Foggy Firsts of Spring
After a cold February of short and shivery urban rides, I was really looking forward to March when long group bike ride season would begin and more countryside would be explored. I particularly like going to see the small towns and villages I have never been to before, so a few weeks ago was looking forward to the first randonneur ride of the season to Schomberg. Alas I ended up turning back a very short way into the ride - the first hill had me knackered already. Not a good day.
So when fellow randonneur M. offered me and my bikey a ride from the Clarkson GO station to the start point of last Sunday's ride I'm thinking no I'm definitely not ready for that - it was 130k and I suspected it might be hilly. But I was lured in by the weather forecast 12 degrees C and sunshine! Oh definitely a nice day to be out on the bike. It was going from Mississauga to Erin, which I really had no idea where it was. I glanced briefly at a map and noticed it seemed in the same vague direction as what I had considered the hardest 60k ride I had done before. Ah but I won't be carrying camping gear, and winds should be light - as that ride I was battling a brutal headwind the whole way uphill.
Waking up bright and early Sunday I turn on the tevee to check cp24 for the weather - only to find static. Doh. I had cancelled my cable service some time ago I guess they finally got around to cutting me off. Hmm well I could just open the door. Ah seems not too cold, and its supposed to be 9 (down from 12 but still nice enough) so it'll get warmer through the day. Decided to wear ear warmers and glove liners for the morning - easy to stow away later. The weather seemed comfortable riding to Union station - but once in Mississauga it was freezing! (must be the downtown heat sink effect) The temperature must have been barely above 0 (maybe 2 at most) and stayed that way the entire day.
About a dozen or so of us set off from the Timmies at Erin Mills. From the route sheet I was already frightened by Bell School Line - about 20k in. We were riding along, the pace was fairly relaxed and people were chatting, but somewhere along Brittania Road I couldn't quite keep up the pace and fell back to riding by myself. There should have been three people behind me, including two people that were going to start a bit later, but as this was an uncertainty I figured I would just ride at my own pace, and see if they caught up with me, or (seemingly unlikely) I would catch back up with the group.
Well they weren't really too far ahead of me as I would often spot a small smattering of cyclists in the distance. In fog yellow jackets are highly visible, and everything else just blends in. As I started heading north on Bell School Line my eyes were squinting to figure out what that was in the distance. Hmm it looks like the road ascends straight vertical! Must be an optical illusion created by the fog I thought and kept riding the gradual uphill. The jackets started getting closer and I could tell in the distance some people were off their bikes and walking them. Yay I thought now I won't feel so bad when I do the same thing. When I got to the bottom of where the hill became much steeper I just got off and walked. So early in the season I just didn't have the willpower to try putting the bike in the granny gear and going up. It was tough going even walking! The hill plateau'ed briefly, where I rode up to the next very steep part and walked up that again.
Ah well now that we are at the top of the escarpment, the hard work of the day is done, right? So easily fooled. At some point a few of the others - T., J., M., and P. must have noticed I was not very far behind them, and waited for me. Yay! Other people to ride with. This always makes the rides more enjoyable. M. mentioned something about another steep hill. At one point we went down a curvy road which had me grabbing the brakes exceedingly thankful that I had figured out on the last ride I had done a bad job of adjusting the brakes after installing new pads and had tweaked them. Hmm what goes down must come up again always seems to be the rule of biking.
My eyes nearly popped out of my head when we started heading up Nassagaweya Sixth Line. The psychology of seeing the massive hill ahead always seems to make riding it worse. Once again this was a very steep hill and yet another walker. I'd fall back behind the others from time to time, and often they would wait at the next turn. Of course this way they got to have a chance for a brief rest and snack of which I was anxious for. We passed through the town of Glen Williams which had a bakery but we were keeping going to lunch in Erin. Somehow by flawed logic I thought that after two killer hills, that the rest of the way to lunch must be easy going.
It had been of course marked on the cue sheet: dirt for 3 km. Now remember this is only March, the snow has barely melted, and the day before was raining. So oh yeah guess what the dirt road is really going to be? M-U-D. This was one time I actually found the fact that my 700x28 tires have some tread on them to be useful rather than unnecessary friction. Still the road was filled with many tiny potholes it was best to avoid, and then hey would you look at that steep windy uphill? Maybe, maybe if it had been asphalt I might have tried to pedal up that one, but the grade combined with the hard going mud, yeah yet another walker. It seemed like quite a long 3 km.
Finally I cheer to myself when I see a water tower for Erin. Lunchtime! Somewhere around the 60k mark I think M. asked me if thought I was up for a 130k ride today. My answer: well I don't have a lot of choice now do I? Once you've ridden out to the middle of the countryside far from public transport you're kinda stuck riding the rest of the way back. P. has zoomed up ahead of us and is waiting in front of the Coffee Time as we pass by. He's been there 15 min he says and when he arrived another couple of riders were leaving that had been there for 10 more. The coffee shop does not have much in the way of actual food - the sandwich selection is dim and they are all premade, but I am ravenously hungry so not very picky at this point.
There's 50k left to ride after lunch, and I think I can muster the energy for this as long as there are no more hard uphills. Someone mentions Mississauga Road is all downhill and I've got myself psyched up for this but of course the first few k goes up a bit first. When we hit the village of Belfountain, we realize the cue sheet is wrong when it says TL on Mississauga Road to head south, as south is to the right. Tired out for climbs, I come along to one not that hard hill but end up walking it. Seeing me walking P. asks if I'm okay - and offers that he can call his wife to pick me up and drop me at the GO. No no I'm fine I insist. Although its mostly flat from this point, we are heading into a headwind so the others are encouraging drafting. They are encouraging me to get closer but I'm so tired at this point that I want to have some reaction time so I don't accidentally run into someone's wheel. I can still definitely feel the difference from being the distance I am at.
When we come to our next turn, the group figures out that we can cut 8k off the distance (as we are tired) - this is a populaire after all, and not a brevet where the route must be followed exactly - by heading straight down Mississauga Road to Erin Mills Parkway. Now I am all for shorter distances at this point, and I'm usually not one to complain about any road being too scary traffic. But I remember being on Mississauga Road in a friend's car before, and as it approaches Brampton, Mississauga, and the highways it is not at all bike friendly IMO. Already at the point we are at there is enough traffic whizzing by fast that makes it less pleasant. I point this out but the consensus seems to be shorter is better so who am I to argue?
Most of the time we were riding in about 6 inches of paved space beside the white line as cars did not move over or slow down to overtake here. As we went over highway 403 (on Erin Mills Parkway I think?) the road was 6 lanes, divided. I was out about a metre from the concrete barrier at the edge of the curb lane. I notice that a U-Haul cube truck is barrelling up behind me. I turn to look over my shoulder hoping to encourage the driver to change lanes. He slows down so I think he is waiting for a chance to change lanes, and then suddenly he speeds up to whizz past me and I need to veer closer to the edge to avoid becoming road pancake. I am bellowing "change lanes a-" but I doubt he can hear me inside the truck. Why they rent these things to any Joe Schmoe with a G license is a danger...
I am tired, and have enjoyed the ride, but am looking forward to getting home. Not thrilled about hanging out waiting for the hourly GO train I am hoping by some fluke L. might still be there when we get back - since he lives in my 'hood. I'm figuring no chance since he is a much faster rider. But to my surprise he is there when we get back - we did cut 8km off the route, and he added 10 by following the misdirection on the cue sheet - which led him up a windy, hilly and icy Forks of the Credit road. This road is a fave of motorcyclists, streetracers, and other joy drivers, and with blind curves and speeding seems a potentially dangerous place to be on a bicycle. I was very thankful for the ride home!
Ride stats: total distance - 128.4 km (including riding to Union in a.m.), Avg Speed - 18.6 km/h (including all hills walked up), Max Speed - 49 km/h. Real time with stops - about 8 hours.
Now for a bit more relaxing social ride - who is up for a joy ride around downtown tonight (Thursday)? We'll meet up at Bloor/Spadina around 6-6:30 and ride around at a relaxed pace for an hour or two before heading for a pint. Sorry for the short notice but we'll try to have these once a week so lots more chances to join in the fun. Some will have specific themes - last year we did rides like Smells of Toronto, and checking out hydro transformer houses. Leave a comment if you want to come out!