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Days 46 - 77
June 30. 131 km. Total 3236 km. Moth Lake. 10 hrs.
I am now in Ontario where I plan on spending the next 3 weeks or so. Last night it absolutely poured but my tent kept me nice and dry. That was the first time this trip where I have actually been rained upon at night. It did stop by morning which was nice because I hate packing up in the rain.
From Vivian I continued on to Elma where I turned north on Hwy 11 for 8 km to Hwy 44. Highway 11 and 15 pass through small farms and are mainly flat. Hwy 44 is flat to start but begins rolling through Whiteshell Provincial Park. All of Hwy 44 is in good shape EXCEPT for sections through the parks.
I ran into some more problems today. First, I broke another spoke, I guess that they are just really cheap spokes and I expect that I will end up replacing them all by the time I am done. The second difficulty I ran into today was that I had my first encounter with Horseflies today. I was biking along Hwy 11, which has a lot of ranch land, and could see that all the cows were huddled together and twitching like they were in great discomfort. In one yard a farmer had set up a fire barrel and the cows were all huddled in the smoke. I thought to myself "I wonder what is bothering them?" No sooner had the thought entered my head when they found me. These bugs are HUGE!!!! They are about an 1" long and 6 mm think. They have a sickly yellow abdomen and big green eyes. Their buzz sounds ferocious and they simply look mean. Well I had 15 or 20 of these circling and dive-bombing me! They were bouncing off my handlebars, my helmet, my arms and I was essentially freaking out. I nearly took a fall when I tried to bat one out of the air. I felt like King Kong in the movies, on top of the Empire State building with little planes buzzing around my head. After a while of this and I hadn't been bitten yet I realized that I was going fast enough that they could not land long enough to bite me so I just tried to tune them out and kept biking.
I made it to Falcon Lake around 7:30 pm but to my dismay it was not a town but instead was a tourist destination. Just little RV parks, campsites, and cabins. There was no way that I was staying there so I pushed on. I continued for another 22 km along Hwy 1 (Boy I hate it, just too busy) passing into Ontario in the process. I was looking for places to stay but I could not find anything but bush! There was no houses and it did not look like I could guerrilla camp either because the ground was either wet and swampy or solid Canadian shield rock. Just when I thought I would have to push on the Kenora (~25 km too far) I saw it. The remains of a gravel road that had been barricaded with a sandberm. Since it was not posted as private property and I new that the road would be level and I could put down tent-pegs, it decided to take a look. It ended going up right next to a beautiful lake! Fantastic! So right now I am camping right in the middle of this road next to my own private lake.
So right now I will let the Loons sing me to sleep. Goodnight.
Day 47. July 1. 64 km. Total 3300 km. Longbow
I am really into the Canadian shield now. It is quite startling the change of scenery from the prairies. The terrain is very rolling, up and down, up and down, ad nausium and the sides are treed with fir, spruce, poplar and other trees. There are lakes all over the place and most of the low-lying areas are completely waterlogged from all the rain recently.
I poked around Kenora and watched a bit of the Canada Day celebrations before continuing on. Oh yes, there is a bike shop in Kenora too. Heading out of Kenora I had a bear slowly cross the road 30 feet in front of me, that was close enough!
I was getting tired so I went down a road called Hockey Hollow to look for a place to stay. It looked like a resort type place so I was not too hopeful but I thought it would be worth a shot. I asked a younger couple (who were staying at their parents place) and they were ok with it so I started unpacking. However, as I was setting up camp their neighbor said that HE did not want me there and told me to leave. I figured that it was not worth making a fuss over so I left.
I bet he was from a city. 50-60 years old walking around with his shirt off and his belly hanging out. I'll bet you anything that he complains about teenagers nowadays and how people were friendlier back in his day. Oh well, jerks like him tend to get theirs in the end any ways.
I continued down Hwy 17 then turned south on Hwy 71. I pulled into the next driveway I saw, it was a house not a vacation home so I had higher hopes. As it turned out, things were better than I had expected for tonight. I thought I would have to bush camp again with peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner and a sponge bath to wash up. Instead I had a shower and barbecued pork and potatoes for supper. Yippee!!
Day 48. July 2. 104 km. Total 3404 km. Nestor
Falls. 10 hrs.
I have to be brief because I must be up early tomorrow. Also, it is getting dark and I don't want to use a light for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Right now I am camping in the back of the Tourist Info center because no one would let me stay at their place and the camping area wanted $17 (actually most campsites in Ontario, including provincial parks, are $15-$17)!
Road report: So far all of Hwy 71 is rolling. The first 45 km or so is newly paved with an on again off again shoulder. Then the road goes bad, lots of broken surface with no shoulder until 15 km pass Sioux Narrows. Then the road is ok to Nestor Falls.
The first 35 km of the day was fabulous. Full of lakes, and rocks and trees and wild-flowers everywhere. Then for a ways it turned to brush which is not as nice to look at. Both Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls were unpleasant little towns. Actually they are not really towns, more like tourist destinations, and with this being both the Canadian and US long weekend the number of tourists running around is crazy.
Just outside Nestor Falls it happened again. CRACK. This time 2 spokes went and the wheel was looking really bad. When trying to replace the spokes I discovered that 6 out of 8 of my spare spokes are too short which means that now I don't have any spares. Also, when examining the rim after straightening it as best I could (hard because the cheap nipples are starting to strip) I noticed that the rim has cracked as well. CRAP!!!
The wheel is now as straight as I could get it which is not that straight. To top it off it is also out of round so I wobble down the road while the wheel goes bump, bump, bump. I don't think that it will last much longer so I will have to get it replaced as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the only bike shop before Thunder Bay is back in Kenora so I have to try to hitch back. I fear it won't be easy with the road mainly populated by tourists.
To top it all of it has started to rain. I am just going to go to bed now and hope tomorrow is a better day.
Oh yes about that title 2. DF = Dragon Fly. Behind the Tourist Center is really buggy and I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and flies until the dragon flies showed up. They flew around, sometimes nearly grazing my head, eating all the bugs I was attracting. Soon there were no bugs around and I could eat in peace. The Battle of Britian in the insect world.
Day 49. July 3. 120 km (35 hitch). Total 3524
km. Kenora. 12 hrs.
No point in giving a road report, it is just the reverse of the last two days.
I was up at 5:00 this morning to pack up before the Travel Info center opened and to try and hitchhike up to Kenora. Well I spent 2 hours trying to get a lift but no one would stop, even with my bike upside down! I thought about calling a tow-truck but discovered that it would cost $180, MUCH TOO EXPENSIVE! I decided I would take my chances with my wheel and started pedaling back to Kenora.
Because I was so worried about my wheel giving out and the bumping and wobbling were disconcerting, I kept my speed below 20 kph even on the descents. Without any more problems I made it back to Sioux Narrows. There I called the bike shop in Kenora only to find that they would have to order something in and it likely would not be ready for 7 days or so. CRAP!
This was not satisfactory so I started calling places in Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, trying to find a wheel. After over an hour and a half on the phone I was getting really frustrated. No one could find a 36 hole hub to build a wheel on, all they had were 32's (a 36 spoke wheel is stronger than a 32). They kept trying to tell me that a 32 would be strong enough but I would have none of it. THEY don't have to ride on it for another 4000 km, worrying if it will last. Finally, on my last call I reached Farzan at Petries's Cycle and Sports in Thunder Bay. This guy really knows his bikes! He quizzed me about my bike and what I needed and said he would have a wheel shipped to Kenora by Greyhound tomorrow. Finally something is working out. It was now 3:00 and I still had 70 km to go so I headed out. Since the wheel seemed to be holding out I started going faster, 35 kph on the descents. I had now gone another 10 km when it hit me. I AM AN IDIOT!! Since the wheel has to be shipped from Thunder Bay any ways there was no reason for me to go to Kenora (120 km), I could have continued on the way I was going and waited in Fort Francis (80 km). DOH! It just goes to show you how you can get locked into one type of thinking to the exclusion of all other possibilities.
One nice thing did happen that really made my day though. About 20 km further north of Sioux Narrow a car passed me, stopped, let a lady out then continued on. The woman started jogging towards me and I was wondering what the heck was going on, was she planning on jogging all the way back? Nope, they were an English couple vacationing in Sioux Narrows who I had talked to during lunch. They were worried about me so they tossed their luggage into a motel and came after me to see if they could drive me back to Kenora. That would have been a 160 km round trip for them! I was completely blown away. Here all the locals in their empty pickups would blow by me while this vacationing couple wanted to help. Since my bike seemed to be holding up and I did not want to inconvenience them I thanked them profusely but said that I should be able to make it on my own.
I had made it another 20 km, 85 km now in total when CRACK. OH NO NOT AGAIN!!! Yep, yet another spoke gave out (on the cassette side of course). @#%$&$*@#!@!!!!!!! I try 5 spokes but they are all too short but luckily my 6th and final spoke was just long enough that the nipple could grab it. I trued up the wheel as best as I could but it is TOAST. It wobbles so bad that I had to release the rear breaks to give it room to move. All the time my bike was upside down I was trying to hitch a ride but again, no one stopped. Actually a native Indian stopped but his car was too small.
I had just gotten back on my bike and started limping down the road when a truck towing a boat stopped. Bill was from Chicago and was on his way to a week long fishing vacation. We tossed my bike and gear into his boat and he game me a lift into Kenora. So in the end it was an American tourist that saved my ass while the local Canadians could care less. Astounding.
Day 50. July 4. 10 km. Total 3534 km. Kenora.
I spent most of the day lazing around waiting for my wheel to arrive. I went to the local pawn shop, bought a paperback and just sat by the lake and read. The wheel arrived at 6:00 and it looked great. I swapped the tire from my old wheel and was just about going to cut the spokes from my old wheel to ship the hub home when I had second thoughts. The way things have been going I better not be hasty. First I counted the number of spokes on the new wheel.... Only 32?!? Count them again. Ack, still only 32! What happened to the 36 spoke wheel I was promised. I found a note the mechanic had written that said that all his 36 hole hubs were 8 speeds and I needed a 7 speed so he built up the 32 which "would be strong enough". I thought that I was quite clear that I wanted a 36 NOT a 32. If I wanted a 32 I had already found another shop that had one they wanted to get rid of for $130 but I decided that I would spend the additional $120 to get a 36. I was certainly not willing to spend the extra money and still only have the 32. Then I discovered problem #2. When I tried to put the cassette onto the hub there was a flare that prevented me from tightening the lock-ring so even if I wanted to keep the wheel I could not use it with the tools I have. Then problem #3, on a hunch I tried putting my BOB trailer skewer through the hub and it is too short! (The skewer goes through the axle and attaches the wheel to the bike frame). CRAP! When I bought the trailer they had to cut the skewer down 5 mm to fit on my bike but now I am paying the consequences of that action. It is always easier to remove metal than to add it!
Well one thing I have learned from this trip is to just take everything in stride. Tomorrow I will call up Petrie's and ship the wheel back for a refund. Then I will call Woodcock in Winnipeg and have them build a 36 spoke wheel and check to make sure that I can tighten the lock ring and get my skewer through. It looks like I will be stuck here for at least two more days but at least I am staying with a really great guy. He was sympathetic to my plight and said I can stay here as long as it takes for me to get going which means that this is one less thing I have to worry about. Well I am going to sit here and pet his brand new 5 week old Lab puppy for a while before going to bed. It's hard to remain stressed and frustrated with a puppy in your lap.
Day 51. July 5. 6 km. Total 3540 km. Kenora.
I had a very near miss with a car today. I was on my way back from the Greyhound depot after shipping the wheel back when I saw an oncoming car pull left into a driveway in front of me. That was ok because they had plenty of time but the car right after them just blindly followed them in, cutting me off. I shouted and slammed on my breaks and stopped just inches from their passenger side door. I don't know how the old lady could have missed me in my bright yellow jersey if she had actually looked but I have a feeling that she was just focused on the other car and just turned. Not a very pleasant experience.
I called back to Woodcock and had them start building up that other wheel. I am trying to anticipate all the possible problems ahead of time to nip them in the bud. I asked them to make sure that a hyperglide cassette would fit on the hub, it wouldn't so they have to change the axle. I had them check the width of the hub to compare it with mine and sure enough it is wider so I will have to order a new skewer as well. This is really getting frustrating. I think that my next touring bike will have mountain bike wheels. I saw a guy come into the shop today with a pretzeled wheel and in 5 minutes he left with a brand new wheel. Arrgghhh...
Since I had time to kill I went to the local book store and picked up three books. I read them all today.
Day 52. July 6. 7 km. Total 3547 km. Kenora.
I am really, REALLY ready to get back on the road. A little break is nice but this is too much. I called up Woodcock but the guy I have been dealing with was on his day off, Oh oh, I hope my EXACT instructions were passed along. Ever play that telephone game as a kid? The one where the first person whispers a message to the next person and so on down the line. At the end you hear what the message has mutated into. I am worried I am now going to end up with a 28 spoke BMX wheel painted bright pink with purple polka dots. Hey you never know.
Sure enough when I talked to the guy actually working on the wheel he said that they did not have the right size spokes in the shop and that it would take a week to order them. "A WEEK!?! I DON"T THINK I HAVE MADE MY SITUATION CLEAR TO YOU!" I proceeded to fill him in and got him to call around to the other shops in town to track down the right size spokes.
So in the end they were able to find the right spokes and so the wheel is being built as I write this. I have asked the local bike shop to order a new skewer but they weren't sure how long it would take. I told them I don't care what it costs, just get them to ship it out overnight. What next?
Day 53. July 7. 7 km. Total 3554 km. Kenora.
The wheel arrived today and it looks great. I have high hopes for this wheel and have my fingers crossed that it will survive this trip. As I predicted my skewer was too short to use with this hub, good thing I ordered a replacement yesterday. Assuming the part got shipped today it should be here tomorrow. I really, really, really want to get going.
Day 54. July 8. 0 km. Total 3554 km. Kenora.
I packed up all me gear today, said my good-bye's to Doug (the fellow whose yard I am staying in) and went to the shop to wait for Purolator to arrive. IT DID NOT HAPPEN <SIGH>. They must have shipped it regular Purolator NOT overnight express. I thought I had made myself absolutely clear. Just another hard earned lesson I guess, Trust NO-ONE! From now on I will be sure to call the suppliers myself and be sure that the message gets across. I guess it is better to learn it now instead of hearing "Gee Dr. Hennessey, you mean you wanted that kidney for transplant today?"
So here are two more Trevor's Tips for the day.
1) Take a bicycle repair course before you leave so that you are confident that you can deal with most everything. When the nearest bike shop is 500 km away it would be a good thing to know how to replace a spoke and true a wheel or repack a hub.
2) Before you leave get the phone # of the best equipped bike store you can find. One that has most every part in stock so that no matter where you happen to be you can get that part couriered to you.
Gee this route looks familiar. I have now paid back all the distance that I have hitch-hiked previously with interest so I don't feel bad about it at all.
The skewer came in around 12:30 so after grocery shopping and packing up I was on the road at 2:00. The wheel is working fabulously but I can only think "What next?" It is going to take me a while to regain confidence in my bike and the funny thing is that I am going to need a couple of long days biking to recover from my week of "rest", usually it is the other way around. It is amazing how quickly you can lose your conditioning. This third (and last) ride over these hills has been the hardest yet. Of course I did spend essentially 6 continuous hours in the saddle but I am more tired than usual.
Right now I am staying at a yard about 8 km outside of Nestor Falls since I already knew that no one would let me stay in town. The couple living here are nice but unfortunately the gentleman has terminal cancer, a sad case. It was interesting to hear them directly compare the US medical system to the Canadian one. In the US they were able to access experimental treatments that put him into remission whereas here they can't get anything. Here in Ontario they have to pay for a lot out of their own pocket, even blood tests to look at the progression of the disease. If that isn't a two tiered system I don't know what is.
Day 56. July 10. 114 km. Total 3779 km. Fort
Frances. 7 hrs.
First the road report. For 25 km from Nestor Falls the road is in poor shape and the terrain is quite hilly. However, after 25 km the road is recently paved with a nice shoulder and the ground is much more level. The scenery reminds me of a hillier eastern Manitoba, small farms carved out of the forests. Most of the houses in the area looked like they would be excellent places to stay the night so next time instead of staying in Nestor Falls I would push on.
At the Hwy 11 junction I turned east and the road remained excellent and level to Emo. From Emo to Fort Frances the road is in poorer shape.
There WAS a sporting goods store with a bike department in Fort Frances. Why didn't anyone mention that? I could have just come down here instead of backtracking to Kenora. Oh well, I'm not a psychic so I could not have known. I guess it did work out ok in Kenora in the end.
Right now I am staying on an Indian Reserve east of town. Usually I try not to stay on the reserves as unfortunately they don' usually look like the friendliest of places but I could not find any other location and I saw a house with kids toys outside so I asked there. It worked out ecause they were really friendly and I was able to get dinner and a couple of beers out of the deal (I did pass on a joint though). Which brings up my title, I would not recommend bicycling in the evening anywhere in rural Canada (and probably the US and elsewhere as well) because it seems to me that no one thinks twice about drinking and driving. Two other people who were around for supper left (by truck) after having several beers each. I will definitely try to stay of the roads at that time and it probably would be a good idea for you sober drivers as well, let the drunks run into each other.
Today was a real scorcher, over 30 degrees, and the swim at the end of the day felt fantastic.
Today was just too hot to cover the distance I did over the terrain I had too. Unfortunately I really had no other choice because with the exception of Mine Center, Atikokan is the only area of civilization between Fort Francis and Thunder Bay. 300 km is just too much to do in one day.
Again, I will start with the road report. Overall the road was in great shape, the first 25 km was somewhat rough and broken up but then there was 75 km of freshly paved road followed by 50 km of decent road. The newly paved road had a fair shoulder most of the way while the other sections had a shoulder sporadically although there is usually one present on the hills which was nice. Speaking of hills, this section was quite pleasant, more like the southern half of Hwy 71 than the northern half. I should qualify that last statement by saying that this road would be pleasant at cooler temperatures but at 30 degrees plus, having to travel 150 km was too much. Just like a car, I was doing ok on the level areas or down hills but when climbing I would quickly begin to overheat and have to stop for a while to rest. I think I went through about 7 liters of water today alone.
At the end of the day I really lucked out and found an awesome place to stay. I went to the outskirts of town and saw a couple out on their porch and asked if I could spend the night. Boy was I ever grilled. I was quizzed for a good five minutes as they checked me out, they even (jokingly) asked if I had any references and were surprised when I pulled out my address book and said that I have the addresses of over 50 people who have let me stay the night and that they were more than welcome to write to them. They laughed at that and said sure, I could stay. They might have been hesitant at first but boy did I ever get the red carpet treatment after that. First of all I was able to set up in their screened in gazebo so I did not have to set up my tent. Second, I was able to have a nice long shower and do some laundry (I haven't mentioned this before but I do my laundry in the shower with me, then after drying off I roll up my clothes in the towel, usually provided, and wring it out. That way my clothes are just a little damp and when I hang them out they are nearly dry by morning). Third, since they were having a late supper they invited me to join them. Wow, a beer, three burgers and a big plate of pasta salad later, I was feeling great. We (errr... I) ended up talking late into the night. I sure have turned into quite the chatterbox, it must be all that time alone on the road.
Well it's bed time now. Nite all.
Day 58. July 12. 151 km. Total 4077 km. Shabaqua
Corners. 9 hrs.
Man O Man am I ever tired. Biking in the heat yesterday really tired me out (I was going for nearly 8 hours straight) and having to go another 150 km today just about did me in. To top everything off I had a miserable nights sleep last night. You see, just like the traveling minstrels of old, I too must tell stories to earn my keep (something that I have gotten quite good at). Well after retelling all the bicycle problems I have had so far they were fresh in my mind for my subconscious to form dreams from. Also eating those three burgers (more meat than I have had in a long time) probably contributed as well. So on top of assorted dreams involving heavily armed Arab terrorists (who's butts I kicked by the way. Who's da man? I da man! ) I also had a nightmare about my bike. I dreamt that I was out on a trail in the middle of nowhere and my rear wheel died again. Because I couldn't move my bike I had to take the whole wheel into town to get fixed. However, when I got back to my bike I discovered that I had parked near a river which was now flooded and I could see my bright red bags bouncing along the river bottom with my trailer following. I then had to dive in and try to rescue them from the torrent before they were all swept downstream. Not conducive to a good nights sleep in the least.
But I digress. The road today was as before, good in part and bad in others. The first 90 km was flatter than yesterday but the scenery was typical northern Ontario, bush, swamp and muskeg. While this was interesting for a while, after 90 km of it I was quite tired and ready for a change. After the first 90 km there was 10-15 km of hills which were very scenic then it leveled out until I got back on Hwy 17. If you decide to travel along this route I would recommend that you carry a good deal of food and water as services along this section were few and far between and traffic was light. As a side note, watch out for Ontario road maps. Some "towns" that are listed on the maps don't actually exist, they are just a name of a road.
I think that my body is starting to feel the strain a bit so tomorrow I will just have a short day and call it quits in Thunder Bay (~65 km). My legs are quite sore and fatigued and my left hand is starting to bother me where it sits on the handlebars. I think I need a day off soon.
This is to be continued. Currently I am in Marathon ON and am typing up the last two days to post as well but there will likely be no more updates for two weeks until I reach Montreal. I hope that you are all enjoying reading this as much as I am writing it.
Day 59. July 13. 65 km. Total 4142 km. Thunder
Well riding on Hwy 11/17 has not been as bad as I had feared/been led to believe. Truck and transport traffic was MUCH heavier than I have been used to but it was still survivable. The road was in good condition for most of the way with a shoulder that varied from really wide (nearly a whole lane) to very small (~4") but even on the small shoulder I did not feel in danger as the road lanes are so wide that the vehicles can give you some distance when passing. From Shabaqua it was rolling for 10 km then mainly flat farmland the rest of the way into Thunder Bay.
I didn't really like Thunder Bay much, from what I saw it was quite an ugly city. It looked to me like an old resource town that did not know what to do when it grew up. I was reminded of some of the smaller resource towns I have passed through, squat and run down, except this "small" town has a population of 115,000.
City bashing aside, if you do need work done on your bike, Thunder Bay is the place to be. I highly recommend Farzan at Petrie's Cycle and Sports (807) 623-7228. This guy is the most knowledgeable bicycle mechanic I have ever met or talked too, he really knows his stuff. He gave my bike a full tune-up and ended up working on that "new" rear hub of mine. It seems that when they re-built it at Woodcock they used two left- hand cones and this caused a lot of play in the wheel. I really hope that I have now gotten most of the potential problems out of the way and will have smooth sailing from here on. We talked for a while and Farzan said that if I was really interested in getting the ultimate touring wheel that I should get a tandem wheel (48 spokes). He had one in the shop and I wonder why he did not mention this to me when I needed a new wheel? Grrrrr.... I would have just bought it and to heck with what ever it cost.
I did hear a funny story today but before I retell it here is a disclaimer. I in no way suggest that you do the following as it is highly illegal, could send you to jail, and is just not very nice. At one shop I was waiting in we were trading funny stories and one guy told me about someone he knew who use to race in the US. Well every year before he when down there he would get all the Canadian Tire money he could get his hands on, then when he went down to the southern states he would use that as currency and since this was in the 80's he got it at par. Can you believe that? I can just imagine some southern cashier looking at those 10 cent bills, shrugging, and accepting them because he always though Canadian money was funny looking any ways.
Day 60. July 14. 100 km. Total 4242 km. Nipigon.
On the way out of Thunder Bay I stopped at the Terry Fox memorial. It was beautiful. The sculptor caught him perfectly, right in mid stride. The strain and effort required for him to push on is clearly written on his face and I can see how hard it was for him. Traveling alone, along the same route that he would have taken I can imagine what he was going through. Alone with the hardships of weather and insects and fatigue, he kept on running until his cancer returned and he had to quit, to sicken and then to die. It brought me to tears to realize that this man was nearly my age when he passed by this way. It was very moving.
Of course the government has placed a sign on the Terry Fox Highway saying "No running, no cycling." Are they clueless idiots or what? I ignored it and pressed on.
Now that I am on the route that everyone HAS to take if they want the cross the country, I am seeing many more cyclists. Six today alone . Two were headed west and four were going east but so far I am the only one going from coast to coast. The first guy I met today turned out to be the second most amazing cyclist I met this trip (the first being Marco who has been on the road for 2 years 7 months and 31,000 km, see the write-up for Crescent Valley). This guy said he was planning on going from Vancouver to Halifax but due to problems with his feet and time constraints he will be calling it quits at his home in Toronto. When I asked him when he left Vancouver he said July 1st. "JULY 1ST?!? You mean June 1st right?". Nope, he meant July 1st. He had made it to Thunder Bay in 13 days! Holy Moly! I know people who drove across Canada and were not able to make it to Thunder Bay in 13 days. He had gone across BC in 4.5 days, something that took me nearly 2 weeks to do! I learned that he works for Ford in Toronto and had planned to go from Vancouver to Halifax in 23 days, the total time he had off for vacation. He was on schedule until his feet started going numb in Winnipeg and he decided to take it easier (only 200 km days instead of 350km+ !?!). Personally, that does not seem like a lot of fun to me but I guess if you like covering the distance and only have a limited time off that's just what you have to do. Could you imagine coming back from a 3 week vacation and telling your buddies at work that you had biked across Canada? No one would believe you.
Here is a little aside. I am writing this in a little cafe over supper and there are four teenage girls blabbering in a corner. Well I guess that there is not much to do in a small town because I can hear them betting each other to come over and talk with me. It sounds like they have to sit here for 5 min to win. Oopps, here come two now ..
He he he.... Ok, I am back. Well a polite way of describing these girls would be to say that they are not the brightest bulbs on the tree. They must have thought I was stupid or at least deaf. They came over, sat down and uncomfortably started talking. Since this was a bet (and I was suppose to be the victim) I did not make it easy for them at all, forcing them to do most of the talking. After 3 uncomfortable minutes I looked at the other two sitting across the room (who were laughing quite a bit) and said, "So, is their 5 minutes up yet?". That shut them up quickly, the look on their faces was priceless. "You mean you heard everything?", one of them asked. "Yep", I said, "This will make a great story to post on my website, my friends back home will get a real kick out of it." I let them sit for the remaining two minutes to win their bet but then the four of them hightailed it out of there. I don't like being made the butt of a joke and it sure was fun turning the tables on them.
Anyways, enough of that. The road today was in pretty good shape for most of the way and the scenery was really pretty. One neat thing about biking along this area is that the soil and rocks consist of bright red and pink granite which sort of reminds me of Prince Edward Island. The shoulder was between 1-5 feet in width but the average width was around 16 inches or so. Again the lanes are wide enough that even if the shoulder was chewed up or non-existent there was still room on the road for the trucks to pass and there sure are a bunch of them! Having been on the smaller back roads I guess that I am more used to having small/no shoulders and having trucks whizzing by because I met three guys who were biking around Lake Superior who looked at me with shock when I said that I thought this road was in ok shape (well IT IS compared to some of the roads I have been on). It seems that one guy in their group was blown off the road by a truck yesterday and he hit a guide-rail, cracking his bike frame. Ouch! Loosing wheels are bad enough but destroying an entire frame would really put me in a bad mood.
Oh yes, before I call it quits for the night Old Murphy struck again (the Law that is). Last week I had my dad send out a spare tire from Vancouver to Nipigon by Greyhound and they said it would take 4-5 days. Well here I am now, 6 days later and guess what? It's not here! Gee, no big surprise there, as I walked through the doors into the depot I thought to myself, "You know what, I bet it's not here.", and sure enough it wasn't.
It is too late to deal with it tonight so I will see what I can do tomorrow. Good-night.
Day 61. July 15. 65 km. Total 4307 km. Rossport.
I was hoping that my package would arrive on the 10:15 bus so I decided to take it easy in the morning and sleep it. Well it didn't arrive. Here is another lesson learned, send everything by Purolator or Express post where they have a guaranteed delivery time and can track your packages. After 35 minutes person behind the counter could still not figure out what to do (it's just a Husky station so they are really only cashiers). I told her to give me the telephone numbers and I would do the calling. Well after 30 min I finally tracked down someone with half a brain and they thought that it might be in on the 11:55 bus. If it wasn't I was able to get them to promise to forward it to the next town at their expense so I could leave and not have to wait around for it to arrive.
Well I guess I was wearing my lucky underwear today (oh wait I'm in bike shorts, never mind), because the tire did arrive on the 11:55 bus from Toronto and I was off. Unfortunately it was into a headwind but at least I was on the road again.
The road was in good to excellent shape most of the way and the scenery was breathtaking. Much of the ride was elevated with a view of Lake Superior which was glistening in the sun. You could look out into the lake and see all the little islands (and some big ones) scattered offshore. The biking was made challenging by the fact that there were some good climbs over ridges along the way. There were two short climbs near the start (4-6%) then a longer (couple of km) one just before Pays Platt followed by a shorter one just before Rossport. I ended up having to push my bike up most of the hills because my legs are shot and have zero energy for climbing. After 6 days and 750 km I guess that they just need time to rest and recharge. The scenery near Rossport really reminded me of home, large rolling hills with lots of trees and the road winds along through them. This area could quite easily pass for parts of southern BC and sort of made me homesick.
Rossport is a quaint little town right on Lake Superior that is an excellent place for tired cyclists to stop. However, since Rossport does not have a library I am going to continue on to Schreiber tomorrow where they do have a library and spend a day or two resting and typing up my diary. But while I am here in Rossport a great place to camp can be found just outside of town. There is a small park to the east of town where it you can camp for free (at least there are no signs saying you can't) and there are washrooms just across the road. Since it is only Thursday night and it is a small town I am comfortable camping alone here. I can see the remains of campfires which suggests that this could be a party spot on Friday and Saturday nights so I would probably find somewhere else if I was here then.
Because the grass was long in areas the bugs were pretty bad. In this case it wasn't mosquitoes or horseflies that were the problem, instead it is a new pesky insect, the black fly. It's amazing how many different insects there are that can make life miserable. Here is how I have been dealing with the bugs so far and it seems to be working so far without exposing myself to too many chemicals.
I have a very light weight track suit that is paper thin but the blackflies and horseflies can't bite through although unfortunately mosquitoes can. When the mosquitoes are really bad I put on my heavy rain jacket and rain pants and they can't bite through that thicker material. To protect my head I have one of those funky looking bug netting head gear that keeps them out of my face and away from my neck. Then any remaining exposed areas are treated with a high percentage DEET spray (at least 23%, Muskol is good but no name stuff will work as well). I spray my hands and the area of skin just above my socks but where my pants can ride up. I forgot to do this area once and ended up with so many bites that it looked like I was wearing two, red ankle bracelets. It was just a continuous ring of bug bites. Itchy ..
<Pause, SMACK> Ewwww..... Speaking of bugs, I just saw a mosquito that got in my tent. I flicked him to kill him but he must have just bit me because he exploded, spraying blood over my tent wall. That was really gross. Does that imagery give you a real feel for northern Ontario?
Well even though it is still early, I am completely beat so I am going to bed. You know the old saying, the early bird gets the worm. Hmmm... Getting up early didn't help the worm any did it? ;-)
I tend to subscribe to the other saying: Early to bed and early to rise makes a man tired and weak in the eyes.
Day 62. July 16. 21 km. Total 4328 km. Schreiber.
Today was exactly what I needed. I slept in until 8:30 and took my time packing. I struggled up over the one hill between Rossport and Schreiber and coasted down into town. There was a nice wind from the west and my mind wanted me to keep going but my body just couldn't take anymore. You could say that in this case the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.
Even with only a short day on the road I did experience a really neat weather phenomenon riding between Rossport and Schreiber. On the uphill side of a climb it was hot, humid, and clear. On the other side the weather was completely different. It was a good 10 degrees cooler and really foggy. It seems that the valley I entered runs directly to Lake Superior and the cool moist air comes up from the lake reacts with the hot moist air from the inland to make the fog. It was quite interesting seeing weather happen like that.
I arrived in town at noon and went directly to the library where I spent the next 5 hours typing up the last month. I only got half of it done before I got sick of typing so I will do the rest tomorrow. After talking a bit with the librarian she offered to let me camp in her back-yard and I accepted sight unseen.
The town is having a heritage days celebration this week so I was able to score some freshly barbecued hamburgers before heading back to camp for a shower and to do some laundry. Both of which were sorely needed as the last few days were near 30 degrees and very humid. I plan on staying here tomorrow to complete my recovery and finish typing up the past months worth of entries.
I go sleep now.
Day 63. July 17. 0 km. Total 4328 km. Schreiber.
I can't believe that it was two months ago today that I headed out from home on the start of this trip. Although when I sit down and really think about it, it seems that I have been on the road for ages. Keremeos, Osoyoos, Castlegar, they all feel like years ago and Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland seem light years away. Through all the trials and tribulations, ups and downs of this journey I feel stronger and confident that I can take care of anything that can be tossed at me. I look forward to seeing what the next part of the trip holds in store for me.
Actually one thing that still surprises me is the hospitality of the people and families that I stay with. It seems that it has gotten to the point where I only have to spend a few hours with them and I become an adopted member of the family, fighting for control of the TV remote. Today was no different, I woke up to fresh pancakes for breakfast and tonight we had a huge pasta dinner with ice cream for dessert and tomorrow she is planning strawberry and blueberry waffles (wow, bicycle touring sure is tough, I don't know how much longer I can keep roughing it like this <GRIN>). I spent much of the day finishing typing up my journal to the present (between today and yesterday I typed 13,000 words, that is over 24 typed pages). Unfortunately, I was unable to upload it onto the site because there has been a huge fire in Toronto that has knocked out the main trunk of the internet line through this section of Ontario. I hope to get this all up in a couple of days when access is restored.
Day 64. July 18. 91 km. Total 4419 km. Marathon.
I must have inherited the luck of the Irish along with the Hennessey surname because there is no way that everyone can be as friendly as the people I am staying with. This morning I had what will likely be the best breakfast of the entire trip. HUGE Belgian waffles smothered in fresh blueberries and strawberries and topped with whipping cream and maple syrup. This wasn't a breakfast, it was more like dessert. In fact I'm drooling just remembering it. I gorged myself so much on them that I had to sit around until noon to give myself time to digest enough of it that I could cycle without bursting. And then tonight in Marathon I ran into another amazing family who let me shower, do laundry, use their computer and to top it off fed me a meal of salad, steak and potatoes and ice cream. The qui
Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh....... A BEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Phew, I really didn't need that! Just as I was writing this in my tent I heard a scraping sound and one of my bags fell over. I thought it had just tipped over until I heard more scratching and the wall of my tent continued to move. I was sure it was a bear trying to get at my food bags (yes, when I am in a town I leave them in my tent). Well I just freaked out, I shouted, clapped my hands and generally made a lot of noise. I grabbed for my flashlight and bear spray but CRAP, my bear spray was still attached to my bike where I left it. So with commando like speed I dove out of my tent, rolling along the ground and grabbed the pepper spray with my right hand while I scanned the yard with my flashlight in my left. (Ok, so it didn't quite happen like that but it sounds heroic). So there I am in my underwear, holding a flashlight in one hand, a can of pepper spray in the other and then I see it.... Their cat, crouching by the corner of their house looking at me like I am some kind of crazed lunatic. It was HIM scratching at my tent and giving me a heart attack, not a bear. What a relief (but I still did move my food into the house).
Now where was I before I was so rudely interrupted. Oh yes, the quickest way to a bicycle tourists heart is through their stomach and I love these folks already. I got out of the shower and their older daughter said that she was sorry but they had already eaten and all they had was some leftover barbecued steak and potatoes, would that be ok? "Would that be ok?!?", I thought, "That would be more than ok that would be fantastic". So I sat down and chatted with her while munching on a great dinner. She was close to my age and it was really nice talking with a peer for a change, I have not had that opportunity much on this trip. I guess that is a side effect of choosing places to stay where there are kids toys (too young) or flower gardens and garden gnomes (too old).
As per road conditions, Hwy 17 was pretty much the same as it has been the whole time. The first 65 km was nicely paved while the last 25 km was quite rough. And in terms of hills they are still present but not as bad as they were coming into Schreiber. There was one big one after Terrace Bay then it was mostly downhill for 35 km then about equal amounts of up and down for the last 45 km though it looked like it would have been harder traveling west.
That's all for tonight folks, good night.
Day 65. July 19. 10 km. Total 4429 km. Marathon.
Oh man am I going to be tired tomorrow. I will have to be brief because it is much later than I wanted it to be and I have to be up early tomorrow to make it to White River (~100 km) before the day gets too hot. The reason for the late night? Well I met a very nice girl at the library today who in the course of chatting asked if I would like to go for a walk tonight. Well I had wanted to get to bed early but I have a standing policy that anyone who has the guts to ask to talk/walk/go out with me is someone that is worth getting to know better (actually this is the first time EVER that I have actually had the opportunity to use it but I had thought about it before ;-). It was funny, it was almost like because we were complete strangers we could completely drop our guards and talk about anything. She now knows things about my growing up that even my good friends don't know. And I got the opportunity to hear about what it is like to grow up intelligent in a small town and what you have to deal with in the schools. I would have to say that she is one of the most intelligent, articulate, interesting and mature young woman that I have ever met and she has gone through and overcome (not entirely unscathed but stronger for them) such things that I don't think that I could have dealt with at her age. I see in her the enormous potential to turn into an amazing adult and I am looking forward to corresponding with her further.
Oh yes, and I did get essentially all caught up on my web site although I still have not managed to put the rest of my pictures on. They are really just to labour intensive to do and will probably have to wait until I get home.
Ok I have to go to bed now. I am not looking forward to getting up in 5 hours.
One other note. I had barbecued ribs and potatoes with the family I am staying with. Yum, it just doesn't get better than this.
Day 66. July 20. 100 km. Total 4529 km. White
Well it was just as I predicted last night, I am completely exhausted. My alarm went off at 7:00 but since it was so cold outside and my sleeping bag was so warm, it took me a full hour of drifting in and out of consciousness before I could drag my sorry carcass out of bed. Even though I was an hour late getting going it didn't matter too much as the cycling was really pleasant today. It was hot (mid to high 20's) but I had a nice cool tailwind and it was mostly level ground so it did not have to exert myself too badly. The road was in rough condition in places but there was always at least 16" of shoulder and even though it was cracked I could still ride on it. There were a lot of logging trucks on the road but most gave me plenty of room. One idiot however nearly took me out. He passed another logging truck effectively completely blocking both lanes with several thousand pounds of lumber and steel all hurtling toward me. I slammed on the breaks and slide into the soft gravel shoulder of the road to avoid being mushed. Having several tens of thousands of pounds of steel and lumber flying by you at over 100 kph is really something I can live without. As Monty Python so aptly put it "I nearly soiled my armor." (An interesting aside: it is funny how it doesn't really bother me when they pass me going the same direction (relative velocity ~80 kph) yet it is extremely frightening when they come at you head on (relative velocity ~120 kph). Either way I would be equally dead if they hit me.)
Now many of you probably think that I am completely insane to bike across Canada. "You call that a vacation?" is something I hear quite frequently. Well today I met two guys that even I think are nuts. They are WALKING across Canada in support of funding Alzheimer research. Now you might be thinking that walking is no big deal, it's been done before. Well unlike most charity crossings I have met so far, with their support vehicles carrying gear, food, water, personal masseuse ect, these guys are doing it unsupported! Now THAT takes real guts. They each have what looks like a kids bicycle trailer behind them attached to a hip belt and they pull all their gear and food with them. They are averaging 40 km per day and have a website at www.sharpsites.echelon.ca/sea2sea.html.
Now if you recall, the past little while I have been complaining of really tired and sore legs. Well today I think that I have uncovered the reason for it. It is not because of my body or the hills but instead it is the fault of my bike. Even after two days rest I was still having problems this morning with the hills so I decided that it must not be my body but something else. I got off my bike at a rest stop and checked everything. Handlebar height? Check. Pedals? Check. Saddle height? Check. Saddle position? AH HA! It was that last one that was the problem. For some reason my seat-post clamp no longer hold my saddle in position but instead allows it to slide all the way back. This puts my seat 4 cm further away from the handlebars. Now this may not seem like much but it completely wrecks my cycling geometry. I have to arch my back more to reach the handle-bars, crane my neck to see and my legs are no longer correctly positioned over the pedals. None of these differences are really noticeable at the start but after several hours on the road the cumulative difference adds up. At White River I went into the hardware store and rigged up some repairs that should last until I hit a real bicycle shop. Actually, there is a local guy in town who does basic repairs and you can reach him at Superior Bicycle Repair, 807 822-2590. (That is something you quickly notice here along Lake Superior, every business name HAS to incorporate Superior in it somehow. Superior Bicycle, Superior Hair Cuts, Superior Gas, Superior Knitting Supplies, you name it they use it.)
I arrived in White River (allegedly where the original Winnie the Pooh was purchased as a mascot for the army) at 4:00. Since I have been having such great luck with being offered supper around this time I thought I would try to pick another winner tonight. Well I cased the whole town (not very hard to do) and settled upon the nicest house of the bunch. I mean this yard looks like a park: neatly trimmed grass, rock and wildflower gardens with vegetables galore. This was a property maintained by someone who had real pride in doing it and a lot of time on their hands = retired = possible empty nesters = kind people and supper? To make the situation even more promising I could see someone working in one of the gardens (my success rate for asking people in their yards as opposed to knocking is 100%). As it turns out most of my hunches were correct. The people living there were a really friendly retired Italian couple with grown up children. I was allowed to pitch my tent in back of their garage, have a shower and was invited in for supper. Fantastic! It was a real Italian affair too, fresh salad with an oil and vinegar dressing, a delicious soup and amazing home baked bread. This was all served with a 2 liter jug of his home brewed red wine (anyone who says that they are Italian but doesn't have a couple jugs of home brewed wine in the cellar is lying; either about being Italian or about having the wine ;-). Then to top it all off, for dessert there was ice cream topped with fresh picked wild blueberries and over it all was drizzled brandy. This just blows peanut butter and jam sandwiches right out of the water. From now on I will always be sure to arrive in town by 4:30, no more 8:00 arrivals for me.
So in all I fixed my bike (hopefully), had a wonderful meal, told a couple of my standard stories and headed to my tent to write it all down. Not a bad day if I say so myself.
Day 67. July 21. 123 km. Total 4652 km. Old
Whatever modesty I had when I left Vancouver is completely gone now. I guess the erosion started on the Prairies. You see, in BC there are trees everywhere and so whenever you have to relieve yourself it is really easy to get out of sight. Well this all changed on the Prairies. There are no trees, just wide open spaces except where farmers have planted them and even then those are either in view of the house or behind fences. This was no big deal because I quickly discovered that if you didn't see any cars on the horizon you had at least 45 seconds do your stuff before one would arrive. By the end of the Prairies that really wasn't much of a concern either, check for cars and then go but by now I just figured that it's nothing they haven't seen before and any ways, I did not know them and would never see them again. Well today was the day that I consciously realized that I had no modesty left, but before I get to that here is the road report.
Overall the section was quite hilly but between White River and Wawa (where they have Slushies!) these hills were different from the type I have encountered earlier in Ontario. These hills had long gradual climbs followed by long gradual declines which would have been easy to traverse were it not for a stiff headwind that made it all much more difficult. The road was in fair condition but there was a 36 km section that was poor but currently under road repairs. From Wawa to Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park was much hillier. From Wawa you descended for ~5 km then climbed for 13 km (part of it a 5% grade) before descending 4 km to the bay. As I write this we are camped right on the beach and in the background I can hear the rolling surf of Lake Superior breaking gently on the shore. The bay got it's name because one rocky cliff that makes up the south end of the bay looks like the profile of an old woman looking up at the sky.
Now you may have noticed that I have mentioned "we". That is because today I hooked up with a couple of other Cross-Canada cyclists and am riding with them for a while. In total I met 6 cyclists today. The Carmichaels, a family of four, were crossing Canada together. Dad and two sons cycled while Mom drove a motorhome, cooked the meals, did laundry, found camp-sites for the night, ect.. The other three were touring like I was, with all their gear on their bikes and they are who I am staying with tonight. Chris and Karen were brother and sister and were cycling from Victoria to St. Johns and had left on June 5th while Bob had left on June 17th. They had been leapfrogging each other the past couple days but tonight we all got together to spend the night. They were absolutely astounded by my stories of camping in people's yards and after telling them about some of the meals I have had (beats Mr. Noodles) and obtaining frequent showers (they went 14 days through B.C. without one) I am sure they will try it in the future. All in all these are the first group of fellow cyclists that I have met that I actually want to ride with for a while. A fun group of people to be with.
And now back to the modesty story. It was early afternoon and the temperatures were soaring. We (Chris and Karen) came upon a lake by the side of the highway and decided to go for a swim. Now you can't really go swimming in cycling shorts because when wet they would chafe badly when you got back on the bike, however, the most cover around was little 1 foot high bushes. Well there was no way that this was going to stop me from cooling off so right there by the side of the Trans- Canada highway I just stripped, pulled on my swim trunks and hopped into the lake. Very refreshing (the swim, not the nudity). And well, apparently I am not the only one who is completely not self conscious. When we finally got to the bay that night we were all hot, sweaty and tired so we all changed and jumped into the lake (Cool, I have now officially swum in Lake Superior). Karen and I were chatting as we cleaned up and I turned away to check out the horizon. I turned around and WHOA! Full frontal shot while toweling off. Well heck, if frozen bear paws and a skull didn't phase me in Saskatchewan there was no way that I was going to let this do it (and ahem, shall we say that while wearing a Speedo there would have been a clear indication of whether I was phased or not). Well you know, it is surprisingly easy continue a conversation with a naked woman as long eye contact is maintained which in this case was not easy "Gee, I have heard about getting those pierced but this is the first time I've seen it!". I wonder what my female friends back home will think about this, they were shocked to hear that guys showered naked in public pools, well duh.
Well it is nearly midnight now after a wonderful, eventful day but before I call it quits I am going to sit here and watch the moon rise over the lake for a bit. It is a clear night and the moon and stars are reflected magnificently in the water, this is a night to remember (and not just because of the nudity ;-).
Day 68. July 22. 87 km. Total 4739 km. Montreal
Well we got busted this morning for our illegal camping. I guess we should have listened to Bob and gotten up at 5:00 am to be off early but we were all just too tired. As it was, we were just finishing packing when the Park Warden came by and caught us on the beach. The days of being able to camp anywhere are long gone, the government wants their money. We told him that we arrived late at night and didn't think that we could make it to the next camp site (true but we left out that we weren't planning on making it either) so instead of fining us ($100 per person apparently) he charged us the back-country fee of $10.75 per tent and as only two were now standing (the third being packed already) we were charged $21.50. Only $5 per person but we were still somewhat bummed about having to pay this until we passed the campsites 15 km further down the road. Talk about highway robbery! The Ontario parks service charges $18.75 per tent!!! That's not per campsite but per tent, it would have cost us nearly $60 to spend the night legally! And get this, a 36 foot long RV capable of sleeping 4-6, using electricity, water and sewer and taking up 3 times the amount of space occupied by all four of us combined, is charged $20. Where is the fairness in this? Most cycle tourists motto is "Take only pictures and leave only footprints" which is a heck of a lot better for our parks and environment than these mammoth, gas guzzling, road hogging monstrosities. It appears that our government is looking toward Yellowstone and other US parks for direction and soon only the rich will be able to afford to use our "public" parks. How can youth and lower income families afford to come to a park for a long weekend? Want to stop at a rest-stop? You have to pay. Want to go for a swim? You have to pay. We were able to get around these user fees because the ticket machines clearly said to buy a ticket and place it on your vehicles dash. Since bicycles don't have dashes we just assumed that we must be exempt ;-). Actually it was not just the government sites that were outrageous. The cheapest campsite I have seen in Ontario so far has been $17 ($18 for RV's). This doesn't affect me much, our escapade at Old Woman Bay was only the fourth night this trip where I had to pay to sleep, not a bad average. Actually it was almost worth getting busted because after the warden (bullet proof vest, gun and all) had left we nearly busted our guts laughing as we made up possible things we could say if we were wardens ourselves. "Get your face down on that beach and eat sand freeloaders!". "Put your head between your legs and kiss your cyclist ass good-by." I guess you really had to be there but Bob is a real comedian and we were all nearly peeing our selves laughing so hard.
Being on the beach was also a lot of fun but the sand does get into everything. Tents, sleeping bags, clothing, and I am sure our bikes are not very happy about it either. We also had a couple of drunks show up at the beach around 3:00 am but a downpour drove them away before they discovered us. There is something to be said for manicured lawns and private back yards.
Overall today was an amazing day. I would have to say that the splendor of the route along Lake Superior is comparable to the ride through the Rockies and southern Saskatchewan, it was just beautiful. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Lake Superior would look like this. I had expected it to look like the Pacific/Atlantic ocean or any other large body of water. Dark, grey murky water, and from what I have heard, polluted but this was not the case. Lake Superior is crystal clear and it is impossible for me to describe the colours we saw as the sun pierced the surface. Aqua green and turquoise blues were abundant in the small bays and coves along the shore and the deeper water was a rich deep blue or emerald green. If you replaced the fir and pine trees along the shore with palm trees I could easy mistake this area for the Caribbean. It was just so beautiful that we all ended up going swimming three times today, an individual early morning skinny dip in the bay to wake up, very refreshing. Then again around lunch at Katherine Cove. This cove was the most beautiful body of water that I have ever seen either in pictures or in life and I have been down the Pacific coast all the way to Mexico, the Maritimes and throughout Hawaii. This picturesque cove, nestled in the south end of Lake Superior National Park, had an amazing white sand beach and the tropical blue-green water which was quite warm as a result of the past week of hot weather. The image of this bay appearing as I came onto the beach from the trail through the forest will be forever blazed into my memory. The third and final swim of the day was more of a party. It was at Montreal River and there were seven of us cyclists together. Chris, Bob, Karen and I hooked up for the evening with the Carmichaels' and we are all staying together for the night. We found that there was a campsite that would charge $12 per tent but instead of paying we found a clearing off the road and that is where we are staying. We are like a band of gypsies grouping together for protection and companionship. We all cycled at our own speed but met up at the swim spots and at the end of the day for a potluck (although the Carmichaels' really provided all the food, we just brought our appetites). One of their sons plays the bagpipes and so we were serenaded by the pipes out on the shore of the largest lake in world. Fantastic.
Even though we spent all day on the road we only traveled 87 km. This was due to the frequent swim breaks which were necessary because it was just too hot to be on the road for long. There was one section through the park that had been freshly paved and had not yet faded from that dark, tar black. I swear it acted like a frying pan, raising the temperature on the road by 10 degrees and just cooking us. After only 5 km on it I had drunk two liters of water and was drenched in sweat.
The good roads through the park did not last long. In fact there were some sections that were even more treacherous than Kicking Horse Pass through B.C. Narrow, no shoulder, cracked pavement and BIG, FAST trucks. It was on a section like this that I had my first real accident of the trip. My camera bag strap, which hangs on my aero bars, had slid down and was rubbing against my front wheel. Instead of stopping to take care of it I just reached down and moved it out of the way. It was at that moment that I hit a big crack which sent me onto the soft gravel shoulder, usually no big deal, "I'll just ride it out", I thought to myself. It was a big deal this time because there was a big pile of gravel left over from construction that took up the whole shoulder (who was the idiot who left it there?). Again this normally would have been fine, "I'll just go around it", but to make matters worse there was a big metal railing along the side. All this happened in the course of a split second but it is funny how time slows down. I had just enough time to clip out of my pedals and hit the breaks before my front tire hit the railing and threw me over the handlebars. I landed hard but my first thought was not if I had hurt myself but was my bike was ok? Bodies fix themselves but bikes don't and I had visions of a cracked rim or bent frame and being stuck in Ontario again. Fortunately nothing was broken (either on me or my bike) and I just ended up with some cuts and bruises. Next time I will stop my bike. Idiot!
As I mentioned earlier, the scenery was breathtaking but there was a good deal of hills that needed conquering. I think that the first good one was 15 km or so from Old Woman Bay then there were a couple after Agua Bay. There was a sweet 5 km descent into Montreal River and we were done for the night. Just to let you know, carry a good supply of food and water. In the park there was water at the campsite but not at the rest stops that we could see. There were no stores right in Montreal River but apparently there is one about 2 km further up a big hill that I would not want to climb at the end of a day.
That's it if tonight. Goodnight all.
Day 69. July 23. 119 km. Total 4858 km. Sault
The humidity today was the worst that I have encountered yet this trip. We did not get off in the morning until 9:30 because the Carmichaels' made up a big pot of oatmeal and the novelty of a hot breakfast kept us there until our stomachs were full. During our conversation the subject of the second title for today came up and I will just make brief mention of it today. Do not think about picking up bottles from the side of Hwy 17 to recycle! One of the kids earlier said, "Why are people throwing away half full bottles of apple juice? Well Coca Cola doesn't make apple juice! It is just disgusting, people are pissing in bottles as the drive (what, can't take 5 minutes to stop?) and then they toss them out the window. They are everywhere. From slobs (beer bottles), to the middle class (Coca coal bottles), to yuppie's (Evian bottles) I have seen it all. Wonderful scenery huh?
The first climb of the day was very nearly our last. It just about killed me. I need a couple of kilometers of easy riding to warm up in the morning before tackling the hard stuff but there was no such luxury this morning. The climb out of Montreal River was brutal (perhaps just my impression) and the humidity was so high that only 0.5 km up it I was drenched in sweat. Three quarters the way up the hill we (Chris, Karen and I) wimped out and headed into the store for some air-conditioning and then spent an additional 15 minutes stretching to try and loosen up. For the rest of the day the humidity bounced up and down depending what the cloud cover was like. When it was overcast the heat was smothering, when it cleared a bit the humidity dropped like a rock. While we were stretching out I was asked the stupidest question yet. A fellow hops out of his Crown Victoria asks where we were from and then he drops a bombshell, "So what do you do if you get a flat?" What? He really had no clue! Bob told me that he has been asked this a couple of times but this is my first time. I had to bite back the snappy reply, "Hmm... Boy I never though about that." "I guess that would be the end of the trip. I would just call a cab and catch the next flight home." Instead I say that we carry with us all the tools we would ever need to fix most things. Really, what is it that they think we would do? My theory is that their brain is so addled by the fact that we have come from Vancouver that they can no longer think straight and can't help but ask stupid questions.
From Montreal River there was about 20 km of climbing with the trend being upward most of the way then after 20km it started rolling. At Pancake Bay I stopped at the parks office to call home and update my parents and I found out that a reporter from the Vancouver Sun wanted to interview me. Cool! Chris and Karen went on ahead while I called him up and did an interview. When I was done the sky just opened up and there was a torrential downpour. Perfect timing, I was still undercover and just decided to wait it out. I went in to the center and talked to the park attendants, all girls working summer jobs with the parks service, and I guess I charmed them enough that they fed me a nice lunch. Smooth Trev', smooth.
The rain let up after 45 minutes and I met Chris and Karen down the road where they had ducked out of the rain and we continued on. About 45 km from Montreal River the road really leveled out until we came upon The Mile Hill <GASP>. Actually I would say that it was more like one long, steady downhill grade and I would not like to come up the other direction. Now about that hill. In every place that we stopped today people have been coming up to us and warning us about THE MILE HILL. That's the way they say in too. When they say "The Mile Hill" you almost expect ominous music to start up with the classic Dum Dum dum sound The fear in their voice is almost palatable and they speak of it in a hushed whisper as if they are afraid of their car being struck down by the almighty Hill for simply mentioning it aloud. The Mile Hill. According to legend one cross-country cyclist took one look at it and just turned around rather than attempting to climb it (just kidding but that's what they would have you believe). I kept saying, "But it's called Mile Hill because it is only one mile long right? Just a puny 1.6 km?" Even if it IS the steepest thing that we have ever encountered, if cars can get up it, we certainly can. Heck, I can PUSH my bike up a mile in 10-15 minutes. Just goes to show you that people gage hills based on what they can compare it too in the area and most of this region is just flat or small hills. We TOLD them that there were days in B.C. where we had to climb for 70 straight km but they just can't grasp it with their Central Ontario brains. To them nothing can be as bad as The Mile Hill. Well we rode it and yes, it was a tough climb. I would say that it must be over 8%, maybe 12% but I climbed the whole mile standing up without having to get off my bike and yes it really was only one mile long. After that climb we essentially just coasted downhill for 20 km into Sault. St. Marie.
After doing out grocery shopping in town it was starting to get dark and I did not want to try and reach the next rest stop before dark so we decided to try and find a place to stay in town. Here is where I began the lesson on finding a good yard. We passed by a couple unsatisfactory ones until I saw two promising ones. I had Chris stand in the back (dyed hair growing out into a pretty cool afro with a beard, might scare an old lady) and Karen and I approached the door. We knocked but no one was home. However, from the stairs I could see that there were people in the backyard of the next house so that's where I headed next. I just went up to them, introduced ourselves and asked if we could camp in their back yard. "Sure, no problem", came the reply and so that is where we are tonight. Piece of cake! I wonder what Chris and Karen think about this? They looked pretty astonished at how easy it was and downright shocked when the lady offered the three of us showers. Ahhh, the joys of backyard camping. The scenery might not be as fine but it does have it's perks. The only downside to staying here was that Karen, walking around in her socks, stepped right in a pile of dog doo. Actually, Chris and I were holding our guts howling with laughter while Karen was less than impressed.
Well we did not finish dinner until 11:30 pm so it is late as I write this and I have to get some sleep now so goodbye for now.
Day 70. July 24. 110 km. Total 4968 km. Tullock
Lake, Iron Bridge.
I am afraid that todays road report is a fairly poor one. Road conditions changed so frequently that I could not keep them all straight in my head until tonight. Here is what I can remember. From Sault Ste. Marie to Echo Bay the road had a huge shoulder and was very level. Then from Echo Bay to Desbarats it was mostly level but the shoulder came and went. Then all the way to Iron Bridge there were rolling hills but they were all fairly short and not very steep. It was quite hot today but not as humid as yesterday and we had a wonderful tailwind so cycling was pleasant. Although Chris, Karen, and I were quite tired and could have done with a shorter day, we have all learned from bitter experience that when the wind is blowing your way you go as far as you can because tomorrow it might switch around and come right back in your face.
At Sault Ste. Marie we sadly left the beautiful shores of Lake Superior and started onto Lake Huron. Compared to Superior this route is a poor second. Even though it is called the Lake Huron circle tour we have only seen the lake a handful of times while most of our time is spent cycling through farms and bush. We did manage to get in a swim at a private beach in Thessalon so that makes two Great Lakes down and three to go. Boring scenery aside, our riding was made even more depressing by the fact that we have been running into some really miserable people. Last night it was a woman at a supermarket we were trying to buy groceries at. Because of the long day on the road we were there near closing and had to rush through the store. I was going to buy a hot package of chicken from the deli but wanted to wait until I was on the way out so it would still be hot. When I went back I found that the woman behind the counter had put it away and was really a bag when I asked her if it would be too much trouble for me to have it. She wouldn't get it for me. Then today we ran into another three idiots. First we had a guy in a pickup slow down and shout "Get the F--K off the road." There was no shoulder and the side of the road was all chewed up, where does he want us to go? Then there was a woman at a souvenir shop who would not let us fill our water bottles in her washrooms. "Where do you think you are going with those?", she said as we walked in with our bottles. "We have bottled water for sale for $2." Well gee, as tempting as that offer was, we shook the dust off our feet in her store and headed 2 km to the town and got water there. Finally, at the end of the day Chris needed to use a washroom so we stopped at a campground but they would not let him use theirs. What is with these people? Nothing better to do than be jerks? I think that they all have several things in common but the main one must be that they all live tedious, petty little lives and the only way that they can feel big and in control is by pushing someone else down. On the road later, the three of us talked about this and decided that we could come up with all kinds of snappy, sarcastic replies that would put them in their place but we would never be anything but polite because otherwise we would be stooping to their level and debasing ourselves. Instead we just shrug and move on. It still makes me mad though.
The funniest thing that happened today occurred at lunch. We were hiding from the sun and wind in the shelter of a building, just sitting on the ground making peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I was eating my sandwiches when I saw this huge daddy-longlegs spider crawling around the lid from one of the jars of honey and Chris sort of half heartedly trying to flick it out. Ewww, gross. "That is disgusting but since Chris doesn't have a problem with it in his honey lid I guess that I don't care either.", I thought to myself. Chris was tossing rocks at it and had succeeded in squashing it a bit. Finally I could contain myself no longer. "Chris, why are you letting that thing crawl around your honey lid?" "My honey lid? This one is yours.", he replied. AAAAaaaahhhhhhhh!!!! HE'S RIGHT!!! That IS my lid that he just squashed a spider in. He had been thinking the same as me, if I did not care about a spider in my lid then neither did he. Once I cleaned out the lid and got over my revulsion we had a good laugh about it.
Tonight we had hoped to make it to a rest stop outside of Blind River but this morning we were invited in by the lady we were staying with for a pancake breakfast and so we did not end up on the road until noon. Around 8:30 pm it was starting to get dark and we still had 15 km to go to the rest stop so we decided to camp at the next decent place. We saw a nice house right on Tullock Lake outside Iron River but decided against knocking there as none of us particularly felt like talking to anyone else that night. Well not 50' from that house I saw an old road that appeared to lead to the lake. It looked promising so we headed down to take a look. Jackpot! It was an old boat launch that lead right to the lake and would make an excellent camping spot. We quickly set up camp and started dinner. Boy oh boy, Chris and Karen might just convert me back into a stove user. They made up a fantastic noodle soup that consisted of 2 packs of Mr. Noodles, some green beans, carrots, green peppers, a can of lentils and a whole bunch of spices. It was hot, spicy and delicious. Then for desert I had half a strawberry/rhubarb pie left over from last night so we put that on top of the stove to simmer. Heated up it was delicious, what a feast.
After the meal was over and everything cleaned up we headed to the lake for a swim. Chris rushed forward and plunged in ahead of Karen and myself. ABORT! ABORT! came his shout from the water. Karen and I stopped at the edge and discovered that although the surface of the lake looked nice the bottom was all swampy and the water was just gross. We had a great laugh as Chris toweled the grime off him and decided that we could go to bed without a bath tonight.
Tomorrow at Espanola our little cycling group is breaking up. Chris and Karen will be continuing onto Ottawa via Hwy 17 through North Bay and Sudbury while I am heading south over Manitoulin Island, under Georgian Bay and from there on to Ottawa. Chris has to be back in Victoria for the start of school in September so they are rushing through Ontario to be able to spend more time in the Maritimes. Myself on the other hand, have no deadline and I have heard so much about Manitoulin Island that I could not go by without checking it out. I am a little sad about splitting up but I am giving them a friends address in Montreal and my grandparents address in PEI so I am sure that we will hook up somewhere down the road. Chris's girlfriend from B.C. is driving out to Nova Scotia as a holiday and will be picking them up to drive back. I would love to road trip back with them but am not quite prepared to cut my trip short to be able to do so. If we do not meet up again during this trip it is not a big deal because we are already planning a get together at my place in the fall with the Carmichael's to share stories and pictures.
Well off to bed.
Day 71. July 25. 100 km. Total 5068 km. Massey.
Since this was to be our last breakfast together we made pancakes with wild raspberries on top for our morning meal. However, because of the time it took we were unable to make it all the way to Espanola and called it quits in Massey at 8:00 pm. We did not feel like staying in someone's yard so we started asking around for good places to camp, preferably on a lake or river. In the past it has been the local kids who knew all the good spots so we asked a bunch of teenagers hanging around at the gas station if they knew of any (GASP, we asked for advice from a bunch of good for nothing hooligans just hanging around looking for trouble? The newspapers and most older peoples views on youth today sure are out of touch with reality.) Sure enough they knew of the perfect place. There was a local park that was about 2 km from town, was right on the river, and had outhouses. We went to check it out and it was perfect! Lots of trees and grassy areas but with a nice sandy beach and way out of sight of the road. To top it all off, there was this natural slide going into the water. One of the cliff walls bordering the river was made entirely of clay and after hundreds of kids have gone sliding down it there is now a section worn away into the shape of a slide. I watched the kids going down it a couple of times then decided that having broken 5000 km today there was no way that I was going to chicken out and not go down this. I climbed my way to the top and down I flew. OUCH OUCH OUCH!!!!! After the first foot down the slide my Speedos turned into a thong wedgie and I bare cheeked it the rest of the way down! Now wet clay may feel all smooth and slippery but I assure you that it is not, there are all sorts of sand and abrasive materials in it. Sliding down it fast and bare assed was more like going down sandpaper. I carpet burned my bum quite seriously. I called it quits after the second time (yes I tried it again but attempted to go down on my feet..... It didn't work.) but I would still say that if you ever pass through Massey you have to stop and make a small detour to the town park to try for yourself.
The road today was characteristic of the past few days, great in parts and poor in others. A shoulder most of the way but absent or unrideable in others. There were even less hills than yesterday and the last 10-15 km was flat. Yes I know that I am lacking in details but hey, no ones perfect. The scenery was mostly unremarkable with Lake Huron, when visible, far away.
Tonight will be our last meal together as a trio and tomorrow we go our separate ways. Because we played in the water before pitching camp it was nearly 10:30 pm before we even started cooking. Late meal aside, to celebrate our last time together we made a fantastic supper. We made up a bean salad to start and followed this by a great pasta dish. Again it was the dessert that, pardon the pun, took the cake. I was in charge of creating the dessert and had picked up some instant pudding and some brownies when grocery shopping earlier. I made up the pudding with powdered skim milk and heated it over the stove. Then, when it was all hot, I crumbled in the brownies and cooked it a bit more. Karen thought it was gross to be eating something that rich at midnight but that just left more for Chris and myself. It was soooooooooo good. The pudding was hot and the brownies melted in your mouth. Mmmmmmm.... Even though I am stuffed, just thinking about it is making me drool.
Well as usual it is now nearly 1:00 am, I really have to catch some sleep.
Day 72. July 26. 96 km. Total 5164 km. 10 Mile
Point, Manitoulin Island.
It was such a long day because it took us forever to get off this morning. We did not get up until 9:00 then of course there was the morning swim and breakfast and by the time we left it was 11:00 and starting to get hot.
Chris's rear rim was nearly dead so we had to go to a bike shop in Espanola. He has been riding it cracked for the past 600 km trying to get to North Bay where we have contacts at a bike shop but today we could see that two spokes had nearly pulled completely out of the rim and it would not last much longer. We went to the bike shop and I picked up a new chain (mine was badly stretched by now) and here we parted company. I am feeling torn, I want to take my time and be sure to see all I want too and yet I would really like to hook up with them in the Maritimes and drive home together. A road trip home by car seems a much more fitting way to end the trip than an 8hr plane flight.
Now about my camping spot. There is no way you can guess where I am sleeping tonight. I am in a real, honest to god, tepee! Yes you read right, a tepee. Poles in a triangle, wrapped in canvas, tepee. When I was passing through Little Current on the island I thought about camping behind the tourist info center on the water but because I was planning on catching the 9:10 am ferry at the other end of the island I wanted to cut my distance to travel in the morning from 65 km to 45 km. I saw a rest stop 20 km away on the map and headed for that. Doh! The problem with this large scale map is that even though an area looks like it is on the water it could be miles away. It ended up being 9:30 pm and getting dark when I finally arrived only to find that I was on top of a cliff about 10 km from the ocean! So much for my swim tonight.
The whole area of the rest stop was quite exposed to the road, not many trees, but there was a tepee set up in front of the info center. I was still looking for a place to camp when a guy watching the sunset jokingly suggested that I sleep in the tepee. Well why not? Once that seed was planted, how could I resist? So that's just what I did, I pitched camp and spent the night in the tepee. It was interesting to see feel the difference of camping alone again. When I was with Chris and Karen I slept right through the night without a worry but things are different when you are alone. I woke up to every car and truck that pulled into the rest stop and wondered if I was going to be harassed. It is going to take me a while to get used to this again.
Now that I am off Hwy 17 here is the road report. From Massey to Webwood the road is flat and newly paved. Then we had to take 2 km of gravel to reach the bike shop and it was another 1 km or so of gravel then paved roads to Espanola. From Espanola to Whitefish Falls was the most hilly part today and yet the most scenic of the Lake Huron circle route so far. There were lots of ups and downs but nothing too strenuous, more like the northern section of Hwy 71 near Kenora. There was even one rock wall that looked like it was entirely made up of marble or quartz and had purple and red veins of crystal running through it, very pretty. The road was in poor condition with no shoulder but at the time I was riding it there was very little in the way of traffic. Near Whitefish Falls there were some fantastic picture opportunities of classic Canadian shield scenery, rolling rocky ground with stunted pine and fir trees with small lakes in the background. However as I got closer to Little Current this magnificent scenery changed, the terrain became more and more flat and the rocky shield turned into farmland. Then the rest of the way to the rest stop at 10 Mile Point there were a couple of climbs but nothing overly strenuous.
At Espanola I stopped to check my E-Mail and it seems that the Vancouver Sun article had been run. I'm front page news!! I spent about an hour reading e-mails from people who had read it and were giving me compliments and encouragement and that helped to lift my spirits after separating from Chris and Karen. Here is a copy taken from the Vancouver Sun website.
Cyclist's Web site bares terrors, triumphs
Pete McMartin Vancouver Sun
Trevor Hennessey's Web site can be found at
"Man O Man am I ever tired."
The difference between him and the thousands of
other bicyclists who
He left in May. Calling Friday from a pay phone
at Pancake Bay
Pete McMartin can be reached at email@example.com
Well that's about all I can remember right now. I had to write this up the day after because I did not want to risk a light in the tepee last night. So if I remember anything more I will fill it in later.
Day 73. July 27. 136 km. Total 5300 km. Wiarton.
I am starting to have doubts about the wisdom of taking this route to Ottawa instead of staying on Hwy 17. The heat is oppressive, the hills are brutal and I don't know if the scenery has been impressive enough to warrant the amount of work it is taking me to ride through it.
I was not overly impressed with the remainder of Manitoulin Island, just more farmland, but the morning started off well. I was up at 5:00 am to catch the ferry and pack up before I get caught in the teepee. One side effect of this was that I caught the most amazing sunrise I have ever seen. From up on the cliff I could look out over the Georgian Bay and the sun was slowly rising from behind some islands out in the water. I could actually see the rays of sun coming up from behind the hills on the islands while the rest of the sky turned a brilliant red. Breath taking.
The remainder of the ride on the island to the ferry at South Baymouth was just through more farmland and slightly rolling terrain. The ferry ride was very anticlimactic, when you are out in the bay all you can see around you is water and in my opinion it was over priced. Boy, I am just Mr. Negativity today aren't I? Well that's just the way I am feeling. I guess I am worried about the section I am taking to Ottawa. This route is only 250 km (two days in theory) longer than Hwy 17 but as I discovered to my chagrin today, the route is never as straight and flat as those lines on the map. Oh well, I am committed now so only time will tell.
From where the ferry drops you off on the Bruce Peninsula to Miller lake there are a lot of climbs then it levels out to Ferndale. The heat was bad (33 degrees) and I was dying for a slurpee so I asked a kid were I could get one. He said that the closest one would mean I would have to do a side trip to Whippoorwill, a 4 km side trip on Hwy 9. Four km for a slurpee and the town is on the water? No problem man! I headed there and was suitably impressed with the Georgian Bay that I went for a swim. The water looked just like Lake Superior, crystal clear blues and green but it was MUCH colder. Severe shrinkage factor, but considering the heat it was very refreshing. I was getting tired of the farmland on the peninsula and seeing how beautiful the bay was I did not want to head inland and leave it. I saw on a map that Hwy 9 appeared to head in the direction I was going and might even be a little shorter than Hwy 6. I asked a local if the hills were comparable between both routes and when she said that it was I decided to go ahead and take Hwy 9.
Damm... These car drivers are going to be the death of me. There is no way that the hills on Hwy 6 are as bad as these. Steep climbs that went up and up and up. Trying to climb in this heat just about gave me a stroke. But in the end I was rewarded with a scenic descent into Wiarton. I swear it could be mistaken for the Mediterranean. The aqua blue bay, pebbled shores and Italian villas nestled along the cliffs all led the feeling that you were in Europe. It was so beautiful that it got goose bumps and it lent me the energy to do the last climb into town.
With the heat today I really needed a shower and needed an easy place to crash for the night so I went and knocked on a likely looking door. Again, it could not have worked out any better. I had a meal, a shower and right now I am writing this snuggled up in their comfy spare bed. Who could ask for anything more?
Day 74. July 28. 145 km. Total 5445 km. Midhurst.
I was up at 6:30 and sat down for breakfast with the family. Everyone has their own story to tell and if you take the time to listen you might just be amazed by what you learn about them. Here I am, a complete stranger and yet completely accepted into the household. I learned about their struggle to recover from a horrible Christmas Eve accident where their youngest son was killed and their eldest severely injured and the subsequent 12 years of trying to cope and recover. The fire that destroyed their previous home and all their possessions and pictures. And yet they are still here, surviving and moving forward without complaining or whining. I think that most people out there nowadays who do nothing but whine and complain about the government, tuition raises, photo radar, ect. could learn a great deal from these people who have at times nearly lost everything and yet have moved forward to make the best of the situation. Why is it that we seem to be coming into a generation of "me first" people. Those who want "their rights" and "their opinions" held up above all others with no regard others. The people I met here are a breath of fresh air.
Here is the road report for the day. Hwy 6 from Wiarton to Hopworth was in good shape with a shoulder and mostly level for ~10 km then gentle climbing along Hwy 70 to Owen Sound. From Owen Sound to Woodford along Hwy 70 was HORRIBLE. Narrow roads, badly cracked pavement, no shoulder and lots of traffic. To top it off there were a couple of big climbs. One to get out of town, one after a few km and one entering Woodford. The day was already a real scorcher and the humidity was in the 90's so it was at this point that I began to regret coming this way, perhaps I should have stayed on Hwy 17? Then there was an awesome ride from Woodford all the way to Meaford, good roads and downhill or level most of the way which made me feel better. In Meaford I left Hwy 26 and entered the Georgian Bay trail, a hard packed gravel multi-use trail.
<Queue announcer type voice> Straight, level and a good surface with no cars and mostly in the shade. Does that sound like the bike paths in heaven? Well wait! You don't have to ride Hwy 26 and get hit by an RV to get there, the Georgian Bay trail will suit your needs.
It was created to link up ~30 km of trails between Meaford and Collingwood and goes through wonderful orchards and shaded areas. Unfortunately in Thornbury the trail started to weave a good deal which slowed me down a lot because with my skinny, bald touring tires I have very little traction on gravel. At this point I left the trail and stayed on Hwy 26 to Midhurst. Near the end of the day there was a construction zone and I was giving two choices for detours. D1 was for trucks while D2 was for cars. Well I did not feel like covering any more ground than I had to so I made a D3 route. Essentially I just ignored the detours (which didn't specifically mention bicycles) and just went straight through the construction zone. Here is a little aside: At one point near the end of the day I thought I felt the wind pick up and start blowing through the hairs on my arms and legs but I looked around and no flags or leaves on trees were moving. I looked down and my arms and legs looked like the grill of those vehicles that drive through bug infested Ontario at night with their lights on. I was covered head to toe with small green bugs! There were hundreds of them that were caught in the oily, sweaty hairs of my arms and legs and it was all those bugs squirming around and beating their wings that made me feel like the wind was blowing. Very disgusting but since there were so many of them in the air there was really nothing I could do so I just tried to ignore them and pressed on.
I hope to make it to Ottawa in three days and to Montreal within five but I am not sure how long I can keep this pace up. The heat and humidity is becoming unbearable. Around 5:00 pm it was getting so bad that I think I was reaching heat exhaustion. I was sweating enormously and when I stopped biking to go get groceries I could not stop my hands from shaking. "That's not good.", I thought and headed for the shelter of an air conditioned mall. I have gotten the shakes before when it was cooler as a result of going too far, too fast, and with too little food so I stopped for supper in case this was the cause. Just to be on the safe side in case the shakes were heat induced I ate 2 liters of ice cream for dessert which helped to drop my core body temperature and between that and the food the shakes went away. The secret to surviving the heat (besides not being stupid and biking 145 km in it) is to drink LOTS of water and try to keep your clothes wet so your body doesn't have to try and regulate your temperature by sweating. Every 30 minutes or so I would just go jump in a creek or lake but if they weren't available I would go and use a garden hose from a house to hose off . Slurpees are also an excellent cooling fluid and I must have drunken 4 liters worth of them today alone.
I don't know if this route is going to have been worth it until I compare notes with Chris and Karen to find out what Hwy 17 was like.
Well I am going to be up early tomorrow to try and beat this heat so I better hit the sack now. Even though it is 10:30 pm it is still really hot and all I can do is lay here and sweat while waiting for sleep to come. Somebody please take me out of the pressure cooker, I'm cooked through and through.
Day 75. July 29. 152 km. Total 5597 km. Tory
Oh I'm tired. So very tired. The sun beat down today with no mercy and it took no prisoners. I am completely baked.
I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as wasted time while touring just time better spent elsewhere. I feel that the extra two days and 250 km that I have to do compared to the route along Hwy 17 would have been better spent in the Maritimes. The scenery has not been what I expected and in speaking with the locals to get the really good scenery along Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula you have to hike along the shore. Something I just don't feel like doing. Perhaps at some later date.
The road from Midhurst to Edgar was ok and not too many hills. From Edgar to Orillia it was nicely paved but quite hilly. Hwy 12 had a small rough shoulder, Highway 44 was a good road but the traffic was heavier and Hwy 45 started out poor but the traffic was light and the road got better. It was along this road that I absolutely scared the crap right out of a cat and I nearly fell of my bike laughing (simple things like this amuse me greatly now). I was biking along and a young cat was nonchalantly crossing the road. Suddenly he caught site of me and stopped dead in his tracks. His hair stood up on end, he nearly jumped out of his skin as he swapped head for tail and took off through the yards as if Cerberus itself was chasing right behind (the three headed dog that guards the gates of hell for those of you not up on your Greek mythology). He ran full out for a couple hundred yards and dove headfirst into a barn and disappeared. I guess they don't get many cyclists along this route.
After Irondale it was very hilly but the hills were so close together that you could fly down one and get halfway up the other side before you have to work hard to get up the rest of the way. I was having a great time riding it like a roller coaster and it was here that I met a new pair of cycle tourists. They were a young couple from Edmonton and were going to St. Johns. They were on a fully loaded tandem and towing a BOB trailer but today was their first day on the road. It seems that they have a 12 day rail pass and are alternating between cycling and taking the train. We road together but they were too slow on the hills for my tastes to I told them that I would wait for them at the next town and we could camp together.
I arrived in the next town after flying over a couple more hills and started looking for a place to stay. I parked my bike in sight of the road so the couple could find me and went up to a cottage to ask if they knew of any parks in the area. They knew of one down the road but before I could leave they asked if I wanted a cold pop. "Of course.", I said and promptly sat down in their kitchen. They were just finishing supper and the wife asked if I wanted a piece of corn and some steak that they had left over. Wow, I only came to ask for directions and here I was getting supper, awesome! I had told the couple on the tandem about how I was camping across Canada and could not wait to see their face when they walked into the kitchen and saw me chowing down on steak and corn. I asked one of their granddaughters to watch the road for two people riding one bike and shout at them if they passed by. The idea of two people on one bike really caught the little girls imagination and she quickly hurried out to watch for them. Sure enough, 15 minutes later they showed up and the wife ushered them into the kitchen and offered them a meal as well. The looks on their stunned faces was priceless. After supper we took off to look at the park but it was unsuitable so we went back and asked to camp in their yard.
Their cottage overlooked a body of water and I said straight away that I was going to swim in it. "That's not a lake! That's a swamp." Said the family, "You'd have to be crazy to swim in THAT!". The gauntlet had been thrown and I had no choice but to pick it up. I mean come on, I am bicycling across Canada and have the reputation of being a crazy person to uphold. Once I said that I was going to swim in it I had to go and put on a big show of doing it. IT WAS DISGUSTING! The bottom was just a mass or rotting vegetation and slime but I just said that it felt so good oozing between my toes. I had their admiration and the deed was done so I got out of there pretty fast and went for a shower. No more swamp swimming for me, reputation or not!
We stayed up late talking and so now I must call it a night. See you tomorrow.
Day 76. July 30. 141 km. Total 5738 km. Dacre.
Man it's hot. I mean really hot. That 35 degree day in Grand Forks doesn't come close to this. I can't remember when I have ever been hotter than I am today. What am I doing in this heat? In the mirror my eyebrows look while from all the salt crystals encrusted in the hairs from evaporated sweat. I leaned my head against a wall and the pressure of my head against my helmet caused the sweat absorbed in the cushions to come pouring down my face by the gallon. I should just find an air-conditioned mall and go hide in there and sleep. It's just too damm hot.
I'm dying right now so today's report is just going to be the road report. The old brain is just too overheated to be creative right now. The temperature is 36 degrees and the humidity is 98%. I heard on the news that factoring in the humidity it is equivalent to being 43 degrees out. And yet I still covered 141 km. I don't know if I should be congratulated for this or be tossed into an insane asylum for doing even 10 km in this heat. Oh well, I survived and I'm that much closer to Montreal.
Road conditions changed so frequently today that I had to write it all down on a notepad to remember. Tory hill to Cardiff was hilly but I seemed to go down more than I had to go up and there was a shoulder most of the way. Then it was more level to Bancroft but the traffic in town was CRAZY. I was sure that I had made it 6000 km only to get killed by some blue haired old lady driving a Winnebago. This weekend is the Jemboree (jamboree) and 12,000 rockhounds from around North America and the world have all congregated on this tiny little town known as the Mineral Capital of Canada. From Bancroft to Mcarther the road was good but hilly and HOT. At Hardwood Lake there were more good hills and the road was in poorer shape. The WORST hill I have ever encountered was right before (or was that right after) Denbigh. I swear that it had to be over 20%, it was unbelievable. I could not even pedal up it, in lowest gear and standing up I could barely move forward. Pushing the bike did not fare much better, I could only take five, staggering steps before having to hold the brakes to keep the bike from rolling backward and stop to regain some energy. Half an hour later I made it too the top, three quarters dead and ready to pass out. I went to a house to ask for a cold drink of water (the water in my bottles being 28 degrees) but no one was home. I did however catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window and scared myself. I looked like death warmed over. My face was completely flushed, glistening with perspiration. Beads of sweat were running down my face and I could hardly keep my eyes open. I staggered over to the house next door and the guy on the porch took one look at me and sent his daughter for a cold beer. I plopped myself down in a lawn chair in the shade with the beer and he let me catch my breath before quizzing me on my trip. I hope I never see a hill like that again in my life.
To Dacre the road conditions were even worse but the hills were not as bad. The whole side of the road was just one big patching job (looks like drunks did it) which made the whole thing really unrideable. The CCA touring book said from Griffith it was gentle climbs but they neglected to say that you climbed "gently" the whole bloody way. From Griffith to Dacre, a distance of approximately 30 km, you have to climb all the way except for 3 km at the half way mark and then two - 1 km long screamer descents before reaching the town.
Day 77. July 31. 172 km. Total 5910 km. Rockland.
Thank goodness the riding today was not as rough as it was yesterday. I have finally left the Canadian shield behind and entered level Ottawa valley. I am hoping that it will be smooth sailing from here to Montreal where a hot meal and warm bed awaits me. The road from Dacre to Renfew was not very difficult at all and seemed to consist mainly of short climbs and long descents. Out of Renfew to Hwy 17 was a big climb which scared me off the recommended CAC touring book route. The book suggested going along secondary roads to avoid the Trans- Canada but Hwy 17 looked level while I could see hills in the direction the book recommended. Since I have been screwed by the book before I decided to take Hwy 17 (the traffic being the devil I know) instead of the secondary with possible killer hills (the devil I don't). Today was the start of the long weekend and Hwy 17 was too busy to really be safe with the crappy shoulder it had but I am still glad I took it. As I was riding along I could make out a cyclist ahead of me. As I got closer I could see that there were two cyclists on the road, "Could this be Chris and Karen?". I started really pushing it to catch up and sure enough it was them! What a great surprise. Even though I had covered 250 km more than them, because of their days off in North Bay I was able to catch up.
We left Hwy 17 at Anprior and took level back roads into Ottawa. Once in Ottawa we headed for the parliament buildings along the bike path but soon returned to the road as the bike path badly broken up, narrow and winding. During a slurpee break I met another cross-Canada cyclist. Joel is crossing Canada from coast to coast and had met Chris and Karen earlier in the week. He has been doing weekly phone calls to the CBC and my parents had told me to look out for him. Well here we are, half way across the country and we bumped into each other. Before Parliament, Chris and Karen left to go and visit friends in town and I was back on my own again.
When I finally arrived at the Parliament buildings it really hit me how far I have come. I am in the provincial capital, nearly 6000 km from home! I did the token pictures in front of the building and headed out to try and cut down the amount of distance I would have to do tomorrow to get to Montreal. Again it is best to just ignore what the CAC book says. Take the main road in front of Parliament (Rideau St) and just stay on it. It changes names a couple of times but will take you out of the city directly. Then around Orleans cut across to Hwy 17 (before this point Hwy 17 is a divided expressway and you can't ride on it.) Then just stay on Hwy 17 for the rest of the way. Traffic on it was not too bad because the 400 series of highways take most of it. The road is also in ok condition with a 2 foot wide shoulder and most importantly it is FLAT. The CAC recommended route is much, much hillier. <Sarcasm On> But they say it goes through scenic farmland. HA! If I see anymore "scenic" Ontario farmland I am going to barf. After something like 3000 km (bigger than B.C, Alberta, Sask., and Manitoba combined) I just want to get out of Ontario.
That's all for tonight. Tomorrow, MONTREAL!!! Woo