Day 1 – Ottawa, ON to Kingston, ON

Distance: 187.01 kilometers / 116.88 miles
Ride time: 14:00:00
Saddle time: 10:34:16
Average speed: 17.8 kmph / 11.13 mph

I had originally intended to get a 0700 start, but getting a full eight hours of sleep was a higher priority. I set my alarm for 0800, finished packing up my gear, and rolled out the door at 0930 and right into the rain. The sky was gloomy, the clouds ominous, the rain cold. Little did I know that, less than 100km later, I’d be hunched over in the mud and driving rain repairing a torn valve stem with my only spare. The outlook would be grim. It would seem I was in over my head. Unprepared. Maybe in some small way I was, but not near as much as I could have been.

Despite the fact that it was the coolest day we’d had for quite some time, I promptly worked up a ferocious sweat in the heavy humidity and waterproof rain gear. I put my head down, took commanding control over three feet of asphalt shoulder, and started cranking the pedals over. The sidewalks, streetlights, and convenience stores turned into farms, fields, and trees as far as the eye could see. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt right with my life again. More so than I had in months.

As I zigged and zagged across the Ontario countryside it became increasing obvious that a) it was damn good to be back on a bike again, and b) I was going to be a long ways from home by the time this trip was done. I tried to remember the next three road names in my head. The rain cover over my handlebar bag was a dark enough shade of yellow where I could only make out lines and curves of my map, but no details. Freshly printed off the internet, I was doing my best to keep it dry and readable the duration of the ride.

I rolled past quaint little farmhouses, sleepy main streets of towns barely appearing on maps, and cow after cow. The rain continued to spit and sputter as I constantly zipped and unzipped my rain gear in adjustment. I was hot, and sweat poured out the bottom of my sleeves and mixed with the rainwater on the highway. My hands slipped uncomfortably on the black rubber grips. I had two pair of cycling gloves in Brazil but this trip was bare bones. I knew it would be from the start. I debated taking my jacket off completely, but the wind still held a bite that I wasn’t ready to deal with quite yet. I shifted my brain a notch as well as my rear derailleur and spaced out while the kilometers ticked by.

County road 8 to county road 13 and back to county road 8. County road 8 to county road 13 and back to county road 8. I repeated it over and over in my head like a mantra as I pedaled through downtown Manotick and out the other side. County roads 13 and 8 overlapped slightly through town, but the split was obvious enough when I made a left turn, resumed my southwesterly direction, and continued on my way.

15 kilometers later country road 8 came to an abrupt end and I knew I had taken a wrong turn.

Lost!!

I referenced my map, already soaking up plenty of water through both the rain cover and map case, and plotted an alternate course that paralleled the original route. I finally intersected both courses in Merrickville…

Found!!

and the cyclometer showed me as only being 3 kilometers long from the diversion. I smiled to myself, thanked my brilliant navigational skills, and pressed on.

The rest of the day passed relatively uneventfully. The rain and clouds finally cleared late in the afternoon and left me in the dwindling sunlight. I stopped for a rest at about 2000, still 42 km from Kingston. The sun was almost set and I had just hit busy highway 15. As if warning me to keep my distance, an 18-wheeler blew past me, horn blowing, as nine of its wheels rolled well onto the shoulder of the road. I had been making good time and didn’t want to waste my precious daylight on detours and side roads. I made a quick evaluation of risk over reward and rolled slowly back onto the road.

Three more hours of riding, I told myself, but 138 km had taken its toll on my body and mind. When the last light faded I pulled gingerly off the side of the road, donned my reflective vest and long sleeve shirt, and concentrated on the long, white line in front of me. I never expected to ride the dark, but I was thankful I had the foresight to throw one in my pannier.

The night was black. There wasn’t a star in the sky. No clouds. No moon. Nothing. Only yard lights of farmhouses miles away and an endless stream of headlights on nearby Interstate 5.

I was bonking hard. At 2145 with two almost empty water bottles and an empty stomach rubbing against my spine, I spied an open convenience store. I dragged my weary bones into the chilly, air-conditioned shop, topped off my water bottles, and grabbed a few candy bars for the final push into Kingston. I stepped back outside into the humidity of the evening I had grown so accustomed to and sat on the curb, casually munching on my Snickers bar.

The overhead banks of florescent lights abruptly shut off as the night crew prepared to close down, and I was once again in the dark of the highway. I finished up my candy bar, a couple ding dongs, swigged down a few gulps of water and pedaled into the night.

The night grew colder. I was having a harder time staying warm despite the harder I pushed my bike across the Ontario countryside. Another hour and a half passed by…

Stayed tuned for the rest of the story, and more, when I return from the big tour at the end of September. Okay, so I haven’t finished it yet. But I’m making progress!

Dog tired in Kingston