1st day, Monday, Sept. 4: Ottawa to Paul’s Creek campground - Cycling “The Land Between” - CycleBlaze

1st day, Monday, Sept. 4: Ottawa to Paul’s Creek campground

I left Ottawa on the Monday morning of the Labour Day weekend, taking a new route westward out of the city: bike paths along the Ottawa River, then a short link of arterial road to the cycling/walking/running trail to Stittsville and beyond. Stittsville is a small former agricultural centre, now a bedroom suburb of Ottawa. The trail has a well-made stonedust surface, and arrows straight west through woods, wetlands, and suburbs, eventually reaching the town of Carleton Place, about 30 kms from downtown Ottawa.

The day began cool and damp, with spitting raindrops driven by a westerly wind, but I was happy to avoid the arterial roads I normally use to exit the city. The trail is no quicker than suburban tarmac—it takes me about an hour to leave the city, whether to the east, west, or south—but it was peaceful. The morning became progressively colder and wetter, however. After a couple of hours, my jersey was soaked from perspiration, so I cut away from the stonedust trail and stopped at a gas station & convenience store to dry off and warm up.  [My usual stop, a village general store dating from the 1870’s, has closed down :( ]  Changing into a dry jersey did the trick – the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and the pallid sun became a real one.  And, a very brisk westerly headwind sprang up too. The sun and wind set the pattern for the week, but I’ll take sun and a cool headwind over rain and ditto any day.

My first night’s stop is Paul's Creek Campground, a mom-and-pop operation about 110 kms from Ottawa. The first two-thirds of the route is quite flat, the road running through farmland and beside rivers, lakes, wetlands, and cottages. The warming sun was pleasant. The 30-50 km/h headwinds were more of a challenge, and even on the drops I had to work hard to keep the Raven in 8th or 9th gear.

A stop at Balderson helped greatly: the cheese factory, justly famous for its aged cheddar (even though the exemplary six-year-old variety has been dropped since a Large Corporate Entity bought the factory), adjoins an Amish furniture store with a very good café. A fine home-made soup and a good-sized chicken-salad wrap improved my outlook no end, and I settled for a piece of five-year-old cheddar to take as a gift to my friends the following day.

The last 30-plus kms of the route leads into the hills of Lanark County. (“Highlands” is the rather more grand term, but these are “highlands” only in comparison with the flatlands of the Ottawa Valley which border the river.) Between the hills and the relentless headwinds, I reached my campsite between an hour later than usual. I pitched my tent, rigged the tarp so that I had some dry space for cooking and packing the bike in the morning, and made a restorative cuppa with a good slug of condensed milk, a habit I mention only to other cyclists and hikers.

Then, a monster thunderstorm blew in and raged for a couple of hours, but the Raven and I were snug and dry. (There’s a complex causal relationship between the tarp and an overnight rain: Rig the tarp, and there’s a very good chance that it will not rain. Don’t rig the tarp, and you will almost certainly have rain. Occasionally, when you do rig the tarp, the rain gods will send a downpour anyway, both to commend you for your wisdom and good judgment, and to keep you honest.)

Today's ride: 110 km (68 miles)
Total: 110 km (68 miles)

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