Back to Ontario Part 3

Ontario - Part 4

This page covers the bike trip from Elmvale to Bainsville.

Total Days: 6
Pedaling Days: 5
Total Distance: 605 km
Total Vertical: 2,767m
Average Speed: 28.4 km/h

Route summary: Backroads to Orillia, going north around Lake Simcoe.  Secondary highways heading east, staying north of the Kawartha lakes, to Stonyridge.  Then down to Highway 7 at Havelock, and followed hwy 7 to Sharbot Lake.  Backroads down to Brockville, then Highway 2 to Bainsville.  North from Bainsville to Hawksbury, where we crossed into Quebec.  I would strongly recommend against cycling on Highway 7 due to traffic and bad drivers.  Otherwise the route was great - I would just head down to Highway 2 from Havelock.

Click on a day below, or scroll down to go through day by day.  Click on any image below to get a larger view.  
Click here to go back to the trip index.

  1. Ontario Part 4: July 14 - July 19
    1. Thursday, July 14
      1. July 14 –Elmvale to Balsam Lake Provincial Park
      2. Cheryl at Lake Couchiching
      3. Me taking a break in Orillia
      4. Sunset at Balsam Lake
    2. Friday, July 15
      1. July 15 –Balsam Lake Provincial Park to Stonyridge
      2. Waterfall near campground
      3. Cheryl shoots the rapids
    3. Saturday, July 16
      1. July 16 –Stonyridge to Sharbot Lake Provincial Park
      2. Too swampy to swim
      3. Sharbot Lake
      4. Nice cottages!
    4. Sunday, July 17
      1. July 17 – Sharbot Lake to Brockville
      2. About 5000 km to here
      3. Scenic ride
    5. Monday, July 18
      1. July 18 – Rest day in Brockville
      2. Van tour
      3. Crow's Nest Pass
    6. Tuesday, July 19
      1. July 19 – Brockville to Bainsville (about 2km from Quebec)
      2. Views along the St. Lawrence River
      3. Monument
      4. Sunset on Ontario
      5. Goodbye Ontario

Ontario Part 4: July 14 - July 19

Thursday, July 14

Bike log: 113.0km, 573m of vertical, avg. speed 26.9 km/h

July 14 –Elmvale to Balsam Lake Provincial Park

It was a humid one out there today! There was also a reasonably strong headwind for a good part of the day as well, and those two factors definitely slowed me down today. But it was a beautiful ride on country roads for much of it. Only the bit just east and west of Orillia was tough to deal with. Otherwise, we were travelling through farmland on country roads with little traffic. For me, it is starting to look very familiar, much the same as eastern Ontario where I lived for many years. I did a lot of bike riding around roads similar to this a long time ago. I am trying to pick a route towards Brockville that is mainly on backroads, so hopefully it will stay like this for some time. The heatwave is projected to be settling in for a good while here, so most likely the next few days will be quite similar.

Cheryl at Lake Couchiching

We went swimming several times today! I took a break from about 1 to 3PM due to the heat, and we went swimming in Lake Couchiching in Orrilia. I went straight from the bike to the water as soon as I got there, and just bobbed for about 10 minutes. Then, after some lunch, we went back in just before getting moving again. Made the first half hour or so pretty bearable. 

Me taking a break in Orillia

I drank close to 6 litres of water today. When the hot weather started in, I started wearing a headband to keep the sweat out of my eyes. However, I had to give up on it today because it was just too hot – and it was not really helping anyway! Once you get past a certain point of meltdown, there is not much that can be done. I also stopped wearing my bike gloves since my hands were just too hot in them. I am not concerned about getting heat stroke, but I am concerned that the local health authorities are going to cart me away to a mental institution if they spot me out riding in this weather. I was told to avoid Midland for this reason.

I stopped for an ice cream in a variety store in the middle of nowhere (just outside Dalrymple, actually), and got chatting to a farmer who was hanging out inside in the airconditioning. He said that it is shaping up to be a pretty bad year for his crops due to the heat and lack of water. There has been very little rain since April, and what little bit that has been falling lately disappears immediately due to the heat. It is weird how we went from floods on the prairies, to rain and cold in Northern Ontario, to this. If you average it out, it seems pretty good though!

Sunset at Balsam Lake

This is a very nice, and very large, campground.  We went swimming as soon as we got to the campsite (we are across the road from the lake) and again just now before going to bed. Things have cooled down too, and there is now a nice breeze blowing in off the lake, which our pop top is catching very nicely! Should be no problem sleeping tonight.


Friday, July 15

Bike log: 109.0km, 620m of vertical, avg. speed 26.6 km/h

July 15 –Balsam Lake Provincial Park to Stonyridge

The heat let up a bit today – definitely a relief! Still plenty hot, but at least it wasn’t a complete meltdown out there. And there was a pretty stiff breeze as well to help keep cool. Of course, it was a headwind for almost the whole day, but it was well worth it.

Lots of raccoons around these parts. There was also a skunk that wandered through our campsite this morning in exactly the same place that this “little” raccoon was. This guy obviously does not miss too many meals.

Waterfall near campground

This is a really nice part of the country to pass through in summertime as it is cottage country. It is known as the Kawartha Lakes region. There were many lakes that we passed by, fairly decent sized ones too. The roads were excellent to ride on – rolling hills through farmland. Some of the lakes are part of a waterway system known as the Trent-Severn waterway that is connected by locks.

We traveled exclusively on secondary highways and backroads today. We passed through the towns of Coboconk, Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon, Buckhorn, and Woodview. It was a great route, not much traffic (considering it is Friday and we are in cottage country) and the shoulders were mostly good. The roads were actually in better shape than some of the main highways we’ve traveled as well. We wanted to avoid highway 7 – which goes through Peterborough towards Ottawa - for as long as possible. Tomorrow is a Saturday, which I am hoping will be light traffic for that road.

Most of the towns we passed through would actually be classified as “towns” in my opinion. This is in contrast to many of the towns (dots on the map) that we have passed through in other parts of the country. We are definitely in a more populated region! The towns actually look like viable concerns as well – not like they are about to dry up and completely disappear, nor do they appear to be solely dependent on a single huge factory or mill. Nice to see, for a change!

Cheryl shoots the rapids

There were no good opportunities for a mid-day swim, not to mention the fact that with the headwind we did not have the time to take off, but this campsite (Pilgrim’s Rest campground) has a nice little beach as well as a little river. We shot the rapids too!  Click on the image above to see a movie of Cheryl in action.

As with most of the private campgrounds we’ve stayed in, this one has its share of trailers that are here permanently, with little decks or outbuildings hanging off of them. Sometimes I almost expect Ricky and Julian to show up.


Saturday, July 16

Bike log: 131.5km, 581m of vertical, avg. speed 27.5 km/h

July 16 –Stonyridge to Sharbot Lake Provincial Park

Back into the heatwave today – hot as ever! Oops, I mean, humid as ever. Anyway, it got a little uncomfortable out there today!

Today was not the funnest day yet. The first hour or so, along a background from our campsite down to highway 7 (the Trans-Canada) was great – nice little hills, very little traffic, and lots of shade. Then we were onto the highway, and that was pretty much it for anything decent. Bad pavement in many places, too much traffic with terrible drivers, nowhere to swim unless you are a swamp-loving turtle, no scenery to speak of, very few towns, and heat! And of course, a bit of a headwind. Had to do about 110km of that to get to this campground. It was so hot I did not really feel like eating, all I had was 3 muffins (bought at a roadside stand), an ice cream bar, and a Coke.

Too swampy to swim

Hopefully that will be it for the Trans-Canada for quite some time. I am very glad that we took the north route around Lake Simcoe and stayed off the highway for as long as possible. Dealing with any area that even comes close to being within the sphere of influence of Toronto has been really unpleasant as far as biking goes. The term “complete moron” might be a bit strong to apply to some of the drivers, perhaps “imbecile who wants to risk dying in a fiery car crash for the chance to save perhaps 3 minutes of driving time” is more appropriate. 99% of drivers are very considerate, but the imbeciles do kind of set the tone by tailgating and passing recklessly. Getting off the main roads and onto backroads is definitely the way to go, even if it is less direct. No doubt Montreal will be much the same, which is why we are attempting to bypass it to the north as much as possible. Tomorrow, we are off the highway and taking secondary roads down to Brockville – should be much more pleasant than today. And of course, we stop at my parents house, have a swim in the pool, and enjoy a day of rest!

Sharbot Lake

This campground is quite nice – lots of trees and nice size lots, and a sandy beach on a lake to swim in. A very nice little lake, popular with cottagers from Ottawa I suppose. Staying in a private campground, as we did last night, does make you appreciate what the provincial parks have to offer. In general, you get way better scenery and a much nicer, more private site. However, the provincial parks loose a few points for convenience in some ways compared to the private ones. There are not enough “real” bathrooms, and there is no water outlet at your campsite – there are only a few taps scattered through the park. And someone in the ministry of parks decided that they needed to reinvent the water tap. No simple twist valve here. Instead, there are these big torpedo shaped valves that require an enormous upwards thrust to activate. They have 1 speed as well – flood! You will get soaked using them, guaranteed, and there is no way you will get it to open if you are in any way feeble. However, I have to give the Ontario parks points over the ones in BC for realizing that people actually want to use them – and having lots of parks with lots of sites! Today, a Saturday in mid July, we were able to arrive at the park around 5PM and get a spot with no reservation. Don’t try that at home!

Nice cottages!

Despite the fact that we are in the middle of a heat wave, many of the campers around us have a campfire going, and it is only 8PM. I find that a bit strange, but maybe it’s because I am still rather hot from riding today. I am going to be heading back down to the lake for another dip before bedtime – despite the weeds!

You can tell the heat is getting to me a bit – this is a pretty negative journal entry! I’m looking forward to a change of pace after the rest day.


Sunday, July 17

Bike log: 114.0 km, 617m of vertical, avg. speed 29.1 km/h

July 17 – Sharbot Lake to Brockville

Made it to the old homestead! Kind of a neat feeling, to ride into the old home town, having come all this way. As I got closer in to town, things started to look more and more familiar. Cheryl is not familiar with Brockville, so we met just on the outskirts, and then she followed me in! Actually, she had directions but I was pretty anxious to hit the pool so I passed her and raced ahead for the last few blocks. She took this picture of me from the van as I cornered onto Ann St. where my parents live.

About 5000 km to here

Incidentally, I have always said that my parents live “about 5000km away”. At the end of today, we are at 5,026km for the trip – pretty close! However, my parents will soon be moving to Victoria – in fact they will be moved out there before Cheryl and I get back. So this is my last visit back to the old house, and probably the last time to Brockville for quite some time. It is nice that it is part of this larger trip as it takes the edge of what could be a sad goodbye. It is also very strange to think that when we get back to Victoria my parents will already be living there!

Scenic ride

It was a really great ride today (though still as hot as ever, and had to deal with a minor headwind for the first half). We were on backroads and secondary highways all the way in from Sharbot Lake. Very scenic and lots of small towns and villages to pass through. As we go east, in a sense we are going back in time in terms of the age of the towns. Many of these villages have been around way before Victoria was on the map. They were probably a bit more bustling then as well. It is strange to ride for a half hour or so through farm land, then come to a crossroads with a couple of buildings and a big church and a railway station! It’s also neat (and different compared to BC or the part of Northern Ontario we’ve come through) that there are many intersections and side roads that actually go somewhere – to more towns, or a lake, or whatever. It is more like being on a grid, rather than living along a single dimensional strip of highway with towns every so often. It would take a long time to explore it all! A cyclist’s dream as well, you could pick a different training route every day.


Monday, July 18

July 18 – Rest day in Brockville

Took today off and got some rest! It has been 8 days since the last rest day, and we have traveled over 1000km in that time through some serious heat! I did some much needed cleaning of the van, inside and out, and gave mom and dad a tour of the van. 

Van tour

Cheryl did not take the day off, she walked for an hour up to the YMCA, worked out, then walked back. When she got back – surprise – we hit the pool again! The heat wave is still on here, although the forecast is for the humidity to let up a bit tomorrow.

Crow's Nest Pass

After dinner, we went through some old slides.  This was taken about 35 years ago at the pass we just crossed about 35 days ago.  The one on the left is me.

Tuesday, July 19

Bike log: 137.4 km, 376m of vertical, avg. speed 31.8 km/h

July 19 – Brockville to Bainsville (about 2km from Quebec)

Back on the road today – with a tailwind! It has been a while since I had a tailwind, I had almost forgotten what it was like to have one. Good thing it was there though, it was still hot and humid today, and as is often the case after a rest day it took a while for me to get back into the groove. I am not sure why that is, but it often happens. Maybe I get so used to the comfort of “civilization” that it is difficult to face up to the challenge of grinding through the heat. Anyway, after a couple of fairly sluggish hours I did start to get back into it.

Views along the St. Lawrence River

It was an excellent route today. I was on highway 2 almost the whole way (except for a minor detour through Williamstown and Lancaster to avoid Cornwall). This is the old road between Toronto and Montreal, before the 401 was built, and is only lightly used these days. The road follows the St. Lawrence river, which is visible for much of the trip. The road is in very good shape, with a decent shoulder much of the way, and there is even a bike lane for a bit! Beautiful views of the river for many parts as well.

The road is the “main street” through a number of small towns, like Prescott, Cardinal, Long Sault, and Morrisburg. These towns are old by western standards and there are plenty of cool old stone buildings in the towns. Between towns, there is a lot of farmland, but also some really nice homes all along the St. Lawrence river, as well as a fort or two left over from the war of 1812!


The monument in this photo commemorates the battle of Crysler farm, where “we” routed an American invasion force even though we were outnumbered 5:1. I believe the Canadian forces still use the cannons in the picture, and the guard-seagull on the top of the monument is employed in our air force.

You can gauge how old a town is by how big the cemetery is. Some of these tiny little towns have really big cemeteries! I also saw a building that was built in the 1700’s. Ok, it was 1799, but still, that’s old by my standards!

Sunset on Ontario

I am excited to be close to the border at last! We have been in Ontario for about 3 ½ weeks, and I am really looking forward to getting on to the other 5 provinces. Our campground is a little bit off the main road, so I wasn’t sure how close we were to the border – maybe it’s just down a country road or something, and I thought I might sneak over tonight just to get out of the province temporarily. So I asked someone who works here how far it was to the province of Quebec from here. The reply was “45 minutes to the airport.” Fairly low content of useful information in that response, but I suppose it’s good to know I can get on a plane so quickly if I need to.

I later checked my GPS, which tells me that I am only 2km from the Quebec border. However, I am not taking the direct route into La Belle Province. Instead, I am heading north about 50km to the bridge at Hawksbury, and then following along some secondary highways well to the north of Montreal (through Lachute and Joliette). One thing is for sure – if I thought that Toronto drivers were annoying, I am sure to find Montreal drivers, umm, really annoying. Best to avoid it as much as possible!

I saw 3 other cyclists today. Two of them were a couple from New Hampshire, touring around this area, and the third was a gal from Peterborough on her way to the Laurentians for week or so. Today was great riding, they all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. 

Goodbye Ontario

I think that if I were to repeat the last few days of my ride, I would not have come along highway 7 after my sting in the Kawartha lake region, but rather cut down right away to highway 2 and then headed east. More distance for sure, but more enjoyable too. Live and learn!

Continue into La Belle Province