the photo but it's hard to spot.|
I felt this one by the end. Around 35kms in was when I hit my wall but was able to ride through it. The route felt really remote with nothing but trees between the beginning and end. So glad we brought our own lunch.
Day two was much more of a ride. Yesterday was 40ish today 50ish. Oh my! It's flat and smooth without traffic for kilometers - so incredible! So dreamy! The scenery made it so very enjoyable. There are KM markers along the way, which makes my ride even better, I could count up and down and everyone of the little brown signs signified my triumph through pedal stokes. But then the incline - not a big incline - but at times it felt ENDLESS. Slow biking kills every part of the body, especially the mind. I can say the nap when we hit the hotel at the end of the day was my favorite. I wasn't very good company at dinner, I believe I was just a puddle. And the sleep that night, heaven.
Day 3 Nominigue to Mont-Tremblant 60kms
|Nadia's whip: Tout Terrain Via Veneto model with Ortlieb bags, Rohloff 14-speed hub, belt drive, full fenders, dynamo lighting and Schwalbe tires. This bike is one of our demos, come check it out in store.|
|Sean's whip: Tout Terrain Outback bikepacking/trail bike with 12-speed Pinion Drive crank, belt drive, Swift Industries bags, and Jones bars. This bike is one of our demos, come check it out in store.|
|Little lovelies everywhere...|
|La Gare Labelle had an excellent bistro inside with a full bar and restaurant including frites fried in duck fat . The interior was beautiful and the food was quite good. Definitely recommend a stop, even just for a refreshment.|
|Chickens chilling out beside the path.|
I was pretty toast by the time we got to Labelle and we still had 21kms to go. The toughest day of the trip, no question. Knowing that I had a day off the bike the next day and a massage booked too made the suffering worth it.
My ileostomy and traveling can be a big deal or not. We ostomy people prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In almost all the moves we make every day our "BAG" governs many choices we make. I have extra supplies always at the ready (extra bags, wipes, clothes) because our bag systems aren't always perfect. Accidents of big proportions happen to us at any given moment, and sometimes for no reason. This fear might be my biggest battle of my life. I have overcome many of the struggles with the help of weed since having the surgery to remove my colon and then a few years later, my anus. I have my medicine with me and it always relieves my symptoms and anxiety that follow me everywhere. I smoked on this ride and it is a great companion. I also can say that without this medicine I don't think I could have done it. I still suffer often from phantom pains. I had significant surgery last October to remove my anus. Yes, my ass is ornamental now, sometimes referred to a "Barbie Butt" in ostomy circles. I was worried about the daily ride on my new rear. I have new and severed nerve endings at a very tender spot, for all of us. I was new to all this so here we go.
Day three and I have a new appreciation for my love. Sean rides and rides and rides. He's always been able to ride circles around me when I put put along. On this ride he was "tail gunning" - hanging out behind me, happy to sip on wine and watch over me from the back. I know the pace I go is not his. He kept assuring me that this ride is for me, not him. I have my boombotix booming my favorite tunes and helping me trudge on this long, hard day - because now it's uphill all the time. Uphill is painful. Everywhere hurts. Hurting from riding so much: my neck, wrist, my feet even. How do your feet hurt when your not using them? I knew we had a two day stop and a plan for a massage tomorrow so I was ok with the day. But at the 50KM, I was done done and done. The climb the humidity - and my ornamental ass! There was what felt like an endless ride along a lake on the way to Mt. Tremblant, not sure I even enjoyed the view. Turned out to be a bit of a climb to the room for the night. I can say my toughest day on a bike.
Day 4 Mont-Tremblant - Val-David 58kms
|Morning mist over Lac Tremblant. On paper, today was looking to be one of the toughest days due to the amount of elevation gain as we climb up to the highest point of the trail.|
|Nadia plugging away on the uphill of in the distance...but relief was close...|
|We found chocolate! A tiny little sign on the trail mentioned there was chocolate up a little grass trail and sure enough there was. Kooky little dark chocolate tourist trap - we bought something to nibble on along the way.|
|Quebec does feel really welcoming to cyclists. I wish Alberta would just cut/paste so much of what they have done.|
Tough day for sure, the most climbing I've ever done (we did about 300m on the day) but the descent to Val-David was great.
Day four of riding! This is when I've realized the amount of work I've done and perhaps how much we had left to ride. I was grateful for the day off and not sure if that was the best. It's a mind thing for sure. I wasn't sure about this body I am in. I was only then realizing that my struggles to embrace my colon free body has made me push more that I ever have before. I once had a "healthy" body and before it went bad I'd have never dreamed of putting my body to any major tasks, I was happy with where I was at. Sean and I had found hiking as an activity we could do together and I think it started my connection with my body in a new way. The rush of accomplishment when you get to the peak. Here I was - four days into a bike tour - I was now a cyclist. I asked for no help with my bags. I didn't have an electric this time. I was feeling elated. Also knowing that we were about to pass the half way mark and the highest point of the entire trail made it an extra special day. Turned out there was some downhill this day too. And hand made chocolates.
Day 5 Val-David to St. Jerome 45kms
|Are we Teletubbies? Eurotrash weirdos? Kook on patrol? Drowned rats? All of the above?|
|Poncho life. It was so wet that both my grips would come off the bars just by using foul language. It had been many years since I'd been so wet over so many days of riding - maybe never before actually.|
Day five! WTF! I've made it five days on a bike. We awake to rain and as it turns out warm rain. I am thrilled. As you can see in some pictures I'm in a tank top. Under the funny Brooks poncho I am still in a tank top. This wet cycling experience is something I've never experienced to any degree. This warm rain made it delightful. As I've said this journey was a struggle both a physical and a mental. As this day moved forward my elation was shocking. I had fun regardless to how much my body hurt. We had sunshine and rain over the course of the trip. I've had a chance to see the countryside of Quebec. We enjoyed great meals and good people. At the end of this day we were back to where we started - more than 200KM done. Plus the ride to get to the bus and now the ride back to Laval tomorrow.
Day six. The last day and the shortest ride. I was so ready to be done at this point so I was very grateful that it was almost over. The little bit left has put my total close to 289KM at the end of the day. This old (49) fat (180lbs) broken (no colon) body has rode almost 300KM. I feel tired and sore and elated. My love has been so very generous in supporting me. The understanding he has for me is so generous. The patience he showed for my struggles was fueled by wine (love, actually). :) I'm grateful for my experience and the help I received from him. As I have shared this a bit with my friends they ask now what? I still want to bask in the bliss of this experience. Not sure if I'd like to ride this many days in a row carrying so much stuff. But I do know I could if I wanted to.
So you just never know.
All in all, we'd definitely recommend the trip. There are many ways to do it too: out and back, shuttle to the end and ride back, bring your luggage, have it moved for you, you can even rent bikes there (including electric).
Thanks for reading.