-by David A. Robinson (catch up with Chapter I and Chapter II)

My strategy for cities, like Montréal, is to camp on the outskirts the night before, then tour through the whole place, making it clear away on the far side to camp, and thereby avoid the seduction of paying for, say, a room in the Latin Quarter, or some kind of touristy expense and distraction. I merely wanted to have drinks and lunch down on the pedestrian stretch of Ste. Catherine, then launch myself over the Jacques Cartier bridge, carrying on northeast on the "Marie-Victorin" towards la Gaspé...

Well, after rolling into the fabled city, past lots of peripheral roughish parts; short glimpse here-- I was passing a couple of guys walking beside a busy thoroughfare. The wind carried their voices. "What the hell did you try crap like that for?!" said the taller one. "I dunno, I was just trying to get some money, y'know?". They look like a sort of Simon and Garfunkel pair gone a bit bad. The taller Garfunkel says "well people go to prison for pulling that kinda shit. I can't believe you did that!"
But I just roll and rumble along, looking for familiar street names. Because I'm riding a recumbent bike this trip, I can lean back and watch the panorama be my travelogue feature entertainment. I pass parks, busy corners with dépanneurs, flower shops, lots of old apartment blocks, staircases that climb up the outside, society busy being so "Montreal-ish".

Eventually I come to Ste. Catherine's pedestrian walkway, with the millions of rainbow coloured balls lacing the way overhead. I dave ch 3want to walk in comfort, and uniformed staff make sure you do. So I pause, change out of my cycling shoes, which are slippery on the cobblestones, and put on my crocs. Good second pair of shoes for a bike trip; light, can't get wet and heavy, anyway, I casually stick my shoes in a trailer bungee cord and carry on. Down, down to where I know the neighbourhood gets close to the bridge. I stop at a friendly looking patio deck, lean up the bike, order a pint of draught (only $3.50!) and proceed to soak up the ambience, fielding questions from lots of friendly guys who ask about the rig, where am I going, my legs, etc. Good practice for my French. (Ed.: This gig makes me glad I once taught la belle langue...your orthographe needs a tiny bit of work). I get a recommendation to try the sandwiches across the street. It's fantastic. In a heartbeat, I could just spend the rest of the summer here. But I have a date with Le Pont Jacques-Cartier. I must go.

If you've never ridden a bicycle over the seaway, past la Ronde, way up high over the city, I suggest you go. They provide a cage for safety and many pylon gates to control biker speed. I look to the left, and the memories of Expo 67 float past around my brain. Making a craft paper stuffed figurative sculpture with a wire armature in a pavilion for kids to do art... Sigh. Childhood. The bridge slightly bounces, sways, the wind always blows hardest when you're wobbling over on a narrow catwalk. I get to the finish. It's as rewarding a ride as ever. With a bit of confusion around finding the waterfront road or bike path, I get on a ramp that says "132 est". That's what I want. It's noisy, traffic looks like it's rush hour. Suddenly a black sports coupe shrieks to a stop, tilting forward, and a moustached, sunglassed young guy starts shouting at me. I can see the shadowy space of his driver's cabin, smell the cologne, the smoke wafting around him, hear the thrumpa thrumpa of his stereo as well as the awesome power of his engine. He's gesturing to go back, and then squeals off. I look just ahead and see a red circle sign crossing out cyclists and pedestrians. Okay, so I made a mistake. Back I go. Somehow I find the waterfront, and pedal along happily, until I find this special place, a little rowing club with floating docks on the St-Laurent. It's still too cold to swim, but I sit down on the dock to hang my legs in the water, beholding the grand city in its haze, now a few miles away. Young folks are launching themselves in rowing shells. Two guys are fishing. I turn around and look at my bike leaning on a post. One cycling shoe protrudes from a bungee...just one shoe. I had elected to leave my crocs on to cross the bridge. They were comfortable, and now I've lost a cycling shoe. Maybe that road rage guy had run over the shoe, and had heard it clattering around under his car, dinging his precious tailpipe.
Well, I'm down to these foam rubber Crocs now. There must be a bike store, sports shoe store or something up the road. Those Louis Garneau shoes had seen many seasons, were splitting, heel worn right down, and they always made my left big toe hurt. Good riddance.

Away we go, up along the shore, on beautiful bike paths, ringing my dollar store bell at all other cyclists, "bonjour!" and at dogs, horses, and crows along the way. It's a fine evening.

At dusk, I reach a roadside easement with a gate. It's super sturdy, and has a sign riveted on that says: no littering, no planting, destroying or taking away vegetation. No hunting, fishing, fires, or erecting structures. Hmm. It doesn't say "no trespassing," or " no camping", nor is there an address, a company sign, private property. And, here's the thing; the gate is open. It's a road, paved but old and cracked. I wait for traffic to be absent and stroll in. It looks perfect for tonight, and I find bushes, a low area, some trees to sling up the hammock. By instinct, I bend some branches over the bike and trailer, so I'm camouflaged, and start to string up the hammock. There's nobody around, passing cars are oblivious to me. But now suddenly a rumbling heavy equipment tractor vehicle is rolling up from the direction of the water. It looks imposing; lights mounted all around, like a an armoured, weaponized combine. It's not painted farmer red or green. It's white, and it's getting closer . Fortunately, the hammock is just a string between the trees at this point, and it's getting dark. The machine towers above me, where I'm crouching in the hollows, like I'm in The Deerhunter or something. The beast rumbles up close, pauses, I'm plenty nervous but stay hidden, searchlights pointing everywhere. It continues, 100 metres or so, to the gate. It stops, there are clanking and jingling sounds, and it finally rolls off northward on 132, leaving me alone, safe, and locked in to whatever landscape I have camped in . The Google map service tells me I'm at Steve Mandeville's Arena. I look around. Farm fields, bush, no arenas. Anyway, I walk up and inspect the situation. Yep, I'm solidly locked in now. Oh well, tomorrow they'll come and re open, right?

The night is good. Sleep is good. Next morning the coffee and porridge are perfect. I do a good drawing of my surroundings. Still no vehicle to unlock that gate. Okay; pack up, get ready to roll. 10:00 am and no sign of anybody. Inspecting the entrance, I see they've flanked the wide gate with huge cast concrete cubes, two per side, that block any chance of slipping around the gate. I notice the logo on the sign. "Port Montréal". Okay. How do I get out of here? Why do I get stuck behind locked gates?

A search for helpful things turns up one 4' x 8' aspenite sheet, worn, warped, weakened, but maybe... There's a grassy knoll about 6 feet in from the gate. . Let's see, if I can lay the sheet from the top of the knoll, to the top of a concrete block, then I can wheel up the side of the grassy hill and use the wood as a ramp/ bridge, and then carefully let it down on the free side. It all takes a while; positioning the board just so, checking all critical points, the presence of traffic, and slowly, up we go, across, I'm over! Moments later, I'm back on the 132. Bless the soul that left that sheet of aspenite lying around.

So off I go, against a terrible headwind (that wasn't the plan!) and I just go stoically, until I come to the next town. I see a sign for " recyclo-centre", and, in the process of making two friends, one of whom runs home, looking for those cycling shoes that his buddy had dropped off (" ah, monsieur, ees a size 9, sorry!") and I end up with the only size 11 in the place; a cream coloured pair of slip-on canvas Topsiders. Five bucks to a good cause. The Crocs have been, well, an interesting experience. And these shoes will prove interesting as well. With my black knee socks pulled up around my baggier black wind pants, I look down at my legs. It's true that the bike trip has meant losing some weight. My calves are getting skinny. I look a bit like Mickey Mouse, or more, I think, like a mannequin, with plus-fours, and of course my stick legs get some interested looks from the super stylish Quebecois. But the weather doesn't allow me yet the chance to wear shorts. I remember that the day I left, an envelope arrived from the War Amps, looking for donations, which I have usually complied with, but this time, they include a big decal, which I carefully mounted on the front of my bike. I wonder, with my new mannequin, stick legs, black and white look, do people think I'm doing this trip with two prosthetic calves?
In a foreign landscape, as you glance down at your legs and feet, and you don't recognize them, and you hear your voice speaking another language, you have this strange sense of not being you. Who am I ?

Let's find out, in another chapter.

Dave Robinson is a retired Bluewater teacher and avid cyclist. This year's journey will take him from his home in Kimberley to Nova Scotia. You can follow his journey with



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