Haliburton Highlands 600 … or, Starry Starry Night

Ride Report by Dave Thompson:

I don’t get tired of Ontario scenery and every new ride that I do with Randonneurs Ontario offers something new. Yes I know that we do see a lot of forest but it still offers much more variety than many of the U.S. rides that I’ve done with mile after mile of Everglades and Sugarcane (yes, that would be Florida), corn fields, grazing land for cattle, you name it.

Look closely — yes, that’s a beaver swimming in that pond. Look up — wow, you have to be far removed from civilization to see that many stars! I didn’t realize that most, if not all, of the Trent Severn Locks are historical sites; yes, we rode along the Trent/Severn for a while, very pleasant and flat. That was about the only flat section of this ride….

Six of us started; six of us finished. Tim Ormond, Smiling Oliveira, Martin Cooper, Henk Bouhuyzen, Terry Payne and I rode up and down the relentless hills! Most of them are relatively short; occasionally the momentum from one would help you with the climb up the next … or not quite.

Construction of the 407 extension is coming along nicely. So nicely, in fact, that we had to detour at one point. Terry got so much mud in his fender that he had to find someone with a hose; Martin had his cleats packed with mud; I was reminded why I switched to mountain shoes after I started Randonneuring.

I was having a left calf problem that a couple of ibuprofen purchased at the pharmacy at Orono kept at bay. It’s still a little swollen this morning; perhaps I won’t ride today! Shortly after that, Terry and I were riding together and did so for the rest of the ride. The six of us would end up together at the next couple of Controls. Henk and Martin finished the ride together; Tim and Smiling paired up through that first day and night but then finished up separately.

I had booked two rooms in Minden for Henk, Martin, Terry and myself. Martin was originally going to room with me but once the ride pairings “happened”, Terry and I roomed together. Coming into Minden northbound, we picked up a couple of Subway subs each, checked into the hotel, ate half a sub and left them in the room for our return. We also, ahem, picked up one beer each from the bar downstairs and left those in the room. The bar couldn’t send them off with caps intact but they did put Saran Wrap over the tops. I now know that beer won’t go flat over 4-5 hours standing up in a fridge with the tops covered. See – you learn something on every one of these rides!

Terry and I were first into Haliburton. Even though it was only 10:30, the entire town was closed for the night except for a Daisy Mart that had a hot chocolate machine … great! The ride reverses course back to Minden and we found Tim and Smiling not far behind us so we let them know about the open store which would be closing at 11 p.m. We also let them know that we had extra beds in our room if they were interested, but both were intent on riding through. We encountered Henk and Martin shortly afterwards but didn’t stop to talk.

Back in Minden just before 1am, Terry and I cleaned up, ate our subs, consumed our beer and agreed on a 1.5 hour sleep time. That got us up at 3:00 a.m. and rolling at 3:30. We then went to the Tim Horton Control, checked in, had a bowl of soup and hit the road. We were confused by the fellow signing the cards who said that four riders had already been through. We thought at first that Henk and Martin had had an incredibly short sleep but realized afterwards that they must have gone to the Tim’s first to get something to eat and then went back to the hotel. Sure enough we found out later that they had three hours sleep before continuing.

Note to other Ontario Randonneurs — the Dominion Hotel in Minden is a perfect spot as a layover.

The first day was cloudy for the most part, some dark clouds occasionally but no rain. Late in the day it cleared and we were treated to the array of stars, no moon or clouds to spoil the view. The temperature dropped with the absence of cloud cover but stayed over 10C so it was comfortable. Day two was sunny and hot but there were enough services along the route that we could stop and get a cool-down drink when necessary, and we did. Once that was at a golf course…

Terry and I finished up a little after 4 p.m. Smiling was still in the Tim’s, having arrived about 20 minutes before us. Tim Ormond was there when Smiling arrived, gone when we finished. Henk and Martin came in close to 8pm; they’d taken the time to sleep, smart men! The flip side, of course, is that the wind had changed to mostly south and became more of a factor for them.

Hats off to Martin — congrats — his first 600!

As always, with one of these things, I’m anxious to get ‘er done, as we close in on the finish line. Also as always, I enjoy myself, the riding company and the scenery. There’s really no experience quite like it.

Toronto – Ottawa – Toronto 1000

Ride Report from Dave Pearson:

I rarely sleep well before a brevet. I spent most of Friday packing and repacking my bike, eating carbs, and trying to take a few catnaps. I drank far too much coffee and drifted off to sleep at around 1:00. The alarm was set for 4:30. I bolted awake at 3:20, showered, shaved, ate more carbs (oatmeal), drank even more coffee, and then ambled on my bike to Queens Park.

There were two of us riding the TOT: Stephen Jones the ride organizer and me. So, my job at this point was to guess which side of the building I would find Stephen…front or back?
The front was full of scaffolding but was, after all, the front. The back was the start of the GPS trail and had no scaffolding. I flipped a coin and waited at the back.

Stephen was running a bit late, failed to see me at the front, and decided to chase me down, assuming I had already started. But he checked the back just on the off chance…thank god.

So, we rode out of Queens Park together.

The route from Toronto to Oshawa is relatively smooth with a slight incline that twists and winds through scenic neighborhoods and takes a neat pass behind the zoo. We were a bit past the zoo when Stephen’s bike sounded like it lost a derailleur with a bang and he went crashing to the ground. There were no broken bones and no broken derailleur. However, there was quite a bit of road rash and a broken wallet hidden behind a perfectly intact jersey. Are Garneau kits made of Kevlar? This one may have been. And the culprit which caused the crash? A worn chain ring…the big one.

The first control was in Oshawa on Simcoe Street 70 km into the ride. It was to be an egg McMuffin breakfast. I got food and my control card signed as quickly as possible while Steve went to the washroom. I bolted my first sandwich the waited to see if Steve would take a few minutes to sit and eat or if he would ‘run and gun’ like many others in the Toronto chapter. He elected to sit for a few minutes.

After Oshawa, the route becomes winding country roads with a few hills. Stephen and I talk of ride expectations and strategy. He wants to finish in 50 hours. Me? I just want to finish. This is my first time riding this kind of distance without a planned sleep stop and I don’t know how my body will behave. So, at 90 km Stephen’s bike fades into the distance and I’m on my own.

At 120 km the route comes to a T and my GPS indicates both ways are part of the route.
There is an arrow cue which indicates left, but I want to make sure, so I stop to pull out my cue sheet to check. Hmm…no cue sheet. Damn. This little arrow better be correct or I’m about to go 80 km out of my way.

The arrow was correct. The Peterborough control was at the 160 km mark. There was a big long line inside the Wendy’s so, I went through the drive through and ate on the bike.

Another 110 km to Tweed and dinner at Subway. I place my order and the waitress asks if I’m on a bike ride from Toronto to Ottawa and back to Toronto. Clearly Stephen was here before me. An hour before me. He will be two hours ahead of me by the time I finish dinner and get back on the bike.

With the darkness comes the fog and I’m frequently wiping the condensation from my glasses.

The next control is in Perth, 401 km. This is the spot where I would normally get a motel room for a few hours. But I’ve elected to ride through. No soft bed for me. As I ride down Gore Street my eyes are drawn to the Tim Hortons on the corner. A cup of coffee would sure help matters.
“Dave, over here!”
Sure enough, it’s Stephen, standing in front of the Macs on the other side of the street.
He’s ready to concede the ride and go to his parents’ house. We ride together for a ways then he turns off. I’m truly on my own.

It’s up to Parliament Hill and back to Perth. It was hazy, hot, and humid and I was running out of steam. Back at Perth I stopped at the Tim’s for a double order of chicken noodle soup, a lot of water, a carton of chocolate milk, and a cup of coffee. I also changed my kit.

Outside, the weather had changed. We were in for some rain. And rain it did! On again off again for the next several hours. When the rain let up, the fog rolled in and keeping any speed was quite difficult.

The next control was the Glenora ferry which is 150kms from the Perth control. If I could make the ferry by 11 p.m., I could ride across that night. Any later and I’d have to wait until 6 a.m.

It turns out I was in Greater Nappanee at 10:30 p.m.…31 km from the ferry. Damn.
I found an all-night Tim’s and put my head down for a couple of hours, then rode to the Ferry. Between Tim’s and the ferry, one of my Garmins died. I stopped to try to bring it back to life. A chorus of deep throated coyotes howl quite close to my left. They are answered by a multitude of higher pitched coyotes much closer on my right. To hell with the Garmin. I pedal as fast as I can to the ferry. It’s about 3 a.m. and I get a bit of sleep on the bench until I’m woken by a group of fishermen. One of them signs my control card.

Glenora to Brighton…the longest 71 km ever. I needed a good breakfast to get my legs working. I was thinking pancakes or French toast.
Or pancakes and French toast…yum!
“Sorry, we have no Pancakes …or French toast”
I settled for eggs and hash browns…sigh.

Brighton to Bewdley…the long, dark, teatime of the soul. On this stretch of road I passed through three thunderstorms and kept falling asleep on my bike. After a time, when I was in that half wakeful state, I saw my dog Cyril in front of my guiding my way. And beside him was my new puppy Mattie learning from Cyril how to be a Spirit guide. And behind me was my wife Gillian giving me words of encouragement. Once in a while I would lose balance and would be shaken to full wakefulness. Everyone would disappear. Then they quickly came back to help me on my way. After a time, Cyril and Mattie led me to a road sign. Gillian suggested I lean the bike against it and myself against the bike and take a good, long nap. I did just that. In the pouring rain. Sometime later thunder cracked overhead and a bolt of lightning struck a tree directly across from me. I wanted to look, but I was too tired and fell back to sleep. A car pulled over and asked if I was alright. Yes, I assured them, I was. It had stopped raining. I stood up and looked across the road. Yup, lightening had struck a tree.

Bewdley to Queens Park was long and tiring…as any good brevet should be. There was no more rain. Just a mild breeze. A good ride.