Montreal to Kingston (and back): No big deal.

My mother recently moved to Kingston, a pretty little town just over 300km south-west of Montreal.  Earlier this month, in a moment of what can only be described as pure badassery, I decided to bike to Kingston.

Luckily for me I didn’t have to work very hard to convince a wheely friend to join me on my epic journey.  Friday morning, bright and not-so-early we were off; paniers packed full of camping essentials snacks and road beers. Despite a few delays, which I blame fully on my traveling companion, I am happy to report we made it off the island in about two hours, which considering my last go, is record time.

The frisbee: A multi-purpose camping essential.

Day 1 took us off the island, into Ontario and finally through to Cornwall (after all, don’t all roads lead to Cornwall?).  We followed the St. Lawrence River the entire way, which happened to take us on the well established and nicely labeled Water-Front Trail.  Had we the time, we could have taken this route all the way past Kingston, wrap around Lake Ontario and end up in Niagara. Maybe next time.

We made it about 20km short of our goal for the day, so instead of setting up camp at a series of islands and green space labeled “Bird Sanctuary” on a map, we settled with a less scenic and more conspicuous campsite on the outskirts of Cornwall.  Here we filtered and drank almost certainly toxic swamp water, and listened to the frogs belt their hearts out all night.

First home: The land of powerlines, frogs, and morning joggers.

The next morning we were greeted by a trio of dogs that wanted to play chase and eat our food.  After saying goodbye we ate a luxurious camping breakfast of coffee and oatmeal, and by sometime around 10am we were finally on our way.

We had made it just to Upper Canada Village, maybe a leisurely two-hour ride from our campsite, when we stopped for an early lunch because we ran into this:

Medieval Festival: Vendors and Performers. Yes, they are real.

So yes, acting every bit the part of Medieval Festival vendors/performers, we sauntering through time to watch knights jousting and village idiots play in the mud.  Also, we bought a pickle from this guy:

Yes sir, we do enjoy your pickle.

Okay, so day 2 saw a slow start and we most definitely did not meet our end goal of Kingston by the end of the day.  Instead we made camp in a beautiful wooded area on the edge of a creek, just outside of Brockville.  Also, I shit you not, we made poutine for dinner.

View from camp.

 After our morning coffee and oatmeal, we set out with high hopes of reaching Kingston by the early afternoon.  The day was hella hot and we got a tad bit turned around and ended up on the highway for a brief time, but by about 1:30pm we came across this:

Oh hey there Kingston, you ain’t so far.

So the sign was a bit of a false advertisement, as we still had about an hour of biking before we finally passed all of the farmland (and hills, holy christ) and found ourselves in beautiful, downtown Kingston.  Here we spent two nights drinking and swimming.  Did I mention that bike trips are tough?

We classy.

 So confession: We severely overslept the day we were supposed to leave, plus it was rainy, so we graciously accepted a ride to the outskirts of Brockville where we made our third camping home on the edge of a large reservoir. It was a little drizzly but we set up a tarp so we could stay outside and enjoy the loons and fireflies.

Campsite #3. By this point we are basically professionals.

Day 6 started out okay, but by the time we reached the tiny town of Cardinal (the water tower puts them on the map) I was the weakest link.  Thankfully we are laid back bicycle tourers (tourists?) and we both agreed that since we were making such good time, we might as well just nap for a couple of hours in the sun. Yup, tough. Here we were, I’m sure, the talk of the town as we were yelled at, offered all kinds of advice and asked on a boat trip.

We reached a series of beautiful islands well before dark, and instead of carrying onwards to Cornwall, we decided to set up an early camp and take advantage of out last night in the wilderness.  Here we were able to add beavers to our list of spotted wildlife, plus we had starry skies all night.

Campsite #4: We win.

We were up and at ’em bright and early, but we are the lazy sort of bike tourers (tourees?) so we spent the entire morning drinking coffee and sunning by the water.  When we finally left at noon (mon dieu) we were convinced that we would not make it back to the island by nightfall.  We did not take into consideration, however, that our legs had become bionic over the past week, and we made it back onto the island well before nightfall. We celebrated our awesomeness (yes, bike touring turns you into a cocky bastard) with poutine and beers.

We also saw goats in a playhouse.

Traveling with a seasoned camper has its benefits.  Thanks to this, I can now add the following to the list of things I know how to do:

1. Bike with my hands almost casually behind my head.

2. Dry my dripping wet shoes overnight (newspaper people, newspaper).

3. Work a camping stove without setting my face on fire.

4. Turn swamp and creek into drinkable water (mostly while playing my new favorite game: Will it Filter?)

5. Camp like a superhero.

Montreal to Ottawa (minus 30km) Holy crap.

It was May long weekend, which also happened to be my birthday weekend, and I wanted to spend it in Ottawa.

When normal people travel to between Ottawa and Montreal, they drive. Or bus. Or maybe take the train.  In what I now consider to be a moment of questionable judgement, I decided it would make a fun (and completely feasible) day-long bicycle ride at just over 200km.  I’ve known people who have done the trip in the past, so no big deal, right?

Wrong.

Thankfully I have an Ottawa-abiding soul mate who shares the same passion for cycling and who so kindly agreed to come meet me half-way.

So it all began at 7:00am on Friday morning.  I packed up my bike with two paniers and my sleeping bag (a tent was to be purchased at our friendly neighborhood Ottawa MEC).  I was on my way and totally invincible -Hawkesbury by 1pm, no problem. The ride started with a tour across the entire south side of the island, which was quaint and beautiful.  For the first dozen kilometres or so, I rode alongside the Lachine Canal, which was fantastic despite the wind being to my face.

Breakfast break.

My self-assurance (and energy) started to dwindle by the third hour, at which point I still had not made it off the island.  Yes, an out of practice cyclist is a slow cyclist. On the bright side, I got to acquaint myself with a handful of Montreal’s boroughs that I would not have visited otherwise: Lasalle, Lachine, Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Beaconsfield, Baie D’urfe and St. Anne.

I was thrilled when I finally reached the bridge and said bye-bye to Montreal.

View from Bridge to l’Ile-Perrot

Once on l’Ile-Perrot I made the first in a series of mistakes and took a wrong turn.  Thankfully this was only a minor setback, and after a quick phone call to my oh-so-patient roomie I was back on track.

Okay, so a quick sidenote to defend my cycle-adventuring honour: I brought two sets of directions with me on this trip.  The first set was acquired from what I now know to be a less-than-reliable fellow blogger.  The second set was mapped out by yours truly on almighty Google.  I figured with two sets of instructions I could not go wrong, and at the first sign of trouble I would nip into a depanneur and purchase a road map (smartphones, huh?).  I was foiled on two fronts. First, I opted to go with the shoddy blogger directions that took me on unnecessary detours and conveniently omitted important turns.  Second, while stores in little Quebec towns do carry maps, they don’t see the necessity of carrying interprovincial maps.  Lucky for me, I have a man in Montreal who works near a computer and agreed to be my long-distance navigator (in shining armor).

Bicycle lawn decorations.

Needless to say I showed up in Hawkesbury several hours later than scheduled, leaving my travel companion to cafe and curb hop (because everything in Hawkesbury closes at 2:30pm, apparently). The second half of the trip was a hundred times more pleasant and starry, despite a few minor setbacks (ie. finding ourselves on the side of the highway for several kilometres).  We reached the outskirts of Ottawa around midnight, and instead of chance the bike paths so late at night we hailed a van-cab to take us the rest of the way home.

 Paying no attention to our bike-ride fatigue, we finished the night off with champagne and plans to bike a simple 40km to Wakefield the next am.

Superheroes

Important lessons?

1. I am not cut-out for solo bike journeys.

2. 200km is too far for one day

3. Think about a smart phone.

This is how I roll.