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Lake Champlain to Montreal-ride report.(32 posts)

Lake Champlain to Montreal-ride report.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:27 AM
Every year Miss M's family gets together and does a group ride (usually about a week long and about 500 miles). That is actually how we met while riding across Nevada. Not all of them do the ride every year but most everyone has done one ride or another-I missed last years Erie canal ride.

A few weeks ago I got a call from one of my brothers-in-law telling me without question I would do the ride this year. What could I say? I'm there.

The plan was to start in Fort Ticonderoga, ride up the New York side of Lake Champlain to Montreal then back down the Vermont side of the lake to the start. It was supposed to be fairly flat except for the first and last days.

Perfect says Miss M, "Let's ride the single speeds!"

The group really believes in staying hydrated. I didn't take a single off the bike picture that someone can't be seen working on staying well hydrated. Here we are toasting to a safe ride.
The start.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:29 AM
Miss M wanted to get an early start every day so we could be sure to get a century in. Whatever..I will of course go along with whatever she wants. Why she wanted to dip her wheel in the lake is beyond me.
Not a great lake but an adequate one for sure.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:32 AM
The first day was the only one where we had sunny weather all day. It was a little rolling but no problem for us on the single speeds. After the hot summer around DC it was nice to be in cooler temps. Every day the lows were in the upper 50's and it usually just barely got up to 80 in the afternoon. The lake is quite long but often narrow. Not much traffic.
Hope you enjoyed a Magic Hat ! (nm)whygimf
Jul 23, 2002 10:33 AM
OK, I'll bite. What is a Magic Hat? nmMB1
Jul 23, 2002 12:16 PM
OK, I'll bite. What is a Magic Hat? nmwhygimf
Jul 23, 2002 1:11 PM
Brewed for your after cycling enjoyment - from the shores of Champlain.
Ausable Chasm, we say good-by to hills.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:34 AM
Everyone thought we were nuts to ride the single speeds. We were looking forward to riding them for a week. We were warned over and over about the first day's hills. Not a problem. We passed the Ausable Chasm at 75 miles and I flipped the wheels to fixed, we rode fixed for the next 390 miles.

We didn't have any problems at all. It was very enjoyable to ride fixed, just cruising along mile after mile every day.
Grand Isle from Cumberland Head.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:38 AM
Kiss the sunshine good by. The first day (Sunday)we got in 112 warm dry miles with gentle winds. The last of that we would see for a week.

Lots of boats on the lake today.
Used to vacation on N. Hero Isle every summer... It's a bute!spyderman
Jul 24, 2002 2:17 AM
Awww, NICE! I'm homesick now. Thanks for the pics. (nm)Kristin
Jul 23, 2002 10:39 AM
Strangers in a strange land.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:42 AM
Man I had a good time in Canada. Between us Miss M and I had 12 years of French in school. We figured no problem. Yea, right!

The border guard greeted us with a cheerful "Bonjour" and just like that we were in Canada. They waved us through with barely a question asked or an ID check.

We rode into Canada on the second day in a cool windy rain. Head wind of course.

There was a kiosk with cycling maps and information as we crossed the border. Unfortunatly with our usual early start we got there before the place opened.
I fall in love.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:46 AM
I loved riding in Canada, I had a smile on my face the whole time we were there. The bicycle facilities and infrastructure were amazing. We were on a marked bike route for most of the way from the border to Montreal.

One of the guys had done the ride about 4 years ago. He said we would have no problems with the route. If we did get lost he suggested we just ask the locals for directions. It turned out that the route was not all that clear so we did indeed resort to asking for directions several times. The people we asked for help were without exception helpful and polite.

Too bad we couldn't understand a word they said. So much for 12 years of schooling.

Check out this bicycle overpass that bypassed a freeway and several railroad tracks. Miss M said it made her dizzy....
Closing in.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:49 AM
The bike trails were very busy. DC has nice facilities for riding but I had never seen anything like this. Bikes were everywhere, riders obeyed the rules of the road and there was no one but cyclist and roller bladers on the trails.

Montreal and the Saint Laurent River from the trail.
Bike LanesMB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:52 AM
Inside the city were these bike lanes separated from traffic by curbs. Everyone used them and they were busy. Miss M thought the intersections were a little dicey but I had no problems.

I'd guess that only about 10% of the riders wore helmets and we didn't see many fancy bikes. Clearly cycling was an acceptable mode of transportation in Montreal.
Just like home.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:54 AM
Once we checked in to our hotel we rode around town a bit to check things out and to get our century in. The back streets really reminded me of where we live near Georgetown-except for all the bikes parked everywhere.
Jul 23, 2002 10:56 AM
Some of the streets in "Old Town" were cobbled. I loved riding on them. The rest of the group wasn't so sure. They were loose and slippery, in the afternoon the streets were packed with shoppers.

I just raced around on the fixte without problems.
Working on staying hydrated.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 10:59 AM
Our room had a balcony and became the hangout for the group. As a bonus we had a nice view of the Molson brewery. The plans included a hoped for visit and tour.
Question about gearing.....wonderdog
Jul 23, 2002 10:59 AM

Awesome trip! I'm thinking of doing a long tour this fall on my singlespeed. What was the fixed/free gearing you used? Miss M? Thanks.

Question about gearing.....MB1
Jul 23, 2002 11:08 AM
I run a 42 with a 17T freewheel and a 16T cog. Miss M likes a bit taller gears, she has a 39 with a 16T freewheel and a 14T cog. The gears worked fine-we were in no hurry.
Miss M eats snails!MB1
Jul 23, 2002 11:01 AM
I had the mussels. In truth we had great food at every meal in Canada. Nothing fancy, just real tasty and presented well. And of course we had to stay hydrated..

I'll report on our return trip later.
Thanks for sharing! Please pass the wine bottle.Juanmoretime
Jul 23, 2002 11:39 AM
It makes being down with an injury a little more palletable.
Jul 23, 2002 11:33 AM
Your posts do more for my riding blues than anything I can come up with.

Well done,

What digital camera do you use ?PeterRider
Jul 23, 2002 11:39 AM
...and how much did you spend on it ? Also, how do you carry it, on the bike, or on some pocket on the chest ? The pictures you take outside are quite good !!

Great Report.....Hey, where's my shot of Fort Ticonderoga (nm)Scot_Gore
Jul 23, 2002 11:51 AM
Did you climb Mt. Defiance?Kristin
Jul 23, 2002 12:14 PM
Next time your in Ticonderoga, make sure to do that. Its not really a mountain, but it is a really big hill. Its pretty close to the fort.
SSers don't climb unless they have to.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 12:19 PM
We did ride to the fort (just as it was closing for the day). Didn't know enough about the area to find Mt. Defiance.

So tell us about living there. The area seemed a bit depressed. What are the winters like?

We will be back for sure. Gonna brush up on our conversational French first though....
Jul 24, 2002 5:59 AM
Ticonderoga is definitely the sticks. You must drive an hour south to Glens Falls or an hour north to Plattsburg before you're in a "city". Ti--as referred to by its residents--is mostly blue collar and would certainly be considered economically depressed by most standards. However, I never heard a Ticonderogan complain of this.

The largest area employers are the paper mill, Simmons Precision, IBM in Burlington, and now the super Wal-Mart. Ti also receives a fair amount of income from its summer tourists (such as yourself). I lived there in the early 90's and worked as the following: A waitress--serving hunters at 4 a.m., a grocery check-out girl, and a front office clerk for a local insurance agent. The insurance job paid the best at $6.50/hour.

Ticonderoga's main street is called Montcalm Avenue. It is a sprawling 2.2 miles with a two stop lights. The business district along Montcalm is home to most of the towns' restaurants, one of the two grocers and a handful of little shops. Located just on the outskirts of town are a Grand Union grocery store, the Super Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Subway and a Super Eight motel. That's about it—though Ticonderogans believe the arrival of the Super Wal-Mart and Subway are indicators of urban sprawl. Some residents fought against it.

The people who live in Ti are happy, for the most part. It's a simple town with simple folks who like uncomplicated things. There is a sort of calmness that accompanies their life-style. I never earned much and was often bored to tears after 6pm--both reasons for leaving--but there was an element to that life which I now miss. I rented, for a time, a room in a home at the foot of Mt. Defiance. Every morning I woke to the sun rising over the mountain and shining down on the large yard dotted with patches of little yellow flowers and flat rocks. I found time to sit with a cup of coffee and read from a book before completing the 5 minute commute to work. Simple ness is often under-rated; but it suits the good folks of Ticonderoga just fine.

My step-mother grew up in Ticonderoga and is home to her entire clan—that's what they call families in the sticks. By the way, everyone in Ticonderoga is related in some fashion to nearly everyone else. I found this to be a humorous peculiarity of small towns. My father moved to Ti after retiring from the Navy, and it suits him just fine. He's one of these men who could have been a rocket scientist at NASA, but never could warm up to the idea of wearing a suit and tie. He'd rather restore to perfect glory an old Alice Bell in a well worn pair of Carhearts.

If you want to find out about the real Ticonderoga, get up early and enjoy breakfast at the Wagon Wheel. All the local townsmen will be sitting around the bar telling their fish tales over eggs and bacon--in true Ti fashion with their backwater twang and all.
We had a great Hungarian meal there.MB1
Jul 24, 2002 7:02 AM
Great food and we arranged for a couple of nut rolls and a loaf of bread to be delivered to our motel on our return. We are still enjoying the food and the memories of the trip.

So tell us about the winters. How cold is the wind off the lake, how deep is the snow? How many months can you ice fish (near as I can tell ice fishing is just an excuse to get out of the house and hydrate).
Jul 24, 2002 8:25 AM
You can pretty much ice fish from the point the lake freezes over to the point at which it thaws. (Roughly late November to early March.) Every year a number of ice fishing accidents occur due to over-hydration, so be careful out there!

Winters are not as harsh in Ticonderoga as in Chicago. Temperatures range between -30 to the 50's in Dec, Jan and Feb. The big range in temps is because the jet stream periodically swings north into Canada, drawing warmer gulf winds into the north. However, most of the time, colder Canadian air is in control, causing dew points remain low. That means the air doesn't "feel" quite as chilly as you'd think. Ti sees its share of negative temps in January/February which require an engine heater to start your car. I don't remember any wind off the lake. Actually, its not all that windy in that area--not that I remember anyway.

Snowfall: Ticonderoga is technically part of the snowbelt. I had never seen snow up to the eves before I moved to Ticonderoga, and most storms would dump 6-24 inches of snow at a time. One of the first things I discovered was that six inches of freshly fallen snow is no excuse for tardiness. (In Chicago, 6 inches is grounds for 2 days vacation.) In Ti they'd say, "If you can't handle driving in six inches of snow, buy a truck."

Typically a short thaw occurs in January or February, which is referred to as "mud season." This is the reason every house in Ti has a mud room. Every year, several shanties sink partially or entirely into the lake because their owners left them out during mud season.

If you would like to enjoy good ice fishing/hydration in Ticonderoga, I highly recommend Eagle Lake. It is in Chilson (6-8 miles outside of Ticonderoga) along Route 74. Its a very serene lake.
Jul 23, 2002 12:28 PM
did you, by any chance, make it to the Jello Bar (near Symphony Hall)?
There was a street carnival going on.MB1
Jul 23, 2002 12:37 PM
We spent most of our off bike time there. Re-hydrating of course.

It was pretty wild. Some of the things that were going on in store windows would get you arrested in the US.

Tell us about the Jello Bar...
There was a street carnival going on.Spinchick
Jul 23, 2002 1:36 PM
Very cool bar done up in art deco style...pool table...playing 70's disco music while we were there. Kind of like being in a surreal flashback of some sort. Don't know why they call it the Jello Bar but we always send people there when we know they're going to Montreal.