Category Archives: Tours

2016 Lake Ontario Tour, Personal, Tours

Nine Reflections on our Lake Ontario Tour

Earlier this week I wrote about a few of my more philosophical musings from our recent Lake Ontario cycling tour. However, I’ve also had a lot of conversations with colleagues, clients and friends alike in recent days about what the trip was actually like – so figured it might be interesting to lay out a few observations of the trip itself.

No real life lessons here; just a few thoughts. Here goes…

1. Plan your route for variety

In last year’s tour we rode through varied scenery from the Greater Toronto Area, through the greenbelt, up into Muskoka and Algonquin, through the Kawarthas and back along Lake Ontario. Each had its own different scenery and characteristics.

In contrast, we based this year’s tour on a single geographic feature. As a result, we got a lot of very similar scenery as we rode around Lake Ontario. Now, that scenery was nice – farmland at harvest-time isn’t exactly a hardship – but we didn’t have the same level of variety this time around. While it was generally flat (except one day), it also tended to be monotonous – we often would turn onto a road and see on our cycling computers that our next turn would be in 40 or 50km.

As a result, as nice as this tour was, neither of us feel a need to repeat this particular route.

2. Rural drivers rock

No massive surprise here, but this trip brought it home to me just how much of a difference there is between rural and urban drivers.

As we rode through up-state New York, I constantly saw drivers move over to the complete other side of the road as they passed us, often with a friendly wave as they did so. When they couldn’t pass us safely, they would hang back. We actually had one driver in rural Ontario deliberately hang back (despite us waving her through) in order to hold back a large tanker truck that was behind her as we passed through a single-lane section of construction.

Meanwhile, the moment we hit urban areas this completely changed. The amount of room drivers would give us would generally depend on what was available at the time they passed us – there generally seemed to be little consideration for the idea of braking if there wasn’t enough room to pass safely.

School bus drivers were the worst – in both Kingston and the Toronto suburbs, I was consistently buffeted by the air disturbance as they passed me by – often within a foot or so; far closer than I would consider safe. I counted one out of maybe a dozen buses that gave me a decent amount of room. Ironic given that they’re plastered with signs about road safety.

3. More deer than Clinton supporters… yikes

We rode through up-state New York for about four complete days altogether. As I mentioned in a previous post, I really was struck by the lack of broad evidence of an upcoming election at the outset. However, as time passed I I saw countless Trump signs on peoples’ lawns.

I saw a total of one “Clinton for President” sign (on day two). The house to the right of it had a “Hilary for Prison” sign on its lawn. The one to its left had a Trump sign.

One Clinton sign. I saw four deer on the trip. More deer than Clinton supporters.

Now, this isn’t entirely surprising in a farming-heavy, rural area with more than its fair share of fairly low-income families (judging by a lot of the houses we saw, there seemed to be a mix of very high-income and low-income families, with relatively little in-between around the lake). Still, it was jarring.

A while back I saw a story on FiveThirtyEight (I think) about the risk of people who simply vote for Clinton as the lesser of two evils, being primarily that they won’t advocate for her like Trump supporters will, neither will they donate/work to get voters out on election day. I have to believe that we rode past the houses of a lot of Clinton supporters on our trip, but only one of them was actively supporting her.

4. Taking care of yourself is key

Without committing a grave sharing violation, let’s just say that some body parts won’t appreciate the length of physical activity that cycle touring requires. Happily, there are ways of mitigating the effects of this – just as Body Glide was my saviour when I ran marathons, there are products available to help with cycling.

Also: my saddle is a jerk.

5. Rural areas can be ghost towns post-Labour Day

Lesson learned: a lot of tourist-driven places just shut down after Labour Day. On the fourth day we had to do about a 12km round-trip to get dinner as the on-site restaurant at our campsite had cut its hours back just the day beforehand. On our fifth day we didn’t eat for the first time until 3pm despite riding through a number of tourist-friendly towns. Along a similar theme to my previous point, you can bet that your body won’t appreciate it if you do seven hours of physical activity without fueling up.

Lesson learned: post-Labour Day pickings can be thin. Don’t be picky when it comes to nutrition – unless you’ve planned rest stops in advance, stop at the first place you see when you need to eat, as you never know if it’s the last one you’ll see for hours.

6. Fresh fruit FTW

While the scenery wasn’t too varied, there was a big benefit of the farmland: fresh fruit. We took advantage of this whenever we could, with the highlight being fresh peaches picked locally. Delicious.

The hardest part was resisting the urge to just pull off the road in the middle of nowhere and fill ourselves with fruit straight off the trees (yes, we did resist).

7. New York State Parks Camping > Ontario Parks Camping

I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of facilities in the New York State Park campgrounds. Bathrooms were clean and well-equipped (none of the vault toilet shenanigans you get in Ontario Parks – these were a step up), electrical sites were easy to come by (very helpful when you’re relying on a cycling computer for navigation) and the campgrounds were very well kept.

I was thoroughly impressed.

8. Ontario Parks Camping > New York State Parks Camping

With all of that said, the one thing that many Ontario Parks can offer is wilderness. Perhaps it was just because of the area we chose to cycle, but I didn’t see any parks that gave me the feeling of remoteness and connection to nature that a Restoule, or Grundy Lake, or Algonquin Park give me every time I camp there.

New York State Park bathrooms were nice, but I’ll trade that for the surroundings of rural Ontario campgrounds any day.

9. A wonderful way to spend time with someone

Last but far from least, one of the biggest pleasures of this trip – and our last one – for me was the opportunity to spend real quality time with my dad. While this year we’ve seen each other a fair bit, we don’t usually get to as he lives in the UK. Trips like this are just a wonderful way to spend time with him while doing something we both love.

I’m extremely conscious how fortunate we are that (a) he’s in such great shape that he can do these trips, and (b) we have this shared interest, and those things make these trips even more meaningful for me.

With that said, he’ll probably read this so before his head gets too big here’s a reminder that he’s still a goof.

Goofing around at Bat Lake

Goofing around at Bat Lake

There we have it. Like I said, nothing particularly life-changing here, but a few thoughts and reflections on the ups and downs of a thoroughly enjoyable trip.

2016 Lake Ontario Tour, Tours

Lake Ontario Tour – Day Six Recap

What a day. 230km and we made it all the way back to Toronto, fully-loaded bikes and all… eventually.

We started the day at Sandbanks Provincial Park. I’d wanted to camp there for a long time; unfortunately we had a grand total of about 12 hours there after arriving late the night before, and I didn’t really get a chance to look around. Will have to head back there soon as at first glance it seemed to live up to the hype.

Coming in to the day we had a choice to make – to ride to a campsite in the centre of Cobourg (about 105km away) and stay the night, or to power on for an additional 125km to Toronto. As agreed to make that decision in Cobourg, depending on when we got there and how our legs felt at the time.

The ground was heavy with dew in the morning, and my tent seemed to weigh about double its usual weight as I packed it up thanks to all of the water on it. We got on the road by around 8am; happily both of us felt refreshed compared to the previous day and we made good time through to a town called Bloomfield (home to the helpful bike shop we’d called the day before).

With our lesson learned from the day before, we took the chance to grab breakfast relatively early into the ride. We stopped at a little place called Bull Frogs Eatery about 13km from our start – a very unassuming place with a lovely atmosphere, a wonderfully friendly proprietor and HUGE breakfasts.

We lost a bit of time to the huge plates of food, but it was worth it.

The scenery was again very nice – lots of lake views and relatively few hills, and we continued to make decent time on the road.

Unlike previous days we made frequent stops in anticipation of a long day – making sure to stay hydrated and keep snacking on bananas, gel cubes, granola bars and the like. We stopped for a little longer close to Presqu’ile Provincial Park, where we had originally intended to spend the night before we’d decided to push harder and on to Sandbanks the day before. We stopped again in Colbourne, swinging into the Foodland there to stock up on Gatorade and food before heading on to Cobourg.

We arrived in Cobourg at around 2pm, and stopped at a funky coffee shop called Meet at 66 King East, with delicious cakes and a very friendly owner who we chatted with for a while.

This was also the point where we needed to make our decision on whether to split the day in two or do it all in one – there weren’t many campsites on the map after this point. After a brief debate, we made the decision to keep pushing through to Toronto. Our legs felt good, and I think both of us were looking forward to a soft mattress after the week of biking. We expected it would take about another 8 hours of cycling to get there; as it turned out, that was fairly accurate.

Port Hope was just along the route from Cobourg, and it featured the toughest (and perhaps most unnecessary) climb of the day – about 600m along Dorset Street. A 7% gradient isn’t much, but when you’ve got 30lbs of gear on your bike and you’re 120km into your sixth day of riding, it grinds. Frustratingly, we proceeded to go straight back down to go back under the same train tracks that we’d gone under right before the climb. Sadly, there was no alternative.

Digging deep. Who put that hill there? #lakeontariotour #cyclinglife #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

From there we had a straightforward ride until we reached the edges of the Greater Toronto Area. The roads were straight and relatively quiet as we avoided major streets, and the scenery was nice until we began to reach the more built-up areas around Oshawa and Ajax.

By this time the sun had started to go down, and our ride along the Lakeshore Trail became a bit hairy as there were no streetlights to see by, and we needed to rely on our own lights. The pay-off was some nice, scenic moments – the one that sticks in my head most is seeing two different groups of people with driftwood fires at the lakeside – very serene moments amidst the tension of trying to pick out potholes on dark trails.

Ultimately we detoured back onto the streets in order to avoid some rougher stretches of the trail.Shortly thereafter we had our last real climb as we entered Scarborough – a climb that was never really steep or noticeable but which ultimately lasted about 8km.

By around 9:00pm we were pretty weary and I had started to feel a little light-headed when we stopped. We made one last coffee + donut stop in Scarborough to refuel, then made our final push for the last 15km home. Ironically (but not surprisingly, in hindsight) this was probably the most unpleasant part of the whole trip – while we were close to home, we were riding in the dark, on very busy, pothole-covered roads. Still, we made it back without further incident.

Mission: Accomplished. #lakeontariotour #cyclinglife #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

And there we have it. 941km in six days. Trip: complete.

2016 Lake Ontario Tour, Tours

Lake Ontario Tour – Day Five Recap

Aka The Hunger Games…

As we left the Bedford Creek Campground this morning, we expected today’s ride to be short and leisurely – just 80km or so. 60km to Cape Vincent, 10km across Wolfe Island and another 10km or so to our campground north of Kingston, Ontario.

I’m not sure when that plan changed; I think it was as we waited for the first of three ferries that we ended up taking today. All in all we rode 145km, and knocked a day off our planned itinerary in the process.

Today started out in straightforward fashion; the terrain was relatively flat and although both of us were feeling pretty weak at the outset, we made good time towards the border crossing at Cape Vincent.

Hey there. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos #cyclinglife

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

One hitch – and something that ultimately had quite an impact towards the end of the day – was that, with the tourist season over, we couldn’t find anywhere to grab breakfast – not on the mainland, and not on Wolfe Island. It wasn’t until we reached Kingston that we found somewhere; in the end it was almost 3pm before we had our first real meal of the day.

Throughout the day, the scenery was lovely – picturesque lakeside villages and lovely views across a number of freshwater bays, with not a cloud in the sky. Wolfe Island gave us a bit more farmland, but with the road across the island lasting just 11km it wasn’t long before we were back by the lake once more.

All aboard for Canada… #cyclinglife #cyclingphotos #cycling #lakeontariotour

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Oh hey there, Ontario. We’re back! #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos #cyclinglife

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Unfortunately for us, timing wasn’t on our side when it came to the ferries today – we lost nearly an hour at each of the two  main ferry crossings, which made a real dent in our daylight riding time.

By the time we reached Kingston we’d made the decision to push onward beyond today’s planned end point, in the hope of either trimming a full day off our route or making a dent in the 170km we had planned for day seven. Before doing so, we stopped at Gears and Grinds – a bike shop in Kingston with extremely friendly and helpful staff – to buy a new set of pedals as mine were in danger of giving way. With a set of shiny new SPD pedals installed, wwe headed on our way.

After heading out of Kingston we rode West along the Lakeshore Trail and were treated to continuously lovely views over the water. While I’ve been to Kingston a number of times in the past, I’d never driven along the shoreline in that area before and it was gorgeous. A little while into this section we stopped and grabbed our first meal of the day.

Meanwhile, Father was having a tougher day than most. I started to hear a few mutterings that he was “knackered” whenever someone would ask how our day was going, and he slowed noticeably. The lack of breakfast and the late & insubstantial lunch we had today had a real impact. I was – and am – impressed that he persevered though, and we reached the Glenora Ferry – about 25km from Sandbanks – at around 5pm.

We were hoping to find a place near the ferry for a coffee and a a breather but once again we were out of luck. Instead we powered on through to Picton – another 10km down the road – enjoying the wonderful scenery of Prince Edward County as we went. A helpful phone call with Bloomfield Bicycle Company set us on the right track to a nice (and quick) dinner at the Williams Family Diner in Picton.

From there, we raced the sunset (and lost) for the last 15km to Sandbanks Provincial Park. I’ve wanted to camp here for a long time but it’s always booked way in advance in the Summer. Ironically, now that I’ve finally made it here it’s too dark to see anything and we’re leaving first thing in the morning!

Tomorrow will be a day of playing things by ear. The weather is supposed to deteriorate towards the weekend so we’re both keen to put a dent in the remaining distance tomorrow. We’re about 240km from home; there’s an outside chance we may decide to drop the hammer and push through in search of a comfy bed and not having to sleep in a soggy tent tomorrow night. That said, we’re both getting tired and I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to shake a cold all week. In all likelihood we’ll stop half way and give ourselves a manageable 120km to do on our last day.

2016 Lake Ontario Tour, Tours

Lake Ontario Tour – Day Four Recap

Storms, what storms?

After hearing last night that the rain was due to start at 7am, I set my alarm for 6am today in the hope of being able to pack up before it kicked in and thus keep my gear dry. I woke up as planned and started to pack my things up.

A few minutes later, I heard Father stir in the other tent and let him know that I was mostly done packing. “Too late,” came the reply, and moments later I heard the sound of rain on my tent.

Happily, a few drops was all that ever really manifested. While we faced some unpleasant headwinds and colder temperatures in the second half of our ride, the looming clouds never dumped their rain onus and the weather was otherwise pleasant. I’m now sitting in the sun at our campsite and you’d never know we were forecasted storms today. Lucky…

Today’s ride was a 105km stretch from Fair Haven Beach to Bedford Creek Campground. Given our early rise, we were on the road by about 7am. The terrain started started our similarly to yesterday’s, with hills that Father described as a “sinusoidal wave of tarmac” (i.e. as soon as one uphill ended, the next downhill began, and vice versa). The humidity was higher than yesterday, and before long I had sweat continuously dripping from my helmet. Still, as long as we didn’t encounter thunderstorms, I was happy!

Before we exited the campground, we saw both an osprey flying overhead and a family of deer on the road in front of us.a nice way to start the day!

We grabbed breakfast in a town called Oswego, about 25km from the start of the ride. Not a particularly picturesque place from what we saw; lots of run-down houses, and closed-up businesses. The lady behind the counter at McDonald’s managed to awake Father’s inner grinch by asking him how much milk he wanted in his coffee; I guess he’s not used to anything beyond, “you’ll take it how I bloody well want to serve it.”

Once out of Oswego, we resumed our hilly extravaganza. Today’s route included a number of small townships, with less open farmland than we saw on previous days. Despite being close to the lake for most of the day, we rarely saw it – instead we rode through pretty wooded areas and rural houses.

Braving the headwind along today’s ride. #cyclinglife #cyclingphotos #cycling #lakeontariotour

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

With the route being reasonably short, it wasn’t long before we were close to our destination. We stopped around the 90km mark for lunch at a place called the Cherry Tree Inn – a cute place with friendly staff and delicious sandwiches.

The last 15km or so went by reasonably quickly, especially because the never-ending hills finally ended and we were able to maintain a decent pace with minimal effort.

We pulled into the Bedford Creek Campground at around 2:30pm. Unlike the other places we’ve stayed so far, this is more of an all-year trailer park than a campsite, and the people we’ve seen so far certainly fit the stereotype – I keep waiting for Bubbles & Co to appear. We took a look at the nearby Westcott Beach State Park but they closed for the season on Labour Day. With that said, the staff here have been very friendly and helpful, as have the other people staying here.

One guy did inform us that we are going to freeze tonight as it’s apparently going to drop to 45 degrees. He seemed a little non-plussed when we just said, “ok,” (what else do you say to that?); I didn’t think until later that I could have reassured him that we’ve camped in way colder temperatures in the past.

Unfortunately it turned out that just last night the campsite owners decided to close the on-site restaurant except on Thursdays and Saturdays. That meant a ride into the lovely nearby town of Sackets Harbor for dinner. After a little exploring, we stumbled upon a local brewing company and enjoyed an equally lovely dinner looking out across the harbor. At one point we spotted a large number of large birds or prey circling overhead on the lake shore air currents. We counted 27 of them at one point; sadly we haven’t been able to identify them, yet.

1812 Amber Ale. Couldn’t resist 😉

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

So, that does it for our last full day in the U.S.. Tomorrow we head over to Cape Vincent and from there take one ferry across the border to Wolf Island and another to Kingston, Ontario. My bike is showing some signs of disrepair – the right pedal is grinding ominously and the gears are a little out of whack. May need to get a new pedal in Kingston tomorrow if we have time. It’s a short day so hopefully should be doable.

2016 Lake Ontario Tour, Tours

Lake Ontario Tour – Day Three Recap

I jinxed it. What an idiot. I should never have said today would be an easy day.

As usual, we got on the road at a decent hour – after waking up around 6:30, we packed up and were on the road by around 7:45.

Packed up and ready to hit the road for day three. #lakeontariotour #cyclingphotos #cycling

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

In contrast to yesterday’s ride, the scenery today was lovely throughout the ride. We were rarely more than a few minutes from a glimpse of Lake Ontario, and we passed through a number of lovely little villages and hamlets as we went. At the outset the road was mostly lined with massive waterfront houses, as we climbed and descended a number of rolling hills. At one point we passed through a town called Ontario, which amused us both.

Ontario: You’re doing it wrong. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

We grabbed breakfast in a village called Pultneyville, at a lovely deli in the centre of the village. While we were only 23km into our ride, that represented over a quarter of the day’s mileage as our total was only about 80km.

Breakfast stop. 25km down – nearly 1/3 done already. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Pultneyville was apparently the site of a skirmish between British and American forces; from what I can tell from a plaque on the waterfront, the British laid anchor in the bay the in a thick fog and when it lifted they realized they were right next to a unit of American forces doing exercises in the village. A truce was agreed, but after the British began to plunder some of the local houses shots were fired and the British ultimately withdrew.

After grabbing a few photos of the lake, we hit the road again and made good time despite the hills which, as it turned out, didn’t let up the entire day. As we alternated between riding alongside the lake and fur inland, the scenery alternated between big houses and mid-harvest farmland, with apple trees heavy with fruit and crews of farm workers bringing the crops in.

Lakeside orchards #lakeontariotour #cyclingphotos #cycling

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

By around the 50km mark we were getting a little cranky at the non-stop hills – there was barely a few hundred metres between them most of the time, it seemed. The temperature didn’t help – once again we were up around 30 Celsius. One particularly tiring stretch involved a lovely descent into a river estuary, followed by a series of long climbs as we climbed back to the top of the opposite side of the valley. By this point I had sweat fully running down my face and neck – something I hadn’t faced on either day so far on this tour.

Today was all hills. No pain, no gain… #lakeontariotour #cyclingphotos #cycling

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Enjoying a rare flat moment during today’s ride. #lakeontariotour #cyclingphotos #cycling

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

We saw relatively few cyclists along the road, but did encounter one guy who was close to the end of cycling across the country, from San Francisco on the West Coast to New York City on the East. He’d been going for 36 days, with five rest days (one per week). Impressive work; before long he sped off ahead of us. I guess a month of solid training will do that for you (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself).

We pulled into the village of Fair Haven at around 12:30 and grabbed lunch at a local cafe. The locals were incredibly friendly too – it seemed like everyone who came past us would stop to chat about our trip. A fair few of them reminded us that tomorrow’s weather forecast isn’t so great (gulp) – we’re due for rain and thunderstorms in the morning.

Depending on whether the storm system comes in early, we may change our route plans – plan A is to ride about 100km to Beford Creek, but if the weather is still bad when we get there the plan B is to push on and make the border crossing near Kingston rather than set everything up in the pouring rain. It seems a big backwards to look at it that way, but when your choices are sitting in a tent waiting out the rain, or making progress given that we’ll already be soaked, it kinda makes sense.

Today’s ride might have been shorter than the other days but we paid for it with the climbing – we did 20% more climbing today than on either of the previous day’s and in half the distance.

All set up for the night. #lakeontariotour #cyclingphotos #cycling

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

We’re now settled in at our campsite a couple of kilometres outside Fair Haven. The camp ground is in a lovely spot, right on the bay and with some nice views and a big beach. The site is a bit rocky underfoot but overall it’s a nice place. We’re near the showers, which were sorely needed after three days of riding; we both took the opportunity to take our sweaty clothes in with us and now have a makeshift clothesline set up from one tree to a nearby bench. Keeping it classy as always.

Makeshift clothes line. #lakeontariotour #cyclingphotos #cycling

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Tomorrow will be interesting. We’ll either have a reasonably short ride – about 20km longer than today’s (although we’re expecting it to be just as hilly as today) or we’ll be going as far as the first day and back into Canada, accompanied by pouring rain. Ultimately, the weather will decide which it is.

2016 Lake Ontario Tour, Tours

Lake Ontario Tour – Day Two Recap

Day two of our tour turned out to be a little less eventful than the first – no crazy drivers and no moments of madness. A little bit of drama near the end, though…

We started out from Four Mile Creek a little later than yesterday, after sleeping in until the positively balmy hour of 6:30. By 8am we were on the road, and the first 15km or so were lovely – cycling through farmland as farmers allaround hauled in their harvests – primarily corn, apples and pears from what I could see. My legs felt great after the last couple of big days – weak, but not hurting, and most of the aches and pains that I had yesterday evening (shoulders, knee, back… Essentially I was an old man) had faded. The one exception – and sorry for the over-sharing – was my rear. Nine hours on the bike will do that to you, I guess.

We grabbed breakfast in a nice little village called Wilson, before hitting the road again around 9:30. After a short segment along the lakeshore, we turned inland… and didn’t see it again for well over 100km. Instead, we did an east/south stair step that avoided the major highway running nearby, but also avoided the lake.

Sadly, this meant that the scenery was pretty monotonous. It began nicely, with farmland similar to that when we began the day, but before long became repetitive. We spent most of the day on one road – Roosevelt Highway – even our GPS computers gave up and started conjuring non-existent turns to kill the monotony. It wasn’t uncommon to see that the next intersection was 15, 20 or 30km away, only for us to finally arrive and discover that it was actually a slight bend to the left.

We did again manage to take advantage of the local agriculture, though – stopping at a roadside produce store to grab a basket of peaches which we promptly devoured in one sitting. As it turned out, that was our lunch. Oh, and Father had some cookies. That’s good nutrition for a 160km ride, right?

Break time. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Freshly picked peaches. Chomp. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Eventually we turned north and were reunited with the lake. Before long, we found ourselves in Rochester and close to our campsite – close enough that, with the belief that we would be at our destination by 4:30, we began making plans for dinner.

Hey there, Rochester. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Of course, that was before we descended a hill to Irondequoit Bay and realized that the bridge to the otherwise offbeat was closed to traffic until November. Buggar.

Well, shit. Cue a 17km detour… #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

As we debated how to re-route, we realized it was not an inconsiderable detour – while we were only about 6km from the campsite, the change meant we needed to add another 17km to the ride. As it turned out – and just as unfortunately – that 17km also included the biggest hill of the day. Grumble. I should have gone with my initial instinct, which was to bribe a local boat owner to ferry us across.

Eventually we arrived at the campsite (via another bunch of hills) – Webster Park Campgrounds is a lovely little spot with nicely kept, private sites and friendly staff.

We threw up our tents as quickly as we could, and after a change of clothes (nobody needs to smell that) headed out for dinner. We headed to a nearby place named the Bayside Pub; ironically it was only a few hundred metres from the bridge we couldn’t cross. Local clams, marinated chicken and a couple of beers. Delicious.

And with that, day two is over. All told we did nearly as much riding as yesterday – 176km – but my body in general feels good and I have none of the aches from yesterday. Tomorrow is a shorter day – only 80km or so – which is essentially a day off at this point. I’m looking forward to relaxing once we arrive instead of rushing around as we have been. I hear the campground is nice, too. Should be fun.

2016 Lake Ontario Tour, Tours

Lake Ontario Tour – Day One Recap

Today was the first day of our week-long tour around Lake Ontario. It was also the longest (180km) and featured the biggest climb (up the Niagara escarpment). Less than 24 hours after Tough Mudder, What could go wrong?

We started off fairly early – although not as early as we’d planned – at 6:30. It was still dark when we left, which meant we were treated to some lovely views of Toronto as the sun rose behind us and reflected off the skyscrapers downtown.

Hitting the road. 190km into New York State today; day one of seven. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos

A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

The first couple of hours were uneventful; we made good time and chatted with a number of fellow cyclists who all seemed curious as to what we were up to. That is, at least, until we got chatting with a guy as we approached Oakville. He asked us where we were off to and, after informing us that he lived in the neighbourhood, asked if we had forgotten anything that we needed to pick up/replace. We chuckled and said no thanks, at which point he started listing off things we might need. Waterproofs? No thanks. Energy gels? Nope. Down sleeping bag? And that’s when it clicked for me – I had completely forgotten to pack a sleeping bag! Idiot.

Moments later I was on the phone with Caralin and, bless her, she jumped straight the car and drove the 50km to meet uswithout a word of complaint. What a saint! At least it gave us an excuse for second breakfast (#hobbit) while we waited.

The next 100km or so was as uneventful as the pre-sleeping bag portion. Eventually we hit the climb up the Niagara escarpment – not a massive climb but big enough, and with tired legs and 30lbs of gear on the back of the bike.

The climb itself wasn’t actually that bad but there was a moment of drama/blinding rage near the top – as I approached the top of the climb and prepared to turn left onto a bike path, I signalled left and after checking to make sure the car behind me wasn’t preparing to pass, began to pull into the middle of the road (while still signalling). The driver of the car apparently didn’t want to wait for me to turn, as he chose that moment to floor it and pass me – as I was in the middle of turning left.

Happily he didn’t make contact with me but it was close as he passed me by, and I was very conscious that it could easily have been a fatal moment. Let’s just say I wasn’t happy. Ok, I lost it – yelling at him with all of the little air I had left in my lungs as he sped on by. I think the family walking up the sidewalk nearby was a little startled by some of the language that erupted from me. I mean, who passes someone who is signalling to turn left – especially someone who is already beginning to turn?! He didn’t seem to care – he didn’t pause or brake for an instant. Ah well… I felt better for it.


Before too much longer we arrived at Niagara Falls. After not returning to the Falls for 50 years since visiting them as a teenager, Father has now been there twice this year. We took a minor detour to take a couple of photos, then headed to the border. As expected, we got held up there as we had to get new stamps in our passports, but before too long we were on our way into New York State.

Oh hi, Niagara. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos
A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on

Immediately after leaving the border crossing we had to turn left across a decent-sized intersection. I’d pulled ahead a bit and crossed with no issues, but ten seconds or so later I heard a screech of brakes and a horn sound behind me. I looked back and there was Father, in the middle of the intersection, with an irate driver stopped a few feet from his bike. He let me know that he’d turned on a green light, but forgot that people coming in the other direction had a green light too. Sigh. In all fairness, I always find crossing into the States by road disconcerting – for some reason it talks a while to adjust when you get going again.

We made it through the rest of Niagara Falls with no issues, despite a few impressively wide and deep potholes (which I dubbed ‘American-sized’). Before too long we were out amongst the small towns on the way to our final destination.

A few things that immediately struck me about small-town New York State:

  • The people here are lovely and friendly. Lots of waves and smiles.
  • The scenery is equally lovely once you’re outside the outskirts of Niagara Falls. Lots of farmland replete with orchards and crop fields. We stopped at one farm store for a lovely basket of peaches (which didn’t last the day).
  • If you didn’t know better, you’d be hard-pressed to know there’s an election going on. Very few election signs. I haven’t seen a single Clinton sign yet.
  • Patriotism is everywhere too. Today was the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks so it wasn’t surprising to see that – especially in New York State – but it was striking how many houses had flags of some type or another hanging outside.

Two there you have it. We’re now at our campground – a small state park called Four Mile Creek – with 186km of the 900km tour under our belts. It seems nice (albeit remote) and the sound of the nearby lake is very relaxing.

Our next leg is another long one, although shorter than today – 150km to just the other side of Rochester. Hopefully a little less drama awaits us on the way there. 

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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