Sunday, August 17, 2008

peterborough to kingston by bicycle - day two

after arriving in cobourg at my parent’s home, i showered and generally organized myself prior to a lovely dinner of fish and chips after which my dad and i each appreciatively downed a tankhouse ale. tankhouse is brewed by the good people at mill street brewery down in toronto. they have crafted something that is truly stupendous and has won them several awards. the beer itself is dark and rich and filled with an indescribable range of flavours the sum of which is something that surely ranks as one of the best i've ever tasted. an evening of reminiscing ended all too soon for me but my body needed to recharge, more from the expenditure of nervous energy than physical energy. sleep, as i was to find on every night of my journey, came after a couple of hours of tossing and turning. the previous day and the forthcoming day were front-and-centre in my mind.

waking up in my parent’s home i was treated to some of my mum and dad’s lovely whiskey marmalade spread on some fantastic whole grain bread and pumped down with some splendid coffee that my dad gets from birds and beans. birds and beans are an online coffee retailer who sell organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee. if this matters to you then here’s more of the skinny on the story behind the fantastic coffee these people sell: “all of the raw coffee we purchase is certified organic, shade grown and is fairly traded. where possible, we purchase coffees that are fair trade, bird friendly and/or rainforest alliance certified. all of our decaffeinated coffees are decaffeinated using the 100% chemical free swiss water process.” they appear to ship anywhere so have a look at them if you wish.

i know that for most, being politically correct about what we eat and drink is of no consequence. my own feeling is that where possible if you can make a choice that helps make other people’s lives better, protects our environment, and provides your own body with good food or drink then as a small act of quality it carries weight in the larger world.

so sufficiently and tastily fueled, i filled my water bottles and said my goodbyes. at the bottom of the street i took a picture of myself with my helmet tipping sideways - stylish as usual! . . . looked out across the lake

and so to begin another beautiful day although it was suggested in the weather forecast that i might be heading into some thunderstorms later in the day. i haven’t spent much time looking around cobourg as my visits there have been primarily familial. cobourg is typical of most smaller cities in ontario in that it has a much older town centre surrounded by subdivisions with the requisite mall, small convenience shops and then countryside. it is situated right next to lake ontario and is blessed with a beautiful beach that people from all over come to spend a day at.

cobourg’s history is rich and well-documented. the first settler to put down roots in what is now cobourg arrived in 1798. i won’t go into too much detail about cobourg but it has a really good harbour and way back in the day it was always the ambition of the city to develop that harbour and an accompanying railway terminus into something that would outstrip toronto and kingston. unfortunately there were many practical and economic roadblocks in the way of that dream and so cobourg settled back into its current state as home to over 18,000 people in a vibrant but quiet and definitely very attractive town in which you will see many beautiful and almost stately homes and buildings.

here’s victoria hall on the main street of cobourg . . .
when i rode past this building a gentleman was stood out front proclaiming that mickey mouse was dead and that we needed to find new heroes. it crossed my mind to ask him to elaborate on his sense of mickey mouse as a hero but he had that look about him that hovers right in the ugly little space between humorous and dangerous and so i let him be. the buskers nearby while studiously ignoring his proselytizing, were clearly enjoying and benefitting from the attention he was drawing to their side of the street.

here is “sidbrook”. when i rode by this stately home it was in a much worse state of repair than in this picture . . . more's the shame.

this lovely home was built back in 1845 . . .

for more on these homes and others you should visit this page on the history of architecture in cobourg.

to learn more - much more (!) about cobourg’s history then visit cobourg this site is an outstanding model for the careful but thorough assemblage, collation and presentation of a communities’ history.

if you’re travelling between cobourg and belleville on a bicycle, the easiest and most obvious route is to follow hwy. 2. and you shall know this highway by its signs . . . . i am told (and can personally attest to the fact that) there aren't a whole lot of these signs on the highway. they are, as some would say, as rare as hen's teeth. now i've not done an exhaustive survey on hen's teeth but i'll trust my sources when they say that you're unlikely to find them no matter how hard you try. that having been said not only is highway 2 the most direct route, but it will eventually take you all the way to kingston.

hwy. 2 is based on a route created through sheer bloody-mindedness and blood, sweat, and tears way back when. based loosely on trails, and pathways created by the original settlers, it then served as a stagecoach route and eventually as a fully-fledged road. large parts of it were named kingston road as it linked toronto with parts east. hwy. 2 lost some of its utility to the car driving public when the 401 was built, but judging by the traffic i encountered is still a popular route - especially for motorcycles who perhaps find its lower speed and more scenic setting more appealing than the legalized racetrack to the north.

this paved version was built back in 1917 and if you travel its complete length is over 800 kilometres long. hwy. 2 is alternately a single-lane or a double-lane roadway. generally speaking when you arrive in a city, the roadway opens up and when you leave a city it shrinks. generally speaking, when you arrive in a city the quality of the road surface deteriorates dramatically and when you leave a city it improves to a similar degree.

the route out of cobourg is pretty straightforward but i managed to add a few kilometres onto it by straying much further north than i should have. in the grand scheme of things this is no big deal as it allowed me to wander around some of the northern edges of cobourg and then glide down the middle until i found the road i was looking for which is named king street in cobourg but which then turns into hwy. 2. i passed several stately homes as well as some more modern homes until finally, i left town.

the scenery becomes more rural and distant glimpses of lake ontario can be seen. turning south at archer road brought me closer to the lake as this is part of the waterfront trail. archer turns into lakeshore road which is a very quiet, sometimes lonely road that it is in better condition than some parts of hwy. 2. on either side of lakeshore road are some truly extraordinary homes that reminded me of structures i had seen in the books i used to look at when i fancied we would build our own home. lakeshore road in turn becomes orchard grove road which is aptly named as it is lined in parts with apple trees heavily laden with fruit. did i take any? nope! did i think about it? yep!

the road changes name again and dips right down by the lake for some lovely views as you ride literally twenty feet from the breaking waves. there is something intoxicating about the smell of lake water, crashing waves, birdsong and fluttering leaves. all along this stretch of the road are little places where you can pull off the road if you wish. there was virtually no traffic to speak of anyway but the opening out of the lake and sky when you get that much closer to it made me stop several times and just appreciate my incredible good fortune in being able to get myself to such a place on my bicycle.

wicklow beach road changes name again and becomes lakeport road at which point it turns somewhat inland and passes through corridors of trees that hide some large and impressive homes as well as a couple of campgrounds. eventually i arrived at the little community of colborne. colborne is a very tiny place that is currently known as the home of “the big apple”. what’s “the big apple” you ask? you know i was hoping you wouldn’t ask but you did so i’ll tell you. “the big apple”
is billed as the largest apple in the world. when you go to “the big apple” you’ll find that there is an observation deck on top of the apple, and a restaurant at its base. i didn’t bother with either amenity thank you very much. nope, i tooled through colborne past the wood mills, past the big schoolbus parking lot and out the other side. i emerged from colborne back onto hwy. 2 which is named at this point king street.

the road has a paved shoulder here for cyclists which allowed me to move along at a good clip. i found most days my average speed ranged between twenty and thirty kilometres an hour which while not club racing speed, allowed me to enjoy the scenery, and get from start to end of each day’s travel in around three hours. this allowed for stops along the way, lunch, and for riding around the destination. i stuck to hwy. 2 right into brighton even though the maps for the trail point you south half way between colborne and brighton. part of the route is marked as offroad and my notion of “offroad” wouldn’t suit the bike i was riding so i might have missed out on some lovely lakeside riding. some day i’ll find out.

hwy. 2 is the main street into brighton, a quaint town of some 10,000 plus inhabitants that can trace its beginnings back to the mid-1800’s. beautiful victorian style homes that look like big dollhouses abound. here’s a bed and breakfast in town called the brighton inn. tell me you wouldn’t want to stay there!!! four-poster beds, period furnishings and wireless net. next time i’m stopping there for a night!

there is something of a revival going on in the “downtown” area with many of the shops and homes clearly restored and gentrified for the tourists but in a tasteful and period manner. i stopped there for a really good lunch at lola’s coffee house. wonderful fair trade coffee, a sandwich made right in front of my eyes with fresh vegetables and cheese, and organic chips, and finally to top the whole thing off she produced a fresh out of the oven peach cobbler. what’s a boy to do? i sat out on the front porch under brilliant sunshine shaded by an umbrella and watched the world go by as i ate.

after lunch i replenished my water bottles and prepared to get going again. when i got back on the bike i noticed that the skies to the north and east of me were turning that nasty bluish purple that usually presages a downpour accompanied by lightning.

here’s what that looked like . . .

as a cyclist, the dilemma is twofold. if you leave town and have no idea what’s between you and the end of your day in the way of shelter, do you stay put and hope that whatever’s coming blows over, or do you forge on and hope that there will be a garage or a kindly farmer or homeowner who will let you stand in their garage or barn? there’s always the standing-under-trees thing but anyone with commonsense and an ounce of the will to live knows that while that’s a worthy short-term choice that affords some prospect of dryness, the very real chance that you’ll end up looking like a hot dog that fell into the fire after the lightning bolt with your name on it kerashes down is omnipresent and at the very front of your thinking.

i decided to risk it and so headed out of brighton on highway 2 which is not the prescribed route but which takes you through some lovely countryside with rolling hills and huge farms. the prospect of a storm and the food and coffee i’d just hoovered down back at lola’s put the fire back in my legs and i ticked off the kilometres fairly quickly. of course it started to rain and off in the distance the electric blue-yellow forks of lightning played across the sky. oh boy. much of this section of hwy. 2 parallels the main toronto-montreal railway line so i waved at one freight train as it barrelled past prompting the driver to give me a couple of quick honks and a wave. something that has thrilled me since i was a child and here i am 51 still at it. oh well, think what you may, it gave me a thrill!

eventually the road widens into a two lane each way affair and that signals the imminent entry into trenton. trenton is home to over 20,000 people including a large number of military personnel stationed at rcaf station trenton. to learn more about the various operations carried out by the people stationed there then give this a read.

trenton’s history can be traced back several hundred years and of course long before that when the mississauga indians referred to the river flowing through it as “fast flowing”. i crossed the river on one of the steepest bridges i have ever ridden across. pointing upwards at an almost 45 degree angle it seems and then just as precipitously downwards on the other side. it is the stuff that some of my nightmares are made of which often feature bridges in varying stages of completion. a metaphor to be sure!! trenton was first settled by europeans back in the 1780’s. the small portion i saw of it was a nondescript hodgepodge. others i have spoken to about trenton suggest that there is something missing in its centre. that in fact it doesn’t feel like it has a centre. i’m not a city planner but i saw a real melange of buildings both architecturally and functionally and i see in my notes from the ride that day that i described it as “featureless”.

the highway passes through the middle of the airforce base and i saw several c-130’s either being loaded or unloaded. my experience these days of trenton airforce base is as the staging point for shipping soldiers out to war and later as the end-of-the-line for some of those soldiers whose bodies are “repatriated” after being killed in afghanistan. i couldn’t be bothered to take pictures of the facility which while the base for an outstanding search-and-rescue team is also part of a larger machine that i cannot countenance or celebrate in any way.

the highway out of trenton was lovely and smooth and very wide with a really nice grassy median separating the two directions for some distance. the rain kept falling but it was that nice warm summer rain that doesn’t dig deep inside your spirit the way spring and late autumn rains can. there are lots of beautiful views of the bay of quinte along this portion of the route but it was raining so hard that photography wasn’t an option. here are a couple of pictures shared on the net by people who were out on sunnier days . . .

so on i rode along what is now called “old” highway 2 until eventually the tell-tale signs that i was again approaching a much larger city became apparent. it was still raining as i arrived in belleville
so i made my way fairly quickly to the ramada (seen here as photographed by the golden fish aerial support and reconnaissance plane) which is where i was parking my bike and my body for the evening. the hotel was very accommodating about allowing me to keep my bike in my room. i wasn’t sure what their policy would be on such a request and so i was relieved that it didn’t even cause the slightest raised eyebrow. other guests were somewhat surprised as i wheeled it into the elevator and then down the hall and into my sleeping chamber particularly the younger ones.

getting into my room didn’t go without incident actually as i got lost in trying to find the room, and then after having located it, promptly locked my keycards in the room. what next?! after a long-suffering but cheerful employee let me back into my room, and i was happily ensconced in the relative luxury of a soft bed with lots of pillow, i am happy to report that (thankfully) nothing else untoward occurred. i cleaned off the bike, did a little sink laundry, popped an advil to help take a little of the ache out of my upper shoulders, drained a bottle of water and napped until dinner time at which point i made my way downstairs for some steak and red wine. an evening to live a little high-off-the-hog.

i watched some of the olympic coverage, read some more of my book, turned the lights out and listened to the rumble of thunder outside and eventually slept the sleep of the truly tired but happy. 80 kilometres today.

tomorrow, on to kingston.

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