Ride Report from David Hamilton
It was the best of times. It was the… BEST of times! Having conquered a few 200 km permanents and the 300 km Animalathon, I was looking for additional rides and the Maberly 200 that I rode as a permanent on September 26, 2015 was terrific.
The morning sun broke over Ashton on a perfect early fall day. The air was crisp, the leaves had just started turning and there was an eerie mist over the dips and valleys. I rode out at 7:00 am and was a bit surprised at how cold it was.
A few km into the ride, I was serenaded by the sound of honking geese and the ka-POW ka-POW of shot gun blasts. Yes, it was duck hunting season and the cacophony of the geese and gunshots stood in stark contrast to the picturesque beauty of the countryside. This racket kept on for some time until I’d passed Mississippi Lake, heading towards Lanark.
September is my favourite month… not too hot, not too cold, and the more diffuse daylight bathed my world in soft colours as I poked along the back roads and over some small up and down hills. But the real treat came as I turned southwest to head down Bennett Lake Road. This was the most beautiful 15km or so of cycling I have done to date. No traffic, decent roads, fall colours, beautiful blue lake and clear sky. I read somewhere that ranonneuring allows you to really experience the land you’re covering. The combination of slower speeds and back roads and friendly locals feeds into that. I was getting the full benefit of this, with Canadian Shield, twists and turns in the road, and wonderful silence.
When I arrived at the first control at Maberly, the little ice cream store was closed for the season and the restaurant was not open either. Hm. I had sufficient water to get me to the next town if needed, but what to do about getting my card signed? Well, as it happens, there was a bunch of other bikers there. Not cyclists, but “biker” bikers. I didn’t see any Hells Angels logos on their jackets so tentatively approached one of them to see if he’d sign my card. It turns out they were just a bunch of friends out for a fall ride, and were quite interested in why I would want to ride 200 km on a bike. I would run into them later in Westport.
Speaking of which, there were some nice hills from Maberly to Westport and I was feeling pretty good. My ride was going well and I was taking an easy pace and just enjoying the countryside. On county road 36 heading towards Westport, I started encountering a lot more cyclists coming the other way and by the way they were working, I figured there must be some kind of race going on (I never did find out what the event was, but there were riders of all ages and abilities on it). The downhill into Westport was fun, as always, and I decided not to stop there but to stay on to Newboro and have a bite to eat there.
At Newboro, I had the most delicious milk shake ever. It was totally boss. I hung around for about 15 minutes or so and then got back on the bike and started in on the second half of the ride. The first 100 km covered some hills and shield rock and lakes. This second half was mostly flat through farm land, hence the “tale of two rides”.
It was during this second half that I started to encounter some headwinds on my way to Merrickville. These did not make me happy, and this section of the ride was the toughest as a bit of fatigue started setting in. When I arrived in Merrickville, there were tons of people out and about in the town, taking full advantage of the beautiful day because, well, winter was coming.
I stopped in at the Village Bean to get my card signed and the cashier there, who by this time recognized me as one of those crazy bike riders who goes all over the place, asked “How far are you going today?”. This was some time in the mid-afternoon and we chatted about the weather and so on. I fuelled up on carrot cake and coke, and headed back out on the road.
Just as I was pulling out of Merrickville, I heard that infrequent but familiar hiss of my rear tire going flat. I inspected the tire and found that somewhere along the way something had shredded it a bit. Beats me how as I hadn’t seen anything obvious. No worries, as I ride well-equipped. So I started taking the tire off and putting in a new tube, and this is where I lost more time than I had thought I ever would. Not because replacing the tube was finicky (okay, it didn’t cooperate at first, but I learned it a good lesson), but because of the number of people who stopped asking if I needed any help.
The first was an old fellow who asked if I needed a ride anywhere. Then a cop stopped to see if I needed anything. Then a fellow cyclist going the other way stopped. And then some dude pulled over, scaring up a ton of dust, jumped out of his car and started going goo-goo over my bike. Since I have a double top tube – something we don’t see too often – he wanted to know all about it, all about randonneuring, had to show me a picture of his bike on his cell phone… and then took a few pictures of my bike from various angles. Fortunately, I was in no danger of running out of time, so I was happy to oblige and wave the rando flag.
Back on the road, fully repaired and grateful for the offers of help, I started down Burritt’s Rapids Road which follows the Rideau River towards Kemptville. This is my favourite part of this section, with horse farms and wonderful scenery everywhere. But this was the fall and many farmers were preparing their fields for the next spring but spreading the manure. I had the misfortune of being downwind of a plop wagon for several minutes.
Turning north and crossing the Rideau River, I made my way back towards Ashton on a fairly flat road. Again, the traffic was quite light so this was a very pleasant ride. As I neared Ashton, I heard again the gun shots and the cackling geese from the killing fields. I cruised into the parking lot in Ashton, thoroughly pleased with my day’s ride which covered two distinct types of terrain together.