Story and photos by Ron Keys
Six hundred miles from its humble source, I follow the south shore of the mighty Ottawa River down and around a steep grade to the waiting Cumberland-Masson ferry. The ferry’s giant steel ramp closes with a terminal clank as the vessel shudders and vibrates to lumber across, arriving at Masson-Angers, Quebec.
I turn onto Route 148. Quebec’s distinctive architecture is a pleasant change with its European flair; on the left, I see the Laurentian foothills, and on the right, narrow, green fields sloping toward the Ottawa river. The hamlet of Thurso’s welcome sign proclaims it to be the proud hometown of Guy Lafleur.
I ride on to Montebello and take a quick turn through the grounds of the exclusive Chateau Montebello, built entirely of British Columbia Red Cedar logs in a mere four months during the Great Depression. I slowly ride between groves of trees at the grand entrance, noting that the property is one of the last surviving land grants made by 17th-century French kings to early settlers of what was then La Nouvelle France. Former Seigneur Louis Joseph Papineau’s stately residence stands beside Chateau Montebello and is open for tours.
The gentle curves of Route 148 follow the river to Grenville and then to Lachute, where I catch Route 327 north into the Laurentians. The road surface is good, the bends are tightening up and the fun begins. As the turns become more frequent, I think that Route 327 was a great choice.
In the foothills, there are many elevation changes but very limited signage, which I discover in a blind corner as I try to scrub off some serious speed and stay in my lane. “There’s no hurry,” I tell myself, but the need for speed is always there, along with its friendly companion, adrenalin rush. Hills, hollows, blind corners and steep rises – I’m almost lifted out of my saddle, and then I careen downward into another tight right-hander. I pass through Harrington, Brownsburg and Wentworth, and I am left thinking about the Scottish and Irish settlers who carved their niche from the boreal forest, taming this land so long ago. But I need to concentrate on the road ahead. With no runoff anywhere, a moment’s inattention could lead to a disaster laid out just beyond the three-foot shoulder, back-dropped by rocks and trees. “No more daydreaming,” I remind myself. I pummel forward on a road with so many twists, turns and corkscrews that I feel like I’m in Deal’s Gap.
In Arundel, I cruise past the Masonic Hall, Legion, Baptist and United Churches, all English institutions. I follow the valley along the Rivière Rouge and Rivière du Diable to my destination, the pedestrian village at the base of Trembling Mountain – otherwise known as Mont Tremblant. Centuries ago the Algonquin gave it its name, possibly because of the many avalanches in the area.
High above the pedestrian village, I take the Cabriolet gondola to the base of this 968-metre mountain. As I wander the patios with their myriad patterned umbrellas, the aromas of delicious ethnic foods waft across my path and remind me of dinner. Live outdoor theatres, shops of all kinds and descriptions, and loud, vivid colours surround me as I spiral downward…