Cycling 378km from Prescott to Toronto

After having sufficiently relaxed in Gatineau and Ottawa, on July 23 we loaded my bike into Matt’s car again.

Matt, Jos, and I headed to Prescott, near the US border, where we had a Tim Horton’s lunch and coffee before I loaded my bags onto the bike and cycled off in the direction of Kingston. I started off on Highway 401, having been told that it had a wide shoulder all along. This is the nice wide shoulder on Hwy 401:

After a couple of minutes, however, the nice wide shoulder turned into a 1-foot-wide (30cm-wide) shoulder which was entirely rumble strip. Seeing as how this is a ridiculously busy and fast highway with many, many huge trucks on it, and it began raining like crazy, I wasn’t particularly happy about this change. However, after a few more minutes, I came across a car parked on the gravel shoulder and two people waving me down. Turns out they’ve done lots of cycle touring, and had stopped to tell me how to get to the nearby old highway which is much safer for cyclists. I managed to get off Hwy 401 within about half an hour, after being run off the road several times by semi-trailers blasting their air horns right as they came up on me instead of with a bit of warning. Luckily, my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires were able to handle the gravel quite well at 30+ km/h and I was always able to regain the asphalt relatively quickly.

Once on Old Highway 2, cycling was much more enjoyable, even though my destination was 104km from my starting point. I have no idea what this tower is, but it’s old and strange so I took a photo:

Progress toward Kingston – only 77km to go:

I saw a lot of hay fields during my cycling adventures in Eastern Canada, and took photos of many of them for some reason:

Supposedly entering Kingston… in fact, I was quite some distance from the city itself, but at least I had something to look forward to:

I reached Kingston in the late afternoon, managed to arrange a place to stay at the very last minute through with a super nice guy named Will. After a shower and some great conversation, I went to bed (went to couch?) and slept like a baby. Up in the morning again, I refilled my three water bottles and cycled out of Kingston, stopping at Tim Horton‘s for breakfast just outside town. I ended up eating at Tim’s very, very frequently while cycling in the Maritimes and Ontario, and highly recommend it.

My destination on day 2 was a town called Belleville, 83km away. En route, as usual, I took a few photos. Some were from my onboard camera and others from the one in my pocket which I pulled out while moving or stopped, depending on the shot:

Canada’s oldest furniture store, in Napanee, where Avril Lavigne grew up:

More hay:

I took this photo specifically for my friend Sarina, who will understand why it’s funny:

As I was cycling up one straight stretch of the highway, I noticed something in the distance slowly crossing the road. As I neared, I tried to decide what it could be. When I got close enough to see, I realised it was a turtle! By the time I reached it, it had tucked itself into its shell because of several trucks and cars going by, which all just narrowly missed crushing it. I took this photo while still cycling. In Canada, a double-yellow line is the centre line dividing opposing directions of traffic (double means no crossing to overtake). My British friends might otherwise think this is taken curbside, but it’s the middle of the highway:

I pulled off the road and jumped off my bike, let one more truck pass by, then quickly picked the turtle up and carried it to the other side in the direction it had been walking, and put it down a good distance from the road, not far from a small brook. Having shown these photos to more knowledgeable people, it turns out to be a Blanding’s Turtle, a threatened/endangered species! Neat!

Continuing on my journey, more random photos:

I had to sleep in a motel in Belleville, as I couldn’t find any free accommodation, but I did have a nice chat with the girl working at the Pita Pit, so it wasn’t an entirely antisocial evening. In the morning, I set my sights on Cobourg, about 78km away. On the way there I saw a few trains, like this one:

As I was passing CFB Trenton and admiring the huge military aircraft through the fence while cycling alongside, I noticed something in the distance and immediately stopped to take a photo. It’s a groundhog! I tried to get up to the fence to take a better photo but even from a huge distance, the groundhog got scared and shot into its hole almost instantly:

Crossing a bridge:

On the way from Belleville to Cob
ourg, I had to pass through Colborne, which involved a ridiculous uphill I never want to see again. After conquering said hill, I was on my way out of town toward Cobourg when I noticed this fancy old car parked on the side of the road, so I grabbed my pocket camera and took a quick shot as I cycled past:

Not much further on, another fancy old car! I stopped to take this one:

45 minutes later, a bunch of these old cars passed me by (at very slow speeds, mind you), so I again grabbed my pocket camera and took a few shots while trying to keep up with them a bit. This is the back of the second car I saw parked earlier:

And a different one:

I made it to Cobourg before 5pm, found a wireless connection outside near the marina area to check email and find accommodation, but then it began to rain. I quickly zipped everything up and headed to a restaurant with wireless where I had a tasty lunch and found the cheapest motel online. Outside, the rain started coming down in buckets, and hadn’t stopped doing so by the time I finally left. This is the fancy town hall building in ‘downtown’ Cobourg, before the rain got into full swing:

I slept fairly well at the motel, and in the morning was back on the road after another Tim Horton’s breakfast for my fourth and final day of Ontario cycling, heading for Toronto. My tires were a bit low so I got the car mechanics at Canadian Tire to put some air in, as I couldn’t find a petrol station anywhere and my hand-pump only inflates my tires to the bare minimum level.

The trip from Cobourg to Toronto isn’t particularly short – it’s about 113km on the route I took.

You may think this village has erected this sign to welcome people to their area, but in fact the name of the village is Welcome, Ontario. You can find it on any detailed Ontario map, or Google Maps.

I have no idea how/why this double decker bus got into some guy’s field in the middle of nowhere in Ontario, but it’s painted in gold-coloured paint and has Big Ben painted on it.

Car and business nearly colour-coordinated:

I finally entered the outskirts of Toronto after a physically tough day of cycling, and the smell hit me much harder than it has in a couple of past visits to Canada’s biggest city. I often joke about how bad Toronto air is, and I still stand by that, but this last summer there was something making it even worse than normal: a garbage strike.

You think this is a lot of garbage?

Let’s zoom out a bit, now it’s clear that there’s a LOT of garbage:

But if we zoom out even further, it’s possible to see that it’s a REEEEALLY big pile of garbage, and there’s another one to the left!

Aside from the air, the garbage strike (which ended while I was in town), and the terrible condition of many of the city’s roads, I had a great time spending a week in Toronto just looking around and catching up with old friends. More on that in the next post.

Kingston and Ottawa

A few weeks ago a buddy of mine sent out an email to all the students from our first year at the castle in England, asking us to show up April 1st for a few drinks at a pub in Kingston, where most of the castle kids go to Queen’s University. On a whim, I decided I might as well make the trek out east, as I had never managed to go visit my old friends out there and had only seen a few of them since I left the castle three years ago.

I stayed at Bill and Alvin’s place from the 31st to the 3rd. Bill was my roommate in the legendary room B120 in Bader Hall back in our castle days. Alvin was a good friend and student govt president that year.

Bill and Alvin have a really nice foosball table in their house. The players are all the same colour – silver – so it was hard for me to figure out which ones were my team but I got used to it.

The first night I was in Kingston was the formal dinner/dance event for the grads of the year, so a bunch of people were all dressed up when we went and did the rounds of the local residents. Two particularly crazy former Bader residents, now living in Kingston and preparing to go party, were Bunny and Amy.

On the 1st, we headed to Tir Nan Og pub to meet up with old friends. While Bill and Alvin see these people regularly at Queen’s, I was excited to see them all again after so many years. They all looked almost exactly the same as in first year!

Bunny, Bill, Alvin, Janelle, and Christine (I see her all the time at UBC):


Danielle and Lauren (I’ve bumped into her in Vancouver a few times over the years):

Paige, Amanda (visited me in Vancouver and I saw her in Australia), and Emma:

Andrei and Trini:


Bill, aka Beej, Billiam, William, possibly the best roommate ever:


Rob’s little brother, Johnny:

In Kingston I basically just spent the evenings out with friends and the days sleeping and eating… then at 7am yesterday Bill drove me to the bus station and I headed for Ottawa to catch my plane home.

I got to Ottawa at 9am and my flight wasn’t til 4pm so I decided to have a look around. I was in Ottawa in grade 11 for a few days but didn’t get to leave the huge school group I was with to explore on my own. This time I had to figure out the transit system, which luckily is a good system and wasn’t too difficult to use.

Once in the downtown core, I spent about 4 hours walking around. Of course I walked past Parliament, on the first day back in session with the new Harper government:

While I was walking, I looked up and saw a plane carrying a message and laughed my ass off when I realized what it said:

The bell from the old tower is on display outside with a very interesting little description on a plaque:

I then headed down the road, past a memorial to peacekeeping:

I decided to take a tour of the Royal Mint, since the National War Museum was closed (Mondays are not so great in Ottawa). We weren’t allowed to take any photos at all inside the mint. It wasn’t a very interesting tour, but it helped me waste about an hour of my time.

It was a bit cold and somewhat windy, so the less fortunate in town were bundled up quite a bit:

Finally, I caught a bus to the airport, spent a couple hours there reading my book and sleeping, then flew to Calgary which looks like this from the air:

From Calgary I flew to Vancouver on a half empty plane and Dad came to pick me up and drive me home, and that’s the end of my weekend adventure in Ontario.