A bike trip to Point Pelee

September 2, 2003

The 3-day plan to Point Pelee

One of the reasons I made the bike bags in an earlier article was to get myself prepared for a trip longer and tougher than rides I have done. The trip is to Point Pelee National Park, just a little over half an hour drive away.

Preparations

Things I brought were: 3 days of clothing needs, bike tools including bike pump, a set of Allen keys, a flat screwdriver, lube, chain rivet extractor, a penknife, an extra tire tube; the entire camera set including charger, extra battery and additional memory cards, sewing kit, pen, notebook, calculator, first aid kit, and a sleeping bag. I also brought 5 litres (about 5.2 quarts) of water, which comprised most of the weight, and a box of cookies.

Perhaps the most important preparation was to gather the knowledge of cycle-touring from other veterans. This helped me a lot on route selection. Using just a simple 1:250,000-scaled map, I drew out a route that wound through less traveled roads, excellent scenery, yet short and easy enough to cope with.

The first day

I set my alarm at 7am, but I woke at 6.30am, waking from a dream that I woke up too late for my trip. Hmm…

So there I was, ready to conquer the distance at about 7:15am. I cycled for a minute, only to turn around because I forgot to take the map.

My first stop was at a food market to get a box of cookies. Then I continued to ride down Machete Road. I really did enjoy cycling in the morning sun, smooth rays of light illuminating the fields of corn and the fresh air to enjoy. Even the harshest looking road looked inviting.

It was still pretty early in the morning. My morale was sky high. I sliced through huge farms, passed barns, and watched horses grazing grass. With the aid of pretty strong tailwinds, I reached Amherstburg in 2 hours. I continued down enjoying the sight of riverside houses and plenty of marinas lining up on the shore of Detroit River.

Outside Amhertsburg, high noon

On my way to Malden Centre a group of racing cyclists passed by. I did not know what to do. Yell out a hello? Or do something more creative? I stared at the ground with these thoughts in my head, as they passed me like a speeding car.

I left Town of Essex into Town of Kingsville. I almost reached my destination and it wasn’t even noon. After entering Kingsville I decided to explore the town. I got into a park and rested under a shade of trees. I took two last photos this camera will ever take.

Results from an instant camera can be quite striking. Farmlands outside Leamington

I left the park and entered a ferry dock, parked my bike near a couple of wild flowers, took out the camera – only to find that the lens was broken! I sat by the rocky shore groaning in pain and extreme disappointment. I stopped by a photo shop and bought two instant cameras.

I spent my last 20km of the day scouting for eateries and good “camping grounds”. I got to the end of Erie Street, pleased to find a beach. I took a few shots of the lighthouses, and ended up having dinner at Tim Horton’s.

Leamington Beach sunset

I spent the night watching sunset on the beach. Unfortunately, the beach faces south, so the sun set behind a bunch of trees. I walked along the beach together with a seagull that walked with me for about 15 minutes.

Camping on the beach for the first time, I thought sand would sooth my back. It was nothing more than solid hard concrete once I was set there. Temperatures continued to drop, enough to make my hands and feet cold even inside a sleeping bag rated for 10°C. I don’t remember sleeping that night.

Second and final day

I spent the night dreading for the sunrise. At last, the sky turned blue. I jumped out of the sleeping bag, stood up, then wrapped myself in it. I strolled on the beach and watched the early morning waves on the lake.

At Point Pelee

I headed for Point Pelee right away. I was fighting a pain on my left knee on the way there, though at certain speeds it was bearable. I walked around the Marsh Boardwalk, skies still covered with clouds. Where is the much needed sun?

I headed straight to the tourist centre where shuttle carriages brought tourists to the Point. I finally got there. I didn’t know if bicycles were allowed but I went ahead anyway. It was covered with nothing but seagulls. I stayed there to finish the box of biscuits, all the time walking around to avoid the biting flies.

As I exited Point Pelee, people started trickling in. It felt weird to be against the grain.

I raced home – over hills, across farms, with and against winds, skimming right by trucks and cars. I made small two-minute stops in 10km intervals. All I had in my mind was to get home.

Detour at Tabolt Rd. North.

Wonderful clouds while crossing the railway

Aided by tail winds, I passed Essex before noon. By 12pm I was completely exhausted, so I stopped by the side of the road in the middle of a long, long road heading west.

Finally, at 3pm, I reached home. The total distance traveled was 255km, or 160 miles. I took every cargo off my bike and threw them around the living room, then crashed onto my bed. When I woke up, the sun had already set. I ate the biggest burger in that fast food joint on the last day of August, 2003.

Reflections

The trip was a success. A couple of bad things happened – hurting knee, sun burnt thighs, ice cold night, cement floor bed, biting flies, and the most painful of all, a broken camera. I suppose all could be prevented with more preparation.

I’ve got some nice pictures – both digital and film. This trip, after all, was originally planned to be a photographic trip. The photos reminded me of the enjoyment and hardships I’ve been through to get them.

The experience I gathered on this trip will be invaluable in the future. I tested my limits so I can better plan my day on future trips. I learned not to leave without being more prepared.

Finally, I learned that, all things considered, being on the road without exact plans can actually be a lot of fun.

Part of the Cycling Trips series →

Erie Loop - The Gear

A ride in the rain

A Rudimentary Experiment

Taking a velomobile for a test ride (drive?)