Tour du Lac (Part 1)

Posted: July 16, 2013 in Lifestyle
Tags: , ,

Ali had Frazier, Holyfield had Tyson, Joe had his volcano, and Kelly and I had a lake – one huge ass lake – and come hell or high water we were determined to get around this mother humper; all 940 kilometers of it.  The following account is transcribed from my journal as best as I could recollect at the time after each days ride and, remember, when you’re riding an average of 134 kilometers per day through extreme heat, humidity, hills and torrential downpours, well, that recollection is sometimes a bit vague.

Day One (154.55k) – St. Catharines to Toronto

We awoke early in the morning after a fitful sleep ready to begin our epic adventure around the lake as part of our Tour du Lac charity ride.  Everything was packed, the bikes were ready, and we had loaded up with as many pre-ride carbohydrates (steak and mushroom risotto) the night before as we could shovel down our throats in a single sitting; time to get a-pedaling.

The Tour du Lac group

The Tour du Lac group

After a few photo opportunities, all 11 Tour du Lac riders and 2 support drivers set out from the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club at 7:30am sharp (click HERE to view the Standard article).  It was a very surreal experience indeed just thinking about what the next seven days would hold in store for us.  To put it all in a bit of perspective, Kelly’s longest ride to date was approximately 65k, and my own (this year) was about 85k as I’ve been taking a break from the longer distances in favour of more short fast rides.  I was confident that my endurance base and new found leg strength would serve me well over the next week; I know Kelly was a bit trepidatious.  But if she was, she didn’t show it.  Forever the trooper she is.

Fresh and ready to go.

Fresh and ready to go.

The first day had us pretty much following the Waterfront Trail down the North Service Rd. and then on the paved trail to Burlington.  Almost immediately, our group was split into two riding groups, the faster “A Group” and the slower “B Group” that Kelly I rode with.  I was content to ride in the front of the “B Group” to help pull through the headwind all the way into Grimsby, Stoney Creek and into Burlington itself.  Once in Burlington, we moved from the paved trail to Lakeshore Rd. all the way to Mississauga.  The last time I was on this particular route, I was running the Chili Half Marathon (click HERE for results) this past March and, truth be told, I wasn’t there to enjoy myself at the time.  Today, however, I was enjoying the big homes, public parks and the views of the lake itself as I led Kelly and the other members of our group.  At one point, we even passed by the SunRype Kid’s Triathlon in progress at the Appleby College in Oakville.  I would have loved to have stopped to say ‘hello’ but, after nearly 80k of riding, I was more interested in reaching our lunch destination up the road.

After a rather enjoyable lunch at Extreme Pita, we rejoined the Waterfront Trail along the lake through Etobicoke, Port Credit and East York and past all the busy public beaches of Port Credit, Humber Bay, and Woodbine.  All in all it was very enjoyable riding as the Toronto skyline grew forever closer on the horizon.  However, the sky was also beginning to get overcast…very overcast.

Dark skies ahead in Toronto.

Dark skies ahead in Toronto.

Eventually, we reached the Toronto downtown area and had to quickly navigate our way through the rush hour traffic which while, unfortunate, was also a first in my book.  Kelly was not as excited about this prospect of course, as she had a minor spill while crossing the road under the Gardiner Expressway.  But she got up, dusted herself off and soldiered on regardless.  Despite this minor setback to the ride, I know how proud I was of her accomplishment today as she had by this point cycled over 120k over a span of five and a half hours.  It was a real treat for me to be present to witness her as the fact that she had officially ridden from St. Catharines to Toronto officially dawned on her.  After all, who wakes up one morning and thinks to themselves “Hey, I think I’ll ride to Toronto today”, much less a novice rider?  She certainly had a lot to be proud about.

Eventually we arrived at Bluffman’s Park in East Toronto where we were greeted with a steep, near vertical climb that would make Andy Schleck shit his pants but I managed to make it to the top despite the damp, slippery pathway where we were treated with a fantastic view of the lake.  Here the Waterfront Trail took a bit of an off road course through a dirt pathway so Kelly and I, not wanting to risk any early mechanical issues, chose to portage our bikes along the path back onto the safety of the pavement on the other side.  It was around this time, or shortly after anyway, that the overcast sky gave way to rain.  And rain it did.  So much so, that our group decided to seek brief shelter at the Guildford Go station, but the rain never let up and we had no choice but to make the final few kilometers to the Scarborough University in the pouring rain.  I remember the rain water literally washing the salt from my face and into my mouth so that I tasted like a literal moveable margarita.

View from the top of Bluffman's Park

View from the top of Bluffman’s Park

By the time we arrived at the campus, we were completely saturated from head to foot but, happy with our accomplishment at having completed the first of the trek, and second longest day of riding (7 hours and 53 minutes in the saddle alone).  We checked in at the campus residence and I began the task of cleaning the bikes while Kelly took a much needed shower.  Later we had dinner as a group at Kelsey’s (to replenish some of the 6866 calories I burned that day), stuffed our cleats with newspaper to sop up the moisture, hunted out a dryer to dry our riding clothes and hit the sack in our private, single dorm rooms.  I must say, I did not like sleeping alone; much less in a residence bed and it brought back memories of my own long ago University experience.  How I survived sleeping on these wafer thin mattresses with teeny tiny pillows I’ll never know but, given I was so tired, I slept pretty soundly regardless.

Not bad for a first day's outing.

Not bad for a first day’s outing.

One day down, six to go.

Day Two (116.58k) – Toronto to Cobourg

Thankfully, the rains stopped overnight and after breakfast and prepping our bikes, the “B Group” rode out of the campus together again in the cool morning air and back onto the Waterfront Trail heading onward to Cobourg.

The "B Group" riding along the Waterfront Trail towards Cobourg.

The “B Group” riding along the Waterfront Trail towards Cobourg.

Our day started off on a bit of an ominous note when Barry took a bit of a spill early into the ride while crossing a slippery wooden bridge but, like the trooper he is, he brushed it off, climbed back aboard and we were off again…albeit a bit more carefully.  We exited Toronto riding along the Waterfront Trail through the coastal towns of Ajax, Pickering, Whitby, Port Granby, Bowmanville, and Oshawa; all offering some spectacular views of the lake and local conservation areas and provincial parks.  The weather was beautiful, but into the afternoon it began to get a little humid.  The only aggravating thing was that Daisy had, despite a pre-ride tune up, had developed a “tick tick tick” noise in either the bottom bracket or pedal.  Everything was still turning over and gearing well, but the noise was troubling me a bit.  I made a mental note to have it checked out ASAP.

Waterfront Trail

Waterfront Trail

Shortly after leaving Clarington, the Waterfront Trail links with Lakeshore Rd. into Port Hope.  This was easily my favorite part of the day.  Lakeshore Rd. is a long, scenic stretch of road that cuts through some of the areas prime agricultural areas similar to what I ride back home.  For the next 30k or so, it was all peaceful fields, birds, rolling hills, and old bridges and buildings.  It was like I had died and gone to Barn Heaven.  This was my definitely kind of ride; just the sound of singing birds, the passing wind and the steady hum of rubber tires on pavement (minus the infernal ‘ticking’ noise, of course).  Kelly and I passed the time laughing over inventing potential band names based on random slogans and conversation tidbits we had overheard over the past two days (eg. ‘Nicaraguan Volcano Sled’, ‘Regurgitated Bacon’, and ‘Petrified Snake’ among a few).  It’s funny to me how you pass the time and kilometers when you’re simply pedaling along enjoying the day without a care in the world.

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n' roll.

It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll.

However, it began to get a bit more challenging when the heat and humidity of the day significantly increased and the hills began to get a bit steeper and so after 90k, at the top of a long climb, Kelly called it a day and opted to ride in the van.  By this time we had fallen well behind the other riders, not that we were trying to keep up mind you.

The long stretch along Lakeshore Rd. into Cobourg.

The long stretch along Lakeshore Rd. into Cobourg.

Once we packed up Serge onto the SAG wagon, I was released to ride my own ride; that is, I opened it up a bit.  By now my legs were itching to go so I picked up the pace.  I doused myself with water and sprinted off in search of the other riders.  I climbed the hills, settled into a steady tempo pace on the flats and otherwise rode like I am accustomed to.  It was all extremely enjoyable and I was absolutely loving every moment of it.  Very quickly I caught and passed the other riders of our “B Group” and surged ahead before making the decision to stop and wait a ways up the road to finish the ride into Cobourg together.

Barry, Dan and I bring it on into Cobourg.

Barry, Dan and I bring it on into Cobourg.

Once we arrived at out hotel in Cobourg I found a nearby bike shop, where a kind gentleman named Dave at the ‘Somerville’s Sporting Goods’ agreed to look at Daisy right away to make sure that the ticking wasn’t a sign of a broken bottom bracket, an errant derailleur, or a similar problem with any other essential part of the bikes mechanical make up that I wouldn’t have a foggy clue on how to fix myself.  Luckily, everything was in good working order and the source of the noise was more than likely a slightly wobbly clip on my right pedal that wouldn’t offer me any real issues for the rest of the ride other than having to endure that monotonous ticking.  I was relieved.  By the way, it’s worth noting that watching a complete stranger wail away on your beloved bike with a rubber mallet is very tough to endure, even when it’s an amicable guy like Dave.  So I rode back to the hotel to shower, change, and enjoy a beer (or two, or a dozen) before heading out for dinner.

Daisy gets a good working over at the Somerville Sporting Shop in Cobourg.

Daisy gets a good working over at the Somerville Sporting Shop in Cobourg.

Dinner was at a local joint called the “Cobourg Jail”, which is just that – the former jail, complete with jail cells for bathrooms, etc.  I enjoyed a nice meatloaf dinner and few more beers before the evening was complete to celebrate another 116.58k completed and nearly six more hours in the saddle.  Sleep came very easily that night and I would certainly need it as the next day was destined to be a significant challenge being the second longest ride of my short cycling career, the longest ever for Daisy.

Day Three (170.95k) – Cobourg to Kingston

The weather called for more rain but, thankfully, we woke up to nearly clear skies and a pleasant cool breeze.  The television in the hotel restaurant however told a different story; flash floods in Toronto, tornados in Florida, gigantic hail in Thunder Bay, etc.  It was like Mother Nature herself had decided to unleash her own version of the apocalypse on the world, yet all we would have to contend with all day would be the extreme heat and humidity.

Back on the Lakeshore Rd. heading to Kingston.

Back on the Lakeshore Rd. heading to Kingston.

The other challenge, besides the weather and distance would be doing it all hung over.  Yes, six drinks seems to be my limit nowadays.  Just bending over to put on my cleats in the morning was enough to have me dry heaving and my breakfast went down, well, barely.  It was going to be a long day indeed.  Subsequently, I would inevitably burp and fart the entire 170k’s to Kingston.  Am I a classy rider or what?  But, hey, cycling is not known to be a sexy sport with all the sweat, butt creams, chafing balms, etc. to combat the extreme cases of “excoriation” (aka ‘sloppy butt’, or ‘swamp ass’) after long days in the saddle.  After all, when you have open sores on your ass what are a few ill-timed farts, right?  But I digress…

Peaceful views along Lakeshore Rd.

Peaceful views along Lakeshore Rd.

Almost immediately, we rejoined the scenic Lakeshore Rd. which would then turn into Orchard Park Rd. and then Lakeport Rd.  Whatever is was called, it was just as beautiful as it was entering into Cobourg so this definitely helped ease my headache and upset stomach.  It was all big sky, coastal highways, port towns, and lots of panoramic views of the lake.  There were a few sections of road that were gravel so Kelly and I decided to portage the bikes to save on the wear and tear and minimize the risk of skidding out.  At one point, a small stone lodged itself in Kelly’s cleat making it impossible to clip in but we managed to pry it loose with an Allen key and we were on our way again.  If this was going to be the worse we would have to deal the whole trip with we would be very happy indeed.

We carried on towards Brighton at a slow but steady pace just enjoying the day.  The only unnerving thing was the inordinate amount of dead birds along the roadway.  We must have ridden past at least three dozen within a short 5k distance.  Kind of makes you wonder why birds are seemingly dropping from the sky here, but whatever.  It did create some giggles between us as, inevitably, every bird we passed was signaled out with a cry of (click HERE to listen).

Traveling the Kente Portage, Ontario's oldest road.

Traveling the Kente Portage, Ontario’s oldest road.

By now, our merry band of “B Group” riders had broken into three separate groups with Kelly and I becoming the new “Tail End Charlie’s”, not that we minded any.  We carried on like this together all the way to the Trent-Severn Waterway way in Lovett where we took a brief break to fuel and snap a few photos and then onward to travel the ‘Kente Portage’ route on Hwy 33, also known as the “Carrying Place”, regarded as the oldest road in Ontario.  Here Kelly decided to take a break in the SAG wagon again, so I used the opportunity to enjoy hammering out a few kilometers solo all the way along the Loyalist Parkway through the rolling hills of Consecon, Hillier (aptly named indeed), Hallowell, and Bloomfield to Picton where we ultimately stopped for lunch.

The "B Group" arrive at the Trent-Severn waterway.

The “B Group” arrive at the Trent-Severn waterway.

By now, it was hot – stinking hot – and I was spent from nearly 90 minutes of steady tempo riding through the very scenic Prince Edward County.  We enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich, muffin and a cold Pepsi at Tim Horton’s before refilling our water bottles and carrying on up the road.  I have to say, like ‘em or hate ‘em, Tim Horton’s is absolutely the best at refilling water bottles.  The whole way around the lake, both in Canada and in the USA, never were we turned down as they were only too happy to top them up with fresh ice and water upon request; and always with a smile and a word of encouragement.  Bravo Timmies for being so cycle friendly!  From Picton, there were only a few more short hills in order to arrive at and board the Glenora Ferry to the other side of Picton Bay.

After crossing the bay and enjoying the cool air blowing off the water, Kelly rejoined the ride and we carried on up the Loyalist Parkway together on the other side.  I really enjoyed this stretch of road as after the cars from the ferry had passed, we pretty much had the entire roadway to ourselves, and it was gorgeous indeed; the whole stretch running right along the lake with Amherst Island in the distance.  We chatted back and forth about the day, the trip in general and, well, this craziness:

 

Yeah, I’m a nut.

After another few hours or so, Kelly took another break after traveling 90k or so for the day, so I headed off to regain the rest of the “B Group” riders, including Barry, the oldest rider in our group at 70 years young, and we proceeded in together to Kingston, completing 170.95k on that day.  By the time we arrived at the Four Points Sheraton, I was caked with sweat, sun screen and collected road dust, dirt and debris.  I was definitely raising the bar for over all rankness as was evident by the feint expressions on the unfortunate hotel patrons who had the misfortune of being trapped in an elevator with me up to our rooms.  It must have been like being trapped with fetid road kill.  It’s true, at that present time I probably smell-wise,  fell somewhere between a homeless man and a Bigfoot with a skin infection.

So what does one do after nearly eight hours of sweaty riding you ask?

 

Kind of makes you want to scrub your eyeballs with a wad of steel wool, doesn’t it?  I suppose I was bit delirious.

Anyway, later we had dinner at a local German restaurant, ‘Amadeus’, which, sadly, did not exactly “rock me”.  We left early to grab some Starbucks before heading back to the hotel to do launder our rank cycling clothes and mentally prepare ourselves for what promised to be the hardest day of riding yet.

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Comments
  1. Jan says:

    OMG1 Awesome report Terry! And way to go Kelly!
    I read about possible nudity but OMG Terry, you are Fg HILLARIOUS!!!. That was some video. What a hoot that was. I”m off to show Dan and still laughing!!!!
    Jan

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