Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Day 3: Morrisburg to Brockville

 

I am sitting here again in the Spinning Wheel Restaurant in Morrisburg. It's a sort of "Ma and Pa" type down home restaurant, but the food was great last night. I've ordered a "Super Omelette": Ham, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, along with brown toast. (Yes, it IS mixing proteins and carbohydrates, which is against the diet I have been following since Christmas, but I think with all this exercise that I can handle it.) I tested myself this morning for blood sugar and I came out at 5.3 mmol/litre, and that after a 10 hour fast. The normal line is 6.4 mmol/litre, so I was well under.

 

It is now 07:00. Last night was another unsettled night. I got back to the campsite around 20.45. As before, I was riding as slowly as possible and with the minimum of pressure on my knees. The route was now familiar and was mercifully more or less flat, although every minor incline was important to my knees in their current state.

 

As I rode back into the campground again, I saw the strangest thing. This fellow had his van doors all open, and his engine running, so that he could sit around the campfire, some twenty feet distant, and listen to his stereo rocking out the whole area. Thankfully he was at the other end of the campground from me.

 

It was still light when I got back to my tent. I had time to unpack and to massage my knees once again, with my newly bought cream, before it was time to call Sheryl at 21:00. I mentioned the photo to her, the one of "us" that just seemed to drop out of my writing journal notebook when I last opened it. Sheryl was going to make up her mind by Noon today about whether she was coming today or tomorrow.

 

After the call, I walked over to the small sandbar - past the marsh - and looked south west across the lake. I could see a big thunder cloud dumping rain onto New York State. Earlier, coming back from Morrisburg, I had taken a brilliantly coloured dusk photo of a big storm eastways, probably back over Cornwall.

 

I went to be early, around 22:00, for I was very tired and was awakened at 23:30 by the sound of strong wind whipping the trees. I could see lightning so I got dressed and walked the several hundred feet over open grass to the washroom building in order to take refuge under the awning. There were storms all around but none seemed close, so I went back to my tent and lay down, fully dressed and prepared to move on a moment's notice. Barely 15 minutes later, about 23:45, I was awakened to the sound of raindrops and could hear that the wind was even more fierce. I ran back the 300 feet to the washroom complex and stood and waited as the storm came on. There was heavy rain, but no lightning. As I stood there under the shelter I took stock. The rain had petered out so I walked back to my tent. No sooner has I gotten in when the rain picked up and strong winds began again. This time there was lightning and thunder, seemingly right on top of me. I ran back up to the washroom, getting soaked in the process. I watched there as the lightning struck all around and torrents cascaded into the open grassland of the park. By 00:30 all the lightning had moved off to the east, but the rain continued. I finally bit the bullet and walked back to my tent in the rain. My windbreaker was soaked, but I used it for my pillow anyway. I was cold and the sleeping bag was damp. And it was thus that I fell to sleep.

 

I was awakened again at 02:30 by a strong, strong wind and cold! Nature called me back up to the washroom. The sky was clear. The Moon shone, and all the myriad stars, including The Milky Way, were visible. It was very, very cold and I was shivering. When I got back to the tent, I zipped myself into the bag and slowly got warm again. I slept well...

 

Until 05:00 when my watch alarm went off. At 05:10 I was out of the tent. I was still quite cold. The pre-dawn sky was about half clear. When I got to the washroom, I had the insight to use the electric hand dryer on the wall to dry out my windbreaker, after which it began to keep me warm.

 

I was packed up by 06:00, at which point I took my blood sugar test, after a ten-hour fast. I then had a big chunk of Sheryl's home made bread and a yoghurt. Amazingly, most of my ice was still present in my small cooler, and indication no doubt of how cold it had been. I gave my knees a good massage and then was on my way by 06:25

 

As I had the night before, I soft-pedalled it all the way to Morrisburg, arriving at 07:05, taking 40 minutes to do 5km. To my right (north) as I rode was this big, black cloud. I was hopeful that I would get to Morrisburg before it hit.

 

Thus far, my knees were okay. I knew that I would have to take it really easy that day. It was black outside, so before going into the restaurant I changed all my gear over to rain mode. This involved, among other things, putting on my canvas tennis shoes and packing my Nike running shoes into a plastic bag and stowing them in the panier. Rain I could take in stride, as long as there was no thunder and lightning. I wondered what the day would bring.

 

I was on my way from breakfast at 08:10. My detailed map (The St. Lawrence Bikeways Trail Map) had shown me that I could take a "Lakeshore Drive" most of the way from Morrisburg to Iroqois. Leaving the restaurant and the highway business district, I dropped down through the quaint streets of the old town until I came to the waterfront. Riding along past the old houses, and then out into the open countryside, was indeed much more pleasant along this road than along the highway. I always enjoyed being right along the water. Cars came by only occasionally on this road.

 

I took great care to roll very softly on my knees, exerting only the minimum of pressure. I was nearly free-wheeling. The result was that I was going very, very slow. It was either go slow or abandon the ride, and I so wanted to continue! I prayed to Jesus for assistance and for guidance.

 

At first Lakeshore was a residential street, but then it gave way to farms and to open country. I had fantastic views of the river! The breeze was in my face, but mercifully it was not too, too strong. Every once in a while I would watch a black cloud approach and then would get rained on for a few minutes. Then the Sun would come back out. I kept scanning the sky for the big ones, the big thunder storms, but none came.

 

I stopped just before 09:00 and got a photo of a ship, with the Iroquois Control Dam in the background. I would learn later that, unlike the "Lost Villages", only a part of Morrisburg and Iroquois has been submerged when they built the Seaway.

 

I called Sheryl for the first call of the day. She had made up her mind and would be coming to join me that day. I would call her again at 12:00 with more details.

 

Right the point where I had stopped to take my photo and to call Sheryl, the road curved away from the River and went about a kilometre inland to join the main highway, which I followed on into Iroquois.

 

I got to the town of Iroquois at 09:40. There was not much too it, at least along the highway. I did find a small mall, open, L-shaped mall with a little mini-park at one end, complete with park benches.. I parked my bike at the "park" end and walked down to the far end of the mall and back to exercise my knees. I then gave them a vigorous massage with the lotion I had bought.

 

Iroquois, formerly known at Point Iroquois, is the town at the head of Lake St. Lawrence. It was completely re-located when the Seaway was built, and is now the site of the final locks and dam for ships heading west. See 1.Notes on Iroquois below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.

 

I was rolling again at 09:55 -a bare15 minutes later and after yet another short stop. This time it was at a gas station. I was clear of Iroquois almost immediately upon setting out. The main road just skirted the edge of town. More of the town must have been down the 2 km street taking off to the left and descending to the Seaway Locks and dam. Normally I would have taken the time to check these out but in the current condition of my knees, I decided to forego seeing the joy of seeing the Locks in favour of getting on my way. I felt that 2 km each way was a bit too much of a detour. I also feared that The Locks were also likely to be at the foot of a steep hill which I would then have to climb back up to get to the highway.

 

Back out on the road, I came to the Grenville County line at 10:35. At 10:40 I was at the Cardinal town line and by 10:45 I was at the "bridge" at Cardinal. As I approached Cardinal on the road right along the water's edge, the sight of black smoke belching out of a tall chimney was my visual companion for some time. The part of the river right next to me was separated from the main portion by a sort of levee, but I made nothing of this at the time.

 

Over the last kilometre of so of the way to Cardinal, the road turned abruptly to the right and was paralleling a most imposing and deep, water-filled trench. The trench was clearly man-made. It was about 300 feet across and a hundred feet deep, with walls made of huge stone blocks. In places, these walls were beginning to give way. On the far side, perched on the top of the walls, I could see the houses and churches and graveyards of the town. I could no longer see the smoke belching chimney, as it was now hidden behind the hill on which was built the old section of town.

 

Cardinal is famous as the site of the historic Galop Canal, which had turned the town into an island, reachable only by an historic <i>swing bridge</i>, between it's latest enlargement in 1899 and it's de-commissioning in 1959.. See 2. Notes on Cardinal below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.

 

The trench came to a sudden end, and was crossed by a road and railroad track leading up into town. It looked like that trench had been filled in from that point on.

 

This all was so interesting that I simply had to stop and get some photos. I read the information plaque, which explained that the "trench" had been the old ship canal, built in 1899. Where I was standing had been a swing bridge. All this had been to get around the "Gallop" rapids, the first (or last, depending on one's direction) rapids on the St. Lawrence below Lake Ontario. In the olden days. canoes and flat- bottomed boats had been "poled" up the gentle rapids. In the 1820s, with the advent of steam boats, a small canal around the village of Cardinal was built. Finally, the big trench was dug in 1899, making the town of Cardinal truly an island.

 

I took advantage of my stop to have a snack and consumed the last of my cheese, along with grapes and some apricots. Many of my grapes from the store in Lancaster only two days before had gone mouldy. They were somewhat in that state even when I bought them. That's three strikes against the market in Lancaster! I set out again at 11:05, after a 20 minute rest.

 

The road was much higher above the River after Cardinal. As I was riding I was now looking down on the gorge of the St. Lawrence. I got to the International Bridge at Johnstown just at 12:00 and just in time for my regular phone call to Sheryl. I figured that before calling, I should get another Brockville map so left Highway Two to find the tourist information building at the base of the bridge access, a small bit inland. I had picked up a tourist map of Brockville along with a lot of other brochures when I had stopped in at the tourist information at Upper Canada Village. Alas, I had discarded the Brockville map while doing a "triage" at the restaurant, thinking I would not need it. How dumb! I needed the map to co-ordinate our arrival in Brockville and to give Sheryl directions on how to find me. With the map in hand, I called Sheryl from the information centre. It turned out there had been no need to hurry. Sheryl was not yet ready to leave, and so would not make Brockville before the 15:00 call.

 

 

Johnstown, the site of today's bridge linking Ontario with the major New York river port of Ogdensburg, was the site of the final battle for French North America, in 1760, before becoming yet another original Loyalist settlement.. See 3. Notes on Johnstown below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.

 

After the phone call, I hung around the Centre, whose audience was people coming off the bridge from the U.S.A into Ontario. I picked up a few more brochures, including one for the Seaway Trail on the American side. It was 12:20 when I left. I had no sooner gotten back to the River's edge and started riding west once more when I came upon a place called the "Windmill Battle Site" at 12:45. The small park offered a good vista of the River and a nice picnic table, so I decided to stop for my lunch. I was there until 13:10.

 

For lunch I had some more of the bread that Sheryl had made, and half the baba genouj I had bought in Morrisburg. I read the information plaque about the battle. In 1838, the year after the 1837 Rebellion had been crushed, a group of dissidents, along with some Americans, landed at Johnstown. They had been training all winter in New York, calling themselves the "Hunter's Lodge". About 200 of them landed. They expected the locals to rally to their side, but instead the locals joined the Militia. Soon the invaders were on the defensive. There was a pitched battle in which many lost their lives on both sides. The rebels retreated to the stone windmill, where they could not be dislodged without cannon. It took 2 days for the British gun boats to arrive. When they started shelling the windmill, the rebels knew it was all over and surrendered. Several were hung and many were deported to Australia.

 

I was again no sooner on my way than I came to Prescott, at 13:15. At the entrance to town I just had to stop and get some photos of the imposing structure of Fort Wellington (and of course I had to change film in order to do it.) The fort had been built after the 1837 Rebellion, to defend the town of Prescott.

 

I found that Prescott also had a Coast Guard base. Information plaques informed me that Prescott had been the terminus for the "Bytown to Prescott Railway" in the 1850s. The railway was important to the development of the interior, providing a means of getting supplies in and goods to market. It was later leased to the CPR for 999 years.

 

 

Prescott, Ontario was strategically located at the head of navigation above the former St Lawrence rapids and so was an important trade center. It's strategic location also made it a target during Canada's wars.. See 4. Notes on Prescott below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.

 

With all my looking around, even to the point of spying out some antique stores for Sheryl, it was 13:40 before I was on my way out of Prescott, along the old Highway Two. The road continued to run right along the river and remained pretty flat. The river well below, at the base of a cliff.

 

Along the road, I came upon "The Blue Church". In the 1790s, the two neighbouring townships of Augusta and Elizabethtown agreed to set up a common burial ground. There was no church at all there until 1809. The present structure was built in 1845. In the same graveyard was buried the founder of Canadian Methodism

 

I arrived at the town of Maitland at 14:40, after having passed a petrochemical nightmare of industrial plants. At least the Dupont plant could be seen. The others were hidden away behind the trees, closer to the ever-present railway and the 401, and were announced only by their driveways and signs.

 

The actual town of Maitland, when I got to it, was the site of many old stone buildings. I learned from the information plaques that Maitland had been called called Pointe au Baril by the French, and that it was the site of a military shipyard. The Iroquoise and the Outaouaise, the last French ships of war on Lake Ontario, had been built there. The town was captured by General Amherst in 1760, and would become the New Oswegatchie shipyards for the British Colonial forces. The settlement of Maitland was founded in 1824-26, and was named for Sir Peregrine Maitland, the Governor-general of Upper Canada from 1818 to 1828.

 

 

Maitland is a small community between Prescott and Brockville. It was called "Pointe au Baril" during the French regime, and was an important shipyard. See 5. Notes on Maitland below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.

 

Once I had passed the old section of town, with its strange, empty stone tower, Maitland become more of a suburb of Brockville than a separate town. Along the river's edge was a stretch of very fine estates.

 

I came to the Elizabethtown Township line at 15:13, after having called Sheryl at 15:00. She was now on the way to meet me, and had just crossed into Ontario on the 401. I estimated she would be in Brockville in about an hour and a half, at 16:30. I did not figure that I would get into Brockville myself much earlier.

 

In fact, I made the Brockville town line by 15:30 and a few minutes later was at the town centre. To the north had appeared this big, nasty rain cloud, breaking the otherwise sunny afternoon. I knew that I only had a few minutes in which to find shelter before the deluge started. I raced about the interesting old town, taking some pictures: The Courthouse, churches with ornate roofs, the famous railway tunnel, and the waterfront. I took refuge at the tourist information down at the waterfront when the deluge finally struck.

 

 

Brockville is a major centre, known for its clean tree-lined streets and many fine old homes See 6. Notes on Brockville below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.

 

While waiting for the rain to pass, I picked up some B&B brochures and matched them against a displayed map which they had installed outside. I noted a couple of interest, including one right downtown and one called "Misty Pines" which was out west of town and in the direction I would have to ride the next day.

 

When the rain stopped, I cycled the dozen blocks or so back up the hill to the first of the B&Bs, at Pine and Orchard Streets. The place had one room left, but it was $75 and shared a bathroom. Worse, the bathroom had only a shower, and I really felt like a bath. I so wanted to present Sheryl with an already rented room, but I felt that she really would not like the idea of the shared bathroom. In addition, there was also no parking provided other than on street, and with ambiguous parking regulations. After much hesitation, I turned the room down.

 

Sheryl called as I was standing outside and trying to call the other B&B, Sheryl called. She had just gotten off the 401 at Brockville. We negotiated directions to where I was, and then I sat myself down at the curb and began to massage my knees. I was still doing so when Sheryl drove up the street just a few minutes later.

 

Our first few minutes together were a bit tense. I was frustrated at not having found a place and my usual lodging anxiety was beginning to set in. I am afraid that I did not give Sheryl the full-hearted welcome she must have expected after three days absence and a three-hour drive. Eventually, we got the bike rack and my bike onto the car and got our options set. We headed out King Street to the west to check out the other B&B. We passed another small B&B sign, but after having gone to great trouble to turn around and backtrack and finally park, there was no one home.

 

The original B&B was quite a ways out of town, and as we were driving it started to pour, which made finding it even harder. There were a few minutes where we could hardly even see the road through the torrents. By that time we were well out of town, at least 4km, and King Street had reverted to Highway Two and had become a four-laned, divided highway. As it was, we ended up going right by the place and had to go well down the road before we could turn back .

 

We finally got to "Misty Pines", but only the husband was there. This is why there had been no answer when I had phoned. The house was a modern bungalow, on a very large, nearly-in-the-country lot which was set well back from the road and surrounded by trees. While it did not have any of the old world charm of the first place I had looked at, it was very new and clean and spacious. The whole house was very modern, and carpeted with thick, white carpet. In fact, we had to leave our shoes at the door and adopt little paper slippers - a firm rule!

 

They had four rooms to choose from. Three of these shared a bathroom, with a bathtub. The more expensive room had its own bathroom, but with only a shower. We debated for some time over which to take, but finally took the "Yellow" room, one of the ones with the shared bath. My strong desire for a bath was the deciding factor, for I felt it would help my knees. As it turned out, we would be the only guest that night, so sharing the bath would not be an issue. The room was $75, tax included. And they wanted cash!

 

Once the details were settled, I set out immediately to take my bath. Afterward, we got changed and drove back into town for supper. The innkeeper had suggested a placed called "Buds on the Bay", which turned out to be a great choice. It was right on the old waterfront, and we were able to sit out on the 2nd floor terrace, with a great view of the River. While eating, we were entertained by the Brockville Pipe Band, which was practising in the parking lot.

 

Before going into the restaurant, Sheryl and I had taken a short walk along the waterfront, and had noticed the individual pipers beginning to collect unobtrusively, like the ravens in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". We had wondered what they were about.

 

I had a steak, with double salad, and Sheryl had a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. This fit very well with our diet, but I would learn the next day that this strict dieting was not compatible with my day-long cycling.

 

As we ate, we watched this interesting cloud form slowly over the River to the east of us. It was on its way to making a funnel, sort of in slow motion, but the funnel never completed. The cloud did not have enough energy. Still, I felt that I had watched the making of a young tornado. Near the end, the rain from this cloud hit and drove us all indoors. Thankfully, we were just about done with dinner anyway.

 

We took an evening drive around old Brockville, admiring all the old houses as we looked for a place to have a good cup of coffee. We parked and got out and took a little walk downtown. Someone was playing their music so loud on the second floor of this old hotel that we had at first thought it was a nightclub.

 

We finally ended up driving all the way back out to the 401, breaking the spell of old Brockville by heading through the modern section. I got some gas for the car and then we ended up having our coffee at a crowded Tim Horton's.

 

Refreshed nonetheless, we headed back downtown and out west on King Street. Our B&B was not that easy to find in the dark of night, but eventually we found it and got settled in.

 

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 64 km, for a total cumulative forward distance of 217 km.

        Total distance travelled this day was the same, for a total distance travelled of 233 km.

        I rode for 7 h 10, with an additional 2 h 45 in breaks, for a total of 9 h 55 on the road.

        My average speed was 9 km/hr

[See the Kilometrage Study for details]