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Old 06-17-10, 11:38 PM   #1
brawny
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Considering a loop of Lake Ontario

Hi Folks,

I've been mulling over the idea of doing a counter-clockwise loop of Lake Ontario this summer, and thought I'd throw it out to the forum for advice and suggestions. I've posted this here in the Touring forum, but will be posting to the Regional / Eastern Canada forum to get advice from folks in the area as well.

Google maps shows the distance as approx 800 km (it's difficult to get exact distances on cross-border directions, and the ferries from Cape Vincent/Wolfe Island/Kingston are difficult to take into account). Anway, 800 km is in the ball park. It will probably end up being around 1000 by the time all is said and done. I'm confident that I should be able to average about 100km (60 miles) a day loaded. My average speed loaded is around 20 km/h (12-13 mph), which works out to about 5 hours of riding time. (Breaks excluded).

I have 3 weeks off (last week July, first 2 weeks of August), so I figure that's plenty of time. Usually I tour with my wife, but she's taken on a new position at work, and can't get the time off, so I'm considering going solo, although if anyone else were interested, I'd certainly be open to the idea of teaming up.

I bought a new Surly LHT earlier this year, with 26 x 1.5" tires, and I've got about 700 km on it since early May. I've got rear racks and waterproof Serratus panniers (from MEC), a decent handlebar bag (Vaude), but looking to put on a front rack and an additional pair of panniers to carry my gear. I'm still deciding between an overpriced, heavy Surly front rack, and something a little less robust (and less pricey!).

I've got more biking/hiking/camping gear than you can shake a stick at, but for this trip, I thought I'd try using my Hennessey hammock rather than a small tent.

My intention is to start around Niagara Falls, and follow the Erie Canal trail from Tonawanda, NY over to somewhere between Rochester and Syracuse, and then switch over to the Seaway Canal trail (although this seems a bit less documented than the canal trail) and head north to Cape Vincent where the ferry crosses to Wolfe Island, and then again to Kingston.

I think the Canadian side of the route should be a no-brainer. I picked up a Waterfront Trail book at the Toronto bike show this spring, and figured I'd follow it (more or less), except perhaps at the west end of the lake, where I hear the trail weaves through some residential streets. (Still have to confirm in the book). I have family and friends in Prince Edward County, as well as Toronto, and can count on a couple places to crash if necessary.

I've read a few CGOAB tour blogs about other folks doing the same trip, and it sounds like a great vacation/ride/experience.

On past tours with my wife, we've pre-planned everything, including our daily destinations and accommodations, and even made reservations on occasion. For this tour, I'd prefer to not go to that level of detail, but let the road decide when/where I stop - but also have a good idea of what is available so that I don't get caught short. I'm ok with camping in public areas (like along the trail), provided it's safe, but my preference is for state/provincial parks and conservation areas with the occasional motel/B&B thrown in for a treat.

Does anyone have experience with this route, or parts of it? Are there any portions of the route that present challenges that might not be reasonably anticipated? Is there anything that a naive Canadian travelling solo should know about the US - aside from the availability of cheap, cold beer! (My wife is concerned with the US portion of the trip, as she's convinced I'm oblivious to my surroundings, and far too trusting of strangers. She may have a point, but we're talking about rural upstate New York!

Thanks in advance for any advice, suggestions and route pointers!

Brawny
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Old 06-18-10, 03:45 AM   #2
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Once you clear the Rochester area it's very rural. There's plenty of small towns and services but nothing remotely urban. The NY roads are very good with (usually) wide shoulders.

Seaway canal trial? You mean the Seaway trail, right?

The state campgrounds in NY are pretty nice places, especially the ones along the lake and St. Lawrence river, although a little pricey at 17-20 bucks or so.

Lots of people do the Seaway trail ride in the summer months, so you're bound to run into other touring cyclists.

I wouldn't worry about having problems with strangers here in upstate NY any more than I would in southern Canada, it's pretty much the same demographic. There's probably as many Canadians around here in the summer, visiting, as there are Americans.

If you have time, plan on visiting some of the smaller towns like Clayton, Sacketts Harbor, and Alexandria Bay here in the Thousand islands region while you're riding through. Lots of people miss those towns while on route to the ferry.

You won't have any trouble finding beer.
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Old 06-18-10, 06:13 AM   #3
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I did his counterclockwise out of Toronto last summer in seven days. It's an easy tour. The lake side bridge at Roxhester is swung closed during the summer for boat traffic, so you have to take a very long detour down to Empire Blvd. There are some drumlins around Oswego. The most beautiful section is Loyalist Parkway in Prince Edward County, but don't attempt the trail along the Murray Canal as you leave the parkway. I suggest you blast through Toronto to Burlington along Lakeshore blvd, rather that try to follow the trail. From Stoney Creek to Niagara take concession roads rather than the QEW service road.

I used a Hennessy Hammock on my trip as well. No problems.
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Old 06-18-10, 10:07 AM   #4
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I know the Kingston - Toronto leg, and overall, it's a great ride along the Waterfront Trail. When following the trail from west of Kingston to Glenora, know that there are few services. Bring food for this 50 km stretch. (I think there is store and restaurant in Bath.)

In Prince Edward County, forget the trail, and wiggle your way via back roads. You can find excellent maps of PEC throughout the region. PEC is a cycling heaven.

From PEC to Scarborough, the route is mostly excellent. I suggest not riding into Toronto, but taking a Go Train. The east end of Toronto is not fun to cycle until you arrive at the Martin Goodman Trail.
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Old 06-21-10, 01:22 PM   #5
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From Toronto westward you're best just following Lakeshore through to Burlington. Your trip from Hamilton to Niagara I'd suggest travelling on top of the escarpment due to traffic patterns and scenery. There is a camp ground at Centennial Pkwy next to the Wild Water Works. Even Hwy 8 or the north service road are safely rideable through to Grimsby.

It sounds like a great ride! Good luck and have lots of fun...
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Old 06-21-10, 01:46 PM   #6
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I am actually doing the ride in 2 weeks.The ride starts and finishes in Ontario, NY with a 75 hour ride limit. Here is the info with maps and cue sheets:

http://www.distancerider.net/LOL/LOLIndex.html
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Old 06-22-10, 06:45 AM   #7
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I am actually doing the ride in 2 weeks.The ride starts and finishes in Ontario, NY with a 75 hour ride limit. Here is the info with maps and cue sheets:

http://www.distancerider.net/LOL/LOLIndex.html
Wow.

I knew you Randonneurs were a bit crazy but... Wow.

Thanks for the link! The map and route will be really helpful. I dare say that the distance between two of your Controles would be about right for a day's loaded ride for me - they seem to be about 60miles (100km) apart, roughly. I'll probably cut the section by the 1000 Island's Bridge, and take the ferry across at Cape Vincent/Wolfe Island/Kingston, just for the experience. As well, I expect to take the Loyalist Parkway (Hwy 33) through PEC rather than heading north through Belleville. In fact, I'll probably linger in the county for a day or two and visit family and friends.

The gmap-pedometer.com links are great as well. I hadn't seen this site before, but it looks worth some further investigation to see if I can modify and save my own maps/routes.

The bike shop and motel list is handy as well, but hopefully not needed!

Bonne Chance on your brevet, and thanks for the link!

Brawny
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Old 06-22-10, 06:58 AM   #8
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I've done this too and everyone above summed up the details better than I could have. I'll just add/echo a few points:
-Definately check into whether the Irondequit bay bridge in NY is open or closed and plan an efficient route accordingly.(I ended up biking across the highway 104's bridge, which I don't reccomend to any sane person)
-In Ontario, near Adolphustown is an awesome little campground with a cyclists rate. This is the site: http://www.uel.ca/Camping.html but they don't seem to have 2010 rates posted yet. Last summer it was $12 for a beautiful site on the river.
-The Lake On the Mountain picnic area just outside of Picton is really cool and worth the painful uphill detour.
-Feel free to read my CGOAB blog: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/AroundLakeOntario
-Oh, and one last thing make sure the park/conservation area/whatever actually has camp sites and isn't just a picnic area...that caused me a few headaches
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Old 06-22-10, 06:59 AM   #9
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Once you clear the Rochester area it's very rural. There's plenty of small towns and services but nothing remotely urban. The NY roads are very good with (usually) wide shoulders.
That's what I more or less expected. The roads can make a big difference in the experience, as can traffic volume.

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Seaway canal trial? You mean the Seaway trail, right?
Absolutely. I had Erie canal on the brain.

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The state campgrounds in NY are pretty nice places, especially the ones along the lake and St. Lawrence river, although a little pricey at 17-20 bucks or so.
I've stayed at one near Pulaski a few years back during the fall salmon run. Good park, but pretty busy with fishermen at the time. Aside from state parks, do you have any suggestions for other places to camp? I'm a little hesitant to stealth camp, especially in the US, as some folks get pretty territorial about property rights and I wouldn't want to get into a confrontation - especially in a foreign country. I might be more willing to take a chance on the Canadian side of the border, since I'm 'home'.

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Originally Posted by Thulsadoom View Post
I wouldn't worry about having problems with strangers here in upstate NY any more than I would in southern Canada, it's pretty much the same demographic. There's probably as many Canadians around here in the summer, visiting, as there are Americans.
Thanks for the reassurance.

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If you have time, plan on visiting some of the smaller towns like Clayton, Sacketts Harbor, and Alexandria Bay here in the Thousand islands region while you're riding through. Lots of people miss those towns while on route to the ferry.
I'll look for Sacketts Harbour, but according to the map, I'll probably miss Clayton and Alexandria Bay if I take the ferry. If I decide to go to the bridge, I'll be sure to check them out.

Thanks for the advice/pointers!

Brawny
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Old 06-22-10, 12:36 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by brawny View Post
Wow.

I knew you Randonneurs were a bit crazy but... Wow.

Thanks for the link! The map and route will be really helpful. I dare say that the distance between two of your Controles would be about right for a day's loaded ride for me - they seem to be about 60miles (100km) apart, roughly. I'll probably cut the section by the 1000 Island's Bridge, and take the ferry across at Cape Vincent/Wolfe Island/Kingston, just for the experience. As well, I expect to take the Loyalist Parkway (Hwy 33) through PEC rather than heading north through Belleville. In fact, I'll probably linger in the county for a day or two and visit family and friends.

The gmap-pedometer.com links are great as well. I hadn't seen this site before, but it looks worth some further investigation to see if I can modify and save my own maps/routes.

The bike shop and motel list is handy as well, but hopefully not needed!

Bonne Chance on your brevet, and thanks for the link!

Brawny
Here is another link that may be helpful.

http://ridewithgps.com/trips/60016

It is my attempt to make a GPX file to ride with a GPS around the lake.
It is very easy to use and it also creates a cue sheet for you.
I do not have a GPS yet, but it is in the mail already (Garmin eTrex Vista), so I hope to use it for the upcoming ride.
Andrey.
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Old 06-22-10, 01:44 PM   #11
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Do yourself a favor and stop at the Dinosaur BBQ when you go through Rochester. Best BBQ Pork in the world! Incredible!!

As far as the Erie Canal Trail, its a pretty easy flat ride to Rochester, couple of spots where it turns from pavement to stone gravel, might be rough on the tires. But I haven't had any problems.

Theres some fun stuff up near upstate new york you may want to look into stopping at. Sterling, NY has an awesome renaissance festival every weekend in the summer.

Alright, just my two cents, sounds like an awesome trip, enjoy!!
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Old 06-22-10, 08:17 PM   #12
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I did the ride back in 2006.

It's closernto around 1100km

I started downtown Toronto and if I remember right itched taken me about 8-9 days.

Notesnfrom the trip;

- Beer is a pain in Canada but plentiful in the old USA as its available everywhere
- Canadian campgrounds are far more rustic than US ones, at least along the seaway trail. uS sites also have more amenities.
- the seaway trail follows the lake but not the lakeshore. Riding the canadian side was far more pleasant.
- Americans in pickup will bark like dogs out the windows when they pass you, Canadians willntell you to get the fraack off the road
- stay somewhere near sandbanks one night. The small lakes are nice and warm during the summer.

I did it loaded with tent with tent and all. A very pleasant trip. There is a guy from Toronto bruce trailnclub, Steven katznimernor somethingnlikenthat. Try google and you may findnhis touring log. He's done all the great lakes and does a excelllent job detailing his route. I more less followed it.

Excuse the typing....iPad
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Old 06-23-10, 12:36 PM   #13
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Do yourself a favor and stop at the Dinosaur BBQ when you go through Rochester. Best BBQ Pork in the world! Incredible!!
I'll definitely make note of the Dinosaur BBQ. Discovering local culinary treasures is one of the great parts of touring!

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As far as the Erie Canal Trail, its a pretty easy flat ride to Rochester, couple of spots where it turns from pavement to stone gravel, might be rough on the tires. But I haven't had any problems.
I've got 26 x 1.5 tires on my bike, and I'll be testing it out on a packed rail trail this weekend, minus the load, so I should get an idea of what I'm up against. I've heard other reports that the trail can get a bit bumpy in places, and some folks leave the tow path to travel nearby roads instead. I'm still waiting for my Erie Canal route maps to arrive, but I may do the same.

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Theres some fun stuff up near upstate new york you may want to look into stopping at. Sterling, NY has an awesome renaissance festival every weekend in the summer.
Sounds like fun. Not sure whether I'll be passing through on a weekend, but I'll certainly keep my eyes open!

Thanks for the pointers!
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Old 06-23-10, 12:53 PM   #14
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I did the ride back in 2006.

It's closernto around 1100km

I started downtown Toronto and if I remember right itched taken me about 8-9 days.
Hi Turd! That just sounds wrong...

I'm planning on starting around Niagara Falls/Fort Erie area, and riding across to the border. I still need to check details, as I recall some bridges don't let bikes ride across (like Sarnia, ON to Port Huron, MI). I'll probably plan a couple extra days, and see how it goes. I refuse to turn it into a race or try to set any land speed records. With apologies to the randonneuring crowd, I'm on vacation!


Quote:
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- Canadian campgrounds are far more rustic than US ones, at least along the seaway trail. uS sites also have more amenities.
- the seaway trail follows the lake but not the lakeshore. Riding the canadian side was far more pleasant.
I'm pretty much self-sufficient. The occasional shower (so that I'm allowed in restaurants), clean water and toilets, and I'm good to go!

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- Americans in pickup will bark like dogs out the windows when they pass you, Canadians willntell you to get the fraack off the road
Something to look forward to, I suppose...

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Originally Posted by Turd Ferguson View Post
- stay somewhere near sandbanks one night. The small lakes are nice and warm during the summer.
I'm planning on it. Either with family in Wellington, or I might beg a place to stay with Rick and Katie in Bloomfield. Maybe both.

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I did it loaded with tent with tent and all. A very pleasant trip. There is a guy from Toronto bruce trailnclub, Steven katznimernor somethingnlikenthat. Try google and you may findnhis touring log. He's done all the great lakes and does a excelllent job detailing his route. I more less followed it.
I've found a bunch of lake ontario tour logs on CGOAB, but none going counter-clockwise. I'll try googling the guy you mention as time permits. As far as routes go, the 1000km brevet route provided by Andrey (earlier in the thread) look good as a starting point.

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Excuse the typing....iPad
No worries - that 'n' key must be pretty close to the space bar! :-)

Thanks for the pointers!
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Old 12-03-11, 08:16 PM   #15
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I am planning this trip next summer. I am limited to the time I have off work and trying to do the loop in 4 days. Around 200km a day.

This will be my first loaded tour. Other then commuting back and forth to work with panniers loaded I have never cycle toured. I live 10 km from Niagara Falls so Ill be starting from my home. I have a new Soma Double Cross touring bike. I am trying to use warmshowers.org and friends I know along the way for lodging. I am in great shape and have 8000km this past season and still counting.

Thoughts of doing in it 4 days?
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Old 12-03-11, 08:51 PM   #16
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Don't know too much outside of the Buffalo/Rochester area, just be aware that the Erie Canalway path starting a little past Lockport is packed gravel and not paved. I don't typically ride there too often because of that. If you prefer paved road, you can follow Bike Route 5 (pretty much just State Route 31) all the way to Rochester, it's pretty much parallel to the canal.
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Old 12-03-11, 08:53 PM   #17
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I wouldn't worry about having problems with strangers here in upstate NY any more than I would in southern Canada, it's pretty much the same demographic. There's probably as many Canadians around here in the summer, visiting, as there are Americans.
Indeed. I know if you ever talk to someone from NYC, they seem to think Upstate NY is right out of a Stephen King novel, but really... we're nice folk. There's a reason Buffalo's called "The City of Good Neighbors".
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Old 12-04-11, 01:42 PM   #18
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I am limited to the time I have off work and trying to do the loop in 4 days. Around 200km a day....

Thoughts of doing in it 4 days?
Sure. But my guess is that you will endure the trip more than enjoy it.

For a four day trip, consider following the Waterfront Trail to Kingston. Then return home by train on the fourth day.
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Old 12-04-11, 07:59 PM   #19
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My wife and I did complete the tour the summer before last, but we did it in 12 days - 10 days riding (100km per day roughly) and 2 days of R and R in Prince Edward County.

I wrote the trip up over on CGOAB - here is the link if you're interested.

My wife and I are late 40's and definitely clydesdales. 100km a day was a good speed for us - we were able to get the distance in during the day, and still had time to stop and smell the roses. I would say this is probably one of the best vacations we've had in recent memory.

The ride is do-able in 4 days - in fact, there's a link to 1000k randonneuring route around the lake earlier in this thread. (The time limit on a 1000km ride is 75 hours or less.) I'm pretty confident that there's not a hope in h*ll that I'd be able to do it that quick though! You must be in much better shape to even consider it.

I completely agree with acantor. Unless you have something to prove, you're better off to either take more time, or pick a shorter route.

Good luck!
Brawny
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