Thursday, September 6, 2012

AAR: The trip that almost was

Hello all. Didn't think I would be posting the report from my trip this soon but yeah, I had no choice but to turn back after one day and one unbelievably wet night. I was in very high spirits when I left my house; my bike even this heavily loaded was well balanced and very easy to ride, and my padded short meant I could ride almost forever. Here's the timeline of events that lead me to say "fuck this, I am defeated":

On Tuesday morning around 8AM I did the final packing and check-up of the bike, informed my landlord that I'd be away for a while and if he could pick up my mail, and finally headed out. I had printed out a path from Google Maps because I was riding to unfamiliar places, but I will readily admit that the more I looked at the path Google gave me, the more I was questioning it. And I turned out to be right; at one point in Laval the map was telling me to ride 2 km west on Samson blv., then cross a street and ride 1 km east, overpassing a highway twice. That's when I said screw this it's map only from now on.

For a first day of riding the weather was simply perfect. No heat, not too much sun, very light winds, and as I approached the west end of Laval very little traffic. After I left Laval I saw a bit more traffic, but not for long because the long bike path called the Green Route was starting, crossing the towns of Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac and Pointe-Calumet. Crossing the towns the path was relatively flat, but as I entered Oka National Park things got "interesting". In the woods the path was a lot more bumpy with the forest doing its best to destroy the pavement, but I was noticing that the path was taking me towards my first real hill challenge.

The road is called Chemin des Collines, which translates to "road of the hills". Believe me, it's aptly named. One hill in particular I had to walk my bike up. At least the reward of those hills was fun downhill rides, and a short time after crossing the park I was in the little town of Oka and stopped for a well deserved break. And a good thing too because just west of Oka is a hill called "The Pinehead", which is the doorway to the native reservation of Kahnesatake. This place is infamous for the 1990 roadblock that lasted the entire summer. Crossing the reservation was interesting; I mean, how many cigarette shacks does a piece of land really need?! Anyway, I kept going until I saw camping grounds somewhere past St-Placide. At this point I was about 90 km into the ride so I told myself that this was a good place to stop for the night. But Mother nature decided otherwise.

About an hour after I had setup my tent at around 5PM the rain started. And it didn't stop until 3AM. All this time in between naps I was pushing away puddles that were threatening to crush me, and at the same time I was listening in on the drama happening around the elections were a looney gunman and shot two people, killing one, in an attempt to get at newly-elected prime minister Pauline Maurois. But back in my tiny universe, the tent was getting so wet that I had to make sure nothing of importance touched the sides. I pretty much didn't sleep all night, except maybe a few hours just before dawn after the rain had stopped. At the break of dawn I immediately did a check of everything. Thank fully nothing got too wet, except the tent which was now soaked through (still is, haven't had the time to find a place to hang it to dry) and there was now no way I could use it again because it would remain wet. But that wasn't the worst part.

I thought I had gotten a good deal on my panniers and I found out just how wrong I was. I can just say I was lucky to get as far as I got because the hooks on one of the panniers had completely been ripped out, probably because of the weight pulling at the bag on the various bumps along the way. I had no choice but to rearrange my inventory to make sure nothing heavy was in the bag and attached it with velcro straps and prayers. So after the crazy night, the rain, the wet tent, and now a broken bag, I took the tough decision and admitted defeat. The ride back home was pretty much uneventful; I had to check the velcro strap on the broken bag quite often but nothing happened, and at around 3PM yesterday afternoon I was back home.

I'm still happy about the 180 km ride and my first overnight, even though it was in the worst conditions one could possibly imagine. Yes I had heard about the possibility of rain but until Tuesday afternoon the weather was really nice. I heard about the bad stuff about to hit Montreal just as I was setting up the tent, and this bad stuff was going to hit me before it hit Montreal.

I also learned a few important things if I'm to do another big trip:

- Do not skimp on your equipment. Ask more questions when you buy it. Check how far you have to go. What kind of terrain you'll be riding. Above all make sure your equipment is tough as nails!

- Along the same lines, do not skimp on the quality of your camping mattress. I paid a huge 27$ for mine. OK, trying to sleep on the worst night ever was hard, but I was telling myself I should have gotten a fancier model. Go see "wallet tanking" further down.

- Be a good Minmatar... CARRY DUCT TAPE !!! I'm still kicking myself for not having thought of this.

- Waterproof your tent. I don't care how good your tent is, do this. Mine is apparently very good, won awards and stuff, but remember this: Mother Nature ALWAYS win. I'm not gonna bash the Topeak Bikamper because its design is very good, and it's super easy to set up. but heavy rains kill it.

- Wallet tanking. I knew I was going to rough it for the first couple days because i was coming out of a weekend with my boys which in english means I was almost broke. But when so much shit happens on Day One and you're low on cash a trip can back-fire. Mine did.

- Buy the best gloves and/or grips you can. I have skimped on those this summer and it was a mistake. I'm getting new gloves today because mine are dead. They may be OK to go to work or for a short ride, but after 100 km I just want to burn 'em. It didn't keep me from riding but for long rides comfort is everything. Remember, you do this for fun, no to suffer!

And that's pretty much it. Not the trip I thought it was going to be but a lot of experience came out of it. Now, I still have 2 and a half weeks to go on my vacation. I do intend to keep a promise to a friend, to go meet up with him at his cabin in Val-David. I just hope Mother nature doesn't become a royal bitch on the day I decide to head out. At least I know I won't have to rough it in a tent !!!

Ride hard and far



Chris said...

Stupid rain ruining your exciting trip. Hopefully you have a chance to do it again!

Benoit CozmikR5 Gauthier said...

My vacation is FAR from over! A couple of bits I wanted to do on the tour I can do in a one-day trip :)

Letrange said...

Sorry to hear it bout the equipment failures dude. And yes long distance stuff you don't want to skimp.

Druur Monakh said...

I was about to suggest that as well: shorter 1-3 day trips.

That'd also give you a chance to improve and test your equipment.