Crossing the Conestoga River… what really happened!

First a bit of “History of Gravel Grinders with the WCC”.  Back in about 2012, I started riding on Saturday mornings in the fall with some friends.  The mountain bike trails were too wet and the paved roads were cold and windy, so we decided to explore rail trails and gravel roads where speeds would be slower and we’d hopefully get some shield from the wind.

Within a year, our unofficial rides (typically organized via email and Twitter) became official club rides and more people showed up. Usually, we’d split in to two groups: A fast group and my group!

This story begins on a typical fall Saturday morning in 2015.  November 28, to be precise.  A group of over a dozen cyclists showed up for the 8:30am meeting time in St. Jacobs.  I’d plotted out a route in Strava earlier in the week so riders could download and follow on their on if they wanted to.

This route headed north from St. Jacobs, to Elmira, then past Elmira to some of the fine gravel roads in that area before returning south along Yatton Road towards Hawkesville. North of Elmira, the faster group went off on their own, and my group is shown here:

L-R: Alain, Kevin, Kevin, Taryn, Bob, Steve, Kari, Doug, Joel (I think Bill took the photo)

The Conestoga River passes through Hawkesville and there’s one main bridge that crosses the river.  There are also a couple of smaller crossings that vehicle traffic avoids. The planned route was to take Temperance Rd and avoid the main bridge, instead following one of the “smaller” bridges. As group leader that day, I approached the bridge cautiously.  Clearly, this low-lying concrete structure was under the swift-moving water of the Conestoga River.  But as I got closer, I realized that it wasn’t too deep and I’d be able to ride across.

I started to pedal and the water got deeper to the point where I couldn’t pedal. So I stepped off the bike.  Feet soaked, I dragged my bike through the knee-deep river that had a surprisingly strong current! At one point, the current nearly pulled the bike out of my hands!  I eventually made it across and looked back.  No one had followed me.

The following photos document the crossing.  I believe the photos were taken by Bill F.

Yeah, OK, maybe it’s a little deeper than “knee deep”.


When I made it across safely, I called out asking why no one followed me! WCC then-president Alain F. (green helmet) was probably telling the group…. That’s NOT how to lead a group ride!


At this point, the group was looking at each other, saying… I’m not going across, no way.


And they turned around…

We met up on the other side.  My feet were soaked and cold, but thankfully we didn’t have far to go to complete the ride.

When I got home, I checked Strava and I got messages that one of the riders in the fast group complete the same feat!  My buddy Mike C. was the lone rider from the fast group to get across that river, and he posted this photo after he crossed:

Mike C.’s photo, looking back at the remaining riders in the fast group, after he crossed the flooded bridge, minutes before my group to there.So there were two of us that made the crossing that day.  Two crazy people who took a risk that worked out. Would I do it again?  Not likely… I was in my 40s at the time, and I didn’t know any better…  I don’t know if wisdom comes at 50, or if wisdom comes after taking risks like this…. but I feel wiser.

2 thoughts on “Crossing the Conestoga River… what really happened!

  1. I was laughing because Kari said…”in a few years we’ll be talking about this day saying…remember that day when Steve got swept in the Conestoga river?”

    Thankfully, you didn’t. But, it was close. That water was 2-3 feet deep and rushing at 10-15kph across your wheel and pouring over the road to your left like a waterfall.”

    I was worried when you got off in the middle and had difficulty holding your footing. And it was freezing water! 🙄

    But, indeed. It remains one of the most memorable crossings to which all other crossings are compared!

    And now, when I approach a questionable impasse I alway ask myself, “What would Shikaze do?”


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, thankfully I didn’t get swept away! I’ve learned my lesson… It’s highly unlikely that I’d attempt such a crossing again. But now I have the story!


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