Luckily, we spotted someone on the deck of a nearby farmhouse. We rolled into the yard, it was a young girl and her mother taking care of the farm and the plants while the owners were away. To make a long story less long, after some conversation and explanation of the situation they actually offered to drive Hal to Collingwood (about a 45km drive) to purchase a new tire. (People are amazing!!). I topped up my water, and proceeded to continue the ride while Hal went to get a new tire...Hal and I would figure out a way to reconnect later on.
So on I went, now properly solo, into the heat and back into the relentless repeated climbs, broken up with steep rocky descents on this section of the course. At the 108km mark of the day I came to an optional loop on the course, through the Loree Forest. It was an opportunity for a little more fun while Hal caught up to me. A steep little climb lead to a fun rooty trail loop that lead to a lookout that loomed over the Blue Mountains, Lake Huron, and Craiglieth Provincial Park.
The view was spectacular! May camera skills don't even
come close to doing it justice. Where is ApexTed when you need him????
Then, on I continued...I still had not heard from Hal...but I wasn't always totally alone...
Finally, a text from Hal...he had acquired a new tire and was back on his way from the location where we split up. My optional trail loop had let him get closer to catching up but at this point he was still a good hour and a half behind me. But after a half a day of riding lost to the tire issue, he was back on track.
So on I went, into the Blue Mountain trails (more climbs), into Blue Mountain Resort that was robust with tourists and downhillers. I stopped for a break (and a $5 PowerAid!!!), re-fueled with some packed food. Then on...more crazy climbs through the Scenic Caves area...then into some wet, washed out (literally under water) fire-road/ trail...up a heart busting long, loose, steep, rocky climb (was there no end to these things???), then into some of the most fun single track on the route. The 3-Stage trails...ridiculous steep rocky climbs...screaming fast descents, hucking rock and root drops on a fully loaded bike...had me wishing I could strip my bike of bags and rip around in here for a couple of hours...
Yeah...Red Death Lookout...
had this Metis a little worried...
Unfortunately, had to eventually move on from the 3-Stage/Kolapore trails. The heat of the day, the climbing were beginning to take a toll. Saddle sores were starting to burn...even with regular applications of chamois cream. A niggling pain in my right knee at the start of the day had grown to screaming burn from inside the joint, and was accompanied by a blister on my little toe. Perhaps, a change in cleat position would alleviate the discomfort...if I remembered to address it this evening.
At about the 135km mark for the day, I texted Hal...he was about 30 kms behind me. The events of the day had worn on him. We determined we would make camp at Highlands Nordic. A site that offered tent camping space, a washroom and a shower. It was about 20km ahead for me.
Unfortunately it was on Concession 10. One of the hilliest gravel roads in the area. Of course....continue the BT700 experience. Onward....climb after climb....then there it was. I pulled in...sore, and dehydrated. Mark and Dave, two other BT700-ers were already there. As I set up my camp, Cambridge rider also pulled in.
Eventually, Hal limped in. Kelly, Highlands Nordic staff person helped us, as a group find a place that would deliver pizza out our way. (People are amazing!!)
Feast was had. Then sleep...hoping for an early morning start.
Tuesday: 155.34km. 2173m elevation. 9hrs 6mins.
Day 4: Wednesday
Awake early...but took time heating some coffee and pre-made breakfast with the small camp stove. On the bikes rolling by 6:15am. The hope was to beat the heat, but it was already densely humid. Mark and Dave had rolled out about a half hour ahead of us...Cambridge was still at camp packing up as we left.
I had put a bandaid over the blister on my little toe, but did not re-position the cleat on my right shoe; this would prove to be a mistake. It was another intense climbing day, and my knee with a sharp thud followed me through the day. And the saddle sores were in full scream mode (that means they hurt like heck!!).
Into the climbs and descents...at about the 20km mark of the day...climbing another ridiculous long, steep, loose rocky fire road climb we met Bill Wang...who was into Day 2 of the tour. He started a couple of days after the Grand Depart, but he was doing it in the opposite direction.
Bill took this pic. I was glad to meet him;
gave me a reason to stop to rest on this ridonculous climb.
Then onward...we ended up leap-frogging Mark and Dave throughout the day. We rolled into Creemore where we found a small gas station open for another coffee, water, and stock up on fuel for the day. Mark and Dave rolled in as we ate.
It was another hot day...slow progress with the repeated long, steeeep climbs. A constant search to keep water topped up. Trying to stand as much as possible to alleviate saddle sores, and an aching knee. At about the 70km mark for the day we rolled into the small town of Primrose with Mark and Dave and stopped at a small restaurant for lunch and water. (Steve's Restaurant....I think...).
After lunch the route took us through Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, and some very fun single track. At about 110km mark we hit the Tim Hortons at Airport Road and Hwy 9 for more fuel. Then directly into more fun single track...through Glen Haffy Conservation Park and the Oak Ridges Trails. A few kms of gravel followed...then into the Palgrave single track.
At 126km mark, almost directly out of the Palgrave single track, the route lead us directly by provincial legend, Sarah Caylor's country home. Sarah had offered her property as a spot for BT700 riders to camp for the night. How much of a legend is Sarah?? She had started this journey 2 hours behind us...she passed us on day 1 in Southampton...and finished the entire 715km more than a full day before we rolled into her yard!! ON A SINGLESPEED!!! She was already home, slept and recovering...cheering us on as we rode up...with beer for us!
Mark and Dave were somewhere behind us at this point and we expected them to roll in at any time. But they had decided to ride on through...in fact they continued on throughout the night, to finish the full route at 3am in the morning. Well done guys!! Cambridge made camp for the night at nearby Albion Hills camp ground.
Sarah and her favourite fella, Scott, offered to go to town for pizza and (more) beer for us. (People are amazing!!). So we made camp for the night here...and visited with these amazing folks...swapping stories.
Relieved, happy, to make it to Sarah's.
Wednesday: 126.15km. 2004m elevation. 8hrs 16mins.
Day 5: Thursday
Thursday morning saw us enjoying our accommodations, and taking our time, continuing our visit with Sarah and Scott. It was 7:30 by the time we got going.
The day was almost immediately into the Albion Hills single track and double track. One of my favourite memories of this route is the abundance of fun single and double trails. It's not all gravel...and almost no pavement!
Off of the Albion trails and onto the Caledon Trailway...finally!!! 40 kms of almost dead flat rail trail lay ahead of us. It actually took a few moments to adjust my brain...to actually shut off and zen out...and relax into a steady cadence for this section.
Where the trail crossed Airport Road, we stopped to hydrate and fuel at an amazing little bakery, Four Corners Bakery...enjoying some pastry, and conversation with staff/owners and customers. A great place to stop if you are in the area!! Continuing along the flat rail trail...having to stand to give the saddle sores and aching knee a break as often as possible.
We exited the rail trail at the town of Inglewood...and the route took us up one of the limited sections of pavement on the route. But what a stretch of pavement. Just another looong, steep climb. Damn...after so much flat rail trail, this was a slap in the face!! Knee shouting its displeasure...we finally crested this climb (the last real climb of the route!)....into more fun single track...at Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. Then onto the Elora Cataract trail....more flat rail trail...most welcomed!!
Into the town of Fergus, for one more stop at a Tim Hortons...water and fuel. Then into the Elora Gorge...a place of beauty!! Such an awesome sight...nature at its finest...and fun twisty rooty trails.
Then across an old, closed bridge...we crossed then were met by Tabi...co-founder of this route!! She led us out along a section of pavement. Thank you Tabi!! Great to meet you!!
Through the covered bridge at West Montrose...one of Ontario's last historic covered bridges. Then the route took us onto the Grand River trail...several kms of fun tight twisty single track then some seriously overgrown trail along the Grand River. Another historical bridge...
Hal took a rest here, while I attended to my hardware...
Here...I finally took time to readjust my cleat...and almost immediate relief to my knee!!! Ya...don't even say it...
There were actually several very interesting bridges along the route!
Then...with 5 -10 kms to go there was Matt Kadey...Tabi's partner and co-founder of the route. He had come out to meet us and lead us into town. Into St. Jacobs...and there we were. Done!!!
Thursday: 125.56km. 903m elevation. 6hrs 54mins.
An unbelievable experience! So complete...a total inclusion of everything an Ontario mountain biker/gravel grinder could look for! Thank you so much to Matt and Tabi for the route. I cannot even fathom how much work, research, recon, and logistics this must have taken!! And with such success!! So greatly appreciated!!
And thank you to Hal, for joining me on this experience. Not many can handle me for this long at one time...some strange idiosyncrasies, and sense (or non-sense) of humour...or so I'm told. Ask Lois.
I look forward to doing it again. Soon!! In fact...likely early September. What say you???
Would I do it as a racer? Or again as a fast tourist? (We should have been able to do it in under 4 days without the mechanical, and the thunderstorm delay.) It will depend on who I do it with...or if I do it alone. I am fine to do it either way. Although, I would recommend that for anyone who did do it as a racer...to do it again a little slower...and enjoy the amazing scenery, the local stops, the incredible variety this province has to offer. It is all there on this route.
Someone (a committed racer...who, I think has to be committed to it because he has committed so much to it...if that makes sense) mentioned that he will do the more tourist approach to any race/ride when he is older. I think this is a mistake...because if you are living life 'properly' you will never feel 'older'. One with a 'racer', A-type personality (I know, I've been involved in competitive sport for most of my life) has to consciously approach a route like this with the intention to take the time to appreciate all the extras that come with it. This route is one worthwhile of taking that approach...at least one time. I understand both sides...I want to race it sometime too...sometime. The very cool thing is that this is a route worthy of both approaches. This route...with it's unforgivable climbing...tech bits of single track and double track...navigational challenges...and amidst an Ontario humid heat wave was conquered by a challenger in under 48 hours is unbelievable!! That is one committed athlete!! Un-countable amount of kudos to that rider!!
Anyways...I'ma do it again. Soon!! And I will enjoy it at any rate...and curse it, and Matt and Tabi, as I suffer through.
The BT700 will surely become a famous classic. In fact....there are whispers...rumours...that there may be some additions to it...(perhaps another 300km???)...but you didn't hear it from me. Cuz nothing is for certain...or forever...on the internet. Right??? Right.
So, there we have it...
And with that...what's next for me in the MTB world??