Thursday, 13 August 2015

On visiting the unseen places

A little after leaving Kingston Pappy and I were passed by a Bison 8x8 armoured vehicle complete with a what appeared to be a radar on a telescopic mast. It made a U-turn in front of me and went back the way it came.

A persistent set of early childhood memories is that of driving along the 401 between Toronto and either Montreal or North Hatley. These were somewhat epic affairs given two adults and up to four small children in a car as small as a Volkswagen Type 3 Station wagon. It was undertaken 2 or 3 times a year though we sometimes took the Turbo (i.e. the train). While 2 or 3 times per annum isn't much on the face of it, for a small child it adds up. One persistent part of these memories and those of many other trips along the 401 (and by train) is all those names of places on signs that we didn't stop at such as Cobourg or Brockville. Places I haven't been to hold a certain fascination, especially in a case of so near yet so far. This trip has meant I have actually got to visit some of these "mythic" places.

One of them proved to be a serious treat for cyclists, namely the Thousand Islands Parkway. It had been built as part of the Toronto to Montreal highway possibly as early as the thirties. When the 401 came into being, it was incorporated into it to the annoyance of those who had built houses on it. In about 1968, it was relieved of duty by a new route for the 401 and in 1970 became the Thousand Islands Parkway. At some point in its past, it went from being a dual carriageway to being a single carriageway, leaving behind the basic infrastructure of that carriageway including the bridges. Since then, they have used this space to put in a lovely paved bike path for the whole length of the Parkway. It made for a very enjoyable bit of cycling. Parents enjoyed it particularly as they were more able to relax their vigilance and take in the landscape more than they had been.

The weather was very nice: cool, fairly sunny and finally a West wind. As has been our habit, late in the day I left the Parents behind to get to the end of the day's journey more quickly. I rolled into Brockville admiring some magnificent houses and stores that spoke of considerable 19th century prosperity as well as reasonable 21st century wealth. As I rolled along the main street, I spotted an ice cream shop and stopped for an orange pineapple milkshake. The girl behind the counter asked me where I had biked from. She was surprised and impressed by my answer and that of my parents. As well she should. Within five minutes I had retold the story two more times getting the same reaction. The last time was at the local bike shop which is particularly gratifying. (I am trying to get the phrasing right on this as a standard turn of phrase irks Mummy.) In biking between Canada's two largest cities, we are not doing something utterly unheard of. Nor are we going particularly fast or far per day. However, we are doing something that most people find hard to imagine even if many of them might actually be able to do given the right equipment, good guidance and a bit of practice. I don't find it that hard, but then I have all but done it. It is sometimes difficult to remember that. So, without undue false modesty, I can say that what we are doing is indeed relatively remarkable especially the Parents given their age. The Parents independently decided to stop at the ice cream store in a clear cut case of great minds think alike.

After we had finished, Mummy went on the B&B while Pappy and I went back half a block to a bike shop. Brendan, the owner and manager of the King Orchard B&B was a wonderful host giving us the rundown on the various eateries in town and an aper├žu of the history of Brockville and its considerable past glories.

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