Sunday, July 15, 2001

Day 7: Cobourg to Oshawa

 

We were up at what had become the usual 06:00 and by 07:00 were ready to head out for breakfast. We drove back down the main street into the old section of town, just across from Victoria Hall. It was there that we found that the same "Mojay's" where we had eaten the night before was the only thing going at that time on a Sunday morning. It felt somewhat strange being in a bar at 07:00, only half as strange as ordering breakfast in the same "late night" surroundings. Still, the breakfast special we had, consisting of eggs, pototoes, sausage, and whole wheat toast, was very good and very satisfying.

 

Over breakfast Sheryl and I also cleared the air about our previous night's misunderstanding, and that left us both feeling much better and much more ready to face the new day.

 

We returned to the motel where, after repacking my bike and taking some photoes, I was ready to be on my way at 08:35. As usual, Sheryl would remain behind until check-out time in order to do her studying.

 

I road once again back up the main street and through the centre of Cobourg. I stopped once again at Mojay's and asked our familiar waitress to fill up my waterbottles. I simply did not trust the rusty plumbing of the old motel room. The waitress' momentary hesitation gave me the distinct the feeling that had she not recognized me, she would have sent me packing.

 

From what appeared to be the centre of old Cobourg, the main road took a turn northwards and climbed up to the upper part of town, nearer the 401. At this end of town were the nicer houses and the suburban malls. I got a new appreciation for Cobourg, for what I had seen so far had seemed pretty depressed.

 

At 09:05, as I cleared the top of the hill, near the water tower that so clearly announced I was in Cobourg, I noticed that the A&P in one of the shopping centres had just opened. I decided it would be a good time to make a quick stop to replenish my supplies. I always felt nervous having to leave all my bike and gear unattended. At least at that hour of the morning there were few people about, and I could get in and out of my shopping most quickly. I got the usual things: Grapes, cherries, apricots, apples, cream cheese, and cheese. I also tried some Wasa whole wheat crackers. These would be the replacement for Sheryl's home made bread which was now gone. And, of course, I had to buy a whole bag of ice to fill my little cooler, always feeling guilty throwing half of it away.

 

Even at that hour, it was a clear, sunny day, so before setting out, I took some time to put on my sun block. Typically, I would have waited until later: 10:00 or 11:00.

 

Thus, all finally equipped and prepared, I set out again from Cobourg at 09:15, riding along the old Highway Two. Between Cobourg and Port Hope the highway was straight as an arrow, and gradually descended from the heights I had climbed back down to the water level. From my high position, I had a great view of the lake. Since the road ran at an angle to the lake, I was approaching it ever closer as I rode along. Ahead I could see the promontory that represented Port Hope blocking my forward passage.

 

I reached the Port Hope line at 09:50 and stopped for a photo opportunity. I learned from the information plaques that the city dated from 1769. Before reaching the main part of town, I had to climb up and over the high ridge I had been watching as I approached. At the top of the ridge was the Greenwood Tower Inn, which I would later learn dated from 1868. Indeed, my most lasting memory of Port Hope is that it had lots of well-kept, historic buildings. It would prove to be a darling town, the prettiest I had seen so far!

 

 

The town of Port Hope is a quaint little town which seems set in the last century. See 1. Notes on Port Hope, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.

 

As I came down off the far side of the ridge, I was riding alongside the railway bridge and dropping down to the river. The railway trestle remained level, and would pass over the city and river in a high trestle, far over my head. As I cleared the bridge and came out to the base of the valley, I could see parkland and historic buildings stretching out all along the river. Ahead, and just on the far side, were a cluster of civic buildings, one of which included the tourist information centre. A whole gang of cyclists were collecting around this point. I guess they were preparing for a Sunday afternoon ride. They took no notice of me, probably thinking I was one of the troop, as I leaned my heavy rig up against the wall and went inside. There were a young man and a young woman in attendance, both of whom were very helpful and who seemed genuinely proud of their town.

 

I explained to them that I desperately needed a new detailed map, for the Mid Ontario Cycling map that I had picked up in Adolphustown came to an end just past Port Hope. Enough was left on that map to show me that I wanted to be on something called "Lakeshore Road" rather than on Highway Two. I was afraid, though, that Lakeshore road might end in a spur that would have no outlet.

 

The young people at the information centre provided me with the best county map they had. It showed Lakeshore, but only symbolically and not to scale like a real map, and with no names attached to any of the roads indicated. Lakeshore Road SEEMED to go as far as a place called "Bond Head", but I could not be certain if it went through. Did it cross "Graham Creek"? I knew that if there were no crossing, I would have to backtrack a fair bit. Neither of the two could answer my question, for they were unfamiliar with that area. At least, though, they were able to tell me how to find the beginning of Lakeshore Road at the Port Hope end, for I would never have found it without their directions. As I was leaving, the girl went and got me a "Port Hope" lapel pin.

 

I had spent about 25 minutes chatting with the two at the Chambre of Commerce. I then rode around the main street to get the feel of the town. I stopped by the main bridge over the river to get some photos. There were quite a number of antique stores and used book stores. I knew these would interest Sheryl and I made a point to remember to tell her about them when I called at 12:00. Indeed, I wished that I had more time to spend in Port Hope. The town is definitely worth a return visit.

 

To get out of town, I had to ride up a long, steep hill, past the old churches and old stately houses. At the top, as Highway Two turned sharply to the right, to follow the ridge, my directions told me to kept on going straight, heading down what looked like an unmarked county road. My conviction that this was the right way was reinforced just at that point by a whole slew of bikers who take off along the same way I was travelling. They looked like they were out for a Sunday ride and would not be going down a dead end road.

 

The transition from rural to urban takes place on this borderline of the Toronto megacity. See 2. Notes on the trail from Port Hope to Oshawa, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.

 

As I left town, there was a long, long, and delightful, downhill. It was payback for the long climb I had must made. For once, the first time since I had started out six days earlier, there was no appreciable headwind! I was finally able to just relax, stop pedalling and coast downhill, picking up quite a speed.

 

It was 11:00 when I first got to Lakeshore Road. The next couple of hours would be very pleasant. There would be many, many miles of gentle rolling hills, as I would pass by lots of large farms and enjoy many panoramic lake vistas. The familiar sound of out-of-sight train whistles would keep me company every few minutes, as trains went over the CN and CP main lines, both quite near.

 

A number of small creeks crossed my path. As I approached each of these, the road would drop down off the heights and into the creek hollow. There would be a small bridge. Around many of these creek crossings were the remains of old towns of yesteryear, represented now by only a few houses clustered together. None had any businesses. Past the "town", the road would climb back up to the heights once again.

 

At 11:25 I passed the first such forgotten town: Wesleyville. All that remained as evidence that it had once been a town was a United Church, circa 1860. It was all alone under the trees, except for the immense graveyard. Another such town was "Port Grimsby", which I passed at 11:50, and finally "New Britain".

 

I was stopped at the hilltop at 11:55, having just climbed out of Port Grimsby, when I decided it was time to take a five minute break and to call Sheryl at the appointed noontime hour. I had found that I could only get a cell phone signal on the high ground, not down in the hollows. I tried Sheryl, but got no answer. I would try again at 12:15 and then again at 12:30, at which point I would have to turn my phone off again in order to conserve batteries. At 12:30 I called the house and left a phone message.

 

I was even with Newtonville at 12:05. As I came to Newtonville Road, the way turned and away from view the lake. I found myself was riding just to the north of the double sets of railway tracks.

 

This state of affairs ended at 12:40, when the road turned once again to the left and crossed back over the tracks on a curious old fashioned wooden "hump" brige . I stopped at the top of the bridge for a few minutes to enjoy the view, all the while hoping that a train would come by for a photo opportunity. None did. [Sai Ish Exxa Eza Prazhur, Tasta Sai Exxa Mtt Exon Hiel Hetr]

 

Once over the bridge, the road dropped right down to the edge of the lake for a spell. For the first time I noticed that the land ended in a high cliff. I had dismounted and hiked across the narrow field separating the cliff edge from the road, in order to have a look. Peering over, I could see down a hundred feet to the rocky beach below.

 

At Bond head, the road further dropped down, even from the cliff, and came out to the water's edge where at the mouth of the creek, which blocked all further passage westward. There was a small harbour, a small park and pier, and cluster of houses. It was 13:00 and I had been riding for two hours since Port Hope. It had been a very pleasant ride, more pleasant than the rest of the day would be.

 

I figured it was time for lunch so I settled down on a bench at the waterside and had some crackers and cream cheese. While I was eating, this old timer came by and we talked. As he recounted how things used to be "in the old days, before the railroads", I smiled and feigned acceptance of all he said. Since the railroad had come in the 1850s, I knew he could not be speaking from direct experience. Still, there had been ample evidence that the lakefront shipping business had persisted on into the 1930s. It was the highway that had killed lakefront shipping, not the railroad. Bond Head, it turned out, was the port for the town of Newcastle.

 

I stayed talking and eating for twenty minutes, during which time the old guy re-assured me that the road I was following did indeed have an outlet. I would not have to backtrack. Although I would have to ride up the east bank of the creek for a ways, I would eventually come to a bridge that would take me over. Without a local, detailed map, I felt completely blind. The main Ontario roadmap did not have near enough detail for what I needed. If I could not find a free map at a tourist information centre in Newcasle, I was resolved to buy one.

 

As I rode inland up the creek, I was still in a tranquil rural setting, although there were lots of houses. I finally came to the bridge and crossed over to the west side, however, I suddenly found myself in suburbia. The transformation from open country was so sudden it was shocking. Little did I realise that my two hour of riding between Port Hope and Newcastle would be the last of real "open country" cycling of my entire trip. From that point on, I would always be to some degree in an urban environment. The Toronto "megacity" did, indeed, stretch from Newcastle to Niagara Falls!

 

I rode on into Newcastle along the city streets, I came to the crossing the over 401. This highway was already expanded to three lanes each way, from the normal two of the country.

 

I reached the centre of Newcastle at 13:30. It was not much to the town. The old Highway Two formed the town's main street, and the business section was only a few blocks long. There was nothing approaching the concept of a tourist information centre or chamber of commerce, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to buy a map.

 

I went into the one convenience store I found open and examined the maps. I was surprised to find that I was already on the Oshawa/Whitby/Ajax/Pickering town map. I was somewhat delighted for I had had no idea I was that close to Toronto! (It seemed close to me. In fact, I was not really that close at all!). I began to have the naive notions of getting as far a Scarborough that day. For by car, once one gets to Oshawa, one is nearly in Toronto.

 

The Oshawa town map that I bought had a tracing for the Waterfront Trail, and I could see that it did not exist between Bond Head and Port Darlington. There was no option but to proceed west along old Highway Two towards Bowmanville. As I headed out of Newcastle, now a part of the new regional municipality of Clarington, I passed by my first development of suburban tract houses.

 

Then I crossed over the freeway of Hwy 35/115, heading north from the 401. The ride over the wide open spaces of the freeway cloverleaf was a long one, taking me what seemed like forever. A road sign on the far side showed Bowmanville to be 5km distant, with Toronto only 76! While the sign my spirits, I should have realized then that 76 kilometers dashed any hope of reaching Scarborough the same day. (Scarborough remained in my mind for I knew that along Old Kingston Road would be several motels.)

 

It took me 40 minutes altogether to get to Bowmanville from Newcastle. Though I was riding through the last open country I would see for some time, it was open country with the clear air of doomsday hanging over it. The encroaching urbanization of housing developments could be seen all around the remaining farmland.

 

There was this farm where the farmer put an effigy of a tractor, made out of bales of hay, on the lawn. From the sign, I gather that Massey-Ferguson had closed a plant or something nearby, probably throwing a lot of people out of work.

 

The road from Newcastle to Bowmanville was a very boring stretch of road. Being quite far from the lake, I no longer had the refreshing presence of nearby water to soothe me. It was just hot as I pedalled along under the sunshine, away from any hint of shade. As my detailed map had shown me that the Waterfront Trail resumed only at Port Darlington, I studied it carefully at each intersection to see what road would lead me down there the fastest. Although many of the roads I crossed looked like major arteries, I had to be careful not to choose the wrong one, for most ended ingloriously at the 401. It looked like Liberty Street would be the one for me to take.

 

As I came into Bowmanville, I saw that I was getting off of Highway Two (which had now become King Street) just in time. Once past the Bowmanville Zoo, the full reality of the Toronto megacity kicked in. Suddenly I was riding in the gutter of a six-laned suburban boulevard as it led into strip mall country. Cars were everywhere, and the dawdling presence of my little bicycle was clearly not appreciated! The feeling was similar to the one I had experienced the Summer before, when I had hit a similar stretch of road south of Poughkeepsie, although it was not as bad as that experience had been.

 

I got to the Bowmanville line at 14:00 and to the intersection with Liberty Street by 14:20. While Liberty, too, was a busy street, it was not as bad as King Street. I dropped down through the city towards the lakefront. The newer suburban areas gave way to more tightly packed, older residential neighbourhoods.

 

Just shy of the 401 underpass, I spied a tourist information kiosk, and so I stopped in to get some information. The young girl who worked there tried to be helpful. She gave me a "Durham Cycle Trail" map, which was the sort of thing I had been looking for prior to Newcastle. Now, though, my commercial "Map Art" city map, with its much greater detail, would prove to be more useful to me. The girl did do me one real service, however, in explaining exactly how to pick up the Waterfront Trail once on the far side of the underpass.

 

I rode on under the 401 and came around to the left on Lake Road, and then down to the right on Port Darlington Road. I found the Waterfront Trail clearly marked with the signs that would become familiar to me over the next few days. A one metre wide gravel trail struck off to the west across the open country. My spirits rose, as I felt that I had at last hit pay dirt. I expected the series of bicycle trails to continue all the way into Toronto. It was certainly much nicer than what Hwy Two had become!

 

Shortly, though, at Waverly Road, the right of way across the fields came to an end and I was shunted off onto the South Service Road of the 401. This proved to be a much less interesting section. The big highway was to my right, now 6 lanes of zooming traffic. To my immediate left were some houses, on large lots. Directly behind these houses were the rail lines, and behind those was a big factory. It did not seem like a very choice location for these home owners.

 

A sign out on the 401 indicated that Toronto was 72km ahead, with Oshawa 17km. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was 15:00, time to check in. I stopped by the side of the road and called Sheryl, who apologised for having been off the air at Noon. She had found the stores of Port Hope all by herself (for I had never had a chance to tell her all about them.), after having spent quite some time shopping in Cobourg. I still, naively, thought I was going to make Scarborough.

 

In between Darlington and Oshawa, the detailed section of my commercial map experienced a gap. While there was a summary map of the larger region, it did not show the path of the Waterfront Trail. I was riding somewhat blind for a space, which was presently to lead me into some trouble.

 

As I was riding along soon after calling Sheryl, and nearing the Darlington Nuclear Power Station, I came to a point where the Waterfront Trail sign pointed to the left and into the fenced off area of the Power Station. There was a special gate for cyclists, which as so narrow that I had to take off my saddlebags in order to get the bike through.

 

It was just after 15:00 when I reached this entrance. Had I known I would be cycling in such a zig-zag fashion that an hour or so later I would be re-joining the South Service Road barely two kilometers further along, I would not have taken the detour. As it was, being off the detailed section of the map, I did not know what was coming. I first rode up the gravel road at right angles to the 401 and towards the lakeshore. I was halfway between the big factory and the nuclear station. Both were somewhat distant, across the open expanses ploughed fields.

 

I came to a point where a gravel trail struck off suddenly to the right, heading west again, and going directly under vast high tension power lines. At first this trail was a metre or so wide, but it gradually got smaller, and steeper, becoming like a mountain trail. I laboured my way up a high hill and was soon under the cover of big trees. Along the trail was the occasional park bench, overgrown with vegetation, but indicating that I was in some sort of wilderness park of days gone by.

 

At one point, the trail came down to a main access road, crossing it just in front of the security gate, and then disappeared back into the bush on the far side. For most of the way, I was sheltered from the actual nuclear power station by high earthen walls, covered with vegetation. I passed by a huge transformer farm, and finally came out at a second access road. At various points along the way were posted trail maps, and so I knew from these that the Waterfront Trail took off from this second road about 1/2km closer to the plant. While a trail continued on ahead of me, directly across the road, it was a recreational only and not related to the Waterfront Trail. I turned onto the road and along it towards the plant, and soon picked up the good trail.

 

My spirits rose when I came to this section of the trail, for it was a nicely landscaped and groomed bike trail, with small crushed stones on a hard, level surface. I felt that, after the Purgatory of the last while, I had at last reached pay dirt.

 

Alas, in less than a kilometre the new trail ended and I was dumped onto a farm road. The farm road slowly came back around to the South Service Road of the 401. It was now 16:00, and looking back along the Service Road, I could almost see the point where I had left it an hour earlier. What a lot of effort for so little progress! I guess that section of trail was designed for people's recreation rather than for through travellers. Had I seen the tracing of the Trail on a detailed map, I would have known to give that section a pass!

 

I was not on the Service Road for long before I rode up over a rise and saw that familiar gas station where my friend Tom Forster and I had been left off at 17:00 on a cold January afternoon while hitchhiking in 1972. The old gas station was closed now, but the image has been so imprinted on my memory that I recognised it instantly. Back in 1972, The 401 was only four-laned in this section and that gas station had marked the end of civilization.

 

This encounter with the past took place at the intersection with Courtrice Road. Thankfully I was now back onto the detailed section of my city map and the forward path of the Waterfront Trail was clearly marked with a blue dotted line.

 

The Service Road ended at Courtrice Road and the Waterfront Trail followed the access road to Darlington Provincial Park, a campground close to the city. When I reached the park gate, all I had to say was "Waterfront Trail" to be waved through. The trail crossed the park, mostly on the service road reserved for "authorized vehicles only" The way through the park was very nice, riding under the tall pine trees.

 

I came out at the far side of the park onto the end of a wide, industrial park boulevard called Colonel Sam Drive. I found myself in the parking lot of the glassy tower of the General Motors corporate office. The office building was in a beautiful setting, surrounded by green, and with the blue of McLaughlin Bay behind. A narrow spit of green separated the bay from the vastness of Lake Ontario beyond.

 

Leaving the GM Head Office complex, Colonel Sam Drive wound its way around yet another, even larger marsh, coming ever closer to the 401 Hwy which was just inland. Other than the GM tower, there was nothing to support the brand new four-laned boulevard, complete with sidewalks and streetlamps, except the vast open spaces of the marsh. Between the boulevard and the 401 were the ever-present railroad lines, high on their embankments, and as I rode I was able to watch yet another long freight train rumble by.

 

Up and around the marsh I followed the wide, nearly deserted street. Once past the marsh, a regular, paved bike trail took off straight-as-an-arrow to the left, heading back down through the bush towards the lakeshore. It led down along the edge of the wetlands until it came out at Harbour Boulevard.

 

Harbour Boulevard led me around the old, industrial harbour of Oshawa until I reached Simcoe Street, clearly the major north/south artery of the area. The Waterfront Trail markers had me descending this busy street for a ways, until I came out at Lakeview Park. As soon as I reached the park boundaries, I was off the street and onto paved park trails. These led me through the back side of the park, away from the shoreline and the people, until I came to the far end. I found myself at point of land extending out into the lake. There was a small wooden bandshell where I was able to stop for a rest, nibbling on some grapes and cheese. I had a great view back up the coast, all the way back to the Darlington Nuclear Station.

 

It was now 16:55. Any remaining notion I might have had of getting a motel along Kingston Road in Scarborough faded as reality set in. I could see that I was not going to get much further than Oshawa.

 

A major city it its own right, and the home of Canadian automobile manufacturing. See 3. Notes on Oshawa, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.

 

I called Sheryl, who was just at that moment driving through Newcastle. It was too bad that she had not gotten to Port Hope until 16:00, only an hour before the stores closed. I looked at the map and saw that in Oshawa Highway Two would be King Street, but that the westbound portion would actually be shunted one block north, to Bond Street. I arranged to meet Sheryl half an hour hence at the corner of Bond and Simcoe. I figured it would take her and I about an equal time to get that far.

 

On the map I saw two routes to take up to Bond Street. I could either ride along Simcoe Street or follow a bike trail that wound its way up alongside Oshawa Creek. While the latter looked most appealing, I decided to go up Simcoe, as the going would be more predictable, even if less interesting. So I set out, at first backtracking until I came once again to the outlet of Harbour Road.

 

Simcoe was a busy, wide street, with lots of traffic. I rode slowly as I climbed the long, long hill up from the waterfront. When I got to the 401 and Bloor Street, I saw the sign for the tourist information. I noted it was open until 18:30, a fact that would serve us well. My map showed the tourist information centre to be at Bond & Simcoe, and so I completely spaced out the obvious reality that it was in a small house right behind the sign that I had seen.

 

I got to Bond and Simcoe, at the centre of town, at 17:30. Sheryl came along just a few minutes later. While waiting for her, I had searched desperately for the tourist information, before concluding that it must have once been in the vacant parking lot before which I was standing. When Sheryl arrived, I unpacked the bike and then mounted the bike carrier on the trunk and loaded up the bike. We set off to look for a motel.

 

I figured we would have the best chance of finding one along the 401, so we headed back down towards Bloor Street. I remembered, then, that the tourist information was still open. After some false starts, we finally found our way there just before closing, and the young girl on staff was very nice and helpful. She gave us information on some local B&Bs and, with some prompting, we even got her to call a couple to see if they had place. We ended up with two to choose from, both of which were close, so we headed off in their direction.

 

West along Bloor, and then north up Stevenson Street, we came to Emerson Manor, a restored 1920s home. I am always anxious at times like this, prior to having my lodging confirmed. I saw a car in the driveway and expected someone had beat us out of the last room. But they had not. The young woman we met inside was very nice and showed us this delightful room, one of four. All the others were already rented out, as the place was full for the night. Our room was in the back, and away from the others, and had a private bath. We put my bike into their garage.

 

For supper they suggested two places, one of which was "The Keg", a chain steakhouse just down Stevenson and in the Oshawa Centre Mall. The service and ambience of this restaurant were excellent. We each ordered steak with portobello mushrooms, and I had a large, Caesar salad. The food was absolutely excellent! It had been a long time since I had had such a good, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth steak. A double boon was that I finished eating early to be able to take a fasting blood sugar test the next morning, and tested out at only 5.4 mmol/litre.

 

After supper, as all was closed on a Sunday night, we returned to the B&B and went straight to bed.

 

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 58 km, for a total cumulative forward distance of 510 km.

        Total distance travelled this day 63, for a total distance travelled of 531 km.

        I rode for 6 h 15, with an additional 2 h 00 in breaks, for a total of 8 h 15 on the road.

        My average speed was 9.5 km/hr

[See the Kilometrage Study for details]