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.

2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day Three

Father vs The Bear

Arrowhead to Mew Lake – 92km
(5:20pm, Sept 21)

As expected, today was another hilly day. Beautiful scenery, though.

The hills started right from the beginning of the day, with a long climb out of Arrowhead and another as soon as we were back on Muskoka Road. Father had plotted the first 18km or so on back roads to keep it interesting. Unfortunately it turned out that, while the highway at least smoothed out the climbs, these back roads not only did not do that but also seemingly searched out the most ridiculous hills around. To cap it off, we finally re-joined the highway, right by the sign at the edge of Huntsville. Sigh.

From there on we had a very straighforward ride – 74km along the same road (more or less) to Mew Lake. We stopped at the Moose Cafe not too far along for a break and a proper breakfast. The staff there were really friendly; must go back there some time.

We had a bit of drama a few kms from the campsite, as a bear walked out of the woods as we rode by. I saw it first as I was out ahead, so pulled over a bit further along to warn Father. He was a few seconds coming, so I grabbed my phone and snapped a couple of pics of the two of them. We were just imagining what would have happened if he was 10-20 seconds further back, as the bear was pretty much on the road when he got there!

After that Father got a new burst of speed (adrenaline will do that…) and we hit the last few climbs with no issues.

Oh, we also stopped at the Portage Store for coffee about 15km from the end. Lovely views from there, as always.

We’re at Site 94 at Mew Lake. The fire pit is a bit of a mess, but otherwise it’s lovely. Right on the lake and flat. There’s a loud group two sites down from us; we’ll see how loud they are later. #grumble

After we got set up here we headed over to the nearby cafe (about 1km away) for a coffee. We both ordered an ice cream – we figured we deserved it – which turned out to be HUGE… Father’s face when he saw his was quite entertaining. He used the word “ridiculous” about five times, and “insane” once. I’ve never seen someone so grumpy about getting a big portion… he wore a good amount of it in his beard, too 🙂 – sadly I didn’t get any pics of that.

On the way back we stopped to pick up firewood. Father offered to carry the big bag and left me with the kindling, which made for some comedy as his bag bounced around on the back of his bike on the bumpy road. We made it ok though – only fell off twice (the wood, that is – not Father).

Tomorrow is likely to be the toughest day – 133km and about 50km of it on a gravel road. We’re both tired and my knee is still getting worse. We’ll see how it goes. Stretches helped yesterday evening so will repeat tonight.

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2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day Two

Hills, bloody hills

Bass Lake to Arrowhead – 129km
(Sept 20, 8:15pm)

What a day. All of the upsides you could hope for in a ride through Muskoka – lovely scenery, great weather and (generally) quiet roads. Oh, and hills. All of them.

After a long day yesterday we left Bass Lake at around 8:10am and headed back into – and then out the other side of – Orillia. Along the way we managed to hit just about every red light possible – frustrating but what can you do?

Before too long we turned off the main road (Hwy 12) and onto back roads as we headed towards Muskoka. Shortly thereafter the scenery began to change and we started to see lovely houses on quiet lakes that reminded me why people live up here.

Father smartly pulled his camera out for some pics before too long; he nearly paid the price for trying to be a bit too artsy not too long thereafter – I heard a commotion behind me, turned around and saw Father struggling desperately to avoid falling off the road an into a ditch. He’d apparently been trying to snap a photo of me, lost control and rode onto the shoulder at the side of the road, which was covered in deep gravel and just made things worse. Happily he got the bike back under control and we continued along our way.

We said hi to a couple of locals who were out for a mountain bike ride; they seemed impressed when we told them how far we were going that day.

A short while later it started getting hilly. Really hilly. And it never stopped for the rest of time the day’s ride. We stopped around 10:30 or so at a general store (Summertime’s, I think), where Father got his mandatory coffee (as did I) and a bacon/egg sandwich. One of the great things about riding these distances is the lack of guilt for eating this kind of food.

After a short break we headed on, with the rolling hills continuing on for the next couple of hours until we reached Bracebridge. We stopped for lunch at a place named Bill’s Pizza, where we ironically both ordered pasta which was delicious.

The rest of the ride somewhat blurs together in my mind. The hills were a constant but the beautiful scenery made up for it. One spot – I think it was called Muskoka Lakes or something like that (that sounds like the name of an area, not a place…) – stood out, both for the lovely view across a lake and for the long, steep hill away from it. I snapped a pic of Father as he got to the top.

For some reason our route zig-zagged back and forth across the busy Highway 11. Happily our crossings were uneventful, but I didn’t relish doing them.

Eventually we came into Huntsville, where I picked up a cold compress for my IT band which is getting sorer and sorer. Also grabbed a support for my knee; don’t know if it will help but worth a try.

Eventually we left Huntsville for the final push to Arrowhead. Another big hill after we crossed Highway 60, before we descended to Arrowhead Road and made our way to the entrance to the park.

We thought we’d made it to the end, but then found ourselves with 1.5km to go to the office – all of which was up the biggest hill of the tour so far! It was a monster, especially on tired legs and with a fully-loaded bike.

Once we arrived at the park office we were confronted with a somewhat under-trained and very sloooow clerk who couldn’t figure out how to give us a $9 refund that he’d offered us for Father’s senior citizen discount. Eventually he called a park warden who figured it out. In the meantime, having decided there was no way we were going to climb that hill again, we looked around for food. Not a great selection – the park store was closed for the season and the office only had a few things – but we grabbed a couple of cans of ravioli, two snickers bars, some peanuts, pepperoni sticks, ginger ale and a bag of chips. Dinner of champions!

Now we’re sitting by a campfire at our site. It’s warm here, but step away from the fire and… not so much. It was 9 degrees when I woke up this morning and I expect it’ll get colder tonight. It was pretty cold and hard to get out of bed today; think I’ll stuff tomorrow’s clothes in the sleeping bag to keep them warm overnight.

Shower at the comfort station here at Arrowhead was LOVELY. After two days I was pretty ripe.

Algonquin tomorrow. Yay!

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2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

2015 Ontario Parks Tour: Day One

Off We Go…

Toronto to Bass Lake – 140km
(Sept 19, 8pm)

We had a generally nice start to our tour today.

We left home and had a largely uneventful first section out of Toronto. The only notable challenge was on a section of trail (the Newtonbrook Creek Parkway) that I hadn’t ridden before, right before Finch & Bayview.

After a REALLY steep climb up out of a ravine, we promptly descended back into it (to Father’s disgust), only to encounter Mount Son-of-a-bitch shortly thereafter. Both of us took one look at it and got off to walk up, but it was so steep that even walking was a challenge. It wasn’t all that bad, I guess – we were both winded but we also saw two deer in the area so there was a silver lining to the early quirk.

The rest of the morning was uneventful. We rode pretty hard until around 1pm, then stopped in a little town called Stroud (near Innisfil) for lunch, at a place called Flapjacks. As we were eating the skies opened – rain pouring down and being blown almost horizontally. We waited until we thought the worst had passed and then headed out. Sadly we were wrong – the previous rain was, apparently, just a warm-up. I remember Father pointing at a large flock of birds that all took off from an electricity wire at once, and said “it’s about to rain.”

Sure enough, we were soon caught in a Noah’s Ark-level downpour that continued for about an hour and soaked us both to the bone. The rain was heavy enough that we were riding through what felt like mini-rivers, and I was having to blink a couple of times per second just to be able to see.

Happily, the rain cleared as we hit the lakeshore in Barrie and we only had light showers (really just a few raindrops) after that.

The rest of the ride went smoothly. We had a looong stretch of 20km on a gravel trail – the Oro Medonte Trail, I think – that looked like a disused railway; it felt like it would never end. Funnily enough, when we did finally turn off we did so at Carthew Siding – I grew up just a mile or so from a place named Carthew in England!

From there it was only about 10km to the campsite. We hit a few ridiculous hills near the end – ridiculous for gradient and length, but also because for three (I think) consecutive hills we hit the top and immediately dropped back down! Sigh.

We set up camp at Bass Lake with no issues, although there was one last steep climb up to the Hillside Campsite itself. Dinner was at Montana’s in Orillia – about 4km of unwelcome rolling hills away.

Father is exhausted – this was 50% (ok, 40%) longer than his previous longest ride of the year. I have a feeling he’ll be asleep before too long. I’m fine – I actually found the day quite easy – although my left knee is getting quite sore (I think it’s the IT band, which has played up in the past). I’ll stretch that out before bed. (note: in hindsight I didn’t, and it cost me the next day)

It rained again right after we got back to the campsite – we cut that one fine. Managed to rig up clotheslines inside my tent to dry out my gear, which in some cases (socks) is still soaked and in others (jacket) is damp. Shoes will be wet for days, I think. I used the elastics that I’ve used to fix my tent to the bike as the clotheslines.

Our neighbours are playing music but don’t think that’ll matter – we’ll both sleep well tonight.

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2015 Ontario Parks, Tours

Our 2015 Ontario Parks Tour

On September 19 my Father and I headed out on a seven-day tour of southern Ontario.

Each night we camped at a different Ontario provincial park – Bass Lake, Arrowhead, Mew Lake, Silent Lake, Ferris and Emily. After we stopped each night, I wrote down my thoughts on each day in a diary. I’ve never been much of a diary keeper – I’ve always found it feels weird to write to yourself – but for some reason this time it felt easy.

As the tour progressed I started to wonder about posting the diary entries publicly – this was the genesis of this site. As I publish each post I’ll update the list here:

This was the first tour I’ve done like this. Having completed it I can say with certainty that it won’t be the last. I’m already thinking about what can come next; with the winter soon approaching I expect the next one will have to wait until next year so I’ll have plenty of time to plan for it.

Personal

Introducing the Britnadian Cyclist

I grew up cycling – I remember riding around “the stones” just outside our back yard in Cornwall, England as a kid; I remember churning up the singletrack in the nearby woods; I had a blast downhill biking in Switzerland when I was 19. Somehow, in the time since then I fell out of the habit. My activities weren’t helped by one incident a few years ago when an ex-girlfriend accidentally dropped my bike off the back of her car on the highway – as you can imagine that wasn’t too good for the bike. Once the bike was damaged in that accident, I just never got back into cycling.

I always thought of myself as being athletic – I played all sorts of sports in school, and I ran marathons at a decent pace when I moved to Toronto in the early 2000s. However, over the last few years I let it get away from me – a high-stress job, lots of work travel and a busy lifestyle meant I put on about 35 pounds and let my fitness lapse.

A couple of years ago I bought an exercise bike in an attempt to get myself back in shape. I could never find the motivation to go to the gym, but putting a bike in the room next to our bedroom meant I had no excuse for avoiding it. I used it on and off for a while but then let it lapse again too.

In February 2015 I flew home to England for a family emergency. While I was there, I spent some time with my cycling-obsessed parents. We went out on several rides together; my addiction was reborn. Once I returned to Canada I set an exercise routine and stuck to it – morning workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at least one long ride at weekends. My weight stabilized and began to slowly drop.

Meanwhile, I searched for a real bike that would meet my needs – something that would meet my needs and let me get out on Toronto’s roads for long rides, but would also let me get off-road on gentle trails. I settled on a Cannondale CAADX 105, and absolutely loved it – it gave me the variety I needed to stay interested, and gave me a new challenge – improving myself, which is the thing that motivates me the most.

Fast forward a few months, and my dad came over to visit. A focal point of the visit was a week-long cycling tour that we organized of southern Ontario, camping at a different provincial park every night. I kept a diary while we were on the trip and got to thinking – why keep these thoughts to myself? A new blog was born.

I don’t really know what I’ll write about on an ongoing basis here. Likely a combination of ride reviews (when the Canadian seasons cooperate) and general musings on cycling, exercise and other things that catch my fancy. We’ll see.

Here goes…