Summer’s Lease

The old joke has it that Ottawa has three seasons: preparing for winter, enduring it, and recovering from it. Only Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia, it is said, can claim rivalry with Ottawa as the World’s Coldest Capital City, but if climate change is here to stay, Ottawans may no longer be able to claim to be truly God’s ‘frozen people’…

For another perspective on climate, let me take you on a short trip of surprising variety, by bicycle, on a bright day in Ottawa during the past summer’s broiling heat, soporific humidity, and day-long sunshine from a cloudless sky—a summer of blue skies complemented by sufficient nocturnal rainfall to keep the grass uncharacteristically green—a summer to remember with unclouded affection by those of us lucky enough to have been able to make the most of it. Of course, it helps to be retired. There were at least 26 days of temperatures of over 30 degrees Centigrade this year, many of them above 35 degrees. The ‘normal’ is ten such days. Working outdoors on construction projects in such debilitating heat takes the patient stoicism of a saint -- and lots of bottled water.

I start my 40-minute trip by cycling northwards along the Riverside Drive bike path beside the shimmering blue expanse of that bulge in the Rideau River called Mooney’s Bay. Bike paths must also accommodate pedestrians, and a helpful centre line on the asphalt helps underline the need to share the route. The shoreline yields to the park named for it, with its shady trees and park benches facing the water, and the path leads into it past its elegant white wooden footbridge over a stream largely choked with bulrushes, which gives way in turn to a sandy beach flanked by picnic tables and playgrounds on both sides of a pavilion, and by tennis courts on a slight rise. There are picnickers at shady tables beneath the trees, swimmers in the water, and sunbathers on the beach, but no-one is playing tennis, nor are they running on a deserted oval sports track beside an artificial hill made of landfill used by tobogganers in winter. Beyond a parking lot, the bike path veers sharply away from the river and descends to a paved pedestrian underpass beneath Hog’s Back Road, a causeway consisting of a dam over the Prince of Wales Falls and the first of a series of urban locks of the Rideau Canal, which parallels the Rideau River till they both empty themselves into the mighty Ottawa River in the heart of downtown.

Summer’s Lease

Note: this is another bicycle route in Ottawa - also worth a try!

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Peter was born in England, spent his childhood there and in South America, and taught English for 33 years in Ottawa, Canada. Now retired, he reads and writes voraciously, and travels occasionally with his wife Louise.
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