Sunday, July 23, 2006

My First Century

Last weekend when I was biking to Stratford, when I had pains in my chest, my legs ached, and we were pedalling along in the dark and the rain and I couldn't see the edges of the road with my headlight, I made a decision. No more epic rides for several weeks. (er a couple anyway) It's rather amazing how the human body has a remarkable ability to forget about pain (um I'm sure that's why we have the concept of siblings in the age of birth control)

When a few posts ago I mentioned epic rides I'd like to do, Blake had proposed I ride with him on his crazy planned ride to Balm Beach. Uh no, that's too far! (see he was going to stay for a while, and I would need to bike back home) When he explained that what he really meant was ride with him to Holland Landing, whereby we would go separate directions, and I could ride to Lake Simcoe from there, I'm like sure! That sounds like fun. My problem is that my mental ambition for "fun" rides is far ahead of my physical condition for insane rides.

I woke up Saturday morning with some er intestinal difficulties. I wondered if it was best to abort this plan (nothing like having a repeat and being stuck in the middle of nowhere) but then thought nah it was probably just an isolated incident. As I headed out the door with my bike my neighbours were outside. Ah where are you off to they asked? Lake Simcoe. Keswick? they inquired. Sure. (I actually had no real idea of where I was going other than I wanted to ride to the lake, but Keswick seemed a good place to buy some lunch) I'm not sure they were all that impressed, see to people that don't bike you can tell them you are going to High Park (less than 15 km away) and they'll be like whoa that's far. And so you can tell them you are going to bike 150 km and it will really be all about the same to them - all in the realm of a long way to ride a bike.

I rode off to the subway - our plan was to start off at Finch, the north end of the line to get a good jumpstart. As I had wanted to do a Lake Ontario-Lake Simcoe tour, the plan was to ride to Lake Simcoe, dip my feet in the water somewhere, then ride all the way back to Lake Ontario, and dip my feet in the water again. Here's the route map of where I actually did ride if you want to take a sneak peak.

We rode up Bayview as far as Stouffville Road where were passed by a few of the carbon fiber types. Nothing on their bikes except a water bottle. I see the hill we have to climb up the moraine, between roughly 19th Avenue and Stouffville Road. So I stop to fuel up on chocolate almonds. I also remove and bungee my camelbak-clone to my rack since the water weight is bothering my back on the climbs. (its roughly kms 16-19 on the route map to see the elevation) A woman on one of these carbon fiber bikes stops to ask if we are okay before blazing up the hill. (ya we're just having a snack) Blake is better at climbing than I am so I'm not able to keep up close enough to draft. See I live near the lake and pretty much everywhere I want to go is gloriously flat flat flat so I don't get practice with hills. Poplar Plains Road is part of Blake's daily commute so he gets practice :)

While I get disheartened at the site of every new uphill we have to climb, sometimes there's a good downhill run to provide enough momentum to make it most of the way up. I get going at 57 km/h at one stretch. With taking turns drafting we make pretty good time to the village of Sharon, where we take a quick pit stop at the Coffee Time.

At this point it makes sense just to keep heading north on Leslie for me, where Blake is turning on Mount Albert Road, but hey I have no specific destination in mind so I follow him as far as Yonge Street where we turn separate directions. I wish him luck on his continued quest as he's headed close to Midland on Georgian Bay. It seems far just thinking about it. (although in actual fact my round trip distance ended up being about 20 km further than his planned mileage to get there)

Heading back east on Queensville Sideroad, I am going directly into the wind and its tough going. I am really missing having someone to take turns breaking wind with. Its also uphill again, and I am so relieved to be back at Leslie Street again, I decide to head north here, although the bike map suggests Woodbine. I take these bike map recommendations with a grain of salt.

Leslie Street is just two lanes, but thick with fast-moving traffic here, all no doubt escaping Toronto for the peacefulness of up north (which is not peaceful at all with all the traffic). The 404 highway has ended and Leslie Street is the closest road to it. After getting a bit annoyed with all the traffic I decide to bike on the shoulder. (its paved and about 2 feet wide, but not in the greatest condition which is why I was initially try to bike to the left of the white line) This decision may have saved my life. All of a sudden a car on the other side of the road decides to pass the car in front, and he's coming at exceedingly high speed directly at me. I'm pretty sure I screamed. I think in the Can-Bike II course I took they said if this happens GET OFF THE ROAD. Well first of all I was already on the shoulder, not the road proper (not that lines matter much to an aggressive driver), and this happens far too fast to react. As he whizzes past with far too little space between us for my heart to deal with, I concentrate on getting to my planned turnoff to get somewhere quieter.

I end up on a very quiet road with direct views of the lake. Great! Now where to dip my feet in it? You see I pass very many places that appear to be PARKS but in fact are private property. You need a key to get in. Presumably they are co-owned by a group of houses. Very odd, why not just take the fence down and make them public?

Every little stretch of waterfront it seems is privately owned, some fenced and some not, but "Private Property", "No Trespassing", "Video Surveillance" and other such signs abound everywhere.

Blake had actually ridden to Keswick the previous week with the Friends for Life bike rally folks, and had given me a copy of their route map to Keswick (pdf link). I set out to find the Mr. Sub on the map to get myself some lunch. I tried to find their rest spot as a place to eat but couldn't find the turn. So I just rode along the lake where the quiet road had signs to share the road with cyclists.
(someone needs to post these same signs on Warden south of Steeles. Thanks.)
I wanted to venture much further around Lake Simcoe, but the thought did occur to me, how ever much further you ride away from home, you must also ride BACK AGAIN. So at some point I backtracked, and at long last I found a public park (I didn't stop on the way in because I didn't know it would be the only one) but without a real beach here I just bypassed the idea of dipping my feet in it.

I was feeling quite weary as I slogged my way over to Warden Avenue (my way home was to take this road straight south for like 60 km) I somehow had this crazy idea in my mind that once I turned onto Warden it would be all downhill with the wind at my back. Hahaha. As I stopped for a bathroom break at the gas station at the corner of Warden and Ravenshoe Road, I noticed a pay phone. (I don't have a cell phone) I really did not think I would be able to make it much further at this point. But who am I seriously going to call to drive all the way out to here to get me? It was my crazy idea to bike all the way out here, I must continue to bike all the way home. Insert more chocolate almonds here.

The first part of Warden still had lots of uphill climbs, and overall it was fairly rolling. Nothing very steep but I was feeling pretty wiped out. Thankfully the traffic was much much quieter than Leslie, and it was all rural, where we had encountered lots of development + farmland becoming development on the way up. When I already felt done for, and had 60 more km of the same road to bike along, my mind started to make up little games to push myself further. No stopping until the odometer reaches X and I pass a major intersecting road, and I get to the top of this hill, and the mailbox numbers go down to such-and-such. Its pretty depressing when the numbers are 21,000+ and you know you have to get to where the road begins. Of course if I keep changing the criteria as I go, I keep going. If I stopped whenever I felt like I needed a rest I would never make it home.

A few things kept my spirits up. One was the promised land - Blake had mentioned that at one point along Warden it felt like he went for 20 minutes at 40 km/h with minimal effort. I definitely had not encountered that yet. The second was my mistaken belief that the IBM Canada lab was located at 14000 Warden. I knew if I could just make it this far that there would be a BUS, a bus, I could hop on the bus... I made the occasional stop to sit in the ditch and munch on trail mix. At some point on the opposite side of the road I saw a very slow moving tractor carrying bales of hay. It was entirely predictable that the car behind would try to overtake it. But surely he can SEE ME and wouldn't try to do such a crazy thing until I am past.... AAAAAAAAAARGH. Yes another oncoming pass scare, which I should have got off the road instead of contemplated. But Warden had no shoulder at all here, and few good places to really get off the road.

One thing never to do when you are tired and have a long ways to go is to pull out the map to check your progress. It will only completely dishearten you. What? I'm only way up there? But at some point in time I could see the promised land - both buildings of civilization in the far distance, and a seemingly endless downhill. I perked up so much after this and probably had an evil little giggle on my face as I waved at two other cyclists I passed who were going the not-so-easy way. This was definitely the best riding of the day. Wheee!

Even better was when I saw the Markham sign, welcoming me to a sprawling car-centric wasteland, where I'd rather cut off my own leg than have to live in. But a very welcome sight.

Bathroom! was my first thought. Bus! was my second. But at this point I knew I could finish my trek and I didn't need the bus. The reassurement though that there might be a bus made me feel they wouldn't have to peel my body out of a ditch in the countryside somewhere. It was still several kilometres to civilization as it was farmland for quite a ways after the sign. Just a depressing thought that since it is in the limits of Markham, all that farmland can easily and quickly be goobledly-gooked up into badly planned development.

Once I passed IBM (about 6000 street numbers further south than where I had thought) the road became much less pleasant to bike on. Note that the ramp in the picture is an off-ramp from the road into IBM. The company relocated their large development lab from a suburban, yet still easily transit-accessible location in Toronto to the edge of Markham forcing many previously car-free employees to buy cars. Doesn't look too friendly to be in anything but a car around here does it?

I try to avoid the madness of the traffic here by making the right of the construction pylons my own personal bike lane but its not a very long reprieve. I'm making really heavy use of looking in my mirror. After my first attempt at finding a bathroom turns out to be a closed coffee shop (being in an industrial area the hours are very limited) I opt for a McDonalds in a plaza even though I have to turn left off Warden and traverse a huge parking lot. This is where I am glad I brought the lock, in the boonies I would just lean my bike up against the glass of wherever I was going into, here (at Warden and Finch) I don't trust my bike unlocked for even a split second.

Warden in Toronto proper is not at all bike friendly. The lane is narrow in many places but the traffic also nuts (in terms of speed and driver mentality). Do I take the lane here? Do I dare? (I opted for ride close to the curb with frequent mirror checks) I am happy when I get into the headways of the bus because it really reduces traffic in the curb lane but if I get too far ahead of the bus the advantage is lost. The road really is a desolate wasteland of strip malls or industrial here. My legs are getting REALLY tired now and I make little chants to myself with the major intersections I have left to cross - Lawr-ence, Eg-lin-ton, St. Clair, Dan-forth, King-ston.

I was really happy to see Kingston Road (where I turned westward), although I should have remembered from my bike up it recently that the section near Warden was the absolute worst for potholes. My tired body was too weary to stand on the pedals whenever I crossed one (and it was impossible to avoid them entirely) and so I just got bump-bumped instead. I escaped Kingston Road at the first available opportunity to fly downhill (Fallingbrook), and kept riding on Queen until I knew I would have access to the lake.

South on Glen Manor, I head straight for the sand at Balmy Beach.

I am so close to home at this point, but very weary. I consume the remainder of the chocolate almonds and pedal very gently along the Beach path towards home.

The odometer shows 162 km. (just over 100 miles) My first imperial century! Yay! See with this crazy thing we have called the metric system I have ridden 100 km often but never 100 miles. Some people don't think you are a "real cyclist" until you have ridden 100 miles in a day. Personally I consider real cyclists those that use their bike for everyday activities and not as a toy (that they attach to their SUV to take to somewhere "safe" to cycle). Stuff like riding to get to work. Or hauling furniture. That's real cycling!

Here's a gratitious hedge shot I took as I made it home. This 7 foot high hedge of pretty yellow flowers started off last year as 4 plants I think separated from a neighbours hedge to fill in the blank space between my walkway and my attached neighbour's walkway.

Total distance (bike computer): 162 km
Total distance (gmap pedometer route): 156.1 km - I've included at the end of the route map the distance I pedalled in the morning to get to Queen subway station. I can only explain the missing 6 kms by some backtracking I did over the route to find Mr. Sub, the odd turn and diversion and circling of huge plazas to go looking for bathrooms.
Approx total elapsed time: 9.5 hours.
Max Speed: 57 km/h
Avg Speed: unknown (the trip mode was not engaged on the computer) If we assume 20 km/h, that leaves 1.5 hours of time spent eating lunch, visiting washrooms, dipping feet in the lake, and eating trail mix in ditches. I suspect the average speed was somewhat faster and the time spent not biking somewhat longer.

At this point in time, I really just wanted to sit and relax with my feet up and a beer. (oh first a shower! definitely a shower! bye-bye road grit.) My fridge had no beer. (note to self: stock fridge before epic rides) I don't know why I didn't take the bike. Walking the short 1 km distance to the beer store was painful. Worse was walking home with a 12 pack in a backpack on my already achy shoulders.

Footnote:To save weight I decided to dispense with panniers altogether since I usually just toss stuff I might need into them willy-nilly. A rain jacket might have been among them. While it rained in the city, and dark clouds throwing out the occasional spit loomed at us, it did not rain. Mostly in the summer my theory is "just get wet" although the day was actually cool (a nice reprieve from last week's heat wave ride) so I may have been unpleasantly cold if real rain had happened. My packing list for an epic day ride: frame pump (attached to the bike), 2L camelbak, spare bottle of water and Gatorade bottle (both on bike), gloves, safety vest, and helmet (all on me), handlebar bag packed full: wallet with cards and cash, camera, feminine hygiene products, snacks: banana, chocolate almonds, soy-based trail mix, granola and dried fruit mix; chain lube, mini pressure gauge, two spare tubes, tire levers, patch kit, allen keys, bungee cord (used to tie the camelbak when I didn't want to carry it, also useful in case of any surprise acquisitions of stuff), cable lock (useful for being back in the city) and keys, sunblock and sunglasses (in case the sun came out, I didn't use the sunglasses, I SHOULD still have applied the sunblock as I got a very slight burn), pen (you never know when it will come in handy - and in hindsight I should have used this to record the license plates of the two drivers who made illegal passes when there was oncoming traffic ie me, and reported them, but they were long past before it would have registered to get the plate), two Power Gel packs (for emergency need energy now, otherwise I prefer not to ingest all that unnatural crap). Useful stuff I didn't bring: zipties (always handy for emergency something falls off the bike), mini multi-tool (particularly to have a screwdriver if the rack/fender screws come loose for some reason)

Now of course someone better remind me to LOCK AWAY my Ontario maps before I get more ideas of somewhere crazier to go next weekend. Century ride: check. What's the next challenge? Why a double century of course! Really I think I'll just to stick to things like toodling on the folding bike to the farmers market and other such non-pain-causing uses of the bike for a while :)
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Merges and Diverges

This is a satellite shot of the Eastern Diversion. Last night after a Cycling Cog ride followed by food, beer, and socializing on a patio I was riding back home with two other east-enders. Hey we're not going over the Eastern Diversion are we?! I commented as it seemed we were headed in this general direction of a road I have never ridden on before.

See there is NO GOOD REASON to use the Eastern Diversion on a bike. To a car-driving east-ender, this is the fastest way to get downtown. For a bike, there's no amenities along this route, and it is just about as short but more congested (ie slower and saner moving traffic) to use Queen Street to cross the Don Valley. In fact there are signs somewhere saying exactly that "Bicycles use Queen Street to cross the Don

Well you're leading! was the reply. Oh I was not aware of that. Hey lets take the Eastern Diversion! (this is why beer and biking don't mix) There's a very funny sign along this route that says "Weaving Traffic. Cyclists Beware". I've always found that hilarious for some reason because I always wonder who are the crazy cyclists biking along here? (In fact when I first noticed the sign I was trying to return a rental car downtown, and was unsuccessful at negotiating the psycho merge ramps to end up going the way I wanted to go. So I really thought the sign should say "Psychotic Weaving Traffic. Novice Motorists Beware".)

At any rate, it was late and traffic was light. I followed the green line in the picture - basically riding at the right hand side of the lane that is not an on and off ramp. I've drawn red arrows where there is merging and diverging traffic. The first arrow is traffic merging from Adelaide Street. The second arrow is traffic exiting on the on-ramp to the Don Valley Parkway. I must say though it is quite disconcerting having traffic moving MUCH faster than you are passing you on BOTH sides at the same time.

So I'm wondering for a road like this what is the best way to approach it? Ride straight through the green line as fast as possible? Or shoulder check and merge over the curb lane at the first blue X, then shoulder check and merge one lane left before the on ramp?

Or use Queen Street and just avoid entirely :) (apologies to the two people following me, although I think traffic was light enough not to freak anyone out.)

(I must footnote this by saying I only had one pint before anyone thinks I'm a crazed drunk-driving cyclist. And I did say no to someone's crazy idea of lets ride up the Bluffers Park road - the steepest hill I'm aware of in the city - after having consumed said beer)
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bike to Stratford

day 1: burlington to stratford

My friend Karen and I were roommates 10 years ago. Back then I don't recall her owning a bike, and I had a bike but rarely rode it. Since that time we have both become big bike fanatics. Anyway this past winter, when it was cold enough out that epic long rides seemed a far off dream on the horizon, we were sitting in a restaurant and she mentioned she had wanted to bike to her hometown of Stratford but had nobody to go with. Oh I'll ride with you! I volunteer, without having too much clue where geographically Stratford was.

A little while ago she proposed the plan - she had a wedding to go to in Stratford, along with two of her other friends also attending the wedding, but did I want to come to for the ride? Sure I'm always up for crazy rides! However there was one flaw I thought in the plan. We would leave on Friday but she had to work in the morning. Hmm noon seems late to leave for a crazy long ride. You have lights right? I asked. Lights? Why wouldn't we get there before dark she wanted to know. (distance was estimated at 160 km) Net uphill. Against the prevailing wind. Stopping for food breaks. Bad pavement. Map checks etc. The plan was to cancel the trip if the probability of precipitation was over 40%. Um ya but what if its 40C with the humidity (as the weekend was forecast to be) I'd much rather ride in the rain than a heat wave.

Karen and her friend Peter (training for an upcoming Ironman) planned to start out from her place at noon and be averaging close to 30 km/h. Her friend Amy planned to take the GO train out of Burlington to get a head start as she wanted to ride slower and less distance. Perfect. I didn't feel up for 160 km in a heat wave (and need to make some adjustments to my bike for long rides), and I certainly did not feel up for that kind of pace, so I opted to keep Amy company. Amy hadn't done any long rides before, but she bikes around downtown Toronto to visit her clients, recognizing its clearly the best way to get around, so ah she'll do great.

Fortunately our train out was before the derailment that cancelled trains for the rest of the day, and about 2 pm we are ready to head out of the station. First part of the ride is all uphill in the hot, humid and sticky part of the day. I had mentioned to Amy there would be a big hill and as we were going up what was certainly not the "big hill" she asked if this is the big hill. I mumble. I don't want to dishearten her by telling her what is really yet to come. I think that's what makes crazy bike rides possible is just having absolutely no clue what you've signed yourself up for. We climb up Cedar Springs Road heading up the escarpment. Its so hot out and the hill is very tough and once I've climbed the steepest part of the hill I think my head is going to explode and veer off at the first sign of shade tree to collapse under the tree.

We continue along the same road (which is very pretty, and thankfully completely amongst trees to keep cool). I'm getting all giddy happy when I'm not even pedalling and coasting down a hill at 49 km/h - until the thought occurs to me what goes down will come back up. We get to the village of Kilbride where we stop in front of a country store and I pull out my partially melted chocolate almonds. Ah must eat these before they turn to mush! My fingers are now completely covered in chocolate and I don't want to lick them because my fingers were previously covered in grease. (after trying to start up the hill again after the shade tree in the granny gear the chain popped off) I go into the country store and inquire if they have a bathroom. Nope. (well of course you have a bathroom.. grr) Ah can you tell me where the closest washroom is? Derry Road and Guelph Line. (I'm wearing soak-drenched spandex. Do I look like I'm driving a car? That didn't sound anywhere near where I was) Frustrated I leave the store and don't buy anything either since they were annoying - and I see there is a washroom outside the service station ACROSS THE ROAD. (which they had of course neglected to mention)

This is the point where our routes cross but after phoning the others they had a later start than expected so they are still quite a ways behind, so it makes sense for us to keep pedalling and since they are biking faster, they will eventually overtake us. After some pleasant country roads we end up on the former highway 97. The pavement is very chopped up which doesn't make for a great ride. And there are several transport trucks using this road. When they overtake they create a lot of wind which is pretty unnerving. Eventually the pavement gets better but there is still the energy sucking rolling hills to deal with. Having biked this way before, but several roads to the south on Concession 5, I figured it would be FLAT as Concession 5 was great that way.

I had my mirror adjusted fairly well so I could usually get a good idea of traffic behind. But at this point the mirror had been knocked to the side. I hear another vehicle. It is FAR too close to me. It doesn't sound quite as loud as I would expect it to be. I cannot look without risking veering slightly, and I am loathe to bail onto the rough shoulder if I don't absolutely have to - because I will undoubtedly wipe out. The vehicle overtakes me, and its a ... BICYCLE!!! I swear it sounded like it had a motor to it. It was a roadie with those super aero wheels and probably going 50 km/h and not giving me any indication he was passing. Super.

When we finally reach civilization (aka Cambridge) we head straight for the first strip plaza we can find. Looking forward to some real food and a bathroom break (unlike all these crazy country stores with "no public washrooms") We get some subs at Quiznos and call the others. They are about 10k behind which should be about perfect to give us a chance to eat, fill our water up, and relax. When we finish eating though we call again only to find they are still at the same point! Apparently Peter had decided to have a nap in the ditch. Ah a nap, a nap would be great about now. :)

So once again we keep on going. There are two steepish hills to get out of Cambridge, and we are feeling pretty tired out so we end up walking both of these hills. They are less steep of course than our initial escarpment climb and probably even less than the second after the coasting climb, but we are feeling pretty whipped from the rest of the riding. A bit past Cambridge we come across this rather idyllic looking spot to have a rest:

Dusk is going to be quickly upon us (far too many rest breaks?) I can not pedal anymore. I figure at this point we will wait for the others to catch up and then arrange our pickup point, because there is no way that we will be able to make Stratford before dark.

A while later what do we see come over the hill but two speedy-moving and far too chipper looking (considering they have pedalled 50km more than we have...) cyclists.

Karen is freaked out when she sees our panniers. WHY DID YOU BRING SO MUCH STUFF? (oh I must mention the wedding goers all sent their stuff ahead of them, and she offered I could send my clothes ahead too but I really didn't have anything I wanted to be without for a whole week, and it wasn't going to be heavy to bring everything I needed on the bike) No wonder you are so tired! she said. We are just shaking our heads. Really my tiredness had very little to do with the weight I was carrying on the bike. After much discussion about luggage, bike lifting comparisons, some graveyard bike repair, and some shots from Peter's tube of energy gel we were finally on our way again. The goal was to reach the village of New Dundee before deciding on what to do next. Here's all four of us before we departed the graveyard:

The energy gel did help perk me up a bit, as did of course sucking Karen's wheel for much of the way. The evening breeze without the hot sun in the sky also was glorious. Karen really is a machine! Never underestimate a woman with iron determination. Happily there were no more "killer" hills. I'm sure the entire village of New Dundee heard my yippee as we reached our goal. Of course Karen was completely determined to make it all the way to Stratford, and who am I to mess with another cyclists crazy ride dreams? (I had always hated in the past when taking someone on one of my crazy ride dreams and having them decide to wanna quit) I didn't have to keep going as Peter said he was tired but would ride all the way with her, but I figured the more the merrier for the after dark expedition. Amy sanely opted for a pickup from Karen's parents.

To avoid a long wait, we arranged to keep riding along the route and have Amy picked up en route. By this time darkness had hit and everybody had some sort of headlight. What may seem like a good light for CITY riding however is completely inadequate for dark country roads. I knew of course my light was not good for dark roads, however I hadn't expected we were going to keep riding after dark. Half the time I really didn't feel I could see the road at all or where the edges were. (of course I also have kinda crappy night vision and found driving a car on highway 401 at night a completely harrowing experience since I couldn't see the freakin lane lines) I felt like a lemming blindly following along behind Karen, where we could go oh-oh off the cliff at anytime :) The worst was when oncoming cars would come down the road we were on leaving their high beams on, those things are just blinding.

At some point Amy was picked up and due to weight reduction pressure I reluctantly handed my pannier over to be sent on ahead (we were all staying the night at her parents house) The rest of our route was going to be all rural and I had to pee so I found a ditch with nice long grasses... and nothing. Stupid body refuses to pee in the wild for some unknown reason so instead I just cramp up and get uncomfortable. At this point I think Karen thought there were 40 km to go.

More dark road riding (thankfully I had brought my reflective safety vest!)... An interesting phenomenon happened with overtaking cars. They would slow down from 80+ km/h to basically nothing at all, wait behind us, and then move way over to the other side of the road to pass. I'm sure it took them a while to register what the little red lights in the distance were. I'm sure cyclists would not have been their first thought. Hmm a pack of cyclists riding in the dark on dark country roads IN THE RAIN. Oh did I mention the rain? It was definitely raining now despite the 0% POP forecast. I had brought nothing for rain but probably wanted nothing anyway as it was so hot. I expected someone to roll down their window and tell us we were CRAZY but nothing of the sort happened. (although a yahoo yelled the usual get-off-the-road to Karen and Peter in Mississauga) The bugs were also attracted to the headlights, so one had to be careful not to inhale a mouthful.

As I was getting increasingly uncomfortable with the bladder problem and slight chest pain from the exertion, Karen points to a house along our route and says my aunt and uncle live there. This of course perked me up immensely and although it was late they appeared to still be up with their light on, so we went and knocked on their door. Yippee for bathrooms!

We eventually reach the town of Tavistock. This confuses me since I know this is south on the map of where New Dundee is but Stratford is north. It seems like we have gone on quite the circuituous route. I think it was to avoid having to go on #7 highway and to avoid any roads known to be gravel, which of course I really appreciated. I don't think I could have done gravel without having better illumination of the road surface. We stop in front of civilization to fuel up again. Of course I'm disheartened to realize we still have almost 20 km left to ride. The rain picks up here. I contemplate calling my parents. They only live about 20 minute drive from here, and having been in Toronto the day before I left offered to babysit Abby. So I can be comfortable, dry, no longer pedalling, and cuddling my kitten. So tempting... until I remember I have sent my bag ahead to Karen's containing any possible clothes to wear that aren't the wet and sweaty ones.

We keep trekking on through the rain which is actually quite refreshing (I am just hoping for no slick potholes I can't see). I get a wee bit freaked when I see a lightning flash (uh aren't we like going to be the highest point as we pass through open fields?)

Finally at long last we reach our destination - 20 minutes past midnight. Our hosts have generously cooked us up a yummy casserole, and so its food, showering away the road grit, and sleep!
122.32 km (for me, Karen and Peter went 174)
max speed 49 km/h
average speed 20.5 km/h (this is of course while moving, the whole trip took a long time since there were a lot of non-moving breaks)

Here's me happy to be dry in the garage

day 2: stratford to my parents house

Since of course the others were all wedding-bound I needed a plan of something to do on Saturday evening. I figured since my parents did not live that far I would bike and visit them. When I called them they were oh we can pick you up, its a hot day.. etc. I'm like bah its only 40 km, a 2 hour ride. So after brunch I got my energy up and going again for more pedalling.

The plotted route involved quiet country backroads. I was somewhat stiff and sore from the day before but it was not that bad. I had swapped the saddle before I left with the one on the beater bike, and it made a world of difference! I had no neck/back/shoulder pain as I often do, just a bit stiff arms/wrists where I'm constantly changing position on the drop bars to get comfortable.

I rode for about an hour, and then stopped at Timmies in Tavistock (what small town Ontario visit is complete without a trip to Timmies?) for a snack and pee break. Once through the one stoplight town, I was looking for my turn southbound. My mom had recommended 15th line as being a paved backway. Excellent! Avoid the busy regional road I would selected from the map. I get to my turn, and I'm squinting through my sunglasses and its like um after 100m ahead, this is definitely NOT PAVED. I hate backtracking so I was hoping she was confused 15th and 16th, and the gamble paid off, as I turned on 16th line I had a glorious paved country road with great views ALL TO MYSELF. (I saw maybe 3 cars the next 20k?) I didn't take any pictures as I didn't think they could do justice to how amazing the surroundings were for the soul.

I speedily arrived in under two hours including my Timmies rest stop. (its about 40 minute drive)

distance 40.64 km
max speed 55.5 km/h
avg speed 25.2 km/h

day 3: bicycle boot camp

Sunday is the worst of the weekend weather, the hottest and the humid day. The others are planning to bike back to Toronto today, but I decline to join them. I decide I want to stay and visit with my parents another day, and also there is the logistical issue of getting my kitten home again (somehow I don't think she'd enjoy the pannier ride)

My dad and I go for a walk to check out an open house in the village. Its terribly cute and I could buy it for cash (no mortgage. woo!) I could have a gigormous veggie garden in the backyard, and there's a detached garage big enough for hundreds of bikies. (or maybe to turn into a storefront) It all sounds very tempting until I remember the bike ride into town (which only has 30k people) from my last visit. Or the thought of constantly having to drive a car to go places. UGH.

Its such a hot day. I'm dripping in sweat just from our short walk plus stopping to munch on fresh peas out of their pods from my aunt's garden on her patio. (in the shade!) Coincidentally one of the reasons I'd contemplate moving to be able to just eat my own fresh peas out of pods from the garden, a calmer slower pace of life with fresher air!

Of course no visit to my parents is complete without "bicycle boot camp", or taking them on longer rides than they thought they could go on. With the brutal heat, we wait until evening to go, and its just me and my dad. We look at my Southwestern Ontario advermap and decide to hit a nearby rail trail. I love rail trails! After biking 10 or so km west through the country to get to the trail it turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. The trail seems okay where it first crosses the road, but as we progress further it becomes more and more overgrown.

My dad with wide tires and front suspension has zoomed way off in the distance while I am struggling to make it over the rough terrain with skinny tires. I think its all in my head as my tires have decent tread on them. As soon as I get comfortable just riding I hit a tree root and ouch that hurt. But if it was just rough terrain it would be one thing- but prickly bushes have grown across the trail so if you speed your way through them they cut up your arms. Um ya it doesn't seem like a good trail, so we don't make it far before backtracking the entire route instead of the planned pleasant loop. A mere 18km total.