Saturday, August 29, 2015

Biking in Gatineau and Ottawa

Now that I'm turning into a cyclist, albeit a slow one on a very girly bicycle, I seek ways to get out and ride. Friends told us about the awesome bike trails in Ottawa, so we brought our bicycles to Canada with the intention of going on a couple of long bike rides. 

Gatineau and Ottawa was the first ride.

Our first mistake was picking up a bike map. After our experience walking around Celebration, Florida for hours in the sun without a map, we thought this was a good idea. What I didn't realize, though, was the map we picked up from the visitor's center across the street from the Canadian Museum of History was a bike map for Gatineau only. It did not include the many kilometers of trails on the other side of the Ottawa River.

After stopping by Parliament to see the Changing of the Guard, we crossed the Ottawa River again (it was daylight, but I really like this picture) and cycled on the Gatineau side. The Gatineau side is quieter than the Ottawa side, it is also a little hillier and lends itself to mountain biking (I have a hybrid, so I was happy). Gatineau Park alone has 32.5 kilometers (20 miles) of trails, then there are more trails if you want to ride further. Some of the trails hugged the Ottawa River, there were places with public art on display (including this oddly amazing sculpture of plastic water bottles -- glad to see them getting some life after being tossed away, but would still rather they did not exist in the first place).

I liked riding through the tunnel with graffiti.

About 10 miles into our ride we decided to cross the Ottawa River again into Ottawa. They have the Big Loop traversing 35-40 kilometers (21-23 miles) along the Rideau Canal. Canals are flat. They were designed that way so the horses carrying cargo could do so more easily. Flat surfaces are nice for biking.

Crossing into Ottawa you pass a counter. This counter keeps track of how many bicycles use the Portage Bridge. This bridge, and the Alexandra Bridge (pictured earlier in this post), are the most pedestrian and bike-friendly bridges I have ever been on. There are lanes for cars, separate lanes for pedestrians, and a third set of lanes for cyclists. 

There were several types of bike lanes in Ottawa. Some were lines on a road with cars very nearby, but there were many others where the bikes were completely segregated from the cars, either by grass or a concrete median. Even someone as phobic as I am about riding in traffic could navigate the area.

There were also maps every few kilometers, which helped us to regain our bearings. 

It was also very scenic. The path passed many historic sites. Ottawa is the most photogenic city I have been to in a long time. The only "ugly" building we passed was the American Embassy. Many of the other buildings looked like something out of a European city, but within driving distance.

Within the day of our trip to Ottawa, Don said he could picture us living there. Ah, if only it was that easy to relocate to a new country. If only the weather was as perfect year-round as it was that day. If only ... well, it is nice to dream.

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