Does that count as a bad omen?
Yann and I were feeling cocky after having completed our first double century the previous weekend. This weekend we decided to attempt a back-to-back imperial century ride involving lugging way more than a single air-filled pannier. In my two rear panniers, I packed a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad (newly repaired after having been punctured by the cat), camping chair, e-reader, miniature toiletries and some warm clothing as the week-long heat wave had died down.
We started our journey in Prévost at the 12km mark of Le P’tit Train du Nord cycling path. We were going to be riding on packed gravel (as shown in the photo on the left) up until Mont-Tremblant (80km mark) where the path becomes paved (photo on the right) and therefore busy with rollerblader traffic. At the 146km mark, we said goodbye to Le P’tit Train du Nord and headed for Lac-Joinville.
I recently swapped my cassette from an 11-36T to 11-42T (front chainrings are 46-36) in preparation for all the climbing Yann and I will have to do in France in August. The benefit of this modification became apparent once we left the P’tit Train du Nord path to navigate the hills leading to the Lac-Joinville campground. We still had to dismount and walk our bikes uphill in sections where the gravel had become too soft. The last 20 or so km of this ride was the most difficult gravel riding I’ve ever done.
I was also dismounting for some downhill sections when I felt things were getting a bit wild for my liking. Wild beyond getting hit in the face by a butterfly while speeding downhill, which did happen.
Our arrival at the registration centre at 8pm gave me great relief. Then, I was horrified to learn that we still had to cycle to our campsite after we collected our overnight permit. The guy at the desk was horrified to learn that we had arrived by bike and did not have a license plate number to register.
“Where did guys you ride from?”
Yann insisted that our campsite wasn’t much further. This, I thought, meant about 500 metres.
More like 9km.
We arrived right at sunset: not enough time to go swimming, even though we had brought our swimsuits. I brought my camping chair, but it was also too late to get a campfire going. E-reader? Nah, no time for reading either.
This had been a harder and longer ride than the 207km we did last week.
We were able to briefly enjoy the scenery the following morning:
I took care of packing up the sleeping gear and tent while Yann cooked breakfast. Our folding cutting board had gone missing, so Yann surveyed the area to see whether a mischievous racoon had moved it elsewhere. Instead, Yann spotted a squirrel struggling to drag the board back to its nest and thwarted the squirrel’s plans to redecorate.
We hopped on our loaded bicycles at 9:15am, hopeful that we were physically capable of riding the 160ish km back to the car.
With full daylight, I was feeling more confident about handling the bumpy descents. I was even employing the mountain biking technique of riding out of my saddle, pedals level, and knees bent. This worked well the first 17km until I hit a patch of especially soft gravel on a fast descent. My front wheel sank into the gravel, moved to the side and I was involuntarily separated from my bike.
Everything happened so fast. Within a minute, Yann jumped off his bike to help me move my stuff off the road. At the same time, a couple stopped in their pickup truck to offer help. The guy threw our bicycles and gear in the truck bed. Yann grabbed a towel to prevent me from bleeding all over the inside of the truck. I found myself seated next to a bewildered toddler and wondered whether this would end up being one of those moments young children remember forever.
We got even luckier when the driver of the truck noticed an ambulance approaching from the opposite direction and waved them down. Instead of transferring to the ambulance, the paramedics just wrapped up my bleeding knees and elbow. The couple said they were happy to drive us and our bikes to the ER in Rivière-Rouge.
At the hospital, I was able to see a doctor within a reasonable amount of time, as well as get my head, knees, and right elbow x-rayed. In the end, the only things I broke were my helmet and shift levers.
In Rivière-Rouge, Yann was able to call his dad who transported us and our bikes from the hospital to Yann’s car.
I am still very much in pain. Gravel got underneath my helmet and into my scalp. Pockets of skin got filled with gravel, which the nurse had to squeeze out. With the number of abrasions and their severity, the doctor saw it fit to prescribe me a cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics which will keep me away from work for a week.
The cats are going to be delighted to have my doped-up company for a whole week.
Edit: I just learned that it took Yann at least five minutes before he turned around for me. This means I laid at the side of the road for a while before regaining consciousness. I only remember noticing that one of my panniers was in the middle of the road and then hobbling over to retrieve it.