Ottawa Ontario is Canada’s National Capital . It is located in the east of southern Ontario, near the city of Montréal and the U.S. border. Sitting on the Ottawa River, it has at its centre Parliament Hill, with grand Victorian architecture and museums such as the National Gallery of Canada, with noted collections of indigenous and other Canadian art. The park-lined Rideau Canal is filled with boats in summer and ice-skaters in winter. It is easily accessed by automobile, train, Airplane, bus or pakIT :-).
In June 2017, I attended a conference hosted by the Governor General of Canada (His Excellency David Johnston). The Conference was for Alumni of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference. If you do not know about this Conference be sure to check it out at www.leadershipcanada.ca.
This was my first opportunity to fly with my Bike Friday pakIT (AKA Polly). This was the perfect journey to see if Polly was everything I hoped she would be and, quite honestly, one of the major reasons that I purchased a pakIT. I custom built Polly to be as light as possible while still meeting my performance expectations. I chose not to put a pannier rack of any sort also to reduce weight. So here is how it went…
- Packing my pakIT: You know how they say, “The first time is always the hardest”? Well it is true. I watched the Ron Paulk packing video what seemed like a million times but I still spent the better part of 3 hours figuring out how to pack Polly, my helmet, clothing and the necessities for 3 days in Ottawa. Remember, I was attending a Leadership conference, Lycra bike shorts were not on the suitable attire list. As well, rain was in the forecast so that gear had to come too. Some things I was glad I did:
- Bought the pakIT packing kit. The heavy felt and protective tubes for the front forks and for the bike to prevent crushing were all well work the money
- Bought a Filzer Mini Roadie floor pump with a built in pressure gauge. Airlines require the tire pressure to be substantively lowered prior to travel.
- Placed all my clothes in Large and x-Large heavy-duty Ziploc bags. My pakIT has a rear de-railer and a chain. The potential for grease to get on clothing is high.
- Roll clothes into the Ziploc bags and squeeze to remove all of the air. This makes for very small items that can be placed in and around the bike parts
- Brought my Timbuk2 Messenger bag. This was the better than a backpack because it minimized coverage on my back and reduced sweating.
- Stable but beautiful footwear. I wanted something that was good for walking, looked awesome with a dress and was flat on the pedals. All my shoes are Fluevogs, so the hardest decision was to bring only one pair 🙂 The Black, white and peach Mini Qtee was the chosen shoe.
- Rain shoes that I can wear with a dress. This is a bit of a tall order, but I have found that Crocs deliver on this front. They are lightweight and can look good, not fancy, but good with a dress.
- Polly meets Air Canada: Prior to leaving home, I weighed the luggage to confirm that I was below the applicable weight limit. I also checked in on-line and pre-paid for my check-in luggage so that upon arrival all I had to do was print the bag tag and head for the Gate. Some things I was glad I did:
- I did not lock my luggage. What is the point? The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has a key anyway. This is a clear indication of nothing to “hide”.
- I did not declare during the check-in process that my bag contained a bike, because the bag was not oversized, not overweight, and I was not requesting any preferential handling. I suspect this saved me $50-$200 in “up-charges”.
- Check-in Experience: At the Airport my bag was weighed. It was likely because of the size of the Samsonite Flite case.
- Airport Security: CATSA did open my bag during travel in both directions. This occurred after I checked the luggage and prior to receiving it at the other end (i.e. the inspection was not done in front of me). I can imagine what a folded and partially dismantled Polly looks like in an X-ray machine so if I were a CATSA agent I would inspect it too. They are just doing their job and I am thankful for the job they do. They left a note in the bag to inform me of the inspection and that nothing was removed.
- Destination Pre-Planning: Some things I was glad I did:
- I reviewed the cycling infrastructure on-line prior to travelling so I knew where the bicycle network was relative to my hotel, conference location(s), dining locations, and tourist destination locations.
- I know Ottawa very well, so I had advanced knowledge of the City prior to doing my research.
- I chose a hotel in the heart of the cycling network and within a comfortable distance to all of my preferred destinations. I really like the hotel too, it is a boutique hotel called the Metcalf located just a few blocks from the Parliament of Canada and a beautiful bike ride away from the By-ward Market, a very popular restaurant district.
- I knew that I wanted to unpack Polly in my hotel room so I called ahead and made arrangements for an early check in.
- Unpacking: I arrived at the Metcalf Hotel by taxi before 9am and was checked in early as requested. It took me less than 20 minutes to unpack, rebuild, pump the tires and head out on Laurier Avenue on route to the Opening of the Conference at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.
- Managing Polly at my destinations: Security for a conference that involves the attendance of the Governor General of Canada is high, but welcoming. I folded Polly in front of security, picked her up, indicated that no bicycle lock would ever be able to protect the bike and walked in. I have found security staff to be “the best”. I asked if they recommended a location to place Polly and explained she could not be locked up because of the nature of the bike, and in every instance, they recommended behind the security desk or within plain sight of it.
In the evenings, I enjoyed the foodie nightlife of Ottawa with friends. I brought the folded Polly into the Restaurants and aside from a few interested looks, it all worked out.
The overall experience of travelling with Polly was so good that I kept thinking something has “got-to-give”, but nothing did.
As a proud Canadian, I cannot pen a blog without crowing about the incredible City of Ottawa. If you have ever considered travelling to Ottawa this is the year to do it. 2017 marks Canada’s 150 Anniversary as a Country and the Capital is decked out to receive visitors from across Canada and the world. I worked in Ottawa for a bit and came to love the City in every season.
The City has made significant investments in cycling infrastructure. It is a “Gold” Bicycle Friendly Community as designated by the Share-the-Road Coalition and the League of American Bicyclists. There are hundreds of kilometers of off-road, paved bicycle trails. These trails follow the banks of the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal. Most of these trails are cleared in winter months and available if you would like to explore a Canadian Winter by Bike.
In addition to the museums, the Parliament and other Government buildings, there are many destinations to cycle to in Ottawa including “burbs” known as Old Town, Westboro, Little Italy, the Glebe, and Chinatown. Cyclists can also cross into Quebec from Ottawa and connect to the “route verte” where they can travel across the beautiful province of Quebec on a combination of on and off-road trails.
If Ottawa is a destination of choice, pack you pakIT and plan to stay for a while, it is so beautiful I promise, you will not want to leave!