Lac Saint-Jean, PQ.....        

Although famous for its blueberries, we found the real treat of the region to be the fantastic 256 km bike route around the area's namesake lake. Officially called the "Veloroute des Bleuets", this route is very well set up and turned out to be one of our favorite mini-adventures of our bigger Cross-Canada journey. Information regarding the trip can be found on the internet but be forewarned that most of it is in French.

One great aspect of this area was the complete lack of out-of-province license plates. In all corners of Canada we found plates from Canada, the U.S. and occasionally Europe but not in the Lac Saint-Jean region. Residents were so used to any non-Quebec visitors being from Europe that we were usually asked what nationality we were. We did the bike route over five days with Carol's cousins Linda and Bill who are always ready for an adventure and made the drive from Toronto to meet us.

We started Day 1 in Saint-Felicien and biked the 65 km from there to Dolbeau. Although the path in this northern section of the loop hugged the road, a very wide shoulder existed so cycling beside the traffic was not a problem. The veloroute was very well set-up with a lot of rest stops, drinking water taps, campgrounds, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels. We spoiled ourselves the first night out by staying at the Motel Chutes des Peres. A bit run down on the outside, we were pleasantly surprised inside with nice rooms which overlooked a huge set of rapids on the Mistassini River. Normally we would have camped but with Linda and Bill's encouragement, Carol and I went upscale for the week and stayed at B&Bs. This turned out to be a good move as we didn't have to carry the extra weight of our tent and it also provided for some additional social interactions that meant that Carol could practice her French (of course, I got to enjoy the breakfast part of the deal). I was very proud of Carol's French - she got better and better and got almost as fast in French as she was in English (which is fast).

Day 2 saw us biking from Dolbeau to Saint-Henri-de-Taillon - a distance of 73.5 km. This section of our trip brought us through a portion of Parc de la Pointe-Taillon which looked to be a great spot and might well be worth exploring on future holidays. The park had a lot of hiking/biking only access along fine graveled and tree covered roads. It was also possible to spend the night(s) camped on the beach that formed the shores of Lac Saint-Jean. The park even rented bike-trailers which people used to bring all their gear in. We passed up the opportunity and carried on to stay in a 115 year old house that had been transformed into a Bed and Breakfast.

Mother nature had been threatening rain since we left Nova Scotia (we picked the wettest summer in recent memory for our once-in-a-lifetime, quit-our-jobs-and-travel experience) and this was the day she let loose. Although we biked the 46 km from Saint-Henri-de-Taillon to Saint-Gedeon in the pouring rain it was actually enjoyable - likely because we knew we had a nice dry room for the night. The road-side bike paths had become a series of beautiful little bike paths and/or small roads. Alcan (near Alma) had contributed towards a good portion of the bike path and it was really quite nice. We found the whole thing to be very well done with good signs, good roads and even little covered huts (with water) along the way which we could stop at. There was even a neat little ferry ride (it was free) on one of the more scenic parts of the path. Our B&B for the night was a shock. A group of ten people (some of whom where musicians) were starting the route from Saint-Gedeon and happened to be staying at the same B&B we were. Although it was over his usual capacity, the proprietor agreed to host the group and to allow them a bit of a karaoke/piano playing sing along so long as they didn't disturb the other guests. Essentially that meant us so despite my extreme lack of French we headed upstairs and soon found ourselves having a great time. Carol of course was in the thick of things speaking full speed in French and we even found ourselves doing the karaoke thing (yes, even me) to a couple of the English songs they had. They were a great group - lots of fun and they included us fully despite the language barrier.

The next morning provided us with some awesome crepes and soon we were again on our way. The previous day's rain had disappeared only to be replaced by a strong, steady wind out of the west. As we rounded the bottom of the lake this wind became more of a factor and the complaints from Linda and Carol become louder and more frequent. Typically Bill and I had biked ahead a bit before waiting for girls but today, the wind was too much and we finally lost the girls. Not in the literal sense of course but they did seem to crash (again not in the literal sense) about 10 km from the end and it was all they could do to polish off the last bit. Thankfully however, it was a short day and we finally did make our 46 km from Saint-Gedeon to Roberval. While on route, we took a break at Val Jalbert which was an old logging town that had existed from 1901 to 1927. Many of the original homes still stood and the staff dressed and acted out the era.

Day 5 was our last day and the 50 km from Roberval to Saint-Felicien came off easily. We all felt that we were just starting to get in shape. It was not so much the legs as the sore bums and necks that seemed to plague us. Like anything though, it just took a few days and the body seemed to adjust. Unfortunately, the way we all tend to do these things with our typical five day vacation blocks causes the peak discomfort just when the trip ends. Having spent weeks in the saddle biking through Austria, Switzerland, France and England, I knew firsthand that the rewards of getting past that 4 or 5 day block (ie. the day of maximum discomfort) were great. Once the body was in a grove I could really go! To help us through the harder moments we composed this little song (sung loudly for maximum therapeutic affect...)

My ass is so sore...
couldn't hurt any more
And I don't have the time for....
my neck to unwind.
My feet are all wet....
so I'll make you a bet -
That my thigh's...
hurt more...
than yours!!!

It was a great trip (well recommended) and we had a lot of fun with Bill and Linda.

To Dolbeau

115 year old B&B

Bill at lunch

Route check

Lunch time

Parc Pointe Taillon

Bike path sign

The bikes

To St. Gedeon

The bike ferry...


Wet ride by all...

The party


St Gedeon area...

Val Jalbert

The wind

To Roberval...

Linda climbing

Break form wind

Crooked barn

The girls

Another view

The end

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