camping · cycling · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays

Cycling PEI: A Solo Trip 

by Mallory Brennan

Last spring I booked a number of flights for work and, as a result, started getting targeted ads for all the airline sales. So when a tremendous deal popped up for flights to Charlottetown (PEI) I booked flights for September, put the dates in my calendar and promptly forgot about it. 

Then summertime arrived. That’s when I work at Rainbow Camp, an overnight camp for 2SLGBTQ+ youth. This year was our first summer back in person since 2019, as well as our first time running a full summer of camp. This was also my first summer as co-director (shoutout to my amazing co-director Cal!). September was the last thing on my mind.

All of a sudden, my trip was three days away and all I had planned was my flights. No accommodations booked, no routes planned, no rental bicycle booked, no meal plans, no list of things I wanted to do, none of the stuff I would usually prepare in advance. Then all of a sudden it was the day before my flight and still nothing… The night before I left I hastily booked a rental bicycle and booked accommodations, picking places that seemed like a reasonable distance apart. Everything else I could make up as I went along, right?

Five Random Observations Post Trip:

  1. I’d forgotten how much I love the freedom of multiple day solo trips. I could wake up whenever I felt like it, stop for rests whenever I felt like it, spend hours reading, eat when I felt like it and basically do whatever I felt like. (It helped that I “planned” my route conservatively so I was never in a huge rush to get to my destination!)
  2. Rail Trails are not all flat. I knew this in advance but somehow forgot. Cue several hours of slogging along the trail, feeling like you aren’t going anywhere until you see a cyclist going the other way with a grin on their face and you realize you’ve been slowly going uphill for the past several hours.
  3. The roads in PEI are excellent for cycling. I did about ⅔ of my trip on the Confederation Trail and the rest on minor highways. Things I noticed about the roads:
    1. There were large paved shoulders on most roads
    2. Cars were clearly used to seeing cyclists and gave me lots of space
    3. There was signage for cyclists as well as for motorists 
  4. I much prefer my own bicycle over my rental bicycle. While I considered bringing my bicycle, I opted to rent a bicycle and panniers for the week instead. While it was a perfectly serviceable bicycle, I prefer mine. (I own a fancy touring bicycle that was a graduation gift the first time I graduated university so to be fair, the bar is high.)
  5. I enjoy having a baseline level of fitness (and possibly youth on my side) that allows me to pick up a rental bicycle, carry all of my stuff (including camping equipment!) and spend five days riding without any training. While I didn’t do any super long distances (my longest day was 70km), I also did absolutely ZERO training and in fact, hadn’t ridden a bicycle at all in the 12 months prior to this trip. 

camping · charity · cycling · fitness

2022 #F4LBR: All the posts in one place

The first day was tough. We rode in a heat alert from Toronto to Port Hope. So many traffic lights. So much near heat exhaustion. So few women’s showers. I was never so happy to eat vegetarian lasagna at the day’s end and despite all the things that we were really tough I went to sleep with sore cheeks from smiling. It was so great to see everyone again.

Sarah and Sam tongues out in the heat

Day Two is the longest day. It was also a very hot day. But we made it. Sarah described it as using every trick in the “avoid heat exhaustion” book. We kept drinking. We took all the breaks. We paced ourselves. And we rolled into Adolphustown not feeling too bad. It was also the day we first wore our team jerseys. Thanks Rally’s Angels captains Michael and Vanessa.

Rally’s Angels in the morning sun

Day 3 is red dress day and a slow roll into Kingston. Time for a real bed, dinner out with the team, drag show in the park, and laundry!

Rally’s Angels on red dress day

Day Four involves one of my favorite sections of road, the Thousand Islands Parkway. No cars, just smooth sailing to lunch. We had a great new lunch spot this year at The Barn. Thanks guys for hosting us!

Day Five another fave section, the Long Sault Parkway and this year the nicely paved path through Upper Canada Village. We also opted to wear our team jerseys again since we began the day serving breakfast at 530 am.

Breakfast anyone?

Day Six is the ride into Montreal but first we ride through lots of small towns along the way. This year was the smoothest ride into the city ever. Single file, no passing, no stopping and starting and a police escort once we got downtown. Thanks Rally organizers for that. It’s a moving moment seeing all of the riders on the path into the city and I liked being able to soak it in without worrying about crashing into the bike in front of me.

Rolling into Montreal
We made it!

What to do after the bike rally? Ride Bixis around Montreal of course. We also visited with family. Hi Victoria! And basked in the warm waters at Bota Bota.

I’m also so thankful to all of the friends, family, bloggers, readers, colleagues etc who donated. It’s your gift that makes this ride meaningful.

Thanks Susan, Udo, Byron, Nancy, Kira, Jenny, Madeline, Tracey, Tracy, Ed, Emmylou, Martha, Catherine, Todd, Yoni, Anita, Jane, Cate, Sergio, Gwen, M.E., Leela.

You can still donate here.

Thanks Kelly. Unsplash.
camping · charity · cycling

Bike rally day six: We made it to Montreal!!!

Riders heading into Montreal, our team at the center. Selfie taken by Rally’s Angels Team Co-Captain Michael

This is just a very short post to let you know we’ve made it to Montreal.

Thanks Robert, Byron, Kira, and Tracy for donating and helping out the rally.

Thanks to my very wonderful team co-captains Vanessa and Michael for all of your work organizing us and keeping us connected during the week. I loved the Rally’s Angels temporary tattoos you gave us for the ride into Montreal.

Today began super early, breakfast at 530 am, to make sure we could all meet up in a Lachine to ride into the city together as a group.

After Sarah and I stopped for ice cream in Lachine, we had a great ride into the city along the Lachine canal. And here we are in Place Émilie-Gamelin where we gathered for speeches and a welcoming celebration.

Sam and Sarah in the middle, with team co-captains Vanessa and Michael on either side. We did it!

Here’s our route:

We’re staying in the Grey Nuns residence at Concordia before taking the train home to Toronto and then on to Guelph. My bike is getting home in one of the bike rally trucks.

There’s a party tonight but we’re too tired. It’s been a big week of riding and camping. My heart is full from the closing ceremony this morning. I’m happy to be in Montreal, happy not to be riding my bike, proud of all that we’ve done, but I’m also very sad to be leaving my bike rally family for another year.

Check out my activity on Strava:

You can still donate here.

camping · charity · cycling

Bike rally day five involves two of Sam’s favorite things: The Long Sault Parkway and Dairy Queen

Today we rode 113 km to Lancaster. We had a really wonderful day 5 of the bike rally. I mean yes, it was a lot of riding, after days of lots of riding. But there was an awful lot to like.

Here’s some of the highlights:

  • I love the Long Sault Parkway and riding on the paved bike paths through Upper Canada Village.
  • I had the best freezie of my life thanks to Tourism Cornwall who were handing them out.
  • We had a terrific tailwind after lunch. Zoom. Zoom. Fun.
  • Sarah and I have been getting better at riding together as the week continues and today we had fun working together and setting a reasonable pace while still having fun.
  • The day ends at Dairy Queen just outside camp. I had a cherry slushie float. Yum.
  • Finally despite scary clouds in the afternoon we never actually got rained on.

(I think I was surprised by how good today was. Memories of rainy day fives of years past are still sharp in my memory!)

We won’t mention that we’re staying at Camp Spider. Shhh.

That’s one of my least favorite things.

But otherwise, a pretty wonderful day of riding. Wow.

Here’s the map:

We are almost to Montreal. Just 100 km away. We’re still not quite at our 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal. You can donate here.


camping · charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day Four: It was the best of roads, it was the worst of roads

On Day Four we set out from Kingston, led by the rally’s top fundraisers. I joked that since the route out the city involves hills the top fundraisers ought to get a bus.

It was a quick 30 km to Ganonoque for break and then another 20 or so along the Thousand Islands Parkway to lunch. The parkway is one of my favorite sections of this ride. It’s all newly surfaced and completely separate from car traffic.

You know, I think of myself as someone who is pretty comfortable riding near cars, in traffic. I do it most days. And yet, on the parkway, my spirits lift, I smile more and I’m really relaxed. It makes me realize how much of my bike riding brain is occupied with safety on city streets. Sarah and I had a lovely ride talking with Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot. I’m in absolute awe of how much money she raises for the rally. She’s always one of the top fundraisers for this event.

But once we get off the Parkway, into Brockville and beyond, we’re on terrible shoulder of badly bumpy roads for the last 30 km or so. So bumpy. I wasn’t tired at the end of the day. I feltt more banged up from all the bumps and gravel and disappearing shoulder. There were also some grumpy drivers.

The campground here is beautiful though and we all got in pretty early. Even the sweeps were in by 4 pm giving everyone time for a dip in the lake before dinner.

Check out my activity on Strava:

Our fundraising is going well. We’re almost at our goal. Your donations help in important ways, even small donations.

Here’s Stephanie’s description of what they do, “The funds raised by this ride go to making a direct and fundamental changes in the lives of people with AIDS. It is help for mothers, food for children, rides to the doctor, someone who cares if they are lonely, support, love, care, haircuts, pet food, hospital visits, childcare… Every dollar you donate makes a real, tangible and important change in the life of another human…”

You can donate to the bike rally here

I’m very sleepy now. It’s after 10 at night and we’ve been taking part in the rally’s candlelight vigil where we hear from some of the rally’s participants about the their experiences with HIV/AIDS and the bike rally.

Also, my team, Rally’s Angels, is serving breakfast in the morning. That means we need to be dressed and ready to help at 530 am. Night night!

Moon over the lake
camping · challenge · charity · cycling · fitness

The bike rally day 3 is a slow roll into Kingston, also red dress day!

It’s the shortest day on the rally, just 60 km into Kingston. Now that’s not nothing but it’s less than half of what we did yesterday. It’s also Red Dress day or Dress in Red day, your choice.

Here’s Sarah and me at the start. Or as Sarah and I like to call it, the hurry up and wait, part of the morning. You rush to have breakfast, get dressed, take down tents, pack bins and load bins on the truck, but then you can you can’t leave until all of the trucks and loaded and have left.

But the weather was good this morning and so we sat in the grass pretty happily. It is overcast and in the low 20s. No bright sun, no rain, just perfect riding weather.

We also took the time to take team photos in all of our red dress finery.

Rally’s Angels

Here’s our ride on Strava.

Ride on Strava

Why the slow roll approach? Well we’re staying in the residences at Queen’s tonight. Thanks Queens! And while there are hot showers, laundry, real beds, and air conditioning, we don’t have access to our rooms until 1. So if we leave camp at 9 that’s 4 hours to do 60 km.

Our team decided it was a good morning to stop for coffee en route. Sarah and I were also slowed down by our first flat of the rally.

Here are all the bins in the courtyard of the residence at Queen’s

Here’s some video from the day

And our team at the Kingston sign.

Rally’s Angels

Tonight it’s team dinner plus a drag show in the park after. If you’re around, stop by.

“DRAG IN THE PARK: Trellis HIV & Community Care, Tourism Kingston, and the greater Kingston community invites The Friends For Life Bike Rally to DRAG IN THE PARK, a showcase of fantastic (and slightly naughty) entertainment under the open sky in Confederation Park (that’s the big park between Kingston City Hall and Lake Ontario). The show will start at 7:30pm on the veranda of the Kingston Visitor Information Centre.”

Tomorrow we ride Kingston to Johnstown, about 110 km.

We’re now halfway to Montreal and I think about $30,000 away from our 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal. If you’ve been thinking about donating, every bit helps, and here’s the link.

camping · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day 2: Port Hope to Adolphustown, #f4lbr2022

Rally’s Angels Team photo

Today is the rally’s longest day, 126 km from our campground in Port Hope to Adolphustown. We’re traveling through Prince Edward County and the last leg of the trip involves a ferry.

Ferry selfie

The weather changed. We were expecting overnight rain and possible thundershowers after which the weather was supposed to turn into something more reasonable. Instead we got heat alert day 2. I hate the part of the heat alert that says ‘avoid outdoor exercise.’

Sarah and I talked lots about how best to handle it. We opted for a very reasonable pace, stopping at all the stops, and drinking all the things. It’s a long haul to the first test stop on day 2, 38 km, but after that there’s lunch and two more spots and we just kept our focus on getting to the next break.

Here’s our route

You can look it up on Strava here

And you can donate to the bike rally here.

We’re working hard, riding in weather the no one would choose to ride in, and as a friend said over dinner, it’s all pointless if we don’t raise money to help people living with HIV/AIDS. These are people who need food, wellness care, peer support or just to be in a place that is welcoming and safe for them. We’re riding to raise 1.5 million dollars for the Toronto People With Aids Foundation.

Rear view of Rally’s Angels

I ended the day today happy. I’m happy that we made it in good shape, still feeling strong, happy to be riding with these wonderful people, happy to go for a swim when we got in, happy to be working together raising money for an important cause, and happy tonight for the rally’s talent show.

camping · charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day 1: Toronto to Port Hope, #f4lbr2022

Here’s our day 1 route, Toronto to Port Hope. As you likely know or might reasonably expect, getting out of Toronto is a chore. It seems to take forever.

But after the lunch stop in Oshawa (ish) it’s a very lovely ride. We keep saying that we could do that chunk by taking the GO Train to Oshawa and bypassing the city bits.

Now for the actual bike rally, I like the crowds at the big departure. I like the spirit and the cheering. We joke sometimes about going for the send off ceremony before sneaking off to the GO train.

Today was no different. It was a long hot slog getting out of the city with so many traffic lights and lots and lots of unclipping.

What I like? All of the music and cheering and the chatter.

What I don’t like? City drivers and traffic lights.

Upside of today’s ride, we were all so happy to be together again. There was a lot of grinning and hugging. The volunteers were lovely and helpful as always.

Downside, wow the heat. It was probably the hottest and most humid bike ride I’ve ever done.

We worked hard at hydrating though. Also, stretching. No cramps or barfing today!

We’re staying the night at Haskills’ Farm. Here’s what it looks like.

Wish us luck tomorrow when the weather turns. From heat and humidity to thunder and rain. After that though it’s perfect cycling weather. Sun and highs in the mid twenties. And overnight lows in the low teens.

Tomorrow we ride to from Port Hope to Adolphustown.

camping · cycling · fitness

Tomorrow is Packing Day and Sam is Frantically Searching for All of the Things, #f4lbr


Chargers, Kindle, mini shampoo bottles, Ibuprofen, knee gel, bike tubes etc etc

I’m at the stage of packing for the bike rally and arranging transportation home where all of that seems like lots more work than just biking to Montreal.

What’s so hard?

Partly it’s packing tomorrow and not seeing stuff again until we get into our first night’s place for camping. Glasses? Where do they go? I’m wearing sunglasses on the bike but need my glasses glasses for Saturday. Some years I pack them and spend Saturday blurry. Other years I’ve carried them along in my jersey pocket. Still deciding for this year.

Partly it’s because you have two big bins, so room for lots of stuff. I usually dedicate one bin to clothes etc and one bin to camping things, pillow, tent, sleeping bag etc. But then once the rally is over, you’re in Montreal. The bike rally team brings bikes back to Toronto but you’re responsible for lugging everything else to the Grey Nuns Residence at Concordia where we’re staying for the weekend and getting it back to Toronto. It’s easier to have less stuff.

Partly it’s that weekend in Montreal after. For the actual rally week, it’s all bike clothes, shorts and t-shirts, and ball caps and flip flops. But for the weekend in Montreal I want something just slightly more stylish. But then I have to keep those clothes in my bin and carry them around so decisions need to be made.

And finally, there’s the pandemic. I used to travel a couple of times a month, often for work. I was a seriously good packer of carry on luggage. But I’ve lost my packing mojo. On my last trip to Vancouver, in March 2022, I arrived without my prescription medication and mother had to FedEx drugs to me.

I’ve been traveling about during the pandemic but mostly in a car with a lot of stuff.

Wish me luck!!!

camping · cycling · fitness

Training for multi-day bike adventures

Here is me on my pink Brompton commuting bike.

As we’re getting ready to leave for the Toronto-Montreal bike ride in support of Toronto’s People With Aids Foundation, I’m getting more questions from readers about how to train for big bike journeys.

The obvious part of my training plan are the long weekend rides that get longer as the summer goes on.

The less obvious part that I find makes a huge difference is riding everyday. I start using my bike every day, riding the long way to work and doing all errands by bike, pretty much whatever the weather.

Because there are two things that are hard about multiday long riding adventures. The first are the big distances, but the second is the everyday-ness of it. It’s not just riding far, it’s getting up the next day and doing it again.

You can train for that even if the distances aren’t the same.

Here’s me on my everyday bike riding the long way to work:

What else do you do when you’re training for big bike adventures?