First! Spring! Ride!

Discussion in 'rec.bicycles.soc archive' started by Shirley Hicks, Apr 27, 2003.

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  1. I've been riding off and on throughout the winter, but this was my first group ride of the year.

    Me and fifteen of my most distant neighbours met for a ride up Toronto's Don Valley yesterday
    morning. My local cycling club, Toronto Bicycle Network, starts the season's scheduled rides next
    week. This one was one of the unofficial "I can't _wait_ to get riding ride", with regulars having
    started to meet as soon as the ice melted on the trails.

    All of you with maps of Toronter handy, pull them out now so you can follow where we went.

    Find Lakeshore Blvd north of the harbour and follow it east until you get to Woodbine Park and
    Coxwell Ave. That was this morning's start point, as described on I
    abandoned the car there. (yeah, I wussed and drove over. Had stuff to do later in the day)

    We rode west up around the Asbridges Bay Marina, picking up the trail as we crossed the foot of
    Coxwell, and peddled over past IndustrialPlantLand to Leslie St. We turned south onto the trail and
    headed down lower Leslie. At that time of morning (9:45 a.m.) there were flocks of runners out on
    training and learn-to-run programs from the Running Room(TM)* Clouds of them. More runners than
    starlings. All bobbing away, running intently, conversations flowing back and forth, and edging over
    to the right as we shouted "passing on the left!" as we came up behind.

    Guys, if you want to meet women, join a learn-to-run class. Lots of them there.:) Better still, if
    you are in the pudgy brigade, you will be running at their speed.

    Leslie St. in the port lands is a somewhat neglected road, with potholes, gravel fills and other
    riding hazards. Weeds sprout on the boulevard and litter collects against the chain link fences.

    Mountain bike tires good. Shocks even better. I didn't have either with me, so was relying on
    balance, bunny hops and careful negotiation. Apartment dwelling gardeners were spading their plots
    in the allotment gardens, and there was a cluster of vehicles parked by the access gate to Tommy
    Thompson Park, with birders in gortex, binoculars and Tilley hats walking down the road to the spit.

    We swung right onto Unwin, past a bulk ship in the channel, followed the bend in the road left, and
    left again onto the asphalt path to Cherry Beach.

    Lots of dogs and joggers.

    The shrubs and ground covers were just starting to leaf out under the willows. The lake sparkled
    blue between us and the Leslie St. spit.


    It was a bit brisk down by the water. Most of the other riders had on light windbreakers and
    tights, but I, still retaining some of my prairie toughness (gee - feels like spring. Who needs a
    jacket?!) was wearing my long sleeve jersey and shorts. (besides - my only cycling/sport jacket is
    gortex, and that was a bit heavy for today's conditions) It was a nice balance to the sweat I was
    starting to work up.

    We swung north onto Cherry Street. Rode past the old Knob Hill** location and The Docks night club
    and driving range. We continued north across railway tracks, under the Gardiner with the echoing
    cacophony of traffic bouncing up from the Lakeshore and down from the Gardiner, and turned east onto
    the path that ran parallel to the remaining eastern railyards. As we came up to the new bridge
    across the Don, we were stuck behind another group of 30+ runners. Came up to a more open area and
    slipped by.

    We turned north onto the narrow verge between end of the tracks and the river. We started passing
    people with backpacks, wheel barrows and shovels. It was volunteer planting brigade, putting in new
    bank reclamation vegetation. There were a hundred or so along the next two kilometres of river, out
    to guerrilla plant on a Saturday morning. Wheelbarrows make for interesting obstacles. I asked one
    what was being planted. "Willow, maple, dogwood, sedges, cattails,.." she answered, and a couple of
    other native species I can't remember.

    The city pulled back and the green valley space opened up as we rode past Riverdale Farm (the site
    of the Toronto zoo until 1973) and crossed over via a footbridge to the east side of the Don. The
    roar of the DVP traffic was in the background. Redwing black birds called over top. Dogs, dogs, dogs
    and their owners. In the open areas south of the Bloor viaduct, new green was poking up through last
    year's flattened tall grasses and a subway train rattled overhead under the street deck. The
    Luminous Veil, a suicide prevention net raised up past the stone parapets, shimmered in the
    sunlight, and is almost now complete.***

    Ride, ride, ride. 20 story apartment buildings towered on the highlands behind mists of leafless
    trees descending down the walls of the valley. A path her, a path there, wandering lazily up the
    slope and disappearing into the undercover.

    Past the old potter works, Todmorden Mills. Grinding up some gratuitous hills (_must_ get back legs)
    past an elevated wetland installation ( turn, ring bell, and take a
    blind turn into the culvert underpass beneath the rail tracks that we'd been paralleling for a
    kilometre. Popping back out into sunshine and onto a park road. Now there are cars and parents with
    baby strollers and small children. Time to ride carefully. On, on, on to the Bayview Extension where
    we took a break to allow the lagging members of the group to catch up. Also a chance to chat a bit.
    (We tend to talk when riding, but there is the whole process of having to drop behind when
    approaching narrower bits) I was starting to feel the ride in my legs. Some of the group were
    looking at their watches, and decide to swing onto the Taylor Creek path, and the rest of us decided
    to push on to Sunnybrook Farm.

    We got back on our bikes and rode north. The DVP's noise lessened as it climbed the slope up out of
    the valley. The concrete bulk of the Ontario Science Centre tumbled down the valley wall behind the
    trees. Up a hill and down a down and up a grinder again, and we were riding into the centre of the
    Sunnybrook farm complex. See for a
    potted history of the farm.

    It's now the only riding school in the city limits, very handy for the Bridlepath crowd.

    On the return ride, there were fewer runners and more walkers. More strollers and fewer dogs. More
    older people and fewer young athletes. All part of the cycle of use in the valley. We were down to
    five riders by the time we got to the foot of the Don, due to drop outs along the route.(Time,
    things to do, etc). We five were the ones who had driven in from more distant points. We all looked
    at our watches and decided to take the new shortcut along Lakeshore back to our cars at the
    Ashbridges Bay parking lot.

    Last year, the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway past the Don Valley parkway interchange was
    torn down. Lakeshore Blvd
    was widened, and a new bike path was built along the northern edge. This was the first time I'd
    ridden over it. Nice smooth pavement, and a much shorter ride from the Don to Ashbridges Bay. Like
    it! Peered at the film studios on either side Lakeshore... big cavernous industrial buildings with
    lots and lots of loading docks. The only thing that distinguished them as studios were the sound
    stage numbers on the sides.

    We rode into the parking lot and said our adieus. I took the front wheel off my bike and threw the
    works in back of the car (one of my criteria when I bought this car was whether or not a bike would
    fit in it with the back seats folded down) Looked over a fellow rider's shiny new pretend SUV (room
    for two bikes, but no four wheel drive) and then got in and headed for the expressway and home.


    * The Running Room is a Canadian running institution. There are stores
    all across Canada, with five in Toronto.

    **Steve Stavros owned and operated, until two years ago, Knob Hill Farms, a Toronto bulk grocery
    store chain he founded as a young man in the 1970s. He still owns a major piece of the Toronto
    Maple Leafs.

    He liquidated the chain as it was no longer making money. His customer base has fractured over the
    past few years with the arrival of Costco and Walmart in the Toronto area and the repositioning of
    the Loblaws chain (Weston family, as in our current provincial governor general, Hilary Weston)

    *** the Viaduct, finished in the 1930's, has been a suicide magnet for many years. Until Veil
    construction was started, there have been about 40 successful attempts a year.

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