The "Hair Shirt" Double Century was first ridden in 1978. It has occurred every year since then. The early route was from City Hall in downtown Toronto (Ontario) to Niagara Falls and return. The current route is from "Square One" shopping centre in Mississauga (Ontario) to Niagara Falls and return. The current route is about 200 miles (320 km.). The original route took a more direct route to Niagara Falls and was about 340 km. Some riders dispute if the current route is, really, 320 km. The computers of some riders only showed about 310 km. when they finished. I guess we need to add a few, final laps around the shopping centre at the end!
This year's "Hair Shirt" started a wee bit late at 6:08 a.m. There were about 25 riders. The initial part of the ride was into a fairly strong wind in relatively open country. Most of the riders formed a double pace line and helped each other through this part. At about 20 km. the ride goes up a BIG hill, the Niagara Escarpment. The route uses one of the easier assaults on the Niagara Escarpment -- Highway 5 or Dundas Street. After assaulting the Escarpment you think you go up it 4 or 5 more times as the route is relatively hilly for this part of the world for about the next 30 km.
Around about here, some riders became a bit lost and put in a few extra kilometers. By this time, the ride had split into smaller groups of 2 to 5 riders each. As our group was going along Dundas Street, we ran across some other riders coming in from the left ... They had turned too early. After turning onto Highway 52 and approaching the next turn at Jerseyville Road, we noticed that some riders had gone by Jerseyville Road. They caught up with us later!
The ride goes along Jerseyville Road into Ancaster and then turns towards Niagara Falls. After Ancaster there is a long stretch on a flat road for about an hour until you get to Bismarck. We all had a short break at Bismarck. Some riders stayed a bit longer, but I was in a rush to get to THE FALLS.
On the way to Niagara Falls, the route goes through Welland. Before Welland, there were signs of "Road Closed, Construction" like there was some _big_ construction going on. It was almost a joke. There was about 100 m. of road re-surfacing and a cement barrier across the road. The lack of cars made this part of the route very pleasant.
In Welland, we went the wrong way on Main Street by using the sidewalk -- the right way follows a back street. On Main Street we saw a number of murals painted on the buildings. One mural is of the Welland Canal in winter.
For those not familiar with the area, the Welland Canal connects Lakes Erie and Ontario as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The St. Lawrence Seaway enables ocean going ships to navigate the Great Lakes. IMHO, the main street in Welland had fewer closed stores than a few years ago. Maybe the economy is starting to actually boom?
After Welland the route goes through a tunnel under the current Welland Canal. The canal that is in the city of Welland is a previous version.
A few kilometers after the Welland Canal, one turns towards Chippawa and the Niagara River, at last! At this point you're about 2 km. up river from Niagara Falls. There is a bicycle trail along the Niagara River, from Fort Erie to Niagara on the Lake. We used part of this as we went down the Niagara River.
Oh my, I missed Chippawa. In Chippawa, we used to well-furbished washroom in the Niagara Parks Commission picnic area. We re-filled with water and used the facilities. There are a number of other washrooms along the route on the Niagara River.
On our way from Chippewa to Niagara Falls we followed the bike trail since it is right besides the river. There's an amazing amount of water in this river! We made a brief stop at the falls and then rode on the road. Along the Niagara River we stopped to look at the gorge, floral clock, Brock Monument, Laura Secord Monument, etc. The Brock Monument is an amazing spectacle, especially considering that it was built in the 1850s. Near the Brock monument are the Laura Secord Monument and the _End_of_Trail_ marker for the Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail is a hiking trail that goes along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory -- heh, that's all the Niagara Escarpment, eh?
The next pit stop this year was in Niagara on the Lake in a municipal park. One can spend days in the Niagara area, but this time we only spent a couple of hours. Homeward bound! Another 120 km. to go! The return route follows the Lake Ontario shoreline, more or less. We stopped to eat a few strawberries just before crossing the Welland Canal in St. Catherines. We stopped since there was a big boat going down the canal and the bridge was up and traffic was backed up. After the canal, I noticed some rowers doing their thing in an 8.
Our next stop was at "McDonalds" in Whitby since their ice cream cones are on sale for $.49. Who could pass up such a good deal, eh? In Hamilton the route is down Grays Road to the Conservation Area. There were many people picnicking in the Conservation Area.
From Hamilton, the route is a final dash, of about 40 km., to the car in Mississauga. This part of the route follows Lakeshore Road. Parts of Lakeshore Road are wide. Other parts have yet to be re-built and are rather narrow. Ah, the fight with cars! There are normally shore breezes to cool ones temper...
The weather forecast for this ride was BAD. I initially thought it would rain all day. There was no rain. I initially thought it would be chilly. The temperature was in the low 20s C. most of the time. That's a pleasant temperature to ride in! The only draw back of the weather is that I carried my Goretex jacket and warm clothes throughout this ride and didn't use them! Damn shame, eh?