Showing posts with label Lachine canal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lachine canal. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Urban renewal

It's been an interesting week.

The one piece rain suit I purchased got tested in the rain on Monday. As expected it performed very, very well. As my son pointed out, without the helmet on, it looks like a parachute jumpsuit. With the helmet on... well, I begin to look like an astronaut.

There are two issues with the one-piece rainsuit. It's challenging enough getting into the one-piece that I wouldn't want to be doing it in the rain by the side of the road. So that means putting it on if the weather is iffy. Which often means either that I'm wearing too much gear, or worrying that I'll get caught with too little on if it starts to rain.

So I traded the one-piece for a two piece, which is a much better solution for my real need. Yesterday at lunch I went out to the Jean-Talon market and it started raining intermittently. I put the rain pants on but left the jacket in the pet carrier. The Corazzo 5.0 riding jacket is water resistant, so even if there was a light rain, or a cloudburst, I'd be fine getting back to the office.

As it happened, there were only a few drops so even the pants were overkill. On the commute home, I did get some rain, and the combination of the Corazzo and the rain pants was just the right solution.

Which brings me to the morning commute. So far this week the mornings have been a little chilly, but otherwise gorgeous. The route along the lakeshore offers beautiful scenery in a variety that is constantly refreshing. Here for instance is one of the many lighthouses that dot the route. I have no idea whether they are purely decorative or truly serve a purpose, but with the quantity of ocean going freighters that travel through the lake I wouldn't be surprised if they really served a navigation purpose.The route along the Lachine canal is the reason for the topic of this entry.

The canal opened in 1825 following four years of construction. It allowed ships to reach the great lakes by by-passing the Lachine rapids. When you visit Montreal one of the things you can do is to take a jet-boat tour of the rapids. Anyone who is even remotely interested in the development of industry in North America should take the tour. It's really the only way to see the rapids and to get an idea of their size and of the barrier they pose to navigation. There are standing waves in the rapids that are more than 12 feet tall from trough to crest.

The Lachine canal quickly became a hub for Canadian industry during the industrial revolution. The opening of the St-Lawrence Seaway in 1959 signaled the end of the canal's usefulness. It was closed to all traffic in 1970 and the industrial buildings that lined the canal were slowly abandoned and decayed.
The federal government has since rehabilitated the canal first as a cycle path, and more recently, rehabilitated the locks and re-opened the canal to pleasure craft. The canal now offers a very pleasant route for pleasure boats to get from Lake Saint-Louis right down to the Old Port in Old Montreal. With that rehabilitation of the canal, many of the century-old warehouses have been converted to trendy lofts. Buildings that were not suited to residential conversion have been demolished all along the canal and brand new condos have sprouted.

The last few mornings I have ended my commute at a Van Houtte coffee shop about a block from my office. It's good place to read the Financial Post and enjoy my first of the many cups of coffee I am addicted to. Last riding season I would get there by taking a BIXI bike from the commuter train to the BIXI stand across from the coffee shop. This year I park the Vespa on the corner.Either way, I strongly prefer commuting on two wheels.

For the next little while, the BIXIs will playing a much more secondary role as I continue to explore the many urban pleasures that the Vespa affords.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The first commute

Before I relate today's excellent adventure, just a little link to the last post. I got my new keys from Jim Hamilton at and they work perfectly. I was apprehensive about the modifications I had done but that I couldn't really test without the keys.

Wow!! is the only word to describe my satisfaction when everything worked exactly as planned.

The Stebel horn is magnificent, and the 12 volt power outlet works like a gem and shuts off when the ignition is turned off. I already used it to charge my dead cell phone on a one-hour ride last Saturday.

Now for today's news.

I set out this morning on my first commute. The clock on the Vespa indicated 7:13 a.m.

The odometer on my U.S. model Vespa LX150 read 1,434 miles.

The temperature was hovering at 1 degree Celsius, just above freezing, but the sun was up and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The forecast called for a high of 14 degrees (about 58 Fahrenheit).

I'm not yet 100% organized for the commute since I'm still missing a rain suit, armored pants, armored gloves, and a suitable bungee net to secure my laptop to the passenger seat. Not a huge problem though, I left my laptop at the office last night and there's no rain in the forecast until Friday.

The ride in was very pleasant. I wore a fleece under my Corazzo 5.0 jacket and had leather gloves. I chose to wear some sturdy hiking boots instead of my dress shoes. They aren't motorcycle boots but they offer a lot more protection than my street shoes. I found the Nolan N-102 helmet fogged easily when stopped, but lifting the visor at red lights brought welcome fresh air, so not really an issue.

Based on advice I got from ModernVespa folks, I plan to leave my dress shoes and suit jackets at the office. Since I am just starting out, I had both of those with me this morning, so the shoes went under the seat in the "pet carrier" and the suit jacket was neatly folded into the topcase.

The route I follow winds along the old highway that follows the shore of Lake St-Louis to the Lachine Canal. From there I take Saint-Patrick street along the Lachine Canal to the downtown core.

I stopped to snap a few pictures.

This one was taken at a park in Dorval looking towards the lake.

This second shot was taken in Lachine at the junction of the lake shore road and the Lachine Canal where my route switches to Saint-Patrick street for the final leg downtown.

The Vespa LX150 has plenty of power to allow me to pace the cars and trucks on my route effortlessly. It's a big plus compared to the LX50 I rented last fall that often left me in the right-hand lane getting passed by most of the traffic.

Once I parked in the underground garage at 8:15 a.m., the odometer read 1,453 miles, so it's a one-hour, door-to-door, 19 mile or 30 kilometer commute. Even though the route is much less direct than the expressway, with less traffic, it's still the same one hour commute. And it's easily the most pleasant commute I've had in a long time.

At lunch time I rode over to the local Vespa dealer and picked up a good one-piece rain suit and a red bungee net for the laptop shoulder bag. Once I get to test the rainsuit in the rain, I'll be sure to give it a review.

All I'm missing is a disk lock or twist-grip lock and a good cable so that I can secure the bike and the helmet when I park elsewhere than the underground garage here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Commuting strategy: picking a route

Commuting to work on a scooter is only a theory at this point.

I mainly commute by train, which is reasonably fast, safe and convenient. Except for having to live my life around the train schedule. When things are hectic at the office, I drive a car. Either way, the commuting time is roughly an hour.

My goal is to commute on my Vespa scooter each and every day from April through October, rain or shine.

The first step for my new commuting strategy was to find a scooter-friendly route to work. The criteria for the route were that it had to be pleasant, with no highway or expressway legs, and also reasonably efficient. The route I have chosen is probably a good part of the reason I am committed to doing this. I'll document my route during the summer on this blog.

My home is on the west island, on the lakeshore. Montreal is an island, like Manhattan. To the south, the St-Lawrence river widens to form Lake St-Louis. Three quarters of the route to downtown follows the old lakeshore road.

It's easily one of the most picturesque rides in the region. For much of the ride only parkland separates the road from the lake. The road takes you through pretty residential neighbourhoods dotted along the way by the old villages that developped along what used to be one of Canada's main early highways.

Eventually the scooter route leaves the lakeshore and follows the Lachine Canal along St-Patrick street. The canal was a nineteenth century industrial engineering marvel that allowed lake boats to take cargo from Montreal towards the great lakes, by-passing the formidable Lachine rapids. The canal was once the main artery for Montreal's factories. Almost all the factories that line the canal are long closed. For a time the Lachine canal was a dismal string of abandoned buildings. More recently, the entire length of the canal has been redevelopped as a parkway with a scenic bicycle path that travels the entire length of the canal ending at the port in Old Montreal. Most of those old factories have been redeveloped in the past 5 to 10 years as trendy residential lofts.

As ugly and forbidding as the canal once was, it has emerged as one of Montreal's great outdoor recreation spaces.

From the canal, which is only a fifteen minute Bixi bike ride from my office, the route crosses over into downtown. Five minutes on a scooter for that leg, tops!

I tested the route several times by car, and, it takes an hour.

So, an hour by car in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic on a clogged expressway; or an hour on a packed commuter train; or an hour on a scooter along one of the most picturesque, winding tree-lined, scenic routes in North America. Seems like a no-brainer.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.