Western Ontario Cycle Tour

June 28th to July 4th, 2011

This is the story of a cycle tour through Simcoe, Grey, and Bruce counties in western Ontario, and on Manitoulin Island. The trip spanned the Canada Day weekend in 2011.

Doug sent updates to Twitter as we progressed on the tour, starting with this one. There are links to them in each day's summary below. Most of the tweets are geo-tagged, but there are a few that didn't get tagged, and a few that were queued while we were in areas with no mobile coverage, so they are geo-tagged with the location they were sent from, not where they were written.

This is a work in progress, with sections being added as time and motivation permit. The page footer shows the date of the last update.

Barrie to Southampton

Tuesday 28-June-2011

Distance:201 km
Time:9:47 rolling, 12:10 total
Climbing:5355 ft
Tweets:Morning coffee, lunch, afternoon coffee, day summary

Up at 06:15. Breakfast with Doug's mom and dad. Put the wheels on the bikes, loaded them up with our rack packs and a small pannier each, and did some final tweaks before we hit the road at 07:20. We had stored the bike frames overnight in the back of the car to avoid the condo rules that prohibit bikes in suites.

The weather was warm with a mixture of sun and clouds. The west wind that became the defining feature of the day's ride was present from the start. We had an easy ride out of Barrie on Sunnidale road, through Angus, and into Creemore where we stopped for lattés and butter tarts at a bakery on the main street, not far from Creemore Springs brewery.

Southampton to South Baymouth

Wednesday 29-June-2011

Distance:122 km
Time:5:30 rolling, 7:45 total
Climbing:1910 ft
Tweets:Breakfast, lunch, dinner, day summary

Up at 06:30. Tea (because the only coffee in the room was decaf) and cold pizza (left over from the night before) for 1st breakfast. On the road at 07:55 after cleaning and lubing the chains. Temperature was about 10°C, sky was overcast, and the wind was still blowing quite strongly from the west and northwest.

Rode to Sauble Beach for a real breakfast at Eggs and Omelettes. The ham omelette was a grilled ham steak wrapped in a 3-egg omelette - yahoo! Doug's perspective on ham omelettes has been changed forever!

From Sauble Beach we rode along the lakefront to Sauble Falls and then Oliphant. The lakefront near Oliphant is a marshy beach that almost looks like tidal flats. Somewhere along the way rifts of blue sky began to appear in the clouds. We turned inland and had a few kilometers of benefit from the wind. By the time we reached Mar on Hwy 6 the sun was shining and the temperature was well over 15°C.

Hwy 6 northbound from Mar to near Lion's Head was windy, but with a good paved shoulder. One farm we passed had 3 wind turbines. Slogging along into the wind provided plenty of time to think about the signs we'd seen the previous day, "Hello Turbines, Goodbye Tourists". We're tourists, and we have no objection to wind turbines; in fact, they are pretty cool, and it's hard not to keep looking at them. We felt this way in Ontario, and we felt the same in Brittany in 2006 where most of the ridge lines are topped with half a dozen wind turbines. People who live a high energy consumption rural lifestyle (especially the ones who live on unfarmed acreages) but object to having any source of the energy that supports their lifestyle anywhere nearby are living a pretty hypocritical life - to say nothing of an ultimately unsustainable one.

Another farm we passed had a bull that clearly knows when he is being photographed. He watched Doug stop on the roadside, turned to pose like a perfect show-beast when Doug raised the camera, and turned back to watch when the camera was lowered.

We had an excellent lunch of iced coffee and grilled tomato and cheddar sandwiches at the Cross Roads Café. After lunch we left the highway for a brief respite out of the wind on the back roads that loop through Stokes Bay.

The rest of the ride to Tobermory was on Hwy 6 with a brief stop at a store near Miller Lake. We had more wind, and inexplicably grooved pavement in the bike lane, but not in the adjacent motor vehicle lane. We arrived in Tobermory just as the 15:40 ferry was leaving, but we hadn't really expected to make that sailing anyway.

We spent a pleasant few hours wandering around town, and having Georgian Bay whitefish and chips, beer, and cider on the deck at The Fish & Chips Place. Then we returned to the ferry ticket booth and were in the boarding area for the 20:00 sailing at shortly after 19:00. The crossing to Manitoulin Island aboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun was smooth with a nice sunset, and great butter tarts. Looking at the various historical displays on the ferry, Doug concluded that his last crossing in 1967 was on one of the now retired vessels Norisle or Norgoma.

We had a little difficulty finding our lodging for the night at the Wigwam Motel because we didn't expect it to be literally across the street from the ferry ramp.

South Baymouth to Gore Bay

Thursday 30-June-2011

Distance:114 km
Time:5:00 rolling, 7:00 total
Climbing:1960 ft
Tweets:Lunch, where we went, day summary

Gore Bay to Sheguiandah via Whitefish Falls

Friday 1-July-2011

Canada Day and Susan's Promotion to Full Profressor!

Distance:140 km
Time:6:40 rolling, 8:45 total
Climbing:3564 ft
Tweets:Lunch, La Cloche Mountains, day summary

Up at 06:30 for breakfast at 07:00. Joyce made Belgian waffles with strawberries, pineapple, maple syrup, whipped cream, and peameal bacon for us. Really good, strong coffee made by Bob with beans from Manitoulin Chocolate Works in Kagawong.

On the road at 08:25 with a brief stop at the Marine Hardware to try to find a replacement for the rack bolt Susan lost on Thursday - no luck. Gore Bay was getting set up for Canada Day celebrations as we rode through town.

The day was bright, sunny and warm, and wind remained from the west, but now we had it behind us and had a great tailwind run to Kagawong where we were too early for a stop at Manitoulin Chocolate Works, so we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls instead, and then topped up our bottles at the convenience store across the road.

Onward we went to M'Chigeeng (formerly known as West Bay) where we decided to leave a visit to the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation for Saturday and continue on to Little Current and Whitefish Falls. Leaving M'Chigeeng, we climbed up on to one of the pieces of the Niagara Escarpment that pokes up in various places on Manitoulin Island.

Sheguiandah to Tobermory via M'Chigeeng

Saturday 2-July-2011

Distance:80 km
Time:4:15 rolling, 4:30 total
Climbing:2100 ft
Tweets:M'Chigeeng, day summary

Up at 06:30. Yogurt, fresh strawberries, blueberry pancakes, sausages, and maple syrup for breakfast.

Thunder, lightening, and sprinkles of rain during breakfast had us a little nervous as we hit the road at 08:00, but the road was dry a few hundred metres after we turned off Hwy 6, and the thunder and lightening had moved off to the east. The humidity was still very high as we stopped to read the historical information signs on almost every building in Sheguiandah. We kept the pace easy as we rode over the escarpment to M'Chigeeng. By the time we got there the sun had come out, but the humidity remained very high.

Had coffee and butter tarts at Maggie's Café, then visited the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation. There we saw:

We bought 2 of the acrylic paintings, Winter Raven 1 and 2. They were nearly fresh off the easel, having been painted in May and June of 2011. According to the exhibit prgram, they are sketches, for a larger piece that the artist is working on.

After a really enjoyable couple of hours at the Foundation, and having arranged to have the paintings shipped to Vancouver, we went back to Maggie's for lunch. After lunch the temperature was up to 26°C and the humidity remained high. Susan lead us on a route south and east that mostly avoided the highways, but took us on some very rough roads (foreshadowing Sunday afternoon?). We took a break to cool our feet in Lake Manitou before continuing toward South Baymouth on an unpaved road that was smoother at times than the highways had been.

Tobermory to Meaford

Sunday 3-July-2011

Distance:185 km
Time:8:33 rolling, 11:00 total
Climbing:4200 ft
Tweets:Dinner, day summary

Meaford to Barrie

Monday 4-July-2011

Distance:118 km
Time:6:35 rolling, 9:30 total
Climbing:1873 ft
Tweets:Memories, morning coffee, afternoon snack, day summary, cracked stem

Up at 06:30 and rode down Sykes St to find that Suzie's, the early breakfast spot in Meaford, is closed on Mondays. Rode past Doug's paternal grandmother's old house and Christ Church Anglican on Boucher St, and on to the Georgian Trail.

The Georgian Trail is a rail-trail conversion that was opened in 1989. Although Doug remembered most of the railway crossing in Meaford he had never travelled along the railway line, so it was interesting to discover what route it took to get up the hill south of town. A slight detour off the trail took us to Tim Hortons for the only other option in town for coffee and breakfast.

We were back on the trail by 08:30 but stopped at the Lakeview Cemetery to find Doug's family's plots. We found 2 of the 3 headstones, one Latornell, and one Montgomery but Doug couldn't remember the location of the other, older Latornell plot. We took photos of the headstones as a record of Doug's ancestors and their birth and death dates.

A short distance further down the Georgian Trail had us passing through the lots that were the farm where Doug's father grew up. They are no longer being farmed and have reverted to a mixture of grass, shrubs and trees. We stopped to record waypoints on Susan's GPS and take photographs at 2 location that looked like possible crossing points for a side-trail from the Georgian Trail to the top of the Clay Banks overlooking Georgian Bay. The Grey County Conservation Authority ?? is proposing to build the side-trail and name it in honour of Doug's uncle Arthur, a soil and water conservation authority who worked for the government of Ontario.

We continued along the Georgian Trail through the Lora Bay golf development at Christie Beach, and into Thornbury where we had a brief stop at the harbour. In contrast to the smooth, hard surface of the trail north and south of Thornbury the section in town deviated from the old rail-bed and wound through parks, neighbourhoods, and industrial areas until we crossed Hwy 26. From there to Collingwood we rolled along the trail at a leisurely pace, chatting.

The return to traffic filled roads in Collingwood was a bit of a shock after 32 km of rail-trail. We remedied it with a detour through residential streets and a stop for excellent lattés and cake at Espresso Post on Hurontario St at 3rd St. More busy roads, residential streets, and a trail along the Pretty River eventually got us around the torn up Poplar Sideroad and on the the 6th Line to Batteaux where Doug's mother grew up.

At Batteaux we stopped again to explore the graveyard at the church and photographed the Robinson and Whiteside headstones on the plots of Doug's mother's relatives.

After Batteaux we called in at Doug's cousin's farm on the Collingwood Airport Rd but they were not at the house. Next step was for lunch at the Lorna Dune ice cream shop, one of Doug's maternal grandmother's favourite stops on "Sunday drives". The soft ice cream didn't taste quite as creamy as rich as Doug remembers, but the large size cone really was large!

Onward through Wasaga Beach staying off the busy Mosely St as much as possible, we visited the very sandy beach, and one of the oxbow bends of the Nottawasaga River. At one point the river flows parallel to the Georgian Bay shorline that it eventually empties into despite being less than 100 m from the Bay.