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.

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