Laura Nicol is an Ottawa native and an optimistic activist, realistically committed to leaving the world better than she found it. You can find her on Twitter at @311laura.
In preparation for being a tourist in another country, I thought, what better way than to do it in my own city?
You see, in September I’m going to be joining a group of Canadians to bike across Vietnam (from Ho Chi Minh in the South to Hanoi in the North) over ten days in support of CARE Canada. Our longest ride is 90 km in one day, and about 400 km over the ten days, but I hear it’s a bit “hilly” and “humid” there.
The longest I’d ever biked was to work – a mere seven km. Obviously there’s some preparation needed to get from seven to 90 km!
It’s kind of funny. I used to work in tourism in Ottawa at the Capital Infocentre across from Parliament Hill. I spent my days raving to tourists about all of the fantastic things they could see and do while they visited – and I meant it. But never did I think that my training for biking across Vietnam would lead me to discover a place I’ve called home for nearly 28 years, and a place I thought I already knew all about.
I’m discovering through my training rides how amazing the city is to see by bicycle. My first ride, approximately 25 km, took my along the river by Carleton University, Vincent Massey Park, along Riverside Drive on a beautiful and breezy day. So many others were also out biking, walking or blading and would smile or wave a hello as you passed. The scenery was gorgeous and it was a beautiful trek through the greenspaces and public parks this city has to offer.
I came across this quote while researching my trip and thought it was a great motivator for Vietnam. Now I realize it’s true of being a tourist in my own city too:
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of a country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
– Ernest Hemingway
I can tell you all about how Alta Vista Drive has never occured to me as being such a long winding uphill road in places!
Of course, I also learned that it’s helpful to have someone help you with putting sunscreen on your back.
I’m really looking forward to using my training rides as a chance to discover more of what this beautiful city has to offer.
Here are some helpful links to help you broaden your biking experience: