Sunday 31 August 2008

Back to Gatineau Park: Riding with Tom from Pennsylvania

Canada's House of Parliament, Ottawa River view

About two years ago, I participated in the Fat Cyclist's weight loss competition, not only defeating Fatty in the weight-loss arena but also doing well in a side bet against Tom in Pennsylvania. Tom and I have been corresponding on and off since then and I was delighted to learn that he would be coming to Ottawa to compete in a short distance duathlon at Mooney's Bay.

He arrived yesterday afternoon and picked up his race package and then we met up at his hotel and went for dinner in Ottawa's Little Italy, going to eat at the slightly schizophrenic Pub Italia, which is a kind of combination Italian restaurant and Irish pub. It has a rather kitschy decor but is a lot of fun. You can see outside or in a kind of conservatory, where we ended up. The waitresses are all quite young and, um, adorable (sorry, no photos!). But we were there for the malt-based, high-carbohydrate pre-duathlon preparation beverages and with our pasta we enjoyed two large pitchers of draught Creemore Springs lager, Tom's Serious Introduction to Canadian Beer. For dessert we had an unusual sort of lemon-meringue tart thing wrapped entirely in phyllo pastry.

A very Canadian balloon goes by...

I had the rare chance to sleep in a bit this morning, and while eating breakfast watched a number of balloons flying overhead as part of the Labour Day Weekend Gatineau Balloon Festival. The Mr. Peanut balloon was too far away to get a good picture, unfortunately. Tom completed his duathlon this morning and we got together after lunch. I gave him a brief driving tour of Ottawa before we crossed the river and found a place to leave the car near Gatineau Park. Tom was riding his Quintana Roo TeKilo time trial bike but at least he had a 12-27 cogset so I figured the hills would not be too much of a problem.

We rode up through the woods on the bike path to the park entrance. We were soon on the road inside the park, enjoying the gorgeous weather and chatting. We soon overtook an attractive Quebecoise, who was riding a hybrid bike. She asked me the directions to Champlain Lookout, and I suggested that if she turned left at the next intersection she would get there by a steep but shorter route but that if she continued along the way we were going it would be a lot longer and she would have to climb Camp Fortune Road. She decided to take the shorter route and thanked us. Tom and I continued on towards Pink Lake.

Tom comes up to Pink Lake

I was feeling pretty good and spun up the hill nicely but Tom fell back a bit. I waited at the entrance to the Pink Lake lookout parking lot but it took a while for him to appear. He said that his legs were dead and that he was pretty cooked after the duathlon, unsurprisingly. We then hatched Plan B, which was to just continue along the road until we reached Camp Fortune Road and the climb, and would turn back rather than go up to Champlain Lookout. We could then ride a bit along the Ottawa River and the flatter bikepaths there.

We soon caught up with Quebecoise again, who had missed the intersection and was continuing along our road. She had actually ridden most of this yesterday and was unconcerned, saying that she had all day. She seemed to be going quite well but I would not want to be riding a hybrid up to Champlain Lookout myself.

Tom and I swept downwards to Meech Lake Road and crossed it, rolling well. A cyclist passing in the other direction made a strange gesticulation and we figured something must be happening up ahead. Sure enough, in our lane was a great big snapping turtle, with a long spiky tail. It looked at us as we rode by and although I did not want to see it get run over, the road was not heavily travelled and it could be seen from a distance, so I was not too worried about it. Furthermore, I am aware that snapping turtles are very aggressive on land and I did not want to lose any fingers moving it to safety. It was the first turtle I have seen in Gatineau Park, so I can add this to my list of interesting creatures--red squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, herons, bears--seen there.

Shortly after this bit of excitement, a police vehicle passed and blipped its siren. It was a black SUV, followed by a Cadillac limousine and then followed by another SUV. It was the Prime Minister, probaby going up to Harrington Lake, the summer retreat. I recognized the vehicles as the same that I saw outside Willson House on Meech Lake, where I had attended a cabinet meeting last week.

We soon came to the second intersection with Meech Lake, and a few cyclists passed us, heading up towards Camp Fortune. We turned back at this point and were curious where the turtle had gotten to but there was no sign of it anymore. However, the Quebecoise came from the other direction and asked how far it was to Champlain Lookout. I told her it was about 7 kms to go and she seemed undaunted by this, or by the fact that it would be mainly uphill.

Tom and I cruised back and were overtaken by a rider wearing a polka dot King of the Mountains jersey. This was too much for Tom, who decided we had to choice KoM down and we rode more swiftly but when we got to another climb this foolishness ended rapidly.

Proof that we did our ride! Tom on the left, me on the right

After enjoying the rolling hills for a while, we stopped briefly at the entrance to the park and had out joint picture taken by a passerby before rolling quickly down through the woods. We joined up with the Voyageur bikepath and headed west, crossing the Champlain Bridge to the Ontario side and then heading east along the bikepath, pausing in front of the War Museum and then riding along the path at river level behind the Supreme Court and Parliament. The weather was glorious and a lot of people were out and about; Tom had lived in Chicago and thought that the bikepath there along Lake Michigan was used far less than what he had seen in Ottawa.

Now, I need a picture of me in front of the Mexican legislature and I have the NAFTA trifecta!

We walked our bikes over one of the locks on the Rideau Canal and made the steep climb up to the Alexandra Bridge, crossing over and then rejoining the Voyageur bikepath. We stopped behind the Museum of Civilization to look across the river at Parliament, and Tom took a picture of me in my Fat Cyclist pink lemonade jersey that I will post on Flickr, to go with the one of me in front of the US Capitol. We soon were near the entrance to Gatineau Park and the car.

I dropped Tom off at his hotel as he wanted to get back on the road to Pennsylvania, but I made sure that he was equipped with sufficient Creemore Springs malt-based, high-carbohydrate recovery beverage. It was great riding with him and I hope that we can do it again soon. Not only does he have to get to Champlain Lookout with me but he has to bring those cans back for the deposit at Brewers' Retail.

Altogether we rode 57 km and climbed about 670 m--a most enjoyable Saturday ride!

1 comment:

Lily on the Road said...

We live in the most beautiful city to take our guests siteseeing. I just love all of the bike paths Ottawa has to offer. You hit all of the most breathtaking locations too.

The weather was certainly cooperating!!