#OttawaBramptonOdysseyCycle – Port Hope to Ajax With an Escort

I am a member of the Brampton Cycling Advisory Committee and was fortunate to be able to attend the 2016 Bike Summit as a representative of the committee.  While I was there I met Joe Arruda, a commuter cyclist promoting active transportation in Oshawa. Joe and I started following each other on twitter.  While we were staying in Ottawa, Joe read one of my blog posts about the trip and contacted me to see if we would like to have an escort through Durham Region. I jumped at the chance.

My friend George Shepperdley, who has done cycle tourism in the past, told me that the third day would be the hardest, then things would get better. I did find Day 3 challenging, and Day 4, easier.  Unfortunately, Day 5 proved very challenging.  I awoke a couple hours after going to bed, very hungry. I ate Kind Bar, but had trouble getting back to sleep.  Breakfast at the B&B wasn’t as good as what we had been making for ourselves and I started the day feeling wrecked.

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The planned route was 126km. Here’s my Strava for the day.

  • Moving Time – 4:51:25
  • Elapsed Time – 8:30:23
  • Distance – 82.1km
  • Elevation Gain – 446m
  • Average Speed – 16.9
  • Maximum Speed – 42.8
  • Calories Burned – 982

Port Hope-Ajax

The B&B was half way up a long hill and the beginning of the ride was challenging, however, it wasn’t long at all before we were on the Waterfront Trail. It was a excellent route, from start to finish.  Quiet country roads that needed no specific cycling infrastructure because they were so empty of motor vehicles, roads with shoulders, and multi-use paths.  With the exception of a few kilometres of gravel road and trails the entire route was excellent.

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Joe told us he would meet us at the Durham Region border, about 12km into our trip.

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Jim met us with the trailer and took the picture above.  Just after this point we cycled around the corner, down and up a hill, and met Joe and Jim Boate, another cycling advocate from Durham.

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I love this sticker on Joe’s cross bar.

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Joe and Jim were both such a font of local knowledge.  Jim explained to us that radioactive waste was buried all over the area and the government built the highway pictured below as part of a $1B clean-up project that will see two hundred dump trucks a day moving material for the next ten years.

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Ontario passed a law requiring motor vehicles to give cyclist 1M when passing and Joe was wearing a shirt to help educate drivers.

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We had the roads to ourselves most of the morning.

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Apparently, this bridge is well used for train spotting.

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The Algoma Orchards are the biggest apple operation in Canada and sell apples to Costco, Metro, and export to China. The view from the orchard was amazing.  Apparently, when it is clear, the CN Tower is visible from this hill.

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The places we encountered were so lovely.  It was hard to believe we were in the GTA.

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We stopped for a bathroom break and to view the lake at a small park just past the orchards.

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There were generally curb cuts for road to path transitions, something we are trying to get in Brampton.

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The local advocates are trying to get the entire Waterfront Trail paved, but there are sections where it is still gravel. We shared many similar tales of the slow pace of improving infrastructure for cyclists. Jim told us that there was a steep hill ahead that had only been accessible to daring mountain bikers in the past.  He had advocated for 10 years to have the route moved slightly and the surface improved.  When it finally happened he was honoured by having that hill name after him, the only eponymous infrastructure on the Waterfront Trail.

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After leaving that wooded area, we once again found ourselves on roads that were quite empty of motor vehicles and a multi-use pathway through a hydro corridor.

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Jim told us that the the cycling advocates from the various municipalities in Durham have formed a cycling coalition and that one of the things they hope to accomplish is to ensure not only that the infrastructure is built, but that it is maintained.  He told us he would be requesting this path be cleaned.  It would not be considered acceptable for a road to have this debris left on it, however, this is the type of thing that walkers and cyclists often have to put up with.

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When we reached this point just before lunch, Joe took Rani and Nelson, who have very narrow tires, along a paved road and Jim took the rest of us along the Waterfront Trail.  This area could definitely use some work. This is along the South Service Road and East Beach Road in Bowmanville.

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Our Jim and John scouted a lovely spot for us to have lunch and Jim was waiting for us when we arrived with our chairs set up and the camp stove out.  The weather started looking threatening so Rani insisted we move to a gazebo.  Good thing she did.  The rain came down heavily, shortly after we moved.

Bruce MacDonald, Chair of Whitby’s Active Transportation Committee, joined us at lunch. Joe knew that I had been unsuccessful in my search for electrolyte tablets the previous day and said he would arrange for someone to bring something along.  As we were preparing lunch, Bruce walked up and said, “Someone asked for medication?”, holding out a baggy of capsules.  I said, “No”. He then explained it was just another way of taking electrolytes.  It was definitely a funny moment being handed a baggy of capsules by someone I had just met.  However, Bruce was prepared and showed me a picture, on his phone, of the bottle they had come from, and I gratefully accepted.

As we left lunch I overheard Bruce telling our Jim to meet us at a Tim’s in Whitby, an hour away.  I thought he meant by bike, but it turned out to be hours before we got there.

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Shortly after lunch we had another section of unpaved trail followed by a quiet road from which we could see a traffic jam on the 401.

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A roundabout, more quiet streets, and paths led us to an incineration facility about which Bruce was very knowledgeable.

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Next, we cycled through Darlington Provincial Park. With a wave, we cycled right past the guard house, where cars were stopping to pay an entry fee – cyclists can enter free. Once again Joe took Rani and Nelson along a paved road and Bruce took David, Dayle and me along a shortcut which ended on a sunny road just east of the GM property I have often seen from the 401. We waited, and waited and waited for the others.  Then Bruce received a text saying they had stopped for ice cream.  Did we want to ride back and get some?  I said all I wanted was coffee.  Were we almost at Tim’s? Turns out I misunderstood at lunchtime and we were still 20km from Tims.  I wilted.

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I am entitling this picture, “The ice cream betrayal”!

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At Sandy Shores, Bruce had a flat and Nelson somehow cut his leg.  The mosquitoes were terrible. Fortunately, Bruce was fairly quick.

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Not too much later we came to a waterfront park with a snack stand and I got a bottled Starbucks frappuccino.  It was too sweet, without enough espresso, but it was better than nothing. Jim left us at this point.

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Another lovely section of pathway led us to Intrepid Park, where spies were trained in World War 2 at Camp X. It started raining and threatening a thunderstorm so we picked up the pace.

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We stopped at Tim’s just in time to avoid some heavy rain.  After a quick break, Joe and Bruce took us directly to our hotel.  I was absolutely exhausted and had to decline a group outing to the Portly Piper.  David and Dayle were kind enough to bring back a meal for me to eat at the hotel.

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Once everyone returned, we met to decide how to get across Toronto.  The options were a 68km route along busy roads or the Waterfront Trail leading to the Don Valley, Brickworks and Beltline, at 96km.  Taking advice from Bruce and Joe that we shouldn’t miss the Waterfront Trail, we decided on the longer route.

Once again, I was unable to upload pictures to blog, so I decided to leave it until I returned home and had an early night.

A very sincere thanks to Jim, Joe and Bruce.  What an incredibly knowledgeable, friendly group.  You turned a great section of the Waterfront Trail into an incredible learning adventure.  I can’t thank you enough and hope to return the favour some time if you are ever in Brampton.










About Lisa Stokes

I am a stay-at-home mother of four whose hobbies include photography, quilting and cycling. I have recently started to advocate for better cycling infrastructure in my community. I am the photographer at the Brampton Quilters' Guild.
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One Response to #OttawaBramptonOdysseyCycle – Port Hope to Ajax With an Escort

  1. Sarah O.B says:

    Thanks for awesome pictures of the trails and roads covered…and above all …for raising the awareness for sharing the road and spearheading fitness. Kudos to you all


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