Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Day 9: Etobicoke to Hamilton

 

I was up once again at 06:00 and ready to go at 07:00. We drove down the block to "The Grille", the restaurant we had seen the evening before, where we both had full breakfasts of Eggs, sausages, whole wheat toast, and coffee. After breakfast, we returned to the motel.

 

I set out at 08:20 and retraced my route along east Queensway and then south down Kipling to the Lakeshore. When I got to the Kipling-Lakeshore Boulevard corner where I had turned the day before, I continued straight across it and into the grounds of Humber College. I was now entering new territory. I rode through the College grounds until I picked up the bike path by the shoreline.

 

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

 

It was a very foggy morning, and there was a light drizzle as the trial led me through various waterfront parks interspersed with quiet suburban streets. I came into Mississauga by the back route, crossing the Etobicoke Creek via a footbridge in Marie Curtis Park.

 

Mississauga, a collection of smaller towns and villages, is now one of Canada's largest "cities". Along the waterfront, Port Credit is the main feature.. See 1. Notes on Mississauga, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information and background.

 

The Trail in Mississauga continued wended its way through the back streets and along waterfront parks until I came out at the harbour of Port Credit. As I rode inland along the eastern side of the harbour, I saw a large chunk of what had once been green space now giving way to development. It was depressing. Port Credit itself was a delightful, though touristy- looking place. Very pretty.

 

From Port Credit, I had to continue along Lakeshore Boulevard for a while. I passed by mostly houses, large houses with lots of greenery. The roadway was pleasant, being large with wide shoulders.

 

At 10:00 I came to Jack Darling Park, where I was able to take off again onto a dedicated bike path. From Lakeshore Road the trail led straight to the water's edge, at right angles to the roadway. The trail then went for a stretch right along the beach. I stopped briefly to look up and down the still foggy coastline. There were lots of ducks and geese and swans to watch.

 

From the park began a complicated zig-zag, through a fairly upscale housing area. There were with lots of hills and streets that wound to and fro. Many streets had large shade trees and there were sections of woods. The scenery was very nice, but I knew I was not making much forward progress. I finally came out at Southdown Road at 10:20

 

I recalled Southdown Road from my studies of the map the evening before. It was here that the route took a sharp turn to the south, to continue running along the lake shore. The road going straight, what had so far been Lakeshore Road, continued on into the heart of Oakville, well away from the water. I had warned Sheryl to be on the lookout for the left turn she would have to make.

 

Along Orr Road, approaching Southdown road, I had been behind the big Petro Canada refinery. They had hidden it very well with trees and earthen walls, so that it blended into the suburban setting like a park.

 

The area became more clearly industrial as I neared the foot of Southdown Road, however, To my left was the huge refinery and to my right a big cement factory. A lot of smaller industrial companies were nestled in between. Picketers had set up camp in front of the Petro Canada gates, complete with fires in barrels to warm themselves, and were halting all delivery trucks.

 

Right at the lake shore, amidst this industrial jungle, was a small green lakeside park. I took the detour and got right down to the lake's edge, from where I could look out at the long, industrial pier of the cement company, where a ship was loading.

 

A bike trail led westward from the park, alongside the now industrial Lakeshore Boulevard, but sheltered from it by trees, and separated from the road by a greenspace. This section of trail came to an end at Winston Churchill Boulevard, which marked the boundary of Oakville. It was 10:45 when I reached there.

 

Next in line is Oakville, another "composite" community. Bronte Harbour is the main feature. See 2. Notes on Oakville, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information and background.

 

I would have to ride on Lakeshore Boulevard itself all the way through Oakville,. East of the town centre, the road was arrow and had no shoulder. Once past the town centre, there would be a cycling path alongside the road, a sort of a sidewalk doubling as a bike path. While there were still a few open spaces, even farms, most of the ride was past large lakefront estates complete with walls and ornate gates. Alas, many of these fine estates were in the process of being broken up into smaller developments.

 

I got to the centre of Oakville at 11:10 and found there were a few blocks of trendy shops. All was new, but trying to look old. I passed over the river, both sides of which were thick with sailing craft at anchor.

 

And Lakeshore Boulevard continued.. It was only at Coronation Park that I was able to leave the road. By the back way, and the shoreline, I finally come out at the pier of Bronte's Harbour at 12:00.

 

I sat out as far as I could get on the pier, to relax and have my lunch. I called Sheryl. She was just getting started, having studied all morning at the motel, and was at just that moment turning the corner of Kipling and Lakeshore. I told her that Lakeshore promised to be a nice drive, and suggested to her she might find Oakville's downtown interesting. Actually, though, she would end up spending the better part of the afternoon at Port Credit.

 

For lunch I had hummus and apple slices, with grapes and cheese, basically clearing out what remained of my leftovers.

 

Looking westward along the shore with my field glasses, I saw off in the haze a long jetty stretching out into the lake. There was an oil tanker out at the end of the pier unloading fuel.

 

I was kind of reluctant to leave the Bronte Harbour area, as it was so nice. Finally, though, after 20 minutes break, I set out again.

 

The Waterfront Trail markers led me back up along Twelve Mile Creek to Lakeshore Boulevard. The bridge at Lakeshore was the only crossing. At the corner, I ducked into a gas station and bought the next in the "MapArt" series, the street map of Hamilton.

 

I then proceeded on, west along Lakeshore Boulevard once more. The bike path had evolved into a sort of separated and paved strip, which doubled as sidewalk and bike path.

 

I had only ridden a short ways round the point when I came to a vast green space on the right, which they were converting into a golf course. Across the road was a tiny, completely deserted little park. What what remarkable was that this tiny park sported a fancy fountain. It was called "South Shell Park", and was obviously built by the oil company whose pier was right next door, probably to placate the nearby homeowners. The oil company was now Petro Canada, but I surmised from the park name that it must have been Shell Oil in the beginning.

 

Looking out from under the trees at the head of the cliff, I now had a good view of the ship unloading at the pier. I took a few minutes to study it with my field glasses.

 

Five minutes later I was on my way again, still along Lakeshore. I made the Burlington town line at 12:50. At that point, the separated bike path/sidewalk paved strip switched over to the left hand side of the road. I continued following it for a while, but the surface became so bumpy that I finally opted for the road. Although the roadway was narrow, and with lots of traffic squeezing by me, at least the surface was good.

 

Burlington, at the end of Lake Ontario, was first settled by the Loyalist Mohawk Chief Joseph Brandt. See 3. Notes on Burlington, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information and background.

 

Through Burlington the scenery was pretty much as it had been in Oakville. There were lots of fine houses. It was still completely residential. I passed no businesses.

 

At one point the road came right out to touch the waterfront, with no houses barring the view. Sioux Lookout was the name of the tiny park. .Looking west, I was able to see the Burlington Skyway Bridge for the first time, off in the hazy distance.

 

At 13:20, half an hour into Burlington, I crossed Guelph Line Road. From that point on the houses began rapidly to give way to apartment buildings. I was suddenly into the built-up, commercial area of town. From the map I saw that the Trail followed the trendy looking "Old Lakeshore Road", first into a park and thence down to the waterfront.

 

I decided to take a pause from my onward journey and take a gander at downtown Burlington. It was 13:30 when rode up Brant Street, the main street, and then back down a side street. I did not see much of interest, so I went back to Old Lakeshore Road and picked up the Trail where I had left it. The Trail led me down onto a beautiful waterfront terrace which facing downtown. From the downtown buildings, fronted by Lakeshore Road, a grassy expanse swept down the hill in a wide, flat terrace. The terrace ended in a flat, straight pier, running along the shoreline. Immediately beyond, the arm of Burlington Beach struck off to the south at nearly a right angle.. I was visibly at the extreme western end of Lake Ontario.

 

Lookout out south across the lake, I could see a ship heading towards the entrance to the canal that cuts through the long spit of land separating Burlington Bay from Lake Ontario.

 

As I rode around past the end of the waterfront park, the Trail led up to the top of this narrow spit of land, where there was a gravel trail for walking and for cyclists. Just down the slope to my left was the beach, hidden mostly by the trees. To my right, down the other slope, was Lakeshore Road, curving around to head across the Bay. Over my head was climbing the massive, six-laned structure of the Burlington Skyway, which would allow the QEW to pass over the ship canal.

 

From 13:30 to 13:55 I was riding along this beach strip, taking only one five minute stop to walk out and feel the water and to look up and down the beach. Although the area was now a park, there were a few holdouts who still had private beachfront cottages nestled in the trees.

 

It was a great feeling having the wind finally behind me. I felt like I was just flying along!

 

As I came to the drawbridge at 14:05, I could see the ship I had seen earlier still approaching and knew the bridge operator would be raising the bridge any moment. It looked like the best vantage point for watching the ship pass would be on the far side. Thus, when I heard the whistle, and was already on the approach, I hurried across, stopping at the far side as soon as I reached the non- lifting part of the bridge. I did not notice that I was still inside the gates. I noted this only, when I became conscious of the huge drop only a few feet away from my stopping point. By this time the pedestrian gate had already cut off my exit. The bridge operator would be coming out to give me hell for being inside the gate and for having raced across the bridge once he had blown the whistle.

 

Stuck where I was, and already having gotten hell, I relaxed and watched the long ship come through the channel and then studied the mechanism as the big bridge lowered once again. Once the bridge operator opened the gates, I got off the bridge as quickly as I could.

 

While waiting on the bridge, I had noticed a long walkway, the length of the channel, from a pier and lighthouse to at the lake end to a pier and lighthouse on the bay side. I found a road where I could ride down alongside the bridge to get access to the pier. I parked my bike and climbed down as I did not immediately see how I could cycle onto it. After walking a bit, I did see how I could have cycled down, but I did not feel like going all the way back for my bike. I was also not too sure how the bridge keeper would react to seeing me cycle on this protected road, especially after his earlier chastisement.

 

I walked down to the Bay end of the pier and I spent some time studying the big steel mills in detail with my field glasses. I took some photos of, these plants as best as I could see them through the general haze of the day. I was hoping the bright, red flames of the blast furnaces would come out in my photos.

 

While walking back, I noticed yet another ship getting ready to come through the canal so I waited and watched as the bridge was raised again and the ship, a tanker this time, and much smaller than the previous ship, came on through.

 

If I had had more time, I would have walked on down to the lake end of the pier. It was a long way, though, and I was concerned about leaving my bike unattended so far away. It was also getting late and I had already spent over 40 minutes hanging around the bridge.

 

So I set out once again at 14:45. The map showed the Waterfront Trail to run along the top of the beach, but I found this way to be impossible. There was only loose sand. So I started to ride along Lakeshore Boulevard, which had now become Eastport Drive. Almost immediately, I was forced to exit to the left, as Eastport Driver went on ahead to joint onto the freeway. I exited onto Beach Boulevard and found myself riding down through the middle of the small hamlet of Hamilton Beach.

 

Hamilton is Canada's Steeltown, and a major city.. See 4. Notes on Hamilton, in the Supplementary Notes section below, for more information and background.

 

Hamilton Beach seemed like an old, forgotten community. There were lots of short, half-block streets exiting both to the right and to the left. Beach Boulevard was long, and there were only a few, small business establishments.The residences were a mix of old summer beach houses mixed with newer, more permanent homes.

 

Right after turning onto Beach Boulevard, I passed this old fellow sitting out in his yard amidst a pile of junk, and with a sign saying "Antiques". Even though it was only 14:50, I called Sheryl 10 minutes early to let her know she should look out for the tricky turn (to be in the left lane), and for this guy's shop. Sheryl was still in Port Credit.

 

As I rode down the central axis of this town I stopped a couple of times and rode out to the end of the dead end streets, hoping to see that the Waterfront Trail had resumed. It had not.

 

Finally, I got to the end of Beach Boulevard, and exited the comfortable looking Hamilton Beach community onto the antiseptic Van Wagner's Beach Boulevard. Gone now were the houses. I was on a wide, deserted boulevard amidst the open dunes, with the elevated highway just to my right.

 

In a clover leaf interchange, this boulevard intersected and went under the elevated QEW to my right, to become Centennial Parkway in Hamilton proper. Sheryl would go that way. It was at this same point that a very nice off-road bike path began. It was called locally "The Breezeway", and it went through the park that was right along the beach. I had a great ride for about 4km. To my left was the beach and the lake, and to my right, separating me from the QEW expressway, was a strip of green parkland with lots of trees.

 

It was near the end of this parkway that I found a place to stop for a ten minute rest and some yoghurt. It was 15:30, and I was beginning to think of finding some lodging. I was hoping to find a nice, old motel right along the QEW.

 

When I started up again, my path led me through a campground and then out of the park and through the suburban streets of the hamlet of Community Beach. Past the houses, I was back onto a gravel path and crossing undeveloped fields. The map showed this to be Frances Avenue, but there was no such road.

 

I came out finally at the North Service Road of the QEW, and came upon a motel that seemed the answer to my prayer. According to the map, it might have been the "Cherry Beach Motor Inn". Although the motel seemed old and quite a bit run down, the location was perfect. The time, 16:00, was perfect, too.

 

I went to the office and inquired of this lady in her late twenties who looked like she had just gotten up from an all-nighter. She hesitated, but finally said that, Yes, she had a room. She explained that most of her guests stayed by the week or by the month, but that they kept a few rooms for overnighters. It would be $45, but there was no sink. Some people had gotten drunk recently and had ripped it out of the wall. When I balked, she offered me another room at $55. I asked to see it. My first impression of the room was that it was as hot as Hades. No, there were no longer any air conditioners. Sorry, the windows did not open. They were nailed shut. The dust was thick on everything,and the walls had fist holes in them.

 

As much as I really wanted to stop there, for it would have been the perfect location, the room was just too run down. I had to decline. It was the heat and the stuffyness of the room that did it the most for me.

 

The hostess mentioned that the owner did not put much into the place. Clearly, they were holding onto the motel only until their property could profitably join the flood of development happening all around.

 

I continued on, drudgingly at this point. I had originally thought I might get as far as Grimsby that day. I could see now that this goal had been overly ambitious. I was also concerned about continuing for feat that I might not find lodging in such a small town as Grimsby.

 

I was riding at this point along the North Service Road of the QEW, which had become far less than interesting. I was separated from the lake by a row of houses.

 

Eventually, I came to the next interchange, which announced itself as Stoney Creek. Looking ahead from the height of the interchange, all I could see quite a ways down the Service Road. Although factories and farmland could be seen, I did not see any motels.

 

I figured I would have to go inland, to the old highway, which had been Highway 8.

 

I was at Fruitland Road and taken, at that point, by the stark contrast between the old street to my left - with its old, established houses - and the new developments going up ahead. It was such a resume of what Ihad been seeing all along my travels through the Toronto area.

 

I crossed over the QEW and pedalled inland, towards the Niagara Escarpment, which I could clearly see looming just a couple of kilometers ahead.

 

Along Fruitland there were factories and tract houses on one side and open farmland on the other. Fruitland Road seemed to mark the extent of the urbanization I had been riding in since Bowmanville, two days earlier. The first major cross street, Barton Road, was a six-laned boulevard to the right (west) and a two-laned country road to the left (east). West was behind me now, for I had now come around the end of the lake and was heading in the opposite direction, to the east.

 

Next, after Barton, I came to Highway 8, also a busy boulevard. Since in the direction I had been going was only farmland, I figured I had better backtrack towards Stoney Creek.

 

I rode along, through suburban strip-mall land, but encountered no motels. I was becoming more and more disheartened with each kilometer, knowing that I would have to cover all this territory again the next day.

 

When Sheryl called I was at the corner of Hwy 8 and King Street, where the signs for "Downtown Stoney Creek" pointed along King Street,. At that point, I was once again even with Community Beach, where I had earlier been at 15:30. Sheryl told me she had just turned the corner onto Centennial Parkway, and so I knew she was only a few minutes away. I decided it was time to stop and let her pick me up, so that we could look together for lodging, and with the car.

 

She came on to get me around 17:30. I unpacked the bike and put it onto the car rack, and then we continued on in along Highway 8 towards Hamilton.

 

As we drove and drove and drove, things did not look too promising. We passed into Hamilton proper, and suburbia gave way to a very urban looking environment.

 

Finally, out of the blue, we came to this traffic circle where there was a motel. City Motor Lodge seemed like a live throwback to the 1950s. Even though they had a pool, the price was still reasonable, at $65, so we took the room. I felt better immediately, knowing that lodging was taken care of. We had backtracked to the point where I was even with Hamilton Beach, though on the other side of the Bay and the Steel Mills.

 

It was already late, so I just stowed the bike and my gear in our ground floor room and quickly changed into my street clothes. We then set off looking for a restaurant. Although there was a restaurant attached to the motel, it did not look very palatable.

 

I figured that downtown would offer the best chance of finding a decent restaurant, so we drove in along Hwy 8, which had now become Main Street, and which then split into King Street west bound and Main Street east bound. The only halfway decent food establishment we passed was a McDonald's, at the point of the split. It was a very run-down street. We got all the way downtown, only to find the downtown deserted. Even though we passed several large conference hotels, we saw no people out on the streets and no restaurants.

 

Trying to go back the way I had come, I got turned around. I could not get over to left fast enough to make a turn off and so found myself on a freeway-like road leading up the steep face of the Niagara Escarpment. The road was called the "Claremont Access" and I soon found myself on Upper James Street, and out into suburban mall land. It was in this upper part of Hamilton that one found all the nicer, middle-class looking homes. We saw the usual chain restaurants. We passed a "Keg", but decided we could not stomach the same thing three days in a row. There was an East Side Marios, which was our favourite until we spied this Chinese Buffet. It had been a long time, since pre-diet, that we had not done Chinese Buffet, so we ate there. We gorged ourselves on a totally diet-busting dinner of forbidden foods. Both of us left feeling stuffed like fatted calves, a feeling we had not felt since starting on the diet at Christmas.

 

After supper, I retraced our route. We came down off the Escarpment and then returned east on Main Street and back to the motel. As we drove, Sheryl scoped out some stores she would check out the next day. When we got to the room, she settled immediately into bed.

 

I was still full of energy, and so went on a little walkabout. I crossed the road to the Tim Horton's to get a coffee. Then I went to the depanneur, and finally to an old run down supermarket/drugstore, trying to locate the next "MapArt" map in the series I had been using. I found only Rand-McNally Maps, but I was used to the MapArt ones which served my purpose better as the Waterfront Trail was clearly marked.

 

I checked out the possibilities of the "restaurant" at the motel for breakfast. It had degenerated into a bar with a few regulars gathered around the slot machines (aka video terminals). Besides my serious doubts about the quality of the food, the restaurant did not open for breakfast until 08:30, which cinched it for me. I hoped to be well on my way by that time.

 

I returned to my room with my coffee and wrote in this journal until 23:00

 

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 70 km, for a total cumulative forward distance of 661 km.

        Total distance travelled this day 78, for a total distance travelled of 699 km.

        I rode for 5 h 50, with an additional 2 h 50 in breaks, for a total of 8 h 40 on the road.

        My average speed was 12 km/hr

[See the Kilometrage Study for details]