So after nearly two weeks riding in the USA it was time for a new country and a holiday north of the border. Cutting through Ontario made sense distance wise, and although we had already cycled around the area before it meant we could have a catch up with some of Debs’ family and a few days off the bike.
Crossing the border meant swapping US dollars for Canadian dollars, restrooms for washrooms, miles for kilometres, a crazy presidential campaign for a stud premier, Dunkin Donuts for Tim Hortons, and other barely discernible differences. Oh and the accent apparently (eh) but I’m rubbish with those. After the Niagara Falls border crossing day (see here) we had our coldest day riding yet in North America. The planned bike route along the shore of Lake Ontario became a stay-as-far-away-from-the-lakeshore-as-possible route as the wind whipped up off the lake and smashed us around. We stopped at a boarded up ice cream cafe and reminisced about relaxing here in baking sunshine previously whilst we sat huddled in thick coats using the building as a shelter and eating cheese wraps with two pairs of damp gloves on. Not all days on the road are glamorous, and this was one of the least enjoyable yet.
But we made it to Milton, Ontario and the home of Wendy, Phil and Nathan which was to be our respite for a few days (that easily became six). Time passed quickly as we ate good food in good company, slept, tuned up the bikes, washed our clothes (twice, luxury), went for some walks, watched squirrels, had a day out in Toronto and witnessed Leicester City win the Premier League. Watching our small city back home swallowed up by such an insane achievement and the associated celebration brought a tear to my eye more than once. Listening to it repeatedly on the news over here brought home the scale of this – and they even pronounced Leicester correctly. It’s still tough to explain the achievement over here as there’s no real comparison but once we say that they were 5000-1 at the start of the season that seems to hit home. If in doubt, resort to the global language of betting odds.
Getting back on the bikes is always tough after a break with great company but they weren’t going to ride themselves so we set off west again. Unfortunately, and as will be the case for the most of this trip, the wind was blowing from the west making progress half as fast for twice the effort. Our first stop was with friends from our previous visit and Gail and Gerry pulled out all the stops to give us another great evening (that just happened to be my birthday) and threw in a tour of Stratford, the home of Shakespeare in Canada and the mighty Justin Bieber. As the sun set over the river Avon I thought again how lucky we are to meet kind and welcoming people over and over again on this and previous trips.
This stretch of Southern Ontario is open, mostly flat farmland which made for pleasant riding along country back roads, particularly as the wind gave me a late birthday present and switched direction for a day practically blowing us to the border. The two final days in Canada were uneventful but followed the typical bicycle touring rhythm that becomes the norm for body and mind after a short while – get up, eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, ride, find a place to sleep, eat, sleep. It’s funny how in this respect every day follows the same pattern, yet the details make every day completely different to the last. One day we ate lunch by a fishing lake; the next it was on a small patch of grass outside a bank by an intersection listening to Fleetwood Mac on the iPod. Not the ideal picnic spot but it worked for us.
After a ride down the St Clair river that forms the border between Ontario and Michigan we were just a short ferry trip from being back in the USA. Goodbye for now Canada – see you again in British Columbia! (A mere 3200 or so miles away…)