Monday, July 16, 2001

Day 8: Oshawa to Etobicoke


We were up at 06:00 and down for breakfast at 07:30. Our B&B host was the man of the house this time, rather than the woman who had greeted us the evening before. We were served an excellent breakfast of eggs, toast, fruit and coffee. I had already gotten my bike back out of the garage and had packed it up for the day before sitting down to eat, so I was all ready to go right after breakfast. Breakfast took a little longer than usual, as we talked up the young gentleman host, finding our all about his B&B experience. He recounted how he and his wife had rescued the old house from demolition and, with the help of a grant, had had it moved across town to its current location. It was 08:30 before I was finally on my way, after taking a final picture.


My first stop was just down Stevenson Road, at the local 7-11 & Shell where we had bought gas just the evening before. I bought a bag of ice and topped up my mini cooler.


As Today was to be the day I crossed Toronto, I had high hopes that the Waterfront Trail would keep me along the green shoreline and away from the busy city streets. I knew I had to make it all the way across the city to Mississauga on the far side, as there would be no place to stop for the night before that.


While I have been to Toronto many times, these notes focus on the part of those visits which touch my current ride. See 1. Recollections of Toronto Visits, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.


My first decision was whether to just head straight down Stevenson, until it met the Trail by the GM Plant, or to backtrack and pick up the trail right where I had left off the evening before, at Lakeview Park. I chose the latter option, and decided to descend to the lakeshore via the bike trail along Oshawa Creek, the trail I had not chosen the evening before.



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


I made the right decision. The trail along Oshawa Creek was a delightful path, curving along right next to the water, deep in the wooded ravine, down below the streets. It was a clear day, and bright, but very cool down by the water. I met the trail just past the Midtown Mall off King Street, at 08:40, and came out at the Lakeview Park at 09:10, some 4.3km further along. It was 09:10 and I was back at the point where I had left off at 17:00 the day before.


The Waterfront Trail led me up and around the point, sometimes along quiet suburban streets and sometimes in its own right of way through various city parks, but always close to the lakeshore. I came even with the foot of Stevenson, where I would have ended up had I come straight down, at 09:25. At this point, I was riding along Phillip Murray Avenue, a wide, open industrial boulevard, behind the big GM factory and other related heavy industries. Looking from the 401 during my uncountable trips past this area, I had never had any idea that there was a green space to the lakeward of these huge factory complexes. Beside the GM Plant, there were lines and lines of railcars being loaded up with new vehicles from this vast parking lot.


The trail left the street and took off along the waterfront parkland just as I came into the town of Whitby at 09:50. I found myself riding along a paved trail over grassy knolls and overlooking the Lake. The air was dead calm. There was not even a ripple to disturb the mirror-like surface of the water, a surface covered with ducks and geese. After so many days fighting the wind, the windless day was such a blessing!


Whitby is the next Pre-Toronto Suburb to Cross. See 2. Notes on Whitby, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information. Read a journalists account of the same trail.


At 10:00, I made a brief stop at a gazebo erected at Ross Point. Looking out westward with my field glasses, I caught my first glimpse of CN Tower, far in the distant haze. I could also see the cliffs of the Scarborough Bluffs.


The trail continued along the greenway towards Port Whitby proper, where it became a fancy, groomed park. My forward progress was halted by the boat channel of Port Whitby, so I had to ride inland a bit, along some back streets. Once around the harbour, I was once again onto a bike path with it own right-of-way, riding by the marina, and then through the park-like grounds of the Whitby Health Centre.


I came out of these grounds at the far side, and onto a suburban street with brand new homes to my right and fenced off wetlands to my left. The people occupying those homes sure had a nice view! Up, away from the lake, and around the marsh's edge I rode, and then got lost as block upon block of new streets and new houses arose, streets that were so new as not to be on my map.


It would be sad, during the day's riding, to see the extent to which new developments were going up. There was hardly a street which did not have a huge chunk of green space giving way to construction. Those few bits of green remaining untouched already had big signs of "Intent to develop" posted on them.


I had to ride inland as far as Victoria Street in order to get past the Conservation Area. Victoria Street in Whitby was a busy, suburban boulevard, but soon leaving the built up portion of town, it reverted to the narrow, two-laned, country-style road it must have originally been. Unfortunately, the traffic did not abate in the same way. As I crossed the head of the Conservation Area marsh, it was hard going with so much traffic on such a narrow road that had no paved shoulders.


The road made a long descent, to a bridge over the creek feeding the marsh and conservation area, and then it climbed back up to the highlands on the far side in a long, gradual climb. Once past the conservation area, I came by the last farmland holdouts amidst the encroaching suburbia.


I crossed into the town of Ajax at 10:40 and continued along until I reached Shoal Point Road. My city showed this to be the route of the Waterfront Trail. At Shoal Point Road I was able, at last, to turn off the busy street and head back towards the lakeshore. Although the map show the area to be "green" on both sides of the road, I found the entire west side to be levelled by construction. Whole neighbourhoods were going up, and along the roadsite building lots were measured out that were barely 20 feet wide. The new homes that were completed on these lots were 4 storeys tall, with one room per floor.


The town of Ajax was created after the Second World War.. See 3. Notes on Ajax, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.


As I neared the foot of the road, the homes got older and the neighbourhood more established. These older homes all sprouted signs saying "Save our wetlands - No development". This demand was likely in reference to the east side of the road which, except for a block or two, had remained essentially "green".


Turning the corner at the end of the road, I found myself on a short stretch of "Lakeview Boulevard". To my left was nothing but beach. It was 11:00 and I could not resist the temptation to take a 15 minute break in order to sit on the beach. I had a snack of a peach and some cheese and chocolate. I found this beach was marked "Pickering Beach" on the map. I could easily make out the Scarbourough Bluffs ahead, with my field glasses. All around, in the still mirror-like water, were geese.


On my way once more at 11:15, I was soon off the street again and rolling through waterfront parkland. I came to a monument, at Rotary Park at Lion's Point, where they had made a map in the concrete of the Rio de la Plata. There was a plaque for each ship involved in the 1940 battle which had taken place there, when the German battleship Graf Spee was sunk. The point of the whole monument was to honour the HMCS Ajax, one of the ships involved in that conflict. Another nearby information plaque described the "name that town" contest they had held in 1955, when the town of Ajax was founded.


The trail led cross the mouth of the inlet at Simcoe Point on a footbridge. For once, I did not have to retreat inland to the main road in order to get past a creek and its bay. On the far side of the creek, I was under the shadow of the Pickering Nuclear Plant.


Pickering, home of the Rouge River, the site of some of the earliest habitation in the Toronto area, and of the Pickering Nuclear Facility. See 4. Notes on Pickering, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.


It was 12:00 and I tried to call Sheryl, but there was no answer. She would end up calling me back at 12:20. Unlike the previous day, when she had simply forgotten to turn the phone on, on this day she was in intense negotiation with a shop keeper and had turned the phone off so that I would not interrupt.


The parkland was done up nicely all around the Nuclear Station,, with very, very nice bicycle paths. As at Darlington, huge earthen mounds, now covered with grass and trees, sheltered the site of the nuclear reactor itself.


I remember from the early 70s that one could see from the 401 all the way across the farmland to the unsheltered nuclear plant. I guess building the earthen walls was the compromise for allowing development to get so close.


Past the plant, the trail came down to a section of beach boardwalk, along "Beachfront Park". It was a very nice section of trail, with the water of the lake only a few feet away. Alas it soon ended and I had, once more, to turn inland, and onto the city streets. This time my obstacle was Frenchman's Bay. In through a complicated maze of suburban back streets I followed the Waterfront Trail markers until, finally, they brought me all the way back up to "Bayly Street", the continuation of the Victoria Street I had been on earlier. I was just under the shadow of the 401 and of the railroad lines. I followed the road down along a short dip and then up a short rise of about half a kilometre, thus crossing the head of the bay.


Almost immediately on the far side, the trail left the road again, to follow the western shore of the bay. At the parking lot of the West Shore Community Centre, I turned off. At the back of the lot was a small opening in the fence, about three feet wide, and with a pole in the centre, to keep out all but bikes.


Down into a small wooded gorge the trail led, and then across a small creek bridge, and back up the other side and into a suburban cul-de-sac., There would be several of these as I wound my way downhill through suburbia, and ever closer to the lake. I got used to the signs that read "No Exit", for I knew my trail would provide a way that no car could follow.


At the foot of "Park Crescent", therefore, after a long, steep descent, passing by all the fancy houses, I was a bit unprepared for what greeted me. There was the familiar opening in the guard rail, with the pole in the middle. Still flush with momentum from my downhill ride I went bowling through this opening.


Only to find that the trail vanished! Unlike the paved trail I had been used to, there was now a fifty foot cliff. Down the cliffside went this rough, steep trail, a hiking trail at best, and overgrown with tree roots. At the foot of the cliff I could make out a dirt trail leading off under the trees and through the marsh.


A little background is needed to follow my thought processes at this point. The maps showed the Waterfront Trail leading down the point towards the mouth of the Rouge River, which formed the border between Pickering and Scarbourough. It SEEMED on the map like the tiny blue dots marking the trail crossed the river, but that could easily have been a printing error. My brochure on the Waterfront Trail clearly showed a hiatus in Scarborough. Was there a crossing or not? If not, I would have to backtrack all the way back up to Kingston Road. So, at this point, I was pretty well committed to going the Rouge River way.


I got off my bike and inched it down the footpath, using the brakes to hold the weight back. When I got to the bottom, the dirt track followed a small creek. It was hot, muggy, and very marshy. Mosquitos were all around. The "path" was barely a foot wide. As I rode through the tall grass, my saddle bags would catch on both sides. The expression,. "You can't be serious!", kept coming to mind. Several times I had to stop in order to lift the bike over fallen logs.


Eventually, I came to the foot of a bridge, where a road crossed over the gully high above. Again there was a footpath leading up the steep side. Now I had to struggle up the slope, pushing the heavy bike and using the brakes to keep it from slipping back. The road led over the creek and into the Petticoat Creek Conservation Area. I saw from the map that the paved road section would soon come to an end and I was ready for a repeat of the mess I had just been through. Mercifully, though, a nice bike bike began at the end of the road: Wide, well-groomed, and gravel.


I came out of the woods at the end of some forgotten residential street, lined with old, shanty-like houses. I was riding through a tiny, lost neighbourhood that time had passed by. I had came the moment of truth. At the end of the last street, the trail, including steps, led up and over a rise. There was a sign that announced that the Waterfront Trail ended at that poinrt, and would resume in 20km. My hope for a crossing was fading.


Yet people kept coming down the path from over the rise, carrying lawn chairs and the like. I decided to climb up to the top, where I saw, to my delight, that there was a a footbridge across the river mouth, just upstream from the railroad bridge. All of the people I had seen were coming from a parking lot on the far side, from Rouge River Park in Scarborough.


Thus, I crossed into Toronto, by the ultimate back way, at 13:00.


The beachfront park was very popular, despite the fact that swimming was not allowed, on account of water pollution. An access road came down from the high ground at the far side, and went along the inland side of the lakeshore railway embankment. Alongside the road was a marsh and lagoon, along which many people were parked and were fishing. At the river was a larger parking lot, full of cars. The road then curved out under the railway bridge, to come to an end on the beach side of the railway embankment. At the beach were a bathhouse and a cantina. There were lifeguards, and lines of boats for rent. The beach was packed with people.

I stopped at the beach, below the railway bridge, and changed into my rain gear, as the sky was beginning to look grey. As I was changing, I kept hearing the lifeguards blow their whistles and tell this or that group of kids not to go near the water. It was almost surreal.


Scarborough, the first of the Toronto suburbs, and the location of the Scarborough Bluffs. See 5. Notes on Scarborough, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.


I finished my rest, happy to have made it to the Toronto milestone. As I sat, I studied the next map in my series, a detailed Toronto street map from MapArt, to see how I should proceed. I found I was right at the very end of Lawrence Avenue, which would lead me directly to Kingston Road. Kingston Road was my only way forward, as Scarborough had no through streets to the lakeward of that busy boulevard. Since the bluffs above the cliffs, the famous Scarborough Bluffs, are nearly all parkland, it is hard to understand why the city fathers could not have build a bikepath. I surmised a distinct lack of will as the cause.


I rode on up the embankment from the park and began riding along Lawrence Avenue. For the first few blocks Lawrence avenue was a tiny road that ran parallel to the rail line separating it from the lakeshore. At the Rouge Hill GO Station (Commuter Train), it turned inland and became a straight-as-an-arrow, six-laned, urban boulevard. It remained totally residential, however. There were no stores or businesses. The traffic was moderate, and there was plenty of room for a cyclist.


I realized I must have been riding right by the neighbourhood where my friend Bernie had once lived, in Centennial Park.


I stopped briefly on the bridge over Danforth Park. As with many of Toronto's wilderness parks, this consisted of a deep, tree-filled river valley, winding its way through disconnected suburban islands. One could almost think of these suburban clusters as the air sacks in the lungs, with their streets being the air passages, leading to boulevards like Lawrence, and the river park, being like the veins, washing each cluster, to carry away the oxygen. After looking out for five minutes or so, I continued on my way. I was at Kingston Road by 13:45.


I turned left off of Lawrence onto Kinston Road, using left-hand turn lane like the big cars. Kingston Road, being the main artery, was much busier and much more commercial. It was also a six-laned boulevard, but there was little in the way of shoulder. The cars gave me some problem.


I stopped at the corner of Eglington and Kingston at 14:00. I was ready for lunch and had been scoping out a nice spot. I settled for the garden- like steps of this apartment complex. I settled myself in, my bike leaned up against the ledge upon which I sat, and unpacked my cooler. I found that my cream cheese container had leaked and the contents were totally waterlogged and inedible. I tossed that into the nearby receptacle. I ended up having only some crackers and cheese and grapes.


I resumed my trek at 14:15 and by 14:30 I had passed by St. Clair Road. When I got to Cliffside Village, Kingston Road started to look less suburban, as the streets became lined with small shops and began to look quite trendy.


Not too much later, I came to the major interchange at Danforth Avenue. Here I had to cross to the left-hand lanes in order to stay on Kingston Road, and then there was construction and only one lane could pass. I felt bad for the cars behind me, but they were polite. As soon as I was able, I shifted over to the newly completed sidewalks, so that the line of cars could get by me on the road.


Across the Toronto Waterfront, in history and neighbourhood descriptions.. See 6. Notes on Toronto, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information.


I was at Victoria/Park at 15:00. It was called Park to the north of Kingston Road and Victoria to the south. It was here that the map showed I could go down once more to the shoreline and pick up the Waterfront Trail, along a section of town called the "Eastern Beaches".


I dropped down the steep slope along Victoria, to the next street, and then pulled over under the refuge of a large, shady tree. This served as a refuge from the rain, which was just beginning. It was time to call Sheryl.


She was just getting back onto the 401 at Bathhurst, having had some adventures of her own. I had given her directions for two ways to cross Toronto: Via the 401 and 427 freeways, or via Kintston Road and Queen Street. I had then amended these directions so that she could pass by her school's office in Toronto, at St. Clair, just west of Yonge Street. I had warned her, like the warning given to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, that she must not stray from the path. For I knew Toronto streets were notorious for not going through. With all the ravines cutting up the city into isolated neighbourhoods, a busy boulevard can quickly become an isolated suburban cul-de-sac. Well, she had strayed from the path, and only after many false starts had she found her way back up to the Bathhurst entrance to the 401.


I advised her to go ahead to Mississauga and to find a place along Queensway Boulevard, near where the 427 joins the QEW. I warned her, though, not to drive too far west, for I was only on a bicycle. A short distance to her could become quite a trek for me.


After finishing my phone call, I continued down the steep, shady hill, amongst the older houses of the "Beaches" neighbourhood. I reached the end of Queen Street, which at this point had very much the air of a quaint San Francisco neighbourhood. I followed Queen Street westward a few blocks, until I came to a street that looked, from my map, like it would put me at the beach at the beginning of the Waterfront Trail.


All I was going on, of course, was a tiny, blue dotted line, on a very crowded section of the map. I could see from my map a structure called "The Boardwalk", and figured I would be cycling along that. Alas, I came down one street too early. Along this section were a number of streets which dropped precipitously down the steep slope to the waterfront. Each was lined with houses and came to a dead end. Once at the bottom, climbing back up would not be an attractive option for a cyclist!


When I got to the bottom of the street, and then hiked my bike down the remaining twenty feet of footpath, to the beach, I found myself standing in the sand. I could clearly see the boardwalk beginning one block further down the beach. Rather than hike back up, I decided to slog it through the deep sand. While the rain was beginning to firm up the top of the sand, my tires cut right through and buried themselves four to six inches. It was slow going.


When I finally did get to the Boardwalk, though, the riding was pleasant. The rain pouring down was only a slight distraction. In fact, it served to clean the abrasive sand from all my chain and gears. I was riding by a very nice part of Toronto, one that I had never seen before. Lakeward was a nice, sandy and flat beach. Landward was a park, and a number of beach buildings.


After a while on the Boardwalk, I noticed a bike path running parallel, and so shifted over for smoother riding. I surmised, anyway, that bikes were probably not permitted on the boardwalk section.


As the beach curved lakeward, out to a point, the bike path cut across the head and came out at a small marina. I saw that I was right by where the big Woodbine Race Track complex used to be. I had not even known that it was gone now, replaced by suburban houses and malls. I remember the Woodbine Race Track from my early trips out Queen Street on the street car, with a friend of mine. We would go to this local, working man's bar in the early 80s, to take in the wet T-shirt contests.


I stopped briefly at the marina, sheltered under a tree. The rain was abating, but it was still very hazy.


As I continued, the Trail led me into the Port Area. Given more time, I would have followed the Trail out and around Toronto's Outer Harbour. At it was, it was already 15:30, and I still had not made downtown Toronto. I saw from the map that I could cut across the port on Commissioner's Street, and meet up again with the marked Trail on the far side. Commissioner's Street was all industrial and all trucks. It was a run-down industrial area, with lots of vacant, overgrown lots and lots of closed factories. Every once in a while, the tops of ships could be seen beyond the low buildings.


I came out, finally, at Cherry Street, at the edge of the Inner Harbour. I could now see the buildings of downtown Toronto quite clearly. Up along Cherry Street, I crossed over what was left of the Don River on a metal drawbridge. The river was little more than an industrial channel. I passed under the freeway, the Don Valley Parkway, where it turns westward and becomes The Gardiner Expressway. To my left, on the port side, was an overgrown area inhabited by squatters. In among their tents and old camper trailers was a big sign that read "Toronto's Tent City - Still Here".


See 6. Notes on Toronto, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information on the Tent City and on the Don River.


The bike trail became a painted lane along Queen's Quay, as I rode in towards the built-up hotel section.


I passed Parliament Street, the exit off the Gardiner Expressway that I used to take in the early days when my friend Bernie lived on Carleton Street. It was 16:00.


Five minutes later, at 16:05, I was at the Harbourfront Centre hotel complex at the foot of Yonge Street. I was across from the new CBC building. The bike lane, though still painted on the street, was totally ignored at this point by the buses and the taxis. Since I was facing oncoming traffic, I could hardly swing out around these obstructions. I had no choice but to go up onto the sidewalk, and I had to do this gingerly, for the crowds of pedestrians were thick.


I stopped for a minute under the awning of the hotel, to change my film, for it was still drizzling. I then took a few pictures. I saw the new streetcar line they had built since I was last down in that area (in December of 1992), and the cute way that the streetcars went underground at Yonge Street. When I started going along again, I walked my bike for a couple of blocks.


A little past the thickest area, I was able to start riding again. I rode by the CN tower and the Skydome at 16:15. Then I was along a side street, passing by all the new waterfront condos that had been built facing the Island Airport. I watched a few STOL planes land, and a sailing ship make its way through the channel into the Inner Harbour.


The Trail then took off into parkland for a ways, before I found myself riding by Ontario Place at 16:45. Ontario Place had really changed! It was much more built up than I had remembered it. Where the old circular and open bandshell had been, where I had seen Phylis Dyller back in the 70s, was now a big, covered grandstand.


Past Ontario Place and the Fairgrounds, the bike trail went along the shoreline of the waterfront park, around the cove of the "Western Beaches." There was a concrete breakwater about 100 feet out, and then a beach and a narrow park. I passed a lot of very old fashioned beach buildings. It looked like they had been built in the 20s and 30s. Landward were the four lanes of Lakeshore Boulevard, paralleled by the six lanes of the Gardiner Expressway, and then the commuter rail lines. It was quite a busy section! Behind the rail lines was a slope, on which advertising had been "planted" in gardens. Atop the slope were residential neighbourhoods.


From my vantage point, where the whole vista was laid out before me, I waited in vain for what would have been a great photo, that of a GO train coming along to complete the picture with all the traffic. I finally took the shot without the train, and then one passed by only a few minutes later.


At 17:00 I was even with Landsdowne.


As I came round to the Humber Bay Shores, a peninsula jutting out into the Lake and sporting tall apartment buildings and lots of parkland, I was intrigued by this beautiful, white pedestrian bridge. The path went up over that bridge, and I could look back on Toronto, now behind me.


Sheryl called and gave me the information on the motel she had rented, Motel 5. It was in Etobicoke, along Queensway, and just west of Kipling. Rather than drive west when she had gotton off the 427, she had driven back eastward, in order to cut down on how far I would have to go. How nice of her!


I had a choice. Just shy of the the Humber Bay Shores complex, I could have taken Park Lawn Road and connected with the eastern end of Queensway, barely a couple of blocks away at that point. Thenceforth, the lakeshore dropped south and by the time I would get to Kipling, I would be at least a mile from Queensway. Still, I was enjoying the lakeshore, and it looked by my map as if the Waterfront Trail continued along the lake all the way to Humber College, at the very foot of Kipling. I made my choice, and continued along the lakeshore.


Alas, it was not to be. I crossed over the fancy bridge, and whipped around the apartment buildings, and by a fancy cove with brick-paved waterfront, only to have the trail come out at Lakeshore Road. There was a sign that indicated, "Waterfront Trail resumes in 2km". It was 17:30


Etobicoke is the westernmost of Toronto's suburbs. See 7. Notes on Etobicoke, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information and background on this Toronto Suburb.


That section of Lakeshore Boulevard was rather quaint, like a New York neighbourhood. This, too, was a new section of Toronto for me. It was called "Lakeshore Village" and it looked very Polish. I passed this huge waterfront mansion which was the Polish Consulate, with a big Polish flag outside.


I rode along the busy, but much narrower than before street. At 17:45 I was at the foot of Islington, and by 18:00 I was at the foot of Kipling.


I turned right on Kipling and began my climb up through the factory section of town. It seemed to take a long time, but finally I came to the Gardiner Expressway. I stopped in at a local gas station to buy a detailed map of the next instalment, the MapArt city map of Mississauga, Oakville, and Belleville. Then I was up and over the freeway, coming down on the far side to meet Queensway Boulevard.


Sheryl called once again, just as I was at the corner of Queensway and Kipling, to inquire if I needed a "pick up". I told her I would be by in five minutes. I had only to climb up and over a rail overpass, and the motel was right on the other side. I got in at around 18:30.


I parked the bike inside the room, then quickly showered and changed, and we set out by car to find a place to eat. Sheryl, in her wanderings, had remembered places up East Mall Road. We found nothing but light industries and shopping malls, so we crossed over the 427 and came down the west side along West Mall Road. There we came upon yet another Keg Restaurant. The previous day's experience had been so good that we decided to give it another try. We each had the very same thing: Steak with portobello mushrooms.


We decided to have our coffee elsewhere though. I asked at the cash how to find a Chapter's, for I was sure one had to be somewhere in this "Mall Land". One was very close, just back on Queensway. We got a bit turned around for a moment, going the wrong way, but we finally got there at 21:30. We had until 22:00 when they closed, so we quickly had got our cafe au lait and carried them around with us as we perused the sale books for a little "R&R".


On the way back to the motel, we spied the restaurant where we could have our breakfast, a place called "The Grille".


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 81 km, for a total cumulative forward distance of 591 km.

        Total distance travelled this day 90, for a total distance travelled of 621 km.

        I rode for 9 h 20, with an additional 0 h 45 in breaks, for a total of 10 h 05 on the road.

        My average speed was 10 km/hr

[See the Kilometrage Study for details]