Ottawa to Montreal: Day 1 – Happy trails to Hawkesbury
Our party of six cyclists departed the train station early this morning en route to Hawkesbury. After packing our suitcases in the van with our guide, we received all of the maps and instructions for the ride.
We eased into the today’s ride from Ottawa to Hawkesbury by following the river pathways through Orleans and Cumberland. Having never cycled east of the Aviation Museum, I was surprised how green everything was.
It was all the things I love about being in Gatineau Park MINUS the hills. Orleans… you almost won me over. The gravel path was cool and calm along the water with the trees shading us from the sun and temperature that was rising by the minute.
In the back of my head, I recalled a coworker mentioning that part of the pathway was flooded out. We certainly hadn’t encountered any flooding, so I assumed it dried up. Not SO! A peloton of roadies in front of us saw the water and turned around. For us, there was no turning around. In Hawkesbury or bust style, we slowly steered our way through the water. It was passable, but the whole area is pretty boggy and didn’t look like it would be drying up any day soon.
Cumberland was really pretty and I was a bit sad to not be able to stop. Lots of small village charm. I still can’t believe this is within city limits – but I saw the green bins to prove it.
Our lunch time stop was in bustling Rockland. We headed straight to the Tim Hortons. The iced cappuccino really hit the spot. Actually, it was one of the nicer Tims I’ve seen.
There were fields. Lots of fields. And lots of pig barns. We got a good dose of country smells. And more sun. Hot hot hot sun. No shade anywhere sun. I’ve never sweated so hard in my life. No matter how long I live in Ontario, I’ll never get used to the heat and humidity.
My hands were sweating so much, I couldn’t change my twist-shift gears. I had to pull out my cycling gloves. When you’ve only got three gears, you can’t mess around. I needed all of my gears.
That 75km-85km stretch was hard. Mentally, I was wishing this to be the end of the day. It was just so hot. Our guide suggested some water bottle showers to cool off. It was still another 6km to Lefaivre. Sure enough, pouring water through your helmet really relieved that feeling of having your brain being slowly poached by your helmet.
In Lefaivre, I bought another 1.5 litres of water to continue these mini showers. Very Tour de France. And we bought slushies. Very NOT Tour de France.
My mind really started roaming after consuming the slushie. I got an old Jean Leloup song about a guy who loses his girlfiend in Hawkesbury. I could not get rid of the song from my head.
While we were slushing up, the clouds rolled in. And the thunder. Luckily, the rain in Spain fell mainly on the … well… other side of the river. We were spared any downpours and instead got a break from the sun by cycling under cloud cover.
We passed through another town that I’ve never heard of, L’Orignal, but has fabulous “Nice Old Buildings” (NOBs). Really nice. In fact, way to many to keep stopping to take photos.
I had to shift to thinking in 10km segments to get me through the 80km to 100km stretch. Hitting 100km felt pretty awesome. My first “metric century”.
Approaching Hawkesbury, there is a lot of traffic. And a lot of motorcycles. And speeding warning signs. And OPP cars pulling people over.
Hawkesbury’s main street is oddly long given the size of the town. It’s a mix of chain restaurants and stores I’ve never heard of. Thinking back to that Jean Leloup song, I could totally understand how someone could ‘lose their baby’ in Hawkesbury.
The last two kilometres were uphill into a headwind. Ooof. Thanks, Hawkesbury jetstream! We got checked into the hotel and crashed in my very air conditioned room. Sitting never felt so good.
Here’s the Strava proof: