Friday, 9 October 2015

Destination Reached! (For Now...)

Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
We got up super early at Corey and Carol's as they had to get to work and it made sense for us to get an early start since we'd be cycling through city or suburbia for most of today's ride. We hadn't had any luck finding a host for what would be our last night on tour before getting to our friends' house in Oshawa but Corey and Carol suggested a host that they had stayed with in Mississauga so we'd contacted Andrew and he had very kindly agreed to host us even though he wouldn't be around. After eating breakfast together we were out the door shortly after 7am but within 5 minutes we had to repair a puncture on my front tyre. Not a great start, but we were still going again before our usual start. We'd decided to ride back the way we came a few miles to get on the canal-side bike path up to Lake Ontario but before we could get there we had to get off the road as the fog had come in so thick that it simply wasn't safe for us to be on this busy road despite donning lights and high vis jackets.

We managed to get to the fire station and hung out there for maybe an hour waiting for the fog to lift. It was pretty frustrating, we were about 2 miles from the bike path but didn't want to risk passing the busy intersection just up ahead when you couldn't see further than 20ft. So despite our early rising we didn't really get going until gone 9am. Once on the bike path it was very atmospheric with the fog still coming in waves and clinging to certain dips or corners. Finally it did lift and it was lovely, scenic riding along the Welland Canal. The plants lining the path were draped with spider webs bejewelled with dew glinting in the sunlight, it was a beautiful scene.

Occasionally we passed mammoth ships heading south, huge container vessels slowly working their way through the locks.

After the canal path ended navigating through towns riddled with construction and bad signage wasn't easy going, but we got on another bike trail after lunch which took us into Burlington.  From there we were on a fairly busy road through urban sprawl. In Oakville a road cyclist caught us up and while he was riding along chatting with Tom a woman opened her car door right in front of them. The other cyclist swerved, Tom managed to just avoid taking her door off and I screeched to stop inches from Tom. The woman looked utterly shocked and very apologetic as she witnessed it all up close. Hopefully it will make her check her mirrors in future since she very nearly took three riders out in one swoop. As our adrenaline levels returned to normal we made it into Mississauga and to our hosts' place. It had felt like a very long day after the foggy start and then the slow progress through city streets and we both fell almost instantly asleep. After our impromptu nap we went to the store to get food and settled in for an early night. We had a very slow start the next morning and didn't get on the road until 11am. We rode into Toronto and had what must be our most urban picnic.

The bike path through Toronto itself was pretty good and certainly helped us get through the city, but then we were on the road; the busy, narrow, potholed road for what seemed like an interminably long time. It was one of our worst days of riding. We had to be so wary of the cars, constantly vigilant for dangers in the road and forever stopping at traffic lights. It was desperately un-fun and exhausting. But the reward at the end of it was arriving at Steve, Rhi, Chloe and Molly's in time to celebrate Chloe's 9th birthday. This had been a goal of ours since before the start of the trip and it felt great to have arrived at our destination. Steve and Rhi are old friends of ours, also through frisbee at university, and it was lovely to know we were going to get to just chill out again, enjoying the company of good mates. It's been so awesome of Steve and Rhi to let us stay so long as they were also hosting Steve's parents, Ian and Christine, who have been over visiting from the UK. It's been really nice for us to have so many Brits around to talk to!

A week later, we were heading back into Toronto to meet up with my mum, Caroline, and my sister, Reanna, who were flying out to spend a long weekend with us. With only lightly laden bikes we opted to catch the train from Oshawa to Toronto to save us from hours of city roads again. We'd booked an apartment through airbnb and had a great few days eating out lots, doing some touristy stuff and just wandering the streets. It was so great to spend some time with family and do something different to how we've spent most our bike tour days. After waving them both off we headed to Jordan and Clarissa's place to spend a couple more nights in the city sorting a few things out. We met these two in Zion, way back in April, and they'd offered to put us up when we made it to Toronto (they featured in I am not an Iron Lion in Zion). It was awesome to meet up with them again, swap stories and update them on our tour. We got to sample some delicious Indian food too from the aptly named 'Roti Cuisine of India', which was fantastic as curries are not something we've come across much in our travels.

Tom had also arranged a visit with VanHawks, they are a new company in Toronto building bikes for the modern day urban environment.  Not only does the Valour look all slick and modern but they are built with a computer brain for easy navigation, blind spot detection and it all connects up to your phone and the web.  What more could you ask for?  After a very brief spin round the block we were taken inside to check out the techie bits.  The riding was a bit strange after riding our tourers pretty much non stop for 7 months but they felt comfortable and fine.  It's hard to get a proper feel for a bike after only a 400 metre loop in traffic.  Inside the offices we chatted about the navigation and other cool bits on the bikes. My favourite thing was the gears; like our bikes they have an internal hub, though not a Rohloff, so none of the derailleur issues you get on most bikes, plus they run on a belt drive, not a chain, so they were super smooth and very quiet.  Also unlike our bikes which have grip shift gears which click through from 1 to 14, the gears on the Valour are friction based, I don't really understand how they work, but the grip shifter is illustrated by a little cyclist on a flat bit of road and as you turn the shifter the flat road rises up into a hill so you just pick how much of a hill you're climbing. I thought this was a cool feature. Unsurprisingly Tom's favourite part was the techie connectivity stuff the bike can do.

On Wednesday we got the train back to Oshawa to spend a few more days at Steve and Rhi's. We've got a hectic few days coming up getting packed up and sorted for the next leg of our travels as we fly to Cancun, Mexico on Tuesday 13th October, but we've timed it perfectly as before we leave we'll get to experience Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend. When we get to Mexico we have 4 nights planned in downtown Cancun then we're riding down to Tulum for a week's Spanish immersion course where we will stay with a homestay family. We're really excited about this next bit, its going to be so different from all we've experienced so far.

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