A Visit to the Historic Brockville Railway Tunnel


Here’s something many of you may not know:  the oldest railway tunnel in Canada still exists under the downtown core of my home town, Brockville, Ontario, located on the shores of the St Lawrence River at the eastern edge of The Thousand Islands.

Until the waterfront area at the bottom of Market Street was revitalized and turned into a venue for various family activities, I too was unaware of its existence, and even then doors to the entrance were always closed. Both the northern and southern portals have been upgraded and maintained by the City of Brockville, since the tunnel was acquired as part of a waterfront land deal between the City and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Several years ago a short portion at the southern entrance (about 80 feet) was upgraded and opened to the public during the day as a sort of museum.

In 2011 a committee of Brockville’s City Council was formed with the goal to open the tunnel end-to-end for residents and visitors and to eventually see the tunnel and its north gorge area connected as part of the Brock Trail system. Renovation construction started in August of 2016. On August 12, 2017, as part of the City’s Rails to Trails Festival and its Canada 150 celebrations, the renovated interior of the tunnel was opened to visitors to enjoy during the summer months.

This past Saturday, a beautiful autumn day, Jim and I joined my son and my brother, and his friend on the walk through. We were very impressed. The atmosphere has been complimented with music playing and sometimes the sounds of train wheels turning and whistles blowing. The strips of every changing coloured lights passing through the tunnel give the impression of train lights approaching and reflect off the stalagmites and dripping water on the walls.

Unfortunately, while packing to go to Brockville the day before, I neglected to check my camera. When I tried to shoot some photos, I discovered that I had left my SD card in my computer at home!  I had to rely on my cell phone. Next time I go I’ll make sure I have everything I need, including a tripod, but for now, here are a few shots.

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Southern Entrance

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Inside looking out

Some History

The tunnel was built between 1854 and 1860 to allow the fledging Brockville and Ottawa Railway to connect the Brockville industrial waterfront area to the outlying areas lying between the St Lawrence and Ottawa rivers.

On December 31 of 1860, the first small train, a wood-burning locomotive and two coaches came through the completed tunnel and the tunnel was officially open for traffic. The tunnel is arch-shaped, measuring 14 feet 9 inches from the top of the arch to the ground and 14 feet across. The overall length of the tunnel is 1721 feet in length and passes right under Brockville City Hall.

To learn more, click here: History of Brockville Railway Tunnel

The Tour Riders Ride Again


Last night we rode the Boulevard to Peterborough to meet up with what few Tour Riders could make it.  Our numbers are dwindling: some have given up riding for age related reasons; some have moved away. Sometimes those who have moved, like us, return occasionally just for a reunion. Last night was one of those nights for a few people.

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Although I have known these riders for only twelve years, the group has been together for over thirty. Mike came down from Toronto last night and brought with him a photo album of memories. John, who makes it out only once or twice a year made the journey as well.  By the time the walk down Memory Lane was finished, there wasn’t a lot of time to ride so a shorter trip was planned. We were a group of five bikes.

The wind on our faces felt good on that hot evening as we headed north up Water Street from our meeting place at the Peterborough Zoo. At the third set of traffic lights, we turned right onto Nassau Road, which winds to the left after crossing River Road, crossing the Trent River and then makes an unexpected turn onto the first road on the right.

We cruised through the twists and turns, up hills and down for many miles, until we came to a stop at Peterborough County Road #4. Here we turned left, and then made a quick right turn onto County Road #8. This road isn’t as windy, but there are lots of hills and great open spaces. We continued on for many more miles, until we reached what seemed to be another road to the right. If you take this course, be sure to keep an eye on the signs, because this right turn is the continuation of County Road #8 and you want to stay on it, through South Dummer.

Several miles later, we made another right turn at the stop sign, onto Asphodel 11th Line, which soon took us onto Hwy 7. A left turn from there soon took us into the town of Havelock and a Tim Horton’s where we stopped for coffee and more reminiscing. Before we knew it darkness had taken over the sky and we all headed for home back down Hwy 7, after making vague plans to get together again in a couple of weeks. At Norwood we turned left toward Hastings, while the others continued back to Peterborough.

If you’re a local rider, looking for more roads to ride, give this one a try.

Come for a Ride in Peterborough and the Kawarthas


Recently, a young rider relatively new to Peterborough, suggested I do a post about some of our favourite rides around our home area of Peterborough, Ontario. I’ve been debating about the best way to do this. I started out by making a list, always popular, but difficult for my style of writing. Since I have written about many of our tours over the years, some in blog posts, some published in magazines, some still sitting on my computer, I’ve decided to share these with you, in a series.

A version of this first one was published in the June, 2007 issue of Canadian Biker Magazine under the heading Lock to Lake.

Come for a Ride in Peterborough and the Kawarthas

One great thing about Peterborough is that there are lots of great roads to ride.

It was the regular Every-Second-Tuesday Ride Night for the Peterborough Tour Riders. Our small group of six bikes left the parking lot of the Peterborough Zoo on Water Street, the usual meeting place, and then turned right onto Nassau Mills Road, crossing the concrete bridge that spans the Trent Canal. If we’d continued on this road, it would have taken us through Trent University campus, along the scenic Otonabee River, past four historical Trent Canal locks, and into Lakefield for a mandatory ice cream cone at Hamblin’s Ice Cream Parlour. That is one of our favourite shorter trips.

Tour Riders 006

This time, however, we took another right hand turn onto University Road, still part of University property, but as yet undeveloped. It’s a two-lane, tree-lined road with several abandoned houses that have been bought by the University. You have to remember that Peterborough is a small city, and after a five-minute ride we were “in the country” enjoying the quiet roads with their many hills and bends. At county Road 4 we turned left into the tiny town of Warsaw, and then onto Caves Road, which led us past Warsaw Caves Conservation Area (one of many tourist attractions in the area).

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We crossed over the Indian River, a narrow but clear waterway that flows gently under the wooden bridge.

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A few more turns took us onto County Rd. 6, which later became 44. A sign at the beginning of the road warned us that we’d experience six kilometers of twisty road, and indeed we did.

The road snaked between tall maple trees and past an old log house, now covered in a plastic cocoon. An old man dressed in denim overalls and a plaid shirt sat in a chair by the door. It wasn’t a road that could be traveled in haste, for many turns were so sharp that it was impossible to even glimpse what might be around the bend. Some corners were banked and the shoulders were narrow, all of which added to the excitement of the ride.

At the junction of County Rd. 46, we turned right and headed into Havelock, home of the annual Havelock Country Jamboree, which has been nominated several times as one of the top five County Music Festivals in Canada. County Rd. 46 became County Road 30 and we soon entered another little town, aptly named Trent River, after the river that flows through it. As we crossed the newly reconstructed bridge over the river, the setting sun created splashes of salmon-red in the sky. They hung over the treetops and reflected off the pale blue of the river.

Heading south, just before reaching Campbellford, we took another right hand turn onto County Rd. 35 towards Hastings. Within a few kilometers we discovered the bridge was out and we were forced to take a detour onto Godolphin Rd., which runs along the tops of many eskers. Around us, wheat fields caught in the evening light looked like stretches of golden sand. This scenic road took us into the town of Warkworth. From there we headed north again on County Rd. 25 and then west onto County Rd. 24, which led us into the rustic little hamlet of Dartford.

Jim said,” Watch on your right at the bottom of the hill. There’s a neat old building with an old working water mill.”

When we rounded the bend, we were disappointed to see yellow police tape around the perimeters of the property, and the clapboard house blackened with remnants of a fire.

We traveled on, through the town of Roseneath, locally known for its covered carousel, then south once more onto Hwy 45, through the First Nations Reserve of Alderville.

We then turned west onto County Rd. 18, past a Llama farm, and through Harwood to Gore’s Landing, a popular cottage and fishing resort area. At the top of the hill we turned right onto Lander Rd, which took us along a high cliff overlooking Rice Lake. By now there was just enough light remaining in the sky to cast shimmering shadows over the glassy water. A few more twists and turns brought us onto Cavan Road and into the lakeside community of Bewdley and to the Rhino Roadhouse. Here we indulged in some culinary treats and liquid refreshments, before striking out for home, along a much shorter and more direct route, up Hwy 7A. We’d covered 150 kilometers that night, more than usual, but it was a beautiful night for a ride.

Four and a Half Days Crossing Ontario in the Motor Home


We’re on the road once again, this time taking the long way to Arizona to see more of Canada on the way. We left on Wednesday, September 2nd and spent the first night at Carol’s Campsite at Sudbury. Other than the fact that when I opened the fridge to get out the makings for dinner I discovered that the fridge had been off, it was an uneventful afternoon of driving (it was after noon when we finally got on our way).

The next morning I moved some food items into the electric cooler, thankful that I’d brought it along this trip. Later Jim solved the problem with the fridge and all is good now. We continued onto our next destination, Wawa, Ontario where we stopped at a Good Sam Park for the night.  Internet connections have been poor, so I made no attempts at blogging. We were lucky to get emailing done.  Even our phones were often out of service amongst the hills and trees of that part of the province.

I thought we’d given ourselves plenty of time to get to BC for a few weeks before turning south,  but when we stopped in Wawa I was already wishing we’d scheduled more time so we could spend a day exploring there. We met a couple outside the Welcome Centre,who were slowly making their way back home to Qualicum Beach in BC, having traveled all the way to Montreal in a very old, wide-body camper van, similar to the one we owned for a few weeks before deciding we needed something larger for doing long trips. They had been there all day, just enjoying the beauty and catching up on internet tasks (WiFi was good there).  They told us of the beautiful beach in downtown Wawa that we should visit,  but we had to keep moving; we had made plans to visit family along the way.

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The Goose at Wawa, Ontario

The Goose at Wawa, Ontario

On Friday we decided to look up some Mesa Regal friends, who spend their summers on Loon Lake, in the small community of Shuniah, which is just east of Thunder Bay. While motoring along highway 17, we were startled by the flashing lights and a siren when a police car suddenly passed us.  A minute later, a small red car cut in front of us, just missing an oncoming transport.  It then passed the transport in front of us, forcing an oncoming car onto the shoulder! That was followed by second police car, also in warning mode, and cutting in and out of traffic. We both sat with our jaws dropped. How close had we come to being involved in a terrible crash?

We arrived at Loon Lake  at 5:00 pm to find Harp and Joan  thrilled to have us. Unfortunately the cottage turned out to be on a dead end road and there wasn’t a lot of space to turn our big rig and trailer around. Harp, his son Sandy, and I tried to direct Jim back into a narrow driveway, but cedar trees on one side stopped him, and when he attempted to drive forward to straighten out, the motor home was uphill, the trailer down. This resulted in the trailer hitch becoming buried under the gravel of the road. I left the men to rectify that situation and remove the trailer, while I went indoors to help Joanie with dinner. By the time it was about ready, the motor home was parked out front, facing the right direction to get us out of there, and the trailer was again connected. We could all relax and enjoy a drink on the dock before partaking of  a delicious meal on the deck.  We spent the night there in the RV and shared breakfast with Joanie and Harp before leaving the next day. Again, we would have liked to stay longer.  It’s a beautiful spot.

Cottage Life at Loon Lake

Cottage Life at Loon Lake

IMG_0517We stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial at Thunder Bay. The story still brings tears to my eyes, as it did when I tried to read about this brave young fellow back in 1981.

Terry Fox Memorial

Terry Fox Memorial

So far the weather had been sunny, hot and humid.  We made it to the outskirts of Kenora on Saturday night before stopping at The Willows RV Campground. Around 9:00 pm the rain began, followed by thunder, lightning and wind. It  stopped for a while, but after we got to bed it started again. The rain pounded on the roof for a half hour or more, not a gentle rain to put me to sleep. In the morning the park owner was out with his little back hoe leveling out some of the  holes in the roads caused by the storm. When we left the park an hour later, we watched two pickup trucks slowly make their way through a flooded area of the road we needed to take, then held our breath as we edged through it too.

Flooded Road

Yes, we had to go through that!

An hour later we were out of Ontario and into Manitoba, after traveling 1700 kilometers (1200 miles approx.) Jim says he once tried to tell a Texan how long it takes to drive across Ontario to Manitoba and the fellow replied, “I had a car like that once too.”

From Ontario to Missouri


We got off to a late start on Friday, with temperatures well below freezing. We had to wait for the furnace on the motor home to warm things up a bit before loading electronics and some liquids. Then, once the sun started to melt the snow on the roof, we discovered a leak around the newly replaced window. That meant that, once we were loaded, we had to make a quick detour back to the glass place for a fix.

We were just about at Hwy 115 when we ran into Tim Horton’s for what may be the last of our favourite coffee for a while. Jim had a conversation with a fellow biker while waiting in line, and he gave him some good advice – spray the bike with PAM to protect it from the snow and salt! That’s a tip he hadn’t heard before, and since there was plenty of salt on the roads when we left, we decided that a trip back to a grocery store for that always useful vegetable spray would be worthwhile. At 3:00 pm, just an hour and a half after we’d left our driveway, we were finally on our way.

Leaving The Snow

Leaving The Snow Behind

The roads were clear and the driving uneventful, but traffic was heavy and slow going through Toronto. We also drove into a bright sun for the later part of the afternoon. A stop in Milton for dinner didn’t make much difference in the traffic, and by 8:30 Jim was tired enough to call it a night. We spent that first night in our “new home” in a Flying J parking lot at St. Thomas, which was what we’d expected to do since there are no camp grounds or RV Parks open in Ontario this time of year.

We were up and eating breakfast at Denny’s by 6:00 am on Saturday. By 8:00 am we were crossing the border into the USA at Sarnia, with no problems. The rest of the day was unexciting, until we pulled into a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Bloomington Michigan for dinner. Jim still had his foot on the gas pedal when a black car pulled up beside us and the driver motioned Jim to open his window. The fellow began a whole sob story about how he needed money for food and gas so he could get back home for Thanksgiving, or after, I’m not sure which. He offered his driver’s licence and registration as proof of his worthiness. When Jim said he couldn’t help him, he immediately backed up beside another car, then another, tearing around the parking lot like a maniac. He drove a newer looking large car. I wondered if begging was how he managed to pay for it. When we got into the restaurant and reported him, others had already beaten us to it and he was sent on his way. We parked in a TA Truck Stop that night.

This morning we decided it was time for a shower. We can’t fill our water tanks until they’ve been drained of the antifreeze, and we have a source of water, which will require a campsite with hookups. So we took advantage of the showers offered by TA. This was our first experience with this and it took several tries before we figured out how to do it. We had to pay ($13.00 each) at a kiosk to get a pass code to the private shower rooms. While we paid for the first one, a very nice trucker came by and said that he had extra shower credits that he would be glad to give us. He used his membership card to purchase the second shower for us. Somehow, we ended up with a third ticket. The friendly and helpful girl who looked after the showers spoke on our behalf and got us a refund on the one we’d actually paid for. The day was off to a good start, and the lovely warm, soft water, fresh towels and extremely clean shower room made it all the better. We were much later getting started today after all of this, but we were refreshed. Again the sun was shining. The country was flat and the drive a little boring until we crossed the bridge from Illinois to Missouri. Jim thought a side trip into St. Louis would be nice. I agreed, but worried a little about how we’d get around the city with our total of 46 feet of vehicles. My fears weren’t completely unfounded. We were trying to find a place to park near the Gateway Arch, and the waterfront. We started down one hill and could see the water at the bottom, but just as we hit the last block and approached a bridge, we saw the warning: Bridge height only 12ft. 2in.!

Low Bridge

I don’t think so!!

Now we aren’t sure just how high our new rig is, but it has to be close to that. So Jim had to back up the hill to the last intersection and turn the rig around! We then turned right, down another street that soon became a narrow road of cobblestones. For three blocks we slowly bumped over that before we found another street to take us to the waterfront. All along Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd, which borders the harbor, there were “No Parking, Tow-Away Zone” signs posted along the street. Several cars were parked there, but did we want to take a chance? Jim got out and talked to Santa Claus, a horse-drawn carriage driver, who told him where there was free RV parking further along the street.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus

What a beautiful day to get out and walk a bit. The temperature was around 20 degrees Celsius, apparently rare for this time of year. We took pictures of River Boats, and bridges, and the Arch; we took the tram to the top of the Arch and looked down. Two hours later, after getting lost once more, we found our way back to I-44 to continue our journey.

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch

Tonight we’ve taken the evening off, in Sullivan Missouri. If this weather keeps up, tomorrow night we will find a campground where we can get charged up and filled up for the rest of the trip. Branson Missouri is also on tomorrow’s agenda.

A special thanks to Denny’s Restaurants for the great meals and internet access.

Bikes, Bikes… and Cars and Lunch!


Last Saturday we rode out to Classy Chassis & Cycle for the 7th Anniversary Bash. It was a sunny and hot day and that brought out loads of people and a parking lot full of bikes to admire and discuss.

Bikes at Classy Chassis

Bikes at Classy Chassis

Motorcycle 1

Nice paint job

Backside

Backside

Motorcycle 2

Another interesting paint job

Orange bike

This one will be seen on the road!

A few daring young stunt riders put on quite a show before lunch.

Motor Bike stunt rider

Motor Bike stunt rider

Look out for that roof!

Look out for that roof!

Motorcycle Stunt Rider

Nose dive

We stood in line at the food trailer for an hour before we were able to enjoy our meal and listen to the band playing on the stage. We strolled through the shop and drooled over some of the used bikes for sale. A couple of smaller ones that were parked near the exit door had me momentarily imagining owning my own again! But the moment passed.

Yesterday there was a British Car Show downtown in the morning and an Antique Car Show in the afternoon.  We had to be other places in the afternoon, but we took in the British cars in the morning. Unfortunately the weather started out rather cloudy and wet so the cars were still slowly arriving when we had to leave, but we saw some beauties and enjoyed the British style band that entertained us with old tunes from the British Invasion. A jolly good time!

MG

MG

Unique bonnet on this MG

TR6

Nice TR6

Triumph

An orange Triumph too

Austin

Note the “car hop tray” mounted on the side window

Before leaving the downtown, we picked up two Shawarma sandwiches from Altona Kebab to take home for lunch. They were delicious and so big that we had one left over for today’s lunch.

Shawarma

Shawarma sandwich from Altona Kebab

The Great Canadian Yard Sale


Gilmour Street in Peterborough, Ontario is a beautiful seven-block-long, tree-lined street of original early 20th century homes that have been well maintained, with groomed yards. On one Saturday in May for the past twenty years, it’s been the host of a bargain seeker’s delight – the Great Canadian Yard Sale.

Gilmour Street

Some of the immaculate homes on Gilmour Street

This year was no exception. The weather was perfect and the adjacent streets were jammed with parked vehicles that brought the throngs to wander the length of Gilmour Street. We spent an hour or more wading through the crowds and taking in the atmosphere, which is that of a relaxed, friendly community where people share a coffee, catch up, support the charities that have tables set up, and enjoy bargains. Amateur musicians and young break dancers entertain; entrepreneurial children sell homemade lemonade and cupcakes.

The traffic

The traffic

The Bargain Hunters

The Bargain Hunters

It’s amazing what you can find there!

Golf Balls

Golf Balls

Appliances

Appliances

Antiques

Antiques

Coat of Armour

Even a Coat of Armour!

Motorcycle

A Motorcycle

Kitchen Sink

And yes, even the kitchen sink