Saturday, July 5, 2008

June 28 - 30: Walkerton Adventures

June 28: Outside Wiarton, through Owen Sound, to Walkerton

95.5 km
15.9 km/hr average
6:00 on the bike

Were we ever lucky to be inside last night, we had a thunderstorm and lots of rain that didn't stop until around 10:00 am. We had a fine breakfast with Pam and Reg, and their friends Sharon and Jim -- much discussion of routes, roads, and places to stay. All four get to Victoria fairly regularly, so we will try to get together for a bike ride or hike.

Our first order of business was to head down to Owen Sound to visit the end of the "Underground Railway". Slaves escaping from the US knew they were safe if they made it to Owen Sound. Of course, a specific railway was not involved, but I was surprised to see that patterns on quilts played a big part in helping slaves on the run know where to go and what was coming up. The patterned quilts would be hung from windows, cloths lines, and porches where they could be easily seen. Our interest in the Underground Railway came because Mindy is riding the Underground Railway route down from Owen Sound toward Philadelphia.

From Owen Sound we visited Inglis Falls. From here it was across the rolling countryside of Grey county. The going was slow because we were beating into a headwind. But, the forecasted rain and thundershowers held off and the sun came out. The humidity was high (at least for me), so we were all sucking back lots of water. Our trip to Walkerton had us cross the Saugeen River so there were a few short but steep hills thrown into the mix. However, any hard riding was well worth it when we pulled into La Sabliere. This lovely 240 acre farm is owned by my Uncle Richard and Aunt Patty and we were invited to rest our weary selves at their house.

Lots of people were on hand to see us ride up the long front drive -- especially because Richard led us in with his car, honking the horn to alert everyone to our arrival. My cousins Vicky and Andrew were there, as well as Curt (Vicky's husband) and their bubbly daughter Olivia. We were all treated to a huge barbecue, and I got a chance to catch up with my relatives. Curt was convinced to bring his Olympic cycling medals (Curt Harnett: bronze, silver, gold -- over four different Olympic Games). Given the number of keen cyclists in the group, these were of distinct interest.

As we ate and drank and talked the skies darkened and a huge thunderstorm blew in -- once again I was very thankful we were under a roof. Thunderstorms out here in the rolling farmland of southern Ontario can be very intense. It was, however, a fine thing to view from the picture windows of the farmhouse.

My family in Walkerton pulled out all the stops -- but I put my highest stamp of approval on the steaks that Curt barbecued and the butter tarts that Patty made. The tarts hardly made it to the table. We could all barely waddle off to bed later that evening.

June 29: Rest day in Walkerton

Our first day with no riding! We said goodbye to Charlie today. He headed into Burlington, his hometown, right after breakfast. I hope we see him again in the Atlantic Provinces. After a pancake breakfast -- thank you Victoria! -- Richard took us on a tour of the farm and gardens. Although most of the 240 acres is under wheat and corn, Richard maintains a huge set of gardens and special trees throughout the property. He knows every one of them and can tell the story about how, when, and why they were placed. The place really belongs in Home and Garden magazine.

After the tour more of my relatives came for a visit and Richard and Patty treated us all to a fantastic lunch buffet at the Dunkeld Hotel. Of course, a buffet is just the thing for a touring cyclist and Mike and Mark did a very good job working through most of what was on offer. The Dunkeld has been an inn for over 150 years and in that time they have certainly learned to prepare a fine meal. As an extra treat for me, my Aunt Dolly, cousin Bonnie, and her husband Don all came up for the afternoon. It was great to catch up, but all too quick -- I have to get out here more often.

Mark, Mike, and Mindy did a bit of bike repair, aired tents, and did laundry. We also relaxed and read the paper, did a bit of writing, and generally had a restful day.

Curt and Victoria made a fine dinner and we capped off the day with some conversation and last minute trip planning. Mark was pleased to have so many knowledgeable people around (thank you Don and Curt) to ask road advice of. We expect to be in Ottawa visiting Mark's brother Andrew by next Saturday and have a good route planned to get us there.

A huge thank you to Richard, Patty, Curt, Victoria, and Andrew. Little Olivia was also a star. What a wonderful visit -- they really know how to treat the touring cyclist! Being in Walkerton, my Mom's hometown, made this a real highlight of the trip for me. We even visited the old family home. It was exactly as I remembered it.

June 30 - 124km to Wasaga Beach.
Still in Ontario. It just keeps going on and on and on. Today we left Walkerton after yet another big breakfast and we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts Richard and Patty and Curt and Victoria and of course let's not forget Olivia for adding the cuteness factor. They all went super overboard in generosity and we had a great time there. Thanks!

turned south to head towards Guelph today - hope you made it OK, MindyWe went through downtown Walkerton and said goodbye to Mindy, as she, and good luck on the Underground Railway Trail and the mountains and Philly and everything else! We had a great time with Mindy and we were sad to see her go - she was lots of fun and great company to travel with. I'm still trying to convince her to try grad school in Comp Sci at UVic as she would love it I'm sure. So now we are back to just the Three Musketeers.

So we continued on eastwards this morning on Highway 4. We got a bit of rain and it was a misty but then after a lunch stop at Durham it got a bit sunny and we had sun and cloud the rest of the day. The wind was picking up and almost entirely from the north, so that was annoying when we turned northwards and went towards Eugenia and visited Eugenia Falls, which is a wonderful lacy waterfall that tumbles over the Escarpment in a stupendous green valley. Then we continued northwards into the wind down into the Beaver Valley, which is a nice and quiet valley heading northwards towards Georgian Bay.

We turned East and climbed up out of the valley to the little town of Ravenna and had a beautiful, if hilly, ride along the top of the Blue Mountains. Then right at the Blue Mountains Resort the road plummets down the side of the escarpment, right past the ski runs, and with the huge hill and the wind behind us I hit a new speed record: 78 km/h!!! And right after I got to the bottom a cop came down the hill, so I definitely could have gotten a speeding ticket if he'd seen me.

With the wind now behind us we shot into Collingwood, a very bustling resort town if I've ever seen one, and as we passed into town somebody flagged us down from their van and gave us a map into town, as they'd seen us pass the tourist info (which was closed)! Then we went down Nottawasaga Bay to Wasaga Beach, where we are camped in a huge bustling campground called Cedar Groves. There was a very yappy dog locked in a camper right across from us but he seems to have quieted down now (thank goodness). Tomorrow we are headed for Orillia and then eastwards across the Canadian Shield towards Ottawa, where we should be on Saturday.

Southern Ontario really seems like a difference province from northern - there is different architecture, different economies, different attitudes, different roads, and this campground really is a multicultural mix, which we didn't see that much in northern Ontario at all - there seem to beSpanish, Portuguese, Russians, and Jamaican families, all having fun on the beach.

And one other thing: today at the wonderfully-named town of Flesherton I crossed 5000km for the trip!


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