Saturday, July 14, 2001

Day 6: Picton to Cobourg

 

We got up early, so as to be ready for the 7:00 breakfast we had asked of our B&B hosts. Our hosts, a retired man and his wife, joined us for the meal after having cooked up some eggs and having served us homemade bread and muffins. We chatted over breakfast about life in the area.

 

Sheryl had found this B&B to be a little strange. It was an old, grand house. As one came in the front door and into the main hallway, there was a room off to the left, our room, and a room off to the right, the hosts room. The grand staircase leading up to the second floor was blocked off, as the host's daughter lived up there in an apartment that continued across the second floor of the old house and came down in the back as part of a newer annex. Our room was vast, with two large beds and lots of furniture and clutter. Everything in the room was a quite dusty, as if it did not see much use. Following the main hallway on into the house led one past a fancy dining room, the kitchen. The hall then opened out into a more modern living room, part of the newer rear annex. Here was the living area of the hosts, with couches and TV. Our bathroom was off to the other side of the hall at this point. While the bathroom was reserved totally for our use, it seemed like we were imposing as we had to go through their living space to get to it. In most B&Bs, the guest area is totally removed from the hosts area.

 

I did not set out until 08:15. I had stored my bike in their shed, so after breakfast I had to retrieve it, and then reload it with all my travelling gear. Sheryl wanted some last-minute photos.

 

Leaving the B&B, the road dropped down the hill to the marina and then climbed sharply back up to meet Main Street. I got to the serious part of the climb so quickly that I felt my knees had not sufficiently warmed up for me to tackle such a hill, so I dismounted and walked it up the last fifty feet. From then on, the ride out along the shopping areas of Main Street was pretty straight and flat.

 

Along the old 1799 Danforth Road in Prince Edward County are a number of towns which were centres of 19th Century industry.. See 1. Notes on the Trail from Picton to Carrying Place, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.

 

Heading out of Picton, Hwy 33 went along the base of a valley and was away from any bodies of water. On either side were gentle hills and farms. It was a clear day, but the constant wind was still in my face. The wind was from the northwest this day, unlike the southwest wind of the day before, but the effect was the same..

 

The next town was Bloomfield, which I made by 08:50. Bloomfiled was yet another quaint, touristy town, with a collection of antique stores for Sheryl to explore when she got that far. The town seemed to stretch lengthwise along the road, and so I continued to be within its confines for some time. Just at 09:00, I spied a bike store just as it was opening, and so I ducked in hoping to secure a proper map of the upcoming Waterfront Trail. They did not have one, but told me it would be well marked, and that I could easily pick it up at "Carrying Place". This much was shown on my current "Mid-Ontario" cycling map, which did have some indications of the Waterfront Trail, although rudimentary.

 

As I rode once again through the open country towards Wellington, I began to notice a marsh extending along my left. Soon this marsh turned into open water. Looking across the water, I could see the thin line of the "Sandbanks" park cutting off the lagoon from the vastness of the open Lake Ontario beyond.

 

I got to Wellington at 09:45, and abruptly turned off the main road to go down by the water. A small street led out to the town beach and to a parking area near a small boat canal that allowed access to the lagoon. Most of the parked vehicles had empty boat trailers. I parked my bike and hiked out to the lighthouse at the lake end of the canal opening. There I had a great view both up and down the beach. Away to the south, beyond the canal, was the long beach front of Sandbanks Provincial Park.

 

I spent 25 minutes looking around and it was finally 10:10 before I was back on the main road and riding west out of Wellington. Wellington was yet another quaint little town, but this time with a maritime flavour. The road continued along the shoreline, separated from the water at first by only by a single row of houses, and more so by the slowly gaining elevation of the road. Soon I was high enough to look out from high on the fullness of Lake Ontario which filled my horizon.

 

At 10:40, I was near the intersection with Hubb's Creek Road and stopped at a small picnic area for a 5 minute meal break and had grapes. Along this shore were vast lots of farmland being sold off to developers. It was a shame to think that all this open country would soon be gone!

 

A bit further on, the road turned sharply to the northwest and away from the water, climbing up and over the spine of the peninsula along whose face I had been riding. The highway came down on the far side and set out across the farmland. Once over the protecting ridge, I was out in the open and riding directly into the wind. This would continue all the way into Carrying Place, where I would at last turn west again and have the sheltering effect of some trees.

 

I got to the hamlet of Hillier at 11:20, after which I came down off the rise and reached the water level near the town of Consecon by 12:00. I did not actually go into Consecon, for it was a bit off the main road. A nearby road sign indicated that Picton was 32km behind me, while Trenton was 15km ahead.

 

I was looking for a nice place to stop, eat a bite of lunch and call Sheryl when God delivered the perfect spot. There was a tiny dam, just below and upriver from a small bridge. The dam was only about twenty feet across, but had a spot where I could sit on the concrete and relax and look out over the stream. Although the structure had a height of about only about four feet, it was given the pretentious name of "Whitney Memorial Dam". It backed up what looked on the map like a large lake, though when I looked upriver, I saw only a reed-filled marsh.

 

I called Sheryl at 12:00, as arranged. She was busy exploring Picton, having already started her day's shopping by going back to Glenmora to check out the table sales of the ladies by the ferry that I had told her about.

 

For my lunch I had the last of the bread that Sheryl had made me. It was beginning to grow moldy, so I had to pull off what good sections I could find. That loaf has served me well, for I was not on day six! I had the bread with some cream cheese. I was done and on my way by 12:20

 

Refreshed and rested, I struggled on across the open country in the face of the wind. Past Consecon, the road had a more northerly rather than northwesterly tack. There were fewer farms and more businesses. I had had a brief view of open water to my left, but this was soon gone again. At a certain point, I came upon this huge communication centre run by National Defense, which was linked to the big air base at Trenton. An endless series of big, black, four-engine propeller patrol planes kept coming in for a landing as I was riding along.

 

I got to the town line of Carrying Place at 13:00, and entered a new county. By 13:15, I had reached the bridge over The Murray Canal. It was here that, according to my map, I was to pick up The Waterfront Trail. I was not fully sure what to expect. Before crossing the bridge, I stopped for 5 minutes at the small interpretive park, to explore the Canal and read the information plaques.

 

The Murray Canal links the long arm of Quinte Bay with Lake Ontario over an 11km spit of land. It had been built in 1892, with steam shovels, and ended the need for the hazardous sailing route around Quinte's Isle. In the early 1800s, along the route of the eventual canal, had been an oxen pulled railway for the flat-bottomed lake boats.

 

The first leg of the Waterfront Trail picked up on the far side of the bridge, and was along the gravel tow road of the canal. It was pleasant enough riding along the water, with boats passing every few minutes. It was also pleasant being at right angles to the wind again and further sheltered from it by the trees. What was not pleasant, however, was negotiating the potholes and loose gravel of what was left of the roadway. Indeed, I passed a sign put up by the county, warning motorists to pass only at their own risk, that the "road" was being left open only for cyclists.

 

As I rode along the canal, I passed many interesting historic structures, including some old railway "swing" bridge, now permanently anchored in the open position.

 

I came to the far end of the tow road at 13:50, where there was yet another highway bridge. The Waterfront Trail markers at that point had me leave the canal to follow County Road 64 inland. I had to have faith that the Waterfront Trail guide posts would lead me through the back roads and along the lakeshore. Soon, along County 64, I was riding through the farmers' fields.

 

The towns of the North Shore were important centres of industry during the early days of the new colony of Upper Canada. See 2. Notes on the Trail from Brighton to Cobourg, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.

 

I came to the Brighton town line at 14:15, and almost immediately was directed off of Country 64 and through the back streets of Brighton Beach. For a few minutes it seemed like anyone's suburban neighbourhood, an atmosphere that ended when I suddenly came out at the entrance to Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

 

Here I had some false starts, as the trail was not clearly marked. Did it go into the park, as it appeared from the marker signs? I thought not, for then how would it come out? Presqu'ile was a thin peninsula stretching out into the water. I blindly started west down one lakefront street of houses, and then noticed another row of houses more to the lakeward. So I backtracked and took the more lakefront street, only to have it come to an inglorious end in some waterfront marsh. I then had to backtrack once again to the park entrance and go back along the first road I had chosen. I was some way along this road, still worried I was lost, when I finally saw one of the infrequent Waterfront Trail signs. At least then I knew I was on the right road.

 

I was not too impressed by this section. The pavement was in bad shape. I was close to, but could not really see, the lake. I was riding through an area that was sort of half country and half suburbia. The houses were on large, open lots, and had the look of having seen better days. It appeared I had completely bypassed the town of Brighton.

 

I finally came to a point where all forward movement was blocked. A road of sorts continued west, but it was only gravel. Luckily, I found of the rare Waterfront Trail markers, which bade me climb all the way back up from the shoreline to Highway Two far up on the slope.

 

On the way up the long slope, I crossed two sets of railroad tracks, one CP and the other CN. For the next couple of days I would never be for want of train whistles. Trains were constantly coming along the tracks - at least once every half hour.

 

When I finally got up to Highway Two, I was somewhere between Brighton and Colborne and it was 15:05. I stopped for ten minutes and to give Sheryl her appointed call. She was still back in Bloomfield, having finished which Picton.

 

I then set out along Highway Two, or at least it used to be Highway Two. Now the Ontario government had demoted the old King's Highway to the status of a county road. Still, there was a fairly wide shoulder, so the going was easy. Certainly the pavement was in better shape than the tiny back roads I had been on while trying to follow "The Trail". The high ridge across whose face I was rising continued to rise to my right, and so shielded me from much of the wind. I imagine the 401 was just on the other side of the ridge.

 

I was on the high ground, and each rise brought marvellous new lake vistas. Unfortunately, the road went up and down quite a lot, and so I spent a lot of time climbing hills at a snail's pace. Thus, I rode through Salem at 15:40, and on into Colborne for 16:05.

 

I stopped in Colborne - in the city park, which was also the town square - for a 20 minute break. I unpacked my cooler as I sat on a park bench and had grapes with cheese and a package of yoghurt. While I was eating, these young kids, around my son Alex's age (13), came by on bike to chat me up. They were impressed by my feat, but were really rusty on geography. They had no real idea where Montreal was. Was that west of Winnipeg? The fact that I was heading west did not seem to dawn on them.

 

They did, however, give me good directions to "Lakeport Road", which according to my cycling map would carry be back along the lakeshore. I had decided to give The Waterfront Trail a second chance.

 

Leaving at 16:25, and dropping down from the high portion of town through the back streets, I soon came to Lakeport Road. It was a pretty nice road and almost immediately I was out in the country, with farms on both sides. Often only a single farmer's field separated me from the lake. I had a quiet and pleasant ride, broken only by the distant sounds of train whistles.

 

I came upon a beach, Wiclow Beach, at 17:00, and could not resist the temptation to make a stop. I left my bike and walked across the sand and down to the water's edge. I then grabbed some quick photos before proceeding. Being near the water refreshed me. For a space after the beach, the road went directly along the water. Then, alas, it turned slightly inland again.

 

At 17:30, I was even with where the town of Grafton would be on the main road. Cobourg was my destination for the day, and it was taking me much longer to get there than I had thought. I was becoming concerned about lodging, and my legs were feeling very much ready to stop for the day.

 

Sheryl called me at 17:40, for by agreement, we had left our cell phones on past the 15:00 call. She was still back in Wellington. I had to tell her that I was lost in the wilderness and had no real idea where I was.

 

Lakeshore Road finally came out again at Highway Two, just short of Cobourg. It was 18:00 when I reached that point. By 18:20, I was crossing into Cobourg itself, over a hump railway bridge that was under construction. The traffic was down to one lane, controlled by a traffic signal. I made few friends as I rode along and the cars were forced to follow me.

 

Cobourg, in the mid-19th Century, was on its way to becoming the major industrial and commercial centre of the North Shore. Since then, life has somewhat passed the town by. Even historic "Tom's Motel" evokes memories of old.. See 3. Notes on Cobourg, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.

 

Right after I came down off the bridge, I came upon this old, run-down motel, Tom's Motel. Clearly the motel business had suffered much from the demotion of Highway Two to county road and the exodus of all travellers to the 401. As I arrived, all the "tenants" of the motel were having a pot luck dinner out on the lawn. I was followed into the parking lot by the police, who were dropping off a drunk. It was that sort of place. Still, it was there, and I was tired. The room was only $50 and it looked pretty bad. Still, I took it. The bathtub drain was broken, and so I had to borrow a regular plug. The sheets were stained. I entertained the idea of bringing in our sleeping bags and placing them on top of the bed. (We didn't.) I have to say, this was about the bottom of the barrel of motels I have stayed in (Though not the worst I would see, as will become clear on Day Ten.).

 

It was 18:25 when I took the room. I had a bath and then went for a short walk to buy a coke from the convenience store half a block down. Sheryl called. She was a bit lost around the Highway 33 and Highway 2 intersection, but She would be along. I figured she was about an hour away, so I sat down outside at a picnic table to write.

 

Sheryl arrived around 19:30, and we immediately drove into town to find something to eat. We drove up and down the old downtown and around the waterfront, until we settled on a place called "Mojay's", across from the courthouse. There were not many restaurants to choose from. Cobourg had a pretty depressed look about it.

 

We each had liver & onions, and I added to it a big Greek salad.

 

As Sheryl was telling me about her day, she got very excited about a cup find she had heard about in Shannonville, and wanted me to take a day off my cycling in order to take her there. Yet I was in a rhythm, and the next day promised to be the first nice day with no wind. We had some cross words and returned to the motel in silence.

 

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 90 km, for a total cumulative forward distance of 452 km.

        Total distance travelled this day was the same, for a total distance travelled of 468 km.

        I rode for 8 h 50, with an additional 1 h 20 in breaks, for a total of 10 h 10 on the road.

        My average speed was 11.5 km/hr

[See the Kilometrage Study for details]