Cycling to Kingston and Back - 2006
 
 

Saturday July 15th, 2006

Everything was all set, the gear was all neatly packed, the bike was tuned and ready. Me however was not really in the mood this year. I honestly felt like skipping the ride this weekend. It might have been the impending doom of 32 degree heat that was expected all weekend, but that wasn't it. There was something eating at me and I never did figure it out, I just didn’t have the spirit for the ride this year.

Either way, I was set and all ready to leave. First problem. A local train derailment in Toronto was wrecking havoc on my plan to take the train out of to the edges of the city. No train meant an extra 50-70 kms for the outgoing leg of the ride. I decided to take a chance and head down to Union Station and hope that by the time I got there that the trains would be running again. Last minute check of the weather and... WTF? 60% chance of thundershowers? A couple of hours prior there was a measly 10% chance of rain all weekend.

In the mood that I was in, I was really surprised that I started to repack and include some rain gear. With the lack of enthusiasm for this years ride, in retrospect my normal reaction should have been to cancel the ride. After packing I headed out, I guess I figured that I'd get lucky again like two years ago when I avoided rain in a similar situation.

The first issue cleared itself up, after arriving at union station a discovering the trains had just started running, and 5 minutes later I was on the train as it pulled out of the station. 45 minutes later, with a shrug to the weather forecast, and a strange nervous feeling in my stomach I mounted my trusty bike and headed out into the darkness. Silly to feel nervous, I've done this ride 5 times before, 3 times solo, I’ve ridden all day in the rain in worse conditions. Logic doesn’t always defeat nervousness, it was still there.

Initially I felt pretty good riding in the very far reaches of the suburbs. I got a bit mixed up at the very edge of the ever-changing city and ended up on Hwy2, about 10 kms before normal. The expansion of the suburbs altered a few roads and I just sort of went with flow rather than find my normal route out.

Through Bowmanville and Newtonville and up that deceptive yet very steep hill in welcome my legs felt horrible, My thighs were in pain, my right knee felt the same as well. I kept going figuring it would work itself out. A brief stop in the deserted Tim Horton’s in Port Hope helped to keep my fuel tank topped up. How come no one ever asks what I am doing riding in out here in the middle of the night? They must assume any cyclist out here, at this hour must be crazy and there is no need to ask questions to confirm that assumption.

Colbourg wasn't far off, port hope and Colbourg are pretty much twin cities being located so close to each other. Similar services and feels to the older downtown area. I skipped the Timmies in Colbourg despite many previous stops and memories there (the Chocolate Milk Incident and the Sugar fiasco of the 90's). It was somewhere after Colbourg that i noticed the first flashes of lightning in the dark sky. In the middle of the night they are actually pretty hard to ignore despite my attempts. They were behind me, and over the lake, 2 years ago I remember having a similar light show, only a bit further away.

A pit stop in Brighton at another deserted all night location, the 7-11. Moments after leaving, and just as the sun should have been coming up the rain started. I headed out towards Trenton. Every potential shelter along the way made me think about stopping but it was easier and warmer to keep going. Once you get wet, there wasn’t much else one could do rather than gain some forward motion. There was no lightning to chase me off the roads once the rain started.

The only stop was under a fair tent in Trenton, their yearly street sale was empty so early in the morning, A small snack was had, and the stop was kept brief so i would stay warm. I didn't even stop in Belleville, Shannonville has nothing to stop for, and by the time I reached to Napanee the rain had stopped and I was a prune.

 
   
 

I had my first break in 60+ kms at another convenience store. I decided not to have a sit down breakfast as I didn’t want to cool down that much. Turning south towards the lake along the route I've taken the last couple of times. Once reaching the lake the road became flat and the approach into Kingston is less busy than it would be on Highway 2. At 9:45 am and I rolled into the Kingston just 11 hours after starting. I stopped at a bike store for some lube, since the rain had done a good number on my chain. A real meal was picked up from subway and I was on the 1030 ferry without delay.

It wasn’t long after getting on the ferry that the rain came back. The water looked like it was boiling over as an uncountable number of drops hit the surface. I was an hour ahead of schedule somehow, probably the forgiving schedule that I decided upon this year. With an hour to spare, I stayed on the free ferry once it hit Wolfe Island and took it back to Kingston, only to stay on and return to the island. By 12 the rain had stopped and the ferry and I approached the island a second time only in glorious sunshine.

The trip across the island was uneventful, the sun was warming, and with no rain it was pretty enjoyable, even with a bit of a head wind. I pulled into the customs office at the ferry terminal on the other side of the island and waited for the ferry to take me to Cape Vincent USA. I love this small ferry, and how they are always able to pack it with more cars than you would think possible, the crew must be experts at playing Tetris, as their Tetris-Fu is evident as they plan the boarding order.

 
   
  It wasn't long before I was in the USA, the guard asked the usual questions and even asked how fair i had biked, for the first time in 6 crossings! The entire trip from Kingston took over 2.5 hours for the ferries and the 12km ride across the island.

45 minutes later I managed to haul my still damp body into my Family reunion. One of the first people there, I quickly changed out of the cycling clothing, regretting that I didn’t bring a change of shoes. My stay was short, just to keep up the consecutive streak alive at 30 in a row. 3 hours later I headed back towards the ferries and Kingston.

With damp feet I slowly picked up the pace into Cape Vincent. Local kids diving off the dock entertained me as I waited for the ferry. Canadian customs remembered me from a couple hours previous and didn’t pay me that much attention. 12 kms over the island, with no wind, and a quick burger at the bar while I waited for the ferry to come. Finally the ferry came, I crossed over to Kingston and the last few kilometers were painful with my feet swollen from the dampness of the last 14 hours.


Sunday July 16th

The day started off perfectly, I woke up on time, pretty refreshed after sleeping well on my friends couch in Kingston. I was packed and ready to go before six and had just got my bike outside and loaded when i noticed the rear tire was flat. I never found the leak, I figured it was a slow pinch flat from a few of the pot holes in Kingston. Not the best way to start the morning, but I changed it on the front lawn in the morning sun. 20 minutes after 6am i started out, 20 minutes late, but early enough to beat some of the days heat.

I left the same way I came into Kingston, along Princess Street and Bath Road, navigating through the streets was simple with no traffic. The temperature was already in the mid twenties. I knew it was going to be a hot day, there were no clouds out to shield me from the sun. To make it a bit worse, there was a headwind, not massive but it definitely was slowing me down.

I was singing '28 years old' by the Tragically Hip as I passed by the Milhaven Correctional facility. It was around here that i could see a small group of cyclists approaching from behind. They quickly caught up as I moved over to let them pass safely, after a brief hello they continued to pass, and offer me their wheel. "I'm not going to be able to keep up" I let them know and a few minutes later I was still with them traveling much faster than I thought I could today.

Together as a group we cycled all the way to the Glenora ferry where we had a 20 minute wait for the next one since they were only running one this early in the morning. We met another cyclist here that was driving with his wife out west, they take turns cycling about 50kms a day, and drive another 2-400kms as well. It should take them 2 weeks to get from Fredericton to Calgary. The group headed out to Picton where 4 of them stopped for breakfast before turning back to Kingston, the one traveling with his wife continued on, but we got separated when i needed to stop for water and refreshments.

The heat and wind really started to hit me at this point, the trip to Bloomfield was pretty difficult. I took a break at the Bloomfield bike shop to grab another tube to replace the one that was used this morning. I slogged on through Wellington and on to Carrying Place. At this pointed I needed food, I was about to crash, so into the local restaurant for a game of Caesar Salad Roulette (CSR). CSR is a game I play to see what ingredients the local restaurants thinks should be in Caesar Salad. Today instead of bacon we got red onions, which worked rather well, better than mushrooms I got at one place in Baddeck, NS.

After that I took the oldest road in Ontario towards Brighton, over the Murray Canal and into the first convenience store for more water since Carrying Place had a boil water advisory in effect. At this point I was 2 hours behind what would be my normal pace, which was very disappointing, but with the heat and wind I should have been happy. I wasn’t of course, the day was beginning to take its toll on me mentally.

This section of the trip was probably perfect for me at this point. With towns every 10kms it gave me small obtainable goals that were much more pleasing to think of than having another 120 kms to go. I made it all the way into Port Hope before having to stop for more food at Mr. Sub. I hung out here as long as I could, eating slowly and soaking in the cool. Eventually I decided I would have to leave to actually get home, and reluctantly I got ready slowly, and got back out into the heat.

Once through Port Hope it was into the quiet roads that lead to Port Newcastle. On the way to Kingston Hwy2 is the route I choose for more services during the lonely night. On the way home the quieter roads south of the main highway are safer for my tired condition. There was a noticeable increase in traffic over the last time this year. Long lines of cars would pass, each with more cars than I encountered in this entire section in the two previous years. One of the cars passed, slowed down and stopped. It was a surprise to see my Aunt and Uncle on this back road, they were returning from the second day at the reunion, and took the side roads to avoid an major accident on the Highway. It explained all the cars that were out on the normally deserted roads. Out of pride I did my best to hide the roughness of the return ride this year, and after a short encounter they were off and so was I.

The scenery was wasted on me by this point, over 12 hours of heat, headwind and road had zapped me of any desire to watch the rolling farms and the lakefront go by. Every few kms a small village would go by, really just a collection of houses grouped together. The one large marker on this section is the Wesleyville power generation plant, its smoke stack can been seen from 10 kms away, sitting there unused, never having been fired up. It was this point of the ride when I decided that next year I would plan an easier schedule for this ride, to slow down and not to push myself to return in within 48 hours.

At Port Newcastle the road turns north and joins up with HWY 2 in Newcastle. I had another rest before carrying on. The temperatures were dropping at this point, and the head wind hat died, but the engine was still lagging, beaten up from the long day and the harsh conditions. Bowmanville went by fast, and quickly I was in the outer suburbs wishing my head light was working. Just before my starting point of the Oshawa Go-train Station the back tire went flat, I pulled over, did the quick repair and was thankful that I picked up that second tube earlier in Bloomfield, as I hate riding with no fresh tubes.

Throughout any ride, I always plan. Today I had an idea of when I wanted to finish the ride, meaning which train I will take from the ending point. It’s an hourly train, and throughout the day the ending kept getting pushed back by an hour at a time. For the last half of the day, I was targeting the 10pm train, and this flat had put that in jeopardy. Of course at this point I turned on the gas, expecting the empty tank to still be empty. Surprisingly my body responded with some pop, and over the next 45 minutes I pushed on hard in the dark, down the busy streets of the suburb, holding my back-up light in my hand to warn of my approach at intersections. The two sections I dreaded doing in the dark, I zipped through with light traffic. I pulled up to the Pickering station with 10 minutes to spare. Tired, beat, dehydrated and hungry the hour long trip back to the other side city was not enough to decompress. Even a few hours later I was trying to shake the feeling of what felt to be my longest ride physically and mentally.

Not every ride is all fun and laughs. This was the first time in a long time that I had to endure a ride. This years ride just wasn't fun, it was a battle, a war for nearly every kilometer, and although in the end I think I won, it surely didn’t feel like it. During the ride I made plans to take it easy next year.. but time heels all wounds and already I know next year, it will do the exact same thing, fight the good fight, push myself and see what I can really do against the road.

 
   
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