Pushing Pedals, Powered by Poutine
July 8, 2011 Montreal QC

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Duparquet, QC
Beautiful beach, but don't drink the water...

So let me get this straight. You take french fries, coat them in gravy, then smother the whole thing with cheese curds? That sounds pretty high in calories, doesn't it? Make it a medium. No wait, you better give me a large. This is after all an adventure dedicated to the element of fire.

Before embarking on this journey, a few people asked what bicycling across the country has to do with fire. Apparently it has a lot to do with metabolism. When I'm not pedaling, I'm shoving food in my face in an attempt to recover as many calories as possible. Give me a crisp apple, a litre of milk, a whole bag of muesli, and a jar of peanut butter warmed by the sun. These simple pleasures make my day. I can often be oblivious to the absolute beauty of the Canadian wilderness all around me, completely absorbed by something I call my "license to eat".

Drink Champagne Instead!
Celebrating having finished Ontario - and conquering the amoebas which ravaged my belly

Fire represents movement and energy; raw energy pulled from deep within my muscles to power me up and over yet another hill, even though I'd almost prefer to sleep in a ditch and deal with it tomorrow. The sun is low in the sky, casting long shadows on the road laid out in front of me, a sign that it's time to find a place to pitch my tent. Just a little further! The map says there's a lake 10 kilometers farther down the road. There could be a place to camp at the lake. But then again, there's always the possibility there isn't - I'll just have to find out. I squint my eyes and find a little more energy from the reserves. My legs have already cranked the pedals 30,000 times today and I picture the mechanics of my body burning the sugar from my last meal like a locomotive devouring the last pieces of coal from its tender.

The trip from the Ontario border (just east of Timmins) to Montreal took 8 days and covered 1000 kilometers. With the exception of the final stretch between Mont Laurier to Montreal, the route followed Highway 117, passing through the northern communities of Rouyn-Noranda and Val-D'or, riding alongside huge trucks carrying metal ore and logs. For a large portion of this, I was suffering from the effects of drinking polluted water and didn't find it particularly enjoyable, but beautiful nonetheless, especially the full day it took to bike through Parc de la Verendrye, a huge nature reserve south of Val-D'or. From Mont Laurier, I rejoined the Trans Canada Trail on a route called the "P'tit Train du Nord", an abandoned railway line which attracts touring cyclists and connects a variety of quaint communities on a motorized vehicle-free corridor - allowing quiet, environmentally friendly recreation for people of all ages and abilities. There are various rest stops called "Haltes", converted railway stations which offer services such as toilets, fresh water and tourist information. Several Bed & Breakfasts are located all along the trail.

Lac Boyer, QC

The trail surface is near perfect packed fine gravel in many places, but the majority is paved. How civilized! The P'tit Train du Nord is a fine example of what the Trans Canada Trail could be like through many parts of the country - and if you've been wanting to try out some bicycle touring, this is an ideal place to start. The best part is, there are no hills and lots of great food - including poutine - along the way!

I am happy to announce that my fundraising page is now set up! The purpose of this Cross-Canada adventure is to raise funds for the Trans Canada Trail and I would be very happy if the followers of my blog got involved. If your vision of Canada includes non-motorized recreational opportunities for the whole family and a trail that can take you through some of the most beautiful and serene places our country has to offer, then consider visiting the Donate Now page on my web site. Remember, for the vast majority of Canadians, the Trans Canada Trail is within 30 minutes from their front door. It is a trail that links every province and territory.

Thanks to everyone who have already donated funds and I hope you get involved too! I'll be posting more stories from the Trans Canada Trail for the remainder of the blog now that I'll be riding it almost exclusively from here to Halifax (with some exceptions due to the fact the trail won't be complete until 2017).

Parc de la Verendyre
This huge park south of Val-D'or took a whole day to cross
Rolling Through Maniwaki
Roadside Beer Donation
Thanks Carlson!
Back on the Trans Canada Trail!
After having been on highways since BC, the return of proper biking trails come as a welcome change
The P'tit Train Gang
Preparing to ride south towards Montreal: Martin, Clive and the trail patrol!
P'Tit Train du Nord
This 200 km "rail trail" corridor travels from Mont Laurier, south through the Laurentians, past Mont Tremblant all the way to the Montreal suburbs - cool!
P'tit Train du Nord
Former train stations now serve as refreshment stations and tourism info centres
Martin pedaling south
Self Portrait
Covered Bridge
P'tit Train Trestle
Camped in Labelle, QC
Photo c/o Martin Leger
Fire in the Belly!
A glimpse into my usual dinner habit: A 2 litre pasta concoction! Photo c/o Martin Leger
And like that, he was gone!
The City of Cool
Trans Canada Trail Headquarters