Monday, May 25, 2009

To Barrie and Back

Last Monday I came home to find a message from my nephew Kieran on the answering machine. "Hi Uncle Apple. [For this is what he calls me.] Umm, I learned to ride a two-wheeler. (Pause) That's, ah, pretty much it. (Pause) Okay bye."

Well, this was exciting news. And what's more, my mother was planning on visiting my sister in Barrie that coming weekend to buy Kieran a proper-fitting bicycle. Naturally I wanted to be part of the "two-wheeler-riding" celebration.

Since Barrie lies almost exactly 100km north of my front door, I thought I would ride there and back. Ideally, I would have avoided the monotony and general unpleasantness of riding out of the city, but our city's terrible weekend transit service meant that no buses ran until after 9am. So I woke up at 6am and was on the road at 7.00.

Nishiki, groggily allowing himself to be photographed. My camera needed to use its flash to make this picture turn out, and the flash woke my neighbour. Moments later, she gazed sleepily out her window and asked me if there was a thunder storm, and why I was looking in her window.

My route took me along Bloor to Dundas, which I travelled northwest to Weston Rd., onetime home of CCM Bicycles. Here I am at the corner of Weston and Eglinton.

Weston eventually joined up with Jane St., which was to take me all the way to Barrie. Here I am at the notorious corner of Jane and Finch, which actually looks quite a bit nicer that you'd expect.

It certainly has a lot more character than dreadful Vaughan, the low point of the ride. Not even Canada's Wonderland can save this odious stretch of "exurban" wasteland.

The best thing about Vaughan for the passing cyclist: its end. As soon as you pass Teston Rd. you're in the verdant pastoral glory of Jane St. south of the Holland Marsh.

This is quite literally two blocks north of Teston, with only that hydro pole support to remind us of the horrors four blocks south.

It had rained the night before, and the countryside was in all its late-spring glory.

Jane St. south of the Holland Marsh has this very wide paved shoulder, which is nicer than most bike lanes. Unfortunately, a 25km/h headwind somewhat impeded my enjoyment of it.

This wind was felt dramatically in the peculiar, flat, and rich-soiled Holland Marsh, where I saw a hummingbird.

Having negotiated the tangle of roads north of the Marsh, I was on my way once again on 10th Sideroad. The stretch from here to Barrie isn't as pleasant as the road to the south, but the terrain is rolling and very fun.

The rolling, not-as-lush landscape.

After four and a half hours of battling the headwind, I arrived in Barrie and was immediately fed and taken bike shopping. I wanted to buy Kieran's bike from a local bike shop that once gave me a free replacement for a stripped seatpost clamp bolt, but sadly it was closed on this Sunday. So we went to Canadian Tire, and Kieran got a Supercycle. I wanted something without suspension, but the only one that fit him had a suspension fork. His bike has a single front chainring with a guard only on the outside. Sure enough, during pre-ride fiddling, the chain came off the ring. If only he had some double guards à la Alan! Here is Kieran on his bike, my sister with my mom's bike, my brother-in-law on my sister's bike (with Ronan and India in the trailer), and me in my civilian clothes on Nishiki.

As I rode around the schoolyard with Kieran, he asked me, " 'Bi-' means 'two,' right? So 'bi-cycle' means two wheels, right?" He is a lad after my own heart! Here I am about to set off back home, which I did after some more eating and playing with Ronan and India (the former pictured behind.)

The ride home was glorious, thanks mostly to the 25km/h tailwind. I spent nearly the whole ride in my 46x15. I switched the route up a bit and rode back on 5th Sideroad, which follows Hwy 400 on the west rather than the east as Jane does.

It seemed like all the hills were descents on 5th Sideroad...

This one hill was long and gradual—a rare thing in Ontario! I will definitely ride 5th Sideroad north of the Holland Marsh from now on: it's quieter and prettier than the same stretch of Jane. But I do fear all the climbing in the other direction!

At the turn on to a far more northerly stretch of Weston Rd., the flags indicate my strong tailwind...

"Civilization" visible in the distance... On the run-in to dreaded Vaughan the road is smooth and slightly inclining. Combined with the tailwind, I was spinning out my 46x13 and probably travelling at about 40km/h. The tailwind cut an hour from my riding time on the way back.

Rather than riding down a clogged Jane St., I turned left at Steeles and right at Dufferin and came eventually to the Downsview subway stop. I was very happy to get away from the cycling-unfriendly northern stretches of the city.

And now, having written this post, I'm excited to ride once again the roads to Barrie!

1 comment:

Bronwyn said...

I am so happy that you enjoyed the roads to and from Barrie. I can selfishly say that I hope you make the trip again very soon! Kieran continues to love his new bike. Maybe next time the alpacas & llamas will come out of the barn to say hello along Highway 5. :)