Cottage Country 600

From Dave Thompson:

An amazing experience has to have highs and lows, right? This definitely qualifies!

It was epic, an extremely tiring but gratifying ride. How tiring – well, can you imagine a beer in front of her and Liz going to bed instead?

First and foremost, the eight of us started and finished together. That in itself is unusual. Michael, Martin, Arthur, Peter, Dave, Vaune, Kathy, Liz – great riding company.

The route was amazing – I put that in the past tense because it will probably be reconstituted if/when we run this again. The major hang-up is getting from South River to Highway 522 towards Loring. Unless the recent changes to the Highway Traffic Act will let us ride on Highway 11, our only option at this point is Rye Road with its 16km of gravel. I had checked that section out just one week earlier and while rough going in spots, it was do-able. Well, we did it, but in between my checkout drive and our ride, someone had seen fit to do some road maintenance and filled quite a few spots with what we call pit-run gravel aka soft sand. Perhaps it will pack eventually, but that was brutal. Spinning wheels, a couple of tip-overs … you get the idea.

The rest of the route explored as much of cottage country as possible, hitting parallel roads to Highways 11 and 69. Southwood Road delighted everyone, as it had on the 400k the prior week.

The weather could always have been worse but the north wind as we headed north and the very strong south wind as we headed south, then capped off by heavy rain from Orillia almost to the end … well, that just about did us in time-wise as we finished in 39:22.

Other than that wind, we were cold coming into my place close to 1am – yes, that’s 19 hours to do the first 340k. The temperature was in the single digits and we’d had a long day. Everyone enjoyed a hot shower at that point. In Orillia on the return, temperature dropping and in heavy rain, we donned all our clothing for the final stretch. In Vaune’s case, that included a large trash bag, arm-holes cut … yes, we were quite the motley crew!

Nature tried to stop us once more at a road closure. It seems that water had taken out a culvert. Now I think of a culvert as one of those corrugated pipes across the end of my driveway … this one was those large concrete jobs that you can almost walk through, connecting two parts of a lake right on our way east towards Bala. As soon as we topped the hill and saw the huge crane down below and all the trucks, I knew that we were in trouble. There aren’t many east-west routes through this area. This wasn’t going to be eight of us tip-toeing through the water. However … just as Vaune was approaching the workmen to see if they’d let us move our bikes across the piles of gravel that were accumulating on the concrete culvert sections as they repaired the road, someone discovered that there was a walk-around with a little foot-bridge. I’m pretty sure that adding perhaps 40 km to our ride at that point would have sealed the deal, but we lucked out. Back-tracking to 141 then north and east … ugh

The mosquitoes were epic. I’ve never seen them like this. You only had to stop for a second and there were clouds. On Rye Road we couldn’t outrun them, hard as we tried and they bit on exposed skin and through cycling shorts. It was too slow going to stay ahead of the critters. Vaune set a new record for a flat-tire-change in the midst of those Rye Road mosquitoes.

Speaking of flats, the last group rolled into my place and we’d lost Peter. It seems that he’d had a flat 3 km back at the entrance to our cottage road, Osprey. I went out with the car to track him down and he was not too far behind.   Kathy had two flats – one at the house and another early on while on one of our short highway 69 stretches.

We never had much time in the bank on day two. We’d left my place about 1/2 hour negative and were rather pressed to make Parry Sound, 100+ km further on. With only 10 minutes in the bank, we rolled out of Parry Sound and got to Bala with about an hour, used up most of that fortifying ourselves with cappuccino and such (have to have some fun, right?), and used up a bunch more in Orillia as we got reorganized to roll to the finish in the heavy rain. 39:22 is certainly a new 600k record for me. That was one full-value ride!

Special mention must be made of Michael and Martin as they did way more than their fair share of pulling. Michael, in particular, could have finished hours earlier, but elected to stay with the group. At times the group was spread out but we always reconstituted at stops.

Last but not least, thanks to my wife Sandy who organized food and drink for dinner and breakfast and sleeping arrangements. Our washer & dryer have been going full time today as all those towels and bedding are washed.   For me it was a two-snooze drive home. Usually I’m so wired that I don’t need to stop on a 2.5 hour drive, even after a big ride … but not this time!

From Kathy Brouse:

OK, time to add my two cents. There are a few details Dave did not mention. Aside from the fact that it was a long, hard and challenging ride (but no one expects these 600 to be a breeze) it was a huge adventure. We were riding in cottage country, remote cottage country – granite shield and Algonquin Park, that type of cottage country. Riding to Dave’s house along this deserted rode close to midnight the sky was bright and full of stars. In the morning as we headed out along the road towards the highway I was upfront with Peter and we came across a moose on the road and further on Michael, Marty, Peter and I spotted a bear on the side of the road!! At the end of the second day, as we rode along Ridge Rd. in the dark towards Barrie the side of the fields were lit up by fireflies, it was magic.

Thank you to Dave for organizing this adventure and to Sandy for staying up after midnight to dish out lasagna to a motley group of cold and hungry randonneurs. How often on one of these long challenging rides do you get to sleep in a comfy bed and eat yummy food without handing over a credit card:-) A heartfelt thanks to the both of you for such a pleasant stopover.

Other memories – strawberry ice cream in Bala, coming off my bike (again) on a cushion of sand, drafting behind Michael T who pulled us north and then south, watching Dave take off into the distance cause I didn’t know he could rock the bike like that, Vaune all agitated and dressed in a garbage bag, Peter Grant and such chivalry as he took charge of the changing of the flats (got to be some perks in this sport for us ladies:-)

A great time, thank you Dave and Liz, Vaune, Arthur, Peter, Michael and Marty for sharing it with me. Now all my qualifying rides are done for PBP, yippee!!

From Liz Overduin:

Thanks Dave and Kathy for taking the time to write reports – I love reading ride reports – even when I was on the ride.

I have decided that I love the 600 km distance – but I would rather do it in 72 hours as opposed to 40 hours! Today I did not go to work – it was unthinkable to even try to weld something! So I had 3 days off anyway!

Dave, it was a great route – the gravel was crazy, but for me, it was the mosquitoes! When we had to walk up those hills in the soft gravel, rather than spin out, the mosquitoes were in heaven! Eight cyclists in spandex! What were they doing before we came along? Within seconds I was surrounded by at least 200 mosquitoes – no exaggeration! I looked over at Peter Grant walking beside me and he also had a swarm around him. It was truly insane! And then Vaune gets a flat! And Peter stayed with her – is there a medal for that?

And, yes, I have let down the Huron Chapter by turning down a beer and lasagna – which was truly regrettable the 2nd day – consider it a lesson learned. All I could think about in that last hour up to your cabin was – I have got to close my eyes and stop moving any of my aching body parts! Nothing else mattered!   Huge thanks to Dave and Sandy for such a great welcome and comfortable place to stay. If we had 72 hours for a 600 we could have enjoyed it so much more!

We all finished – and together – what a great experience – thanks to everyone! Although I had my bear spray at the ready……I never had to use it (does bear spray repel mosquitoes?) If I had a repellent for headwind, that would have been supremely handy!

Congrats to everyone who is now qualified for PBP – you are going to Love it!

From Peter Grant:

Cottage 600 – a very enjoyable bike ride. Great scenery, quiet roads and most important – good company. Thank you Marty, Michael, Dave Kathy Arthur, Vaune and Liz. The 500km of headwinds were a bit of bad luck but overall we had had good weather and that 100km+ without headwinds. And such hospitality at Port Loring. A very special thank you to Sandy Thompson for being up at 1:00 AM with cold beer and hot lasagna for us.

Mosquitoes scare me and my weapon of choice in the spray category was a 37ml bottle of Natrepel which I got at MEC. When Vaune announced she had a flat on Rye Road I reached for it first and sprayed our helmets and probably a lot more. I just checked my helmet and the Natrepel did not melt anything or even make it sticky, maybe just a hint of lemon smell.

Until next time, thank you all for a great weekend!


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