In 2012, Daegan and I embarked on our longest ever bicycle tour: 500 Kindnesses. This project was treated like a charity bicycle ride in that we asked for “sponsors” to support us. But instead of sending money to a charity we asked them to perform a random act of kindness for someone. In the end, over 1,000 pledges were received. Our ride would take us from Toronto, northeast to Ottawa and Montreal then south through my home state of Vermont, eventually ending up in New York City. The trip was made on a tandem bicycle as Daegan was still young (only 13) and less confident cycling on busy streets like we might encounter in the major cities we’d pass through. Or perhaps, if I’m honest, I can say that I was far more nervous than he was and having him riding the same bike made me feel more comfortable.
Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting original entries from the trip.
July 2, 2012 – Approximate distance: 70 km
After a hearty breakfast, Dae and I got on the road hoping to beat the heat. Our destination was Cobourg, another 75 km or so from where we started. Sadly for us, the heat started pretty soon after. We faced another challenge as well. Though July 1 was the day before, today was the actual holiday. Pretty much any store we would see that day would be closed.
However, from the distant parking lot of an orchard, a shout came as we passed. Though it sounded like my name, it turned out to be a couple of other touring cyclists who were headed in the opposite direction. They wanted to chat and see where we were off to. When we told them, one of them, Richard, passed on a card for his page at warmshowers.org a couchsurfing-like site for touring cyclists and gave us a bit of advice for the route ahead.
Despite the heat, the hills were small, and the winds were light, and so the riding was good. Because of the holiday and the rural routes we were taking, traffic was nearly nonexistent. We stopped a number of times, though, and spent a lot of time relaxing next to Lake Ontario.
After that last rest stop we rode for just a few hundred metres to the home of a friend’s mom. Once there, we were treated to lunch, snacks, and water bottle refills (with ice!) and a tour of the lovely gardens and forest behind their home. Very beautiful.
After leaving that stop we headed out and made our way into rural Port Hope. The terrain there was pretty hilly with lots of ups and downs. The scenery was amazing, though, so we didn’t feel bothered by it. Not only that, we’d also realized that we could use our iPhone’s speaker to listen to a bit of music as we went and so we had the high point of our day, rolling down a big hill at over 50 km/hr while James Brown screamed excitedly from the pocket of my jersey.
Finally, we entered Port Hope village, and as we did, the cool breezes off the lake seemed to end and were replaced with the heat of cars and asphalt. Eventually I began to feel like we were pedaling through molasses. Fortunately, as we were leaving Port Hope, we came across a Tim Horton’s coffee shop where we stopped to enjoy some air conditioning, cold drinks and to refill our water bottles. The break was very welcome. When we went outside, a woman came up to us and asked us where she was going and said that she, too, was a member of warmshowers.org and told us about the road ahead to Cobourg (easy, with a bike lane, but watch out as the waterfront festival might bring lots of inconsiderate tourist drivers). I mentioned our meeting another cyclist about 50 km back who was also a member and she said “OH! That must be Richard. He’s great!” The world felt pretty small at that point.
After cooling off, we were in a much better state of mind and headed back out for the last 8 km of the ride to our host’s house in Cobourg. There we spent a great night trading stories (she had some fantastic ones about her time living and working in Uganda), hanging out with her dog, chickens, and rabbit, and eating lots of fresh food from the garden before getting to sleep early, another big day already planned…