Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Eastern Townships 2013, Day 4: Lennoxville to Mansonville

< back to day 3 > forward to day 5
Until now, the weather on our ride had been perfect: sunny but not too hot during, and cool but not cold during the nights. During the night at our motel, however, we could hear the first rain, and when dragged ourselves out of bed it was very gray outside. It wasn't exactly raining, but the air was oversaturated with water, leaving fine drops on our skin and clothing on the way to breakfast. Lennoxville not only sports a fine brewpub, but also a great coffee roaster. We had spotted the place the previous night and already decided that it looked like a perfect place to have breakfast.
The barrista was very nice and started geeking out with me about cold brew coffee, but he also seemed slightly overcaffeinated and totally forgot the biketopus's cream cheese bagel. The bagel and our drinks were very tasty, however, and we would definitely go there again.While having our breakfast we figured out our plan for the day. We decided to follow the Route Verte back to Magog and then either call a potential warmshowers -- a couchsurfing for cyclists network -- host in Mansonville or find a campground somewhere near Magog.
The weather forecast predicted showers throughout the day and possibly heavy thunderstorms in the late afternoon. For now, it was merely grey and humid. Out of Lennoxville the Route Verte follows the Massawippi River on what appears to be a rail trail. For the first time, we were slightly chilly in shorts and short sleeve jerseys -- but not cold enough to actually add another layer. The trail was almost completely empty, but after switching to the road near North Hatley we encountered two fully loaded cyclists. This was a rare occurrence, as the vast majority of cyclists we had encountered on our trip so far had either been people on day trips or maybe credit card tourers.

North Hatley is located on the northern end of Lake Massawippi. Whereas our route so far had been as flat as is typical for a rail trail, the road out of Hatley was the first of many mean hills still to come today. First on highway 108, then on a short, steep and wholly unnecessary section of trail, and then on a muddy dirt road we climbed from lake level up the surrounding hills. The dirt road was closed due to construction but we fortunately could get through. The landscape was a mix of forests and a bit of agriculture, and we didn't encounter many cars or people. We descended on a dead straight dirt road with just the right gradient to go fast but not too fast.

After crossing the highway we were on a trail again, traversing a dense forest before ending up at a municipal park. There was a mismatch between where my GPS wanted us to go and where the Route Verte signs pointed to, and after a short Clif Bar break we decided to go with the signs. This turned out to be the right decision and soon after we were back at where the two routes into Sherbrooke split.

The way back to Magog was uneventful except for some mosquito attacks when we were trying to take a nature break in the forest. We followed the same way as yesterday but took a shortcut on the main road into Magog to avoid some Route Verte stupidities. Just in time for lunch we were back at Marché Vegetarien. The promenade on the lake today was much emptier than yesterday. We finally had to put on our rain jackets to protect us from the cold wind blowing over the lake. It was still unclear what the day's final destination should be. It was well past noon and to Mansonville it still would be a long and hilly way. Calling Jacques, our potential host, settled the matter: we would stay with him tonight. He was very friendly on the phone and promised us a bed, dinner, and beer -- "that's the Eastern Townships way." To my question if there were many hills between Magog and Mansonville he just laughed out loud...
And yes, there were more than enough hills. Right after turning off the Route Verte, a big hill appeared in front of us and for the rest of the day the elevation profile looked like a sawblade. For the first time on our tour we were no longer following a bike route but rode on gorgeous country roads. To me this is the best kind of riding. Traffic was minimal and it was finally dry enough for me to pull out my camera.
We were now headed straight south towards the Vermont border, following the western shoreline of Lac-Memphremagog.
Other than cows, small family cemeteries, and a beautiful landscape, there isn't much.

The sky looked as if it was about to start raining any minute, but amazingly the weather held up all the way to Mansonville.
At 5pm we quickly called Jacques to let him know that we were getting close. To our delight, he told us that from here on it was only more climb and then all the way downhill into Mansonville.
Mansonville is a cute little town that I had ridden through previously on my 300km brevets. We had been warmshowers members for a while now and hosted several bike tourists in Montreal, but this was the first time that we ourselves stayed with someone from warmshowers. Jacques and his wife Allison were great hosts! They provided great food, beer, a cute dog, and excellent conversation. Jacques, amongst other things, works as a guide for a bike touring company and had just gotten back from a ride in the Lower Saint Lawrence region.
Shortly after dinner, we exhaustedly and happily passed out in our comfy bed. This had been the hardest day of the tour!

> forward to day 5

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