Back to Ottawa – December 3&4

After a relaxing morning with breakfast in the apartment, we walked to Second Cup for coffee. Owen was playing with my camera and took a picture of me.  I don’t get to be the subject very often in my family.

Then we proceeded to the Canadian Museum of Nature –  a pleasant 20 minute walk south on Metcalfe Street.  It wasn’t possible to get lost as Metcalfe leads directly to the museum’s front door, which is exactly one mile south of  Parliament Hill. Our Royal Ontario Museum pass allowed us free entry and we needed only to purchase tickets to the movie and lunch in the excellent museum cafeteria.

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The building is quite striking.  It was built between  1901 and 1910, as a tribute to Queen Victoria whose 64 year reign ended in 1901.  It was called the Victoria Memorial Museum Building when it opened. The architecture was intended to mirror the Centre Block of the original Parliament Buildings. It was the first building in Canada created to house a national museum. In 1915, due to sinking that began during construction, the tower had to be removed. The building has been home to many different museums and served as the emergency headquarters of the Canadian government from 1916-1920, after the Parliament Buildings, other than the library, were destroyed by fire.  The building was extensively renovated from 2004-2010 and a new glass tower was added to pay homage to the original stone one.

We began, as Michael likes to do, on the top floor and worked our way down.  There is a wonderful double, entwined staircase in the glass tower. The lighting wasn’t ideal in the cube during this visit so I processed these images from when we were at the museum with Megan and Alun in August 2016. I didn’t take the time to blog about that trip to Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa.  I will have to try to do so.

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This time, there was a giant, jellyfish-like inflatable in the cube.

The movie was Museum Alive 3D, set in the Natural History Museum in London, England with naturalist David Attenborough, who encounters extinct animals that move, interact, and make sound. It was cute.

The fourth floor contained the Arctic Gallery with some fun exhibits. One had images of the arctic projected on large blocks of ice and was quite striking.

Another gallery had wonderful displays of butterflies and insects – alive and preserved.

Funny how older children continue to be attracted to displays aimed at much younger ones.  Here’s Owen on this visit, and Megan and Alun on their visit last year, in the ambulance at the veterinary hospital display.


There were many interactive stations which the boys enjoyed.

I enjoyed the mineral section.  I wish I had had my tripod.  Some of them were quite beautiful.

There was a section with huge dioramas of mammals.

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We took a break for lunch, at which I had a delicious giant salad.

Then we visited the water gallery and fossil gallery.

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Outside they had some woolly mammoth figures.

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On the way back we walked on Elgin where we saw posts covered in thousands of staples from old notices and a bakery trying to entice people away from the coffee shop across the street with this sign.  Mmmm cookies.

We let the boys go back to the apartment and we continued walking to the National Gallery, passing the National War Memorial and the Chateau Laurier, a closed staircase access to the canal, the American Embassy, looking fortified, Reconciliation: The Peacekeeping Monument and then Byward Market on the way back to the apartment. I wanted to see Stephen Wilkes’ Ottawa, Canada 150, Day to Night, 2017, which was available for viewing in the lobby of the National Gallery – no admission required. It was great to see it printed in large format.  Check out his Day to Night series.  It’s amazing.

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It was blue hour when we got back to the apartment so I set up my tripod and did a long exposure of the view.

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We decided to get Subway for dinner and eat in the room. It was quite cold out but I just ran out the front door of the lobby, around the corner and into the Subway, without a coat.  On our way back into the lobby, someone revealed to me that there is an unmarked door between the two and I needn’t have gone outside. I finished the day supervising Owen in the pool.  Michael and Trystan watched bad commercial television in the room.

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On our final morning, we packed, took our belongings to the can in the underground garage, and tidied the apartment (quick vacuum, wipe the counters/table, start the dishwasher) to avoid a cleaning charge.

We walked to Second Cup for our coffee then returned for the car.  On our way out of Ottawa we stopped at Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s residence, and while 24 Sussex Drive is under renovation, the Prime Minister’s residence in behind Rideau Hall in Rideau Cottage.  As one explores the grounds and approaches Rideau Hall there is no sense of security personnel.   It was only as I walked to the left of Rideau Hall and approached a small sign stating, “No Public Access” that a security guard, not obviously armed, stepped out of a hut and pointed out the sign.  At that point I was within a few metres of Rideau Hall and a few hundred metres of Rideau Cottage.

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I like the fact that security is not obvious and overwhelming.

It was a delightful weekend getaway and I would definitely consider using Corporate Stay apartments in future.




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Back to Ottawa – December 2

I’ve never lived in an apartment building so the occasional time I am up high I really enjoy the views. Today I watched workers at City Hall begin to lay down layers of ice on the circle at Centre-left with a fire hose like I used to do in Carabram Park.



We ate breakfast in the apartment then headed over to the Parliament Visitors Centre. When we were here with Megan and Alun the line stretched down the block for the free tour tickets. Today, we walked right up to the counter and had our choice of times. We chose 1020 and then went for coffee.

We were able to see the partially constructed ice rink on the front lawn, but it doesn’t open while we are here.



We took a walk around to the library and views of the Ottawa River, then went through the airport style security before assembling for our tour.



We saw the House of Commons (green), Senate (red) and library on the tour.




The doors to the House of Commons and senate.



Various hallways were nicely decorated for Christmas.



Climbing up the stairs to the Peace Tower elevator affords a nice view of the ceiling of the main entrance to the Centre Block.



We took the elevator up to the top of the Peace Tower and saw the Memorial Chapel for soldiers killed in combat. The views from the Tower were good. Unfortunately, it was rather overcast. The Centre Block is going to be closing for renovations that will take 10 years to complete. The West Block is having what was an outdoor courtyard covered with a glass dome to house the House of Commons, seen in the first picture below from the Peace Tower. The Senate will be moving to the old train station across from the Château Laurier. This is scheduled to happen next September, so if you’re thinking of visiting the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings, there are only 10 months left to visit before it will close for 10 years.


Here’s the controversial hockey rink being built for the Canada150 Celebrations.



Next we went to the currency museum. It used to be on Spark Street, quite unassuming and mainly focused on displaying banknotes and coins. It’s now called the Bank of Canada Museum and has a specially built building on Bank Street. At the moment the building seems rather overbuilt for the amount of displays they have, and has less of a focus on notes and coins, which is what interested Michael last time we visited. It was definitely worth the price of admission, though – free!



After that we returned to the apartment, via Spark Street, where we found one of those name signs that seems to be becoming ubiquitous, and past City Hall.  We bought lunch downstairs and ate in the apartment. I tried Freshii, which I quite enjoyed. Michael and the kids had Subway.


We spent the afternoon walking around exploring.  Near our apartment is a great spiral staircase from the Laurier Avenue W bridge over the Rideau Canal down to the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway.


Byward Market had a AWATTO sign.


We went to see Louise Bourgeois’ giant 9.25-metre-tall spider Maman at the National Gallery, and walked around the gallery to discover some of their other outdoor pieces including one called Majestic by Canadian artist Michel de Broin which is an array of revitalized New Orleans streetlamps, uprooted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


We also visited Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica where the late afternoon sunlight through the stained glass was making rainbows on the stone columns.


After that we walked through Byward Market to find that the wonderful Sash Gelato which we visited twice when we were in Ottawa with Megan and Alun, had closed so we just picked up a few groceries at the Metro and headed back to the apartment.


We chose a nearby all you can eat (AYCE) sushi restaurant for dinner, but unfortunately didn’t want to eat all that we had ordered.  We all agreed it was the worst sushi we had ever had, possibly with the exception of an AYCE Sushi restaurant I went to in the small southern Ontario town of St. Thomas. Definitely avoid Sushi Village if you are in the area. It really only would have been worse if it had resulted in food poisoning.


After our disappointing dinner, we walked back to the hotel.  Tonight only Owen braved the tepid pool.

Michael and I each had a bath to soothe our sore feet and legs.  We had left the car parked under the apartment and walked everywhere.  Ottawa is such a great city for cycling and walking.  The distances, while longer than I am used to walking at home, are quite manageable. Having said that, I get the sense that Ottawa isn’t quite as Active Transportation (AT) friendly in the winter as the summer.  Many paths and staircases were blocked.  I assume the city doesn’t want to spend the money shovelling snow and ice.  We saw many signs like this.


There were far more bikes parked in the garage under our apartment than cars and many empty car parking spots. The picture below shows only one of more than half a dozen bike parking areas.



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Back to Ottawa – Transit vs Car

In July, I took the train to Ottawa.  It was my first time on VIA Rail. I enjoyed it immensely. Michael and I drove to David and Dayle’s house to pick them up, then onto Rani’s.  Rani drove us downtown to Union Station and her brother, who lives downtown, drove  the car home for her. We left home at 10:45 and arrived at our residence in Ottawa at 6:20 for a total travel time of 7:35. We could have shaved off about half an hour, but then we might have run the chance of missing the train. It cost me $68 (not including the cost of the car portions of the trip) one way.

When I began planning this family trip I looked into taking the train, but it turned out to be much more costly and time consuming than driving.

We would have had to take Brampton Transit ($22.80, four people, two ways, Presto cards), GO Train (Family Pass 2x$35), Via Rail ($786.48) and Ottawa Transit ($26.80, four people, two ways, Presto cards).

Via Rail for family of 4

The direct costs of taking our car included gas ($110), tolls ($58) and parking for 3 nights ($33).

Using the CAA Driving Costs Calculator ** for my minivan I determined that a fully loaded rate, including insurance, repairs, gas and depreciation is $0.58 per kilometre.

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*Taking the car allowed us to take a side trip to Brockville to see Canada’s first train tunnel which is newly reopened as a cycling and pedestrian attraction and is included in the total trip time of 6.5 hours.

Driving was a no-brainer, even for someone like me that tries to minimize my driving and even though we did not drive the entire time we were in Ottawa. It took less time, gave us more flexibility for sightseeing on travel days, and cost dramatically less money.

I imagine, but did not investigate, that even had we rented a car and paid for insurance, it would have cost less than taking transit.

If one considers only the direct costs of driving it would have been cheaper to drive even if only one person was in the car! And for two people it is essentially a wash between fully costed driving and transit.

Even if we had paid a $0.29 per kilometre toll (the amount paid on the provincial portion of the 407 and 412) for the entire trip (964km*$0.29), it would have only added just over an additional $200 to our driving costs.

Unless the cost of driving is deliberately and dramatically increased, how can we hope to motivate enough people to stop driving to make a difference to congestion and greenhouse gas emissions?





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Back to Ottawa – December 1

We decided to take Trystan and Owen to Ottawa for a long weekend. Owen has never been before. Trystan visited on a Grade 7 school trip. Michael and I took Megan and Alun to Ottawa in August 2016. Before that we had not visited Ottawa together for 18 years, although we have each been here on our own – Michael for business and I, with friends, for numerous bike trips, including one this July which saw me pedalling my bike back to Brampton over six days. You can read about that starting here. There are ten posts in all.

We arose at the usual time, leaving the house about 8:20, which meant the 401 was jammed, so we decided to take the 407, including the new, cheaper, provincially owned eastern end, and the 412, also a new provincial toll road which connects the 407 and 401. The charge, at the time of day we were travelling, was $0.42 per kilometre for the private section and $0.29, for the provincial section. It saved us about 45 minutes but cost an astounding $29! Of course, this probably represents a more realistic road use cost than Canadian drivers are accustomed to, but even for someone who understands that, it seems expensive. Perhaps all trips should be tolled. I think that would lead to a lot less driving. The picture below is on the 412 approaching the 401. It was clear sailing the whole time in the tolled roads.20171201_091845-1

Even once we joined the 401 traffic remained light. Michael drove until the Mallorytown OnRoute Service Centre, where we had lunch. When I cycled home from Ottawa, it took me three and a half days, rather than 3.5 hours between Mallorytown and Brampton.20171201_121618(1)-1

After lunch, I took over the driving. Not long after leaving the service station I saw a sign for Brockville and remembered that they have just reopened Canada’s first railway tunnel as a music and coloured-light filled walking and cycling experience so we decided to detour since our check in time was not until 4pm. It was a great experience and I recommend it to anyone passing Brockville. Brockville has an extensive downtown, much bigger and more vibrant than Brampton’s, despite having less than 4% of Brampton’s population. Next time we would eat in Brockville, rather than at the service centre.img_5761-1img_5763-1img_5762-1img_5766-1img_5764-1img_5765-1img_5767-1img_5768-1img_5769-1

We arrived at 50 Laurier E just after 3pm, but they were able to show us to our apartment after a short delay. We had a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with kitchen and living room on the edge of the University of Ottawa for about the same price as a hotel room. It’s central and has great views. I would highly recommend it.20171201_151251-1

There is construction right outside our hotel for the tunnel for the Confederation Line LRT to get under the canal.20171201_151409-120171201_151528-120171201_151608-120171201_154023-1

The dishes in the apartment are appropriately named.20171201_155242-1

We got settled in then headed to the Rideau Centre where we found coffee at Nordstrom’s.img_5770-1img_5771-1

We then walked to Parliament, passing over the first lock of the Rideau Canal, where we caught the Sound and Music show. It wasn’t as good as the one we saw with Megan and Alun, but was still worth seeing.img_5773-1

The canal has been lowered in preparation for skating, but isn’t frozen yet.img_5772-1

Apparently, the Stanley Cup is 100 years old. We passed by a giant replica of it on Spark Street, which is still the saddest pedestrianized street I have ever encountered. It wasn’t until I was looking at my picture later on that I realized that the “bench” is a hockey puck.img_5774-1

After a rest in the room we went to Dunn’s Deli on Elgin Street for dinner. Michael buys the Dunn’s Montreal Smoked Meat at Costco and wanted to Trystan to try the restaurant experience. Apparently, it was much better.20171201_184203-120171201_184136-1

We finished the day with a visit to the pool and sauna. The pool was a bit cold so I just soaked my feet, but Owen, Trystan and Michael all went in for a while.20171203_191221















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#OttawaBramptonOdysseyCycle – Stats Summary

I thought it would be fun to summarize the riding days from Ottawa to Brampton.

Ottawa-Brampton Stats

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#OttawaBramptonOdysseyCycle – Ajax to Brampton – Final Day

I felt so much more energetic on our final day, after staying in for the evening, than I did on Day 5.  At our final evening briefing we decided to take the advice of our local experts, who provided such a great escort yesterday, and follow the Waterfront Trail to the Don Valley, for a trip length of 94km to my house, and a little longer for David and Dayle to their home, and Rani and Nelson to John’s house, rather than a more direct road route which would have resulted in a trip of 68km.

Breakfast was provided in the lobby of the Super 8, where we stayed, but consisted of white bread products, bad coffee and a few other things, making it the worst breakfast of the trip.

By now you know we started with a group photo. First, one with Jim, as an honourary cyclist, then another with the group who were riding.  We all agreed that it would be difficult for Jim to shadow us through Toronto, so he headed straight to John’s house.  That provided him with time to remove the modifications he made to the trailer and to greet us upon our arrival.

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  • Moving Time – 5:38:24
  • Elapsed Time – 8:23:03
  • Distance – 95.5km
  • Elevation Gain – 798m
  • Average Speed – 16.9
  • Maximum Speed – 45.0
  • Calories Burned – 1491

We were all anxious to make good time on our last day, especially upon choosing the longer route, so we were in the parking lot for our picture at 8am.

Here is the route we took to the point where we split up in east Brampton.

Day 6 map

After only a kilometre on Westney Road, which was not very busy despite the time of day, possibly because we were heading away from the GO Station and the 401, we came across the Waterfront Trail.  It was absolutely tranquil and we immediately knew we had made the right route decision.

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The temperature was pleasant, the sky a mix of sun and cloud with interesting lighting.

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There were places where the trees met overhead making for lovely green tunnels. There were regular wayfaring signs.

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In no time at all we were at the Pickering Nuclear Plant which had a large wind turbine.

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Then we cycled along the boardwalk at Pickering Beach.  We had the place to ourselves.  I imagine it would get very busy later in the day, with the lovely beach, with tables covered by large umbrellas and a playground right at the water’s edge.

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Turning away from the beach we travelled along the very empty Liverpool Road, which is probably much busier on weekends. We had to travel up to Bayly Street, just south of Highway 401 and back down again to get around Frenchman’s Bay, which is missing just the smallest link at the waterfront, which allows boats in and out of the bay.

Frenchman's Bay

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We stopped for our first Tim’s of the day at Liverpool and Bayly. We weren’t long into the ride but were already feeling the effects of not having a breakfast provided by Jim.

We cycled along Bayly on Day 5 with our Durham advocate escorts and they kept us on the sidewalk/multi-use path.  So here we chose to ride along the barely-there asphalt strip on the south side  since we would be turning left shortly.

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It wasn’t long before we were back on a multi-use path and enjoying lovely parks and waterfront views with only occasional quiet residential streets.

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Given the crazy real estate market in Toronto the last few years I was surprised we didn’t see more of these types of scenes.

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Looking back at Pickering.

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Nice transitions from roads to park trails.

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Entering Petticoat Creek Conservation Area we were treated to this verdant scene and shortly encountered the most activity we had seen to that point as we passed a summer camp where the children had been making chalk art.

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Everywhere we rode, from Ottawa to Brampton, we saw standing water.  Water in ditches, on lawns, in fields and here, covering a parking lot, at Rouge Beach.

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Due to the nature of waterfront with creek and river inlets and cliffs and bluffs, there was quite a lot of significant infrastructure, like the bridge above, to connect the trail. There were lovely sweeping curves and we soon got our first close-up look at the bluffs of Glacial Lake Iroquois.

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We stopped briefly at the newly renovated Guild Inn.  Rani and Nelson had never been; it had been many years for David and Dayle. They have done a lovely job, removing the ugly hotel addition and adding banquet space.

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Shortly after leaving The Guild Inn we missed a turn and ended up in Sylvan Park.  Instead of turning around and going back to where we went wrong, we pushed on since I could see trails marked on the map I was following.  We ended up on a hill so steep we had to push our bikes.  I would not recommend the little hike we did. We came out here and got back on track.

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Not too much further on we came to a T-intersection at Brimley.  The route I entered into my phone from the Waterfront Trail maps indicated we should turn left and head through St. Augustine Seminary, however, the trail signs indicated we should turn right and head north to Kingston Road.  It was somewhat confusing.

Brimley looking southBrimley looking west

A few kilometres earlier someone going in the opposite direction had yelled at us, “Don’t go through the church”. We didn’t know what he meant, but decided at this point he meant, avoid the St. Augustine trail.  I have since discovered a note on the Waterfront Trail website indicating, “…that the trail that runs behind St. Augustine Seminary is not paved and in the Spring months or wet weather pose challenges for cyclists.”.  The section along Kingston Road was not for the timid, however, one could ride along the sidewalk on the south side as the distance to the turn is short.

Upon reaching Queen Street, at about 42km of riding, we were hungry and cycled along until we found Tim’s opposite The Beaches Park and Kew Gardens.  It had a patio and we happily recharged. Again, this section is not for the timid,  and meant we missed a little over a kilometre of the Waterfront Trail, but it does provide a lot of restaurant choices. There were many nice looking patios, but we didn’t wish to linger.

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Right across from Tim’s we were able to ride through the park back down to the waterfront.

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We passed a pop-up bike rental business renting interesting looking bikes at Ashbridges Bay.

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Then we caught our first glimpse of downtown Toronto and passed the Leslie Barns, a streetcar maintenance and storage facility.

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We crossed to the north side of Lakeshore, at Leslie, where they have bike signals and a cross-ride. We then passed through the old support posts for the Gardner Expressway which was torn down in 2001 from the Don Valley Expressway to just east of Leslie. It was torn down because it cost less to do so, than to rehabilitate it.  I remember at the time, many warned of carmageddon, but it didn’t happen.  I wish the current council had taken the same approach to tear down the current eastern portion rather than spend $1B rebuilding it. It is much more pleasant to ride here than it is further west.

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At the Don River we turned north.  On Victoria Day, Rani and I, her nephew and another friend, Peter, cycled to the Brickworks.  It was a pleasant ride, so we were heading towards the Brickworks to finish our ride from Ajax to Brampton along the same route.

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I love the public art which brightens up the highway supports and a retaining wall .

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The entrance to Corktown Common.

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We stayed on the trail until Pottery Road and then cycled up Bayview, a long steep hill.  Shortly thereafter we got on the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail. This is a lovely tree covered trail that was so shaded on a sunny July afternoon that all of my pictures are somewhat fuzzy.  This trail almost didn’t come to be and was one of the first battles in Toronto over bike infrastructure. Rail service ended in the late 1960s. From the wikipedia artile linked above:

“In 1970, CN tried to sell the right-of-way east of the Allen for housing since the land was quite valuable. This would set the stage for one of the first public battles on biking trails.[3] Most home owners adjacent to the line wished to buy the land to extend their backyards complaining of safety issues, vandals, and lovers.[3] Both Metro Toronto parks officials and York Mayor Phil White saw it as an opportunity to build a bike path. Toronto Mayor William Dennison and his executive committee favoured buying portions of the Belt Line to expand roads and existing parks.[3] Dennison told the Toronto Star that he opposed a continuous path along the Belt Line because “people have demonstrated they just won’t use it”, as well as echoing fears of the homeowners.[3]

After two years of talk, the land was purchased by the city in 1972 as part of a land swap with CN that included the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street.[3] One of the supporters of turning the rail bed into a bike path was alderman David Crombie, who was elected as mayor of Toronto soon after.”

Here’s the best of the pictures I managed to take. The ribbons on the original rail bridge over Yonge Stree are for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women.

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We stayed on the Beltline until The Allen, where it is interrupted. After that we were on streets, some of them fairly busy the rest of the way home.  Somewhere along the way it poured rain on us, but it soon became sunny again and we dried out.

We stopped for a final snack at Islington and Albion, at Tim’s, for the third time that day – a record for our trip.  On Goreway we were caught at the level crossing by a long freight train.

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At Intermodal Drive we bid goodbye to Rani and Nelson.  On Sandalwood, I bid goodbye to David and Dayle.

My daughter was home from university for a few days.  I imagined my whole family coming out to greet me as I arrived home after six days of cycling.  In the event, it was a quiet homecoming.  My husband and daughter had gone to an appointment. My 16 year old was at work and my other two sons were in the house wearing noise cancelling headphones blissfully unaware I had arrived home.  I cajoled the thirteen year old to take my picture, then put away my bike, stretched, showered, snacked and waited for the rest of my family to arrive home, having picked up my belongings from John’s house on their way home.

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It was a wonderful trip.  Great sights. Great people with whom to travel.  I made the memories of a lifetime. In my head, I am already planning the next cycling odyssey.











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