Posts Tagged ‘Tour du Lac’

The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image.  It also aptly characterizes one of the main goals of visualization, namely making it possible to absorb large amounts of information quickly.   Like…’duh’, right?

Now, in my previous Tour du Lac posts this past week (see posts below), I tried to capture as much of what transpired over the course of near eight hour days of riding from my journals as best I could in the hotel room, however, trying to recapture those significant thoughts, memories and, sometimes, yes, smells, tends to be a little, well, difficult; particularly when you’re still riding high on a ‘Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch’ Clif bar buzz.  Well, either that or suffering from a serious ‘Citrus’ Shot Bloc withdrawal.  Neither is very pretty, believe me.

With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip in no specific order:

Horsie is ready to roll and ended up traveling the entire route around the lake.

Horsie is ready to roll. He ended up traveling every kilometer around the lake.

Lookin' down the line (Day One)

Lookin’ down the line (Day One)

Barn along Lakeshore Rd.

Barn along Lakeshore Rd.

Another barn.

Another barn.

Lakeshore Rd. (Cobourg)

Lakeshore Rd. (Cobourg)

Double-decker bus in Aldolphustown.

Double-decker bus in Aldolphustown.

Looking at the lake from the Loyalist Pkwy (heading towards Kingston)

Looking at the lake from the Loyalist Pkwy (heading towards Kingston)

I don't remember where exactly...

I don’t remember where exactly…

Another barn...somewhere...

Another barn…somewhere…

Wolfe Island Ferry.

Wolfe Island Ferry.

John is ready to go (Day Two)

John is ready to go (Day Two)

Wolfe Island

Wolfe Island

Fire truck in Sodus Bay

Fire truck in Sodus Bay.

Another still from the fire truck in Sodus Bay.

Another still from the fire truck in Sodus Bay.

Horsie got pretty sick of these by the fifth day.

Horsie got pretty sick of these by the fifth day.

Mailboxes (Sodus Bay)

Mailboxes (Sodus Bay).

One of many bathroom breaks with the "Pee Pee Twins".

One of many bathroom breaks with the “Pee Pee Twins”.

Ummm...it looks like they're a bit late (Middleport).

Ummm…it looks like they’re a bit late (Middleport).

Ian plotting the course.

Ian plotting the course.

Turns out "Asshole" was not such an asshole (Medina).

Turns out “Asshole” was not such an asshole (Medina).

Crap for sale in Gasport (Telegraph Rd.).

Crap for sale in Gasport (Telegraph Rd.).

Tom and Neil.  Our SAG wagon drivers.  Patience of saints.

Tom and Neil. Our SAG wagon drivers. Patience of saints.

Bicycle Route #3 (Holley).

Bicycle Route #3 (Holley).

Crossing to Cape Vincent on the Horne Ferry.

Crossing to Cape Vincent on the Horne Ferry.

Our failed attempt at drying our shoes at Scarborough University in Toronto.

Our failed attempt at drying our shoes at Scarborough University in Toronto.

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Day Six (132.08k) – Webster to Lockport

The morning started out with our first mechanical issue as Kelly’s back tire was flat when we retrieved the bike from the garage, but we fixed it quickly while the others plotted our route for the day and we were off on time heading towards Rochester (and, ultimately, Lockport) to a wonderful fanfare from our hosts.

Getting directions...

Getting directions…

Leaving Webster, our group of three riders (Kelly, Dan and I) linked up with the Erie Canal Trail in nearby Fairport.  Although being very pretty, riding on gravel is not my immediately favorite thing to do on my road bike so I was happy when we got off it in Pittsford it to ride into Rochester.  I’d like to return sometime to do more of the trail, but I’d rather have my mountain bike which would be infinitely better suited for the task.  Anyway, we navigated through some of nice, green neighborhoods of East Rochester to East Str., and then headed towards the downtown.  After picking our way through the intersections and commuter traffic (not to mention past the small group riding ahead of us who had the misfortune of suffering a flat), we turned left on Lyell Ave. and rode straight into the ghetto.

Double checking those directions...

Double checking those directions…

Obviously, the least scenic of the entire week long route, we didn’t even want to stop at traffic lights lest we should have our bikes jacked to sell for crack money.  We hustled as best we could, careful to avoid the potholes and broken syringes to make our way back out to the ‘New York State Bicycle Route 5’ along Spencerport Rd. which, as it turned out, was very busy with the afternoon traffic.  I didn’t care much for sucking the exhaust from all the passing dump trucks and pitched my case to our navigator (Dan, ‘the Man with the Plan’).  Eventually, after stopping at another Tim Horton’s in Brockport for lunch, the decision was made to alter our route a bit to rejoin the ‘Bicycle Route 5’ to the south and along West Ave. and Holley Rd.  After a few hours of traveling along busy roadways, this turned out to be a great detour, as a barn with a huge happy face painted on its roof greeted us almost immediately.  What a great omen.  We were happy.

Tour du Lac Trip 209

Tour du Lac Trip 210

We carried on through lots more of those little Podunk towns like Holley, Albion, Medina, and Middleport (formerly known as ‘Tea-Pot Hollow’), which, if you had blinked you would have passed right through them without knowing.  Most of these towns were established in the early 1800’s as small shipping villages along the Erie Canal.  Thankfully, the Telegraph Rd., which we were now following almost exclusively, was not so busy and the riding was less stressful and we were able to talk more as well as enjoy the sites and even stop to read some of the historical plaques posted at the sides of the road (well, I did anyway).

Another good omen for the day.

Another good omen for the day.

It was also during this stretch that we also discovered a nearly untouched case of Chocolate and Vanilla Clif gel packets in the back of the SAG wagon.  What a score! For the past five days, we had been, primarily, existing on Shot Blocs and little Clif bars so that I was sure I’d be shitting chocolate chips for another week.  You could say that if I ever see another Clif bar it will be too fucking soon.  So these little gels were a welcome gift from God.  Typically, I’m not a big gel guy, but these things tasted exactly like chocolate and vanilla pudding.  I’m surprised Bill Cosby hasn’t decided to hock these things.  They were delicious.

Tour du Lac Trip 214

Barn along the Telegraph Rd.

We carried on for another hour or so, riding slowly but steadily through Gasport and onward into Lockport where we stayed at the Days Inn, or Best Western, or whatever the hell it was they changed it to while we were there.  We showered and changed quickly as we were overdue at an organized BBQ put on by another local Rotarian group at a local park.  Perfect.  We put away pulled pork sandwiches, pasta salad and a literal mountain of baked beans.

Barn in Tonawanda, NY.

Barn in Tonawanda, NY.

Kelly had successfully completed her second full day of riding and a long day it was: 132.08k, and nearly six and half hours of pedaling.  She was more than pleased with herself as she had now completed nearly 2/3rd’s (approximately 520k) of the entire route, and she was beginning to be greeted by the women we hooked up with as a bit of a hero.  Of course, this also made me pretty proud of her too as it was a real pleasure to see her grown into herself as both a cyclist, as well as an individual who now better knows her own abilities and limitations.  Seeing that fortitude develop was probably my favorite part of the day; only one more to go.

Day Seven (94.97k) – Lockport to St. Catharines

Today was to be our last and shortest day of riding.  We left Lockport and almost immediately rejoined with the Erie Canal Trail which, thankfully, was paved for this section.  We cruised along the canal to North Tonawanda, simply enjoying the day and the remaining hours, and eventually hooked up with the rest of the riders at the Rainbow Bridge to cross back over into Canada.  It was extremely moving to see the mist rising off Niagara Falls in the distance grow nearer and nearer signaling the near end of our trip.

Along the Erie Canal Trail.

Along the Erie Canal Trail.

It was an incredibly moving experience to cross over the bridge and back into Canada as, by this time, together we had covered over 850k’s, washed the nastiness out of our cycling kits no fewer than six times, spent over 37,000 calories (and eaten about the same), and averaged about 133k per day, so we were about ready to wrap up this particular adventure.

Getting closer...

Getting closer…

We cleared customs in no time and proceeded a short way down the Niagara Parkway to Christ Church where we picked up eight other day riders to cycle in with back to St. Catharines.  After a brief meet n’ greet, Kelly and I were anxious to get going to we were the first to leave and continued on down the Parkway for the final 50k stretch home past the Whirlpool Rapids, The Spanish Aero Car, the Butterfly Conservatory, the Sir Adam Beckett Generating Plant, the Floral Clock and Queenston Heights.  I’m sure were both beaming from ear to ear at our accomplishment over the past seven days.  We cycled together through some old time trialing routes of mine through the Lines and Concession Roads of Niagara-on-the-Lake and, after a brief stop at Peller Estates winery we trucked on home to the Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St. Catharines.  Here, as a group, we were formally escorted by a fire truck for the rest of the way back to the St. Catharines Golf & Country Club from whence we started a mere 175.5 hours ago.  Staggering, isn’t it?

Tour du Lac Trip 236Tour du Lac Trip 239Tour du Lac Trip 241Tour du Lac Trip 245

The sheer scope of what we had successfully completed was almost unfathomable at this point, especially for Kelly I suspect.  I have to say, though, my favorite moment of the entire trip occurred right at the very end.  No, it wasn’t riding through the fire hoses in the parking lot; it was getting to see the enormous smile erupt over her face as she hoisted her bike over her head at the end in complete triumph to the cheers and congratulations of family and friends.  That’s my girl!

Success!

Success!

Seven days and 940k in the making...

Seven days and 940k in the making…

So what’s next?  Well, absolutely nothing…for the next few days anyway.  I’ll inevitably get back into the swing of training and dive back into the pool and maybe even go for a few short runs but, largely, Kelly and I just plan on just being a couch potatoes, catch up on the Tour du France, and enjoy our cats in my favorite comfy chair knowing that the big summer challenge is over.  Heck, perhaps we’ll even start scheming about next year’s adventure together…

The first leg of our journey was pretty much complete at this point, successfully navigating the north coast of Lake Ontario.  The next leg would take us south into the United States and along the southern coast of Lake Ontario home.

Day Four (151.85k) – Kingston to Oswego

In Kingston, bracing for a hard day or riding.

In Kingston, bracing for a hard day or riding.

Day Three was tough, solely because of the distance alone, but it was far from being the most challenging.  That distinction was made on the fourth day as we entered into the USA and pressed onward to Oswego, NY.

As Kelly made herself cycle ready in the bathroom, I took an opportunity to check out the local newspaper that had been left outside our hotel room door.  I was absolutely amazed at the pictures I found of extensive flooding in the downtown streets of Toronto, where we had passed only a mere 48 hours ago and I realized just how lucky we were having just missed it.  Sure we got wet, but nothing like what the Torontonians were dealing with now.  That’s not to say that it was going to easy going though, as the weather called for more dramatic storms into the late morning and early afternoon as we were now cycling straight into the belly of the beast.  Time to get our game faces on and I was a bit concerned how our “B Group” would manage when the going got rough, as it almost certainly promised to be.

Crossing the St. Lawrence on the ferry to Wolfe Island.

Crossing the St. Lawrence on the ferry to Wolfe Island.

We started off early as we had ferries to catch to Wolfe Island and not fall behind schedule.  We stopped briefly for a quick breakfast at Tim Horton’s (the unofficial sponsor of the Tour du Lac, if you ask me) and I experienced the first bad omen of possible things to come when they ran out of scrambled eggs for my breakfast sandwich.  I know no big deal but, still.  The sky was overcast and dark, ominous clouds lay ahead as we boarded the ferry.

Wolfe Island is the largest of the Thousand Islands, laying just at the entrance to the St. Lawrence in the heart of Frontenac County.  The island was part of the traditional hunting lands of the Tyendinaga Mohawk people and the original name of the island is Ganounkouesnot (‘Long Island Standing up’). It was called Grand Ile by the French, but was later named after British General James Wolfe by the British settlers.  The island is about 29 km long, and the resident population is approximately 1400 people, but this number can double or triple during the summer months, although you wouldn’t know it given how incredibly quiet it is.  Seriously, aside from the wind and birds you could literally hear a pin drop anywhere on the island.  Don’t just take my word for it:

 

It’s almost eerie, especially given the gravity of the dark skies looming overhead.  The most significant thing about Wolfe Island, however, is that it is the home to 86 huge wind turbines as part of the Wolfe Island Wind Project, a wind farm developed by Canadian Hydro Developers in June, 2009.  These turbines are scattered across the vast landscape we were currently cycling through like enormous giants, each giving off a gentle “whopping” sound.  It was almost hypnotic.  Check it out:

 

Impressive, right?

It doesn’t take long to cross Wolfe Island and there is next to zero traffic to contend with and if you’re lucky, as we were, you’ll have a nice tail wind to propel you along.  When you reach the other side you have to take the smaller Horne ferry to Cape Vincent on the other side.  Thankfully, the captain was gracious enough to take us across right away, so we boarded the bikes and SAG wagons and had a private trip across to the USA.

 

On the ferry, the rain started.  Queue the carnage.   As the rain started to pick up, almost everyone in our group of riders (except Kelly and I) immediately whipped out a white rain jacket, so there was either a clearance sale on cycling rain jackets that we missed somewhere, or we were now traveling with the Four Tops.  Either way, we were destined to get wet…very wet.

The rain persisted all the way through Cape Vincent as our group of four riders rode along South Market Str. into the countryside.  I could tell Kelly wasn’t terribly happy and getting anxious about the poor weather and cycling conditions.  At the top of a hill, with the rain pouring down, her tires slipping on the pavement and a huge dump truck lumbering down and laying on the horn behind her, she opted for the safety of the van.  It had become too much and who could blame her?  This was extremely tough going, especially for a novice rider and I don’t blame her one bit.  I was determined to see it through though, so I piloted our dwindled group of riders along the road to Three Mile Bay, where the sky really opened up.

20130710_10074090%chance of rain20130710_100808

Now there is rain, and then there is RAIN; and this was certainly the later, like, real Amazon monsoon style rain.  The kind that feels like thousands of stinging insects as it hits your skin.  The sides of the road filled with rushing water and visibility was next to zero but we soldiered on with me in the lead pulling through the uphill slop.  Just as I began to wonder how we were ever going to make it another 130k or so, as we crested a hill the rain instantly stopped.  One minute it was raining, and the very next it’s not.  It was quite that sudden.  Now, I’m not an overly spiritual person, but at that exact moment as we passed through a literal curtain of water onto dry pavement again is about as close to a religious experience as I’m likely ever going to experience on a bike.  I’ll remember that exact second for the rest of my life.  That’s not to say it wouldn’t rain again, but for the moment I was very happy.

Cape Vincent

Cape Vincent

The three of us carried on like this, in and out of the storm for the next 30 kilometers or so through Chaumont and Limerick, before turning west onto Brown Str. towards Sackets Harbor where we rejoined the rest of the riders from the faster main “A Group”, minus one that had kept going towards Oswego on his own.  I guess they had taken shelter from the rain while we chose to ride right through it.  The plan was made to order our lunch which the SAG drivers would then go fetch before meeting up with us again in Henderson’s Harbor up the road another 20k or so.  I used this quick break to literally squeeze about 2 gallons of muddy water out of my socks and wipe down Daisy before carrying on.  Thankfully, it had stopped raining so we all mounted up and headed out and I used the opportunity to ride off on my own a bit up ahead.  Unfortunately, I accidentally zipped past the turn off for Henderson’s Harbor and carried on up one bitch of a climb up to Henderson proper where I stopped to wait.  When the other riders failed to show I became worried and zipped back to find them only to discover they had veered off somewhere leaving me stranded alone.  “Oh shit!” is all that went through my mind.  Here I was stranded in a strange land with no means of contacting the main group.  What an idiot.  Thankfully, I found a road sign for Henderson’s Harbor and after journeying down the road a bit I found the group enjoying their subs by the roadside.  Thank Christ.  Oh well, what’s an extra 8k among friends?

Exhausted, but happy to still be going in the right direction.

Exhausted, but happy to still be going in the right direction.

As I ate a few of the “A Group” riders left and I was torn about what to do.  I wanted to open up a little bit but didn’t want to abandon my “B Group” either.  Finally, I decided I would ride on my own for a bit to enjoy the new countryside in peace and set out at quick pace in the direction I had originally gone in the first place.  What the hell.

I don’t know what got in me to be honest, but I rode angry.  I got to thinking about my mom and how fortunate I was to be able to do what I was doing and before I knew it I caught the lead group, blew past them and kept riding hard.  I know it wasn’t a race by any means, but that’s how I rode.  In my mind, this was a stage of the Tour de France and I was the solo breakaway from the main field trying to catch the leaders.  I rode like a wild man not breaking or slowing down for anything.  Soon I was riding alone and putting time on the other riders.  The cool air had turned hot and humid and around the 80k mark, the flat landscape turned to endless hills, one after another, but I kept riding hard.  You could say I was having fun.  I know, I’m a special kind of crazy; Kelly will tell you.  Every now and again, a SAG wagon would pass me and I would grab water from them on the fly to pour over myself, but I didn’t stop.  Especially beginning at the 100k point, it was a constant up and down with little opportunity to recover at all.  Just check this out:

Elevation chart.  Just a few climbs over the day...

Elevation chart. Just a few climbs over the day…

At the pace I was trying to keep, it was easily one of the most challenges rides I have ever completed.  I passed through the small rural towns of Selkirk, Sandy Creek, and Mexico (not to mention past about a zillion species of road kill, including one huge, raunchy smelling porcupine) before turning south on Main Str. into Oswego.  By this point, I hadn’t seen another rider in nearly two hours.  As I entered Oswego (which, it must be said, is another series of endless hills) I pulled into the Best Western parking lot a mere 15 seconds behind the sole rider ahead of me who failed to stop for lunch.  I was totally spent and dripping with sweat, but I felt somewhat relieved, completely purged and, well, good.  I had covered nearly 70k of hills on my own in little under three hours.  I’m happy with that as a rider.

Yes, this is exactly how I tackle the hills.  I'm huge.

Yes, this is exactly how I tackle the hills. I’m huge.

Later when Kelly arrived in the van, we sought out some treats and devoured them in the park to replenish the 6949 calories I burned getting into town, while people watching and waiting for our laundry to finish at the local Laundromat.  Back at the hotel, we had a nice dinner on the patio overlooking canal, complete with birthday cake (It was Kelly’s 41st birthday) and fell asleep rather quickly back in our room anticipating another hard ride in the morning out of Oswego.

 

The hardest ride of the week.

The hardest ride of the week.

 

Day Five (111.49) – Oswego to Webster

Day Five promised to be just as challenging as Day Four as getting out of Oswego, also meant going over those same brutal hills that we just rode over to get in.  Goodie.

By now, Kelly and I had our morning pre-ride routine down pat.  It goes exactly like this:

  • Wake up and poop
  • Get dressed
  • Have breakfast
  • Second poop, lube, and sunscreen

Seriously, we could do this blindfolded.

Kelly and I had already planned that she would sit out the hills in the van for the first portion of the day and I would meet up with her around the halfway point, or at lunch, and we would ride into Webster together.  This gave me the green light to ride off out front for a while to tackle the hills and vicious headwind that was also blowing that morning.  In fact, the headwind was the more challenging of the two.

Really?

Really?

I rode away alone up and over the endless hills (in fact, I counted 33 of them in rapid succession) for the first 70k or so.  In fact, while passing through the township of Hannibal I half expected to see a herd of elephants waiting for me at the top of monster of a hill, all ready to ride off and sack Rome.  But I digress.  It took a while for the legs to wake up a bit in order to deal with the constant climbing but, once they did, they began to turn over easily enough and it wasn’t long before I had made some good time on the rest of the riders.  Eventually, not wanting to get lost, I stopped for a break to wait for either the SAG wagon or other riders to ensure I was still going the right way as it seemed I had been riding the same Hwy 104 roadway for quite some time.

It may be good here to pause to talk about our SAG (‘Supplies and Gear’) wagons and support drivers.  These guys simply can’t get enough credit.  We had two wagons/vans with us on the ride to support basically two groups of riders, the faster riders and the slower riders. Eventually, each group would break up into its own separate units which would then cause even more challenge for the drivers.  For the entire seven days of riding our drivers, Tom and Neil, would basically shepherd us along the route while catering to all our food, water and directional needs.  Sometimes, it was just a kind, encouraging word that we needed or a hearty ‘thumbs up’ sign out the window as they passed by.  As Tom so eloquently put it to Kelly one afternoon, “These guys get all the exercise, and we get all the stress”, and that’s pretty much how it is as they keep constant tabs on us throughout the day.  Every time I got out ahead, just seeing one of these wagons go past would be a huge sigh of relief that I was, in fact, okay…just as it happened today when Neil finally pulled up beside me at the side of the road and validated that I was still going in the right direction.  Whew!

Horsie enjoys lunch in Sodus Bay.

Horsie enjoys lunch in Sodus Bay.

After three or so hours of riding alone, I was more or less ready for some company so I continued to wait with Neil in the parking lot of a McDonalds (and somehow resisted the urge to run in for a quick milk shake) until two other riders, Steve and Richard, caught up and I joined them for the rest of the ride to Sodus Point for lunch.  Thankfully, we turned off the highway we were currently traveling more a more scenic route along the ‘New York State Bicycle Route 14’ which runs through pretty orchards and fields all the way to Sodus Bay.  There was still the ever present headwind to fight against, but at least we had more to look at and admire other than the bumpers and license plates of passing motorists.

In a word, Sodus Point is ‘gorgeous’.  As a group, we all reconvened at a restaurant right on the bay called ‘Abe’s Waterfront Boat House, Bar & Grill’ where I enjoyed a delicious bowl of lobster bisque and a turkey club wrap to fuel me the rest of the way to Webster.  It had turned into an idea afternoon for   riding being warm and sunny so, what the hell, I had a beer too.

Sodus Bay

Sodus Bay

After lunch, we headed out of Sodus Point along Lake Rd. through the coastal townships of Wayne County in upstate New York.  We passed by fruit orchards completely laden with cherries, fruit stands, and farmer’s markets galore.  It really was pretty country.  A little up the road in Pultneyville (after the hills), Kelly got her bike out again and started riding by herself for a while until I caught up with her.  Of course, she didn’t make it easy and it was a while before I actually saw her up ahead and followed along into the outskirts of Webster where we gathered as group again before heading into our final destination in Webster proper.

Our hosts in Webster were the local branch of Rotarians, who make quite a big deal about us arriving.  They had a mist machine set up to ride through and a huge garage to store our bikes, not to mention a cooler full of ice cold water and soft drinks which was much appreciated after four and a half hours in the blazing sun.  Afterwards we were billeted at a Rotarians house, named Karen, who was simply the bomb.  She allowed us to relax and enjoy a luxurious stretch in her pool while enjoying iced drinks and bowls of fresh local cherries and snap peas.  It was glorious.  I just hope she is prepared for the carnage we’ll inevitably unleash on her bathroom in the morning.

Barn along Lake Rd.

Barn along Lake Rd.

Later we were treated to a nice dinner at the local Legion by our hosts and after a few speeches and laughs, we caught up with two of our closest friends who live locally and went out for dessert and a bottle of Banana Bread beer.  Yes, banana bread flavored beer.  It was delicious.  It was nice to relax and enjoy some downtime and laughs with friends and it totally rejuvenated our spirits.  After five days of hard riding, it’s amazing how small things like bowls of snap peas and joking about all the current pop culture we’ve been missing the past few days can totally breathe life back into you.  It was exactly what our fatigued bodies needed…aside from a good night’s sleep, that is; which is totally what we would get not long afterwards.

Only two more days of riding to go.

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.

Easy, right?

Easy, right?

During one of our first correspondences before we were even officially dating, I made the offer to Kelly that I would be more than happy to go riding with her and little HRH.  In fact, I think I worded it exactly like this:

“I’d love to take you for a ride”

Am I eloquent or what?

Now, with all sniggering aside (hehehe…’snigger’), I genuinely meant what I said.  Now, here we are, a little over two years later – four days out – and we’re about to just that…go for that bike ride together.  But this will be no leisurely spin around the neighborhood or a trip to the park and back.  No.  We’re talking about no less than a 940k trek around Lake Ontario as part of the Tour du Lac fundraiser for the Heart Investigation Unit at the new NHS Healthcare Complex.  How’s that for a bike ride?  Stock up on the butt lube, that’s for sure.

I doubt she ever had a ride of this magnitude in mind when she first agreed to take me up on my offer but, life being what it is, that’s exactly how it shaped up.  I’m no stranger to long distance cycling and have enjoyed it in both competition as well as a means of supporting the cycling community by acting as both a participant and as a volunteer sweep rider for various local charity rides.  Throughout it all, Kelly has supported me and encouraged me.  Now, she has her first opportunity to actually join me.

And what an opportunity it is.  Here is how next week (beginning Sunday, July 7th) is going to roll out (yes, that pun was intended):

Day OneSt. Catharines to Toronto (155km) – Despite the distance, we catch a bit of a break here as the route skips the Niagara Escarpment altogether and mostly follows the Waterfront Trail along the lake and ending up at the Toronto University where we will be staying the night.

Day TwoToronto to Cobourg (125k) – Promises to be very scenic as we continue along the Waterfront Trail through all the coastal areas and port towns of Pickering, Oshawa, Bowmanville, and Port Hope.  However, what we managed to avoid on Day One will inevitably come back to haunt us today beginning at about the halfway point as the Cobourg area is known for being pretty hilly.  Kelly is going to get her first taste of climbing today.  We’ll be spending the night at the local Best Western and dining at the local Cobourg Jail.

Day ThreeCobourg to Kingston (167k) – Our longest day promises to be scenic indeed as we pass through the wine region of Prince Edward County; a mecca for naturalists, painters, fishermen, sailors, and pleasure seekers.  We are promised panoramic views and a ride on the Glenora Ferry.  Afterwards we’ll be staying at the Four Points Sheridan.

Day FourKingston to Oswego, NY (151k) – Today is going to be tough; tough with a capital ‘H’, for HILLS.  First, however, we will have to cross over Lake Ontario to begin the American leg of the journey aboard the Wolfe Island Ferry and the Horne Ferry.  Once over, we’ll be following the Seaway Trail around the eastern end of Lake Ontario through Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Park, Sandy Island Beach State Park and the Selkirk Shores State Park.  So while it promises to be scenic, it’s also going to be a real challenge in the saddle.  We’ll be staying at the Quality Inn & Suites overlooking the canal lock and river.

Day FiveOswego to Webster, NY (109k) – It’ll inevitably be more hills in the morning stages along an otherwise scenic route through Wolcott and Sodus Bay.  In Webster we’ll be treated to a hospitable BBQ banquet and meeting with the local Rotary Club and billeted at one the member’s homes.  We’re also hoping to be graced with some friendly faces we know who happen to live in the area as well.

Day SixWebster to Lockport, NY (133k) – We veer away from the lake for a while today to instead follow the Erie Canal trail and Route 31 though the very historical areas of Spencerport and Brockport.  In Lockport, we’ll be staying at the Holiday Inn.

Day SevenLockport to St. Catharines (100k) – The last day also happens to be the shortest distance-wise and, thankfully, it’s mostly downhill the whole way.  We’ll be following the Niagara Parkway on both the American and Canadian sides, so we’ll be back on familiar territory once again passing by Niagara Falls and the historic township of Queenston and Niagara-on-the-Lake before its home, sweet home.

Yeah, it’s safe to say I’m pretty jazzed.  This trip is going to be the culmination of my planned ‘fun’ for this off year.  First, back in the fall, we found her a bike; a beautiful Cannondale (‘Serge’) with the help and advice of our good friend Kent.  Likewise, there have been the many adjustments at the bike shop to enable her to ride as comfortable as possible meaning she has endured some uncomfortable days out on the road as well as on the trainer while that right combination of saddle, handlebars, clips and whatnot were all figured out. Then there have been the endless shopping excursions for all the attire (I figure, by now, we’re official shareholders at MEC).  Who knew that finding appropriate and ‘cute’ cycling attire would prove to be more daunting than finding a decent bike?  Shit, I just throw on whatever jersey I happen to grab first out of my closet but, apparently, it is not that simple for the ladies.  Go figure.  Yes, this cycling is serious business indeed.  But we’re past all that now and, finally, we’re on the cusp of the actual ride itself.

My goal is simple enough; just pedal, pedal, pedal, enjoy the sights, and support Kelly and the other riders to make this journey as memorable for them as it promises to be for me.  And regardless of what happens, I am very proud of Kelly for even considering taking an event of this magnitude on and she has already proven herself as a trooper in my book throughout her training thus far.  Likewise, I look forward to whatever other opportunities this event might create for us in the future as, already; we’re scheming about next summer’s adventure.

So, please, cross your fingers for us this weekend that for the next week the weather remains nice, the wind subsides a little and the pavement is flat and merciful.  Here goes nothing…