Day 60 – Ivy Lea to Arlor Haven Campground, Mariatown – Yesterday I mentioned the fantastic news that my JustGiving site has been nominated for an award, and many thanks to the kind person that took the time to do that. Here’s the link as promised to add your name to the nomination – do please take a minute to have a look and let’s see what we can do!
- Today’s Distance (miles/km): 57 / 92
- Time in saddle: 5h 30
- Max/min temp (°c): 41°/17°
- Climb/descend (feet) : 1093 / 1056
- Calories used:
- Cafe time: 3h 06
The Thousand Islands, where I’ve spent these few days alongside the St Lawrence River, were originally a mountain range, extending from Algonquin Park in the north down to the Adirondack Mountains in the US to the south, but all that is left to see now is the granite bedrock. They were ground down to a low range of hills by the action of glaciers, and became swamped by the flooding of the St Lawrence River, leaving only the hilltops, which are the Thousand Islands. The river used to be the only passable route into Canada, back when all the land was nothing but endless forests. Outposts sprung up along the way to supply ships and store goods and so on, and gradually Canada as it is today began.
The wonderful bike lane continued all the way, past many vast and stunning properties (this is prime vacation-home territory) to my first stop of the day, Brockville, where I tried an excellent new coffee house and had the $10 omelette plate, which turned out to be another huge breakfast. I’d already had a cinnamon bun whilst I was waiting in case I got into difficulties.
I was woken up in the night by the bane of campsites everywhere, the sweep of headlights as a late arrival or an early leaver passed my tent. To get back to sleep I listened to a podcast by the comedian Tez Ilyas, who was far too funny to fall asleep to. In part of his act he said “You know ‘Vegan Club’ is like the exact opposite of ‘Fight Club’. The first rule of Fight Club is “Don’t talk about Fight Club”. The first rule of ‘Veagn Club’ is “Tell absolutely everybody.”
As promised yesterday, here is the news on the plans for CrossingCanada this week: the top brass were in a pow-wow until late last night discussing how to proceed with this adventure. Basically they divided into two camps (in exactly the same manner as Pirsig’s Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), the Classical and the Romantic. The Classical said “Divert north and visit Ottawa, the nation’s capital”, whilst the Romantic said “Keep going East and follow the mighty St Lawrence River, birthplace of modern Canada, for as long as possible”. There is also the issue of distance, as Ottawa is a big diversion from here, having already dropped down south by some way to visit Toronto. Anyway, the Romantics have won the day! This trip will keep the St Lawrence firmly in sight, with the United States visible just across the water, all the way until the big right turn at Riviere-du-Loup in around 750km. Ottawa will have to wait for another visit, sorry Ottawa. I’ve really enjoyed cycling next to so many of Canada’s lakes and rivers, and I’m quite relieved not to be heading off up north. You get a feeling of company and momentum from being beside a river or lake. The Similkameen in BC and Lake Superior in Ontario were great examples, urging me on every day, through all of that amazing scenery.
Another attraction of the river route is the historical link with a hero of mine, Captain James Cook. On an early voyage to Canada he produced charts of such extraordinary quality that they not only earned him instant promotion from the Admiralty on his return, but remained in use for centuries, faultlessly accurate despite the great hardships and difficulties in surveying under war-like conditions:
He continued to make the time required to produce charts of this quality throughout his illustrious career, whatever the circumstances, from the Pacific to the South Atlantic, to the South China Sea, making navigation along faraway shores safer for all vessels. Many contemporaries of his simply couldn’t understand how he managed it.
Before my lunch stop I dropped in at two historic landmarks, the strategic Fort Wellington and the famous Newport Windmill, both central to battles for the control of Canada back in the turbulent 1830s:
The British, keen to keep Canada, fought off a big insurgence from the south in 1838, made up of rebel Canadians and sympathetic Americans who were convinced that the Canadians across the river would rise up and support them. It never happened, and, after a desperate battle centred on the Windmill/Lighthouse in the picture, the rebels were defeated and executed or deported to Australia, after being held and tried at Fort Wellington up the road.
The trade that has built up along the river over the following decades has led to the creation of some truly hideous buildings serving our needs:
I had lunch at a Restaurant in Iroquois, where an older chap (ex truck driver) got into a heated discussion about the modern generation of “V6 3.5s” with three guys working on the construction gang based here. They were into their third or fourth beers when I left. I hope they’d finished for the day.
My meal, hamburger with mash, was the ugliest and most unrecognisable plate of food I’ve ever seen. Luckily it tasted pretty good though, if you like gravy. Most of all I liked the air conditioning. Today was an absolute belter, especially the last stretch to my campground.
I pulled off the road earlier than planned because it was so hot, and I wanted a bit of afternoon/evening to dry out my tent from last night’s rain. Asking directions I met Darlene, who was looking after her grandchildren in the garden of her house for the afternoon. She was a keen kayaker and took her grandkids on all sorts of adventures in the summer. We got talking and it transpired that she suffered a terrible tragedy eleven years ago when she lost a daughter, who was a twin, and then her mother, both to car accidents, and has now decided to move to Brockley to start afresh. She said to me “People say ‘move on’ but I just can’t”, which I found very moving, and have heard the same from others in a similar position. Perhaps that’s the fact, you don’t ‘move on’ because everything has changed forever. She told me that the campground I was looking for was a very good one and wished me luck on my trip, and I got a lovely wave from her granddaughter who was wearing a yellow bike helmet.
I stumbled on the most lovely place, the Arlor Haven Campground run by Brenda and her family since her husband died 4 years ago. They’d run a business here for nearly 60 years, starting as a restaurant and growing. I sat in the quiet office with her and her sister-in-law Janet for quite a while talking about all sorts of things, genealogy, My Fair Lady, the business and so on. When I tried to pay she refused, asking me to donate the fee to my charity instead. “You seem honest, I trust you” she said.
I’d like to share with you a nice moment when I’d had supper and was packing things away. Brenda had asked me earlier if I’d seen “the ships”? They sail upriver to Montreal and out into the Bay of St Lawrence, then across to Newfoundland. If I hopped aboard one, this trip would be done in a few days. Anyway, their was a brief and very welcome cool shower of rain, and just a few moments later a huge ship slipped gracefully past the beach of the campground:
A couple of ‘thank yous’ before we finish for the evening; firstly to COOL Music in London (purveyors of all things musical in Downton Abbey, amongst many other things), for their generous donation to SOS Children’s Villages, and lastly, many thanks to Stuart Watson, my host-to-be in Newfoundland, for his help identifying the birds yesterday by the giant chimney as Ospreys. They’re making a big comeback here, it seems. See you all tomorrow.