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Composing the Log Driver’s Waltz: a canvas for the cycling community

When Eric Betteridge and Jen Adams, creators of Log Driver’s Waltz, decided to map out a bikepacking route in their backyard, they had a different audience in mind than the usual bikepacking crowd. In a discipline where routes typically sell on remoteness, wilderness and ruggedness, Betteridge and Adams emphasize the route’s proximity to Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

“The community aspect of it all is huge,” says Betteridge. “Not only do patrons connect with other patrons, but patrons and residents interact in positive and meaningful ways. The road certainly provides economic support to the communities we pass through. »

“After posting the route on our website, some of our friends told us that they would like to try bikepacking. Some also told us that they could never do an 800 km route, so we started to share shorter, more accessible route files with them. Realizing that 2-4 day routes are an important step in introducing people to the sport, Adams and Betteridge began adding these routes to the website. Says Adams, “Each route has an individual flavor and we were thrilled to include some of our favorite roads and trails that we couldn’t fit into The Wooddriver’s Waltz.”

That’s not to say the Log Driver’s Waltz isn’t a proper bikepacking route, in every way. It travels an 800 km route through the Ottawa Valley and the Outaouais region, passing through rural and remote areas on both sides of the Ontario-Quebec border. Parts of the route are far enough away that there is no cell service, so riders should be prepared and self-sufficient.

Although you can ride the LDW in one go and as fast as you want, the route is easy to split into sections.

“We are very fortunate to have some incredible wilderness and rural areas within driving distance of downtown Ottawa,” says Adams, adding that the course offers very different terrain and experiences on either side of the Des Rivières. Outaouais.

Log Driver’s Waltz crosses the Alexandra Bridge to Ottawa. How many bikepacking routes depart from a national capital?

local adventure

Both Betteridge and Adams grew up in the Ottawa Valley riding bicycles. The inspiration to create their own route came when the pair rode the BT 700.

“When we were coming back from that, we realized we could do this kind of thing in our own backyard. We have incredible roads, trails, tracks and scenery that we know very well,” says Betteridge. “Jen has family on both sides of the river, so we’ve been cycling here a lot for decades and have extensive knowledge. We realized we already had our own itinerary.

From this realization, the duo set out to detail the route in a way that would allow for the kind of community they wanted to see in the world of bikepacking.

“It was a creative endeavor to put together the route and build the community around it,” says Adams. “Eric often describes it as painting a canvas for riders. You put a route out there and invite people to ride it and they create their own experiences around that.

Waltz of the conductor of wood
Rural landscape in the Lanark Highlands. Photo: Eric Bettridge

“The Slowest Known Time” and a community built on stories

While most routes reward riders who push themselves to achieve a fastest known time (FKT), Log Driver’s Waltz celebrates many different ways to experience the route. The LDW website has sections for the Gold Award, riders who complete the entire course and their times, but also the Silver, Bronze, Tourer and Half Awards. Betteridge and Adams even offer suggestions on how to break up the itinerary for shorter 3-4 day or weekend trips.

It’s the “Saddle Stories” section that perhaps best captures the kind of cycling community the duo had in mind when they put together the LDW route. There, runners who have completed all or part of the course can share their experience of trail running and what it meant to them.

Among these stories is “The Slowest Time Known” by Gene Villeneuve. When Villeneuve and a friend set out to hike the course in 2021, they were unable to complete the course as planned. But, in 87 days (six days of riding), Villeneuve has reconstituted the entire log driver’s waltz and, along the way, has reconnected with a part of cycling that he lacked.

“Gene is actually a friend of ours now. He’s a great propeller off the road,” says Betteridge. “He’s looking forward to riding again and not having the slowest time ever. But he also provided us with a very good example of what it was like to walk the route. Go out and do the route in sections and enjoy it. It’s not necessarily about hammering all the time.

Waltz of the conductor of wood
Morning frost in Mont-Ste.-Marie, Que.

The first Grand Depart

While the Log Driver’s Waltz officially opened its doors two years ago, this summer will mark the first Grand Départ. While word of the route has spread naturally, its creators are looking forward to having a more in-person community event.

“We have over 40 people signed up for the Grand Départ right now,” says Betteridge. “We’ve had people before, right in their driveway, asking if we’re going the whole course. So if there is this kind of group of people going on the road for a week, more people will definitely notice it.

Most are from Ontario, but the first big start of Log Driver’s Waltz (and 350km from The EGG) includes riders from British Columbia, Vermont and as far away as Australia and the Costa Ric. Like the Tour Divide Grand Depart that this event is inspired by, and which Betteridge and Adams are racing together this year, some riders are headed to LDW’s FKT planning attempts. Others simply seek to end the great adventure in good company.

The riders will start together August 20 from Almonte, Ontario. before spreading out at their own pace.

Waltz of the conductor of wood
Adams runs through a grassy single lane section in Gatineau Park. Photo: Eric Bettridge

Building community and connections beyond the bike

While the Grand Départ will, they hope, be a gathering of the cycling community, the Wood Driver’s Waltz is already attracting positive attention from locals along the route. This, says Adams, was part of the creative process.

“We wanted the road to create enough activity that we were starting to see an economic injection into some of these rural communities, to help support livelihoods around the Ottawa Valley,” Adams said.

Betteridge and Adams are already starting to get feedback from locals along the route, both online and in person. Shops and stores are posting information about the route and tagging the Timber Driver Waltz on Instagram and they’ve had a few local newspapers phoning in to find out about the new loaded cyclists coming through town.

“We’ve had very good interactions with campgrounds along the route that have accommodated cyclists,” Adams says, adding that they expect this to increase as the province opens up after two years of restrictions.

“We know there’s at least one guesthouse that’s got passengers,” Betteridge says with a laugh. “It’s actually one we stayed in. The second time we were there they told us they had been full for eight days. At least one person on each of these days made the log drivers’ waltz.

Riders are also, as will bikepackers, replenished at small towns along the way. Especially when they take their time over the full 800km course.

“In many of these smaller communities, there will be a convenience store and gas station combined, and that’s it. Everyone should stop there. Then there might be an Air B’n’B down the road.

Betteridge and Adams may be building The Wooddriver’s Waltz with a wider audience in mind, but they’re also glad the word is spreading naturally and just to see others enjoying the route.

“Last year we had the opportunity to ride the route a few times,” says Betteridge. “One time we were following someone’s tire tracks while we were driving. We’ve never had this before, where we go and where we have to turn the tracks too. It was so cool.

The first major official departure for the shorter Log Driver’s Waltz and The EGGs routes will be August 20, 2022. It will depart from Almonte/Mississippi Mills, Ont. To register or for more information on the route, see the Log Driver’s Waltz route page.

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