Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A mini-marathon to Alex Bay...

Last Saturday saw us conducting a yard sale, in order to thin out the amount of 'stuff' we have in the house. It was fairly successful. So much so in fact, that my better half decided that she would do the same on Sunday. As for myself, I decided that I would take the first part of that Sunday to take a fast trek to Alex Bay.

I rolled out at 0715hrs, after a fast consult with the Environment Canada website. As the call was for temps in the low 30s, I brought only a hoodie, a bottle of sunblock and water. I made a stop at Tim's in Manotick, as I had yet to have a coffee. As I pulled in, I parked amongst a half-dozen local firefighters (The Red Knights), who I later discovered were also on their way to the US. I went in to fetch my coffee and a sour cream glazed doughnut (a staple for beginning any road trip...). When I came back out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had been joined by a neighbour of mine, who used to go by the handle of 'Old School' on our VTX Riders website.

He had since sold his VTX in favor of one, then another sport touring bike, his latest being a Beemer GT model. He and his missus seemed very pleased with it. We chatted for a spell until I had done my coffee and decided to hit the road. They lit out ahead of me, only to stop at the gas station across the street. I waved to them as I left, heading down the Rideau River Road. I followed the Rideau River Road right out to the junction with the Southbound 416, near the Veterans' Memorial Park. The air was heavy with moisture, pungent with the smell of flowers and vegetation and mercifully still cool at that time of day. I had no doubt the sun would soon begin burning through the morning's overcast and haze. Then we'd be in for it...

The trip down the 416 was casual. Traffic was light and I kept it down to a conservative 110kmh. 'Baby' loped along easily as we let other, more hurried travellers pass us by. It felt great to be cruising along, even on a highway. The sun began peering through the now scattered cloud formations and I could already feel the heat. It was going to be a scorcher. I was thankful for the protection the hoodie would afford my skin against the sun's rays, yet at the same time I wasn't sweating my bag off. By 0945hrs we were approaching the exit for the US.

As I reached the foot of the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge, I stopped in the shade of the duty free shop. I downed half the bottle of water I had with me and re-applied some more sunblock. As I was preparing to head out again, I heard the thunder of bikes. Sure enough, there were the Red Knights and Old School. I let 'em pass by before I picked up the rear of the formation as we made our way across the bridge. It took a little while for us all to pass through the bridge tool booth and even longer still to clear US Customs. They only had so many lanes open and all us bikes had lined up at the same one.

We switched off the bikes and left them on their jiffy stands, as the rider ahead of us went through their customs check. I dug out the camera and snapped a pic of our lineup. The sun was really out now and it was getting hot. I drained the remaining water from the bottle, making a mental note to grab some at the first chance I got. I was keeping a close eye on my mileage and figured I'd be due to top up pretty soon. I remembered a gas station just down the road from the Ogdensburg Mall, where I had stopped before and decided I would stop there on my way out to Alex Bay.

We finally all made it through customs within 20 minutes or so and their group had pulled over to the side. I trundled past them and gave them a wave, wishing them a safe ride. It was too hot to stop and chat. That wind felt mighty good at this point. We carried on to the end of the bridge road and then hooked a right along the 37. We turned off on State Street to fuel and replenish our water supplies at the Nice an' Easy. After I filled the bike, I emptied half the new water bottle. Then we were on our way. Soon after, we crossed the little bridge that spans the Oswegatchie River. It always provides such a pretty view... Besides the bridge leading to Canada, Ogdensburg is known for it's port, two state prisons and having been the residence at one point, of none other than Frederic Remington.

The ride along the 37, which hugs the St.Lawrence River, is always a scenic and relaxing affair. It is not a very heavily travelled road, considering where it lies. The eleven miles to Morristown were soon behind us and we came to the split. The 37 from there leads to Hammond, South Hammond, and Redwood. It then joins up with US Route 11, before entering Watertown. We banked right onto State Route 12. This road wanders through Jacques Cartier State Park, Oak Point, Chippewa Bay, Goose Bay and finally, Alexandria Bay. Eventually it will lead you to the Thousand Island Bridge and the very beginning of I-81.

I took my time along the 12, enjoying every minute spent surrounded by fields, forests and river views. I stopped at one of the lookoffs and snapped a shot of Baby with the St.Lawrence as a backdrop. More water, fresh sunblock and off we went. I was mindful of the time, as I did not want to be gone all day. There were no deer spotted on this trip. I suppose they were smart and remained in the shade provided by the woods.

Before long, we were turning right onto Church Street and entering the village of Alex Bay. We followed it to the end then turned onto James Street, looking for a vacant spot. I found one right in front of Good Dog Charlies. It's a charming little shop, full of great and whimsical items revolving around the theme of dogs, of course. As I dismounted, I noticed the sun felt even hotter. I drained what remained in my water bottle and decided not to stay too long in town, as there was just one item I really wanted to pick up. The streets were teeming with tourists and locals. This is one popular spot...

Some time back, on a previous trip, I had seen a t-shirt which featured a serene, tranquil tableau of a person in a canoe. The caption at the top of the shirt reads: "Where is that banjo coming from?" I hadn't picked one up that day and it had been haunting me ever since. It's a classic in my books and I just had to get one.

I wandered up the street, snooping through different storefronts. I noticed there was a plethora of 'Pirate Days' gear for sale. Clearly we had missed the festival this year. Too bad, so sad. Maybe next August we would have more disposable time on our hands. I arrived at the store where I recalled seeing this one particular shirt and ducked inside. The air conditioning felt great, so I took my time looking around. I also wanted to get a long-sleeved, white t-shirt of some sort. It would be lighter to wear than the hoodie, yet would still save my arms from the sun.

I made my way up to the second floor and headed for the very back. Sure enough, they had several of them left in a buff colour. I picked one out in an extra large, so it would fit loosely on me and allow for air circulation when at speed on the bike. I was happy. Mission accomplished. I had no such luck however, in locating a long-sleeved shirt, in any type of light colour. Ah well... Ç'est la vie. It was after noon by now and I was getting peckish. That doughnut was a long faded memory by now. I had thought about grabbing a bite in town while I was there, but then I thought about how hot the saddle would be when I finally landed back in it... Nope, not today. I ambled back to the bike after paying for my purchase. The sun was blazing down... "This is gonna be one hot ride back", I thought to myself. By this time I had stripped off my hoodie and stuffed it in my starboard saddlebag.

I thumbed Baby to life and we inched our way out of town, following a slow-moving conga line of cars and bikes. Reaching the end of Church Street, we swung back onto the 12 heading West. We would take the Thousand Island Bridge back over, which would give me the chance to take the 1,000 Islands Parkway to Brockville. I love that stretch of road. It's even nicer when you can take it straight through from Gananoque. *Sigh!*

Within 10 minutes, we were turning off the 12 and onto I-81 North. This would take us to the bridge itself. I paid my toll and crossed the bridge, admiring the view below me. One day, I'll do like so many others. I'll park on one side and walk across the bridge, camera in hand, to get a series of great shots. You just can't see near enough when you're crossing in a car or on a bike even.

There was a bit of a lineup coming through Canadian customs. I'd have to guesstimate it took all of 20-25 minutes to get through this time around and it was brutally hot waiting in line. My turn finally came and I was waved through without fanfare. I was out of water and very thirsty by this time. I stopped at the duty free shop, grabbed some more water and took a trip to the head. When I emerged, I stripped off in the parking lot and put on the new t-shirt. It was a lot drier than the one I had on 'til that point... A fresh application of sunblock and we were good to go.

Flashing up the bike, I headed off and very soon, we were merging onto the 1,000 Island Parkway. The trees on either side provided minimal shade as the sun was overhead by now. Still, the breeze by the water was considerably cooler and it was beautiful riding. I took my time and savored my surroundings, clipping along at a sedate 80kmh. We passed Rockport and Mallorytown Landing. But all too soon, I was taking the left-hander by the sign for Butternut Bay, headed to the on-ramp which would spew us out onto the 401.

I cranked her as we merged with the afternoon traffic. Surprisingly it was still light and we covered the 1 klick to the exit for Brockville in very short time. I rolled off the throttle and snicked her down a gear as we rolled up the off-ramp. Reaching to stop sign at the top of the ramp, a quick check showed no traffic approaching, so keeping her momentum going, I tipped her to the right and onto Route 2. I normally get the urge to stop when I'm passing through Brockville, but not this time however. I had done the deed, got my shirt and now it was about making tracks back to home base.

Still, I enjoyed running along the river's edge. Notably at this time of year. I loved the soft turns and bends of the road, the carefully manicured properties, the lack of traffic. Such a pleasant experience. Before long we were at Johnstown and the 416 beckoned to me. I debated running along the 2 until we reached Morrisburg, then head North along 31 (Bank Street). The 416 won out however and my idiot light on the dash was intimating I could use some fuel. Fine... we'd stop there and I'd get some more water while I was at it.

After filling up with some whoringly overpriced gas (they're right by the highway, whaddyagonnadoo?), I headed up the 416. Again, traffic was still moderate and we were at 1330hrs by this time. I kept her under 120kmh like a good sailor and it wasn't long before the exit for the Rideau River Road came into view. I followed my usual route home from there, arriving without incident in Orleans by 1420hrs. My better half and her little girl were sitting out, catching some rays, working the garage sale and chatting. Apparently things had gone even better with me gone, as they had successfully unloaded every one of the big items they were looking to get rid of.

All in all, a successful day for the both of us. I blew off some of the cobwebs in my brain and my Honey made some cash AND some extra space in the ol' homestead. Ya can't beat that...

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