One of Algonquin College’s electives for second year Outdoor Adventure students is the Cycle Tour Guide course. The course brings students on a 5 day loop from Beachburg, Ontario into Quebec, through Gatineau and Ottawa, and back to Beachburg. The route is a perfect example of a real commercial cycle tour route that would be especially popular for destination travellers interested in the history of the Ottawa and Gatineau region.
A large portion of the following post has been borrowed from our trip blog , which was written by the students in my travel group. We hope to share some tips and tricks if you are planning a cycle touring trip in the Ottawa Valley.
Day 1 – Lucked out on rain
Wilderness Tours to Shawville, Quebec
5:45 On this gloomy, rainy morning, we all crept our way to the college. In silence, we all hoped that this rain wouldn’t become the main theme of our trip.
8:00 Wilderness tours: Moral quickly climbed as we outfitted our bikes and packed our gear. After a (premixed) peanut butter and jam lunch in the bike shop, we departed with wide smiles and ambitious pedal strokes
The first village we passed through was Fort de Portage. The roads after surrounded in rolling green farms with cows, cows and lots of more cows.
4:30 After 34 km of cycling, we finally arrived in Shawville. Much to the relief of our bike seats. If you have the need, there is a Giant Tiger before you hit the town. It is across the street from a fries stand… Don’t be deterred – fries and sirens have too much in common – but much more dangerous coffee awaits. Art Brulant cafe has art I wish I could steal, service you could never steal from, and coffee and tea by the sack full. The owner is also an enthusiastic cyclist who owns a very interesting two-wheeled rig. You should check it out promptly.
5:00 Shopping at value mart for dinner and breakfast.
5:30 Our destination was a short bike around the corner: Milldam Park. We spent the next few hours indulging in a dry pavilion: tents up, an arena around the corner with real live washroom facilities, and a warm meal made by many ,many hands. The pasta was fantastic. The sleep was well needed.
Wear cycle shorts with max padding. If it feels like a diaper, say yes. You do not want to feel the seat when it stops liking you.
Day 2- The Rain Found Us
Luckily it did not rain over night, but we were under a pavilion at Mill Dam park in Shawville. Kyle and I boiled water for oatmeal and cooked 18 eggs mixed with onions, tomatoes and peppers for breakfast.
After, we shopped for lunch supplies while everyone snagged a coffee and we were leaving Shawville on time by 8:40. We took the PPJ (Pontiac Pacific Junction) right to Quyon. Along the way we picked up a friendly dog who followed us for 8km. We luckily handed him off to the Stinson Gas station in Quyon where they knew the owner and returned him. From there our next checkpoint was Gatineau Park with a wicked climb to start it off. It was a windy road with many incline and declines along the way.
After leaving the park our final destination was Wakefield which was just west down the 148. When we arrived in Wakefield we were all wet and tired but excited to see the establishment where we would be camping. Lucky for us Ben had contacted the owner of Motel Alpengruss who provided us a room to shower and congregate to write this blog and debrief our day.
For dinner, Spencer and I made an Indian dish with a nice desert to follow. The rain had kept steady all night so we took shelter under a large army tent on the property which Dylan and Jessica, the motel owners, also generously let us use.
A great lunch pavilion beside the Farmer’s Country Store in Luskville.
Day 3: Wakefield to Dunrobin
We woke up at 5:30 this morning to prepare a delicious feast of mashed potatoes, veggies, eggs, and cheese for the group. We lucked out with a dry morning, high humidity, and a quiet Wakefield to send us on our way. Topping it all off with some fantastic lemon loaf.
Our route intended to take us along side the Gatineau River, an awesome road for cycling that isn’t popular for vehicular traffic. We marvelled at the rustic charm of the cottage-like homes in the area, and after a steep climb we turned onto Highway 105, heading South East to Old Chelsea via Scott Street.
We made a much needed stop at Biscotti in Old Chelsea. Seb and Spencer enjoyed a cheese and egg filled scone (very tasty) while the others drank dark roast coffee and cappuccino. I decided to stick with a chocolate filled croissant; highly recommended.
A few kilometres later we turned off Chemin De La Mine onto Trail 5 in Gatineau Park. This is a popular paved route that leads you right down to the Ottawa River, very close to the bridges leading to Ontario. We spotted boulders, bluejays, cardinals, and rivers on the trail- it didn’t take long until we popped out of the park with Ontario in sight!
After crossing Alexandra Bridge we stopped in the Byward Market for some stinky Swiss cheese, baguette, fresh vegetables, patėe, and humus. Before heading back down to the river, we took the classic Parliament photo, we really had no choice. We winded through waterfront trails and side roads that took us right to the Sobey’s in Kanata (March Rd and Klondike) before crushing the last 12km to the YMCA Camp in Dunrobin.
A huge thanks to Jessica and Dylan at the Alpengruss Hotel / Restaurant in Wakefield. They were very accommodating and provided us with a shelter, showers, and a place to set up camp! Check out their website here.
When riding in a pace line, or if someone is having trouble keeping up to the pack, positioning weaker riders close to the stronger lead riders will effectively place them into a very efficient drafting position. This keeps the group closer together and literally gives riders a chance to work less as well.
Our first stop in Old Chelsea, at Biscotti
Day 4 – No Rain. Just Snow.
Don’t lose your pants. Neoprene doesn’t keep you warm if it’s not wet. Attitude is everything: enthusiasm and trip crazies fight cold and clouds better than the sun does.
Day 5: The Final Jaunt
We woke up to our usual 6:00am alarms, eager to start the final (and shortest) leg of our cycle tour. Spencer was already up preparing a delicious breakfast made up of bacon, yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit. Just what we needed to fuel our bodies for the short ride back to Wilderness Tours.
The other tour group, who also camped at the Mill Dam Park emerged from their tents are began their morning rituals as well. The air was cold, but the humidity was far less compared to the previous days, making for some pretty ideal riding conditions.
After looking over our route for the day, Spencer continued to lead by guiding us back through Portage du Fort, and down Kerr Line back to Wilderness Tours. The group moved quickly together, keeping a solid pace, averaging around 17km/hour and taking only a few short breaks. It was a fantastic way to end a fantastic week!
Arriving a few hours before our bus was scheduled to deliver us back to Pembroke, we degreased, regressed, and cleaned our bikes. We took care when cleaning the panniers, which would be used again next year for the next group of Outdoor Adventure and Outdoor Adventure Naturalist students.
Great job everyone!
If the group is looking forward to something (food, shelter, the final stretch) then the lead cyclist can set a quick pace early in the day to keep everyone moving. If something awesome lays ahead, we are willing to put the extra effort in.