a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Jul, 2017

An epic bike ride and an important life lesson

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa

If you follow me on Twitter you already know that Mark and I undertook a big bike ride earlier this week. For those who don’t: we biked from Westboro to Stittsville and back and I LIVED TO TELL THE TALE.

As far as distance goes, Mark tracked it on his handy Strava app and it clocked in at 54.6 km. For many cyclists out there, this is no biggie, but (a) I am not a cyclist and (b) I had not trained for this kind of trip and so it was (and is!) a big deal to me.

Mark and I have been talking about biking to Stittsville for a year, possibly more. He had the day off on July 3, so we decided THIS was going to be the day. So we packed up our gear, pumped up our tires, and went on our merry way.

Mark has a new bike which he bought at Tall Tree Cycles earlier this summer. I guess you’d call it a commuter bike, as opposed to a racing bike or mountain bike (which is what I have). My bike is about, oh, 15 years old. It’s a clunker  – quite heavy –  but it’s very sturdy and makes me feel safe. I feel a little bit invincible on it, like I can run over anything and not fall off. That being said, I am not sure it fits me right. I feel like the distance between my butt and the handlebars is too short, if that makes sense. I also tend to put a lot of weight on my hands, which annoys me because they start to hurt after awhile. Aching legs and knees, I can take, but sore hands is not quite what I expected to have after a long ride.

Mark’s bike has a kickstand, fenders, and panniers, mine does not so Mark played the part of the sherpa and carried most of our things although I carried a small backpack with my phone, a rain coat – HEY THIS IS OTTAWA – and my wallet. Oh, and a spare pair of socks. I am not sure why I grabbed them. (I’d like to think that I had some kind of sixth sense about what was to come, but I didn’t.)

Something I learned a long time ago is that when you’re hiking or biking or going for a long walk, it’s a good idea to have a destination. It’s a mental thing. It gives you something to work toward and also serves as a bit of a reward for your hard work. Our destination: Quitter’s Coffee. If you’re not familiar with this place, I recommend reading this story on the Ottawa Citizen website about it.)

So here’s the big question: What route did we take to get to Stittsville? I am still amazed when I think about it. The only road we biked on was a short jaunt along our residential street before we hit Westboro Beach. From there it was bike path the entire way.

Bike route to Stittsville from Westboro

The network of bike paths from Westboro Beach to Quitter’s Coffee is essentially this: Ottawa River Pathway > Watt’s Creek > Greenbelt Pathway West > Trans Canada Trail. Spoiler alert: it was awesome and despite the fact that I hadn’t really trained for this endeavour, I felt great, for the most part. :)

Here’s Mark and I at the 10km mark. We are looking pretty spry, eh?

~10K mark, en route to Stittsville

There were a couple of hiccups. For example, this is what happened on the Watt’s Creek bike path near Corkstown and Moodie. This is the view on our way home (note I am barefoot, with my shoes in my hands). The whole area smelled like wet earthworms.

It was seriously flooded! So much so that our feet were submerged when we pedaled on the down stroke. And it was such a long part of the path there was no way we could bike through without pedaling. Suffice it to say, those extra socks came in very handy on the way back.

Here I am at the old train bridge in Bell’s Corners (the 18K mark):

Me, at Bells Corners (the old train tracks)

… and this is right nearby.

Greenbelt Pathway, Ottawa

It was quite scenic, as you can see. I would have taken more photos but I didn’t want to hold up our progress.

A part of the trail went through the woody area near the Equestrian Park/Wesley Clover. It’s a gravel trail here, and recent rains had washed out parts of the path and water was running across it in small/medium/large rivulets. Those of us without fenders got some backsplash, but it was no biggie. I don’t mind getting dirty in the name of fun. In fact, there was only one thing on my mind while we were racing though this part of the trail: downhill, through puddles, in the forest. It was this: WEEEEEEEEE!

It was fun, very fun. I don’t have this kind of fun when I’m running. When I’m running, the only thing I’m thinking about is (a) how much farther I have to go and (b) whether if I’m going to collapse/die/embarrass myself. The one main thought in my head is “HOW MUCH FARTHER IS IT.”

Overall, our cycling route was fairly flat, thank goodness. As I mentioned, there were only a few obstacles to give us pause:

Before we knew it, we had reached Quitter’s. Yay! I was actually feeling pretty good at this point. What also helped, was a bit of a refuel. Very delicious kind of fuel:

ARRIVED at Quitter's Cafe

This MAY appear to be an ordinary sandwich with a side of potato chips and an iced coffee, but I tell ya, I tore into that thing like it was my last meal on earth. It was a BLT, and it was amazing. Quitter’s was a great choice for a cycling destination.

Soon it was time to depart. The ride home seemed to go by a little quicker and I was doing fine until the end was in sight. In fact, I was pretty close to giving up at Westboro Beach. My jelly legs barely got me up the hill to the street.

Mark and me, on a bike ride to Stittsville. Almost home!

(Jelly legs not shown.)

And I must also confess that my main motivating factor at this point was the knowledge that this was waiting for me when I got home:

Me and my radler.

Will I do this kind of ride again? YES, I would love to, but I’d like to find a new destination that is about the same distance (er, or less). Suggestions are welcome!

I had a lot of time to think about things as we biked and I wondered what had taken us so long to finally get around to doing this route. Mark and I had been talking about this trip for a very long time, so what was the deal? I knew the answer as soon as the question popped into my head. It was fear. Fear had been holding me back even though I had sworn, once upon a time, never to let fear run my life and make my choices for me. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have won this particular battle with an old foe.

12 Responses to "An epic bike ride and an important life lesson"

1 | Vay Low

July 9th, 2017 at 2:47 pm


It’s not as far as Stittsville but I really like the ride to Aylmer (QC) and back. It’s about 30 km. Great little destination for an excellent pastry/bakery, gelato and sausage.
The ride along the path which follows the river is fantastic. Stop and check out the rapids and other sites along the river (if you want). Go during non-peak hours (morning and evening commutes) to feel the quiet tranquility and cool shade of the wooded areas.

2 | Vay Low

July 9th, 2017 at 2:49 pm


Thanks for tip about Stittsville ride. I WILL follow your lead.

3 | andrea tomkins

July 10th, 2017 at 10:46 am


Aylmer sounds totally up my alley. Thanks Vay Low! And I really recommend you do the ride to Stittsville. It’s very satisfying and you’ll feel great (after your legs recover, that is). ;)

4 | Jen_nifer

July 10th, 2017 at 10:50 am


Glad to know you’ve conquered a bike trip! A couple years back you inspired me to try from Carleton Place to Orleans. I hope to do the reverse this year!

5 | Sarah

July 10th, 2017 at 12:03 pm


I second the Aylmer idea. It’s one of my favourite paths in the area, up and down little hills, through woods and pastures – just gorgeous, and you can end it at the Marina, with a beer and a snack (not the best snack, but it’ll do), or ride into Aylmer proper and get a delicious pastry. The only crappy part is having to use Island Park bridge (but you can always detour to Portage if you don’t mind the extra 15k!)

6 | Vay low

July 24th, 2017 at 12:29 am


Excellent series in the Citizen last week. Some excellent cycling adventures in Ottawa. Inspired by Andrea? No doubt!

7 | andrea tomkins

July 24th, 2017 at 11:27 am


LOL. I’m not sure about that. :) I did see that article though. I’m bookmarking it for future reference. I’m keen to get out again!

8 | andrea tomkins

July 24th, 2017 at 11:31 am


For what it’s worth, here’s a link to the Citizen article in case someone is looking for a new bike route in Ottawa:

9 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive About that 5K (the Color Run!) and a fitness switcheroo - a peek inside the fishbowl

August 15th, 2017 at 8:29 am


[…] lot of joy while I am trying to get to the finish line. What I do enjoy, is cycling. (Remember this EPIC and cool bike ride?) I love the wind in my hair, the scenery zipping by, the distance I can go. Maybe I need to switch […]

10 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Bike goals 2018 - a peek inside the fishbowl

May 2nd, 2018 at 1:40 pm


[…] whether I could do it or not… and I did! You can read about that trip and see some photos here. Highlights included an extremely flooded pathway and a lovely lunch at Quitter’s Cafe but […]

11 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Bike ride to Alymer: easy path, scenic views, stellar fries (and beer!) - a peek inside the fishbowl

October 18th, 2018 at 2:25 pm


[…] of you might remember a bike ride we undertook last summer. Frankly, I amazed myself. We biked to Stittsville and back to Westboro and LIVED. But this was not that. The bike route to Aylmer from Westboro is considerably shorter than biking […]

12 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Bike ride to Aylmer: easy path, scenic views, stellar fries (and beer!) - a peek inside the fishbowl

October 18th, 2018 at 5:54 pm


[…] of you might remember a bike ride we undertook last summer. Frankly, I amazed myself. We biked to Stittsville and back to Westboro and LIVED. But this was not that. The bike route to Aylmer from Westboro is considerably shorter than biking […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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