Showing flagrant disregard for the weather forecast, a fine mist of rain starts to fall as I step out my front door into the darkness. As I place my handlebar bag and water bottles on my bike, Tara, I begin to have second thoughts about my planned ride. And is that a scratchy throat I am feeling? It’s probably just the dryness in our room last night, I theorize. Unfortunately this theory ignores two salient facts: that the climate was anything but dry last night and my daughter has had a runny nose for the past three weeks. It’s early, though, so I can be forgiven for this lack of acumen.
Inspired by these photos at Two Serious Bikes, but lacking a map or route sheet for his route, I decided to plot my own route to Annina’s Bakeshop and Cafe in Goodwood, Ontario. Rouge Hill GO Train station is a great place to start rides because it allows you to skip miles of suburbs to get to the good rural riding. In my case, I was starting my ride to Goodwood at Old Finch and Sewells Roads, so it made a lot of sense to take the train to Rouge Hill, and then ride 20 minutes to my start point. But I was intrigued by Google’s suggested route from my place to this start point. It was only an additional 35 kms and it followed some trails I had never ridden on its northeasterly journey to the top corner of the city. And the additional 35 kms would make the entire ride at least 100 kms.
All of which is a long way of explaining why I find myself lost 20 minutes into the ride. The sun hasn’t yet risen, so it’s hard to read street signs and the Kay Gardiner Beltline trail doesn’t seem to do what Google thinks it does. I’m still close to home, I think as I use my phone to find my location. Maybe this just isn’t my day.
I find my way back onto the route, but there will be many of these moments of confusion. And the worst is yet to come.
But I make an important decision: this ride is about finishing, not riding a fast 100 km. Today is about finding a way to enjoy the ride. Later on I will thank myself for making this decision.
And later arrives before I know it. After winding through suburban and industrial Toronto for over an hour, I finally arrive at Finch Avenue. Wonderful, I’m within 5 kms of nice rural riding, I think as I turn left onto Finch. The skies have brightened and the rain has stopped. Finally knowing where I’m going I adopt a brisk eastward pace.
I race through the intersection of Finch and Middlefield road, thinking, gee, all these street names sound the same. I’m sure I just saw Middlefield or Middlesomething anyways. But apparently I’ve got more important things to think about, because I put another few kilometres behind me before I realize that I should have hit Morningside by now.
I stop and ask a man waiting at a bus stop.
“Ohhh maaaan,” he responds, “Morningside? Ohhh maaan.”
“I’m going the wrong way aren’t I?”
“Ohhh man.” He seems more upset about this than I am as I thank him and pull a u-turn.
When I finally get to the intersection of Old Finch and Sewells Road, I’m an hour behind schedule and I have ridden more than 10 bonus kilometres, but I’m happy to be in the countryside. I pause to change to my new route sheet, eat a snack and text home. Then I’m on my way, with a nice descent toward Old Finch Avenue. There’s not a hint of sunshine yet, but on it’s short twisty passage between Sewells and Meadowvale, Old Finch is the kind of road that makes cyclists giggle with joy. Well, it makes me, anyway.
Aside from my poor navigation skills, 35 kph headwinds coming from the north have hampered me all morning. I reflect on the fact that I will be riding north for the next 30 kms or so as the wind tries to blast me back along Beare Road toward my warm bed at home. But I just duck down into an aerodynamic tuck and stop looking at my speed. Today is not about average speed; it’s about finishing.
A while later I turn east onto Concession Road 8 and I’m happy to see that it’s a dirt road without a car in sight. Most of my day will be spent on roads like these and I’m thankful for that as I roll down the hill. I am also entering the Oak Ridges Morraine, which means I’ll be doing some climbing before Goodwood.
I continue north up Sideline 30, which becomes Concession Road 2 at Pickering Uxbridge Townline Road in a place called Altona.
Here I see some of the first people I’ve seen in a while. It’s 10:15 and folks are gathering in an historic hall. Their cars are parked outside on both sides of the street. I don’t stick around long to find out what they’re up to, though.
The sun is winning its battle with the clouds as I head north from Altona. At least, I think, this wind is blowing away the clouds. To my right, sunlight shines down onto a pumpkin patch and, like any city person, I stop to take a photograph. My first instinct is to keep going, but I’ve decided that today’s ride is as much about sightseeing as anything else. I’m riding hard, but not worrying about the time.
I started these weekend rides in August as training for my first brevet. In the meantime, I discovered the Rocky Mountain 1200 km brevet, which is held every 4 years. It will be happening next July when I visit my folks in the Okanagan. To qualify for this brevet, riders must have completed a full brevet series (200 km, 300 km, 400 km and 600 km) within the past two years, so training has been very much on my mind these days. But, while I’m interested in pushing my limits and getting in better shape, I am a tourist at heart. If riding was just about training and times, I would find something else to do.
I’m thinking about tourism vs. training when I hit a series of difficult hills just before Goodwood and I’m thankful for the “training” time I’ve put in this year. But when the last hill comes into view I even consider walking. After all, it’s not really giving up, is it? I ride it.
My efforts are rewarded by a short eastward trip up Durham Highway 47 into seemingly stronger headwinds. The highway seems busy, but after seeing no traffic to speak of over the last hour, any amount of traffic would seem excessive. To make matters worse, there’s only foot and a half of broken shoulder keeping me away from the dump trucks that seem to clog the highway this morning. So when Annina’s Bakeshop and Cafe finally comes into view, I’m only too happy to pull into the parking lot.
There are eight or nine racing bikes outside and when I walk in, I see why: there is a huge selection of some of the best looking pies, tarts and cookies I have ever seen. I want it all. Instead, I opt for the Rueben with fries and a coffee. Then I go upstairs to lounge on a comfy leather couch with my coffee while I wait for my sandwich. The other cyclists are upstairs too, laughing loudly at someone’s story as they finish up their coffees. When my sandwich arrives a few minutes later, I make quick work of it.
I linger over my coffee while contemplating my ride home. I’ve ridden 77 kms into the wind this morning, so I’m looking forward to having a tailwind on the way back. On my way out I grab half a dozen cookies. I want to grab a half dozen tarts, but I’m traveling light with just a handlebar bag. Next time.
It turns out that Concession Road 3 is right outside the cafe, so I hop back onto Tara and before long I’m on a dirt road with the wind at my back.
This road is a bit rutted, but I easily maintain 30 kph. It almost feels as though it’s all downhill. I do a little climbing and a reoccurring I.T. band issue begins to bother me, but the kilometres go by quickly. On my way back I spend time on two busier roads, highway 7 and Taunton Road/ Steeles Avenue. The former has been freshly paved and traffic is light and the latter has a nice wide shoulder which turns into a bike lane once it becomes Steeles.
The short section between Steeles and Meadowvale/ Old Finch Avenue is the only backtracking I do all afternoon along the morning’s route. I continue south on Meadowvale past Old Finch Avenue and ride the 8 kms back to the Rouge Hill GO Station, completing 38 kilometres for the afternoon for a total ride of 115 kilometres for the day.
Apparently I have just missed a train, so I wander down to Chesterton Shores Park just south of the station to relax in the sun.
The next 45 minutes go by quickly as I photograph the park. But when I finally settle onto the train, I acknowledge to myself that I am indeed getting sick. By the time I get home, the sore throat has worsened and sinuses start to complain. But I’m thankful that I didn’t listen to that voice earlier in the day telling me to return to my bed. The ride has been a great success.
In the future, I’d like to create some longer rides in this area. A quick glance at the map confirms that there are plenty more small backroads to explore.