8 August report, Nancy O’Higgins Ottawa, Ont.


After we eventually got our rooms in the residence, we were given a large conference room where we could keep our bikes and where we could set up our sodden tents to dry indoors. The first night, Irene and I walked for a couple of hours to get our bearings, then took a double-decker bus tour of the highlights of the city. We arrived back at the residence to find Al, Dave, Sandy, Frank and Harold about to go to the Bytown market for something to eat. We ended up at a Scottish pub, where we sampled Harold’s haggis and decided it wasn’t as bad as we expected. Irene and I decided we were going back to have haggis before our stay in Ottawa was up. The Highlander ‘where all the men wear kilts’ serves a tot of single malt whisky at 9 p.m. every night and a gong sounds when everyone present toasts Scotland. It was so much fun we all went back on our last night in Ottawa and this time Dave M. and I practiced “Just a wee Doch and Doris” all the way there, and several times throughout the evening. The haggis was delicious. Our singing of every Scottish song we could think of, ending in a chorus by all of Auld Lang Syne, may have driven the patrons closest to us away, but the staff acted like they enjoyed our enjoyment. Mary and Dave H. joined us this time at the pub after a visit from their daughter, husband, and two grandbabies who came from Vermont for their first full day in Ottawa. We had another ice cream cone at one of the many home made ice cream establishments to fuel us for the walk home and a dance on the corner that narrowly avoided me getting an icecream in the middle of the forehead.

One of the highlights of the Ottawa visit for Irene, Sandy and me, was a trip to Notre Dame Basilica with its incredible wood carved interior. Irene and Sandy also went to see the changing of the guards in front of the Parliament buildings, followed by a tour of the buildings.

Al was most impressed by the Museum of Civilization but thinks he would really enjoy it if he lived close enough to get it in small doses.

Harold liked the aeronautic museum the best and would have liked another visit to it to do some photography. Wayne agreed with him.

Harry’s wife Verena joined him at the University of Ottawa residence; Wayne’s brother and sister-in-law came from Sudbury to see him, and Ken’s wife D’Arcy Bader joined him at a hotel, besides the Herlt’s family visit, so we were scattered for most of the time off.

Dave Mann’s favourite part of the city was the bike trail in the parks. Sandy’s was the tour in the Parliament Building and the woman who re-enacted the first woman appointed to the Senate. Irene’s and mine was the Basilica, Brendan’s was bike trails around the Rideau canal; Harry’s was walking through the city and all the buildings.

On our second evening in Ottawa, the local branch of the CCCTS put on a fabulous barbecue for us at the home of Peter and Margaret Wood. Lots of wine and incredible barbecued salmon and chicken with an amazing variety of salads and desserts were inhaled by our always-hungry group. We were all blown away by the view of the water from Peter’s house and by the hospitality of their group, some of whom have done the coast to coast trip before. Thank you to all of you, for riding in with us, for picking us up and driving us back from the barbecue and for all your kindness and interest in our experiences (and weight loss!) Many of the group took the opportunity to get weighed for the first time since the trip started, since there was a locker room with a weight scale right across the road a little bit from where we were staying. The loss probably totalled hundreds of pounds if we added it all up.

Our last morning started unusually late for us because there was nowhere open to get breakfast until 7:30. It was actually great to get on the road again, even when it started pouring. It rained all day, sometimes harder than other times, but continuously. We all met at Tim Horton’s for our break, then 30k later Harold and Ken and I took the opportunity to use our minimal French and have pea soup and pie and icecream. In rehashing the day later, we discovered that many of us had taken different routes to get there and there was much bragging about whose detours were the most picturesque. Brendon won with his rambling day beside the river which took him 97miles, not kilometers. (He hasn’t made the change to metric yet.)

We passed into Quebec today and most took the chance to take pictures of each other at the dinky Quebec sign on the bridge from Hawksbury. I managed to get Ken and Harold lost at least three times so we were by far the last ones to get into camp at Lachute.

Lachute to Joliette, 107k

Irene got hurt today. There was no shoulder on the road and the highway itself was in a broken and pot-holed condition. Somehow she hit a fault in the road and went over her bike onto her head, then her shoulder and elbow. She was only lucky in the circumstances of her accident, in that the car behind that saw what happened contained a paramedic and her husband, a fireman. A police car was also coming by and stopped so an ambulance was dispatched as fast as possible. Unfortunately, it was a weekend and she had to wait a total of 10 hours before she was seen by a doctor. At first she was told six hours, then more time kept getting added. Dave H. accompanied her in the ambulance, then Al and Dave M. who were the first on the scene before the ambulance left, went to the hospital and Al stayed with her, and then Mary spelled him off and Dave and Al came to the campsite in Joliette. The rest of us wandered around the campsite snapping at each other and not knowing what to do to be helpful. The next day was Irene’s birthday, her 60th, and the reason she was doing the trip. Irene arrived back at the campsite at 12:30 at night with the diagnosis of a broken elbow and an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon at 8 in the morning ‚ and the advice that she would be better to fly back to Edmonton for treatment, than to stay at the tiny hospital in Joliette.

Irene was told at her appointment in the morning that she needed a pin in her elbow. Chris and Anita took her to her appointment at the hospital, and then on to the airport to try to make arrangements for her to fly home. She could have made a flight in the afternoon but Air Canada wanted an astronomic price for it, so she ended up staying at a hotel overnight and flying out in the morning. Some birthday.

We are having to cope without her and it is hard. She kept us all cheered up, jockeyed us into doing our chores so that even the reluctant ones did the dishes, made us feel special and important, was always happy and energetic and was an incredible addition to the group.

Joliette to Champlain 114k

For the first time that I have been aware of, we have had a troop of cranky campers in the morning, all upset over Irene’s accident. Ken gave Irene her birthday card that we had all signed when we thought we would be having a celebration. We all said goodbye to her at Chris’s motor home where she had spent the night. With her bruised hip she couldn’t climb in and out of other vehicles. Once she was in Chris and Anita’s place she was there to stay.

Smooth road, wide shoulders, sunshine, picturesque houses and farmland, fields of tobacco and sunflowers those of us concentrating on the road in front of us didn’t see, and a covered bridge that some of us also missed. Lunch on a picnic bench by the St. Lawrence with a wind knocking windsurfers over in front of us, and freighters spaced out travelling down the river. Cycled with George, Inge, Sandy for the first 30k and Inge at one point said, ‘It’s George and his little ducklings.’ Since then I have quacked every time I caught up from way behind. It was a beautiful day but only a one-icecream cone day.

Champlain to Quebec City ‚ 118k

Another beautiful day for weather. Cloudy and threatening but sun later with the rain and thundershower never happening. Ken woke to another flat tire. The rest of us were on the road by 7:10, a record. He caught up, averaging 28k, after travelling over a metal bridge where his front handlebar bag fell off, spilling cell phone, camera and assorted goodies all over the bridge. Fortunately nothing fell through.

George and his ducklings got separated by coffee break, when Harold and I found a restaurant to go in, leaving the others at a picnic table. It wasn’t a day for wonderful French cuisine, but hopefully that will come. The university residence in Quebec City is great and most of the group went to the old town for dinner, leaving Ken and Wayne trying to find a bike box to send Irene’s bike back to her, Mary, Dave and George to eat at the university cafeteria and me wasting another block of time on this !@#$% computer.