Day 57 – Back in the Saddle: Toronto to Cobourg

Day 57 – Back in the Saddle: Toronto to Cobourg. Welcome back, dear Friends of the Blog! Today marks the return to cycling, camping, motelling, swimming and getting hot or soaked on the bike that is CrossingCanada2017.  I’m well rested and ready for Part Two, which takes us from Lake Ontario to the three great cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec. We’ll be following the great St Lawrence River all the way into the Maritimes, where we’ll visit Prince Edward Island before the last leg, a long ferry journey over to Newfoundland. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Here’s the start of today’s route, seen once again from the 26th (I was one out) floor, where we’ve been staying for a couple of days:

  • Today’s Distance (miles/km): 94 / 151
  • Time in saddle: 10h 50
  • Max/min temp (°c): 28°/14°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 1825 / 1713
  • Calories used: 4300
  • Cafe time: 1h 50

In the end Susie decided to see me off by bicycle, so I cycled down to the lakefront at 7am and met Susie by the ferry terminal for a coffee, where I was shocked to find that I’d actually shrunk a bit during the week off:

Susie started out needing some help on the bike:

…but soon got her confidence back, so we rented a bike and set off to ride for half an hour together:

We said a sad goodbye at a lovely spot where wildflowers, grasses and butterflys abounded, making it feel as though we were miles from the city, and then I headed off east as usual and Susie headed west to return the bike. 

I spent virtually the entire day on the Waterfront Trail, which I mentioned all those weeks ago when I cycled to Dorset as a shakedown ride. Although in parts it is without doubt a superb trail, with a super-smooth surface, a winding route, plenty of lakeside beaches and great for shorter local rides, once you start covering longer distances the variability comes into sharp focus and it can be quite tiring to ride. Long stretches are very rough, bollards block the way at one point meaning you have to remove all four panniers to get through, and it rains. Ok, maybe that’s not the fault of the trail (I got a royal soaking from 1-6pm inclusive which definitively coloured my experience). The lake views are great, and fairly close to Toronto I discovered a beach and volleyball centre that I’d never realised was there:

I stopped for coffee after a couple of hours, and as I rode up the pavement ramp I met a chap riding his mobility scooter up at the same time. He asked where I was headed and it turned out that he was from St John’s Newfoundland. His name was Billy and he said he’d been a sailor his whole life until retirement – “Everyone calls me Cap’n Billy!” – and had the nautical tattoos to prove it. He’d worked for years in the engine room, sailing on all the Great Lakes “but my hearing started to go, so I worked my ticket and became a captain on the ferries taking tourists out of Toronto”. He told me that sailing up the west coast of Newfoundland was the most beautiful place you’d ever see. He wished me luck and I said “See you, Cap’n’ Billy!” which made me smile for ages as I drank my coffee. 

Bike Eats Apple – the bag holding my two apples slipped a bit and one of the apples got eaten by the spokes of my bike, much to the amusement of the builder working on the house I was passing. I offered him the remnants, but he said “No, I’m good”. He then retold the whole story to his buddy and they laughed all over again. 

Here’s one view of the Waterfront Trail that I’m guessing won’t appear in their publicity material:

You travel down a boulevard of pylons as you pass through yet another power station. I saw conventional as well as nuclear today. The gravel section after this had the bollard in the way, and then it started to rain, lasting for 5 hours. I’d taken on a longer first day back than I’d have liked, since the camping options were very thin. 

For my mum, raised on the North York Moors near Pickering, I’d like to say that I passed from Pickering to Whitby today! At Whitby, a woman with one arm suddenly stepped out in the road in front of me, making me brake and meet her face-to-face. 

“Do you work for a guy named Brian?” she asked with some concern. “No, I’m afraid I don’t” I said. She seemed very happy with this answer. “Oh, OK. Thank you”, and she stood aside to let me pass.

Here’s a slightly made-up statistic: 90% of directions that I’m given are wrong, and 95% of weather predictions ditto. 

I arrived in Coburg, which is a great town, full of beautifully preserved older buildings, and set up at the campsite in the park right beside the lake. Massively overpriced and cramped, but there is very little to choose from and the lake makes it worth it. Tonight will be a very early night, then up early for breakfast at The Buttermilk Cafe, which I spotted on the way in.

Update – The Buttermilk Cafe is great, very friendly (thanks Heather!) and has booths, so of course I’d like it. They have also just served me officially my biggest breakfast in the last 3000+ miles:

The big city is still very much on my mind – Susie’s family on her father’s side have lived in Toronto for so many years that stories always come up about the old days, and how things have changed. At lunch yesterday with Ellie, Toby and his oldest friend, David Shaul (buddies since they were 4 years old), Ellie regaled us with several stories about his early years as a practising psychiatrist. He said that so many doctors gathered in the same area of town that it was known as “Angst Alley”. David recalled that there used to be 200-acre dairy farms, just north of St Clair, which is where we were staying. Ellie also talked about going to a lecture in Chicago with his brother Morley given by none other than the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and how at the end FLW asked if there were any questions. Ellie said it would be a brave man that spoke up, but someone did: “Mr Wright, have you ever built anything for ordinary people?”. Wright replied instantly and witheringly “I haven’t met any ordinary people”. Wright had a fairly fearsome reputation as a tough guy to deal with, and I asked Ellie what he was really like – “No surprises!” was his choice reply.

Here’s the current advert for the Dunfield, featuring Uncle Ellie (centre) and David Shaul (right):

Before packing up yesterday afternoon, Susie gave one last whistling curtain-call performance of Fascinatin’ Rhythm, by popular request, as a sort of au revoir to the blog for now (she’s promised to get together with Joanna for an Ish Kabibble rendition at some point):

The photo of birds yesterday kept reminding me of something, and then I suddenly remembered what it was:

Card collection (2017) by B Buckton

 “Art Collection of Archduke Leopold” (1651) by David Teniers

And in Wildlife Corner, this chap has found a risky spot to lounge about in. He/she (they’re both, aren’t they?) wouldn’t move, no matter how close my front wheel came. I’m sure this strategy works with predators, but less well with cars or bikes:


19 thoughts on “Day 57 – Back in the Saddle: Toronto to Cobourg

  1. Ben, what astonishing mileage for your second half of your trip!! Fantastic , and it must have been a wonderful boost seeing Susie! We so enjoyed having Sam here for a couple of days, listening to the two bruvs (Sam and Jake) playing the uke and guitar – have a video of them playing ! Big hugs to you from all here, including Roly! Lots of love M and C and E and A! Xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Miranda and all Chisholm’s, so nice to know that you’re all out there somewhere. I think Roly would be great company on this trip. I see him sitting in a large basket out front, mostly sleeping, then chasing ducks and whatnot whilst I set up the tent. Thanks so much for hosting our lads. Sam told me what a great time he had. Bxx


  2. I’d just like to say that, as Ben disappeared around a leafy bend of the trail, his parting cry to me was, “Lordy! Here comes the Atlantic!”
    It made me laugh through the tears…
    Susie x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great to be back on the trail, quirky humour, surprising connections and chance encounters with one armed women and toads.Do you think the one armed woman with her strange question cd have been an apparition? Do you know the piece from John Aubrey, favourite thing of mine:

    ANno 1670 not far from Cirencester was an apparition.Bieng demanded whether a good spirit or bad, returned no answer but disappeared with a curious perfume and most melodious twang.

    What a long haul for a fist day Part 2. And rain as well. No room for false cosiness.Hope the massage is paying off.xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ben what an amazing trip you are having! We are here and waiting to welcome you on PEI whenever you reach the eastern seaboard! Awesome seafood, potatoes to fatten you up and island fiddling for those fingers…haha! We even have a violin!!! See you whenever , safe travels, David.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello David, and welcome to the blog! Great to know that you’re safely on the island, and I’ll be in touch when I’m a bit nearer and can guess at an arrival date. You’ll probably be able to guess form the blog progress anyway. Have a wonderful well-earned rest until then!


  5. Hi Dad! What a poignant moment that must have been, you heading off east into the sunrise and Mum heading back towards Toronto. You must have passed through that bit of Rouge Park along the waterfront?

    I’ve met two people these past few days who want to read your blog – how do I sign them up? Their emails are and The former (Jill) is a lovely teacher that I sat next to on the train from Euston to Glasgow Central and got talking to about the state of the UK’s education system amongst many other things; the latter (Jean) is a Scottish volunteer at RSPB Loch Lomond where I am now. Jean and her husband Bob have just got back from Canada – they visited Toronto and Vancouver – and were fascinated to hear about your trip.

    I reckon Loch Lomond just about rivals all your Lake Louises and Rocky Mountains in beauty – this is the most stunning area of the UK I’ve ever experienced.

    Onwards and eastwards!

    Sam x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello young man – I have to confess I’m just getting around to catching up with your Biking Blog 🙂 (although I have the enjoying the FB updates) Inspiring stuff, and nifty Yuke work too!… Bx.

    Liked by 1 person

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