Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Day 2: Lancaster to Morrisburg

 

It is 18:10 on day two. I am sitting in the Mall "Square" of the tiny mall in Morrisburg, having set up camp 5 km away, bought supplies, and called Sheryl.

 

It has not been a great day. I lost a lot of time this morning sitting out two thunderstorms in series. Then, in the afternoon, I somehow strained my knee, and it hurts. I really hope that I can take care of it and nurse it back to health.

 

Lord, I pray. Please let my knee be okay tomorrow so that I can continue. I ask this in Jesus' name.

 

I have only gone 70 km today, as measured on the map with the special map measuring instrument that my neighbour Paula gave me.

 

I did not sleep well last night. After I called Sheryl from the town of Lancaster, I had to wait out a big thunderstorm. I have a great respect for the danger that lightning storms pose to cyclists on the open road, and do not want test fate by cycling in them.

 

As I rode back to the campsite after the storm had passed, I could still see the brilliant flashes of the storm's lightning in the pitch dark to the south. I imagine the storm would have been over the state of New York by then.

 

When I got back to the campsite and got settled, I noticed more flashes coming from the north and the west. Storm cells seemed to be all around. The previously quiet water of Lake St. Francis was practically boiling, with huge waves crashing onto the shore right below me. I lay in my tent watching the flashes and listening to the pounding surf.

 

Suddenly I heard the crack of very nearby thunder and so left the tent and took refuge in the solid, cement washroom building, under its outdoor awning. Soon all hell broke loose. It was pouring torrents of rain. High winds were whipping the trees. Chain lightning was striking all around. It was 23:30 at this point.

 

After a few minutes, it all passed and I returned to my tent. I was somewhat surprised to see to see my camp still there where I had left it. I envied those in nearby trailers, who had slept through the storm undisturbed. As when on a bicycle, I did not feel safe in my tent under the trees as lightning was striking nearby.

 

I had barely fallen back asleep when I had to repeat the entire drill again at 00:30. I felt somewhat stupid standing outside the washroom in the middle of the night and all alone, for this time the storm barely grazed us. There were but a few sprinkles, and the lightning was really not that close.

 

Once again I went back to the tent and fell asleep to the distant but constant sound of thunder. I kept my ears peeled for that "closer" sound. Whether another such storm passed during the night I cannot say. I was too tired to stay awake and fell into a sound sleep.

 

Only to be awakened by my watch alarm at 05:00. I was out of my tent by 05:10. The sky to the east was clear and blue, and the pre-dawn orange light was beautiful. A look to the north and west, however, showed a sky that was black and threatening.

 

I went for a shower and by the time I came out the sky had become overcast and it was raining lightly. I could hear distant thunder. Strangely, I could still see the sun, just climbing above the horizon to the east and shining in underneath the clouds. This phenomenon created for a strange rainbow arc effect which was very beautiful.

 

Despite the light rain, it was still dry enough under my tree for me to have a little breakfast. One of the new yoghurts I had bought the day before at the market in Lancaster was covered with mould when I opened it. While the other was okay, I wondered how old they were. I had this second yoghurt with some of Sheryl's home made bread. I then packed up my tent and was on my way out by 06:45.

 

I rode back along the Service Road to the Lancaster overpass, to scope out a place for morning coffee. Alas, to the north west I could see yet another thunder cloud approaching and could see sparks of lightning below it.

 

I found the "Impala Cafe" in a motel near the overpass, just a block or so south on Highway Two. It was 07:05 when I got to the restaurant, which was a good thing for it had only just opened at 07:00. All else was closed.. While I sat inside and had my coffee and whole wheat toast, the storm cloud passed over and I watched it pour outside, complete with thunder and lightning.

 

While eating I watched the CBC morning show on television. The regional weather report called for this sort of thing to last throughout the day: Scattered, but violent thunderstorms.

 

I cooled my heels at the restaurant until 07:45, by which time the storm cell had passed and the sun was coming out.

 

From South Lancaster to Sommerstown, the road passes through some pretty empty countryside. It was for this reason that I was keeping my eye on yet another storm cell that was not too far off. I could see the rain falling below it, and the sparks of lightning, but was not sure if it would pass by me before I got to Sommerstown. A sudden flash of lightning close by to the right decided me. I had already entered the empty area, but I turned around and high-tailed it half a kilometre back to take refuge under the awning of a restaurant that was closed.

 

I had to wait yet again for about 15 minutes while the main storm passed. Finally, my impatience got the better of my nervousness, and I set out through light remaining rain, with the sun already angling in from behind the trailing end of the storm. I was still feeling a bit frightful, knowing that I was still somewhat at risk of a strike. Thankfully, I could see no more thunderstorm cells following from the north.

 

I did not make the Sommerstown line until 08:50. It had taken me 2 1/2 hours to go 10km. At Sommerstown, the road comes out of the wilderness and starts to go along the river, with houses to the landward side. I saw a ship heading down river through the Seaway.

 

I tried calling Sheryl at 09:00, but got only a fast busy signal. After several tries, I rode on with my phone turned on. Sheryl finally got through to me at 09:20.

 

By 09:25 I had made the town line of Glen Walter. The road was still hugging the river's edge. Glancing north, I began to see yet another line of low, white clouds. To the south east, I could still me my last big, black cloud, now pounding people in New York. In the midst of all this, over my head, it was bright and sunny.

 

I was facing another day of tough headwind, though. This wind would be the source of my knee troubles, although I did not yet realise it. I was pushing ahead at my normal level-ground speed and gear settings, unknowingly putting a great deal of strain on my knees. Not being used to riding in a headwind, I gauged the speed I felt I should be achieving based on the terrain, which was flat. I unconsciously pushed myself to maintain this speed.

 

At 09:45 I reached the Cornwall line and stopped to take a picture by the town sign. The off-road bike path began here. At first it paralleled the road, but ran right down along the water's edge. Later, the path would wind its way around behind the industrial buildings of the old port, always keeping to the water. At one point, the bike trail even went down onto the water's surface, out on a floating deck, so that it could go behind a factory that was built right up to the shoreline.

 

On the far side of the channel was Cornwall Island, a part of the Asekwesasne Mohawk Reserve, but still officially a part of Canada. It would be just past Cornwall, at the other end of this island, that the far shore would become New York State. Looking west I could see the imposing span of the International Bridge at Cornwall.

 

The City of Cornwall has a rich history as an important regional and industrial center, as well as being a former river port. See 1.Notes on Cornwall below for more information.

 

As I reached downtown, the approaching clouds I had been watching were nearly upon me. Their leading edges were beginning to cut off the sun. I got to the waterfront park, and the clock where Sheryl had picked me up in 1997, at 10:17. I stopped at the bandstand and climbed up on the stage to look north and study the weather situation. Should I stay and take shelter, or risk heading on out, away from the safety of downtown Cornwall. Was this line of clouds a storm or wasn't it? It was hard to tell, but as I scanned it carefully with my field glasses, I did not see any lightning flashes. The sun was appearing to burn off the big black cloud even as it passed overhead.

 

I stopped for a meal break by the water, parking the bike next to a bench in the park. I had some of the grapes I had bought the evening before along with the rest of the cheese. I was on my way at 10:40.

 

The Town Clock brings back memories of my earlier bike ride to Cornwall. See 2.Visits to Cornwall below for more information.

 

At the western end of the city's waterfront park starts the St. Lawrence Parks Recreation Trail. The beginning of the trail is was not too well marked. The main city bike trail follows the north side of the old canal, and I knew from experience would curve north under the bridge and head into town. I knew from 1997 that the trail I wanted as on the south side of the old canal, but there was a big sign that said "Do Not Enter". I went anyway, and sure enough, found the trail there.

 

The St. Lawrence Trail begins by following along the cliff between the old ship canal and the St. Lawrence River, some fifty feet below. There were stupendous views of what in past days must have been the St. Lawrence River Gorge, complete with rapids at the bottom. There were no longer any rapids, but the water was still running pretty fast. Looking across the river, I saw the channel separating the Canadian island from the U.S. one. Henceforth the opposite bank would be New York State. Down river the gorge was abruptly cut off by the imposing presence of the Garrison Dam, which straddles the U.S./Canada border.

 

I had been this way in 1997, and had read all the information plaques at that time. Long before the Seaway had been built, this old canal had served to move lake freighters (but not ocean going ships) up and down past the rapids. With the advent of the dam, there were no more rapids. And the dam cut off the canal completely, although one could still see the gate in the dam where it had once passed. (I guess they had to keep it operational while they were building the dam). Ships now pass through the Eisenhower Locks on the American side.

 

It was 11:10 when I got to the point where the old canal comes to an abrupt halt at the dam. This was as far as I had come in 1997. I was going into new and unexplored territory.

 

I had expected the trail to climb up onto the top of the earthen levee which formed most of the reservoir's edge. Instead, it took off into the woods and made a wide arc around the reservoir. For a long time I lost all sight of the dam and of the lake.

 

The Trail cut north through the bush as far as the highway. When it reached the old highway Two, it followed along this highway in its own grassy right-of-way on the south side. How far away from the levee I was was unknown, for any view was blocked by forest. There were lots of ups and downs along this way. I guess, in the aggregate, I had to climb at least the hundred of so feet of the difference in water level engendered by the dam. I was still facing a constant oncoming wind, and was straining my knees, but did not feel it yet.

 

By 11:45, I had once again reached a point where I could see the water again, now a vast lake backed up by the dam. A mileage sign along the old highway 2 showed that I was 32 km from Morrisburg,

 

The Trail left the open, grassy right of way alongside the road and began to go through the trees. Every once in a while, though, I could see the trail was still quite close to the road. Being in the trees, even if the woods were cosmetic, was more pleasant than being right next to the road. And the trees mercifully cut the wind.

 

I came out suddenly upon this open air museum, the Museum of Lost Villages. Several buildings transported from the old towns were placed on this grassy expanse between the bike trail and the highway, and there were old maps and artefacts housed within.

 

The building of the Seaway and the construction of the Moses/Saunders dam led to the disappearance of a whole string of historic riverfront villages. See 4. Notes on The Lost Villages below for more information.

 

It got to the museum at 11:55, and so took the opportunity to stop for lunch. I had to reload my film. Then it was time for my 12:00 call to Sheryl. After checking in with her, I took some time to visit the museum a bit. Following that, I sat down at my picnic table and had some lunch: More of Sheryl's excellent bread and the rest of the Hummus I had bought. I went over and visited the museum store and contributed a few dollars by buying an inexpensive historical pamphlet. Finally I decided I should put on some sun block, as the day was becoming at least 50% sunny. It was 12:40 when I resumed my ride.

 

I had learned, again, about the villages along the St. Lawrence that had been flooded and erased when the Seaway dam was built, villages such as Milles Roches

 

The Trail continued winding through the wooded section, still somewhat along the highway, until I got to the eastern entrance of the Long Sault Parkway at 13:00. I had a choice of going straight along old Highway Two, or of taking the Parkway as it wound out amongst the islands. The Parkway was clearly a little out of my way, but the official "bike trail" went that way I decided it would be more interesting to take the Parkway, and to re-visit old haunts. In retrospect, though, this may not have been a good idea for my knees.

 

The Long Sault Parkway is just the first of a long series of parks established along the area inundated by the flooding for the Seaway.. See 4. Notes on the St. Lawrence Parks below for more information.

 

It was along the Parkway's high and wide open stretches of highway that I first became aware of the knee strain. The road had climbed up to the top of some hills and was open to the strong wind funnelling down the St. Lawrence Valley.

 

Near the entrance, I rode past the Milles Roches campground and beach where Sheryl and I had gone with Alex in 1999. I struggled on to the next island and stopped to catch a photo of an interesting place where the old road dips right down into the water towards the now submerged town of Milles Roches. I recall having been by this way before; probably on the very same trip with Sheryl and Alex.

 

It was over 25 years ago that I first discovered the Long Sault Parkway.. See 5. Visits to Long Sault Parkway below for more information.

 

I rode on along the high road, with calm lagoons and the mainland shore to the right and the deep, blue water of the lake to the left. Each new island was a challenge as the road descended from the heights of one island to a causeway and then made a long climb back up the other side to the top of a new hill.

I passed the island where we had gone for hikes. Soon thereafter I came upon Woodlands Island. On one side of the road was the campground of yesteryears, and on the other were the beach and picnic grounds I used to go to. My knees were really feeling wasted at this point, so I decided to ride up into the picnic grounds for a break and a look around. It was 13:30, and I would stop for ten minutes.

 

I had some apricots, which had been ground into paste by all the bouncing, and I had some more grapes. The old place looked pretty much as it had when I used to frequent it in the late '70s and early 80s. The beach looked more dismal than I remembered it, though, and the whole place was eerily deserted.

 

Resuming the trek after my break, I came down past the campground on the last island, where Alex and Sheryl and I had gone for hot dogs. Finally, I came out at the western gate, at the town of Ingleside.

 

I got off the Parkway at the Ingleside end at 14:15. Thank heavens I was off that high and open road! The off-road bike trail picked up again at the park gate and headed off into the woods. The trees were welcome shelter from the wind. By then, though, the damage had already been done. My knees felt and complained about every revolution of the pedals.

 

I went on through the trees, then past a campground (Farran Park), and then across a long causeway into the Upper Canada Bird Sanctuary, where the trail dissolved into a path through the marshes. Along one not very well marked section, the trail became a gravel road also travelled by cars. This section must have been part of the old highway, for I came upon an overgrown roadside information plaque, out in the middle of nowhere, heralding the first breeding of a local kind of cow.

 

Upper Canada Bird Sanctuary

[Plaques of Ontario Website]

(Plaque that I saw)

Location: Located within the confines of the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, in Osnabruck Twp.

 

Holstein Friesian Cattle In Ontario

 

In 1881, Michael Cook, who operated a prosperous 200 acre farm here, imported the first Holstein Friesian cattle into Ontario. His action was part of a progressive movement amongst farmers to find a productive breed of cattle capable of supporting the province's rapidly developing dairy industry which increasingly focused on cheese production. Following his initial importation of two bulls and ten cows, Cook continued to import Holstein cattle from the United States and The Netherlands and to distribute these cattle throughout the province.<br>

 

They quickly established a high reputation among Ontario farmers and by 1886 their popularity in the industry was assured when the Dairymen's Association of eastern Ontario recognized the Holstein as the leading milk producing breed.

 

Following along the gravel road, I almost missed the turn off. As the gravel road headed inland, the trail led in the opposite direction out across yet another marsh and to the riverside. For a space I rode along a beach, and then was amongst people's houses. The trail went into some pine woods, with the floor carpeted in pine needles. I passed the causeway where I remember taking Sheryl for some plant gathering, outside park property, following our visit to Upper Canada Village a couple of years earlier.

 

After an initial visit 25 years ago, I was back recently to show Upper Canada Village to Sheryl... See 6. Visits to Upper Canada Village below for more background.

 

At 15:00, while still deep in the pines, I called Sheryl to report in. I could report little as I had no clear idea where I was, except that I was close to Upper Canada Village. With my knees aching so, I had decided that I would have to stop for the day somewhere near Upper Canada Village, for I could go no further.

 

I came by Upper Canada Village by the back way, and rode around the public areas along a supply road used by the staff. It was 15:10 when I came out at the gate and rode straight to the tourist information centre. I had thought that when I got to Upper Canada Village, I would be exploring the battlefield site and spending a lot of time looking around, but all I could think of were my knees.

 

I asked at the tourist information if there were a nearby campground in the direction I was riding. Thankfully, the attendant said that there was, and that it was "two minutes" down the road. Of course, these were two "car" minutes.

 

Even though the bike trail continued through the Chrysler's Farm Battlefield park, I road out onto Highway Two and started west along the wide, paved shoulder. The going was a bit easier than the bike path had been, and I found that if I took it real slow, with virtually no pressure on my knees, they would not hurt. I was riding in my easiest gear, the small one in the front and the large one in the back. I plodded along, only half believing the campground was really there. Had she understood that I meant west?

 

At the far end of the Chrysler Farm complex, the bike trail met the highway and from then on I had an even nicer bike lane.

 

Even at my snail's pace, I eventually got to the Riverside Cedar Campsite at 15:55. When I first saw the familiar looked sign shape, I was hoping it would be a campground. I was in such a sorry state, that I had even passed up checking out an old train along the way: A "Grand Trunk" passenger train sitting at an old station.

 

The campground was near empty, and I got a nice place right by the river - although with the marsh behind it I feared the bugs would be bad. I sat for a few minutes and massaged my knees. Only then did I set up my camp.

 

By 16:45 I was all set up and was riding onward towards the town of Morrisburg. It was the nearest place where I could get something to eat and was 5 km further on down the road. I had to take it really easy - rolling with no pressure on my knees, and in my easiest gear still. It took me until 17:15 - 30 minutes - to go the 5 km.

 

As I rode, I had lots of time think about my unsuccessful bicycle trips. In 1993, in Nova Scotia, I had gone less and less each day, until the final day of cycling I only went about 20km, and my knees were shot. And then in 1999, I had to abandon my ride at to the Eastern Townships at Noon on the second day. It was this failure that had prompted me to prepare so well for my New York trip. I felt angry with myself that I had not prepared more this time, for it seemed a real possibility that I might not be able to continue. I took hope in the fact that as long as I pedalled easy and put no pressure on my knees, they did not hurt.

 

At last, I began to see businesses on the river side of the road. I realised, then, why the entire length of the road since the dam had been made up of one park or another. The entire stretch must have been part of the land expropriated by the government for flooding, when they built the Seaway. The numerous parks along this short stretch of road: Long Sault Parkway, the Bird Sanctuary, Upper Canada Village, Chrysler's Battlefield, were various uses they were putting to this land. I must now have reached the end of the expropriation area.

 

I thought the town would never come! It was not such a bad town, once I got there. There was a small mall, where I went directly to the food market and bought some supplies: Yoghurt, cheese, and baba genouj. Again I had to buy a whole bag of ice, and again I cooled my 600ml diet coke in the remainder as it melted. I stopped into a pharmacy to buy some hand lotion as lubricant for rubbing my knees.

 

Morrisburg was one of the "lost villages" which survived the flooding, although a good part of the town had to be moved inland. . See 7. Notes on Morrisburg below for more background.

 

The mall featured a little "mini-square" in which I sat and called Sheryl at 18:00. Then I rubbed my knees for ten minutes. Finally, I wrote until 18:30

 

I had ridden by a small restaurant in the shopping centre, The Spinning Wheel Restaurant. I decided to return to this place. I would be surprised to find that, for a greasy-spoon looking place, they had great salads, with the freshest of vegetables. I had a grilled chicken Caesar salad and coffee. When that was not enough to fill me up, I ordered another salad and a chicken burger without the bun. I ate slowly while sipping my coffee and continued writing until 20:00

 

When I set out for the 5 km ride back to the campground, I ask God to please keep my knees. I had figured out that I had done 6h25 of cycling that day and had covered a distance of 70 km. This made for an average speed of 10km an hour.

 

Daily Report

According to a later, detailed study of the kilometrage, based on map readings and my hourly log:

        I travelled a forward (towards my goal) distance of 65 km, for a total cumulative forward distance of 153 km.

        Total distance travelled this day was 75 km, for a total distance travelled of 169 km.

        I rode for 6 h 35, with an additional 2 h 40 in breaks, for a total of 8 h 15 on the road.

        My average speed was 10 km/hr

[See the Kilometrage Study for details]