My last big ride of 2020 was the Durham Destroyer – I’m Not Worthy, a punishing, yet fulfilling, 160km day that introduced me to the fantastic gravel all around Port Perry and Uxbridge.
The memories of epic views, gut-wrenching climbs, and sandy dirt roads have fueled my sense of adventure all winter long, to the point of minor obsession.
While seeking inspiration on Facebook a few weeks ago, I came across this post on the Ontario Gravel and Adventure Riders Facebook page, showcasing the Durham Destroyer – Triple Crown mug, available to the first male and female finishers of all three Durham Destroyer Routes in 2021, and I thought, why not me.
First up, The Rookie, advertised as…
“A Metric Century, over 90% dirt including Gravel Roads, Rail Trail and Trail Sections. Be prepared or you might be destroyed!”.
The big question coming into the day, am I ready? On the positive side, I ran a lot this winter, culminating in finishing the David Goggins 4x4x48 challenge, where I ran four miles, every four hours, for forty-eight hours, in support of youth mental health and The Maddie Project. On the flip side, since last October I’ve barely touched the bike, having only completed two rides over forty kilometres, both of which occurred these last few weeks.
With forecasted highs of 6 degrees, full clouds, and sustained winds from the south of 30km, if the hills and distance didn’t get me, perhaps the weather would.
Note all distances are from where I parked at S.A. Cawker Public School in Port Perry.
Durham Destroyer – The Rookie Part 1 – 0-27.5km – Start to the Trans Canada Trail
The 2021 edition of the Durham Destroyer “The Rookie” starts on Scugog Line 8 at the crossing of Cawker’s Creek.
Joining me on the ride today was my good friend and fellow gravel riding buddy, Mike Chajecki of @gravelroadcanada.
Two weeks back, Mike and I were lucky enough to see the beaver who calls this dam home.
With this crossing, the Durham Destroyer has officially begun, and with that, the first climb, an easy twenty-meter climb up Line 8 to Hwy 7.
What I love about the Durham Destroyer is the excellent route selection that incorporates diverse terrain, lots of gravel, killer hills, and epic non-stop views.
Just over five kilometres into the day, the real climbing begins with a series of two giant hills, totalling over a hundred meters of gain.
As we turned off Line 8, the early climbing was out of the way, and the fast flats began.
Up next, 8.5km of hard pack gravel along Marsh Hill Road, Scugog Line 6, Concession Road 6, and Foxfire Chase, where we transitioned to Wagg Road and into the Uxbridge Town Trails.
The town trails served as a welcome change, offering a mixture of fast double track, easy single track, and a fun little bridge crossing.
A short time later, we crossed into Elgin Park for the first Instagram photo moment of the day.
Taking the shot.
Durham Destroyer – The Rookie Part 2 – 27.5 – 57.5km – Trans Canada Trail to Cannington
With what we anticipated to be the worst part of the climbing out of the way, by the time we left Uxbridge, we were feeling fresh, and ready for anything the Durham Destroyer could throw our way.
The first 14km of rail trail took us along the Beaver River Wetlands Rail Trail. The trail is built on the old Toronto and Nipissing Railway and consists of about 40km of trail connecting Uxbridge to Blackwater, then branching out to Woodville to the North and Lindsay to the East.
If you’re feeling daring, you can ride on from Lindsay to Haliburton via the Victoria Rail Trail to Kinmount, highly recommend, and the Haliburton Rail Trail, a sandy slog.
Click here to read about my experiences riding this route in 2019, Haliburton Wolf Sanctuary to Home via the Haliburton and Victoria Rail Trail.
If north to Fenelon Falls, Kinmount, and Haliburton isn’t your thing, from Lindsay you can also take the Omemee Rail Trail another 35km to Peterborough.
A typical view in the Beaver River Wet Lands.
After a slow start, with way too many stops for pictures, the real riding began, covering the 14km to Blackwater in what felt like mere minutes.
At the fork in Blackwater the Durham Destroyer began to show its teeth.
Where the trail south of Blackwater was dry, the trail north was not. Unfortunately, this was a sign of things to come.
Just three kilometres up the trail, we entered the town of Sunderland, where the trail briefly ends, before re-entering at the back of this businesses parking lot.
When I planned the day, my mind was thinking, a hundred kilometres, that’s easy, a couple of Larabars will do the trick, I was wrong.
By the time we reached Cannington, I had blown through three bottles of water, two Larabars and was ready for the junk.
Durham Destroyer – The Rookie Part 3 – 57.5 – 104.5km – Mainly Gravel Roads back to Port Perry
Finishing I’m Not Worthy last September was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
Coming into today, I saw an easy hundred kilometres, starting with some big climbs into Uxbridge, followed by a flat and fast rail trail to Cannington, then some gently rolling hills back to Port Perry.
This mindset was further reinforced by a ride Mike and I had ridden two weeks prior when we went twenty-five kilometres straight north from Port Perry. That day with the wind in our faces we struggled to maintain 18 km/hr heading north, before turning around and flying back at just under 30km/hr.
Even with the wind, setting another record time was precisely what I had planned for today.
But of course, this is the Durham Destroyer.
When we turned south from Cannington, the roads were anything but rolling, the trail got worse, the roads were damp, and the wind, oh the wind, was fierce.
The Durham Destroyer ensured there was no rest for the final forty-eight.
After exiting the Trans Canada Trail, we turned onto Side Road 18 for a series of four decent climbs over the next six kilometres.
What goes up must come down.
Big country, epic views, llama’s, and cows are just a few of the things we saw along the way.
With Side Road 18 out of the way, we were back on the southern section of the Trans Canada Trail that heads east to Lindsay.
The turn east was a welcome respite from the constant wind from the south, but unfortunately, the trail, as evidenced by the caked-on dirt, was wet, and we struggled to maintain a decent pace.
With thirty kilometres to go, we exited the trail for the last time, turning onto gravel roads for the final push to the finish.
As I mentioned before, my thought process coming into the day was to make it to Cannington, turn south, and hit some gently rolling hills.
I didn’t expect these.
This climb up Concession Road 2 was the last big one of the day, with many more medium-sized ones to follow. By this point, the effects of little training, wet roads, fierce winds, and big hills were taking their effect.
After the climb, I was mentally and physically exhausted.
With relaxed positioning and a loose grip on the handlebars, Mike appeared to be holding up much better than myself.
A little over one hour, or seventeen kilometres later, we were done.
With ten rides over one hundred kilometres in 2020, I came into the day with hubris, and once again, left humbled.
With wet roads and harsh winds, Mother Nature didn’t make it easy on us, but at the same time, what fun is a ride without a bit of adversity.
Like last year, I would also like to thank the man behind the Durham Destroyer for putting together The Rookie, another fantastic route in the Durham Destroyer series.
Next up, I am to train hard, then finish I’m Not Worthy in early May, and The Full Monty later that month or early the following.
Thanks for reading,
Final Stats: 104.74km, 18.4 km/hr (moving speed), 810m elevation gain