Cy­cling the Great Waterway

On­tario’s Best at Your Doorstep

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - by John Swart

There’s no get­ting around it – as a cy­clist you must train. You ride with the same friends, on the same roads, with the same pot­holes and rail­road tracks, or alone, four days a week. Why not in­ject some fun into your train­ing, dis­cover some new favourite roads and es­cape your rou­tine? Maybe take two re­cov­ery days in a row. Fuel your ride with the best Rueben sand­wich in the en­tire world. En­joy a cold one in Sir John A. Mac­don­ald’s law of­fice.

dd a sick day from work to your week­end if you can, then head for The Great Waterway dis­trict, just two hours east of Toronto, Ont. or west of Mon­treal, Que., to re-en­er­gize your pas­sion for cy­cling.

This On­tario dis­trict stretches from the Bay of Quinte to Corn­wall along the St. Lawrence River and north to the Rideau Canal, of­fer­ing ex­cel­lent cy­cling for any level of rider. There’s the Waterfront Trail, Prince Ed­ward County, the St. Lawrence River shore from Adol­phus­town to Corn­wall, and the Thou­sand Is­lands Park­way – all beau­ti­ful and much of it fam­ily-friendly cy­cling on paved off-road trails.

But in this piece that in­cludes Na­pa­nee, Kingston and West­port, we’re talk­ing a fun and chal­leng­ing train­ing route for ex­pe­ri­enced cy­clists or maybe a re­laxed re­cov­ery week­end. Whether you want to test your­self against the best lo­cal Strava routes or re­cover by ex­plor­ing the re­gion’s Loy­al­ist his­tory along the way, this re­gion is ex­cel­lent.

If you have three days, start in Na­pa­nee, home­town to Avril Lav­i­gne and “Sk8er Boi,” her rau­cous an­them to all of us who love our wheels more than any­thing, yet still win the girl or boy of our dreams in the end. Ride to Kingston on Day One, then north to West­port on Day Two, then roll back to Na­pa­nee on Day Three. If you only have two days, start in Kingston and ride to West­port to overnight, then cy­cle back to Kingston via Na­pa­nee.

The rea­son for th­ese lo­gis­tics is that the world’s best Rueben sand­wich, says me, is exquisitely pro­duced by Steve Gille­spie at the Loaf N’ Ale in Na­pa­nee. Nine out of 10 sports nu­tri­tion­ists rec­om­mend Steve’s creations as ideal pre­ride fuel. Savour one (even Chris or Peter couldn’t man­age two), then ride south over the Na­pa­nee River to­ward Adol­phus­town through fields of corn and soy so ex­pan­sive you’ll be­lieve you’re in In­di­ana film­ing Break­ing Away 2.

No prom­ises that you’ll hit the South Fredricks­burg Com­mu­nity Hall on auc­tion day like I did, but if you do, train­ing ride or not, stop for the home­made pas­tries and hot dogs they sell to for­tify bid­ders. Just don’t click your cleats too loud and dis­tract the sleepy auc­tion­eer as you at­tempt to dis­creetly cross the pol­ished floor.

When you swing east to­ward Kingston, if the pre­vail­ing winds are howl­ing through the North Chan­nel from the west, your re­ward will be a new per­sonal-best av­er­age speed along the fresh pave­ment. If it’s head­winds from the east,

you’ll wish you were do­ing some­thing easy, such as the Col du Tour­malet in the French Pyre­nees. Ei­ther way, it’ll be a great story to swap over din­ner.

Kingston’s his­toric down­town and waterfront trans­form post-ride re­fu­elling and re­hy­drat­ing into an event. Kingston is Dublin- or Lon­don-lite. All its vi­brancy, colo­nial Cana­dian ar­chi­tec­ture and mu­sic are con­cen­trated in a few com­pact blocks of pubs, restau­rants and shops just south of Trag­i­cally Hip Way.

My route into Kingston took me past J&J Cy­cles, so I stopped and asked where cy­clists hung out down­town. “Sir John A’s” was the an­swer, a pub in the his­toric build­ing that housed Sir John A. Mac­don­ald’s law of­fice more than a cen­tury ago.

Sir John A’s was busy with folks shar­ing good times, but no cy­clists this night. Walk­ing by the Kingston Brew­ing Com­pany’s pa­tio, I over­heard a woman dis­cussing what she wanted in a new bike. Her friends – all lean builds, chronic hel­met hair, logo’ed tops, tanned faces, shorts when the weather war­ranted pants and not a speck of food left on their plates – were of­fer­ing their stud­ied opin­ions. Ob­vi­ously, th­ese were com­pet­i­tive cy­clists or triath­letes. They were sit­ting in front of a chalk­board dis­play­ing the evening’s craft-beer menu, which pro­vided me an ex­cuse to ap­proach and of­fer an opin­ion. The group was friendly and wel­com­ing as an­tic­i­pated – what cy­clists can re­sist dis­cussing their next bike or their last ride?

Next morn­ing, white­caps on Kingston’s in­ner har­bour in­di­cated strong tail­winds would bless the route north to West­port. The dis­tance is just shy of a met­ric cen­tury, with lots of opportunities to add in­ter­est­ing de­tours along the way. Com­plet­ing your ride by at­tempt­ing the two no­to­ri­ous climbs north out of West­port will guar­an­tee a good ap­petite for din­ner.

This ride is in­ter­val train­ing with a dif­fer­ence. Ham­mer the high-in­ten­sity sec­tions on smooth, flat pave­ment and en­joy twisty, roller­coaster back­roads that will make you grin. The re­cov­ery por­tions are where the route shines though, as you take time to ex­pe­ri­ence this new ter­ri­tory.

Bat­tersea has a well-worn, com­fort­able look. Col­laps­ing boathouses capped with rusty steel roofs line the creek across from the gen­eral store where you can re­plen­ish your wa­ter bot­tles and en­ergy food.

Wing’s Live Bait & Tackle in Lyn­d­hurst will be cul­ture shock for ur­ban rid­ers. Ev­ery lick of cloth­ing for sale is cam­ou­flage or or­ange. Other mer­chan­dise? If doesn’t have fish hooks or a trig­ger, it ain’t in this store. Don’t try grab­bing a cold one out of the cooler next to the counter – it’s full of live bait, not en­ergy

drinks. And rest your bike on the his­toric 1856 stone-arch bridge over Fur­nace Creek at your own risk when a pa­rade of trac­tors and com­bines roar through town headed to their next job.

Don’t let the linen servi­ettes con­fuse you. The 140-year-old Ho­tel Ken­ney at scenic Jones Falls is ex­tremely cy­cle-friendly and ideal for your mid-ride break. The rid­ers of Kingston Velo Club have a tour that overnights here each year. Wan­der through the nos­tal­gic lobby and din­ing room, then share the bar with a mon­strous stuffed muskel­lunge and a fear­some ram’s head with wildly con­torted horns. Ev­ery room is crammed with mounted tro­phy fish, even the bath­room.

The vil­lage of Delta is next, de­fy­ing you to look at its di­lap­i­dated, mostly va­cant Ju­bille Block store­front build­ing that has dom­i­nated the main street since 1897 with­out en­vi­sion­ing south­ern France or Italy, where one of the units would be a busy café and an­other the lo­cal ma­g­a­sin de velo or ne­gozio di bi­ci­clette.

A quick carb stop in For­far for fresh-baked goods be­came a les­son in fash­ion hu­mil­ity. I thought my red, white and yel­low kit, re­versed retro cy­cling cap and black socks re­ally had it go­ing on. Then buddy swag­gered in from his Har­ley, all denim, leather and chains, with greasy gray hair ev­ery­where but on top of his head. He had wrapped a big red elas­tic band, prob­a­bly the one hold­ing to­gether the ad­ver­tis­ing fly­ers thrown on his drive­way the night be­fore, around his mon­strous gray beard to keep it from tan­gling in the wind. The fash­ion-state­ment award was his, hands down.

Con­serve a bit of en­ergy on the first half of Fo­ley Mountain. Don’t worry if the odd blas­phemy es­capes your lips while fight­ing the in­cline.

The West­port mountain climbs are per­fect to de­ter­mine who buys the beer when you re­cu­per­ate on the deck of the Cove Inn later in the evening. Both be­gin right in town and are ap­prox­i­mately a kilo­me­tre long, but use Mountain Street as the slightly less steep warm-up be­fore tack­ling in­fa­mous Fo­ley Mountain.

Con­serve a bit of en­ergy on the first half of Fo­ley Mountain be­cause the last 100 me­tres are straight up. Don’t worry if the odd blas­phemy es­capes your lips while fight­ing the in­cline – you can eas­ily visit St. Ed­ward Catholic Church for re­demp­tion when you re­turn to town. Its tow­er­ing sil­ver spire is vis­i­ble from any­where, and lo­cal word has it the Church has been for­giv­ing Fo­ley Mountain’s curs­ing cy­clists since 1860.

The routes here shine as you take timeto ex­pe­ri­ence this new ter­ri­tory.

Dis­cover new favourite roadsand es­cape the rou­tine.

From fam­ily-friendly cy­cling to the best lo­cal Strava routes, this re­gion is ex­cel­lent.

Cy­cling through Na­pa­nee, Kingston and West­port along the GreatWaterway is just plain fun.

When your day is done, en­joyfab­u­lous re-fu­el­ing op­tions.

De­ci­sions, de­ci­sions ....

En­joy twisty, roller­coaster back­roads in Bat­tersea that will make you grin.

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