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Last fall’s inaugural Great Canadian Theatre Company Bike-A-Thon was such a huge success that it has become an annual fundraising event. This time riders had a choice of two routes. Both groups started off from the theatre on Wellington St W and followed bike paths along either side of the Ottawa River. The 18km ride I led crossed the Island Park Drive bridge to Quebec, then back over the Alexandria Bridge, before heading back along the river towards the theatre. An alternative 37km route led by Artistic Director Eric Coates branched off to Aylmer and back along the Voyageurs Pathway before completing the red loop. Both options are spectacular early morning rides.
To get to the Ottawa River Pathway we headed north along Holland Avenue, through Tunney’s Pasture (which isn’t actually a pasture, but an expanse of government buildings where Anthony Tunney’s cows once grazed a long time ago), then joined the link just off Parkdale to the Ottawa River Pathway. Holland and Parkdale aren’t choice roads to ride along during weekdays as they are popular commuter links, but they are OK early on weekend mornings.
We passed a collection of balanced rocks along the edge of the river which John Ceprano has been back to stack every summer since 1987. The Island Park Bridge over the Ottawa River has generous bike lanes heading both ways. On the other side of the river we headed downstream along the Voyageurs Pathway, sections of which follow the canoe portage the Coureurs des bois and Voyageurs trudged to avoid the Chaudières rapids.
We paused in Brébeuf Park, named after Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary who passed through on his was up stream. He is commemorated in bronze just off the pathway, one hand clasping a cross, the other a paddle. The route get’s a little hilly just east of Brébeuf Park, with a number of tight turns through wooded areas. Things flatten out again in Parc des Portageurs, a fine spot to pause and admire this installation consisting of pipes from the EB Eddy wood mill that once dominated the area along the river. There still is a paper mill in operation off the path between Rue Eddy and the Portage Bridge. That’s who owns these huge steam pipes on either side of the path heading under the Portage Bridge. Throughout the winter they hiss and pop in rapid intervals, echoing all around as you pass by.
One of the most spectacular views of Parliament Hill can be had just beyond the Portage Bridge as the path heads down along the river’s edge. We wove our way up behind the Museum of History and crossed the Alexandra Bridge. On the Ottawa side of the bridge there’s a steep lane off to the right which brought us down to the Rideau Canal Locks. We pushed our bikes across the second set of locks.
On the other side we had a break and were treated to snacks and refreshments! Then it was back along the path along the river towards the theatre. Now that all is said and done, we are pleased to announce that our 25 cyclists raised $9,113 for next year's programming! A fine outing indeed!