Biking Across Canada Day 44 — Wasaga Beach to Toronto: Waxing Nostalgic

I'm back in the places I know so well. Ever since I got off the ferry in Tobermory I've been excited to be back on roads and geographies I've travelled on. The same thing happened when I entered Ontario and the Canadian Shield. There it was a sense of place—the shape and look of the land. Here it's that too but I've actually been on some of these roads.

I lingered in the Beach House right in my blog post instead of my usual practice of hitting the road right away. Then it was a full day of riding through southern Ontario farmlands. I managed to find quiet roads and avoid busy highways. 

The Greenbelt Route
This trail had horrible barriers. Just wide enough for my panniers to clear the fence, not wide enough for a trailer.

Once you get near Toronto though all roads are busy. Eventually I got onto the Humber River Trail and past the expressways into Toronto proper

OK, this part sucked.
The intersections were downright hazardous.
Humber River path
Surprise! Stairs!

Biking in Toronto felt so right. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, implying that you'll remember how to ride once you get back on the saddle; it turns out you never forget how to ride a bike in Toronto. I know these streets, I know this traffic, I know how to ride aggressively and fast and it feels so freeing to be the most efficient way to get around.

Davenport, which I rode everyday when I lived near Casa Loma
Shaw Street always functioned as a bicycle contra-flow street. Nice to see they formalized it with bike lanes, though the parked cars are in the wrong place.

When I lived in Toronto I biked _everywhere_. Nearly every downtown street I'd travelled by bike. I'd been out to the suburbs for errands, for recreation, or just to explore. Today I was back on those roads and it was like I'd never left. I biked by the place we used to live. I biked down the streets I rode to go to work and school. I biked in those murderstrips that seemed like our safe refuges at the time because we didn't know how much better bike infrastructure could be. Bloor, Danforth, Church, Young. Davenport, Weston, Taylor Creek. All the places whose fine details I'd forgotten but came flooding back as I rode them again. 

I rode down this street in 2007 as part of the first Bells on Bloor ride demanding safe bike lanes.
It’s a dream come true to finally ride on a protected lane on Bloor.
My regular parking spot at Ryerson was free. I once shovelled it out after a winter storm when the school failed to do so.

Some of the building and shops have changed, but they've changed in the way that Toronto has always changed as long as I've known it: old buildings are replaced by bigger new ones, old shops, too. The streets, the streets are just as they were: ready to be conquered by those on two wheels, if you can squeeze in between the parked and moving cars.

My favourite CD store (Sonic Boom) is gone, and my favourite theatre next door isn’t the same.
I still love this use of a facade as the entrance to an underground gym, creating parkland behind.
Rear view
This public square is a nice addition.
Interesting use of shipping containers to make a food court in the former Salad King location.

But cycling shouldn't require the level of skill that takes years to develop. If a four-year-old can ride a bike, then they should be able to safely travel the city the live in. Toronto still has a long way to go to make its streets safe for active transporation users of all ages and abilities. That painted line on Davenport that felt so progressive 15 years ago seems archaic now. How many times has it been repainted without someone shifting those parked cars over to protect the bike lane? Why isn't there a physical barrier to prevent shoddy parking jobs from rendering the lane unusable? A whole generation has been been raised to adulthood since these meagre lanes were installed. Why haven't they been made safe?

The tentacles are a good sign this isn’t your usual pub.

I met up with my friends Jesse, Graham, and Dave for drinks at a geek-themed pub. We studied broadcasting together at Ryerson, majoring in audio production, and worked together on our all-consuming fourth-year practicum project of making a series of surround-sound sci-fi radio dramas. That meant a lot of long days and late nights in the recording studios, the kind of intensive bonding that leads to lasting friendships. But then I moved away to Halifax ten years ago and haven't seen them since. It's mostly a matter of circumstances than choice; Halifax isn't the type of place that people have reason to travel to like Vancouver, and whenever I came to Ontario I'd be visiting my family in London instead of travelling to Toronto. I'm also not good at maintaining long-distance friendships. So it was nice that we were able to pick up like old times, returning to the same banter we'd had in school. The bar's theme helped—we all loved being able to order a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster—and those three never stopped seeing each other regularly so their conversational routines were still alive. 

Roll a D20 to determine your burger
A Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster: "having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick"

For the first time on this trip, most of the conversations didn't revolve around biking across Canada. We were too busy filling each other in on what we'd been up to over the past decade to get into what I'd been doing for the past month. But like the rest of my visits this trip, it ended too soon. I get just enough time to have a sense of what I've been missing before we have to say goodbye. It's hard.

Today's distance: 150 km

Cumulative distance: 5183 km

John Kyle @JohnKyle