I left Hamilton almost exactly 10 years ago. It’s my hometown. Steeltown. It was always a little rough around the edges and it was not always a good thing to be from Hamilton. The Toronto crowd would never find themselves there – voluntarily. Things, however, have changed over the last decade. I was just in Hamilton earlier this year for the Hamilton Pediatric Review in January and a quick surprise visit before my final exam in May. I’m amazed at the transformation at each visit. Housing prices in Toronto have created an influx into Hamilton. With that movement, more arts, a thriving food scene, and culture have been infused into the city.
One of the interesting things was planning my route. There’s a whole network of 400 series highways. Highways 401 and 403 run near London, but they are not options for cyclists. Like the American interstates, pedestrians and bicycles are forbidden. They would also be the most unpleasant, traffic-heavy, dangerous stretches of road you could imagine. As I plugged away at Google Maps, I found familiar roads from my childhood. The country roads where I would learn to drive standard. The streets where my friends and I would visit the Hermitage at lunch. It had a touch of nostalgia.
London was completely quiet this morning. Lynda and I rose around 7:30 am. Thunderstorms were predicted for the early afternoon, so I needed to get ahead of the weather system and break my cycle of daily thunderstorms since I’ve entered southern Ontario. We snacked on a healthy breakfast (fresh ingredients!) before Lynda sent me off into a cool, sunny morning. Reading the weeds this morning, the wind was on my side. A gentle, southwest wind at my back to push me along to Hamilton.
I had originally planned to link up with Dundas Street to exit the city. I reconnected with the bike parkway. Somehow I got turned around and ended up on Central Avenue instead, weaving along marked bike routes until I landed in the northeast corner of London. I passed the airport and said my final farewells to London. From this point, the ride can only be described as dreamy. With the support of the tailwind, I cruised uninterrupted along Evelyn Drive for almost 50 km. There were stunning views of rolling fields, blue skies, and cloud formations. I didn’t even pause to drink water because I was having so much fun.
I veered off of Evelyn Drive to Highway 2 just outside of Woodstock. I had never visited Woodstock, so I didn’t know what I would discover. The downtown business area was full of character with old brick buildings. When I looked a bit more closely, though, the area was somewhat run down and vacant. I had hoped for a quick stop at a cafe for a bite to eat, but almost everything was closed this morning. Even the Tim Hortons was a “drive through only” situation. I finished off one of Lynda’s granola bars and continued on Highway 2.
Next destination, Paris! No no, not that Paris. Paris, Ontario. I thought it was a bit lofty to call the city Paris. I mean, the original is kind of hard to compare to. I rolled another 30 km past Woodstock into the bustling downtown section of Paris. It lies at the junction of the Grand and Nith Rivers. Paris had a historic centre full of small businesses that I would have loved to explore further. My father agreed to join me for the final leg of today’s route and was already at out meeting point at this point. I made an ice cream pit stop before speeding away to the final stretch to Hamilton.
I had originally planned to cycle through Brantford, but I made a last-minute change up, opting to stay on country roads and avoid the inevitable slow and confusing routes that I find in most cities. Besides, I’ve made enough visits to Brantford, losing money at the casino in my younger days. I left downtown Paris and crossed over the Grand River. I exited on the German School Road to Governors Road, taking me along the edge of Dundas and Ancaster. There were hardly any cars on my route and I loved it. I was flooded with a sense of nostalgia as I made my way along familiar roads.
My father was patiently waiting for me in the shade of a lamppost on the outskirts of Hamilton. There was a miscommunication about our meeting time, so he had been watching the corner of Shaver and Garner for the last hour. It was a funny feeling to arrive into my hometown on a bicycle. It felt real, knowing that I had covered over 4700 km to get to this point. Reaching the end of my ride, I was eager to get home and eat lunch. My father led the way along a scenic route through Glancaster. For once, it was a relief to take a break from being the navigator. I followed him along the 15 km route until we pulled up to my childhood home. My mother, ready by the front door, greeted us with noise makers. It was our version of the Tour de France.
Sophia Petrillo (Golden Girls) would say that there are two things that Italians are good at – making love and opera. I would argue adding a third thing – eating – to that list. My parents had a bounty of food waiting for me. They had made a football field sized tray of pasta al forno (baked pasta) and my drink of choice, yes, a huge container of chocolate milk. My father served me a heaping portion and the pangs of hunger slowly faded away.
My sister, niece, cousins, and aunt and uncle were spending the day at the Albion Hills Conservation Area, north of Brampton. My cousin, Cristina, is one of my blog’s most loyal followers – hello and thank you! I was certainly not going to cycle there today. I ditched my bike in my parents’ shed and we made our way along the scary 400-series highways to surprise my family. As usual, there was more food and more food and more food. I was glad to see them all. We’re not a big family, but scattered over southern Ontario, making it difficult to amass everyone in one location.
The next few days will be rest days, so there will be radio silence until the end of the week. To spare you the details of my day to day activities when I’m not cycling, I’ll give an update before I head to Toronto and complete the last leg of this journey.
Start time: 08:46
Finish time: 14:10
Riding time: 4 hours, 54 minutes
Distance: 137.6 km
Total distance: 4694.22 km
Elevation gain: 736 meters
Total elevation: 22,228 meters
Average speed: 28.1 km per hour
Longest interrupted stretch of cycling: 54 km