Saturday, August 31, 2013

So, That Was Interesting

I took my cycling trip last week. I made it from Montreal to Ottawa, and then back to Toronto, just not quite how I had planned.

Montreal was fantastic. I'd only been once or twice before, and the last time I think I was still in high school, and was there for one of my brother's soccer tournaments. Also, since I'd last been to Montreal I've been to Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Halifax, as well as countless smaller Canadian cities and a few American ones as well. I may have written here before, but as much as I loved some of those cities (particularly Vancouver, Victoria, and Halifax) and would be happy to live there, none of them ever felt close to the same size as Toronto. Even Vancouver, which truly is a big city in relative terms, is only about half the size of Toronto, and felt every bit that way.

Montreal, however, was a completely different story. Montreal felt like a big city, comparable to Toronto. Unlike Toronto, Montreal has done a fantastic job of preserving its history and historic areas, which I really appreciated. There are bike paths everywhere in the downtown, and drivers go out of there way to stop for cyclists. The city felt vibrant and alive, and it felt big without feeling like it was trying to be a big city when it wasn't, a vibe I get from some places (Ottawa, being a prime example). When I eventually left, it took me hours to cycle through all the suburbs to get out. The saddest part for me was that I don't have a good reason to go back any time soon.

After two days in Montreal, I set out bright and early on my bike toward Ottawa. The first day, it poured with rain. I got absolutely drenched. It wasn't as awful as I thought it could be, and I wasn't miserable, but I was wet and uncomfortable. It also rained all evening, which had me going to bed at 9:30 after eating soggy freeze dried mac and cheese in the rain. I made it just under 100 km on the first day, going from Montreal to Voyageur Provincial Park. The campsite was beautiful, particularly in the morning when the sun came up. I was situated right on the side of the Ottawa River, and it was very scenic.


The second day, I covered a lot more ground. I left the park bright and early again, and rode the entire Prescott-Russell Trail and Trail link, more than 100 km. The trail is along a Via rail rail-bed through rural Ontario; I saw an awful lot of cows and corn. I didn't realize that the trail doesn't really cross any towns, and while I brought two water bottles, 100 km is a long way on a hot day. By the time I reached the outskirts of Ottawa I had long run dry, and I stopped at the first place I could buy water to load up. Lesson learned: never count on finding water.

I continued through Ottawa, cycling through some decrepit industrial parks, as well as a beautiful section along the Rideau Canal and then an extended stretch along the Ottawa River. My campground was on the far side of Ottawa, in Nepean, Ontario. In all, I cycled over 140 km, which took me over eight and a half hours, under heavy load. I am actually really proud of that mark; it was really tough and I don't anticipate breaking it any time soon. I think I could have gone further, if I'd had to, but I don't know how much further.

Unfortunately, I wasn't given a choice about stopping. About a kilometer outside my destination, my chain jammed, and my rear derailleur folded like a cheap suit and snapped, taking my chain with it. My chain I could have fixed, but the derailleur was done, and without it so was I. Putting my bike in fixed gear for 350+ km simply wasn't an option. I camped overnight, and in the morning I was forced to call my parents to get me.

It was an incredibly disappointing end, but I'm glad that I at least made it as far as Ottawa. I did have a really great time in the short period I was cycling, and I can't wait to try another trip next year. I've got another overnight trip planned for this weekend to Emily Provincial Park, about 100 km away, but that's it until next year. I'm thinking that in the spring, after beefing up some of my bike components, I might try and make it to Ottawa from Toronto and back again. We'll see.

I spent the next day in Ottawa with my parents, before heading back to Toronto. One nice perk was that I was able to make an extra run into Quebec and pick up some beer, where it's far cheaper. Between that and Montreal, I brought home quite a haul:


Of course, in a couple of weeks when I have to quit drinking for a month for my marathon training, this pile will be teasing me every day.

I also had something else exciting happen over this trip. I was offered, and accepted, a position as a Project Coordinator at University of Toronto Scarborough, my former school. I start next week, but from what I understand, I'll be primarily coordinating undergraduate fieldwork. I'm really excited about this, and I can't wait to get going.

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