Thursday, July 12, 2001
Day 4: Brockville to Kingston
I set the alarm for 06:00, for the B&B hostess had promised breakfast for 07:00. Before sitting down for breakfast we re-packed the car. I corrected my hasty and somewhat angry stowage of gear the afternoon before. I carefully set out all the gear I was still going to carry on the bike. This gear was now minus tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, and at least half of the changes of clothes. I kept only one complete set of street clothes with me.
The hostess prepared us a nice, special breakfast of omelette with bacon and vegetables, along with whole wheat toast. She told me how to find the "Thousand Islands Parkway", whose entrance was just down the road. Cars heading west on Highway Two would normally have to merge onto the 401 for a short space here, something which bikes were not permitted to do. She explained that there was a turn off to a small side road that hugged the top of the cliff over the River, running right next to the 401 and separated from it by a concrete sound wall.
I left on my way at 08:05. I did not feel guilty about the 4 km "boost" I had received by leaving directly from the B&B instead of from Brockville itself. It was more than made up for by the day before, when I had to ride the 5km each way from my campground to Morrisburg in order to get supper.
I rode along in the early morning weather, which could not decide if it wanted to be overcast or sunny. All day long I would be constantly changing from windbreaker to rain poncho to bare shirtsleeves. For a long stretch I would get tired of switching between rain poncho and windbreaker and so would pack the latter in its plastic bag in my panier and would use the rain poncho in order to keep warm. People may thought me strange cycling along in my bright yellow rain poncho when there was no rain, but who cares.
I still had to take it easy with my knees, but they felt better than they had the morning before. In fact, the day before they had gotten progressively better as the day went along. I would be learning over the next couple of days whole new gear combinations as I adjusted to the ever-present headwind. I learned to use the small gear in front together with the small gear in back. It was a combination I would never have imagined as long as I considered the "granny gear" in front to be only for hill climbing. This new combination gave me almost my regular cruising speed, but with much less pressure on my knees. The headwind was often so strong that I had to pedal even when going downhill. These were the only times when my chain managed to migrate to the middle gear in front.
As the lady had described, I was able to turn left at the first intersection, just before the old highway 2 joined the 401. There was a small, quiet road that ran along the freeway, but separated from it by the sound wall. To my left was a single row of small houses, hugging the cliff top, with the River some fifty feet below. There were very few cars on this road and the cycling was quite pleasant.
When I finally reached the Thousand Islands Parkway, I could see that its main entrance had been designed to come from the 401. It did not take me long to see that the Parkway had once been a four laned, divided highway as well. All the gradings and right of way were for the width of two ribbons of pavement. At creeks there were always two bridges. And overpasses always spanned both "roads". [I vaguely recall having driven on the Parkway once, during one of my early drives to Toronto more than 25 years ago. I believe that it was four laned then.]
The Thousand Islands, today a tourist's paradise, has a rich history. See 1. Notes the Thousand Islands below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.
The Heritage Highlights Brochure [St. Lawrence Islands National Park] gives an ongoing description of the bike trail:
On general terrain:
Your travel west is uphill and and returning (eastward) you generally ride downhill.
On wind and direction:
I suggest (you start) at the eastern (Brockville) end because when you decide to return...you can travel with the west wind behind you. It is much more fun to be travelling east when strong southwest winds come up on a sunny afternoon.
The main road was now a two laned one on the left hand side of the wide right-of-way. Where the other side or the road must have been, on the right hand side, was a wide expanse of grass with a narrow three-foot wide asphalt strip in the middle.. This strip was the much-touted "bike path". Although the scenery was beautiful, the roadway itself soon became quite boring. It climbed up long, gentle freeway grades, with wide, gradual turns, and was always out in the open.
Heading west from Butternut Bay, you will come to a long hill that leads down to Jones Creek. This is a popular fishing spot and each spring the night air is filled with the glow of lanterns as fishermen drop their lines from the old bridge in hopes of a bullhead catch.
Ascending the hill from the creek, you pass under an intriguing structure. It is in fact a horse bridge which was constructed by the province in the 1930s to allow safe access to properties adjoining the highway. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
I got to the Parkway info sign at the beginning of the Parkway by 08:45. By 09:00 I had descended the long hill down the Mallorytown Landing town line, where there was a small part of the National Park. I stopped for a few moments and talked up the attendant at the gate, hoping to see what more detailed maps I could get.
Further west on your left (south) day-use facilities at Brown's Bay Provincial Park provide a pleasant break for a snack and a swim at the beach. In the summer months, refreshments are available.
Once a steamboat landing, Mallorytown Landing is today the land base of St. Lawrence Islands National Park. Facilities include washrooms, a beach, information kiosk, displays and exhibits of natural and cultural interest. The Visitor Centre is open daily throughout the summer months. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
When I mentioned to the attendant the sad state of the bikeway, with its endless bumps, cracks and frost heaves, he confided in me that it was not really a bike path. It has been laid as an asphalt covering to protect a fibre optic line (Hence its being so narrow). Only later did the town fathers decide to call it a bike path.
After the park visit, I switched to the main road for a while, where the roadbed was much smoother and in much better condition. But there I spooked the cars. There was no paved shoulder, so the cars had to go around me, or slow down if they could not do so. I heard many an enraged motorist, frustrated by the daring of this cyclist to slow their progress.. Eventually, I found a compromise. I set about using the path for my slow, uphill climbs and switched to the main roadway when I was coming downhill and wanted to go faster.
Of course, I still had to pedal even when going downhill, as the wind remained quite strong.
Travelling beyond Mallorytown Landing, you have a long climb to La Rue Mills Road, but you will be able to coast down to the community of La Rue Mills. Nestled by the creek is a Loyalist farmhouse built by Billa La Rue, a millwright who provided flour to the British during the War of 1812. La Rue and his family are buried in the cemetary plot just to the west of the house and next to the bike path. Weathering has effaced names on the tombstones, but area residents have erected a plaque listing the La Rue family members. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
The look of the River changed from that of a river flowing through a gorge to more that of an island-dotted bay of Lake Ontario. I am not sure how they define the boundary of the Lake and the River. I suspect it is where the water actually starts flowing, though it may be just by geography (i.e. where it is long and narrow - between two banks - it is a river.)
Continuing west, you will begin to see the summer homes erected at the turn of the century. This area of the Thousand Islands has long been a popular summer haven. Residents opened their homes to guests and adopted names like "The Willow Beach Resort" and "Poole's Resort". There is a lookout at Poole's Resort where you can view Poole's Island and its large summer home built in the 1890s. Grenadier Island is visible in the distance to the south. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
There were indeed thousands of tiny islands. I read in one of the brochures that to qualify as a bona fide island, and not just a rock in the water, it must support at last one tree. Well every "island", large or small, had a house on it. On some, the house covered the whole island. Others had a bit of room for a lawn, and maybe a boathouse. Still others were estates. I saw the island with the famous castle on it, but it was too far away, and too dark from the overcast skies, for me to see much.
I had to put on my rain gear at 10:15. I stopped and sat on the road shoulder and to change into my canvas shoes, and I dug out my rain poncho. For the rest of the morning I would be switching off, as rain and cold would instantly change to blue and hot, and then back again.
After a long, tedious stretch of biking, you will reach the gates of Rockport. This picturesque village was established as a port in Loyalist times and once was a bustling community with a cheese factory, two general stores, one of which is now the Boathouse Restaurant, two inns, the Islandview and Hickory Lodge and the Andress Boatworks. You may enter through the eastern gates, bike through the village and return to the bike path via the western gateway. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
I was at Rockport at 10:30. It seemed a fairly important town, but I just rode by. The main part of town was down at the bottom of a steep hill, and the thought of climbing back up the hill again just did not seem worth the brief visit.
Leaving Rockport you will have lots of hills to climb. Watch for lookouts along the way where you can view the river and catch a glimpse of the Thousand Islands International Bridge. You must leave the bike path at the bridge interchange to cross the highway. Beware of the road traffic here. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
At 10:55 I was at Darlingside. Here there was a small rest area whence one had a great view of the Thousand Islands Bridge and the famous Observation Tower. I stopped for a few minutes to look out with my field glasses, and to devour an apple.
Darlingside, I would read from the information plaque, had been an old refuelling station for the steamers that used to provide regular passenger and freight service. Faggots of cord wood would be cut in the woods during the winter, prepared for the steamboats and stacked up all Summer long.
Continuing uphill, after another invigorating ride, you will reach the village of Ivy Lea. A short trip into the village on the river will give you a chance to view some fine examples of the late Victorian cottage architecture that has made the Thousand Islands famous. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
I passed the approaches to the Thousand Islands Bridge and was at Ivy Lea by 11:30. The main feature of Ivy Lea was its large marina. For most of the way along the Parkway so far there had been virtually no houses on the mainland, only those on the myriad islands of the river. Past Ivy Lea now there began to be more houses. There were also a lot more people on the path, either because it was later in the day, or because I was getting closer to town.
Beyond Ivy Lea the path swings away from the river for a short while and passes by several marinas where a cool drink may be purchased. There are also several campgrounds along this stretch of the Parkway. Much of the undeveloped land along the Parkway is owned by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.
Landons Bay has been recognized by the Provincial Government as an area of significant wetland habitat. From Landons Bay bridge there is a great view south to the St. Lawrence River with Horseblock Point on the left, and north to Fitzsimmons Mountain. Fishermen enjoy this area and are often seen on the bridge. [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
I stopped to call Sheryl at 12:00. She had just gotten to Prescott, having taken my suggestion and backtracked in order to take in some of the antique stores I had scoped out for her. She was just beginning her days' "run" of shopping. She had spent the morning, until about 11:00, with her feet curled up in the room studying for her correspondence course. I had to cut short the phone call as it began to rain once again.
Just beyond the bridge there is the lookout of Halsteads Bay. It's also an excellent spot for a swim off the rocks and a picnic lunch. From Halsteads Bay to Ganonoque is a fairly easy ride. You might want to stop at Gray's Beach at the western end of the Bike path or continue the short distance into Ganonoque [Heritage Highlights Brochure]
At 12:45 I pulled into the Gray's Bay "mini park", a small park on the shoreline which was a couple of building lots wide. It was nestled in amongst the lakeshore houses. From this vantage point I was able to get my first view of the Lake, looking out from in between two islands. I stayed at the park for about 20 minutes, having a little walkabout, taking some photos, and eating a lunch of cheese slices and apple.
I was on my way at 13:05 and soon came to the end of the Thousand Islands Parkway and rejoined Highway Two (Which is no longer an "official" highway, of course, but now a series of country roads. What a poor way to show respect for the road's history!)
I rolled into Ganonoque at 13:30. Despite the town's having a very touristy air, it still had lots of charm, especially near the river park. Once I had ridden past the suburban row of modern motels and Burger Kings, I started passing some really interesting old houses. Just before coming to the centre of town, I turned and followed a street that led down to the waterfront. On the way, I passed this interesting old brick tower. At the waterfront, I crossed over the mouth of the river, which was lined with boat houses. Rather than continue out of town when I met the main road again, I backtracked and came to the river again, where the old railway trestle used to be. Here the town had made a fine park, just below a low dam. There was this old railway engine, from the 1000 Islands Railway, a spur line that used to take people the 6 miles or so out to the Grand Trunk main line. A wooden structure called "The Umbrella" dated from the 1860s and was where people would collect to wait for the train.
Ganaonque has been called the Gateway to the Thousand Islands. See 2. Notes on Gananoque below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.
I knocked around Ganonoque for 30 minutes, until 14:00, and then was on my way once again. The road out of town was on the high ground, through open farmland, and I was especially vulnerable to the wind.. I slogged forward slowly, most often in my very easiest gear.
At 14:30 I reached a "Welcome to Kingston" sign, indicating that I had reached the city's outer line. There was absolutely no sign of a town anywhere, just farms. Off in the distance, to my right, could be heard the train whistles of the ever-present railway and the din of traffic on the 401. I was too far away from the river to see any sign of it to my right, although signs would provide hints of its presence "over the hill" somewhere to the left.
As I approached the time when I should call Sheryl, God provided me with an empty motel, stuck out in the middle of nowhere at the bottom of this gentle, rolling valley and amidst the corn fields. The motel was up for sale and was deserted. The walls and built up area provided me with a very welcome wind break.
Sheryl had made it back to Brockville and would be following me on Highway Two, rather than coming along the Parkway - but not just yet... She still had shopping to do.
I sat at a picnic table behind the old kitchen of the motel's restaurant and had the last of the good bread that Sheryl had made for me, along with the last of the baba-genouj and the last yoghurt. My total stop was for 20 minutes. I was on my way again at 15:20.
The food helped the light headache that I had been developing all afternoon. As I cycled and digested this data, I realized that I must not have been eating well enough. I was following my diet, but was failing to replenish the carbs that I was consuming. I decided I would have to start mixing carbs and proteins and would have to eat more.
By 15:40 I was at the four corners of the road leading to the Howe Island Ferry. I plodded on, in the face of the relentless wind. All the wheat and grasses in the fields were blown over by the wind.
At 16:30 I took another 5 minute break. Would Kingston ever come?
On I slogged. Slowly I began to come into the beginnings of civilisation. As I climbed a hill, I saw before me a number of motels. One, made up of old style cabins, sported a sign that read "$39 Single". I rolled in and asked how much for two? - $45. I went to look at the room. It was an old place, but tidy. The sheets were very clean. So I took it. It was 17:00. I have to say, the lady who rented me the place as pretty spacy. Later, as I was sitting outside, I heard the owner walking with two men and looking for the "lost" key to my room. I had to tell him that I had rented it, and showed him my receipt.
I called Sheryl and gave her the coordinates: Kountry Cabins. I rolled my bike right inside the room and then took a shower and changed into my street clothes. I settled down outside at the picnic tables to write, and remained doing so until Sheryl came by at 18:30.
After Sheryl had a brief look around, somewhat in disbelief that she was staying in such a place, we bundled into the car to drive on into Kingston proper. We were looking for some supper.
Right past the motel area, on both side of the street, began the property of National Defence, with barbed-wire topped fences and very military looking buildings and grounds. Even the Macdonald's at the next intersection, although outside the fence, had a big sign indicating the conditions of base access, including submitting to a search of person and car at any time.
From the intersection, the road dropped down off the ridge through a rock cutaway and came to the Cataraqui River, which it crossed on an old metal-grating bridge. As we dropped down, we could see Old Fort Henry and the Military Academy off to the right. Once across the river and into Kingston itself, the National Defense buildings continued to line the road for a ways. Then we were deposited at the foot of downtown, right by the waterfront.
Kinston is the major metropolis of the area and is steeped in history, since the days of the French Regime.. See 3.Notes on Kingston below, in the Supplementary Notes section, for more information.
There was some sort of buskers festival going on. Many streets were blocked around the old port and there were lots and lots of people. I had to drive uptown a number of blocks before finally finding parking on a side street.
We then walked down Princess Street, the main street, back towards the waterfront. Many of the stores were still open and there were still lots of people in the street. We passed a used bookstore in a basement storefront that looked interesting, but we felt we should eat first. Sheryl also got a kick out of a place called "The Sleepless Goat", which billed itself as a "socialist coffee house."
Down at the waterfront, there were four or five buskers performing at the same time, with a crowd around each. Still, we were able to make our way through. Along a three block area there were lots of restaurants with open air terraces. We examined the menus of a number of them, and finally chose "The Cocomo", where we got a table outside and near the action.
I decided I could set the diet aside and mix protein and starch.. I just was not getting enough energy for my 8 to 9 hours of riding from just meat and salad. So I cast the diet away and ordered a fish & chips. It sure would tast good! Sheryl stayed with the diet, having a large Caesar salad with grilled chicken strips on top. While eating, we enjoyed the buskers' shows.
After dinner, we hiked back up Princess Street. As it was only around 20:30, we were able to check out the bookstore we had passed. It was a great basement store, full of old books. I got a couple of old books, including a small booklet with the words to "Alice's Restaurant". Sheryl left with a pile of herb books.
The "Sleepless Goat" was still open so we returned there to cap off our evening in town with a cafe au lait. As we sipped the soothing potion, we finished sharing with each other the day we each had had.
By the time we had driven back across the bridge to our side of town, it was quite late. I drove through the MacDonald's drive thru, just to ask them what time they opened for breakfast in the morning. I think the girl was a bit surprised.
Then we returned to the room and crashed.
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 74 km, for a total cumulative forward distance of 291 km.
· Total distance travelled this day was the same, for a total distance travelled of 307 km.
· I rode for 7 h 45, with an additional 1 h 00 in breaks, for a total of 8 h 45 on the road.
· My average speed was 9.5 km/hr
[See the Kilometrage Study for details]