To Pelee for Wine

Introduction to this trip

Friday June 4, 2010

This will be our first unsupported bicycle tour.I’m K, and after 30 years in the work force, I am making some dramatic changes in my life. Last Monday was my last day working. I have started a small consulting company that will allow me to work part time. This fall I plan to go back to school. My partner, J, works part time as a yoga instructor and personal trainer. Her schedule is flexible, as well, with very few classes over the next few months.

Last summer we did a 4 day bike tour around Lake Champlain. We biked from B&B to B&B and found that we really enjoyed the experience. That trip was done with our road bikes and only rear panniers. Fortunately we did not break the bikes.

Building on that experience and having the summer stretching out in front of us we decided try a more serious ride this year. Our goal is to circle Lake Ontario, about a two week trip. Schedules and commitments this summer push that trip into August.

We have the bikes and the equipment and are itching to get on the road, so, we decided that our maiden voyage would be a shorter trip to Pelee Island over 8 days. We hope to camp along the way except for one night in an area that we cannot find a campground (not into stealth camping)



Saturday June 5, 2010

We bought new bikes this year. We had done a short tour previously with our road bikes and realized that longer tours would not work well with bikes that were not made for the job.Our bikes are Opus Legatos. We did quite a bit of research before the purchase and settled on these partially because of the components, but mostly because they were available at our local bike shop. These bikes are aluminum unlike their steel cousin the Largo and have Shimano Tiagra shifters with Shimano Deore XT rear derailleurs. They have FSA Omega triple crankset 50/39/30 and a 11/32 rear cassette.

So far we have run about 400 unloaded km on these bikes and are pleased with the ride.

The rest of our equipment is coming over from our canoeing experiences. It will be loaded in MEC rear and Venture Front panniers. We also bought a new MEC 2 man hiking tent. It’s pretty small, but we like each other.


Creature Comforts or A Balancing Act

Sunday June 6, 2010

We’re packed and almost ready to go. While K has been dealing with the bikes, I’ve been doing most of the indoor packing. It’s been a challenge. What should we take, what should we leave behind?We chose to try the camping route rather than B&B’s or hotels. Partly because of the cost and partly because of the flexibility of carrying everything we need. We do have a full set of compact camping equipment (the interior of Algonquin Park is a favourite place), so we’ve experience in travelling light.

But…we also want to be comfortable and a good night’s sleep is essential. So is good food.

Some of our choices:

tent–we bought a smaller one for this trip as we don’t need space for the dog.

sleeping pads–essential, directly on the ground would leave us too stiff to move in the morning.

cooking equipment–it’s pretty compact, only takes up one front pannier. food–only packed snacks, we’ll pass lots of grocery stores and restaurants.

clothing–packed for 3 days and took some detergent, we’ll look for a laundromat warm clothing–took one set, there’s nothing worse than being cold.

electronics–took cell phone, net book, camera and adapters

books–made our trip to a used book sale for paperbacks–a family tradition cribbage board–can’t do without it! lawn chairs–left them at home

In the end K is carrying 42 lbs and I’m carrying 36 lbs.

Time will tell if we’ve guessed right.


Donnybrook to Ailsa Craig

Monday June 7, 2010, 97 km (60 miles) – Total so far: 97 km (60 miles)

I’m not sure that either of us slept well last night anticipating the day and the week ahead of us. While we know that we can do rides of up to 100 km, we don’t know if we can do them consecutively.We were up early and by 9:00 had the bikes loaded and were heading down the driveway. After about half a kilometer, K needed to go back. He had forgotten his wallet, and the tire pump. Those things in hand, we set off again realizing 5 km later that we did not have the bike lock with us. We rarely use it locally, but we were heading off into unknown territory.

The first 20 km of the trip are quite hilly and should be about the worst climbs we will see for the rest of the trip. The wind was in our back and we made excellent time. We made a short detour into Exeter for lunch and to pick up another bike lock. We found one that was actually a better system than the one we left behind

The tail wind was wonderful and we arrived at Shady Pines Campground around 3:00 with an average speed of almost 22km/hr. Shady Pines is really a campground for trailers, generally retired folks who spend the summer here and the winter in Florida. We were the only nomadic campers. It was sort of funny when the lady running the place had to think hard about which site to put us on. She was great though, coming to see us before she left and first thing in the morning to make sure that we were ok.

We were in bed by 9:00pm

Ailsa Craig to Ridgetown

Tuesday June 8, 2010, 108 km (67 miles) – Total so far: 205 km (127 miles)

K tells me its my turn to write about our pain and I admit we’re feeling some. We’ve just come back from a short walk and both of us are suffering from sore quads, we noticed them while walking down a small hill.Our day of cycling was actually just fine! We left around 9 am. The biggest challenge was packing up, every thing was a bit damp because of the heavy dew last night. We made a side trip into Alvinston and visited their “meadery”. Think honey wine. If we’d been travelling by car we would have left with a few bottles, as it was, we left with a brochure.

The afternoon was a bit tougher. No hills to speak of, but the wind picked up making the cycling more challenging. We also went a little farther than we usually do. One section of road was quite broken up, causing our poor private parts to get banged over and over. I don’t think a truly comfortable bike seat actually exists.

We cycled through some road construction. It’s rather cool to ride on brand new asphalt. It’s a really smooth ride but not necessarily fast as it’s so sticky. It’s also one of the few times when a cyclist can feel equal to a vehicle. Those cars coming the other way have to wait for you, no matter how long it takes!

There are no campgrounds near Ridgetown so we’re holed up in a Howard Johnson’s. It’s not the classiest place but the king size bed is muchly appreciated. A motel also means a restaurant meal and no dishes.

Bees at the Alvinston Meadery

Weather forecast tomorrow is not that great, we’ll see how it goes.

Ridgetown to Pelee Island

Wednesday June 9, 2010, 110 km (68 miles) – Total so far: 315 km (196 miles)

We woke up in a very comfortable bed to the sound of rain pouring down. Besides being grateful for a snug and dry hotel room, we did wonder what the day of cycling would bring. How wet would we get?
Some motels provide a very nice continental breakfast. This one can only be described as indifferent, but , hey, it was included in the price. After delaying about an hour, we decided we’d best get started, raining or not. We cycled the first hour in a fine drizzle. It was actually quite pleasant, soft and gentle.
A stop in Blenheim, at Timmy’s, was our first clue the day would not be quite what we expected. A friendly man mentioned that because of the tornado in Leamington on the past weekend, the ferry was not running from there, but from Kingsville, 15 km further up the road. Hmm we hoped he was wrong. He wasn’t.
The road we chose was not particularly busy. We’re thinking that’s the reason it was chosen to truck parts for wind turbines. Each part included an escort vehicle, a police cruiser, the truck with the actual part, and a final police cruiser. These police officers forced us to get off the road, onto the gravel shoulder. If you didn’t go fast enough, he or she would run the siren. Our bikes do not run well on gravel. Given the impatience of the officers I’m thinking they’re fortunate they were on escort duty and not investigating a bicycle accident. By the way, this happened 5 times in about 3 hours.
Our next challenge was the wind. We were expecting the most difficult part of the trip to be the first day because of the hills. It wasn’t. We went from an average of 22 km/hr to 17 km/hr. It was tough pedaling. Then we had to cycle an extra 15 km to catch the ferry. Not only did we have to cycle further, we did not have enough time to visit a Laundromat, so much for clean socks and underwear.
Our final challenge of the day-the sun! Given the dreary, drizzly start, we decided we didn’t sunscreen. Wrong again! By evening it was clear we had some pretty funny sunburn lines. An uneventful ferry crossing (2 games of cribbage), found the camp, set up, and climbed gratefully into our sleeping bags.

Windmill wings going by.


Rest day on the island

Thursday June 10, 2010, 26 km (16 miles) – Total so far: 341 km (212 miles)

There’s something special about a rest day! We woke up around 8 am and realized we did not have to get out of bed-sweet! However, my body can only handle so much of lying on the ground and I had to get up anyway. It was a lazy morning, read, ate breakfast, washed out some essentials (result of no laundromat yesterday) and generally puttered until about 11 am.
Headed to the Pelee Island Winery and took their wine tour and tasting. Found some wines we liked, they’re all available at the LCBO (Liquour Control Board of Ontario) so we did not feel like we had to buy any today.
Headed to the other end of the island, to Conorlee’s Bakery, for some lunch. Our next plan was to find the local Co-op and purchase some groceries for supper. It closes at 2 pm. It was 3 pm. We’re having whatever we happen to have with us for supper. We won’t be hungry, but supper will be a little strange-bran muffins, nuts, carrots, crackers, cheese, a banana and for dessert, gummy bears. Our other choice for supper is to find a restaurant, but we don’t really feel like biking much today and a restaurant meal includes 16-20km of pedaling, on gravel.
We’re a bit disappointed in Pelee Island. It advertises itself as a great place to go biking. Yeah, there’s not a lot of traffic, but gravel roads really take the fun out of pedaling anywhere. The roads on the island were obviously paved at one time but have fallen into a state of disrepair. Between the roads and the lack of basic services, we’re not really impressed. Perhaps it would be better in the height of tourist season.

Idylic campsite on Pelee Island


Pelee Island to Wallaceburg

Friday June 11, 2010, 103 km (64 miles) – Total so far: 444 km (276 miles)

We woke up to the sound of rain on our tent. Environment Canada had promised no chance of rain today. We were disappointed.The ferry leaves Pelee Island at 8:00 am so we were up and packing at 6. We were at the ferry in good time and had a great visit with one of the sailors. Landing in Leamington we got a first hand look at the damage that a tornado can cause. The storm had run right down the waterfront, breaking off big old trees all over the place. It was amazing that no one was killed.

We stopped in Tilbury for lunch. A bunch of high school kids were out by the road (smoking maybe?) so we asked them if there was anyplace in town with high speed internet access. They looked a little confused by the question at first and then came back with “No….you’re in Tilbury you know.

Tilbury turned out fine. The library had internet access and we got free lunch. The Bank of Commerce was having a customer appreciation day and was aggressively giving away hot dogs and drinks. We had our fill.

She has her own creek?

The wind was with us most of the day so we made good time to Wallaceburg. Since it is supposed to storm over night we decided to hole up in a Days Inn rather than camping. Our early arrival in town allowed us to do some laundry and then go for supper at a great spot called the Black Sheep Pub.


Wallaceburg to Wyoming

Saturday June 12, 2010, 76 km (47 miles) – Total so far: 520 km (323 miles)

The weather forecasters were wrong again!! The predicted thunderstorms did not happen over night and even though there was a 60% chance of rain and thunder showers today, we stayed dry.The trip along the St Clair river was neat. We could keep pace with the big lakers on the river. It’s hard to believe that our US neighbours are just half a kilometer away across the water. The St Clair Parkway was a nice run with bike paths along part of the route. These paths were a little odd becuase they would just end. One ended at the far end of a bridge with a six inch drop to the pavement. Most uncomfortable.

Watching the big lakders on the St Clair River

A lot of the roads on this trip have been uncomfortable. Broken and frost heaved, they do well for cars and trucks but are a bit unpalatable for biking.

We ended the day at my brother’s house. We are camped in his backyard and look forward to a nice evening visiting with him and his family.

Wyoming to the Pinery

Sunday June 13, 2010, 91 km (57 miles) – Total so far: 611 km (380 miles)

This morning was decision making time, we had to make a choice:a) make a really long day and go home, about 160 km

b) make a shorter day and head for the Pinery Provincial Park and spend some time in Grand Bend

c) divide the trip closer to half and stay in Dashwood, another RV park where we would be welcome but way out of place.

We chose to head to the Pinery. The day was overcast and at times even drizzly, but nothing serious. Ride was mostly uneventful. We stopped in Forest for breakfast, every one stopped and stared at us when we walked into the restaurant. Was it because we were dressed in our cycling clothes, complete with spandex or was it simply because we were strangers in a small town?

Campsite at Pinery Provincial Park

After setting up out camp we biked toward Grand Bend to a huge flea market. Unfortunately, it was near closing time. They still charged us a dollar each to get in. After leaving the market we headed to Grand Bend for supplies and back to camp. This “sightseeing” added 26km to our day.

Adventures in the Night…Pinery to Home

Monday June 14, 2010, 101 km (63 miles) – Total so far: 712 km (442 miles)

We are experienced campers. Really. I went camping every summer with my family as a child. 30 years ago our “honeymoon” included a camping trip. We’ve camped almost every summer since then, tents, tent trailers, RV’s. We know how to do this.So why did we even imagine the ‘coons would leave our stuff alone in the night?

First, we had no car to lock our food in. On Pelee Island we hung the food pannier up so no creatures could get it. Last night, we simply tucked the pannier in the vestibule of our tent. I think we thought any nocturnal creatures would be turned off by the fact we were sleeping only inches away. But they’re pretty bold. First the raccoon went to Ken’s side and did some exploring. The first thought upon waking up is “Is it a raccoon or a skunk?” K scared it away.

A little later we hear noises again. This time on my side of the tent. By the time I could get untangled from the sleeping bag, find the flashlight and turn it on, the raccoon had dragged the pannier bag, with food in it, to the edge of the camp site, eight feet away. I got up, rescued the bag, and put it in the tent (I know, you should never put food in the tent with you, because the bears will go after it).

By that time I had to pee.

We did manage to go back to sleep.

Our trip home was long and uneventful. We added kilometers to try to avoid hills. After 6 days with virtually flat terrain it was tough coming back to hills. The wind was not our friend today either.

Sweeping out the tent on the last morning

It was great to get up that last hill which is our driveway. The trip was a success. We can do day after day of relatively long distances. Lake Ontario in August is now more than just a possibility.



2 thoughts on “To Pelee for Wine

  1. Pingback: Biking is Over « The Farmer goes to Seminary

  2. Pingback: Cycling Trip 2012 | The Farmer goes to Seminary

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