Day 4: Bowmanville, Ontario (78.67 miles, 333.53 total miles)

So, on every trip there’s a miscalculation of some kind: not properly spacing out my breaks, forgetting to factor into the planning the prevailing westerly winds, not having strong enough wheels, not having durable enough tires, and all manner of things that become lessons to learn from for the following year. This year’s lesson: data roaming charges.

Within minutes after crossing the border yesterday, I received a text message from AT&T letting me know that I was subject to international rates for phone calls and data roaming. Now, this is not something I think a lot about since I have had the same unlimited data plan from AT&T for 6 years when I got my first iPhone. But I remembered to be judicious with my phone usage and stick to text-based internet services (like Twitter) when I wasn’t on a WiFi system. But here’s the thing: I have a map editing program on my phone that allows me to store an edited map on the phone that contains the route I’m taking and all the potential places to stop. Only, all that it really saves on the phone, apparently, is the route and the annotations. The map, it seems, it continually downloads from the internet. So, yeah. I received an email and a text message last night alerting me to the fact that I had used a lot of data and it was gonna cost me.

So, today the cellular data was turned off altogether, which made navigating something of a challenge. I could still see the route I was to travel, but not any of the surrounding map. There were a couple of times I went off the path unwittingly but then lacked the ability to know whether the road I was on would re-intersect with the route I was supposed to have been on or not. It definitely made the day a lot more interesting.

Flat roads toward the border

At one point early in the morning’s ride, I was traveling down Route 2, when I realized that I had gotten off the planned route. I thought about backtracking and even turned around for a moment before realizing that the route I was on would take me where I wanted to go. Likely the mapping software had picked a parallel route assuming it to be better for biking, but there was nothing wrong with the route I was on and I decided that it was better to stay on the bigger road.

Speaking of roads, what’s the deal with the roads in Canada? One of the reasons I wanted to stay on the larger road was because so many of the side roads seem to be in disrepair. I’ve mentioned the lack of hard shoulders on many of the roads, but today I encountered roads that were cracked like a dry riverbed, or rough asphalt, or roads that had had so many patches and potholes filled that the overall surface was bumpy and uncomfortable. And very often the roads have giant seams in them; teeth jarring, joint pounding seams as if they just paved over the old concrete highways, seams and all. The thudding the bike makes and the pounding your body takes on these roads is really unpleasant. All the more so because I really was surprised that so many roads were in this condition. I know that the winters are rougher up this way, but this seemed to be more than just winter damage. It felt like disrepair and given how neat and clean Canada is in every other regard, it really has caught me by surprise.

view from the outdoor table

I biked through a couple of towns before deciding to stop in Colborne for lunch. There was a sign at the edge of town welcoming cyclists, which I took to be a good sign. I grabbed lunch at a place called the Queen Hotel right off the main square that had tables outside. I had already gone about 34 miles or so so I decided to be sure to take my time with lunch and rest up.

Canadians are an extremely friendly people. There was one couple sitting a few tables away who started asking me where I was going and where I’d come from. The man recommended that I stay on Route 2 until I got to Port Hope at which point I could take the Waterfront Trail all the way to Bowmanville, my intended stop. He did warn me that there was a big hill on the way to Port Hope but that I would ride down the opposite side right to the trail.

bike and park benches in shade

There was a general store right next to the restaurant, so when I was done at the restaurant, I went in to buy some water and a Snickers for the ride. There was an older woman running the register and an older man sitting near the counter having his lunch. They were very friendly and were making conversation with me about biking and told me that a lot of cyclists pass through Colborne on their way across Canada. Then the man asked me if I believed in global warming and from there the conversation went to such varied topics as climate change, how white people have ruined the environment (she was a Mohawk, he an Algonquin), and the reason for the decline in church membership (it’s the End of Days). They were very friendly and it was fun talking to them. At the end, the woman said to me, “Good luck on your ride, eh.” Perfect.

About an hour down the road, I was feeling kind of drained already. There were headwinds again today, but it wasn’t just that. I was just running low on energy. So, in the town of Cobourg I stopped at a park bench near an Anglican church and rested for a bit and ate the previously purchased Snickers bar. After a while, I got back on the bike and headed through downtown which was having some kind of street festival where they closed off the main street and all the vendors from the neighboring (or neighbouring, as they say here) shops had tables set up. There was an outdoor supply/bike shop there and I would have stopped but for the fact that I’d already stopped and needed to get going.

Eventually, I got to Port Hope and wondered for a bit if “hill” meant something different in Canadian, because this is what I encountered:

a small hill
The “hill”

That wasn’t really what I’d been expecting. I ascended the “hill” and got into town and made my way toward the trail. But then, suddenly, I encountered this:

a steep hill
The hill.

Okay, yeah. That’s a hill. I went up it in the lowest possible gear. At the top, I reconnected with Route 2 and continued on my way. Eventually, signs pointed me toward the Waterfront Trail and I took that. In addition to the aforementioned pavement issues, there were two things that I wondered about on said trail: (1) it was nowhere near the waterfront, and (2) it wasn’t a trail, it was a road. I had been expecting a bike trail like the Custis Trail or the Mt. Vernon Trail or something like that (or like those beautiful paved trails in Ohio last year). No, more bumpy pavement.
I rode for a while up and down bigger hills than I was expecting for a road that was now called “Lakeshore Road” and still disappointed that I wasn’t near the water, when suddenly:

Lake Ontario

Eventually the road took a sharp left and got a lot closer to the water and remained within sight of the Lake for the bulk of the rest of the trip. The temperature alongside the water was cooler and while there was a strong wind, it wasn’t oppressive. Without internet access it was difficult to figure out how far I needed to go; I had to guess based on the estimated length of the trip overall. This was starting to be something of a minor concern because I was going to need to find a rest stop somewhere along the way, and I was in kind of a remote area. And then suddenly, as I was making my way through a semi wooded stretch of the road, off to my right, just off the road was a bright yellow port-a-john. It was in the side yard of the Wesleyville United Church. Now, the United Church is the result of a merger between a few denominations in Canada, one of whom was the Methodist Church. That, and the fact that this was in the town of Wesleyville, made it clear to me that this providential appearance of the cleanest port-a-john I’d ever seen, was the work of Methodists.

Church with yellow porta-potty

I still didn’t know how far I had to go, but it was apparent that the miles were taking forever. And then I was passed four cyclists, two couples, headed in the other direction. The last of them called out to me and asked how far it was to Port Hope. I wasn’t sure and was about to give an answer when she said, “Just a rough estimate of how many kilometers.”

“Oh,” I said. “I don’t know kilometers. Maybe 10 miles? So, what’s that, 16 kilometers?” We chatted for a bit about where they’d come from (Scarborough, outside Toronto) and where they were heading (eventually Kingston; tonight, Cobourg but were stopping for a beer in Port Hope). I told them I had been traveling from Saratoga and going around the lake. (Yes, mom, I said Saratoga because I figured more people would have heard of it than Stillwater.) She asked me where I was going and I said, “Somewhere with a B?” “Oh, Bowmanville? You’re really close!” “Oh, thank God.” “Yeah, it’s about 14 kilometers.” I did the math—it was about 8-1/2 miles. We said our good-byes (“Have a great trip, eh!”) and I headed down the road, a little more invigorated by the knowledge that it was almost over.

I was in a good rhythm and making good time. The trail actually became a trail at one point, a packed gravel surface with a winding course that went up and down a number of small hills. The trail alternated between the gravelly trail, dirt roads, bumpy paved roads (again with the big seams), and paved trails.

flat road
bike path in shade
power lines with sunlight coming through the clouds
the lake with guardrail in foreground

The road took a meandering path, but finally, after 78 miles, I made it to my hotel with a fair amount of daylight left in the day. Today was not as physically challenging as yesterday was, but the cumulative tiredness and fatigue in my muscles almost made it harder. I was grateful to arrive relatively early and more grateful still that tomorrow’s ride will be a relatively short one into Toronto. I’m looking forward to a nice, sound sleep before then.

map of bike route
The bike route