When I first read of the new “Ontario Randonneurs O-12 Award” in the 2020 Award Dinner Blog, I thought that it was a worthy challenge. And set my mind to completing the O-12 with all rides in Ontario.
I was not completely naive about this goal. I had completed the Frosty 200 from Tillsonburg in January 2018, so I had some experience and confidence about completing mid-winter 200km rides.
Fortunate for me, Timothy Ormond had requested a Permanent, The Gentle Start 200, for the end of January. It would be great to have someone to ride with. Unfortunately, Tim had to bail out at the last minute due to family priority, but, undaunted, I set out from Oakville in late January on the first of my O-12 rides. It was below freezing, but the roads were dry. Two memories stand out. When I reached St. George, my toes were freezing cold even though I was wearing warm wool socks and neoprene booties. I recalled reading about wrapping toes in aluminum foil to preserve some heat. So when I stopped at a St. George sandwich shop, they obliged me with some aluminum foil which really did help. And my second memory of this ride was stopping at The Trail Eatery for a delicious, sugar loaded, slice of pecan pie that got me to the finish.
Tim and I got together to ride The Six Nations 200 Permanent in February. It was very cold, and we had to battle a very strong wind riding west to St. George. I had learned from my January experience about cold toes, so I had inserted some Toe Warmers in my cycling shoes. They made all the difference. And I had brought some extras with me that I was happy to give to Tim when his toes were going numb with cold. Still a bone chilling trek until we made it to St. George. We stopped into the re-named Tansley’s Coffee Emporium to get warmed up knowing that we would soon be turning around in Paris with the wind at our backs. We actually felt reasonably warm with bright sunshine and no longer fighting the wind heading back to Oakville. Don’t know that I would have completed this ride without Tim. We finished with broad smiles.
COVID-19 reared its ugly head in March, and the OCA imposed ride restrictions. I chose to ride the Grand River 200 as the route passed through Ancaster, where I live, on both the out bound and in bound legs. With permanents, we have the latitude to start/end anywhere along the route. So I started the ride in Ancaster and stopped again at my home mid-ride for food and drink avoiding stops anywhere else.
COVID-19 precluded any sanctioned rides in April and May, but I wanted to continue my string of monthly 200’s. In April I cycled 200km on my rollers. But I didn’t think that really qualified, as the rollers offer little resistance – I averaged 40km/h. Being hard headed, I did another 200km on my trainer. That was a worthy effort. And in May, I rode an unsanctioned 200km ride from my home on a route that I have proposed, The Grimsby Circle 200. The thing I remember about that ride was dense fog for about 30km in the early morning.
Finally in June, we could again resume sanctioned rides but with appropriate restrictions. I cycled the Niagara Plateau 200 out of Brantford. It’s a flat, out and back route to Port Colborne with no places to refuel on the route. Otherwise a nice ride, save for the extended, drenching rain on the last half of the return leg. Still, finished a happy cyclist.
July was my favourite ride of the year. And the hottest. A scorcher. Much Ado About Nothing out of London. I had ridden this route a couple of times before with the Huron Chapter to take in a play at the Stratford Festival. Good memories. I carried a picnic lunch that I enjoyed at the park surrounding the Festival Theatre in Stratford. Despite an early start, there was no avoiding the heat. The heat max’d out at 39C on my bike computer. Drank lots of fluids. Kept the pedals turning. And made it back to London before the late afternoon thunderstorms.
By mid-year, I determined that I did not want to repeat any routes on my quest for the O-12. August was Tour of the Valleys. For September, I chose St. Thomas-Paris-St. Thomas except that I started in Paris which is closer to home. I was almost completing a 200’s in under 8h’s, and set out with that objective in mind. Just kept rolling, except for the one and only flat I got on the way back to Paris. No mind, still finished in just over 7-1/2h’s. Best ever time. Surprised myself.
Rode another sub-8h permanent in October – Frosty 200. Normally starts in Tillsonburg but I began the ride in Port Dover which is closer to home. Nice riding in Norfolk & Oxford Counties and along the roads that skirt the Lake Erie shoreline back to Port Dover.
Only two left to go, but weather could start to become a real impediment to finishing. No bother, I was determined now to get the O-12 one way or another. Fortunate for some reasonable conditions for the Niagara Ramble in November. On the morning of the December ride, Castle 200, I wondered if I ought to postpone. There had been snow the previous day. And very strong winds were forecast, but at least the temperatures would be above freezing for most of the ride. And I knew that weather was likely to get worse later in the month. So I set off prepared for a long day in the saddle. I encountered some snow, slush and icy roads on the escarpment above Grimsby. Bike handling skills from trying out cyclocross in the last few years were put to use. And those winds – sustained at 40km/h with gusts up to 70. Felt like I was hardly moving at times going south to Port Colborne. Blown from there to Fort Erie, but then virtually no respite from the energy-sapping wind until the last northbound leg down back to Grimsby. Even got blown off the road once by a strong gust, but manage to stay upright. Otherwise, just a tough slog but happy to endure with the end of the O-12 at hand.
Did it! Set out to complete the O-12 with an All Ontario set of different routes. Never had in mind that all but one ride would be solo, but that’s how it worked out with COVID-19 restrictions. Keys to success: Determination. Perseverance. And most important, Love & Enjoyment of Cycling. Thanks to Randonneurs Ontario for setting this challenge. Great motivation in the year of COVID19.