My first Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour was in 2002 the kids were small at the time so we convinced my sister to look after them for the weekend so we could have a romantic weekend away. A 180 km bike ride to Kingston with 2000 other riders, overnight in a dorm room with two single beds and a 180 km ride back home the next day. Not everyone’s idea of romance but that’s why we are married to each other! We rode down with a group. I had never ridden in a group before. I was terrified, and I had nightmares at Queens that night where I was running into someone else’s wheel.
We have ridden Rideau Lakes together every year since with two minor exceptions. In 2013 I had just had surgery to remove some wires from my elbow so I rode down in the Bushtukah tech support car and in 2015 I had broken the other elbow two months earlier when I was hit by a car riding so I did the 100 while Harold did the full 180.
The weather makes the ride at Rideau Lakes and we have had good years and bad years. The worse ride in recent years was 2010. The ride down was Ok but coming back it was raining hard, we had a head wind and it was 4 or 5 degrees. I swear at times it felt more like snow than rain. I gave up in Westport. I could not feel my hands or my feet and I was turning blue.
After 2010 I invested in some much better foul weather gear and I have taken it to Kingston every year since no matter what the forecast says.
In 2015 the weather was perfect. Not too hot and not too cold with a tail wind both days! We knew we were going to pay for that later and in 2016 we did. Harold had been sick all week so for the first time ever he was not riding. The forecast looked bad so I upgraded my on- bike raincoat from my light waterproof jacket to a full Gore-Tex one, added Gore-Tex socks and full fingered Gore-Tex gloves. It was not raining when we drove to the start but as soon as we got out of the car the rain started. I unpacked arm warmers for James and leg warmers for me.
We were riding the cruse route. James and I rode alone from Algonquin to Toledo. It never stopped raining. We rode straight through so we would stay warm. 95km of rain and head wind. My hands and feet were a little cold but I was Ok. James looked cold. Harold had decided to drive down to Kingston with his bike to do some riding and said he would meet us in Toledo. He showed at exactly the same time as we did. He did not have a bike but he did have dry clothes, towels and extra layers! He even paid for lunch!
Toledo is the best rest stop on the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. The local church opens the hall and serves soup, sandwiches, grilled cheese and baking. It’s all a fund raiser and they were looking for extra donations to buy bikes for kids. Several riders suggested at that point they would be willing to donate their bicycles right now because they never wanted to see them again.
Dryer and fed we left Toledo and the 75 km that followed had a head wind but it was actually almost not raining. We were actually smiling when we hit the last rest stop at Battersea and when we arrived at Queens it was windy but warm and sunny! I went for a run along the lake and enjoyed a cold beer or two in the evening sun.
The forecast for Sunday was looking pretty windy and the wind was not going to be in our favour so we set about recruiting some extra help for the ride home. We talked Chris Bright into joining us on the cruse route. He may be regretting that decision now. We had a headwind even before we left the Queens Campus. It was moderate, we had to work but it was not too bad. We made it almost to Elgin before it started to rain and we made it past Elgin before we had to stop and put our rain gear on. We stopped in Toledo once again for hot soup and snacks. We were damp but unlike Saturday there was no one ringing out their clothes in the hallway.
It actually stopped raining when we left Toledo for the final 95 km home. But one look at the flag flapping madly in the wind confirmed that it was going to be a long pull home! We caught a strong group In Jasper who were waiting at a stop sign. I knew some of them so we tagged on and got a nice pull into Merrickvile. They stopped there for a break but we just wanted to get it over with. The next 20K were work but not evil. The final 45 were some of the hardest riding I have ever done. Straight into a howling wind which never stopped and actually seamed to change direction slightly when we did so it was always coming straight at us! We made it back to Algonquin but this time we had a beer inside!
Was it fun? Not really. Would I do it again? Of course but hopefully we have paid the price and 2017 will be awesome! Thanks to the OBC for another great event and to James Peltzer and Chris Bright for making it sort of fun!