Dave Fleet

I'm a born and bred English guy - a Britnadian, if you will - living and working as EVP and National Practice Leader, Digital at Edelman in Canada. Outside work, my life splits a few ways: I'm a father, a cyclist, a video gamer and an explorer of the many ways that digital can bring companies and their stakeholders closer together. All of these bring me great enjoyment; one brings more pain than the others. Opinons are mine, not my employer's.


Trainer FTW!

Well, I took the plunge after my post last week, and bought a trainer.

Ok, I bought a trainer… and a riser for the front wheel… and a floor mat… and another floor mat, as I was an idiot and didn’t measure how long the bike was… and a trainer tire for the back wheel. Suffice to say, my credit card wasn’t happy.

I had to do a little bit of maintenance, as I decided to pick up a road bike to use on the trainer so needed to fit the new tire and shift my pedals over to the new bike. Cue much swearing and hitting of the pedal wrench with a hammer (it worked!). Before too long, though, I was up and running riding.

1hr 45mins later, I’d learned a few things.

Lesson #1: Riding on the trainer is roughly the equivalent of having a jet engine in the living room. I threw a movie on while I was riding and Caralin tried to watch it with me; we turned our TV volume from 16 to 70 and still needed to use subtitles. Something tells me Bluetooth headphones are in my future.

Lesson #2: It’s insanely hot on the trainer. I used the same fan as I use on my exercise bike, but was still soaked by the end of the ride. Think I’ll need to invest in a bigger fan for longer rides.

Lesson #3: The trainer isn’t as comfortable as my exercise bike. It’s not uncomfortable, but it’s not the same level of comfort and, with the lack of variety that being outside provides it’s pretty easy to get stiff after a while.

All that said, there’s definitely something about riding on an actual bike that makes a big difference over riding on an exercise bike. Riding inside is going to take some getting used to after a great summer of outdoor riding, but I’m hopeful that having a real bike to ride will help me maintain the enjoyment through the winter months.


Winter is Coming

As I sit here writing this, it is two degrees outside. I hear that my sister-in-law’s car had six or seven inches of snow on it today. When I rode through the area last week, it was 16 Celsius. I did my long(ish) ride – on my exercise bike – indoors today.

It’s time to admit that winter is on its way, and my days of outdoor riding are limited until the Spring.

I have a good exercise bike at home, but it’s a recumbent bike and I’m loathed to pass up the feel of riding a real bike for the next six months. So, I’m on the market for an indoor trainer.

Generally speaking, I’m looking for:

  • A trainer that I’m going to want to ride for 3-ish hours at a time – meaning relatively road-like and that doesn’t sound like a jet engine in an enclosed space
  • Something that doesn’t completely break the bank (for that reason, I *think* I’ve bailed on the idea of having something that syncs with my computer)
  • Something reliable that won’t break every other ride (grumble grumble CAADX grumble)

I spent part of this weekend researching trainer brands, and the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 keeps coming up high on the lists (it got recommended by road.cc and by Ray over at DC Rainmaker), and it’s right at the top of Amazon’s listings.

Thoughts and recommendations welcome…

Kinetic Road Machine 2.0

Also: Greg reminded me today of a cool new innovation – SpeedForce, which integrates a GPS computer with a power supply, headlight and navigation, and with 40h of battery life. It’ll be $159 when it launches on Oct 27, but right now you can pre-order it for $99 (edit: Not $9. Oops – thanks for catching that, Aran). Colour me tempted.


Recap: Short Sauble Blast

I took my legs out for a quick stretch around the Sauble Falls area yesterday, on the back of Saturday’s long ride from Toronto to Wiarton.

Right from the get go, I was surprised at how strong my legs felt. I expected more of a hangover from Saturday – I’d been stiff since that ride, and was expecting that feeling to carry over to the ride. On the contrary, from the moment I started I felt fresh and strong.

After a fast (30-35km/hr) 5km into Wiarton, the first major climb was on the other side, heading north up the Bruce Penninsula. To my surprise, I handled it fairly easily, averaging over 17km/hr on a hill that I’d only previously descended and had generally dreaded climbing.

Once at the top of the hill, the next 10km was flat and easy – amidst lovely Fall colours and nice scenery, I was able to get well into the 40km/hr range for a good chunk of it without too much effort.

Before too long it was time to turn off the highway and onto a side road that wound its way over to near Lake Huron and Sauble Beach. It was nice being on a quieter road, and the scenery just kept getting better – quiet lakes and rivers, and trees of all sorts of colours.

About that headwind…

Before I knew it, I turned onto Huron Road and started to head south towards Sauble Beach. At that point, the wind that had been nice and refreshing for the 25km or so up to that point became an ugly headwind that didn’t subside until I turned off the road 12km later. It was strong enough that it slowed me down from an average of 30km/hr over the first hour to around 23/24km/hr for that full stretch.


Happily enough, after 30 mins or so I was able to turn off the busy main road onto Rankin Bridge Road – one of my favourite roads in the area thanks to the lovely scenery around Sauble Beach Provincial Park. Despite it being a dirt road, I was able to speed up immediately as the headwind faded completely thanks to the shelter of the trees. I stopped a couple of times to snap quick pictures of the lovely surroundings before pushing on and heading for home.

The duration of the ride was pretty similar to the first half – fast, scenic and flat. My legs continued to feel strong – I don’t know if I’m already seeing the benefit from the long ride this weekend, or if it was just a function of the route being flatter than I’ve been used to recently. Either way, it felt great to be able to cruise along at 35-40km/hr without having to really push too hard.

Before too long I arrived back at my base for the day, having averaged 29km/hr for the full ride – far faster than I usually manage. I pushed to try to crack 30km/hr, but the headwind put a bit too much of a dent in my time to recover fully. Not that it even remotely matters – I had a blast, the scenery reminded me of why I love Fall in Canada and my legs felt great just two days after the longest ride I’ve ever done.

Another spoke bites the dust

The only real downside to the ride was that I arrived home to find that yet another spoke on my back wheel had broken. That makes four spokes since we left for the Ontario Parks tour a few weeks ago. Happily it didn’t affect the ride – in fact, it either happened right at the end of the ride or just had little impact on the bike when it happened, as I didn’t notice until I stopped and noticed that unmistakable rattle of the head of the spoke rattling around inside the wheel rim.

To say I’m unimpressed with the stock spokes on the CAADX is a real understatement.  I’m leaning towards getting the full wheel re-spoked at this point.

My local bike store showed a real disinterest in handling that work when I asked after the previous three broke, so this week I’ll be on the lookout for a place in Toronto that is more willing to take my money (suggestions welcome!).

I was about to write that the good news is that I’ll be indoors on the trainer and not worrying about spokes soon anyway thanks to the changing seasons, but there’s clearly nothing good about that either. Blech.

Technical annoyance aside, this was a lovely ride and a nice way to round off the weekend up north.

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Recap: Toronto to Wiarton

Well, that was… long. My longest ride by almost 60km, in fact.

My wife’s family’s Thanksgiving in Wiarton has been an annual pilgrimage for me ever since I met her back in 2002. I’ve been there every year, including for the first several years before we were even dating. This year, with the cycling itch well entrenched in me, I decided to cycle up instead of driving with Caralin.

Knowing how long the ride would be, I decided to leave early to maximize the daylight hours available to me. After a solid laughable pre-ride dinner yesterday (tacos and half a pitcher of margherita) and plenty of relatively little sleep (5 hours) I left the house at just before 7am today for the trek up north. I figured it would take about 10 hours of cycling to cover the ~220km to Wiarton.

The ride started smoothly – the Toronto roads were quiet at that time of day, and after an hour I’d cleared the busiest of the Toronto roads, hitting The Gore Road (one of my favourite roads to drive along) just after 8am. The colours were lovely today – everything from regular green to deep red – and The Gore Road was possibly the best part of the ride, with huge houses paired with the Fall colours.

After heading west on Highway 9, there was a pretty long hill that started to tire the legs a bit – so I paused for a break and second breakfast at the intersection with Airport Road.

A few kilometres later, I hit a major downhill – nearly 2.5km of 6% decent. I averaged 55km/h down the hill, hitting nearly 72km/h at one point before having to brake as I caught up with a couple of turning cars and had to slow down. Sadly, that downhill was mirrored by a similar uphill on the other side… sigh.

For some reason my GPS had plotted a route that turned off the main road before hitting the next east/west highway. I was keen to get away from the long weekend traffic so went along with it… only to find myself on hilly dirt roads for the next 20km. The good news was that there were hardly any cars on the road… the road surface and hills weren’t a lot of fun for the next little while though.

After emerging back onto the asphalt, the next 20km along side roads were scenic and lovely. The section just after passing Shelburne was particularly nice, with countryside views paired with flat, fast terrain. I made good time there, and cruised into Dundalk – my scheduled lunch stop – around 12:45pm.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any sit-down restaurants in Dundalk (I admittedly didn’t look overly hard), so I stopped at the local Foodland and grabbed a bunch of snacks for lunch. Key among them was Gatorade – I was already running low on my first bottle and didn’t want to attempt the last 100km with only one bottle.

The next stretch of the ride was scheduled to be a 77km stretch of trails, along the Grey CP Rail Trail. Unfortunately it lived up to its “more difficult” billing at the outset – lots of loose gravel, potholes and ATV furrows. It was very scenic and blissfully flat, but I was making very poor time and concerned about not making it to Wiarton in daylight, so after 15 very tiring kilometres I bailed back onto the roads and skipped the remainder of the trail in favour of the main road. It might have been nice for mountain bikes, fat bikes or ATVs, but not for my cyclocross bike.

The gravel trail had really taken it out of my legs and I was starting to feel really tired. My body was starting to complain about the level of effort in general and I was starting to get some stomach pains, likely due to my almost carb-free lunch and dinner yesterday (damn you, tacos). After about another 30km I pulled over for a break and wolfed down a banana and half a granola bar. That seemed to fix things up – I got a burst of new energy and the discomfort went away for the duration of the ride.

The rest of the ride into Owen Sound was uneventful. The downhill into town was glorious, although I wasn’t thrilled with the climb out of the town afterwards. I’d picked the route into town due to the trail so contemplated just skirting the city now that I was no longer on that route, but decided to just stick with the plan as I was feeling much better and less tired at this point.

From there the rest of the ride was pretty fast. I had enough energy to set myself a bit of a challenge for the last seven or eight kilometres – I needed to average 30km/h over that portion (which included a couple of small climbs) to finish in less than nine hours according to my Garmin (the Strava app on my iPhone decided I was moving for another 20 minutes for some reason). Part way through it I decided I should slow down as I wanted to feel good at the end of the ride, but my competitiveness got ahead of me and I pushed on, managing to finish a minute under nine hours according to the GPS.

Now, four hours after finishing the ride, my legs aren’t too happy with me but it’s just tiredness rather than anything else. A pretty epic ride overall; if I were to do it again I would make some route changes that I think would save me a fair bit of time, but I don’t know that this will become a regular thing.

Definitely fun today, though!

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Thanksgiving Trek

All I want to do is get out on the bike right now – it’s so relaxing and satisfying at the same time. Unfortunately, we’re heading into Fall and the weather is getting colder – we don’t have too many weeks left before it will be time to put the bike away for the winter. I think I may have made a mistake with the timing of our Ontario Parks tour – it’s just fired me up for more!

Happily, this weekend’s Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend gives me an opportunity to get out and really stretch the legs again, so I’m going to push myself one more time this season.

My in-laws live up in Wiarton on the Bruce Peninsula – an area that is absolutely beautiful this time of year. It’s about 210km from Toronto to Wiarton – 50km further than I’ve ridden in a day so far.

Here’s the rough route.

I’m going to do some polishing of the route tonight, I think. There’s a disused railway path that seems to run for a good amount of what would otherwise be busy main road. There are a couple of other pieces that may be unnecessarily rough roads. I’m going to swing through a couple more small towns too, in case I need a breather.

All told I’m guessing it’ll take about 10 hours to make it up there. I’m going to allow for 12 in case of mechanical issues or other delays. It’s a big distance so I’m going to need to pace myself a bit slower than usual, too.

Sounds like a fun challenge.

2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day Eight

The Final Countdown!

Emily Provincial Park to Toronto – 145km
(8:20am, Sept 27)

We’re done! Yesterday we headed back out to Emily Provincial Park and completed the tour. What a great feeling.

We started the day early. I was up at 5am preparing for the day, and we were on our way with the bikes on the back of the car at 6:30am.

The trip up to Emily was uneventful and quick. We arrived and were ready to leave by about 8:25; we waved goodbye to Frank and headed out.

The first part of the day repeated what we’d done previously as we headed down the road and along the bike trail to Omemee. From there we did a staggered east/south route as we cut across to the lake shore (Lake Ontario).

The ride started hillier than expected. We saw a road on the map called Ski Hill Road when we were planning our route so, thinking it would be steep, we avoided it and took the next road south. It turned out that when we rode past Ski Hill Road it looked fairly flat, whereas our chosen road immediately hit a 10% grade hill and included a few more besides.

Soon enough we hit the Victoria Road Trail, which we thought would be a nice respite from the hills. We were wrong. The next 10km was flat, but alternated between slippery sand and very bumpy stones. It took about 45 mins of both tiring and bone-jarring terrain, although very picturesque. For some reason the path was smooth when it went through patches of trees, and much worse in the open. Go figure.

Once we were back on the road (sweet, sweet relief – especially that my wheels held up!) the ride was lovely and straight-forward. We continued to head southeast through a number of small towns, including the outskirts of Oshawa and Whitby. Eventually we hit Ajax where we joined the route of a ride we’d done to test-drive our last day’s ride. We grabbed lunch shortly thereafter at around the 95km mark, at the intersection of Westney Road and Bayly Street.

It’s amaing what a day of rest will do for your legs. Just a couple of days ago we’d both been tired and slowing down, but yesterday I felt great. We did 95km pre-lunch and I could have easily kept going were we not so hungry. Our average pace jumped by 5km/hr yesterday too, to 22km/hr – despite the busy, winding paths and frequent stops near the end of the route. The lack of weight on the back of the bike likely helped too – we didn’t have to carry our gear yesterday.

Once we were back on the road we joined the Waterfront Trail in Pickering and headed westwards from there. As expected the ride was flat and very scenic; the last time we rode it the weather was miserable – rain and wind – but yesterday it was glorious.

Before it seemed we could blink we were home. One last climb up the Moore Park Ravine, and we were there.

This was an incredible trip. It was testing, both physically and mentally, and our equipment nearly got the best of us but we stuck with it. It feels like a real accomplishment – we did 875km in seven days of cycling, and almost 9,000m of climbing.

Strangely enough, getting home felt like an anti-climax. I have nothing to focus on today, althrough I’ve been thinking that I may start a new blog and post these rides. I’m also thinking of what my next ride may be. More to come on that front, no doubt.

What a crazy, crazy week. Unbelievable. I’m so glad to have been able to do it – and complete it – and even more glad that my dad could join me. Not bad for a guy in his mid-60s! Having him there made it all the more special as we were able to connect in a way we don’t often get to. A blessing on many fronts.

More of these to come, I think.

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2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day Seven

Fix ‘Er Up

Toronto – 0km
(10pm, Sept 25)

The last 24 hours has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I felt pretty low as we waited for the car last night, but as I drove back to Toronto we started to figure out our plans.

Firstly, I texted my boss to see if he still had the bike he was looking to sell a couple of months ago. He did, and he was willing to lend it to me to finish the ride – we just needed to take a look to make sure it was road-worthy. Edelman alumnus Rick Murray also offered to loan us his bike, which was a really nice gesture. The online community in general was incredibly supportive and got me even more fired up to get this done.

With the bike in the works, the other question was, how would we get back to the route? Our working assumption was that we’d head out during the day on Saturday and then ride on Sunday. I looked into B&Bs and hotels in the area and there were a few available. I went to bed feeling hopeful.

This morning I headed down to grab the bike from my boss at 8:30. When we got it home we found that the tires were flat but otherwise it was in great condition and fit me well size-wise (I may actually look to buy it as a winter trainer). With that, we knew this weekend was a reality.

Next, we headed into Gears to see if they could help with my own bike. I’d had a very disappointing call with them the previous day (they’d told me it was unlikely they’d have the spokes and it wasn’t even worth looking into wheels) so I wasn’t hopeful, so we planned to go to a few other stores too.

To my surprise, Gears not only had the right-sized spokes but had them on the wheel and ready within about 15 minutes. With that, Plan A had worked and I was back to being able to ride my own bike!

With the wheel repaired, Father and I headed home to do some regular cleaning/maintenance on the bikes so they’re ready for tomorrow. Not surprisingly, a lot of gunk had built up on the gears over the last week, so we cleaned that off.

The last piece of the puzzle was transport and, we assumed, lodging. We looked at trains but to our surprise there is no train service to Peterborough. That’s the second time recently I’ve been disappointed by the passenger system here – we had originally planned to venture further north for our tour but the Northlander trains stopped running to Englehart a couple of years ago.

Happily Frank (my father-in-law) came to our aid for the second time in two days, and offered to drive us up first thing on Saturday. That solved two challenges – transport and accommodation, as we no longer have to stay out near Emily and will be able to complete the final push in a single day.

So now, here we are. An early night tonight, a 6am wake-up call tomorrow, and one last 150km day (we re-routed some of our planned route to follow the Waterfront Trail closer to downtown to avoid spending lots of time on rough city roads, which added 20km to the distance).

This time tomorrow, all being well this will be over. What a ride.

2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day Six

The Day the Wheels Fell Off

Ferris to Emily Provincial Park – 98km
(7:45pm, Sept 24)

Well, that didn’t end the way we expected. we started the day well and made good time to our campsite, yet here we now sit, waiting for my Father-in-law to pick us up and take us back to Toronto.

As I said, the day started well. We slept in a little bit (to 7am) but packed up quickly and were on the road by 8:25. We had to head back into Campbellford when we left the park but decided to go straight through and grab breakfast later. Garmin made some… interesting route choices, choosing to send us along very hilly dirt roads when there were flatter regular roads running parallel to them. That didn’t make life any easier when I was still treading on eggshells around my wheel after yesterday’s spoke failure, and avoiding every bump I glimpsed.

After a particularly challenging stretch of dirt road – albeit with some lovely farmland scenery, which reminded me a bit of Cornwall – we hit a paved road again and shortly thereafter arrived in Hastings – a lovely little village on the Trent River – where we stopped for breakfast (we agreed after this that this isn’t a good approach, as stopping to eat both takes more time than cooking at the campsite, and lets your legs stiffen up).

We got going again, straight into another hill, and then not too long after that onto another side road that then turned into a dirt road with – you guessed it – more hills. Eventually we came out to Highway 7 which, despite being busy and full of trucks, was a nice respite from those rough road surfaces. After 8km or so of the trucks buzzing by, we were glad to turn back onto side roads. They were, of course, hilly – we did 25% more climbing in 80km of the main route today than in 100km yesterday.

Sooner or later we pulled onto Division Road, which became Parkhill Road and took us into Peterborough. A couple of climbs in the town there reminded me of the half marathon I ran in Peterborough a few years back (2007?) – I remember that being a hilly one, and we ran the morning after a snowstorm which was a nightmare.

After a short detour around some construction, we hopped back on Parkhill and out of town before turning right down another sideroad and shortly thereafter onto an awesome bike trail – a disused railway with some great views of the countryside – which took us almost all of the remaining distance to the campsite. One of the highlights was a rickety old bridge which both of us loved – we stopped to snap a few pics there. I think we were on the trail for 10-12km; once we turned off that onto Emily Park road, it was only a short hop over to the campsite.

The site here is nice. We’re on 317, which is just a short stroll from a beach & river in which we had a very relaxing and enjoyable swim once we arrived.

Shortly thereafter we headed into town for dinner. Both a couple of locals (originally from Liverpool, it turned out) and the park warden recommended a nearby town called Omemee – “just a couple of kilometres” away apparently. It turned out to be over eight, which was a bit of a surprise. There only seemed to be two restaurants in town – one Chinese place and one diner/chip shop, which we chose – the Chinese food was tempting but we were looking for pasta ahead of tomorrow’s ride…

…a ride which, sadly, is not to be. We were about half way home from town, on the same trail as earlier (just further along it than the main route) when I heard an ominous rattling on my bike. I looked down and immediately saw that two more spokes had snapped on my wheel – disaster. Happily we were able to tape the spokes out of the way and limp back to the campsite, but the wheel is clearly losing strength and the risk of the rim just collapsing tomorrow as we go along a busy road is just too high. So here we are – waiting for our ride home.

I’m feeling pretty emotional writing this, and torn in a couple of ways. Firstly, this has been an amazing trip. It’s been physically and mentally tough – which I always enjoy. It’s let me spend some quality time with Father and bond even more closely with him. It’s let me see new parts of Ontario, and see familiar parts in new ways. It’s been a real blessing for all of those reasons.

On the other hand, it’s a challenge left uncompleted. I don’t ‘do’ that, and it’s already gnawing at me. I was visualizing arriving home tomorrow, and telling stories of the ride, and I feel like that’s been ripped away from me.

So. This isn’t over. Not by a long shot. My next challenge is to get the bike fixed as quickly as possible and then – whether this weekend or another time soon – get back out here and finish this tour.

It ain’t over until I ride along our street at the end of the ‘day seven’ route.

More to come.

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2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day Five

Houston, we have a problem

Silent Lake to Ferris Provincial Park – 106km
(8:10pm, Sept 23)

Today’s ride was pretty smooth compared to yesterday – the scenery was lovely, the terrain was flatter and we made good time despite our tired legs. Unfortunately, the one mishap we had was a big one and may – time will tell – end the whole trip.

I slept better last night than any other night on this trip – I pretty much put down my pen from writing yesterday’s diary entry, reached for my e-reader and just passed out. We both overslept by about 45 mins from when we usually wake up (6:30am) – likely a sign of how exhausted we were from yesterday. Rather than have breakfast at the site we agreed to grab something an hour or so into the ride, so after waking up at about 7:15 we were packed and on the road by 8:2. Not too shabby.

It was just four degrees again this morning but for some reason it felt way warmer – for the first time in a few days I headed out wearing shorts instead of long pants.

We stopped for breakfast at a little town called Apsley about 20km from our site. We made it there in about an hour despite very tired legs, which surprised us. Breakfast was a sausage roll, breakfast sandwich and coffee – a breakfast of champions! – which we got from the general store.

From there we headed out into the usual rolling hills, although today they seemed less frequent than usual (after we reached the end of the day’s ride I checked our elevation graph and realized the day was almost flat overall – in fact we actually lost about 200m in altitude throughout the day).

Another hour in, we stopped for a break opposite a derelict community centre called “Twin Lakes.” It was right in the heart of cottage country and the scenery was stunning – we sat by the side of a lake and saw dozens of lovely cottages that reminded me again why people do “the cottage thing.” There was an entertaining sign at the break spot (a ‘community park’) – it looked like someone had tried to match two safety warning signs together but failed, and it was quite unintelligible.

Shortly after we re-started – after stretching and some snacks – I noticed that something on my bike was rubbing. A little investigation revealed that a spoke on my back wheel had snapped – likely thanks to yesterday’s escapades – which prompted Father to unleash just his second F-bomb of the trip. We did a little roadside maintenance – taped the loose spoke to another one and tweaked a couple of others with a spoke wrench to offset the buckling – and continued on. From that moment on I felt like I was riding on eggshells, avoiding every possible bump and flinching when I couldn’t avoid them.

Happily we made it to lunch another hour along, at a town called Havelock (I think it was called Courtyard – the restaurant, that is). We both had chicken caesar salads – I think we were craving veggies after several days of carbs, protein and junk food.

From there it was pretty much a straightforward blast to the finish. I dropped the hammer without really realizing and next thing I knew I couldn’t see Father any more. Along this stretch we both saw a coyote, and I saw a heron sitting on a tree stump in the middle of a lake. Father also let me know he saw a garter snake by the side of the road.

We pulled into our campsite near a town called Campbellford, at around 3:30pm. After looking around for someone to buy wood from, we realized the park is only manned Fri-Sun now – same as Silent Lake by the looks of it, although the latter had a park office for a few hours per day. Regardless, we found we could call a number to have wood delivered, which we promptly did and he arrived swiftly. I also called Caralin and gave her a heads-up that if all doesn’t go well with the bike then we may need a taxi service tomorrow. Fingers very much crossed that that doesn’t happen.

We rode back into town for dinner – another 5km round trip (Father’s version of “it’s just a 1km walk”) – and ate at a place called Riverview, with… wait for it… a view of the Trent River. It had free WiFi so I lost Father to his phone for the duration of the meal. I joked that there was a table of teenagers next to us who were all happily chatting with each other, while we sat in silence. Typical. Dinner was nice, though – some kind of fried potato and ham “roasties” followed by spaghetti, meatballs and a pint or two.

We’re now sitting by a ‘was roaring, now happily burning’ fire – Father with his sudokhu puzzles; me writing this; both of us with two cans of beer in front of us.

Tomorrow is another short (ha!) day – about 80km to Emily Provincial Park before a long last push back home for the last day.

Hopefully the bike is up to it.

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2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day Four

Mount Son-of-a-B!&ch

Mew Lake to Silent Lake – 152km
(9pm-ish, Sept 22)

What a day! Not only was it about 20km further than we planned, but it was also every bit as hard as we thought it would be.

We started early – we planned to grab breakfast at the cafe near the campsite so that sped things up – and we were on the road by 7:45. Just four degrees again; hopefully tonight is warmer. After grabbing a tasty breakfast wrap at the cafe, we headed on. At first we intended to take a bike trail for a bit, but we couldn’t find it so we just hit the highway.

Thick mist this morning made visibility tough, but it lifted after 30 mins or so. Not too long afterwards, 16 – count ’em – OPP cars came screaming by as though the end of the world was nigh or something. No idea why (Note: we later discovered that it was due to a manhunt for a murderer). Lots of construction on the road today – not really inconveniencing, but a little nerve-wracking when the OPP cars were still coming by.

Anyway, we reached Whitney without incident, and grabbed a hot chocolate ahead of the off-road part of the day. We were about 37km in at this point, and had cleared the park (temporarily); we’d made good time and were feeling good.

HAY CREEK ROAD. That name will stick in my head. We turned onto it right by the cafe in Whitney, and it seemed nice… for about 35 seconds. That was when the asphalt ended and the dirt road began.

To call Hay Creek Road a “road” is to do a disservice to all other roads. This was mostly a track, at best. Sometimes a dirt track; sometimes a mud track; sometimes a rocky track. ALWAYS a hilly track. We were on it for 50km, which took us about four hours. It was brutal.

The road started out as mostly dirt, which logging trucks (we met a few on the way) had – in places – compacted with their wheels. We tried to stick to those ruts as much as we could, but sometimes they faded (go figure) or other things (rocks, potholes) interfered. Whenever that happened, our wheels would immediately be seized by deep dirt/sand whose only objective seemed to be to throw you off our bikes. Every so often the surface would get rockier which, while bone-jarring, was a little more predictable.

Eventually we branched off from the logging road and for several hours didn’t see a soul. Good thing neither of us got a puncture/had an accident/met another bear, as we’d have been hours from any sort of help (ok, a puncture would have been fine… but a buckled wheel would have been both disastrous and quite likely).

Eventually we came to a gate marking the entrance back into Algonquin, and from there eventually got to another as we left the park for the last time (there was about an hour of cycling between them).

Finally, after what felt like an eternity we came out to a real road. We were both tired and hungry so called in at a year-round campsite called Pine Lake, where our lunch consisted of a can of cola, a pack of Skittles and a freezie. Nice location; I grabbed a business card and may look to revisit some time.

From there the trip was fairly uneventful, although Father was “knackered” so instead of taking a slightly longer route via a store and the restaurant where we planned to have dinner we headed straight to Silent Lake (about 45-50km on from where we got off Hay Creek Road). There was, of course, a big climb to the campsite (as always) but we made it.

It was only once we put our tents up that we realized that skipping the restaurant on the way meant a 15km round trip for dinner, which we didn’t relish but managed. We planned to go to Mirrors Cafe in Bancroft, but it turned out to have been purchased by new owners and is now called the Lakehouse. Right on the edge of a lake, and it was lovely. Good service, food was tasty and after three dry days we could finally have a beer. We saw two deer near our campsite while on the way there too, which was nice.

After enjoying our dinner as the sun went down we had a nighttime ride back to the campsite which was blissfully uneventful. We both grabbed a shower at the comfort station… and now here we are.

97km to Ferris tomorrow. Feels like a short day which is crazy. We should be done by mid-afternoon though. Lord knows we could do with an easy day.

Today was fun in hindsight. Really tough at the time but looking back it was satisfying and enjoyable. Weird.

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