Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Experiment...Part 2

The area of the Ottawa Municipal Campground we stayed in is rather close to highway 417. Ontario has a series of multi-lane highways all of which are identified by three numbers and all of which start with the number '4'. I had been told years ago that this is to indicate that it's a high speed 4 lane highway but I, personally, think that it's to indicate the first of the three numbers of the average decibel reading of the slobberingly huge transport trucks that go screaming along at all hours. For us, this translated to having to bring ear plugs with us or else neither of us would get any sleep. Try sleeping right next to a rocket that's launching and you'll get some idea of what I mean.

Yet, while I was sure I wouldn't need ear plugs Adam knew he would so he was glad to have brought some. For my part, I was just SO bone weary that I didn't think I would have any problem falling asleep. I was pretty sure I'd get enough to get me through the night and remain conscious enough to trike home the next day - even without my beloved cuppa to jump start my day.

One of the truly wonderful features of my Catrike is its 27 gears. There is almost no place I cannot successfully negotiate. The last long climb up the hill on Corkstown Road to get to the campsite was done in absolute first gear. It did make for slow going but I wasn't reduced to this shuddering, sweat soaked ball of flesh. From our home in the south part of the city to the campsite, the predominant trend is uphill but it is all easily traversible in comfort on my Catrike. I could not say the same thing for Adam, however, as his was the arduous task of dragging 80 pounds of gear in a trailer and on his bicycle. Now, I'm not saying bicycles are pooey and Catrikes are hugely superior in all respects but what I am saying is that he had a hell of a time on this last hill.

Yet, we made it in both good time and in good spirits. The areas that were indicated as "serviced" (meaning equipped with electricity and water on each site) were on paved and very tidy one way roads. The signage was very good with one way roads clearly marked. The trees at those clusters were abundant and very very green. Providing lovely shade for those people who came camping in their fifth wheels or other motorized campers - and we saw quite a number of those behemoths - the serviced lots seemed to be very well taken care of.

Our site was in the unserviced area where there were no such amenities. That doesn't mean we had to dig our own latrines or wash in a nearby pond but it did mean we had to travel over hard crushed gravel roads as opposed to the smooth, freshly asphalted ones. We hadn't been allotted a specific site (there didn't seem to be any numbers on each site) so we just picked the one closest to the washroom. There were already a few other campers there but, other than that, the area was very quiet...

...until we noticed just how close we were to the 417. We were reminded of this fact by the sudden throaty growl of a transport truck using engine brakes to make as much noise as possible. Rush hour was on and so we were treated to an unending chorus of car noise as commuters drove home from downtown and west to Kanata. The noise varied only slightly in volume and somewhat more in pitch as some cars seem to produce higher levels of tire noise or had engines of varying health. The other feature of our campsite was the thick and black cloud of gnats that just seemed to follow us everywhere we went. Setting up the tent was a quick and painless venture as much because we were just bone weary as that we wanted to be able to get away from those blasted gnats...and maybe even find some buffer from the highway noise.

The highway wrangling did eventually settle down as evening creeped closer to us but we did hope it would die down even further. Once again, earplugs are a must unless you are actually able to sleep through truck convoys and their engine brakes.

We did get a half way decent night's sleep as much I think from the romance of a campground setting as the simple fact that we were both just utterly exhausted from all that cycling, hauling and that last hill in particular. We both showered before crawling into our sleeping bags for what we hoped would be a good night's sleep - or at least a not-too-horrendously-awful night's sleep.

The next morning dawned sunny and deliciously cool. We are both early risers and so took advantage of the fact that no one else in the area was awake yet. So we got up, enjoyed a bit of breakfast and did some stretches for the trek home. Adam did a tai chi set while I did a few yoga poses knowing we would both be spending the next few hours cycling. This time, however, we would take a few more breaks on the way home. We left the campsite at 8:30 and revelled in the cool of early morning and the fact that much of our homeward trek would be downhill. It didn't take long for the cicadas to start their buzzing thus signalling to us both that the day was heating up quickly. We knew that some unstable weather was forecast for Ottawa but was not expected until later in the day so we weren't worried.

We stopped back at Britannia Park - in fact at the exact same picnic bench we had been not 24 hours earlier - and were immediately assailed by gnats. Our stop there would only be for a few minutes before riding away. We had passed a number of other cyclists on the path and assumed them to be commuters. It was only after about 9:15 that we noticed the character of the cyclists had shifted a bit from young/middle aged to older and likely retired people just out for their morning run/walk/cycle. Quite a number of people were out walking their dogs and I couldn't help but start humming, " the park...I think it was the fourth of Joo-ly-y-y-y..." The scene almost looked like that silly song.

We got to the end of the Ottawa River bike path right at the Bytown Museum and right at the base of the locks. That hill is a steep slope though, thankfully, not a long one. We got to the museum right at 10:00 and just in time to get an ice cream for us both. By then, the humidity was starting to creep up so we were glad to be only 15 kilometres from home. By our reckoning, and in the bright sunshine with only a few clouds, we would be home by around 11:30-ish.

We did get home by that time, noticed a few more clouds and thought little of it. We washed the bicycle, my trike and the now enptied trailer in the driveway. Because we packed up our tent in the morning, it was still only very slightly touched with the dampness of morning dew so we laid it out in our front yard to dry. The breeze sure felt nice and really helped to dry off our just rinsed cycles.

We looked up again and saw that one of the clouds had grown quite dark and ominous looking and, within a short while, the first spatters of rain had begun. We put the trailer and both cycles in the garage and had just brought the gear back inside the house when the pause in rain had ended and resumed anew...and this time, a little more briskly.

We got inside, noticed the rain had stopped once more and then we both hit the showers. Done there, it was time for a regular meal...and then we saw the skies darken again. This time, it was that really ominous looking dark that spells thunderstorm.

Lightning - just a few light sparks at first - and then a few quiet rumbles danced in the air. The rain began anew, lightened once more...and then all hell broke loose with sparks of lightning, loud crashing thunder and some of the nastiest wind gusts I had seen in awhile. The wind blew the rain sideways and our tree in the front was bending quite vigorously, its branches flustering and shaking as the winds from this thunderstorm beat against it.

It had been sunny, warm and VERY pleasant not an hour earlier. But, such is the nature of things. Everything changes - and sometimes suddenly too. No matter. We were both just grateful to have not been out there and trying to seek shelter from this storm.

Part 3 tomorrow


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