Moto Diary #8: Long road to Ottawa

The Idea

If I keep pushing distance, I'll put in the hours and get the experience I need to do longer trips. Multi-day at least. Multi-week? Multi-month? I don't know. I'm trying not to think about bigger goals, rather I'll just keep pushing higher and see where that takes me.

Thinking too big ends with me coming up with reasons why it'd be crazy. So why not just do something.

In any case, I had a good reason for at least a full day ride as I haven't visited my sister in Ottawa in awhile. I was due!

The Route

The scenic route from Toronto to Ottawa

The scenic route from Toronto to Ottawa

I wasn't going to take the 401, that's boring but fast. I'd been trying to find a reason to head into the Muskoka region as well as the Kawartha lakes, but for quick afternoon round trips that's a bit far. But it was perfect for passing through on the way to somewhere else.

The basic route was shooting up North out of Toronto on the highway more or less to the end of the 404, then striking out East to the Kawartha Highlands. I'd ride up the Eastern edge of it, and take a nice winding road due East until I was practically above Ottawa, then I'd dip down into the city to my destination.

Starting out

6 hours and 15 minutes it says. Plus an hour and a bit for breaks, so I was estinating 7.5 hours. Not bad.

But unfortunately the day of I got a late start, and I didn't really hit the road until 11:30am. I was pushing it, but at least it was early enough to avoid any cottage traffic out of Toronto.

I blasted out of the city and immediately set to getting lost.

Wayfinding

I didn't plan how to stay on course very well. I had the route noted on my phone, but I didn't have enough power to keep it tracking for the whole journey, so I basically didn't use it unless I was stopped.

Honestly I sort of wanted to get a bit lost, especially knowing that if need be I could always find my way back. I really think that my wayfinding skills have taken a big hit since GPS became a normal, everyday thing. It's easy to not think about where you're going. But I don't want to have to rely on it, so I should practice without it.

It worked out alright!

(Failing to) photograph

I didn't have a GoPro or mount, so I couldn't take any video while I was moving, where I knew the best views would be. If I wanted to take photos I'd have to identify a good view and stop on the side of the road.

To be blunt, I totally failed at doing this. I was trying hard to focus on the roads, the high speed of traffic, and where I was going. I identified good stopping points too late, I was nervous about stopping on gravel shoulders because I wasn't sure if I'd enter them too fast and skid (and potentially then lose my bike into a ditch), and traffic was all going between 80km/h and 120km/h.

My takeaway is that if I want good photos, I'll have to specifically research points of interest to stop at. I'll get better at stopping by the side of the road, but it'll take practice.

And in the end this trip helped me realize that at least.

The Ride

It was damned gorgeous, and I wish I could show people. It's a beautiful region of Ontario, and if you pick the right routes you'll see a few shallow valleys, beautiful lakes, and towering trees. I'll definitely do it again to explore more, and perhaps take less major roads.

One mistake I made was packing too lightly. I bought a nice mesh and textile mixed jacket that lets wind through really well, since most of my experience has involved stopping frequently in hot Toronto weather.

The jacket was perfect for the first 2 hours getting out of Toronto, but 3-4 hours in I was getting really, really cold. The skies became more overcast, I went through some areas mostly shadowed by tall trees, and it started to rain a bit.

I remember holding my second layer in my hand before I walked out the door and I thought "Nah, I'll pack light. It's a beautiful day." Whups.

Things that really saved me a lot of suffering: the wind guards on my grips. My hands got a bit cold, but it would have been wa worse otherwise.

I also have heated grips, but I'm honestly not sure about the effectiveness of them. They do heat the surface of my palms, but I'm not sure I feel it do much more than that. Sort of uncomfortable honestly. Your palms get really hot, but the back of your hand could still be gold. Hm.

Late

I did get lost heading to Bobcaygeon, and instead of heading North East I somehow went way South East. I eventually realized I was running so late that I'd be racing the sunset, and I didn't want to be in Muskoka region after sunset with my limited lights and visibility. Another reason why I didn't end up stopping much.

By the time 4pm rolled around I was cold and worried, so I ended up hauling ass the rest of the way. I arrived at my sister's place at 7:30pm, with the sky darkening.

Great ride overall. The ride back 2 days later was pretty great too. I took a simpler route, sticking to highway 7 most of the way. Traffic was definitely worse, and once I hit Toronto again there was some serious gridlock, but overall still great.

Now to plan what's next!