As many of you know my bike trip to Montreal got cancelled due to mechanical issues. (It’s OK, we have an awesome trip to NYC planned for tomorrow) As a result, I think I have bicycles on the brain as when this week’s “Which Way Photo Challenge” was announced, bicycles were the first thing that came to mind.
People who know me know that for me, bicycles are one of the best ways to travel. They’re especially great for long distance travel over the course of days – you meet so many interesting people, see things you wouldn’t expect, and are really connected to the communities you’re going through.
Of course they’re also a great way for other reasons: Not riding in a car is great for the environment, and there’s a definite benefit to one’s physical fitness as well. I’d even add that something that can make the biggest positive change in my mental state is going for a nice bike ride. So I definitely think there’s little better way to go.
The Ride for Heart is one of my favourite events. Every June since we moved here, and I think for some time before, two major highways have been closed to motorized traffic. Then it’s opened for a charity bike ride. For a nominal fee, riders can ride on up to 50 km of the smoothest pavement around. The climb up the Don Valley Parkway (in the direction we’re looking) is a little bit of a challenge, but the result is a beautiful descent through the Don Valley. I’ve done this event twice and I’ve really enjoyed it.
I love watching this go by. To me it’s a view of a utopian future.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous ride, the trip from Plattsburgh, NY to Burlington, Vermont is a really nice one as it takes you across Lake Champlain. Most of the route goes along an old rail trail, but there is a break in the middle. Fortunately there is a small ferry on call to carry you across. Just raise the flag and they’ll come right over. (Details from that trip through Vermont, NY, and Quebec are here.)
An event that I used to go to frequently in Toronto was a group ride called Critical Mass. The idea was simple: A large number of people agreed to get together at the same place at the last Friday of the month and together they would ride throughout the city with no set route. The riders in the front would determine the direction as they saw fit. Some summer rides would see hundreds of riders out on the streets. I liked it because with that many people, we were very visible and it felt extremely safe. We could ride together, talk, and not worry about someone not seeing us or cutting us off. I have heard that its popularity has waned but it was fun while it lasted.
In 2010 I did my first charity bike ride, the Friends for Life Bike Rally. This ride goes 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal and raises money for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. This ride, which I did two years in a row, was one of my favourite experiences. There is something amazing about riding 600 kilometres with 300 other riders – but it’s particularly inspiring when you think of how every single person you’re riding with, all of the people bringing you food, driving the trucks that carry your gear, the road safety staff dressed in silly costumes cheering riders on, and even the spectators in the towns we pass through are all focused on the same thing: helping other people who need it. It’s a true antidote for cynicism.
And last, but not least, here is Daegan, just before we finished riding our Tandem bicycle to NYC. This, the George Washington Bridge, is the way we took to get in to New York City by bicycle. Tomorrow we’ll be back there again – but coming by air, making a trip that took us 19 days of riding in a little over an hour.