Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Canada Day in Ottawa

I was waffling a bit on whether on not I would do it. Last Thursday night I stopped my pussyfooting and started packing my bags and preparing my bike for the ride to Ottawa. I would start after work on Friday and arrive by the end of the daytime on Saturday. I wanted to have a good chunk of the long weekend left to enjoy there. I know that sounds all very inaccurate, but I had no strict deadlines.

For specifics: the total trip, as I had mapped it on Google Maps was 392 km (244 miles). I wanted to aim for 140 km on Friday night, leaving an attainable distance of 252 km on Saturday. By “attainable”, I mean based on an average speed of 20 km/h, I would arrive before dark. I really didn’t know if I could physically handle the distance, since I had never done a century ride, or a “metric century” for that matter. My attitude was that if I can ride my bike comfortably for an hour to work, and comfortably ride for 2 or 3 hours around the city, I should be able to handle it for 4 or 6 or 15 hours. (My attitude was adjusted slightly during the ride.)

Lots of the ride involved me hunched over handlebars spinning my feet, admiring the hills to my left and right and fearing the ones ahead. Every 20 to 40 km, I stopped in a General Store for water, gatorade and food. Instead of a linear play by play, I’ll take a Tarantino-like tact (sans-blood) and tell you some of the slightly more interesting parts and let you piece it together.

The big screw ups were on Friday night. Google maps and the gmap-pedometer are wonderful tools, but they have their limitations.

I picked a route using minor roads that quickly degraded from wide paved to narrow paved to dirt. On the bike, this wasn’t a problem at all, and I even liked most of the dirt roads better. On the dirt roads, washboards were rare, and fortunately cars were too. The problem came when I reached the end of a long road, where my route said to turn left, but the sign on my left said “Unimproved Road … only for farm equipment”. I could have turned around and pedaled 6 km out of my way, or use this 2 km road at my own risk.

I decided I would push my bike up the hill and check things out. I got to the top and was happy to be able to ride down the other side of the hill. As I reached the bottom of the hill, the road turned to sand. Not gravel, not dirt, sand. My 700x28c and 700x25c tires were as useless as dress shoes on a hockey player.

At this point I didn't have much choice except to push my loaded bike for the rest of the 2 km through the sand. Being the only big animal around, the swarming mosquitoes were an added bonus. After reaching the end of the sand, I was starting to seriously question my route selection.

Friday night featured some serious low points, but it wasn't all so bad. At one store, a friendly guy in a John Deere cap told me my machine would kill him if he tried it out right now. He had some sore legs from a day of work. When I told him about my ride, he gave me an emphatic "super-dooper". That all it takes to get me moving.

Here's a view looking back at a hill I went down (and climbed up). This was where I reached my top speed on the trip of 71.4 km/h.

As it started to get late, I missed a turn and ended up in the middle of the Ganaraska Forest. The dumb part here was that I didn't believe that I could have missed a turn, and I was sure I had to continue on to look for my turn, even when the road turned to sand, and a couple in an SUV pulled up behind me and recommended I turn back. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking. I have a map. Don't worry about the dark. I have a tent. No really, I'm fine." So I trudged on, walking through the sand for another kilometre before turning around.

I got back on track, and eventually found the town of Millwood, a town that was marked on my provincial map. Picking up a provincial map before the trip was the smartest thing I did.

Major roads were sparse in this area south of Peterborough, and I managed to get lost one more time. When I found a town on the map once again, I immediately looked for a spot for my tent.

Originally, I was hoping to reach a park in Hastings, on the Trent River, where I could set up a tent. I lost interest in this goal. I found a corn field that looked dry and set up on the edge of it.

The grass was soft, but not quite level. Nighttime in a cornfield can be surprisingly noisey. Bugs, frogs, racoons chatting with each other, and the odd car on the gravel road made it difficult to fall asleep. It probably didn't help that my heart was still pumping from getting off my bike 25 minutes earlier.

The Saturday ride had different challenges. I had only completed 115 km of my route on Friday, and I was off track, so I knew I had to do 300 km that day.

I woke up at 5 AM, as soon as the sky started to brighten. Riding a bike a 5:30 AM on empty country roads can't be beat. Rolling over the crest of a hill and down into the next valley, then parting the early morning mist with your front tire is a perfect way to start a day.

I cruised through many small towns that day. Ontario has a lot of small active towns that I don't know anything about. Many have surprisingly large and beautiful brick or stone churches. Unfortunately, I didn't take the time for many photos.

I did take a couple photos of myself though! Here's one of them. I'm the guy with the curved glasses (they make me go fast). The sign says I'm in Ottawa, but there's no sign of a town or city for another 30 or 40 km.

I did eventually complete and survive the ride, but there was one more major low point. This was when I arrived at about the 200 km point for Saturday. I can now conclude that 200 km is my maximum for a day of cycling, and I'd much rather do a bit less.

As Saturday went on, my breathing was getting more difficult, and it seemed to get better when I drank more water. I can guess that I was dehydrated, even though I was drinking a lot of fluid.

So at the Saturday 200 km mark, when I reached the town of Westport, I was exhausted. I bought a big bottle of water, drank a whole bunch and layed down on some soft cushy grass to check my maps. I woke up about 15 or 20 minutes later, hearing a teenager say to his friends "check out this guy!" I raised my head and asked them for directions to Perth.

I arrived in the city of Ottawa just as the dusk turned to dark. You'd think this only happens in movies, but just as I pedalled into the city people were starting to set off their fireworks in their front yards. Really, I was hoping for a marching band, but fireworks are good too.

Here are some numbers:

Total distance - 423 km
Total time (including camping) - 29 hours 5 minutes
Total time (without camping) - 22 hours 5 minutes (includes stops for food, drinks and rest)
Supposed number of calories burned (from bike computer) - 8250.4 cal (I'm still hungry)

Darren J 7/04/2006 12:30:00 AM

26 Comments:

Holy crap, Darren! You rock!

Puts me to shame...I wimped out of riding to Hamilton on Sunday because it was windy and there was a slight chance of rain.
Absolutely amazing! I'm not going to say how you made me feel....What are you, some kind of monster?!

Congrats!
Wow, great job Darren! My personal high is 50 km through the trails of Toronto... I guess my next goal is 100 km. I'll work my way up to accompanying you on your next Ottawa trip. :)
Monster? That's funny. Riding the bike to work is the ultimate training! You don't even need to call it training. I doubt I could have done it 1 year ago.

Working up to those distances would have been more sensible, but I don't know anyone in Belleville or Kingston. :-) Let me know when you're ready, Joe. I think a trip around Lake Simcoe would be a fun goal.

No shame, Vic. I'm sure you could have done it. By the way, I'm pretty sure I had a tailwind for the final 100 km, but don't tell anyone.
Excellent ride , who's corn field??? how'd the mirrow work out ?. and let's do the hair shirt ride on Fixed gear the past ride on a Fixed was 13 hour something.
It was just some corn field. The first place I saw that didn't look swampy. There were trees and long grass on the side, so I just set up my tent in the grass.

The mirror was actually pretty nice. I started to like it a lot, for looking at cars from far away, seeing where they were on the road as they approached. If they didn't start to move left as they got close, I would sit up and look back at them. A couple times I even rolled off into the shoulder because people just seemed too aggressive, but generally that wasn't a problem.

The other thing about the mirror is that shoulder checking is harder when the bike is loaded heavily, and my neck is stiff from sitting in the same position for so long.
just a quik glance at the mirror with your eye's it will soon be easy to do rather then turning your head down it is a good feeling eh knowingyou can see whats comming behind you,, so you going to do the hair shirt ride with me on Fixed Gear??
I'd have to build a fixed gear first! Wait, I just read how far the Hairshirt ride is. You want to do 322 km on a fixed gear? Man, I'll keep it in mind, but I can't promise anything. I'd be more likely to try it on a geared bike, but June 2007 is a long way off.
There can be only one :-) . besides I have to fix the back and train first I am only at 25% of what I used to ride
Holy cow! I am seriously seriously impressed. I may have been um slightly skeptical that you were going to make it when I heard about this plan. Do you find everything is sore now?
Sore: yeah, in lots of places. I finally had the chance to read about your Thursday ride, so I'm sure you know all about it.

My knees were sore until yesterday, but are better now. My leg muscles are still tight. I have some raw and blistered patches of skin from my bike shorts (maybe I should have just stuck with my usual loose soccer shorts). And my big toes are still numb right now. A friend of mine said the toe numbness happened to him and it took months to recover.
Darren ... 'Waydabe'. Very cool.

Next time - and, for anyone else reading this - when the locals give advice/directions ... Take it! They know.

Funny about the swarm of mosquitos. Not funny for you, though.

Healthy Guy.
I love the analogy of your tires going through sand being as effective as dress shoes on a hockey player. Quality imagery! Did you get any blisters on your bum at all? It sounds like a lot of time on a narrow surface area... or were you trying to be obscure about your "raw and blistered patches of skin" and their location
Wow, that's so super. Especially the casual way in which you tell about it. "Oh, well, I thought that if I could ride for an hour then I could also do 450 km in a day or two... yeah, I guess I was right about that." Ha-ha-ha. A great read. And if you really want to, you can have a look here, but it's nothing as super.
Oh, "Anonymous", you're so nice to me. Have we met before?! You ask very pertinent questions about my bum.
Denis, I read about your ride before I left, and thought about it while I was riding late at the night. Flat tires and drunks were also on my mind. As much as I complain about being lost in the middle of nowhere, there's something satisfying about being somewhere entirely unfamiliar, thinking about where to go and what to do next. I guess it's satisfying as long as it all turns out well, like it did for us.
I am in awe. Darren!!! Way to go!
nice ride man!

I group of us are planning a Tour de Lake Simcoe for late this month, maybe you'd like to join!
Wow, that's a helluva ride, especially with gear! As for the chafing, two words:
chammy butter. Feels gross going on, but the wedding tackle area will thank you for it.
Holy cow! I haven't laughed so hard since...a long time. If you want to go a little further you are welcome to head out to Seattle! Free water and place to stay when you get here.
You did look a wee bit exhausted on July 2nd,blister butt etal. Numb toes are a new issue, around here it is numb hands, and the old boy does alot of road riding, or at least he did before we saw you in the Nations Capitol. Vancouver Island is full of hills, long 6 % grade hills, we call them mountains. You should consider putting together a team for the Snow to Surf race every 3rd weekend in April, It starts with down hill skiing, cross country skiing, mountain bike, road bike down hill to road running, to canoeing or kayaking from the top of Mt Washington to the wharf in Comox. Jill could do the frisbee part of the competition, LOL
If you are going to be in Seattle, then why not VI. You know you have a place to pitch tent.
Hi,
you don't know me, but I am planning to bike from Toronto to Ottawa next week. My friend, upon hearing of my plans, sent me a link to your site. So I was wondering, is there anything that you found to be a godsend on the trip, or anything that you really wish you had remembered?
I've never biked quite this far before, so I'm a little nervous, but seeing that it's been done before makes me less apprehensive.
I suppose I should mention that I'll be taking a different route from you: Highway 2/bike paths along the river to Kingston and then up Highway 15.
If you could comment or send advice to khaligo(AT)hotmail(DOT)com, that'd be great.
-David
Darren, would you like to repeat your feat this year ? I would like to join you for that. Please write to : dimabaikov@gmail.com
Thank you, Dmitri
Hey my friends and i are looking to complete the same trip over a couple of days. I was wondering if you could send us the instructions for your route. My email is craig.cox@gmail.com

Cheers,
Craig
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