Sunday, June 13, 2010

A new record!

Today turned out to be sunnier and lot nicer than forecast from a few days ago. Then again, the weather is not required to conform to the forecast so we were *very* impressed with the sight of bright blue skies and awesome sunshine.

Today was the ever popular Alcatel-Lucent Bike Day here in Ottawa. Each Sunday from Victoria Day to Labour Day, certain select roads are closed to motor vehicle traffic from 9:00am to 1:00pm and cycles have free run of the road. To be sure, the bike paths are still used on Sunday bike days - even when the road is closed to motor vehicles - but this day is really for cyclists of all stripes to head out and get some fresh air and we packed ourselves a good lunch and headed up to one of the closed off roads. Our destination today was Aylmer, Quebec - in particular the yacht club there as there is a gorgeous park right next to it where we would be able to enjoy the lunch I made.

Getting from our suburban townhouse in Ottawa's South Keys area to Quebec is not difficult at all. It's about 10-15 kilometres to the Ottawa river and it's only a matter of taking whatever bridge is most convenient to cross over to Quebec and today would prove to be one of the simpler jaunts. Today saw us ride our trikes down Hunt Club Road, up McCarthy onto Southmore and, eventually, at Walkley Road. A few minutes later, we found ourselves at Mooney's Bay and, within another few minutes, we sidled right past the barriers blocking cars, trucks and other motor vehicles, and turned right onto Colonel By.

What struck both of us was just how quiet things got and in short order as well. We both know that a lot of the noise of urban life can be attributed to cars, trucks and buses but it's something else to experience that transition from frantic noise (even for a Sunday morning) to serene, calming peace. Smiling as we were, we continued along Colonel By Drive and headed towards the city centre.

We exited Colonel By right at the Corktown pedestrian bridge - the one that goes over the Rideau Canal. Negotiating that twisting, inclined plane isn't really a tricky venture so much as one in which vigilance is crucial. Anyone can come barreling down from the other side, not see you and collide...and collisions are *never* fun now are they?

Once on the other side, we sprinted behind the NAC and were quickly caught up in the tourist pedestrian traffic behind the Bytown Museum. It did slow us a bit but we were on the other side of that and heading west along the Ottawa River Parkway.

Travelling along the parkway, we saw other cyclists - of course as it was a gorgeous Sunday morning - smelled the delicate scent of the clusters of wild roses and felt quite good to be outside. In almost no time, we were at the war museum. Knowing that part of the road was also closed to motor vehicle traffic, we turned left and headed for the barriers, rather than continue on the pathway which we could have done.

We cycled along the road until it was time to turn up to meet the Champlain Bridge and head into Quebec. The Champlain Bridge is one of Ottawa's best bridges for bikes and trikes. It has a very wide set of bike paths and controlled car lanes so we both felt very safe zooming along the bridge. Halfway along the bridge, we passed into the province of Quebec and I felt a subtle but very real change in the way Quebeckers view cycling and cyclists in general.

For my money, I find that car drivers tend to view cyclists as honoured compatriots when it comes to use of the road. In contrast, I find that Ottawa drivers view bicycles as either an irrelevance to be ignored while cutting one off or an annoyance to be endured and derided. But, in Quebec, cyclists are - well - maybe a little more respected. I find Quebeckers tend to treat bicycling as a family activity and our venture today through some of the most astoundingly gorgeous pathways bore that impression well.

The pathway had us meandering through some of the most interesting ecosystems I have seen in awhile. I saw meadows, bullrush festooned grounds and kilometre upon kilometre of overhanging branches cooling us on our way through the increasingly warm morning.

Eventually, we got to the park right by the Aylmer yacht club around 11:30 and were both ready for a good lunch. We were treated to all manner of families on bikes, roller blades and even a few skateboards. Some of the those bikes were pulling youngsters in trailers but I am very happy to note that everyone were wearing helmets. Like I said, Quebeckers tend to see cycling in a more positive manner.

Eventually, it was time to head home so we reversed our route almost exactly as we had come. The only exception was that we stayed off the roads as it was after 1:00 pm and so the Sunday Bike day was done for the week.

When we got home, I checked my trip odometre and was pleased to note not just that I had gone 66.7 kilometres but that I beat my record one day trip of 54 kilometres which I did last early October.

Indeed, I will sleep very well tonight...

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