Pipes and Pints

Day 113: Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday August 10th

It was a short walk from our Airbnb to the Glasgow Green. We stopped to admire the terra cotta celebration of colonialism that is the Doulton Fountain. I love that the “Canada” figures include a trapper holding a moose head with a beaver at his feet.

Behind the fountain is the equally ornate People’s Palace, with a museum of Glasgow inside. We spent some time in there, and then walked beside the Clyde and up into Kelvingrove Park. A big bagpipe festival and competition was almost set to begin, and pipes and drums could be heard practicing everywhere. In the park we stopped to watch a couple of troops rehearsing.

We went to the Kelvingrove gallery and museum, picking out a few exhibits we were most interested in seeing.

On our way back across the city, we stopped at the very nice Shilling Brewing Company where we sampled and enjoyed their pizza and a pint special. We capped our tour with a stop Drygate Brewery, just down the street from our room.

Distance: 0

$136

Town Musicians

Day 68: June 25th, Bremen, Germany

We were at the bridge over the Weser River, almost in Bremen’s historic old town, when the rain hit. We hid under a tree, and while we waited the cafe behind us opened: a perfect excuse for coffee. It worked out well, as the rain tapered off (though it came back off and on later), and it was a nice place with excellent coffee.

I was stunned at how impressive Bremen’s old town is. We’ve seen a lot of nice town squares with old town halls and big cathedrals, but Bremen’s is truly exceptional.

Detail from the Town Hall. Merpeople are a popular motif in Bremen.

The most famous thing in the market square is a sculpture of the “Town Musicians of Bremen“, after the fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. It has become a tradition to touch the donkey’s hooves and make a wish. The animals from the story are depicted all over the city.

Just off the square is the Böttcherstraße, a narrow alley of shops in architecturally significant buildings. The “Lightbringer”, a bright bronze relief at the entrance to the street, was intended to honour Hitler, but apparently the Nazis thought the whole street was an example of “degenerate art”, so it’s okay to like it.

Also on the Böttcherstraße is the Glockenspiel House, with bells of Meissen porcelain. Deb and I made a note of when the bells would ring next before moving on.

We wandered the maze of medieval streets called the Schnoor, and Deb purchased a knit boiled egg warmer that looks like a donkey.

We returned to listen to the glockenspiel, then went into the brewhouse right next door.

Strangely, we never saw our Airbnb host, Bar, again.

$112 plus souvenirs

Everything is Awesome

Day 57: June 14th, Billund, Denmark

It’s a short walk from the Legoland Holiday Village where we camped to the actual resort. Somehow we got another day without rain for our visit.

We rode the biggest roller coaster first to avoid lines later in the day. Then we peaked into the empty “Penguin Bay” and got face-to-face with some playful penguins.

Shortly after that, I got to sit in the cockpit of a life-size Lego model of an X-Wing. R2, that stabilizer’s broken loose again. See if you can’t lock it down.

There are several fun rides, but the real highlight of the park is, obviously, the Lego. There are reproductions of entire neighbourhoods, scenes from movies, famous buildings, etc.

And Deb got eaten by a Lego lion.

We were able to stay the whole day, as we are camping in the village again tonight. Tomorrow: to the west coast.

$214

Rostock and Roll

Day 30: May 18th, Krakow am See to Rostock, Germany

We took down our tent and hit the road unsure of how far we would get, but hoping we might reach Rostock. Pretty much out of food, we stopped for groceries in Krakow and had breakfast by a fountain. Our Swiss friend caught up to us (he must’ve had a very early start!) in the square.

This was our second day in Mecklenburg on the Berlin to Copenhagen cycle route. It started with more undulating landscape, but good trails and great weather.

After passing through the town of Güstrow we finally found the flatness, riding on canals and country roads.

A large square castle building with moat

A riding path along a small stream or canal

We reached Rostock, and starting looking for an Airbnb, thinking we might like a rest day before taking the ferry to Denmark. No luck. We rode to a pension, and found it closed. Very tired and very hungry, our phone batteries dying, we sat on the steps of the closed Tourist Information office in Universitätsplatz, and tried Airbnb again, this time for one night.

We found a place that turned out to be a room in the flat of Herr Singer, a modern Renaissance Man. He was teaching Tango dancing in his attached studio when we arrived. When his class ended, we chatted. He also works as a photographer and is a musician as well. We talked travel, mostly.

By the time we’d showered and changed, it was too late to purchase dinner at a grocery store. We stumbled to the pub around the corner and the barkeep, who spoke very little English, treated us very well. Stuffed with beer and good pub food (so many vegetables!) we got our bill and a complimentary shot of Kirsch.

A shelter shaped like a large milk can with a cut out door

Distance: 90 km

$133

Day 17: The Rainbow Connection

Aug. 29th: Niagara Falls (36 km +walking)

Today we decided it was finally time to visit The Falls. We had a vague idea that the recreation trail along the Niagara Parkway continued for some distance past Queenston but we weren’t really sure of the details. We decided to see if it would take us to Niagara Falls.

After leaving Queenston, we took the road up the hill and pulled off into the scenic outlook and were rewarded with this view down the river toward the lake. A woman also made Steve open up his kitty litter bucket so her husband could take pictures of how it was attached. They have bikes on their sailboat and she thought the buckets would be a good solution for grocery shopping. They sure do attract a lot of attention!

The Niagara River from Queenston Heights

At the roundabout at the top of the hill it was a little disconcerting to follow the trail because it takes you in behind and under the fenced area that leads to the border crossing at the Queenston-Lewiston bridge. The trail takes you right under the bridge which makes for an interesting view.

Under the Queenston-Lewiston bridge

The trail continued along the river, past the power station, golf course and various attractions until we were at the base of Clifton Hill, right in the heart of things.

Hotels and casinos in Niagara Falls

We had to ask about bike racks as they aren’t out in the open but we did find a number of racks in a small walled off area right by the Hornblower ticket booth and locked Momo and Appa up to continue our exploration on foot. Before heading up Clifton Hill, a view of the American and Bridal Veil Falls.

American and Bridal Veil Falls

Our first stop was the Niagara Brewing Company, which has a prime location right near the base of Clifton Hill. We enjoyed a pint and a pretzel on their lovely patio, then moved on.

Pints at Niagara Brewing Company, Niagara Falls

Frog friend outside the Rainforst Cafe on Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls

Businesses along Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls

After more food and beer on the Kelsey’s patio – huge and great for people watching – we walked back down to the river and over for a much closer look at the falls.

Horseshoe Falls with a tour boat at the base

View along the Niagara River, showing the American Falls, the Rainbow Bridge and the tour boats

Rainbow and tour boat at the Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls

Who can resist a rainbow shot?

Walking back to the bikes, we came across this statue dedicated to Nikola Tesla, “the genius who lit the world”. He designed the first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls, New York in 1895.

Nikola Tesla monument in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Riding back along the trail, we got a nice view of the Aero Car that travels over the Whirlpool. 2016 marks it’s 100th year in operation. We didn’t stop to ride – maybe another day.

The Whirlpool Aero Car crossing the Niagara River

Day 10: Pokémon and Tourism

Aug. 8th: Owen Sound

We explored town and hunted pokémon as we made our way to a laundromat.

Tom Thomson blow up outside gallery in Owen Sound

Owen Sound waterfront

With bags full of clean, dry clothes, we were picked up by Deb’s parents, who drove over from Hanover.

They took us to Rockford to visit the Kilannan Brewery where we got out another of our favourite apps, Untappd. This was shaping up to be a bad day for our phone batteries.

Kilannan Brewing banner at the brewery in Rockford, ON

Next was a good, big lunch at the Harrison Park Inn. Finally, we dropped in on the Casselmans, friends of Deb’s parents who happen to live very close to the Traveller’s motel. We sat by their pool and chatted, enjoying the opportunity to avoid the sun for a whole afternoon.

We ate in our room and, as usual, passed out early.

Day 7: Recovery

Aug. 5th: Gordon’s Park, Manitoulin Island

When we reserved our site, we decided to do just one night in the dark sky area, and the next in a forest site. This meant we had to move our gear, which was actually a bit of a chore as the campground is very big and we didn’t want to pack up the tent. By the time we were settled at the new location, we were sweaty and tired. The day ride we had planned did not seem appealing.

Tent in the forest site

Mostly we spent the day reading, but we did get in a game of horseshoes (Deb won). Our battered and weary legs and butts appreciated the time off.
Gordons Park cutout

Steve using the WiFi

Camp dinner

Day 5: Brews and Boats

Aug. 3rd: Wiarton to Tobermory (81 km)

I had a bit of a fitful sleep on my thin foam mat, but it was nice riding out of Willie’s campground around 8 AM. Debbie worked very hard to find us a room in Tobermory. The Bruce Peninsula is very busy in August.

Up the big, nasty Hwy 6 hill (some pushing of bikes), then on for just a few kms before turning on CR 9 to follow the coast.Waterfront at Colpoys Bay

Colpoy’s Bay is beautiful, and 9 is a pretty quiet and smooth road. I saw a tiny sign for “Rachel’s Diner” on the way into Lion’s Head. We decided to splurge Hobbit-style and get an eggy second breakfast. And coffee. And ice water. And a big plate of greasy, delicious hashbrowns. Rachel’s has a roofed patio, and we took our time.

I drink a fair amount of coffee most days, but I’ve never had trouble with withdrawal. That said, I did savour that one cuppa joe.

Old farmhouse on County Road 9

Our cycle route map suggested that the way north was for “experienced riders”. It involved something called Forty Hills Road. We had a long way to go, and although we wanted to avoid Hwy 6 as much as possible, this did not sound like loaded tour bike territory.

We rode past cottages, stopping for pictures of the bluffs, and turned west on Caudle Side Rd, where Forty Hills Road becomes gravel, hilly, and twisty.

Waters of Georgian Bay from Isthmus Rd

It turns out Hwy 6 (at least past Ferndale) isn’t that bad to ride on. There are “Share the Road” signs and a reasonably wide, paved shoulder. It is busy, and fast, and there are few places to stop in the shade however. Not much worth reporting, except that it was hot, sweaty, and we were damn proud of ourselves when we hit that big “Welcome to Tobermory” sign.

Our room in the Belrose Inn was small and un-airconditioned, but it had a big ceiling fan, a bed, and a (shared) clean bathroom. There’s nothing quite like a shower after a ride like that. The Inn is actually above a touristy beach wear and trinkets store called “Marco Polo”. One of the windows in our room looked over the shop floor. Once upon a time it was the town’s general store.

Mermaid cut-out in Tobermory

We took advantage of the inn’s proximity to the Tobermory Brewing Company and Grill, sampling their brews and looking out at the boats and kayakers. In the spirit of frugality we shared a plate of fries, electing to eat dinner in our room later. Exhaustion, heat, alcohol, and a lack of sufficient calories combined to lay us out early.

Beer and beer samples at Tobermory Brewing

Day 4: Setting Out

Aug. 2nd: Port Elgin to Wiarton (62 km)

Shortly after 10 A.M. we said goodbye to my family, who were together for the long weekend.

The first part of our ride was familiar, except that we were now carrying about 20kg of gear each.

Appa and Momo loaded for the trip

It was a very nice day, and Sauble Beach was busy. So busy that the only shady bench on the Lakeshore Rd was taken. We kept riding north until we got to Sauble Falls Provincial Park. It was getting very hot, but we found a picnic table for a break. This was breaking new ground as we were finally past the turnaround point of our earlier ride.

People enjoying the water at Sauble Falls

We continued on County Rd 13, but then returned to the water via South Oliphant Rd. Oliphant has a big harbour and a welcome public restroom.

Now directly west of Wiarton, we couldn’t avoid 13 any longer. It was actually not too bad. But it is has a few hills, and it was very, very warm.

It’s a long, rather steep descent on Hwy 6 into Wiarton. Kind of hair-raising. There is a sort-of paved shoulder, but it’s above the curb, and when I crossed one of the streets on the way down, I bounced coming down from it too hard and one of the “Tidy Cat” panniers popped off. The bungee tether held, so I dragged it like a reluctant dog until I reached the other side of the street. The lid opened just a bit, but not enough for anything to come out. Tough bugger!

We found the Bluewater campground, and discovered that we were the only people tenting. Nice and private. There were lots of RVs, though, and some of the long-term residents had gathered to play some music. There was a fiddle, a banjo, a clarinet, and a guitar (and maybe some others who came and went). A crowd stood around applauding every song.

Tent sent up in Bluewater Park campground, Wiarton

 

On our way out of the campground to get some food, Deb found a cutout, and we met the actual Wiarton Willie. An albino groundhog who predicts the weather. He told us it was going to stay stinkin’ hot.

Wiarton Willie cut out

Wiarton Willie, the albino groundhog

We got to the liquor store before it closed, found some supplies at a grocery store, and split a Subway sub. A (reasonably) cold beer beside our little tent, with a view of Colpoys Bay ended a successful first day.

view of Colpoys Bay from Wiarton campground

 

Day 1: Shake Down

Port Elgin to Sauble Beach and back (65km)

We set out from Port Elgin without any particular goal beyond Southampton, but when we reached the north edge of Saugeen Shores Deb said she could ride all the way to Sauble Beach. So we did.

Deb at Sauble Beach

 

Highway 13 is about as nice as a busy road can be for bikes (in Ontario). Although it’s not marked with “share the road” signs, the shoulder is paved and wide. You’re only on it for a few km before you hit Frenchman’s Bay, and can get back onto a nice lakeside cottage road all the way to Sauble.

An ice cream cone at Sauble BeachSauble Beach brings back memories of arcade games, trampolines, and (relatively) big waves. It hasn’t changed much, except the arcade is gone, sadly. I bought cheap sunglasses at a place called Bikini Paradise. If you want a T-shirt with an amusing slogan, you have a lot of options there.

 

Steve riding on the Saugeen Rail Trail

We took the Saugeen Rail Trail both ways through Saugeen Shores. It’s perfect for riding and where it crosses Hwy 21 you can stop at Highbury Farms. We picked up fresh corn, and other veggies for dinner.