1997 Toronto-Niagara Hairshirt Bicycle Ride

Encounter With A Phantom

*** Pat Buckley ***

I cycled the Toronto Niagara Hairshirt bicycle ride again on June 22, 1997. This was the twentieth anniversary of Hairshirt and at least my tenth time doing Hairshirt.

My statistics:

Heh, this is a Double Century ride!

The Toronto Bicycle Network organizes this ride. The current route starts at Square One shopping mall in Mississauga. The first part of the route is around Dundas and through Ancaster to Welland and Niagara. The return trip is along the Niagara River and the shore of Lake Ontario -- through Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catherines, Hamilton, Oakville, and Mississauga.

The weather was hot and humid, with a high UV rating, and a north east wind. The wind helped on the trip to Niagara. The wind was not a problem on the way back since there are many trees on the route.

(Another cyclist remembers the wind as a north west wind. This wind was a problem on the return trip.)

I did a solo ride on this trip. A mob of cyclists caught up to me 4 times even though I spent half an hour in a "Port-a-Pot," in a park near the beginning of the trip. My thanks to the city of Ancaster for providing these much needed facilities. I had no gas after my pit stop, but DID have power! Owen, the president of Toronto Bicycle Network, was in the mob. The mob was a cheery group. Somehow, I didn't see the mob when I passed them. I only encountered them when they passed me!

A phantom followed me from St. Catherines.The phantom eventually caught sun stroke. Well, I thought this person was a phantom at first. We will call him Phantom. He was completely covered with clothing and had on a white hat with cloth attached to cover his neck. I saw Phantom when I stopped to eat a cookie and look at Lake Ontario. Phantom emerged from the lake and walked through a field of grass to the road. Phantom then drafted me. Phantom had on tights and a light jacket. The weather was so hot that most people were wearing T-shirts and shorts. Phantom was wearing the clothes of someone planning to ride in the tropics?

Phantom claimed to have taken the ferry from Toronto to St. Catherines and to be bicycling back to Toronto. Phantom claimed to be a former Category I racer in 1965. Phantom claimed to have raced with J. Lovell. Phantom claimed to have placed in a few races last year.

The last time I saw Phantom was on Beach Boulevard in Hamilton. Phantom was obviously suffering from the heat. He was riding slowly, looked ashen, and didn't respond when I talked to him. He drafted me for about 10 meters and dropped off! I guess Phantom was real since he almost died, but we'll never know?

Right now, at 6 PM, on the day after Hairshirt, I feel as if I went on a short jog yesterday. Amazingly, I feel wonderful. ZERO after effects! I must be training correctly? I think the trick to it all was drinking many containers of water and wearing sufficient sun screen. I used number 15.

My only problem was that I couldn't eat much during the second half of the trip. I had a few cookies, some sport drink, and more and more instant grape drink. I must look into liquid food for these trips?

The biggest challenge of the trip was at the end. The last few kilometers are uphill from Lake Ontario to Square One in Mississauga. I was very tired by this time and couldn't go more that 10 kph.

I drove home slowly from this ride. I drove secondary roads!

I stopped a few times along the bicycle trip. I refilled my water bottles at the park on the Niagara River in Chippewa. I topped off my water bottles at the Brock Monument. The Brock Monument is an amazing structure. This monument was completed in the 1850s as a memorial to General Brock who fought on the Canadian side in the War of 1812. The best downhill ride of the trip occurs just after the Brock Monument.

Much later, I filled the water bottles at the Conservation Area on Beach Boulevard in Hamilton. The washroom is near a memorial to 2 military ships that sank just off shore many years ago. A squall came up and did them in. A few years ago, the travelling Vietnam Veterans Memorial was in the same part of the Conservation Area. It IS truly a memorial place. By this time a Hairshirt cyclist KNOWS that they ARE committed ... to finish the ride!

The route to Niagara Falls was free of any major incidents. There was little traffic. The fields and trees are very green this year. Adequate rainfall has occurred.

The crowds in Niagara Falls were lighter this year? Many people were in St. Catherines. There was a Festival at the waterfront park. This part of St. Catherines is called Port Dalhousie? Port Dalhousie was very crowded. There was a traffic jam. There were also festivals in Oakville and Port Credit. I think there are more festivals every year along the route of the Hairshirt ride.

The traffic was heavy near the festivals on Lakeshore Road. At times, I avoided the cars by using the bicycle paths and the paved road shoulders. Many new bicycle paths have sprouted over the last few years. They still have flat pavement so are easy to ride. Some other parts of Lakeshore Road are still treacherous since they do not have bicycle paths or paved shoulders.

After the ride, I met Owen and some other stragglers from the mob of cyclists. They stopped a few too many times to get water? They all survived. Some looked haggard and worn. Others looked ready to do another 200 tomorrow!