Oakville ride

A couple of years ago, as you might remember, Blake biked from Toronto to Balm Beach on Georgian Bay, a 135K ride preceded by several long training rides. He got all fit that summer, and seemed to have fun (mostly), so I proposed that we do something similar this summer: plan a nice long ride, do some longish training rides, spend some time together and get fit.

As it turns out, Blake, Kat and I did one 44K training ride, and then we biked to Oakville. (It's way too hard to schedule rides for three people and a babysitter.) We picked Oakville because it is the right distance—a 100 K round trip—and because it's nice. Kat's been there a few times so she knows the lay of the land.

The day started early—our babysitter arrived, Tim's in hand, at 7:50 am, and Blake and I got on our bikes and headed down Mount Pleasant to meet Yonge Street somewhere south of St. Clair. We tried to leave Yonge a couple of times, but with Bay Street on one side and the Pride parade on the other, we didn't have a lot of options. It was fun blowing through downtown first thing on a Sunday, and before we knew it we were at our rendezvous point at King. Kat joined us and we made for the waterfront.

Our route took us west on Queen's Quay to the Waterfront Trail, past harbours and beaches and coves and rocky bits and all kinds of watery goodness. We stopped at the beautiful Humber Pedestrian Bridge for a photo op and some energy bars, then blew past the Butterfly Garden in Mimico, making a note to stop there on the way home.

Soon after that the rain started. It wasn't a drizzle, making us moist and warm. It wasn't a driving rain, lashing into our faces. It was merely large raindrops, plenty of them, falling straight down. Not ill-mannered rain, but very insistent, very wet, very rainy rain. We were soon soaked.

We carried on, through Etobicoke and into Mississauga. We were still on the Waterfront Trail, which at that point alternated between on-road routes (with some great real estate and gardens to ogle, especially on the water side) and a wide paved trail travelling beside the water through parks and woods. For a while we leapfrogged with a pair of athletic dads (I could tell they were athletic because they were wearing technical biking gear) pulling their kids in trailers, but they left us near the edge of Mississauga, saying, "It's all sidewalks from here on".

They were right about that. The Mississauga/Oakville border bit of the Waterfront Trail is mainly oversized sidewalks beside busy streets, with a rather surreal detour through an industrial area ("Trucks crossing") and directly beside a complicated, strangely beautiful Petro-Canada plant.

Eventually the actual trail—well, the overgrown sidewalks—ran out and we had to bike through the curvy, monotonous streets of suburbia. The houses got farther apart, the streets lacked sidewalks, the... oh, don't make me go all Kunstler on you. Finally Mississauga ended and Oakville began, to much rejoicing by Kat. (I don't know that anyone has ever been that happy to get to Oakville. I was just wet. Did I mention it was still raining?)

Oakville's contribution to the Waterfront Trail does not appear to go anywhere near the waterfront. It consists of narrow sidewalks, signposted alternately with forbidding notices informing you that Oakville frowns on bike riding on sidewalks, and friendly green signs with bike icons on them, running beside giant houses on vast acreages. You can't ogle the houses, though, because they're walled in. I did get a look at a couple of greenhouses. Occasionally the sidewalk ends, to be replaced by a grit path, intersected by driveways used by people who don't look out for you because no-one has ever been mad enough to bike this way before. As we biked I nursed my hatred for rich people.

If you persevere on this path beyond all sense and reason, eventually you will get to "downtown" Oakville, which is a lot like Bayview and Davisville. That's a hell of a long way to travel for someplace just like home, but there's modern life for you.

We locked up our bikes and searched for a restaurant sufficiently casual that the entrance of three grubby, soaked cyclists wouldn't put everyone off their lunch. We ended up at a sandwich cafe where we ate good sandwiches, mediocre soup, and disappointing desserts, while debating our next move.

We were wet but not disheartened, but Blake and I were bored with biking through suburbia and Oakville's shitty "bike path". Kat, whose thirst for challenge apparently knows no bounds, wanted to bike the whole damn way back. Blake was having no fun, and wanted to take the GO train all the way back. I was tempted to agree with Blake but I could also sympathise with Kat's desire for a more epic ride, to push ourselves a little more. I suggested we use the GO train to skip the boring suburbs and land us back in civili–, I mean, Toronto to bike home along the bits of the Waterfront Trail that are actually within sight of water.

We raced to the Oakville GO station and made the 2:30 train, wrestling our bikes onto inconveniently non-bike-accomodating cars for the twenty-five minute ride to Mimico, where we rejoined the trail along the water. It had stopped raining while we were on the train, but obligingly started again once we were back on our bikes. The ride back into town was uneventful—we did slow down through the butterfly garden but lacked the inclination to linger. By the time we got to Bay Street our bums were all sore and we were exhausted. Blake and I took the TTC back up to Davisville and then enjoyed the short ride home, although not as much as we enjoyed long, hot showers and some quality couch time.

All in all it came to 67.5 K for Blake and I (7 K less for Kat because she didn't have to ride downtown), which is pretty good but not quite epic. I'd like to try another couple of long rides this summer, if we can find indulgent babysitters, although I think I would rather take transit out to somewhere interesting and bike from there, than have to bike through the suburbs again.

(Incidentally, I looked at the maps after we got home and Port Credit is really where the Waterfront Trail stops being nice—we were being conservative when we came all the way back to Mimico.)

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