Longish Loop to the Winery in Ontario

This four-day bike tour was a short loop near Toronto to celebrate Adventure Cycling’s 2016 National Bike Travel Weekend and just happened to roll past one of my favorite local wineries.

Bicycle Adventurers: Solo tour — just me, myself, and I.

When: June 3–6, 2016: Adventure Cycling’s Bike Travel Weekend

Accommodations: My first camp was at Darlington Provincial Park, Clarington, Ontario. My second and third nights were spent at Cedar Beach Resort on Musselman’s Lake.

Distance: 243km (151 miles) over three travel days

Bonus tip for this adventure: Train ride on the York Durham Heritage Railway between Stouffville, Ontario and Uxbridge, Ontario.

A hooligan with the Adventure Cycling Association sent me an email invitation to go pedal a bike overnight somewhere, anywhere, over the weekend of June 3–5, 2016, as part of Bike Travel WeekendJune seems early in the season in southern Ontario — will the snow be gone by then? Maybe.

Following one of the three-day tour plans in Gale Bernhardt’s Training Plans for Cyclists, I put in a few weeks of 30km, 60km, and 90km local loops, just to warm up my knees. That should be enough conditioning to put me in shape for a short tour.

And I’ll ride my 2008 ICE recumbent trike, refurbished with new tyres, cables, chain, shifters, a new Fenix BC30R 1600 lumens headlamp and a Planet Bike Superflash Turbo rear light.

Enough prep — the trike and Wike suitcase trailer are loaded, tyres pumped, batteries charged. Ready, fire, aim ...

Day One

After fuelling up, I headed southeast to link into the Waterfront Trail at Ravine Dr. and Kingston Rd. (And here's ten things you’ll love about the Waterfront Trail.On Liverpool Rd. in Pickering, I stopped for espresso, chocolate, and a grilled panini, then continued on the Waterfront Trail east through Ajax, Port Whitby, and the Oshawa waterfront to Darlington Provincial Park in Clarington. It always feels a little bit delinquent sneaking into Darlington through the back door, off Colonel Sam Drive, but this is the official Waterfront Trail entry, and it saves a longer route via Bloor St. and Courtice Rd. to the front gate of the park. I still had to ride through the park to the front gate to do the paperwork. After signing in, setting up my tent, and dropping the trailer, I decided to cycle to Bowmanville Harbour for dinner at Bobby C’s - good move - no dishes to wash, and the grilled salmon, paired with a fine Goose Island Honkers ale, was much better than the tinned sardines I have in my kitchen bag.

Day Two

Cooking breakfast can be a simple exercise. In this case I “cooked” water to inflate a couple of packets of instant oatmeal, soften half a packet of dried apricots, and dissolve a spoonful of Tim Horton’s coffee. This was the first on-tour use of my new MSR Whisperlite Universal camp stove with an isobutane canister and it worked. While packing up camp, a park staffer in a pick-up truck stopped to chat. For a moment he was horrified at the idea of 11,000+ cyclists on the move this weekend, but recovered when I explained that not all of them would be coming here, to “his park.” Still, the size of the Bike Travel Weekend herd is mind bending.

Today’s route is shorter than yesterday’s, moves north, away from the Lake Ontario shore, into territory new to me, and very probably will be up grade since I will be climbing out of the Lake Ontario basin onto the Oak Ridges Moraine, described as “a roller-coaster ride of steep, closely packed hills ... created between the tongues of two glacial lobes 12,000 years ago.” (from Wayne Grady’s book, The Great Lakes - The Natural History of a Changing Region).

At the north end of Thornton, I stopped to chat with two bicyclists resting — one flat on her back — just as I turned east on Coates. They had just finished the hilly bits I was heading into and were curious about touring on a trike versus bicycle. I told them I don’t fall over no matter how slowly I go, so I don’t have to stand on the pedals and grunt my way upgrade to maintain enough speed to stay top side up.

West out of Utica, it was an uneventful ride on Regional Rd 21, Goodwood, Highway 47, and north up Ninth Line to Cedar Beach Resort on the north shore of Musselman’s Lake. The “up” Ninth Line is important — that “up” is what holds the lake in place; without the high ground surrounding the lake we’d really only have Musselman’s river draining somewhere. The lake is small, more of a large frog pond than a lake, compared to Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, or Simcoe, but it’s large enough not to dry up in summer, so it qualifies as a permanent lake. The RV section of Cedar Beach Resort was full of motor homes and mobile homes that don’t appear to have moved for decades. The generous tenting section was almost empty this is early in the season.

The restaurant on the beach, a unit of Fishbone Bistro of Stouffville, had just opened for the season and was jammed with an hour and a half wait list. I’ll skip that bit. I “cooked” a carton of spicy black-bean soup to supplement a tin of sardines and almond butter on English muffin ... and as it happens, a package of oatmeal-cranberry cookies.

Day Three

My plan was to catch the York Durham Heritage Railway train at Uxbridge, take the train to Stouffville, have lunch there, then return by train to Uxbridge, and cycle back to camp.

I got myself in gear and cycled out of the Musselman’s Lake basin. The climb is steep, relatively short, and followed by a long gradual decline into Stouffville village. 

The train is “recent heritage” — a modern diesel locomotive, not an antique steam engine, but, it’s big and heavy and impressive nonetheless. On schedule, the whistle blew a couple of times, we boarded, and rolled uphill to Uxbridge.

The layover in Uxbridge was long enough that the train customers could walk one block into downtown for shopping or photos. I snagged lunch at Jerseys on Brock St., a perfectly good rustic spaghetti with Keith’s Red ale.

Apparently, the Heritage Railway also runs special event trains, including Santa trains, Halloween trains, Teddy Bear day, and fall colours trains. The York-Durham Heritage Railway is a busy little enterprise.

Day Four

I rolled home on Ninth Line to Gallucci Winery and picked up two bottles of 2011 Moraine White, VQA Ontario, a blend of seyval blanc and vidal, and two bottles of 2014 Moraine Red, VQA Ontario, a blend of 51% Baco Noir and 49% Marechal Foch, grown locally — as in the backyard behind the winery — and a bottle of Staite’s pure Canadian raw creamed cinnamon honey manufactured by bees in Zephyr, a few miles north of Musselman’s Lake.

Fully loaded with trophy wines, I continued south on Ninth Line into Stouffville village. The pavement on Ninth Line is not only relatively new, there were marked bike lanes, continuous from Stouffville south to Highway 7. Serious bike lanes, outside the downtown core of Toronto — who knew? Way to go, Stouffville!

And home, successfully, via Highway 7 and Warden Avenue, with my winery loot.

Your favorite local bike shop? Urbane Cyclist 280 College St, Toronto, ON

Bike overnight tips and tricks? For me, the most important gear for a happy bike overnight is my Eureka! Alpenlite XT tent — this has been my ticket to a comfortable, dry night, out of the wind, despite what Mother Nature might get up to. Runner up is my 2008 ICE T NT recumbent trike, i.e. my rolling lawn chair — there is no more comfortable way to pedal around the countryside, and the machine has been mechanically reliable.


HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

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