Hairshirt Double Century Bicycle Ride -- June 25, 2000

The One I Almost Quit

*** Pat Buckley ***

Perhaps I should turn back? Perhaps this wasn't a good idea? Perhaps I'll do this another day? I mean, I have done this ride enough times that I KNOW that I CAN DO IT! That's what I'm thinking as I ride west along Burnhamthorpe and Dundas Streets headed into a very strong wind in the pouring rain on a dark Sunday morning. The rain is coming down in bucketfuls. The wind feels like a hurricane.

I guess conditions could be worse. I am warm enough. I am wearing a polypropylene, long-sleeved t-shirt under a gore-tex jacket, on my upper body. I've settled for shorts on the lower half. These clothes seem to work OK. I wouldn't want to stand around for any length of time in these clothes.

I am drafting behind Les and Susan on their tandem. We seem to be going awfully slow, but we are making progress. The monster wind is very strong and we're headed directly into it. I think of sprinting ahead? Is this really possible? I have to save power for later since this IS just the beginning of a 200 mile ride, isn't it? Or, am I going home? I start thinking about Binbrook. Long ago, I had a girlfriend in Binbrook. I guess, at least I'll struggle on to Binbrook in her memory, if for no other reason. I could just do 100 miles today on a little spin to Binbrook?

The start of this adventure was at 3:55 am this morning. The alarm rang. Sleep was impossible after that. After all, today is a special day. The Hairshirt ride starts at Mississauga Square One at 6 am. I must be there. This is my only opportunity to ride a double century this year. I arrive at Square One 15 minutes before 6, drive around, get confused by the new construction, and finally spot a cyclist 10 minutes later.

The rain is pouring down as it has been all night and doesn't seem like it will ever stop. I see no reason to wait around. I quickly get out of my car, scoop the bicycle from the hatch back, talk a moment to Owen, the tour organizer, and head off along Burnhamthorpe Road into the storm.

About an hour later, we struggle on - the tandem in the lead and myself. Two middle aged cyclists passed us 10 minutes ago. One of them is tall; the other is averaged sized. The tandem gets a flat and stops. I struggle on.

Somehow I sprint a bit and catch up to the 2 middle aged cyclists, Barry and Rick. It's amazing what one can do at times. Where does all this power come from? We all work together and take turns fighting the wind. Soon we're headed up the Niagara Escarpment. The Escarpment faces east, and the wind is from the west. The wind is so strong that we're in a small pocket of calm air when riding up the Escarpment. Now, we're about half way to Road 52 where we get to turn away from the wind. Where does all this wind come from?

I've done this route before. Normally the stretch of road, between the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and Road 52, just flies by. Today is different. We speed up and slow down as we take turns leading the way. Finally we reach Road 52. By now I'm about an hour behind my planned time on a ride that was supposed to set a personal best time. I guess any records will have to wait for another year.

Barry and Rick stop for a moment to pollute the bulrushes at the corner of Highway 5 and Road 52. I am happy to turn left on Road 52, and away from a direct attack on the wind. I'm sure they'll catch up soon. They catch up when I'm coasting along Jerseyville Road with the wind at my back where it should be.

At about 9 am, I stop to use the toilet in a park in Ancaster. Barry and Rick fly by. Will I ever see them again? I convince myself that the rain has stopped. I take off all my rainy weather clothes and dress in shorts and t-shirt for a warm, pleasant day.

As it happens, the rest of the day will be rather pleasant. There will be no more rain, a temperature in the 20s (Centigrade temperature), and a few white, fluffy clouds in the sky.

I guess I can't turn back now? I'll decide that when I get to Binbrook. Maybe the pouring rain will return? This weather is too good to be true. It is the flip side of conditions at the start of the ride. I guess I'll enjoy life while the weather cooperates.

The next problem is turning left on the right county road after going through Ancaster. I've done this trip many times and still am unsure of the turn onto Carluke Road, also known as Road 22 or 622? This is one of those turns in the middle of nowhere. There aren't any landmarks and the signs aren't too good. There is a stop sign so you stop and wonder. It takes a couple of minutes. I have to check the map, and even then I 'm unsure.

Soon I'm riding through Binbrook. The sun is still shining. I decide to ride on to Niagara Falls.

I can sometimes see Barry and Rick a half a kilometer ahead on the road after Binbroook. They speed up when I get close. I guess they want to be left alone? Anyway, I'm making progress, and have no problems, so don't want to waste energy right now to sprint and try to catch them.

I'm passed a few times by a car with a yellow bicycle on top. Is this pace car a new addition to the Hairshirt ride? Owen informs me later that this is the SAG car of Butterfield and Robinson (the bike touring company). I gather they have an event in the Niagara Region today? We Hairshirt Riders have no need for a sag car. We're on a self-propelled, self-sustained, endurance adventure, eh? Who needs a sag car?

This trip follows Road 22 almost forever - maybe for 20 km? Today, I take it too far. I miss the next turn to Wellandport and ride straight ahead where Road 22 becomes Road 20. A quick look at the map indicates that the distance is about the same if I blunder ahead to 24 Highway, the next major road, and turn right.

The revised route all sounds so simple - continue on Road 20 to 24 and turn right. However, these sections of Roads 20 AND 24 were recently stripped for re-paving. There are all these little ruts in the road. Riding is not pleasant. This 5 km stretch seems to go on forever. Somehow, you can't get any speed on these bumps. When will the bumps stop? Maybe I'll have to phone home for a ride back in a vehicle if my shoulder dislocates again due to all the shaking caused by the rutted road.

Eventually, I get through this bit. I do feel shook up. I'm happy to be back on course. My left shoulder is slightly sore, but the half-way point is in sight, and it's all downhill from there, isn't it? We do go back down the Niagara Escarpment, don't we?

The last few roads into Welland are fun to ride. There are few cars and you're traveling along a water course that used to be the Welland Canal.

I notice that some people are assembled for a parade in Welland. What is being celebrated? I have no time to ask.

I think I know the route that's on the map for going through Welland. The map is somewhere in my pocket. I have no time to get it out. I want to see the main street again and see if it looks at all like it did when I came here as a child. The only problem is that the main street is one way in the opposite direction. I take the sidewalk. There are a few pedestrians. It looks like the downtown did deteriorate at one point. The downtown is being revitalized. There are murals on the walls of some old buildings. Most of the downtown looks different than it did when I was a child. A monument on a side street does look familiar.

Just outside Welland the route goes under the current Welland Canal. There's a sign that says something about bicycles and pedestrians, but I don't have time to read it. I ride the road through the tunnel under the Welland ship canal. I'm passed by 1 van (and no other vehicles).

Sometimes the next part seems endless since you're almost at the half-way point and continue checking the odometer. When will it say 160? Today this part is a breeze. There's a wind at my back. The sign for Chippawa soon appears and there are a few marinas.

The next traffic light is for the road that goes along the Niagara River. I turn left and stop at the first washroom to get some water, eat a sandwich and rest momentarily. The odometer now reads 166 km.

I chat with 3 racers who have been out on a short morning spin. They've had a great ride. I bet they go a lot faster than I can, but could they ride this far? I don't tell them what I'm up to. We joke about who owns which bicycle.

The route soon passes Niagara Falls where there is a large crowd. I glance over. I don't have time to stop. I've seen the Falls many times before. I need to continue. I'm behind schedule. I want to arrive back at Square One before night fall.

The trip continues north along the Niagara Parkway to Niagara On The Lake. I ride some of this trip on the road and some on the bicycle path. The view from the bicycle path is better when it is closer to the River.

The weather continues to be wonderful. I finally convince myself to stop and put on sun tan lotion. Hopefully it is not too late and I won't get a sun burn. We'll see tomorrow, eh?

By this time I'm just rolling. I whiz down the escarpment on the road at the Brock Monument. I soon roll on through Niagara On The Lake. There are many banners for some celebrations.

I load up with water before leaving Niagara On The Lake since there are lots of public facilities here.

I follow the signs for the Wine Route out of Niagara Lake. This is also the route of our tour. Unfortunately we have no time to stop at the vineyards today. I wonder if the Wine Route organizers know of our tour? Perhaps they could be a sponsor?

The road after Niagara On The Lake is better for cycling than it was on my last trip three years ago. There are now paved shoulders on Road 87. I pass a few other cyclists. The paved shoulders sure do make this trip safer.

There must be a festival of some sort going on at the park in St. Catharines. There are lots of people and lots of cars. There is a traffic jam. I don't slow down. Bicycles are much better than cars for traveling through traffic jams.

I pass Barry and Rick on the road between Niagara On The Lake and St. Catharines. One has a yellow shirt, the other a red shirt. They are plodding. They chase me after I pass. I'm their "rabbit"? I almost drop them in St. Catharines. There they are in the rear view mirror as I ride out the other side of St. Catharines.

They follow me through a maze of side roads that aren't on the official route. I almost take them down into this little valley with a 1 lane bridge. The bridge is no problem. The problem is the vertical road after the bridge. We leave this out today. Maybe some other time?

Barry and Rick continue to chase me until I stop at a shopping center in Grimsby. We've now ridden 240 km. They don't want to take a break. I must.

I'm overheated. I really need to stop to replenish my system before I bonk. I need to rest a lot here. I go into the grocery store and buy some orange juice and milk. I drink the orange juice first. I slowly drink the milk and eat a sandwich. I now feel somewhat refreshed. No ambulance required this time.

I think I started to over heat when I rode inland from Lake Ontario towards Highway 8. I bet the air temperature went up a few degrees as I rode inland.

I continue on, slowly at first. When I push too hard, I start to feel overheated and need to slow down. I find that I can ride at 26.5 kph without overheating, but start to overheat when I go 27 kph. Finishing a double century takes more than strength, training, and endurance!

The route continues along Highway 8. The industry of Stoney Creek soon appears and the route goes back towards Lake Ontario. I take Grays Road to the Lake and ride through the Conservation Area and along Beach Boulevard.

There are a few runners on the bicycle path along the shore of Lake Ontario. There are many sun bathers and swimmers. There are a number of public facilities for getting water along this stretch. I stop at the washroom just by the boardwalk in Burlington.

I'm getting excited. The end is in sight - just another few kilometers? The route continues along Lakeshore Road without incident. There appears to have been a celebration in Oakville as there are fences around the park and people cleaning up.

Ah, the time for summer festivals. There were lots today. We saw celebrations in Welland, Niagara On The Lake, St. Catharines and Oakville.

Today was a day of many choices. I could have turned around at Binbrook? Now, I'm glad that I continued to Niagara Falls. There's that feeling of accomplishment.

Oh, whoops, I haven't finished yet. That was a car? I must pay attention!

I ride Lakeshore Road all the way to the Petro-Canada refinery where Lakeshore turns north. I follow the road in a northerly direction and continue north on Southdown Road and Erin Mills Parkway to Burnhamthorpe Road. There is lots of construction where the road crosses the Queen Elizabeth Way.

I turn right on Burnhamthorpe towards Mississauga Square One. The road seems to go on forever. I turn left when I see the "Y". Whoops, this isn't the right turn. I'm not there yet. I continue on the sidewalk for a few blocks, turn left, and am soon at my car.

Wow, another 320 km added to this year's total! What a blast!

I gather Owen started this adventure about 45 minutes later than I did. He sent a note a few days later.

Ride on, eh? Never turn back? It IS more fun when the wind is at your back!

My Personal Statistics

  1. Start: 0 km, 6:03 am
  2. Niagara River: 166 km, 12:40 PM
  3. St. Catharines: 4 PM
  4. Stop: 320 km, 7:45 PM
  5. Riding time: 12:36
  6. Total time: 13:42
  7. Average speed: 25.3 kph
  8. Maximum speed: 55.3 kph

Owen's unofficial report

Man, that was ugly! 25 registered, 17 showed up at the start and twelve of us, including two recumbents and one tandem, actually set out into the pouring rain. What were we thinking? It actually stopped raining at about 6:45 a.m. we were enveloped by warm breezes (okay, a howling gale) for a while, we had dry roads, partly cloudy skies and moderate temperatures. By afternoon the clouds had gotten scarce and temperatures (and the humidex) rose steadily. The Millennium Hairshirt was true to its name and delivered the worst of everything. Among the participants it was notable that all who started finished and four of those were rookies. It was a particularity significant ride for Tim Schoahs who rode this year's Hairshirt in memory of his mother, Evelyn.


Participants Time
Pat Buckley 13:45
Owen Rogers 13:47
Barry Finch 14:05
Rick Upton 14:48
Les MacMillan 15:06 Tandem
Susan MacMillan 15:06 Tandem
Kelly McKinney 15:23
Tim Schoahs 15:23
Jamie McCabe 15:27 MTB
Leo Po 15:41:15
Carey Chen 16:00 Bent
Tom Thomson 16:00 Bent