After a visit with relatives, the Hartridges are back on track for the Maritimes

After a visit with relatives, the Hartridges are back on track for the Maritimes

This resumption of Chris and Heather Hartridge’s cross-Canada bike tour is dedication to friend and fellow musician Murray Boal who died in 2015. Based on one of Murray’s songs, Good Neighbours, the bikers have named this tour the Good Neighbours Tour and look forward to meeting many new neighbours along the way.

Hello neighbours! In our last story from the road, on our Good Neighbour Tour Part 2, we were sailing across northern Lake Huron aboard a beautiful ferry on our way from Manitoulin Island to the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario. It was a breathtaking trip… we tried to imagine how big Lake Huron is. It looks like an ocean but it’s fresh water!

The ferry arrived in the little town of Tobermory – our starting point for our ride into southern Ontario. So far, our trip has been safe but it has been wet. While British Columbia has been sweltering in record hot temperatures, Ontario’s summer has been cool and VERY rainy. And yes, it has been a real challenge to stay dry while camping along the way. That said, our experience has paid off: we watch weather reports and always have a Plan B.

Before this tour started we made arrangements to visit our relatives in St. Catharines, Toronto and Ottawa. It was time to put that plan into action.

As we rode south along the Bruce Peninsula towards St. Catharines, the sheer volume of traffic was a wake-up call to us. Furthermore, riding our bikes, we would have been late for our reunion, so we rented a van and drove down to be with Heather’s cousin.

As the family meeting plans unfolded, a cousin of mine from Toronto drove to St. Catharines to pick us up and after spending a day with his family, we took the train to visit more relatives in the Gatineau hills north of Ottawa. It was a really wonderful time – all crammed into one week!

To finish off, we took the Greyhound back to St. Catharines to pick up the Good Neighbour Tour where we left off.

Riding towards Toronto, we chose the Waterfront Trail. It is a realtively well-planned route that primarily follows the shore of Lake Ontario. Our plan is to ride it at least to Kingston, ON.

Leaving the Niagara area, we found ourselves riding both right next to Queen Elizabeth Way and on a quiet paved path next to the lake. The route varied greatly but it was generally safe and that was the main consideration for us.

We safely passed by the busy city of Hamilton and rounded the corner of Lake Ontario towards the cities of Burlington and Oakville. Our route was also on the Lakeshore Drive – the home to many, many wealthy folks by the looks of it. We rode past countless ‘mansions’ – for hours. Incredible.

One of our campsites was Bronte Provincial Park. Not far from the crowded suburbs of Oakville, it was a camping experience like no other. Firstly, the fee was $60 for us, our two bicycles and our tent. Really! And, the neighbours (not good ones) partied until 1 a.m. and… we were visited by our old friends the raccoons. They were eagerly working at stealing our food, so we chased them away and put up our “Bear Bag” to foil their dastardly plot. It worked. With earplugs in, we slept well.

We arrived at a milestone. We had never imagined what a thrill it would be to ride a bicycle into, through, and out of Toronto. But it was. The bike route we were following continued via a well-marked bicycle ‘highway’ through the southern part of the city.

As the cycling traffic increased, we just followed along with the crowd going east. Too much fun! And, before we knew it, the congestion eased and we were east of the CN Tower. Amazing. We were staying in the suburb of Beaches with another cousin so we were almost there!

In the following days, we stayed with the Waterfront Trail as it passed places like the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. It’s an imposing structure and it was a bit disconcerting to see the signage on the trail warning of the dangers. We also passed many historical sites including Adolphustown, one of the homes of the United Empire Loyalists. We camped there and learned of the pivotal history of these early English settlers in Upper Canada.

We left Lake Ontario at the lovely town of Kingston, home to the legendary Canadian band, the Tragically Hip.

We rode north on our way to Ottawa through “cottage country” dotted with hundreds of lakes. And, as usual this summer, we dealt with extreme weather predictions and for the first time, seriously high humidity. Wow! We had never ridden in such conditions. It was like riding in a sauna. We were soaked through and it wasn’t even raining!

We arrived in Ottawa on a superb stretch of the Trans Canada Trail and off in the distance we could see the Peace Tower riding above the skyline. We made it! The next couple of days were spent with my cousin at her lovely home in Old Ottawa… and up at her cottage in the Gatineau hills an hour’s drive north.

We finished up our visit to the capital by stopping by the Parliament Buildings with our fully loaded bikes. It was a great and uplifting feeling. What an incredible journey so far! And there’s lots more to come. A visit to Quebec City on our way to the Maritimes, PEI and eventually Newfoundland. We’re planning to fly home in mid-October so we’ll see how the weather goes, maybe we’ll get a beautiful fall here.

We have been calling home regularly to find out the latest news about the fires in the region.

From where we are it’s hard to imagine the hardships some folks have endured. Our thoughts are with everyone back home.

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Chris and Heather Hartridge are long-time Quesnel residents with a passion for cycling the North American continent.