Biking Across Canada Days 42–43 — South Baymouth to Owen Sound to Wasaga Beach: Joining the Peloton

I got to experience two days of riding in a group and find out what I’d been missing by going solo.

On Thursday I got up, packed up my gear, and rode the kilometre to the Chi-Cheemaun ferry terminal. This ferry treats bicycles as vehicles, so I got in line with the cars and bought my ticket from the booth, but was then directed to park my bike over by the railing and be back at thirty minutes before the ferry leaves as bicycles are the first to load. They never checked for my ticket when I got on. I think I could have just headed for the bike loading area and rode for free.

Since I had some time before they started loading the ferry, I walked over to the line of restaurants near the entrance to the ferry line. I encountered four rogue Tour du Canada riders who’ve separated from the group this morning in order to spend a rest day closer to Toronto instead of Tobermory. The were Ben and Fiona, a couple from England that I’d met the day before at Tim Hortons; Dustin, a teacher from Hamilton, Ontario; and Brahm, and experienced bicycle tourist from the Netherlands. We boarded together and had breakfast on the ferry, sharing stories the whole time. They also knew of Hali, the Iranian with the overloaded bicycle, and asked about Boone and some other riders they’ve encountered.

Waiting at the front of the line
Riding on board. Most ferries make you walk your bike, but not this one!
View from the bow
The Breakfast Club
The Georgian Bay version of the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse

We split up after the ferry ride as there was a brewery in Tobermory I wanted to visit, and they were eager to start riding. When I got to the brewery I found a note on the door saying they were opening late that day, and I didn’t feel like waiting so I headed out of town. On the way out I met Ian, a cyclist splitting a ride across Canada over four summers, raising money for and visiting diabetes camps along the way.

I rode along the hot and busy highway 6 until I was able to divert towards Lion’s Head, where I ran into the off-piste TdC riders who had stopped for a break. We decided to ride on together, each of us taking turns breaking the wind for the others, and chatting the whole time. All of us were heading for Owen Sound for the night. They had all booked rooms in the same motel so I decided to join them—my first motel stop of the trip. I figured it would make going out to dinner together easier if I stayed with them, and the motel offered free breakfast in the morning so it made the splurge worth it.

Dustin and the Niagara Escarpment. He could ride it all the way home to Hamilton
Georgian Bay selfie
Following the paceline
View from the top of the bluff

After a shower we all walked downtown to the Mudtown Station brewpub, which has done a lovely job of restoring the old train station, keeping as many of the original fixtures as they could. We ordered our meals, then kept ordering more appetizers since we were all so famished. If you ever want to feel like a superhero, meet up with a bunch of cyclists on a supported ride when you’re travelling self-supported. They kept complimenting me on being able to ride with all that gear. They were also marvelling at how light I’m travelling which I appreciated since I put so much time, effort, and money into getting my load to be as light as possible since I didn’t want to carry any more weight over those mountains than I had to. I’ve had multiple riders say I’m the most organized rider they’ve met which is a bit of a surprise as I don’t consider myself particularly organized or disciplined. I’ve just had the benefit of two years to plan this trip and test out equipment prior to leaving for Victoria.

Owen Sound’s waterfront. Poor Dustin forgot to pack civilian clothes
Mudtown Station
A bunch of slightly-less-hungry cyclists

On Friday I met Ben and Fiona at breakfast. Brahm and Dustin had already left as they had a longer day of riding and didn’t want to wait until 7am for breakfast. Ben and Fiona are riding towards Barrie today where a friend will meet them to whisk them off to an island cottage on Georgian Bay. I’m heading the same direction, though only to Wasaga Beach, but we made plans to ride together.

We had some big hills leaving Owen Sound as we climbed an escarpment heading towards Meaford. Heading down one of those hills I came very close to wiping out. I let myself get distracted on a section with unpaved shoulders and rode into the deep gravel. When you hit gravel you can’t brake or swerve or you’ll go down. Amazingly I managed to stay upright, but there were about three or four times in quick succession where I though I was going to lose it. Fiona commented afterwards that if I was wearing clipless pedals I probably would have fallen as I had to quickly stick my leg out to maintain balance, and if I had to unclip first that would have failed. I felt like a dolt afterwards, but Ben and Fiona were good about making lighthearted jokes to help me feel better. “I bet that’s the highest your heart rate has been all trip!”

View from the top of the ridge

When we got to Meaford I was able to route us onto the Georgian Trail, a former rail line that goes all the way to Collingwood and beyond. We were all greatful to get off the highway. The trail was immediately cooler and quieter. It’s easy to forget how hot all that asphalt and exhaust makes a highway until you’re off it.

A welcome escape from the heat and traffic
View from the bridge in Thornbury
One of the Blue Mountain ski hills we thankfully went around instead of over
A real multi-use pathway

We parted ways in Wasaga Beach, where I have a house near the beach all to myself for the night. I was going to stay with my friend Kelsey’s mom in Collingwood, but since she’s travelling she found a place for me with Kelsey’s sister who is also away but has a keypad lock on the front door so I could get inside. Wasaga Beach is a bit out of the way for me, but it’s hard to say no to a free place to stay in a beach town. I was able to go for a swim and relax for the afternoon since I had a relatively short ride today—less than 80km. I was also able to walk to the grocery store and buy real food to cook with since there’s a real kitchen! It’s the first time I’ve been able to cook a meal with more than one pot this whole trip. Spaghetti, pasta sauce, and salad are on the menu for tonight.

A very crowded beach. I found a quieter spot to swim
Lots of cyclists using the beach road

It was interesting to hear the experiences of the TdC riders travelling with such a big group, and made me realize I made the right decision to go on my own. I noticed I stopped less to take pictures or swim while I was riding with them, and I’ve really enjoyed that flexibility. It was nice to have people to chat with and support you while riding—I’ll miss that in the days ahead.

Thursday’s Distance: 138 km (plus a 105-minute ferry ride)

Friday’s Distance: 78 km (shortest ride of the trip)

Cumulative Distance: 5033 km

John Kyle @JohnKyle