Spring 2019 – Ontario: The Golden Horseshoe

Day 7: Stoney Creek to Hamilton to Aldershot 57km

Aldershot to Ajax by train

Total trip distance: 351km

Monday, May 20

Cloudy and cool 15C Strong N wind

The wind was howling from the west when we woke up and we knew this would affect our riding today. We were still uncertain where we would end up but we knew that we needed to get to Hamilton. We followed a bike route through the city and into to downtown and then to McMaster University. From there we decided to ride up through the Dundas Valley on the Hamilton to Brantford Rail. On a previous trip we had pedaled this section only going down the escarpment.

Being a holiday there were a lot of other people out on the trail which was nice for a change. Once we reached the top of the valley we were exposed to the west wind again. This prompted another change in plans.

We decided at this point to turn around and ride back down the trail into Hamilton and then carry on toward the Aldershot GO Train station where we started our cycling six days prior. This way we’d be riding with the wind, a nice way to conclude our Golden Horseshoe tour. One last hiccup had us hauling our bikes up 165 steps to reach the bridge on York Boulevard that would take us over the water toward Burlington.

When we arrived at the train station we purchased our tickets and then the train arrived. We got on board, secured our bikes and set out our picnic lunch. 2 hours later we arrived in Ajax and rode the remaining 6km home with the wind at our backs.

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Spring 2019 – Ontario: The Golden Horseshoe

Day 6: St Catharines to Stoney Creek (Greenbelt Trail) 60km

Sunday, May 19

Mostly sunny, hot and cold 27 / 15C SE wind

Today we navigated our way out of St Catharines along the Greenbelt Trail. This trail runs parallel to the Waterfront Trail but instead of following the waterfront it runs along the top of the Niagara Escarpment as hwy 81.

Riding on the road was a nice change for us and because it was Sunday the vehicle traffic seemed light. We stopped along the way in Jordan and Beamsville for snacks and to fill our water bottles.

The weather was strange too. An incoming weather system was pushing warm, humid air into the region but because we were so close to Lake Ontario there was a cold damp wind blowing. As we climbed up the Escarpment out of Jordan we hit the warm air mass and instantly started sweating. It was hot in the sun and the air was thick and sticky with humidity. A little further along as we descended a bit we pedaled into a mass of cool, damp air. Instantly it got cold. It was a drastic change in temperature and for us it meant coats on – coats off.

Nearing Stoney Creek we had a spectacular view of Hamilton and the Golden Horseshoe in general. Our route had us riding past Devils Punch Bowl Conservation Area before we turned onto Centennial Parkway and zoomed all the way down “the mountain” to our hotel at the bottom. Familiar territory but we went to a different grocery store for supper. We also bought extra food because of the Victoria Day holiday tomorrow.

Spring 2019 – Ontario: The Golden Horseshoe

Day 5: Fort Erie – Niagara Falls – St Catharines 59km

Saturday, May 18

Partly sunny. Warm / cool mix. 14C NE wind

There was bright blue sky this morning when we pulled back the curtains in our room. My Mom suggested going for a walk to wake up so we took a quick tour of the surrounding neighbourhood before we ate breakfast. We saw a sign for a garage sale but we didn’t actually come across it.

Yesterday at the Bulk Barn we picked up yummy additives for our instant oatmeal (dates, coconut and ground flax) and so today we were both eagerly anticipating our first meal. We used the microwave in the room to hand craft our oatmeal and I made a cup of green tea for the road. Today was our earliest start so far, we pulled out of the motel parking lot at 9:30am.

It was a short ride to Mather’s Circle where we picked up the trail after leaving it yesterday. We passed under the Peace Bridge and followed the Niagara River north.

There were several other groups of cyclists out too and we waved and nodded as we rode along. The Niagara Parkway Trail is paved and parallels the road which fronts houses along the way. Big houses, small ones and in between too. New ones, older ones, modern and modest as well. It occurred to me that for all the mega mansions I’ve seen, I’ve never seen anyone sitting around in their expensive patio furniture enjoying their exclusive view – ever.

The city of Niagara Falls appeared in the distance as a staccato of glassy hotel spires. The mist from the falls could be seen from quite a distance too. As we got closer the river got quicker and more energetic and then we could hear the sound of the falling water roar.

We stopped for lunch by a row of magnolia trees in full bloom and as expected the place was busy with other tourists.

After we ate we made our way into the throngs of people and parked ourselves in the mist with a spectacular view of the falls. We were planning on staying up road and decided we would go and check into our room before venturing out again to see more sights.

At the motel we were quoted an expensive rate so we changed our minds, deciding instead to ride on. Thinking ahead as we do sometimes we ended up back in St Catharines in familiar territory. Upon arriving we were again quoted an unreasonable price for a room, but due to circumstances we couldn’t mitigate we checked in to stay. This is the same place we stayed a few nights ago and we walked to the same bakery and grocery store where we bought an entirely different supper. I guess we’re not going to Fallsview after all.

Spring 2019 – Ontario: The Golden Horseshoe

Day 4: Port Colborne to Fort Erie 40km

Friday, May 17

Sunny and warm 20C / Cloudy and cool 10C with a gentle SW wind

Today we slept in and admired the nice curtains in our motel room. We decided to have somewhat of a rest day today, aiming for nearby Fort Erie. There were a few shops in Port Colborne we wanted to see as well as the historic downtown. When we left the motel at 11am we took a short ride east of town, then south to the rail trail and eventually circled back into town by Sugarloaf Harbour. We locked up the bikes and then started exploring downtown on foot.

As we made our way north toward the bakeries and bookshop we’d seen yesterday we realized how far away they actually were. Too far to walk considering we still had to ride to Fort Erie and we hadn’t even had lunch yet. So we decided that we didn’t really need to see the bakeries and bookshop and made our way back to where our bikes were parked. Then we rode over the canal on the bridge and stopped at the start of the Friendship Trail where we had a trailside picnic lunch. It was cold when the sun disappeared behind the clouds with a cool, damp Lake breeze coming off Lake Erie. When the sun peeked out it was almost hot and we’d have to unzip jackets and take off our gloves.

Once we started riding toward Fort Erie along the Friendship Trail it was a lovely ride. The trail was paved and we’ll signed with road crossings and maps. With the wind pushing us along we made our way eastward. The trail eventually emerged from fields and farmland to a view of the sandy beaches of the lake. We passed by cottages and lake front homes before the Buffalo skyline came into view.

Then we saw the old fort of Fort Erie and peace bridge. At Mather’s Arch we stopped to get our bearings.

From there it was just a short distance to our accommodations for the night. All of the usual amenities are nearby too. Home sweet home..

Spring 2019 – Ontario: The Golden Horseshoe

Day 3: St. Catharines to Port Colborne (The Welland Canal) 50km

After breakfast and a quick trip to the Niagara Outlet Mall we retraced our route to the Welland Canal Parkway Trail at the QEW overpass.

During our lunch break at Lock#3 we saw the memorial to commemorate the workers who were killed constructing the canal.

We got to watch a lake freighter traversing the lock and watched in amazement how such a huge vessel can be piloted so precisely.

It was a lovely ride south along the canal even though the wind suddenly switched from a tailwind to a headwind in a matter of minutes. Clouds had been building too and finally it started to rain. We only suffered about a hundred drops and then it stopped. It was warm enough that we dried off in no time.

We stopped for another snack near Welland and then made our final push to Port Colborne. Remnants of the regions industrial past were evident all along our route but especially prominent was the old Robin Hood flour silos.

Riding through Port Colborne on our way to the motel we saw several points of interest that we will explore in the morning. We could see the luminous sign of the grocery store from the motel and after checking in we made a b-line to the store and ordered our supper.

Our evening was spent discussing and planning the next leg of our trip. Details to come…

Spring 2019 – Ontario: The Golden Horseshoe

Day 2: Stoney Creek to St. Catherines 54km

Wednesday, May 15

Sunny and warm with an afternoon thunderstorm. Light West wind.

Neither of us trusted the forecast we saw this morning when we got out of bed. Sunny skies and double digit temperatures. I actually put on Sun screen, but had my feather vest in my hands as we checked out because it couldn’t possibly be warmer than 10C. It was and I reluctantly tucked my vest into my pannier before riding away from the hotel.

Once we had picked up the waterfront trail again it only took a few minutes of pedalling for both of us to request a stop to take off more clothes. This time it was my sweater that got stuffed in alongside my feather vest. Every now and then there was a gush of cool air off of Lake Ontario, but generally it was a lovely, warm Spring morning.

Riding with the wind at our backs we sailed through Grimsby and past Lincoln. Pretty soon 2 hours had gone by and I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture of anything. I started to pay attention and to wonder what I might document for today’s ride. I had noticed several Magnolia trees spectacularly in full bloom, but didn’t want to break our rhythm to stop for pictures. It was when we rode alongside an apple orchard bursting with puffy, pink blooms that I tried to snap a few pictures while rolling past at 25km/h. By the time I opened up my phone – ignored several push notifications, closed the map App and initiated the camera – we had pretty much passed the cotton candy colured orchard and it’s diverging linear rows of trees. I was a little disappointed but vowed to pay more attention to the passing beauty even if it meant not having pictures to prove it.

Soon after the orchard we stopped for a roadside picnic. Our pantry was not overflowing after our triple supper yesterday but we did have a small piece of cheese, a small piece of cucumber, half an apple and 6 grapes each to tide us over. Our rest stop would have been shady had the leaves on the tree been out, but since they weren’t, we were still in partial sun. After our quick snack we continued on, riding mostly along the North service road alongside the QEW.

2 cyclists approached from behind and the second one pulled up alongside for a rolling Q&A. His name is Jerry, a local out for a ride. He queried about us, our departure point and destination. He ended up inadvertently escorting us into Port Dalhousie all the while directing us along the best possible route. He also dropped back to visit with my Mom and he didn’t hesitate to wave cars past as they qued up behind him. By the time he rode off without us we were in St. Catherines.

It didn’t take us long to find somewhere to stay and it didn’t take us long for us to find some more food to eat. A little local bakery / deli had our mouths watering and provided the inspiration for our dinner this day. The regular grocery store is where we stocked up on the essential items like fruit and vegetables. It poured rain while were shopping and the rain stopped while we walked back to our room. It rained again while we were eating with some rumbling thunder and a flash or two of lightening.

Once again we have eaten most of the food before I could photograph it. Will try again tomorrow.

Spring 2019 – Ontario: The Golden Horseshoe

Day 1: Ajax to Aldershot to Stoney Creek 32km

Tuesday, May 14

Cool and cloudy with a light North wind. 11C

The weather wasn’t nearly as inviting as it should be at this time of year in Southern Ontario but cloudy and cool are actually perfect conditions to cycle in. You get to wear most of your clothes instead of sunscreen and no sweat means no laundry generally speaking.

My Mom and I left my parents place in Ajax just before 10am and rode our bikes 5km to the Ajax GO Train station. We had enough time to purchase our tickets and haul our bikes down the stairs, under the tracks to the elevator and up to the westbound platform. Once we boarded the train we had 2 hours to sit back and look out the window. At Union station in Toronto most of the other passengers got off the train and a whole new bunch got on. We passed through Oakville and Burlington and then Aldershot – the end of the line.

Once we got back on the bikes it was a short ride down to the waterfront where we stopped for a picnic lunch. Carrying on along the Waterfront Trail we crossed over the Burlington canal just in time to watch the lift bridge opening for a passing ship. Though the lake looked calm, every now and then a big swell would crash against the breakwall sending a big plume of spray skyward.

This time of year is when the lake bugs hatch in full force and we had our bug nets and bandannas ready for the occasion. The trail along Hamilton Beach is a wide, paved pathway and the riding was so nice that we overshot our turnoff to Stoney Creek by a few kilometres. Once we turned back we were off the trail and riding under the QEW into the Power Centre where our accommodations for the night are located.

After settling in to our room and stowing our bikes we set off on foot to see the sights. Actually, we went straight to the grocery store to satiate our foodly desires! Back in our room we had a three course supper. Veggies and dip, soup and then crackers and cheese. After supper the sun came out and we’ve been staring out the window watching all the people come and go and wondering what kind of food they may have purchased..