Fifteen, 25, 30 kilometres roll by. A gust that’s been pushing us around turns to a tailwind and we ride like heroes until it changes again, the gods punishing us for being so cocky.
Mostly though, the air is soft and the grade is gentle.
My husband and I are in bicycle heaven, cycling south from the working town of Mont-Laurier towards lively Saint-Jérôme northwest of Montreal.
This is Le P’tit Train du Nord trail, a 232-kilometre bike path through Quebec’s glorious Laurentian Mountains. Otherwise known as “The Little Train of the North,” the iconic, multi-day cycling trip follows an old railway bed that was decommissioned in the 1990s.
We cycle past flowers, forests, farms and the most adorable villages. Lakes, ponds, rivers and streams glint in and out of view. We stop to chat with mushroom-pickers along the way, to poke our noses into galleries in refurbished train stations, to drink in views of picturesque cottage country.
We break for bière artisanale, for cheese, for café au lait. And at night, deliciously exhausted, we dream in quaint auberges.
It’s a European-style vacation, right here in Canada. Trip planning is painless because everything — transfers, bike rentals, meals, inns and luggage-handling between accommodations — can be arranged ahead. There are no painful exchange rates or stressful international flights to deal with, and the trail is car-free.
This kind of “cyclotourism” is booming around the world because it’s an excellent way to see an area up close (literally smelling the flowers along the way), get in shape, and burn calories while eating your way through a region’s cuisine. It’s a guilt-free holiday, really.
After three nights and four days on Le P’tit Train du Nord, my sweetheart and I have fallen more deeply in love with one another and with this wonderful way to travel.
We feel a bit like gods ourselves: stronger, leaner and completely sated.
Note from publisher: Our senior editor Valerie Berenyi was hosted by Toque & Canoe’s partners in tourism, including Québec Original. Our partners did not edit or review this story before publication.
Founded by two Canucks on the loose in a big country, Toque & Canoe is an award-winning Canadian travel blog.