Kingston to Cobourg, Day 2: Blow the man down!

The Millennium Trail in Prince Edward County.

The Millennium Trail in Prince Edward County.

Nothing gets you going in the morning like a hearty French toast breakfast, and Magnolia Meadows host Isabelle didn’t disappoint. An hour after polishing off a stack of French toast, a pot of tea, and a glass of juice, I was ready to hit the road again on Day 2 of my mid-July ride from Kingston to East Dodgeville. It was just a bit cooler than it had been the previous day, but still uncomfortably hot as I got underway shortly after 10 a.m. But the killer this day wasn’t the heat or the humidity; it was the wind. Blowing briskly from the west at a steady 40 km/h (and gusting to 60 km/h), Old Man Wind’r would be my nemesis for the next few hours as my route took me straight into his gaping maw.

The Friday ride was to start with a short stretch along the main rail trail in Prince Edward County, the Millennium Trail, before moving onto local roads for the majority of the ride into Cobourg. I joined the trail a short distance north of the B&B. I’ve shared trails with dirt bikes, ATVs, and even full-sized touring motorcycles, but this was the first time I’ve ever had to share a rail trail with golf carts: in Wellington, the trail goes through a golf course and carts zip onto the trail for short distances to get to the next hole. Fortunately, it only takes a couple of minutes to get past the course and I only saw a couple of carts.

A causeway carries the Millennium Trail across a lake.

A causeway carries the Millennium Trail across Consecon Lake. I hope there’s a bridge at the far end.

This day’s route called for me to stay on the rail trail for 3-4 km and then venture back onto the roads for the rest of the day. But with the open road came my first taste of the headwind that would bedevil me for the rest of the day. After a few minutes, I scurried back to the trail and the sheltering vegetation lining both sides and keeping the wind to a minimum. Although the trail surface varied from smooth limestone dust to sandy double track and large gravel, it was far easier to maintain a good pace on the rail trail than to battle the wind.

Being beaten back to the trail turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the Millennium Trail was easily the best part of the ride on either day. The wind was controlled, the scenery beautiful, and the trail was wholly deserted: I didn’t encounter a single person on the trail after I passed the golf course on my way out of Wellington.

The only problem: at one point, my GPS and my printed Google maps disagreed over whether the trail continued across a bridge over Consecon Lake up ahead. Should I keep going on the trail or return to the road grid to get around this potential dead end? I decided that I’d rather have to double back on the trail than ride on the road if I didn’t absolutely need to, so up the trail I went. In the end, Google was right: the trail followed a causeway out across Consecon Lake and an old bridge did indeed span the gap that my GPS showed. And the bridge was a little more confidence inspiring than it was in 2004.

Most of the Millennium Trail isn’t in good enough condition for casual cyclists on hybrid or city bikes, but it’s a easily ridable on anything with wider tires. It was a pleasure to ride on a front-suspension mountain bike, but rigid forks and well-padded gloves would have done just as well. The entire trail northwest from Wellington is a great ride. Next time, I’ll ride it all the way from the eastern end of the County in Picton. But all good rail trails must come to an end and I rejoined the road to cross the western end of the Murray Canal outside Brighton. Away from the busy Loyalist Parkway, the crossing at this end of the canal is much quieter and allows you to skirt Brighton rather than going through the town on major streets. Highly recommended for all cyclists riding between Wellingon and Presqu’ile. Unfortunately on this day, with the open road came the fierce wind and the afternoon heat, kilometre by kilometre sapping my will to ride.

Lone jogger on a hot road

From the closed bridge on Barnes Road, a lone jogger plods down the deserted and very hot road.

I rode through the south end of Brighton, past Presqu’ile Provincial Park and toward Cobourg, my target for the day. I wanted to stick as close to the lake for as long as possible before joining the main road to Cobourg, so I took a chance when I saw a “bridge closed” sign directing me up to the highway as a detour. It meant I’d be rolling the dice for a second time in one day on a potentially non-existent bridge, but what the hell; at least I’d have a tailwind for a few minutes if I had to backtrack. Two and a half kilometres after the sign, a gravel barrier blocked vehicular access to the railway overpass on Barnes Road, but it was obviously still well-used by pedestrians. I hefted my bike over the pile of gravel and sat down for lunch on the bridge, just a few hundred metres short of the road to Cobourg.

At this point, it was clear that finishing the ride all the way to Cobourg would be a serious challenge. Although this day’s ride was planned to be around 25 km shorter than the previous day’s, the wind was taking so much out of me that it might as well have been 50 km longer. As I turned onto the main road west to Cobourg and back into the full-on headwind, I knew I was defeated. I slogged through Salem, Colborne, and Wicklow before finally succumbing to the heat and wind at Grafton, calling Risa to pick me up about 15 km short of our planned meeting place in downtown Cobourg. By that time, my pace had been slowing down so steadily that my GPS had been declaring Cobourg to be just an hour away for the previous 45 minutes.

I’d definitely do the entire ride again if I had the chance, but I’d order up cooler weather and a much lighter breeze next time. And barring that, I’d head east with the wind, rather than west into it. That said, I highly recommend the entire route I took. I’d make more detours with more time and more bike-friendly weather, but the route was an excellent combination of being away from traffic on backroads and quiet trails, together with scenic highways when necessary. If I’d been on a road bike, I would have had to stick a little closer to civilization for most of the second day. It’s one reason that I like doing tours on my mountain bike: it can be a bit more challenging if I’m just riding along paved roads, but it gives me a lot more freedom when it comes to selecting a route and making detours along the way.

I bracketed this ride with a bus trip to Kingston and a car pickup in Cobourg, but the trip could just as easily have started with a train ride to Kingston and ended at the Cobourg VIA station for a ride back to Toronto. Or add an overnight stay in Cobourg and a third day of riding to the GO bus in Newcastle or GO train in Oshawa.

The gallery from the ride is below the fold.


Read More …

Kingston to Cobourg, Day 1: Hot, hot, hot!


Finkle's Shore Park on the Loyalist Parkway

Finkle’s Shore Park on the Loyalist Parkway west of Bath.

I have a piece of advice for anyone thinking about doing a two-day bike tour: make sure that the humidex is below 40°C on the first day and don’t opt for a cooling breeze in the form of a constant 45 km/h headwind—gusting to over 60 km/h—to make the second day easier going. If you are unable to arrange either of these things, you’ll end up with my two-day ride from Kingston to Cobourg last month: withering heat one day, and withering heat plus an energy-sapping headwind the next. Although I highly recommend the route and had a very enjoyable ride, the weather made it much more challenging than it would have been otherwise. Between the heat radiating off the baking asphalt and fierce headwinds pushing me back up hills I’d just fought my way down, “brutal” was the word that came to mind—and frustrated lips—on several occasions over the two days.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was in Kingston for a conference last month, which coincided with the beginning of my vacation. I decided to bring my bike on the bus with me from Toronto and make the return trip into a short bike tour from Kingston to East Dodgeville.  And so I found myself pushing a loaded bike away from the curb in downtown Kingston late one sunny Thursday morning in July. The humidex was already pushing 40° but I had plenty of water, food for two meals on the road, and a number of planned stops before I’d roll into my B&B in Wellington a few hours later. The day started to unravel just ten minutes later, when I found myself desperately seeking a shade tree where I could fix my flat tire out of the burning sun.

By the time I’d swapped out the old tube and found the culprit—damn you, staple!—I’d lost half an hour and a good deal of energy. Mini-pumps are great, but 100 strokes for every 10 PSI can take a lot out of you. The rough start was forgotten once I got back onto the road and left Kingston behind. My first-day route to Wellington in Prince Edward County mostly followed the waterfront, but I ventured away from Lake Ontario for a while to visit the abandoned Ernestown station. That inland jog was where I really started feeling the heat. It wasn’t so bad as long as I was moving and had a bit of a breeze in my face, but the first time I stopped to take a picture it was like I’d stepped into an oven. I almost leapt back onto the saddle to get moving again. I had originally planned to stay inland inland for a few more kilometres from Ernestown, but I decided to bust it straight back down to the water, hoping it might be a bit cooler along the lake. That little breeze off Lake Ontario is what kept me going for the next couple of hours.

When they say that this is a shore road, they're not kidding. There's basically nothing between the road and the water except that guardrail.

When they say that this is a shore road, they’re not kidding. There’s basically nothing between the road and the water except that guardrail and a thin layer of gabardine.

Google defaults to suggesting a route from  Kingston to Cobourg farther inland through Napanee and Belleville, but I opted for the Waterfront Trail/Loyalist Parkway to Adolphustown, across the Glenora ferry, and through Prince Edward County. Once you pass Bath outside Kingston, traffic on the road is relatively light. After you pass the road that goes north to Napanee, the final 20 km or so along the peninsula to the ferry is very quiet. So much so that eventually you realize that if the ferry isn’t running for some reason, you’ve got a long, lonely ride back to civilization. Check the schedule and ferry status before you leave!

Fortunately, the ferry runs often enough in the summer months that wait times are minimal. And once you cross into Prince Edward County, you’ve got many choices for riding: the main road and a rail trail both lead directly into Wellington, or you can tootle away on the grid of backroads if that’s your thing. I’d have been happy to spend more time exploring the options, but by the time I got into The County, it felt like my shirt had melted into my skin and I just wanted to have a cool shower and a sit-down dinner, in that order. Did I mention that it was hot? It was hot!

I rolled up to Magnolia Meadows, a B&B that I’d found via the Welcome Cyclists website, early on Thursday evening. My hosts, Bob and Isabelle, were friendly and accommodating, storing my bike safely in the garage overnight. Isabelle makes a mean breakfast, but I’ll get to that in my next post.

There’s just one thing about Wellington: this tourist town rolls up for the night very early by Toronto standards: by the time I headed out for dinner at 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, still almost an hour before sunset, only one restaurant and a convenience store were open. Even the grocery store was closed up tight. The restaurant where Risa and I have eaten dinner on previous visits now features a sign saying that it closes for the day at 3 p.m. Crazy! But there’s good(?) news for the scene in Wellington: the Drake will soon be opening the Drake Devonshire Inn for all of the hipster day-trippers and overnighters who ride their fixies from Toronto. I mock, but it would have been nice to have an extra choice for dinner somewhere between pork tenderloin at the pricey East and Main, or potato chips from the convenience store. East and Main was good, but busy enough that you’d think that a town that caters to tourists and sports a dozen B&Bs could support at least two restaurants open past 6 p.m. during the summer. I couldn’t get an ice cream at 9:30 because even the convenience store was closed by then. Did I mention that it was hot?

But enough bellyaching. Check out the gallery from Day 1 below the fold. Coming up next: Day 2: Blow the man down!

Read More …

Dodgeville’s fifth

Mural on a garage overlooking a parking lot

I published my first public post on this blog five years ago today. Writing a blog always struck me as kind of a funny thing to do, so I always wanted to have fun with it. My work largely requires me to fix problems (occasionally of my own creation) on relatively short timelines so I’m used to quickly identifying issues and researching solutions to the various technical absurdities and contradictions that I encounter. I suppose that mindset translates into my Dodgeville ramblings as well. In a lot of ways, updating Dodgeville is a release valve, a way to get something off my chest or to put aside some other problem for a few minutes while I slap together a post. Although I write primarily for my own enjoyment, I greatly appreciate that you, my loyal half-dozens of readers, accompany me on my journeys through the city, the countryside, and the boxes in my basement.

The topics I cover are frequently hyper-local and the posts often more detailed than necessary. Indeed, something as minor as repaving of a road around the corner from my house merited a grand total of six posts (so far) examining the results. A big empty field has been the subject of three recent posts. And on days when I’m too lazy to go outside, I just write about random things I pull out of boxes in the basement. I’ve sometimes thought about resubtitling Dodgeville from “Random wanderings and wonderings” to “Stuff within a five-minute walk of my house and sometimes not even that far.”

One of the eternally frustrating things about blogging is having too many things to cover and not nearly enough time to write about them all. So my digital archives slowly fill with clippings, links, pictures, snippets of potential posts, research reminders, and large projects that just haven’t come together yet. Some of those projects have been hanging around on my to-do list since 1994, waiting for technology to advance to the point that I’ll be able to do justice to my vision. One project idea that I had in 2006 will finally be coming to fruition this summer. Many others continue to bide their time, already born of my 1% inspiration and awaiting my 99% perspiration. Still other posts await because they were no longer timely when I finally got around to writing them, but will almost certainly be topical again at some point. Yet more ideas never made it into the serious consideration stage, including Bruise of the Week, Grave of the Month, and The Daily Sock. Consider yourselves lucky.

It’s been three years since I did one of these anniversary posts, so rather than going back and picking out my favourite posts since then, I’m going to put up a short gallery of a few interesting pictures that never made it into full posts for one reason or another. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you accompany me for another year of wanderings, amusement, outrage, and signs. Always more signs.

Check out the random gallery below the fold.

Read More …