Stage 47 – Owen Sound to New Tecumseth
Can I recommend to any Ontario locals who like to cycle but haven’t ridden around Awasaga Bay, Georgian Bay on the stretch from Meaford to Collingwood that skirts the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains, to make a date in their diaries and give it a try? The towns are lovely, especially Thornbury, some with fine marinas (particularly Meaford which is a gem), most with great coffee shops, the road surface is almost flawless, there’s a shoulder, and the distances between places are more old world than new i.e.shorter.
- Today’s Distance (miles/km): 78 / 125
- Time in saddle: 7h
- Max/min temp (°c):33 °/16°
- Climb/descend (feet) : 1407 / 1509
- Calories used: 3832
- Cafe time: 1h 16
Before getting on to today’s action, dear readers, I’d like to mention something to all of you today – if anyone has an event coming up, like a charity run/swim/ride/pie-eating contest, why not drop me a line with the details and I’ll put a plug in the blog for you (faintly disturbing phrase, sorry). Send me links to your charity pages, maybe a sentence about what you’re doing, anything relevant, and I’ll do a posting about it. Could be next week when I’m not riding, or once I get going again, which gives you plenty of time to put it together. Use the comments section, anywhere you like, and I’ll get it. Plus you’ll then have two posts for the price of one.
The first stretch of road, after having breakfast at my motel (nearly the best room I’ve had so far, at the cheapest price so far), was from Owen Sound, through the cool mist (but no rain!!) to the coast of Awasaga Bay at Meaford. It was virtually deserted and very atmospheric, taking in the local airport, where thankfully not much was happening:
…past this sign about the Group of Seven artist Tom Thompson, who I’ve just discovered grew up in nearby Leith, sadly outside the flyzone of my ride today…
…and arriving at the lake, where I felt the urge to dip my wheel in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron (leading to a wheel-cleaning session because I got sand in my pads – painful), and to admire the local defences:This canon is from the Jack Aubrey era (roughly Napoleonic), for those of you who’ve given up part of their lives to the twenty totally addictive Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brien, the most famous of which was made into a wonderful film, Master & Commander.
One of the series has him suffering a defeat at the hands of the brand-new American Navy, stocked with hugely experienced sailors from America, Canada, France, you name it, much to the shock of the British RN. Everything I know about about sailing, the Royal Navy and The Napoleonic Wars, which isn’t much, I got from those books. My vocabulary also quadrupled through reading them. I have quite a collection of archaic phrases of abuse which I treasure. If you’ve ever wondered where everyday phrases come from, nine times out of ten it’s a nautical reference.
The marina here is superb, and I’m looking forward to seeing if Jerry and Mayta or Morley have been here much in their sailing days. I’m just saying, I’d come here.
Thornbury, the next town along, was my coffee stop, two hours into the ride, and a local recommended that I try the Ashanti on the Main Street. I chatted to Sue outside, from Vancouver originally but now living here in Thornbury, and she said “It’s the best” She told me about all of the cycling that goes on around here, with very challenging hills off to the right as you head east. Great place, superb coffee and the first time I’ve had a proper plate of natas in a while:
(Lisbon, ECO tour, several years ago!)
Amazingly, the forecast proved wrong and the rain stayed off today, which was a big relief after yesterday. I made great time without feeling rushed and just enjoyed seeing this part of Ontario from my bike. This is a big summer holiday destination but also a winter one, with skiing popular at the various Blue Mountain resorts:
Collingwood, another few kilometres along the lake-front, is much busier, bigger, and less appealing (to me) but I didn’t explore. I just did my upmost to find a route that had something like a hard shoulder. It’s a mine-field. Actually a minefield would be slightly safer than Highway 26, where I was forced to ride for a couple of km. Got off at Wasaga Beach and cycled in to a lovely campsite/pitch-n-put golf/food stall/ice-cream place. I was served by a very entertaining young lad who I’d guess was about six or seven (son of the owner, I believe) who, after I told him that I was cycling right across the whole of Canada, pulled a variety of confused and amused faces, finally saying “So, like, you must be cycling for, like, 10 hours!!” As I pedalled away from my lunch of a nice burger and the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever tasted (Susie will tell you, I don’t even like sweet potato), burger and root beer (I can stop drinking root beer anytime, anytime at all)…
..I passed a store a few km up the road and thought I’d get some more trail mix (see root beer, above). I’m very glad I did, because I realised that I’d left my wallet in the washroom back at the golf. I’m a bit prone to this sort of thing normally but have been a reformed character on this trip, so I was very relieved to find it exactly where I’d left it. The lady serving said she thought it was a very good sign that I’d realised before it was too late.
This road I was on was one that I’ve driven before – we hired a big van for our week spent around the bay at Balm Beach, where Susie’s inspiration for this picture, featured earlier on the blog, came from:
The beaches there were awash with driftwood and seaweed and so on, so it was a week of swimming and happy and frenzied beach-art that grew each day like the craze for sculpture on Easter Island. If we’d stayed another week, our society could have collapsed into chaos.
I arrived at the extremely well-hidden campsite (missed it twice) to meet April, who showed me to a spot despite not working there, then asked if I’d like a cup of tea, and how I took it. I was so touched, and when she came back with it, I must tell you that it was the best tasting cup of tea I’ve had since leaving Blighty, and that includes the ones I make myself. I told April this, who was tickled pink. Then, as I sat in the evening sun writing the blog, Tom from the caravan/house behind me (this site is mainly long-term residents, and has a great home-made feel to it – lots of old wooden fences, very little in the way of signage, awful showers!) came over and said he had heard about my trip and had something for me. I recognised him as the guy mowing the lawn when I was trying and failing to talk to Jerry in Toronto. Anyway, he handed me a small black velvet pouch, which contained a small metal bell, inscribed with the Harley-Davidson logo. “It’s for good luck on your trip!” he told me. “They can’t be bought, just given away. You put it on your bike for luck. They must be given!” It was so unexpected, and I thanked him profusely. We even got a picture together with his excellent touring bike, which I told him was the most immaculate thing in this campground by a country mile:
Proud owner of a Harley bell
After I’d cooked and eaten, Tom came back over with a beer and to see if we cold get a photo together with my bike on his phone, so I happily obliged. Thanks, Tom! This should, all being well, be my last night on the road for a week or so. I’ll be heading into Toronto very early, as a scorcher is forecast, then heading downtown (after seeing various Markson family members in the late afternoon) to the apartment we’re so kindly being lent by Virginia Markson, who’s away this week. Then on Sunday I’m planning to reintroduce myself to my wife, Susanna The Patient.
Good night, friends of the blog everywhere, and in the words that I have said to me twenty times a day out there on the highways of Canada, ride safe. X
Update….when I got up a 5am this morning I found that Tom had taken the time during the campground’s Friday night BBQ “shenanigans” (both Tom and April called them this!) to leave a parting gift. Tom, you’re a gent.