Hills of Hockley 200km Brevet — Ride Report

Up we go!!!

Ride report by Marty Cooper, Photos by Marty Cooper and Tiago Varella-Cid

Eleven riders, Eric, Erin, Jocelyn, Ken, Marco, Paul, Regis, Simon, Tiago, Uli and myself braved cool, single digit temperatures and incessant rain for Toronto Chapter’s first brevet of the season, the Hills of Hockley 200km. Ken, Paul and Uli were riding their first brevet.  Unfortunately, Simon dropped out early in the ride with a broken spoke.

The perennial first brevet of the season, Gentle Start 200 was cancelled the previous week due to freezing rain.  While the Gentle Start is far from gentle, the Hills of Hockley is true to its name and features the most climbing of any Toronto Chapter 200k.  

The ride began in Vaughan and headed in a northwesterly direction towards the Forks of the Credit and the first control at 85km in Belfountain. We rode north into a 20k/hr NE headwind that stayed pretty constant through out the day, at times becoming a tailwind.  

April adventure.

The rain too was constant, starting out as drizzle and building to rain and then driving rain. Like the Inuit who have multiple names for snow, I spent the day creating my own rain vocabulary, the names of which were preceded by various unprintable expletives.  Despite all the protection offered by the best quality rainwear (Showers Pass and Gore) and full fenders, within a couple of hours I was completely soaked. Fortunately the combination of sustained effort, i.e. climbing and a heavy wool jersey and baselayer kept me reasonably warm.   

On Forks of the Credit Road approaching Belfountain we passed under the tramway that once ferried pink and purple sandstone from the quarry to the railhead, where in the late 19thCentury they were transported to Toronto to be used in the construction of Old City Hall and the Ontario Legislature building at Queen’s Park. Just pass this location we experienced steep but short stretches of climbing (approx. 12%).  This area is among the most scenic in Ontario. The only advantage the rain and the early season brought was little vehicular traffic.  The Credit River and its small tributaries were gorged with rainwater and many were overflowing their banks. There were also large amounts of water pooling on the road.  

Credit River

The first control was Higher Ground Coffee Company and it did not disappoint. Tiago and Jocelyn had arrived in advance and reserved a very nice seating area with a couch that no one dared sit on for fear of not being able to get up. I left the control with Marco in a driving rain as we pushed on towards the next control at Hockley Valley some 40km distance.  Ironically, cold drenching rain with wind forced us to increase the pace in order to generate heat.  Despite the ordeal, I enjoyed pedaling past the colorful, eroding red and yellow Queenston shales of the Cheltenham Badlands that my mother-in-law used to call kishkas, which is Yiddish for intestines. 

Jocelyn looking very dapper in the new RO jersey!

The second control was the Hockley General store and when we arrived a fire was blazing in their wood-burning stove.  Soon it was covered in and surrounded by wet and steaming cycling clothing and soggy cyclists.  Hot, hearty food was available to help to restore the spirit.  Reluctantly we donned our wet but warm clothing and headed out on the last leg of the journey. Eventually tailwinds and a partial leveling of the terrain brought us through Bradford into the Holland Marsh, where the rain finally subsided and towards the south a thin blue line of sky was opening. The end was near and the memories of the day were already being seen through rose-colored Oakleys.  

To borrow from Arthur Reinstein’s paraphrasing of Shakespeare’s Henry V:

“And randonneurs in Ontario now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That rode with us upon the Hills of Hockley.”

Chapeau to all for persevering a challenging and rewarding randonee. Special thanks to Erin for doing a great job organizing this truly epic event.

Erie Oh! 300k Brevet — The Huron Chapter’s 2019 Entertainment Series Begins!

Huron Chapter’s Entertainment Series officially started this past week-end with the Mini-Putt Competition happening at Colasnati’s Control 76km into the Erie Oh! 300km Brevet. 

John Cumming was close … right to the end … but missing the fairway on the ninth hole … cost him! 
A Double Bogey!

 One of the Gold Fish had Chappy’s Ball for Lunch … Ending his Round!
Charles Horslin found out that it was not the MOST Putts that WON but the LEAST!

Tim O’Callahan was able to get his second Birdy and TIE for the Lead!

Congrats to Tim O’Callahan and Brenda Wiechers-Maxwell for finishing FIRST! Yes they TIED! Brenda had taken the lead with Birdies on the 4th and 6th holes but Tim simply stayed focussed completing two birdies in his last two holes for the tie! They both will be aggressive in the Creemore Classic Bowling Championship and the Go-Cart Championship to set themselves up for 2019’s Entertainment Series Title!

Congrats to Tim O’Callahan and Brenda Wiechers-Maxwell for finishing FIRST! Yes they TIED! Brenda had taken the lead with Birdies on the 4th and 6th holes but Tim simply stayed focussed completing two birdies in his last two holes for the tie! They both will be aggressive in the Creemore Classic Bowling Championship and the Go-Cart Championship to set themselves up for 2019’s Entertainment Series Title!

Tim O’Callahan, Brenda Wiechers, Charles Horslin, Chappy and John Cumming

15 Randonneurs showed up for 2019’s Erie Oh! 300km Brevet. Congrats to Carey Chappelle, John Cumming, Jerzy Dziadon, Dick Felton, Chris Greig, Charles Horslin, Bill Lattuca, Gordon Ley, Tim O’Callahan, Tiago Varella-Cid and Brenda Wiechers-Maxwell  for successfully completing this 300! 

The ride started at 7am Saturday, Weather Forecast … second to none! 15’C and SUNSHINE for 12hrs! To top that off, a strong tailwind existed from the start for approximately 190km! At one point Chappy pedalled by Charles Horslin at 42km/hr with no hands on his bike! 
Tim and Brenda played the Team Leaders for this group. We had six Randonneurs who stayed together from beginning to end. SECOND TO NONE! Tim would drop from front to back to encourage our team mates and Brenda would set our pace based on what it would take to keep us together! In tail winds Tim had us pacing at 47km / hr! Head winds were where we appreciated having a Team … averaging 22km / hr!
Arriving at the Erieau Brew Pub Control, everyone enjoyed lunch and had a good laugh after Charles scratched his ear and found the misplaced Mini-Putt Golf Pencil!

Chappy wasn’t successful convincing Charles to get on his bike and return the pencil to the Colasnati’s Mini-Putt Golf Course. Everyone else suggested Charles simply return it next year, finish lunch and continue on rather then DNF’ing!

The initial portion of the route was off road, but gorgeous towards Chatham! Eventually the tail wind turned into a head wind and pedalling together was an enormous benefit!

Arriving in Chatham at the Tim Horton’s Control, Dr. O’Callahan suggested Brenda SNORT ALEVE to reduce the pain she was feeling …

The group of six arrived at the Lighthouse Cove Control noticing how the wind was dropping steadily. Scenery along Lake St.Clair BREATHTAKING to say the least! Sun was going down, still Warm and Very little Traffic!

I get goosebumps writing this story,  FRIENDSHIPS,  RANDONNEURING, SCENERY … SECOND TO NONE! ! On Sunday, those Randonneurs who stayed the night, met at The Twisted Apron, Little Italy in Windsor for breakfast. Fantastic meal AND Even Better … Dick Felton’s Daughter – Christine and Grandaughter – Lauren joined us!

Now, after waking up this morning … thought I would take a look out the window and see what the weather looks like here …


Huron Chapter V.P.,Chappy

Imperial Rouge — a New 161km populaire in the Toronto Chapter

Still a little snow as you head out of Toronto (just south of Taunton/Steeles Ave)

Imperial Rouge is a new populaire route for the Toronto Chapter. It is Imperial because it is 100 miles (an imperial century) and it is Rouge because it starts at Rouge Hill GO Station. I created this route with the collaboration of Stephen Jones, Erin Marchak, Bob McLeod, Peter Leiss, and Dave Thompson. Erin can take credit for the great name. A big thanks to them for their input, knowhow, and help.

My purpose in designing this route was to offer a shorter non-brevet route to RO newcomers so that they can build up to the 200km distance by testing their abilities on a 100 mile or 161km ride. Who knows? Maybe it can serve as a conduit for attracting new people: 100 miles is a major goal for a lot of cyclists. And since it is a populaire, there is no time limit and there are no controls. You can go as fast as you are able or as slow as you want. The ride start is located in Toronto’s east end and is easily accessible by car and by public transit. 

Here is the link to the route on RWGPS.

I wanted to make sure I put together a good route before unveiling it to the club, so on 6 April 2019 I did the Imperial Rouge as a permanent. Below follows my ride report. Hopefully it will inspire more people to ride it this season. I’d like to ride it again. Maybe we can ride it together.


Imperial Rouge heads north over the Oak Ridges Moraine and then dips into the marshes just to the south of Lake Simcoe. It then makes its way back over the Moraine via Uxbridge and then descends to the shore of Lake Ontario.

The route finds a safe way to cross the 401. The trade-off is some confusing cues on RWGPS when you cross the Rouge River, so study the map at the beginning and ending of the route. To me, it seems worth a little confusion if that means crossing the 401 without worrying about traffic, especially at the end of the ride when traffic will be heavier and members will be tired.

Detail of the safe but confusing way across the 401 from Rouge Hill GO

The route goes north and comes pretty close to Stouffville. You can easily peel off the route and go into town, which is what I did. On 6 April it was chilly. I rode into Red Bulb, a popular destination for cyclists, to warm my hands and toes.

If you don’t want to stop in Stouffville, another great place to stop for a break is in Goodwood at Annina’s Bakeshop. When the weather is nice, Annina’s is ideal because she has rows of picnic tables and lots of racks for hanging bicycles. It is another cyclist friendly stop and can be very busy.

After Goodwood, the route follows quiet back roads all the way up to Zephyr where there are limited supplies. After that, it carries on to Udora, a well-used control location on some of our brevets. There is nothing between Zephyr and Udora in terms of stops for food and water, so plan ahead.

Quiet country roads between Goodwood and Zephyr
Marshy landscapes between Zephyr and Udora.

At the 98km mark, the route dips into Uxbridge. The perfect place to stop for lunch. Lots of options. I had my lunch at Nexus Café on Brock. Handmade gelato… yes, it was good, despite the cold weather.

After Uxbridge, Imperial Rouge just gets more and more fun. It follows the long, gentle descent down the Marsh Hill and Ashburn Roads towards Lake Ontario. On the day I rode, I also happened to have a tail wind. It made for some fast and easy riding.

Unfortunately, this route has one significant hazard. It is a 400m stretch at the 126km mark – it begins at the intersection of Lake Ridge and Columbus Roads. Lake Ridge Road feeds onto the 407 and can be very busy. It also has barely any shoulder. 400m is not very long, but please exercise caution. When designing the route, I found it was difficult to come this way without using Lake Ridge Road. The concessions just don’t line up, running east and west. Many of them are dirt too. Columbus seems to me the best way, but if someone finds something better, by all means, let’s improve this part of the route.

Detail of hazard along Lake Ridge Road

Eventually you will make your way onto Whitevale Road, which is quiet (on weekends) because a part of it is closed to cars for construction. I suspect it is very busy with large construction vehicles on weekdays so Imperial Rouge might not be suitable for a weekday permanent. Also, there is a physical barrier just before entering the village of Whitevale. Cars can’t get past it, but cyclists can walk their bikes around it.

From there the route retraces its steps all the way back to Rouge Hill.

In all, it’s a great route. The roads have one or two bumpy sections, but generally they have a very good surface quality. Other than the 400m stretch on Lake Ridge Road, the roads are fairly quiet.

One of the bumpy road sections as you enter Zephyr

If anyone wants to try this as a permanent and has any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or contact me via the RO Facebook group. I will probably do it as a permanent again and I will advertise it when I set a date.

You might make some friends along the way.

Big Bay 200k Brevet

The Huron Chapter Hosted the Big Bay 200 this past Saturday. How was the Turnout for a 200 this time of year? … better than EXPECTED! 13 Randonneurs participated and were successful completing this Brevet. Congrats to Burke Adams, Brian Belanger, Jerzy Dziadon, Dick Felton, Mike Fox, Charles Horslin, Ken Jobba, John Maccio, Matt McFarlane, Cameron Ogilvie, Terry Payne, Sergii Tsymbal and of course myself … Chappy,  for enjoying friendships and this ride!

The Huron Chapter’s badges look very sharp!

We noticed some other friends on route that were as impressed with us as we were with them!

Mutual respect

For many, this was their first time experiencing the Big Bay 200. Sergii let me know after the ride that the Big Bay 200 is now his FAVORITE!

Scenic to Say the Least!

Cameron and Burke skipped lunch at the Casero Kitchen Table in Owen Sound (half way point), found the Control in Sauble Beach closed, so they took a photo, signed their Control Cards and sprinted to the Finish.  For Cameron … this was a PR finishing in 8hrs 30mins! Congrats Cameron!

The ride through Walter’s Falls was, as always, … Drop Dead Gorgeous! Charles shared some photos he took before passing through.

The Mill Above Walter’s Falls.
Walter’s Falls

Reaching Owen Sound, the majority stopped at the Casero Kitchen Table enjoying lunch and a beverage or two!

Leaving Owen Sound, the “climbing” was basically done. Scenery along Georgian Bay and Lake Huron … gorgeous, especially seeing the snow and ice still out on the lake!

Heading from Southampton to Port Elgin, along the shores of Lake Huron, a few of us Randonneurs wished we were doing a 300 … because before we knew it the 200km Brevet was complete, so a few of us headed back to my place for dinner and stories, everyone letting know how much they loved this year’s Big Bay 200!

Special Thanks to Donna (Chappy’s Wife), Erin (Matt’s Wife) and Lori (John’s Wife) for putting together an INCREDIBLE  Dinner! Special Thanks to Charles (yes one of the Randonneurs) for INCREDIBLE Deserts (two pies) he made himself and brought with him to the Brevet!

Huron Chapter V.P.,


Perth-Albany-Perth, 1200km Brevet

Ride report by Dave Thompson

Link to the Perth-Albany-Perth route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28524000

Organized by Audax Australian Cycling Club.

Capsule summary: Well organized and supported, friendly people !!, moderate difficulty, nice scenery but nothing breathtaking, recognizable culture but different enough to add to the interest level, polite drivers, good road surfaces, quiet roads for the most part but a few busy sections, different flora and fauna – (you won’t see kangaroos anywhere else !) — bottom line, well worth doing but then again I say that about most, if not all, of these rides.

From a weather perspective, three of the days were tough – 1,2,&4 – due to headwinds.  Day 3 featured tailwinds but became difficult for some riders since late starters that day encountered more rain and cold and produced a number of DNF’s. Speaking of which, the finish rate was around 50%, which is low.  Much of that was due to cold at night, e.g. 8C, which isn’t extreme but you have to be prepared for it.  I only experienced a couple of hours of rain late on Day 3.  Others weren’t so lucky.

The kilometer breakdown was fairly typical – (in round numbers) – 375, 325, 300, 200.  The 5am start on the first day meant a later finish that day, but at least it was “only” 375k.

Climbing ?  – the first 275 kms of Day 1 to Nanup was almost flat, which of course made the headwinds that much more noticeable.  2500 meters of climbing that day was heavily weighted to the last 100k.  On the other hand, 3600 meters on Day 2 to Albany, over a shorter distance, made that the highest climbing day.  About 2300 meters on Day 3 and 1200 on Day 4 brought the total to a fairly typical 10-11,000 meters.  Grades were mostly moderate, 8% being pretty much the max.

Accommodation featured mats on days 1 & 3 and individual dorm rooms on day 2 in Albany.   Food was provided at the overnights and a couple of other Controls.  A choice of good comfort food for dinner plus eggs for breakfast made for pure luxury.

The ride was well staffed by volunteers, some 2 dozen. Wayne Hickman, the ride organizer, lamented that he didn’t have as many as the last edition which meant that he couldn’t staff all the Controls but for a newbie rider on this event, the combination of overnight staffing, great food and open Controls was as much as I could have asked for.

Mac & Cheese 1200

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

Run by Great Lakes Randonneurs (Michele Brougher) and Detroit Randonneurs (Tom Dusky), the M&C starts in Ludington Michigan and ends in Manitowoc Wisconsin.  In between those two locations is the SS Badger ferry.  As with my Florida Sunshine 1200, most people took the ferry the night before from Manitowoc Wednesday afternoon, overnighted in Ludington and rode out on Thursday morning, finishing their ride in Manitowoc on Sunday.

I, on the other hand, coming from our northern abode, found it faster to drive west to Sault Ste Marie and then south to Ludington.  There were a few of us that started in Ludington and took the ferry AFTER the ride, vs before.  The ferry runs twice per day during the summer with it’s last 1:30 a.m. departure from Manitowoc taking place on the Sunday (well, actually Monday morning) of Labor Day weekend.  It’s a 4 hour trip that seems like 5 hours because Manitowoc is in Central Time whereas Ludington is in Eastern Time…

On the way south from Sault Ste Marie there were signs that the Mackinac Bridge that connects the mainland south of Sault Ste Marie with the Michigan Upper Penninsula would be closed Monday morning from 6 am to 12:30 pm.  I didn’t have much choice, however, since it’s a lot further to go via Southern Ontario.  I took that 1:30 am ferry, arrived in Ludington at 6:30 am and simply waited about 2 hours for the bridge to open shortly after noon.  The annual Bridge Walk event was the issue, not construction or anything else.  Mackinaw City, on the south side, was one big party when I arrived, streets closed off to traffic etc.

That bridge added another complexity for the organizers.  They don’t allow bicycles.  So, riders had something to eat at a location in Mackinaw City and then they and their bicycles were ferried separately over to St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge.  That was the end of the first riding day anyway, so you didn’t feel that you were actually awaiting the process and it was handled very efficiently.

The riding days were roughly 400 km, 300 km, 300 km and 200 km (actually 235 km on the last day).  The ride clocked in over 1200 km and the time limit had been adjusted accordingly.  I didn’t actually realize that I had more time until I was finished, riding my own ride, as usual.

Most people, self not included, ended up with riding days that started after dawn and finished late those days.  Being an early riser, I tended to aim more for something like a 4 am start.  Even so, I got lots of sleep with a 5 hours stop the first night (long 400 km day) and 6-7 the other nights.  The first day had the most climbing but it still didn’t amount to much, compared to many 400 km rides.  The other three days were less than 1000 metres of climbing, not absolutely flat but close.

There were more services available on the first day with Controls about every 30 miles.  The west side of Lake Michigan, in Wisconsin, is more sparsely populated but not as sparse as Northern Ontario, on the Granite Anvil.  The next days had longer gaps between Controls and Services.

Heading north from St. Ignace on the second day, we turned around at Whitefish Point with a view of Lake Superior.  We crossed the path of my Tour de Superior in 2008, the counter clockwise lake circuit that Jerry, Geoff and I did with Sandy driving SAG.  That sure seems like a long time ago.  That was pre randonneuring!

Michele did a great job as organizer.  Each of the hotels had large conference rooms with bike stands setup.  Volunteers took your bike, hung it from the saddle and that was that.  You had access if you needed anything; bicycles were inside; the bike mechanic (yes, she had a bike mechanic) provided support if needed.  Apparently he rescued many rides – a handlebar broken off at the stem, many shifting problems and some other ride-killing issues.  I’ve never seen so many mechanical issues.  Perhaps because people figured that it was a flat ride, they didn’t need a well maintained bike?  I don’t know.

The ride also issued two drop bags, canvas affairs that were a little snug for the stuff that I usually carry.  The two bag strategy meant that I carried more in terms of backup electronics, spares and personal items such as electric toothbrush.  I still like the one bag strategy, but it worked.  The two bag strategy also meant that anything that I needed for the entire ride for which I didn’t have a duplicate or didn’t fit, I had to carry on the bike…like my rain pants.  I didn’t expect to get rained on heavily but it could have been cold.

Speaking of rain, my early departure and arrival on the last day meant that I missed much of the rain that day.  While rain threatened other days and we got sprinkled on after Whitefish Point, the last day was the only issue.  That was such a relief after Hokkaido.  We blew it though, Jeff Lippincott and I rode together the last day and it started to rain 3 miles from the end.  Surely we could have upped the pace just a little… but of course we didn’t know.  We were dumped upon; roads turned into rivers.  Others only got showers as they were mostly hours behind.

Nice terrain, good weather, excellent organization – I’m so happy that I added this to my schedule!


Huron Chapter’s 2018 Creemore Classic 400 … Bowling Championship!

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:

The Huron Chapter Hosted the 2018 Creemore Classic Bowling Championship this past week-end! To officially compete in this event and have their name entered on this trophy, the Randonneur had to participate and WIN the Bowling Championship at 220 km, then successfully finish the Creemore Classic 400!

The Current Creemore Classic Bowling Champion…Chappy, knew he no longer had a chance to win, so decided to impress fellow bowlers with his juggling act!

Matthew McFarlane simply wore sunglasses to protect his eyes!

Brenda Wiechers had the best FASTBALL!

Darcy Haggith, was still smiling with one last attempt to WIN!

This year’s Creemore Classic Bowling Champion…None other than Richard Meloche!

Congrats Richard!

2018’s Creemore Classic 400 km Brevet Report

Congrats to the Magnificent Seven who were successful completing 2018’s Creemore Classic 400 km Brevet!

Chappy, Darcy Haggith, Matthew McFarlane, Richard Meloche, Tim O’Callahan, Paul Slavchenko and Brenda Wiechers.

The Windsorites came to Port Elgin Friday evening, 4 Randonneurs … Brenda, Tim, Darcy and Richard and 2 Supporters…Geoff Owen and Steve Tymczak. Tim rented a U-haul trailer to carry everything from bicycles, bicycle parts, energy bars, power gels, energy powder, water, cycling clothing, ultraviolet eye glasses…on and on and on!

Prior to leaving Chappy’s house to the start, Richard had everyone in tears laughing about the rain happening outside! Fortunately, it reduced a lot … at least for the first 100 km!

The Magnificent Seven left Tim Horton’s Saturday morning at 0530hrs. 30 km into this ride, we passed through Sauble Beach…noticing the wind and light rain!

Then on to Wiarton…where the rain had stopped!

We continued along the Bruce Peninsula, through Big Bay passing the Marina in Owen Sound.

Had our Control Cards signed at the Tim Horton’s then went to the Frog for a light snack, everyone still together!

This is where the Creemore Classic 400 introduces climbing! Everyone headed out knowing hills were going to separate us for a while. The next Control was the Top’O The Rock in Eugenia. A GREAT climb to get there! Paul arrived just as the rest of us were heading out and joined us for this photo. Check out the left side of this picture and you’ll see where our Supporter’s, Jeff and Steve were!

Brenda and Tim figured out they would need some cash and stopped along the way at an ATM!

Arriving in Collingwood, six of us had our Control Cards signed then went to Georgian Bowl to participate in the 2018 Championship. Here is a photo of this year’s Creemore Classic Bowling Champion – Richard Meloche leading us to Creemore!

All of the participants shared a dinner at the Old Mill House Pub in Creemore, well Paul just had a pint because he had something to eat in Collingwood prior to getting there.

Prior to leaving we all stepped outside for another photo!

Pedalling to the Village at Blue Mountain was 35 km, then everyone had their Control Cards signed at the Fire House Pizza Co., before heading out to do the infamous Scenic Cave Climb! I won’t identify who had to walk but there were 3 Randonneurs who simply took that advantage! Of course, the rain started shortly after reaching the top, so everyone put on some rain gear to stay warm on the descent! Descent? Yes, meaning we were fortunate enough to have to climb the Escarpment again, heading to the next Control in Chatsworth. Jeff and Steve (our Supporters) were at the Control, the 24hr Donut Shop that is not open 24hrs!

A few of us were out of water, knew we had 50 km to go, so were feeling upbeat knowing our Supporters had everything and more to get us through!

Paul Slavchenko blew a spoke between the Scenic Cave Climb and Walter’s Falls so was a little behind the main group, but successfully made repairs in the rain and made it to the finish successfully! Way to Go Paul!

Matthew McFarlane’s chain blew off between Chatsworth and the finish, so him and Chappy took a few minutes to repair it, then Matt let Chappy know he had to take a nap and did … 20 minutes or so and he was only a few minutes behind Chappy at the Finish!

The Windsorites…Brenda, Tim, Darcy and Richard…30 km average, staying together and taking turns up front…Awesome Cyclists! They take a little longer at Controls, but make up with their pace! And last but not least…the Ultraviolet Glasses were available whenever a Randonneur was falling asleep! In the past we would stop and nap at the BMO for some sleep, not this time! Check out the man with the Glasses!

What else can I say…


Japan Clover Hokkaido 1200

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

The clover Hokkaido 1200 was unique in a number of ways:

  • rushed by flying in on the 13th, check in on the 14th and then riding on the 15th, given the 13 hour time difference from Toronto
  • the predicted weather, rain for three days and then sun… yes, that’s how it was… oh yes, and cold to boot
  • as a ride, 4×300 km out of one location
  • completely foreign culture & food

The trip from Toronto went without a hitch.  The 13 hour flight was followed by sub-2-hours in Tokyo Haneda airport clearing customs and immigration, collecting bags, taking a shuttle to the domestic terminal, going through check-in and bag check and security and boarding the flight to Obihiro on the island of Hokkaido; 1:30 later landing in Obihiro, collecting bags and taking a taxi to our hotel.  I was totally impressed by the efficiency of the Haneda airport operation, in spite of the fact that these were separate flights, not defined as connections.  From noon on the 12th, Toronto-time, we ended up in our Obihiro hotel something like 9pm.  Around 18 hours from leaving Toronto we were a world apart and a day ahead.

There was no time for jet lag.  The next day we were up (Sandy was traveling with me and we met Hamid and Shab at the hotel); I assembled my bike and rode to the ride hotel with Hamid while Sandy and Shab taxied with the bags to the hotel.  Shab stayed there for the duration, working as a volunteer; Sandy had a hotel in Obihiro, did some exploring, visited others at the ride hotel etc.

We had time for lunch and dinner, ride check-in and briefing, sleep and then a 6am start.  The ride briefing was where it finally hit home that the rain was real.  Potential re-routing was discussed in case of road closures.  Heavy rain could produce landslides.  The route didn’t change but the rain came and came and came.

I have to say that the first three days of this ride rank among the most miserable days that I’ve ever spent on a bike.  It was wet and it was cold and it didn’t stop.  Temperatures ranged from 8-12C most of the day; down to 6C at times.  I’ve never, apart from the 2012 BC Rocky Mountain Day one, worn my rain pants for an entire day.  My rain pants got more use over the first three days of this ride than the cumulative use in my entire randonneuring career (if you can call it a career!).  Leg warmers, rain pants, arm warmers, short and long sleeve jersey, heavy jacket, head covering, shower cap … I wished at time that I could cover my face as I was losing a lot of heat from the rain pelting my face.  On day 3, I even wore my heavy wool jersey.  It probably helped but I was constantly on the verge of being too cold.  We stopped at every opportunity for something hot to warm us up — ramen soup, coffee — warmth inside stores was short lived; the soup and coffee only slightly less so.

Day 4 made up for some of this. It was nice to end on a positive note. It started out clear and cool; the temperature dropped to 3C as we moved towards the coast; it then warmed up and finally, finally, I was able to pack away all the extra clothing … sun, glorious sun, how I’d missed you!

The scenery, (ahem … when we could see it), was pleasant but not not remarkable. It’s hard to compare the Hokkaido Island mountains with the Italian Alps. We were never above the tree line.  The coastline was pretty, but so is everywhere else. Rolling farmland is pleasant, some different crops to behold. But… unlike some other rides, it was never boring. There were parts of the Italian ride – endless rice fields, for example – that went on forever. I don’t get as bored with rolling hills, even when it means a long, long time between services.

The roads were reasonable, much better than the lowlands of Italy. Sometimes dodging a crack in the road; a couple of sections where there were annoying rhythmic breaks, but that was the minority. Many kilometers of tunnels, a couple over 5 km, broke the monotony (and the rain!). Those tunnels also cut into the ridewithgps expected climbing, often cutting the tops off those hills. A hundred tunnels? More? I didn’t try to count. There were some long-ish climbs but the grades were never punishing. I don’t remember a grade over 7%.

The services were mostly frequent; well stocked convenience stores with bathroom facilities. Only Day 3, with a pre-warned approximately 100 km with nothing, might have been a problem, but it wasn’t, due to the warning. Besides, I don’t drink much in steady, cold rain. Then again, I don’t eat much from my pockets in steady, cold rain :).

Convenience stores in the area mostly don’t have gas stations attached. 7-Eleven, Saicomart and Lawson are everywhere and many are 24 hour. They all stock Ramen Noodles of many, many varieties and hot water; a selection of sushi-like products and a place to sit. I ate more noodles and rice during those 4 days than I’ve had in many years.

The ride was extremely well organized. It’s certainly easier with the clover format. The menu varied from day to day. Rice was always available, of course; soup, salad items, breakfast items usually included eggs; there was enough protein, but certainly not as emphasized as in North America. Some of the wrapped rice items (in seaweed) were perfect for stowing in your pockets, and we did. Ziplocs helped :). Cheese wasn’t in short supply, rather it was non-existent. Even in the convenience stores, any cheese was more of the processed kind.

There was usually one car with volunteers out on the route, mostly stopped somewhere as opposed to cruising. I expect that they assisted some riders who DNF’d. Speaking of which, the DNF rate was 50% and would have been a little higher had the ride organizer not decided to add a couple of hours to the time limit. 75 riders started; 37 DNF’d. Several took advantage of that extra time.

The 4×300 format was interesting. We finished by 9pm (Hamid perhaps 8pm) on day 1, 9pm, 9:30 pm and got lots of sleep. I think that I got 5 hours sleep the first night, almost the same the second night and 3 hours the final night. The 4×300 format means that you need to leave yourself adequate time to crank out another 300 km that last day without running up against the midnight deadline.

A 2400 km ride started a few days before our 1200 km and finished on the same day, same location.  That ride traced the coastline of Hokkaido.  Their weather would have been somewhat different, as we hit some rain that was localized in the mountains

I rode by myself the first day, as usual, the lanterne rouge for a long time. Hamid and I started the second day together and were sometimes separated and he finished just ahead of me. I opted to stop for 15 minutes about 30 km out as I was getting shaky, needed to warm up, figured that I’d have an accident otherwise. Hamid pressed on and had a silly sideways no speed fall, cracking his handlebars at the right shifter. He did another 600k on that cracked handlebar, but that’s another story …. The third day was togetherness in our miserableness all day long. The forth day was glorious and we finished together, many riders behind us.

We saw whales, yes whales, along the coast on the fourth day. One pair was likely a cow and calf and a loner not long after, all close to shore. That was unique!

I’d like to say that I had fun, as always, on this ride. Randonesia isn’t quite there yet. Give me another month or two to blend the entire experience in Japan together and I’ll probably say that it was fun, a good ride. Vinny from Seattle from loved it. He’s used to rain. I don’t have as much personal insulation. Rain only bothers me in as much as I’m on the verge of being cold and I was in that state far too long on this ride.

The terrain was good, the ride was well organized, the volunteers were helpful, the food was excellent, the format was interesting … and we had a little rain :). Let’s leave it at that.

Sandy and I flew to Tokyo the day after, as did Hamid and Shab.  We spent some time together exploring; some time apart.  They headed back to the US two days before us.  As I type this, we’re on the flight to from Tokyo to Toronto, leaving at 5:40 pm and arriving about an hour before we left, on the same day.  That must be quantum physics at work :).

The Tokyo experiences?  Hot as hell.  35-37C the entire time.  In spite of that we saw a lot, learned how to use the subway system (not as easy as you might think) and departed Japan hoping to come back … perhaps not riding … perhaps not in the heat of the summer.

To put this in perspective, Hokkaido is about the latitude of Toronto; Tokyo around Atlanta, give or take.  Several typhoons were affecting the weather; who knows what it might be like in Hokkaido or Tokyo in a normal year.  What is a normal year anyway?  That seems to be changing!

One more thing – Tokyo has two syllables.  Toke Yoh.  Not Toke Ee Oh.  See, I learned something :).


Huron Chapter’s Big Bay 200!

Ride report from Carey Chapelle:

The Huron Chapter hosted the BIG BAY 200 this past week-end. Congrats to myself (Chappy), Charles Horslin, John Maccio, Matthew McFarlane, Con Melady, Gwyneth Mitchell, Tim O’Callahan, Liz Overduin and Brenda Wiechers on successfully finishing this scenic brevet and enjoying the 1300 meters of climbing!

Everyone arrived at Tim Horton’s early and thought they were ready to hit the road!

Strangely enough, the 9 Randonneurs pedalled through an intense FOG hoping that moving inland from Lake Huron things would improve!

Thankfully it did! Not just a clear sky, but new asphalt!

We all arrived together at the first Control, the Variety Plus Store in Chatsworth, had our Control Cards signed, grabbed a few snacks and sat down for a photo. You won’t see Chappy because he was the Photographer!

Con, Matt, Liz, Brenda and Tim couldn’t get closer together! Charles and Gwyneth stood close by while John was busy shopping!

Chappy let everyone know that staying together for the next 25 km was going to be unlikely (some good climbing ahead) and that everyone should stop at the General Store in Walter’s Falls to regroup and take some photos.

Once everyone arrived, we took a break from the SUNSHINE!

We then headed down to the Falls for a photo or two as a few of the Randonneurs had never been there before.

Interestingly, a model was standing under the falls having her picture taken and a couple of us were thinking about heading down simply to cool off but decided to enjoy the scenery instead!

Having completed 75 km, everyone was back together and looked forward to having a lunch in Owen Sound. We would simply get our Control Cards signed at the Tim Horton’s Control then head to the Mexican Restaurant, Casero for FUEL. Con and myself knew how busy this restaurant usually is and just hoped we could find room for all of us … and we did!


A big surprise happened next, my daughter Erika and a few of her University friends were out touring the Falls in Grey County and decided to go for lunch at the Casero! We had to take a photo for proof this happened!

All 9 of us headed out together for the last 97 km, going through Wiarton, Sauble Beach and Southampton before reaching the finish in Port Elgin.

On our way to Wiarton, along the Big Bay Peninsula, we passed the Cobble Beach Resort and noticed some carving on a tree!

Having taking the photo, Chappy fell a bit behind the riders and met them at the next Control, the Big Bay General Store in Big Bay where everyone enjoyed some Ice Cream before heading to Sauble Beach for a quick refreshment!

Being 30 km from the finish, we all enjoyed the scenery, the people and quite simply the fun we were having staying together on this brevet!

5 of the 9 riders decided to stop in Southampton at the Outlaw Brewery to try the infamous Blueberry Beer before heading to the Finish in Port Elgin.

A few of the Randonneurs had wondered why Chappy’s wife Donna didn’t do the ride then learned of the BBQ she had put together for everyone. We spent a few hours together, along with Erika and her friends, enjoying the dinner and each other before calling it a day!

Tim and Brenda stayed in town and decided to take a Tandem for a 50 km Cool Down the next day. And yes …. Brenda did finish the Crossword Puzzle on Tim’s back!

North Huron Tributaire 200

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:


OK, I’ll let you know how much fun we had participating in Huron Chapter’s North Huron Tributaire 200 km Brevet this past week-end!!!

Marvin Boven, Carey and Donna Chappelle, together on their Tandem, Cori Dean, Paul Dowswell, Jurij Kerzan, Matthew McFarlane, Con Melady and Jim Raddatz all finished successfully.

Congrats to Marvin Boven and Paul Dowswell for completing their first 200km brevet. It was great Meeting you two! Marvin, your wife was awesome being at controls if needed!

Great Meeting Jurij Kerzna from Slovania, on a family vacation …  but joined us on this brevet just for fun! Jurij and Chappy had been in touch via e-mails many months earlier. Jurij had mentioned that he would like to do this Brevet when him and his family were in Ontario and on vacation. He had hoped to rent a bike in London Ontario, so brought his bicycle helmet, shoes and pedals thinking that would happen. It didn’t, but Con Melady stepped up and let him use his Cervelo! Yes his Cervelo! Perfect fit and made for an awesome experience for Jurij!

Great meeting Cori Dean, a woman with a lifestyle that left us questioning where she gets time for one or two brevets a year!

This brevet had a 7am Start and everyone was on time and ready to go. The weather forecast showed rain and all we could see were dark clouds overhead.

Off we went, Donna and myself on the Tandem lead the way as Tandems usually do! A light rain disappeared by the first Control in Wingham. Everyone made this Control a short stop, looking forward to lunch at the next Control, the Bartliff’s Bakery in Clinton. Somehow, the Bakery had room for all of us! With 124 km complete, everyone headed to the next Control, the Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro in Bayfield.


Paul Dowswell, Con Melady, Matthew McFarlane, Chappy, Donna Chappelle,  Jurij Kerzna and Jim Raddatz enjoyed a refreshment after having their control cards signed!

Traditionally, we would get back on route and once getting to the pier … would jump off for a swim! Not this time, I simply took the picture.  Cori Dean and  Marvin Boven were a little behind, so did not get included in this photo.

Heading back to Goderich, our group of 7 road together, got to know a little more about each other and simply loved the scenery.

Con and Cindy Melady prepared appetizers and invited everyone to their home.  It turned out to be a lovely garden party!  The majority of us hung out for an hour or two talking about how much we loved this ride!

Con, Chappy and Matthew were having some fun!

The Meladys had also made dinner reservations at the Beach Street Station for 8 people at 8pm, 5 were able to make it. If you get a chance to see the Sunset in Goderich, visit the Beach Street Station! An incredible restaurant! Incredible SUNSET! Great food and a great story about the original train station being moved to this location by the water!