Day 53, 8/5, New Glasgow, ON, CA to Peacock Point, ON, CA: 112 miles, 1,743 ft elevation gain, 13 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 3,517.7 miles (74.7 mile daily average), 131,620 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.
One day behind schedule.
Today was another big mileage day. We’re hurrying to meet my family in Niagara-on-the-lake, and we’ve been piling up the miles to get there on time. Including today, we’ve ridden 597 miles in the last six days, an average of 99.5 miles per day. Our bodies are holding together remarkably well, but we’re definitely looking forward to having a couple days off!
We woke up this morning feeling a little sticky. We’ve been fortunate on this bike tour to almost always have an option of a shower, a sink, a lake, or something to wash off the grime of the day’s ride. Mornings like this make us grateful for that. The feeling of pulling on clean bike shorts over a dirty body, while it isn’t terrible in the grand scheme of things, isn’t particularly fun. But being a bit sticky was a price we were willing to pay for getting to camp for free and right next to the route.
And even though we were sticky, today might have been my favorite day of riding of the entire trip. The day started with eleven miles on Ontario Rt 3 before we turned off the main road and headed down toward the coast. We rode for the rest of the day on generally smooth, sparsely trafficked roads.
We covered the 30 miles to Port Stanley by about 9:45a, where we continued our recent tradition of stopping for coffee and second breakfast at a cute coffee shop/cafe. With one or two exceptions in touristy towns, we didn’t see any sort of cute coffee shops between Central Washington and Fargo, ND. And only recently have they become frequent enough for us to count on seeing them in most decent sized towns. It’s probably good for our budget that this wasn’t always an option, but we’re loving it now that it is.
Anyway, the coffee shop of choice this morning was the Village Square Coffee House. We split a french press of coffee and ordered two breakfast sandwiches and two pecan caramel rolls. Then we sat outside, next to Port Stanley’s coffee shop breakfast club. They seemed to know every single person who walked, drove, or rode past their corner table. Our favorite conversation we overheard was when they greeted someone who had just returned from Portugal by saying, “Oh! So you came back?” and the lady responded, “Well how couldn’t I since we live in paradise?” It speaks highly of a place like Port Stanley that the people who live here feel that way, and that conversation might have been the spark of Dani thinking that the Canadian shore of Lake Erie would be the perfect place for us to retire. Or just live.
We finished our pastries and sandwiches and decided that we were still hungry, so I headed back inside to order two more breakfast sandwiches. The girl behind the counter laughed at me when I ordered; I guess our bike tour diet is a little surprising to some people.
After breakfast we climbed a shockingly steep, but mercifully short hill out of the Port Stanley’s river valley. This was a harbinger of the terrain for the day. We had long stretches of almost perfectly flat riding, punctuated by short steep descents into towns and short steep ascents back out. It was perfect. The hills were far enough apart and just steep enough to make us grateful for how pleasant it was to ride over the long stretches of flat terrain between the towns.
Fifty-five miles into the day we rolled into Port Burwell, where we got our first real broad view of Lake Erie. I visited Erie, PA once when I was little, and I have a foggy memory of the lake being dull and gray. Or maybe it was just a dull and gray day. In any case, the lake we saw on our ride today was nothing like the lake of my memory. Sparkling turquoise blue water. Beautiful.
After taking in the view we headed back to the ice cream shop we passed entering town. Dani got some ice cream, I got a root beer, and we split the raspberries that we bought from a farm stand earlier on. That’s another thing that we’re really enjoying about Canada. There are farm stands everywhere. We’ve seen more farm stands in two days in Canada than we saw everywhere else. It’s great to be able to get some fresh fruit as we ride. And so tasty!
After raspberries and ice cream we got back on the road. The twenty miles between Port Burwell and Port Rowan might be my favorite stretch of the trip thus far. It was mostly flat, the roads were in great condition, we had mostly favorable winds, there was almost no car traffic, and we were treated to gorgeous views of Lake Erie. I feel like I need to include a more detailed description about something that I’m claiming was my favorite riding of the trip, but it wasn’t really spectacular or extraordinary in any particular way. It was just a lovely lovely stretch of road for cycling.
We stopped about halfway between the two ports to read a series of informative signs about the wind turbines we’ve been riding past (and using as an indication of wind direction and speed) for the last day and a half. Ontario has recently invested upwards of $150 million into wind turbines near the Lake Erie coast, and we learned a lot about wind energy. We also learned (from other placards and signs along the road) that there is a group of people who are really unhappy about the turbines being near their homes. I personally have trouble understanding exactly why wind turbines make people so upset, but apparently a lot of people are quite unhappy.
We cruised into Port Rowan (77 miles into the day) and stopped at the grocery store to pick up some cold drinks, fresh pineapple, and cinnamon rolls. Then we walked across the street to the library so we could use their WiFi to plan the rest of our day. We sat on a bench near the library for a half hour or 45 minutes before we headed back onto the road.
The riding got a little harder from there on out. We were heading northeast instead of southeast, and the wind was a little more in our faces. And while the basic idea of the terrain was the same, the towns were much closer together, which meant that the flat stretches were much shorter. And the hills were, if possible, even steeper. Maybe the steepest hills of the trip. But they were still short, and the towns we rode through were adorable little fishing towns with awesome old architecture. We also saw our first full-blown mansion of the trip. Mansions make Dani a little angry. She thinks they are a waste of excellent real estate and perfectly good building materials and that there is no family on the planet that could justify building such a large home.
Another 20 miles brought us to Port Dover, where we stopped and ate at a burrito shack on the pier. The burritos were fantastic. We both had piccadillo burritos, which included a mixture of seasoned ground beef, potatoes, carrots, and cilantro along with rice, beans, and cheese. Then we split a giant plate of nachos. Good food makes us so happy.
We sat on the pier for a little while, but it was getting late and we still had 20 miles to get to our campsite. So we saddled up and got on the road. We made it for about a half mile before we were stopped at a draw bridge, where we sat for 10 or so minutes watching a parade of sailboats coming back into the harbor. Then the bridge went down and we continued on our way. Our route turned slightly more eastward, so we weren’t fighting the wind as much as before, but we did have a mile stretch going straight upwind that really took it out of us. The worst part of it though was that we were unexpectedly passed by another cyclist, who heard Dani groaning in exhaustion and me singing a song from Mulan to keep me going. Oops. Perhaps we’ve become too accustomed to no one being around to hear us most of the time.
In any case, we made it to the Conservtion Area where we were planning on camping, and no one was around. The office had closed a half hour earlier, and there were no instructions for self-registration and no campground map. We wandered around aimlessly for close to 15 minutes before asking a family walking through the park for directions. With their help, we found our way to the primitive campgrounds, all the way at the back of the campground and we set up camp. We couldn’t figure out who, how, or where to pay, so we didn’t. We showered and got in the tent, excited to make it to Niagara-On-The-Lake tomorrow where we’ll meet up with my family!