Ride the Ridge, yes … but storm the Nation

Around the Nation

by Tom Van Dusen

I made up my mind Saturday morning that I wouldn’t go to Smokie Ridge Vineyard and just take pictures of cyclists setting off on the inaugural Ride the Ridge tour… to get the full story, the anguish and the glory, I knew I had to complete the 29-km circuit too.

So I loaded my reconditioned black, white and lime green – with matching lime water bottle – Raleigh Tora into the trunk of my 2004 black Saturn Ion and headed north from Prescott to Smokie’s, arriving fashionably late with 10 other bikers chaperoned by North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser, an avid cyclist, raring to go.

As I struggled to get my bike out of the trunk, a young lad working at the winery and soon-to-be brewery offered a hand while actually admiring my Ion. He said he had one once that went over 800,000 km before dying peacefully in its sleep… as he put it. I gave my Saturn a rare pat on the fender as I considered the puny 346,000 km on its odometer.

North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser and other cyclists take a break at South Mountain library. Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

Soon I was on the Tora, figuring it would be a leisurely piece-of-cake run what with the family and older dynamic of the group. Right! We were barely out on Cameron Road in front of the vineyard when I was dragging up the rear by quite a bit. The mayor’s wife Amy staid back with me for a while but soon got bored and barreled on ahead on her super-bike.

I finally caught up to the crowd at the corner of County Rd. 1 – they waited for me – and it was full speed ahead again north to Van Camp Road. This time the mayor himself took pity and fell back with me, thinking it wasn’t a bad idea to have a reporter as a captive audience for two hours. I was thinking the same, only in reverse, wondering what info I might pump out of Tony.

After the tour, cyclists enjoyed refreshments on Smokie Ridge expanded patio. Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

We mainly chatted about the new Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry-Cornwall Adventure Club offering 680 kms of bike routes across the region, including two in North Dundas, Ride the Ridge which we were currently navigating and the 56 km Storm the Nation tour which focuses on the river running through it.

Does that say 56 km! Please tell me I don’t have to ride that one, at least not until I’m in better shape and I have a softer seat!

All routes are contained in an easy-to-follow free downloadable pamphlet which boats that SDG-Cornwall is where you’ll find “open minds, open roads, and open skies at every turn.”

The mayor has taken a keen personal interest in the program, seeing it as a good way during the COVID era when people are sticking closer to home and buying bikes in record numbers to draw tourists to North Dundas as witness to its idyllic charms up close and personal.

As I struggled to keep up, he yelled back at me that, yes it’s true there isn’t a show- stopper in the township like a majestic waterfall or mountain peak – there’s really nothing higher than a knoll – so the trick is to turn the agricultural countryside and quaint villages into the main event.

As we came off Van Camp and turned south on County Road 3 into Inkerman, there was no denying the mayor and myself are already convinced that ancient barns and lush crop fields are well worth admiring on a warm August day.

But if cycling crowds build, so much more could be done with rest stops at partnering farms, maybe lemonade and snack stands, signage describing family operations, other stops at historic cemeteries and business such as New-Life Mills, Inkerman.

We finally arrived at South Mountain for a rest stop at the village library with only 7 km remaining to get back to Smokie’s for burgers and beverages on the vastly expanded patio which now includes an entertainment stage as the owner anticipates increased customers staying close to home because of COVID.

Mayor Tony did impart a few secrets along the way but I’m sworn to secrecy. It I open my yap, he said he’ll make me bike Storm the Nation!

Below: Earlier in the summer, North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser and wife Amy disembark on one of 19 cycle routes being promoted within the The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry. ‘Ride the Ridge’ is a 29-km loop starting at Smokie Ridge Vineyard, circling around through Mountain, Inkerman and South Mountain before arriving back at Paul ‘Smokie’ Leblanc’s operation on Cameron Rd. Leblanc hosted the Frasers and SDG’s student employee ‘cycling ambassadors’ Andy Gadbois and Aimee Curotte this morning as they started on their ride — the first celebrated in North Dundas. All told, there are 19 routes comprising 680 km around the region on a newly released ‘SDG-Cornwall Adventure’-branded cycling map and app. The new initiative comes as SDG’s tourism department promotes ‘staycations’ and the attractions in our own backyard during these pandemic times.
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