Day 45 / August 15, 2017 – Ottawa, ON to Montreal, QC

I made a huge mistake. Those were the words running through my head most of this morning as I decided to make the long leap from Ottawa to Montreal. The distance was estimated to be around 220 km and there was a band of active weather approaching. This was not a winning combination.

I left the comfort of the Andrews at a reasonable time and under good conditions. You’d never guess that, at that exact moment, Montreal was being pummelled with thunderstorms. It was slow going through the city centre, but there were no surprises there. This is the way it is in most major cities. Ottawa was teeming with tourists (myself included). After snapping some customary photos at Parliament and passing the Byward Market, I connected to the bike path on Sussex Drive, past a long line of embassies and JT’s house. Again no sign of Justin. The path wound its way to the wealthy Rockcliffe neighbourhood. I stayed on the quiet Georges Étienne Cartier “Highway”, a quiet route along the Ottawa River. It was fast moving for me with hardly any vehicular traffic. The day was starting out well.

A rare moment when the bus loads of tourists cleared away from the Canada 150 sign.

I snapped that last picture so quickly that I cropped off the top of the Peace Tower, so I had to take a better one.

The Rideau Canal next to Parliament and the Chateau Laurier.


Unfortunately that route came to an end after nearly 10 km. I then hopped on Highway 34 (St. Joseph Boulevard) which passed through the eastern Ottawa suburb of Orleans. There wasn’t much to see here except for the usual cluster of suburban shops and restaurants. I was starting to wonder if my body would survive these roads. They were full of horizontal cracks, vertical cracks, and big craters. Bump after bump after bump. They were in the running for Canada’s worst roads.

After emerging from Orleans, the route improved. I hopped on Old Montreal Road, a quiet back country road that must have been part of a former highway. It linked up with Highway 17 (don’t worry, not the 417). I stayed on Highway 17 for most of the day. This was mainly for time efficiency and cutting out some extra kilometres. I read about other routes that followed the river, but I was on a mission. This highway had very little remarkable about it except that it was in the right direction and full of traffic. My progress was halted by a flat tire just after noon. I was not making good time and I was worried that I wouldn’t make my destination. I found a small splinter in the front tire. After removing it and replacing the tire, I pressed on and pressed on hard, stopping only for snacks and hydration. At least the wind was on my side and I could make up lost time.

I paused in Hawkesbury for a customary Tim Hortons sandwich and chocolate milk combination. I was now at least halfway to Montreal and feeling more confident that I would actually get there in daylight. I sat next to an outspoken local with a German accent. She didn’t hesitate to start chatting with me and then proceed to squeeze my thighs. When you’re 80 years old, I guess you can get away with these things… She told me all sorts of stories about living in Germany during the war around Nazis, her life in Canada, and her children. I could barely get a word in, but I got the sense that she doesn’t get much company and I was happy to provide half-an-hour of chatting time. When the stories and questions started to repeat, I knew it was time to go. Margot wished me a good life and I just hope that she can remember that we had a conversation.

Highway 17 finally came to an end and transformed into a multi-lane, 400 series highway to Montreal. This was not the route for me, nor are cyclists allowed on the highway. I diverted to Highway 342, a seemingly forgotten highway. Initially there were very few cars and I could see why. At first, the road looked like someone had accidentally spilled asphalt and called the outcome the road. There were no markings or shoulder. The surface was full of cracks and holes and holes that had been filled in and holes that had been filled in and filled in again. You get the idea. I should have taken a picture of the road surface in some sections. It would have rivalled the surface of the moon. I’m sorry Ottawa – you’ve been dethroned from Canada’s worst roads. There were some saving graces – the road was quieter than highway 17 and it started to become more interesting as I wound through small Québécois villages.

I paused for sustenance about 60 km outside of Montreal. Watching the horizon, the clouds turned that menacing dark grey. I was certain that a thunderstorm would roll through in the next hour or two. I raced along the same highway which became progressively busier and more aggressive. I tried to connect with a short stretch of Highway 20, but saw that bicycles were forbidden. I would need to find another way onto the Montreal Island. Frustratingly I backtracked and did a huge loop to get only 500 meters past the point where bicycles were forbidden.

I crossed my first bridge to Île Perrot on the west side of Montreal. At this point, there was signage for the La Route Verte, an extensive network of bike paths in Quebec. Alex and I have some experience with one of the routes through the Eastern townships on a trip from Quebec to Montreal last year. I followed route 5, which easily carried me across the island and onto Montreal Island. I passed from the cute, historic village of Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue to the quiet, tree-line streets of Beaconsfield to busy, airport district in Dorval to the Lachine Canal. There were some navigation problems in Dorval requiring a secret underground passage at a train station, but, the route was, otherwise well marked and paved. I was impressed with the amount of time and effort that Montreal has dedicated to its cycling culture.

The final stretch of over 15 km along the canal was stunning, especially as sunset was approaching. If I hadn’t seen the downtown towers, I wouldn’t have know I was in a city at all. The only downside of this route was the number of bugs that would slap your face as you pass along the canal. The path weaves between the north and south shores. I crossed at Atwater and found myself next to an evening market. One of the things that always strikes me about Montreal is how much life it has, at any time of the day. 

One of many more photos of the Lachine Canal…

And more photos…

Why not throw in some more shots? Look, there are Dragon Boaters.

The Canal with downtown buildings appearing in the distance.


My friend, Daniel, lives around McGill University, which is perched at the base of Mont Royal. Google placed me on a very unusual, busy route to end up at Daniel’s apartment. He is one of the first – quite possibly the first – friend I made when I moved to Vancouver. We had a lot of things in common – most importantly, a common appreciation for the Golden Girls, including solving our problems over cheesecake. He even managed to secure me a signed and personalized Betty White photo. When I pulled at sunset, Daniel greeted me a bottle of chocolate milk (he’s clearing been reading my blog). After decontamination, we headed down the street to his favourite go-to restaurant, Universel. I stocked up on pasta and anything that Daniel wouldn’t eat. I’m earning my reputation as human garbage disposal. I’m afraid I was too exhausted to be good company, but I’m planning on taking a rest day here tomorrow. 

STATS:

Start time: 08:43

Finish time: 19:48

Riding time: 8 hours, 14 minutes

Distance: 209.31 km

Total distance: 5514.72 km

Elevation gain: 647 meters

Total elevation: 25,775 meters

Average speed: 25.4 km per hour

Number of flies consumed: 3

Day 44 / August 14, 2017 – Kingston, ON to Ottawa, ON

When I was traveling through Tobermory, you may remember me saying that the shortest route was not necessarily the fastest. Today, I faced a similar decision. I planned out the rest of my route to Halifax and I’m now on a tighter timeline, so my plan had me heading from Kingston to Ottawa in one day. Maybe that was a bit lofty, but if you’ve already read the title, you know that I made it. The choice was to beeline for Ottawa through country roads or to continue on the Waterfront Trail to Brockville and then head north through a different mess of country roads. The second option would add nearly 30 km to an already long day. I was waffling until I received an email from Liz and Jan who were now a day ahead of me. They had glowing things to say about the stretch of Waterfront Trail from Kingston to a small town called Ivy League.

This was what most of the first half of the day looked like. Not a bad start to the day.


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Day 43 / August 13, 2017 – Cobourg, ON to Kingston, ON

I had one word to describe today’s route – spectacular. I knew that I would be passing through Prince Edward County, a hot tourist destination that I had never seen in all my years in Ontario. I had heard that it was gorgeous and charming, but I was worried that it may not live up to the hype. When I set the bar too high or the forecast calls for something other than the actual conditions, that’s when disappointment sets in. I’m happy to report that Prince Edward County delivered.

A typical view from today’s ride. This was along the shore in Wellington.


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Day 42 / August 12, 2017 – Toronto, ON to Cobourg, ON

Yesterday I left home, but I was lucky to have another night under the cover of a roof. It will be hard to break away from this luxury living. I can’t imagine returning to the confines of my tent and my narrow sleeping pad after having a proper bed for the last week. My body was surprisingly tired despite the shorter distance yesterday. This was becoming the pattern after rest days. Kiran directed me through a morning stretch session, something that I have long neglected. As I prepared to leave, Kiran kept loading my bags with exercise bands, bags of tea, and other snacks to keep me nourished along my route.

Lake Ontario, you’re so pretty. This was taken along the stretch by the Pickering nuclear power plant.


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Day 41 / August 11, 2017 – Hamilton, ON to Toronto, ON

It was finally time to leave home. The first time I left my parents’ home was after my first year of university. I had no real reason to leave aside from slightly more convenience and an increasing desire for independence. I had secretly signed a lease and filled my new space on Main Street with Ikea furniture. I was replacing Mel and joining Andrew and Renee from the same Health Sciences program. It was our version of Three’s Company. I think I moved into the role of Chrissy. I kindly gave my parents about five days notice. I eventually moved back in for my last year of university. After the program was over, I surprised them again by telling them that I was going to move across the country. I decided to make Vancouver my home and left home for a second time. I seemed to like the shock factor…

Signs of hope – I made it to the border of Toronto and they seem to like cyclists here!


It was hard to get back on the road after days without worries about shelter and food. As you may have read in the last post, I was well nourished. My legs had been given near complete rest. It felt like a fresh start. A new start if you will (for all you Arrested Development fans). I felt like I had tackled the hardest parts of the trip – the terrain of the mountains, the terrible winds in the flat lands, the stretches of America without seeing a familiar face and the “Make America great again” brainwashing. Now I was about to set off on the last portion of this trip.

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Days 37-40 / August 7-10, 2017 – Hamilton rest days

After my alleged “rest time” in Nelson, Winnipeg, and Sault Sainte Marie, I decided that my Hamilton rest time would be actual physical rest days. I wasn’t in terrible shape with rhabdomyolysis or a tendon about to snap or anything like that, but it would be good to recharge the reserves and prepare for the last leg to Halifax. Believe it or not, I only rode my bike once and less than 40 km over that whole stretch of these four rest days. My butt was very happy to be on couches and carpet, not the saddle.
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Day 36 / August 6, 2017 – London, ON to Hamilton, ON

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.

Lynda and I pose for a selfie before I left London.


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Day 35 / August 5, 2017 – London, ON rest day

I’ve now entered an area of higher density and development than, say, southern Saskatchewan. London is the biggest city on my route since my rest day in Winnipeg. It will continue to be this way until Montreal or Quebec City. There’s comfort in knowing that I’m within a short drive of family and friends. That I’m not 50 or 100 km from the next city. That the cell reception is reliable at all times. On the other hand, it will be more urban landscapes than the familiar field and forest tapestry.

The Beaufort Bridge crossing the Thames River.


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Day 34 / August 4, 2017 – Walkerton, ON to London, ON

Do you remember those winter days when you’d hear about an approaching snow storm? The weather forecast predicted at least 30 cm of snow and everything would certainly be shut down the next day. I would go to sleep thinking about what I would do on what would have to be a snow day. Then I would wake up in the morning to find the scene looked exactly the same as the night before. No snow? Where was my snow day? How could the forecast get it so wrong?

Don’t worry, there’s no snow in this story. I woke up this morning hoping that the forecast got today’s condition all wrong. There was a call for more thunderstorms, but what concerned me more was the wind. Not just a little tickle of headwind, more like like an assault with a 30 kph baseline of direct headwind and wind gusts over 50 kph. If you’ve been following along, you know what a strained relationship we have. You may remember the Battles of Fort MacLeod (http://wp.me/p8W5Az-2h) or Bow Island (http://wp.me/p8W5Az-2p) or Chaplin (http://wp.me/p8W5Az-2I) to name a few. Today was another one of those days. It’s hard to believe that south western Ontario was where it would happen, but today’s weather posed the hardest conditions that I have faced this entire trip.

Day 34 - Horse carriages

One of the few interesting things about today was the number of people riding around in horse carriages. I thought it was in bad taste to take a picture of the horse carriages and their riders without their consent, so you get this sign instead.


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Day 33 / August 3, 2017 – Ferndale, ON to Walkerton, ON

I’m finally in reach of southern Ontario. You see, my dad is leaving for Vancouver on August 11. He’s going to help Alex with apartment renovations while I’m away. Isn’t he a good guy? Aren’t they both good guys? There was some urgency to get to Hamilton before his departure. I would feel pretty guilty about passing through town while he’s installing baseboards in our new place.

Okay, let’s get back to the Bruce Peninsula.

Day 33 - Trees

Back in the trees along the Bruce Peninsula.

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