Have you ever set out to do a wacky thing, and then marvelled that it really happened? That was my COVID-19 summer bike adventure.
I saved my local branch for last. Emerald Plaza is a neighbourhood library in a nondescript commercial strip on Merivale Road, but it’s one of my favourites in the city. Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. The real heart of Emerald Plaza is the staff.
In fact, several of those staff members were outside to say hello when I rode up. So were Alex and Barb, Twice Upon a Time board members (and friends!) who were ready with balloons and bikes. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer reception at branch #33.
In many ways, I think Tour de Branch was the perfect way to cope during the uncertain summer of COVID. The challenge provided a great excuse to leave the house, test my physical and mental limits, and explore every corner of Ottawa. A supportive group of friends and family kept me pedalling, met me for lunch, and ordered pizza after the longest rides. Thank you.
Thirty three branches down, 0 to go, and $1900 for a great cause. 😊
[ This is part three of a three part tour to Greely, Metcalfe and Vernon branches. ]
From Metcalfe branch, I continued along 8th Line Road for the most perfect country ride, enjoying the farms and calm road.
I turned onto
From 8th Line Road, I turned west on Marvelville Road to make my way toward Bank Street, then turned south to ride into Vernon.
The Vernon library branch is housed in a one room schoolhouse, complete with bell, built in 1882. It hasn’t re-opened yet, but I tried my best to peer inside the windows to catch a look at the old classroom-turned-library.
After a quick break, I set my sights on the return trip to Ottawa. I rode out of town on Bank Street, then retraced my route back along Albion Road. I was fully tuckered out upon my return to Westboro, and slightly in disbelief that there’s only one branch remaining on this summer cycling adventure.
[ This is part two of a three part tour to Greely, Metcalfe and Vernon branches. ]
After my lunch in Greely, it was time to press on to Metcalfe. While Bank Street is by far the most direct route, I wouldn’t recommend it for cycling. The shoulder was unpaved and the traffic was moving quickly, but I was glad to have a well-lit electric blue bike and bright t-shirt to increase my visibility.
Fortunately, I was able to turn off of Bank Street fairly soon to ride along Victoria Street into Metcalfe.
The library is on 8th Line Road, right next door to Osgoode Township High School. It was closed when I was there on a Wednesday, but the wi-fi was on and I was glad to have a moment to relax before continuing on to Vernon.
[ This is part one of a three part tour to Greely, Metcalfe and Vernon branches. ]
It’s hard to believe it, but autumn is officially here in Ottawa, and with it, the trail end of my summer cycling adventure. Left on my docket were a trio of far-flung (to me) branches on the southernmost edge of Ottawa, plus my final and much-beloved local branch, Emerald Plaza. It was time to start pedalling.
The “Greely loop” is over 88 km long, which I knew would be pushing my comfortable daily limit. My friend Joan’s “if you ever want to borrow it” invitation to ride her new e-bike was most welcome, and I jumped at the opportunity to use it for the ride to Greely.
I left Westboro on Island Park, then continued on Fisher Avenue to Dynes Road and the bridges at Hog’s Back. From there, I retraced the same route as my ride to Greenboro, along the Sawmill Creek Path and Airport Parkway.
Albion Road is the recommended bike-friendly route to Greely. The shoulders were paved, and traffic was ligher than I suspect it would have been on Bank Street. The Rideau Carleton Raceway is on Albion too, a landmark that is one of the main flightpaths into YOW. It was novel to see it from the side, rather than from above.
Greely is a mostly residential community, with large lots and a quiet feeling. I entered through the Sunset Lakes subdivison off Mitch Owens Road, and meandered through the streets to find the library on Meadow Drive.
Greely branch is a compact but lovely library, with lots of natural light and materials throughout. I enjoyed a picnic lunch in the park next door, then entered the library for a quick visit before heading out to my next stop.
It’s hard to believe, but I’m in the home stretch now. With only five branches remaining, including an easy win close to home, it was time to tackle my final mid-distance ride and head out to Kanata to see Ottawa’s newest branch. I headed out of Central Park, passing the intersection of Bonnie and Clyde on my way through Copeland Park and west to Iris Street.
I took a new-to-me route behind IKEA, then turned onto Morrison Drive, eventually meeting the Watts Creek Pathway at Holly Acres Road.
The Watts Creek Pathway was new-to-me this year, and I’ve really enjoyed using it to head west toward Kanata and Bells Corners. The leaves were starting to turn, another sign that my summer project will be coming to a close in the next couple of weeks.
Before long, I saw the first signs of Kanata. Beaverbrook branch is located on Campeau Drive on the eastern side of town, so it didn’t take long for me to ride to the branch once I was through the Greenbelt.
Beaverbrook was extensively renovated in 2013-2014, and it is a beautiful library with plenty of natural light and art reflecting the local community. Christopher Griffin’s 13 turtle sculptures and mural, together called Blanding’s Turtles of the South March Highlands, grace the entrance to the branch. There was also a huge bank of bike racks near the entrance.
I broke with tradition on this trip and ventured inside the branch. While the libraries have been gradually reopening and expanding their services over the summer, the timing was right on this ride to take a moment and look around inside. I was glad I did — I had a lovely chat with branch staff and was able to see more art inside. With this trip under my belt, there are just four to go, three of which I’m planning to tackle in one go. What a ride.
Readers, it has been a while. After a frantic couple of weeks winding down my to-do list at work, I’m now on sabbatical to complete a M.Sc. at Carleton for the next 12 months. I’m still pinching myself.
Of course, with September rolling around I am also conscious of the need to wrap up my final few branches before the cold weather starts in earnest. With that in mind, I set out for St-Laurent on an overcast Wednesday afternoon.
I set out across the farm, crossed at the locks near Carleton, and continued along the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway all the way to Clegg Street.
From Clegg, I rode through Old Ottawa East along Main Street, then turned to ride through the Saint Paul University campus to Lees. I crossed the Rideau River on the pathway that runs just south of the Queensway and joined the Rideau River Eastern Pathway to ride to Donald Street.
I rode along Donald Street, passing a fellow uOttawa librarian by chance (small world!), then turned north to wiggle through Vanier to St-Laurent branch, which is on Côté Street.
St-Laurent branch is part of a much larger recreation complex. There was a bike repair stand, large splash pad and playground outside, and plenty of families coming and going from the building. After a tour around the building to admire the sights, I made a quick stop at another uOttawa colleague’s new house to admire the in-progress kitchen renos before heading home in the rain.
[ This is part two of a two-part trip to Munster and Richmond branches. ]
After a lovely stop at Munster branch, it was time to hit the road once again and head to my second stop: Richmond.
Munster and Richmond are only about 11 km apart, and it was a quick L-shaped ride to find Richmond at the end of Franktown Road.
Richmond branch was one of the first branches I’ve biked to that was open for more than picking up holds. While the parking lot was quiet, the lights were on and there were a couple of cars in the lot.
After a short lunch break, I picked up the tour again to ride along Old Richmond Road. The sun was out, but the temperature wasn’t hot. Fall was most certainly on the way to Eastern Ontario.
Before I knew it, I was back to the new roundabout at Old Richmond Road and West Hunt Club. From there, I cruised back into town following the same routing as my trip out: through Nepean, across Centrepointe and back along the Experimental Farm Pathway.
[ This is part one of a two-part trip to Munster and Richmond branches. ]
With September around the corner, it was time to embrace a warm and sunny Saturday and strike another couple of libraries off the list. To Munster and Richmond!
I headed southwest from my home near the Central Experimental Farm, riding along the path network all the way to West Hunt Club Road.
West Hunt Club was under construction from Highway 416 westward. While this might have been an issue earlier in the summer, the work was mostly complete and I was able to cruise down the road along smooth pavement, taking advantage of a wide shoulder.
I like to think of Kanata as an ice cream cone shape, with the ice cream to the north and a tapered cone to the south. Today’s ride took me through the southernmost tip of the cone, though Bridlewood – Emerald Meadows and a new subdivision flanking Hope Side Road.
Once through the suburbs, I emerged in the countryside. I rode down Eagleson Road for a quick spell, then turned west on Flewellyn Road and enjoyed a low-traffic ride to Munster Road.
I rode into town along Munster Road, where I passed some friendly horses enjoying the sunshine. The library is just off the main road in the former St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, built in 1886.
Even though it was closed for COVID, this little branch charmed my socks off. The gothic revival style, custom signage to suit the church building, and a delightful little green space around back where I enjoyed a snack on the painted picnic table.
Nothing says “Friday late afternoon” like a socially distanced visit with a fellow librarian and a library stop along the way! On today’s docket: a ride to Vanier and a visit with Felicity.
I headed out across the farm as usual, then turned onto Baseline Road to access the off-ramp to Vincent Massey Park. Once on the Rideau River Eastern Pathway, I cruised north all the way to Beechwood Avenue. Smooth sailing on a sunny afternoon.
There’s a bike lane running along Beechwood Avenue, and I enjoyed my ride along the storefronts to Jolliet Avenue. From there, I entered Vanier and followed the library signs to the branch, which is at the end of Pères-Blancs Avenue. When I first moved to Ottawa, some of my close friends lived in this neighbourhood, so I enjoyed a nostalgic tour around our old haunts.
The library itself is located in a heritage building near the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre, Vanier Muséoparc and a sugar shack, which I’ve previously enjoyed visiting during the maple syrup harvest.
From the library, it was a quick ride over to Beechwood to spend some quality patio time with Felicity.
[ This is part three of a three-part tour to Carp, Fitzroy Harbour and Constance Bay branches. ]
After a fairly restful sleep, and with visions of a tasty breakfast in Dunrobin, I woke at dawn and began packing up my little campsite. In the wise words of Supertramp, I really did enjoy my stay, but I must be moving on.
My route to Constance Bay took me from the main entrance to Fitzroy Provincial Park, down Canon Smith Drive and northeast on Galetta Side Road to Dunrobin Road. There was hardly any traffic just after 7am, and I zoomed along at a nice clip courtesy of the four levels of pedal assist.
Dunrobin Road was a little rougher in places. Some segments were freshly paved with more room to maneuver, in other places I had to take up more space on the road. Fortunately I was fairly hi-vis with the bright orange panniers and the ebike’s lights.
Constance Bay is just off Dunrobin Road, and is really two bays: Constance Bay to the east and Buckham’s Bay to the west. The Torbolton Forest is in the centre, and the library is in the centre of that, co-located with a community centre. There were several friendly joggers and dog walkers out early on Sunday morning, and we exchanged greetings as I made a loop around town.
I was, at this point, extremely ready for breakfast. Remember when I told you my friend Mary was my helper and motivator this weekend? She was also my trusty breakfast companion at the Heart and Soul Café in Dunrobin. In “small world” news, two members of my book club were also enjoying breakfast at the same time (Hi Rhondda and Robin!).
I was, shall we say, enthusiastic about the pedal assist feature after falling off the bike on Saturday. With no opportunity for a recharge overnight, the battery bit the dust as I was leaving Dunrobin. Luckily for me, the worst of the hills were behind me, Mary had my heavy gear, and I enjoyed a cushy ride downtown on what was effectively a big cruiser bike.
I retraced my steps back through Kanata, passing houses and golf clubs and the empty business park, then took an alternate routing back along Carling Avenue, turning onto the Trans Canada Trail at Andrew Haydon Park. I then joined the Sir John A Macdonald Parkway at Mud Lake. The parkway was open for cyclists, and I ventured downtown without a care in the world.
I completed my tour in just shy of 24 hours, including a night of camping nearly exactly in the middle. While I do think I could have finished the tour on my regular bike, the ebike actually made the experience enjoyable, and I felt better knowing that I could use the pedal assist if necessary. All in all, would recommend! Special thanks to Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals for their excellent service and Mary for her encouragement and support.