I'm Home!!! After three days of hellish travel, I'm home and resting my buttocks on a comfy office chair. I must say though that if I ever do a tour of that sort again, it'll be on a motor vehicle of some variety. So here's a run-down on my past three days:
We'll start with the 17th of August, after typing in the previous journal. This was by far and away the most horrific day of my trip and in fact, the worst day I've had in a long, long time. I had a late start on the day, having gone out with Benny to grab breakfast and some things I would need on the road. I also took my time packing my bags, double-checking my maps, finding a bicycle shop nearby and so on. As a result, I didn't actually get out the door until 11 O'clock.
I did get out though, and headed to the aforementioned shop. After having them replace my wheel and also purchasing the piece of hardware I was missing in Kaladar, I got out of that shop at 1:00. I was suddenly flying down the road with great speed, thrilled and excited with what an amazing difference a new wheel made. Thrilled until I realized that the difference in speed was not due to the condition of the wheel, but the fact that I had inadvertently left my loaded saddle bags sitting on the floor of the shop I had just left.
Ah well, I hadn't gone too far before I noticed it, so I turned around, picked them up, and took off again. I was feeling great and thinking I'd make excellent time, having the wind in my favour and a new wheel on the bike. Needless to say I was rather disappointed when I had gone a mere ten kilometres or so and got a flat on that same wheel I had just replaced. I chalked it up as my fault, having told them to pump it up to 120 psi and realizing later that it only took 110 (I learned later that this is not where the problem was). Conveniently, I had this flat across the street from a "Canadian Tire", and was able to acquire an extra tube (to replace the spare I would now be using), and some hockey tape (to line the rim, preventing the tube from exploding into the little holes that the spokes connect to). After much fiddling around, purchasing the wrong size tube, not being able to return it because it would have meant lining up for a ridiculous amount of time and filling out piles of paper work, and getting interrogated about my travels by a nice lady and a little boy, I finally had everything reassembled. It had taken a long time, and was now pushing 3:00 in the afternoon, but I was once again on the road.
Once moving though, I was a little upset to find that my tire was soft. I filled it with this nifty device that uses a CO2 cannister. Unfortunately, after pumping up this tire, I only had one cannister left. On top of that, I was concerned about the condition of the tube I had used because it was an older one that had been strung up under my bicycle seat for a rather long time, and I had seen some evidence of wear in it. This left me with a dilemma. If I pumped up the tire, it might break and leave me screwed with no way to inflate the remaining one. On the other hand, if I ride too far with that tire so soft, it might be damaged.
The solution of course, is to go buy a small portable pump that I could inflate it with. I did exactly that, and was once again moving along nicely until I had gone a few more kilometres down the road and it went flat again. I wasn't too upset, having half expected that anyway. Conveniently, this happened when I was only a half a block away from a bench outside a bar, where I could comfortably sit down and work on replacing the tube.
I had the tube removed and replaced, and the new one pumped up within ten minutes. Ready to go again, I picked up my bike, set it down on the road again and listened disgustedly as it made the unmistakable "PFFFFSSSSSSSSsssssssss...." sound of the tube once again popping and all the air leaking out. I had to laugh at this, my only other option being to cry. At this point, being out of replacement parts, and rather disillusioned about my ablillity to repair things properly, I approached some gentlemen who were sitting on the patio of the bar I had sat in front of. They had been watching me work on it, and laughed along with me when it went flat again. It is these four gentlemen I have to thank for turning my day around. Approaching them to ask if they knew of any bicycle shops nearby, I was hoping merely for a "yeah, just a few blocks that way" type of answer. Instead, one of them lent me his cell phone to call the nearest one (which we had found in a phone book provided by the nice lady who was tending the bar), making sure they had everything I would need. Once finding it, another one of these guys actually drove me and my rear wheel to that shop in his car, waited outside the bike shop for me while the work was done and spare parts purchased, and then drove me back to the bar where his friends had kept an eye on the rest of my bike. I was blown away by this act of kindness. I thanked them profusely, bought a beer for the gentleman who had escorted me to the bike shop, and headed on down the road again.
Incidentally, it was in that second bicycle shop that I learned why I had been getting so many flats. I was told that when applying hockey tape to line the rim of the wheel, you need two layers of it to withstand the pressure. They had only applied one in the shop at which I had purchased it.
My day went pretty smoothly after that. After a fair bit more riding I was finally past Oshawa and all the larger cities in that area, and getting pretty decent speed, having the wind in my favour most of the way. Eventually I stopped at a motel in a small town called Welcome, which is just north of Port Hope. I had spent about nine hours on the road that day, and gotten only 100km out of it. Only four of those nine hours were actually spent riding.
Determined to get back to Ottawa in three days I took off again, planning on covering at least 200km before dusk. My original plan had been to follow highway #2 all the way up to Kingston, stay there for the night, and then go up through Perth and into Ottawa from there. Having the wind in my favour, it would have been a great tour. Unfortunately the wind, being the fickle tramp that she is, had decided to change direction overnight. I was now fighting a strong, cold wind and could not move my bike any faster than 20km/h, which is slow even with all my luggage. By the time I hit Cobourg, I decided I had to escape the nasty wind, and would do so by moving north, away from lake Ontario. I did this in the hope that it would change direction or at least be weakened by passing over the land. This worked to a certain extent. Although I was still fighting the wind, it was a little gentler.
I ran into a minor problem when I stopped in Hastings, a small town about 10 kilometres south of highway #7. I was not able to pull my left shoe out of the clip-on pedal that it was attached to. After much poking and prodding with a screwdriver, I got it out and found the cause of my problem: one of the two bolts that connects the metal clip to the bottom of my shoe had fallen off. Conveniently I had only noticed this problem after stopping almost immediately in front of a "Home Hardware" store. After walking in and paying five cents for the bolt I needed, I was once again on the road.
When I got up to highway #7 and started heading east, I came across a gargantuan traffic jam. I passed by at least three kilometres of vehicles lined up all the way through and well past the town of Havelock. I must say I got quite a few odd looks from them as I went by. I was passing people who had already passed me at least half an hour earlier. It turns out this traffic jam happened because of a social event involving trailers and winnebagos on the far side of town (which would explain the rather large number of such vehicles in that traffic jam). They were all trying to make left turns off the rather busy highway. On the plus side, once I passed all that traffic the road was nice and clear, being thoroughly clogged up behind me.
Despite the wind I was feeling pretty confident (or egotistical, depending on how you look at it), and decided I would try to get to Perth that day. Going up to highway #7 and then East from there, it would mean doing about 235 kilometres that day. I've done that kind of distance before, and could have done it again if I had another hour's daylight. Alas, the sun is somewhat unrelenting about the length of our day, so I came close, but not quite. I managed to put in 198km before my shadow became worryingly long. I stopped at a payphone near Sharbot Lake, about 37km west of Perth and called Todd and Leanda Bracegirdle, who I'm always happy to call family (Leanda being my Mom's sister) and who also live nearby there. Despite my audacity to call collect from a payphone (not having enough change for a long distance call), they were of course quite welcoming and agreed to meet me on the road toward their place.
As soon as I pulled out of the parking lot which hosted the payphone, one of the spokes on my new rear wheel broke. I suspect they don't deal well with heavy acceleration. Ah well, I didn't bother to fix it then as it would be about an hour's work. I simply trued the wheel by adjusting the spokes around the broken one, and carried on down the road. Eventually I met Leanda, who drove me back to their place in a comfy, warm van. I was very happy to be there. Not only did I get free shelter for the night and an excellent dinner, but also the use of the shower and laundry facillities, as well as entertainment and good company.
And finally we have today, the last leg of my journey. I had a great morning, being fed a delicious breakfast and given time to repair my wheel once again. I also had clean clothes, and was given a lift into Perth, skipping all the gravel roads leading into town. Unfortunately the weather was quite poor today, having rain pouring down all day. I was kindly offered another day and night of rest at the Bracegirdle residence, but decided I wanted to get home at this point. It was an almost uneventful day. Aside from the rain, the only hinderance to my trip occurred when the other bolt fell out of my left shoe clip. Not wanting to find another hardware store and go through replacing that bolt while getting drenched, I decided to simply ride the last fifty kilometres with my left foot constantly on the pedal. This led to some difficulties when coming to a stop, as I usually leave my right foot on the pedal and balance with the left one on the ground, but I got home and am now warm and dry.
Unfortunately, my spedometer does not handle the water as well as I do (and that's saying something, 'cause I sure as hell didn't enjoy it). As a result, I don't know the exact distance or or time I took to get into Ottawa today. I do know it would be aproximately 83km (maybe a little more, but not much). I know this because the majority of this route is one that I take quite frequently, and I do know that when I merged with that regular route, I had gone 18km. I also know that at the point where I merged with it, I still had about 65km to go.