Espanola - South Baymouth, ON
Rolling out of tent this morning took all I had. Last night, my neighbours' campfire sounded like crunching branches, the sound approaching bears make right before they eat you, so adrenaline kept me up for a few extra hours. I finally got on the road for 11:30am and I was making good time coming into Little Current, the first town I reached on Manitoulin Island. I hopped off the bike to check out their tourist office and was skipping back to it when I found out that I had enough time to make the ferry on the other side of the Island with 45 minutes to spare. For the next hour I rode strong, my mind lost in thought and at one point I think I remember singing - you know, really enjoying the day, until... Until I reach a town named Birch Island. This occurred to me as strange since I was in a town called Birch Island earlier this morning. At first I thought it was very peculiar that an Island would name two of its towns by the same name. After checking the map and my compass I realised the truth - that for the past hour I had been riding backwards, on the highway that I had just come in on. Yep, I rode over the SAME bridge, past the SAME signs and houses. Everything was the SAME for an entire hour, yet these obvious displays of my stupidity didn't become apparent to me. So, I turned around and cycled the same route, for the third time that day, for another hour, the whole while cursing and yelling and, quite possibly, concerning nearby traffic. Well, I thought, any chance of catching the ferry today is lost. I thought for a few minutes about thumbing it, you know, just to gain back the hour, but I didn't out of principle. I made the error, I'll deal with it. So I spent the rest of the day cycling to the other side of Manitoulin Island...
Which is beautiful, in a farm-landy, big blue sky-y kinda way. I was expecting hills but there was just one, which they call 10 mile point. It was scenic up there but the slight fog made it less appreciable. But the ride across the Island was one of the most pleasant I've had in a long time. Because of the set back, I was riding late - until 8pm - and the highway was empty and the sun was great and the wind was co-operative. It was just great. I felt like I had the entire Island to myself. Then the camp ground I stayed at in South Baymouth was spectacular with campsites right on the great lake and long beaches and wonderful sites right outside my tent.
Today was a lesson in learning. I did something stupid and hated myself for it for most of the day. Then, when I realised that my mistake forced me to spend the evening on the Island, which meant staying at one of the nicest campsites I've been to yet, I realised that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I was secretly setting myself up for failure so that I could stay longer. Yeah, that's it... I guess that's kinda like saying a kid funked school because he loved it so much. hmmm.
July 3rd, 2007. Distance: 104 km, Odometer: 4459 km.
Algoma Mills - Espanola, ON
Today was a good example of how a great riding day can turn crappy in a matter of moments. Outside of Espanola I was riding strong and thinking that I'll make great mileage today but then the winds picked up. They had been tailwinds by they switched directions and so did I after changing highways so they were now head-on. The highway shoulder completely disappeared into cracks and potholes and other inconsistencies which was annoying because, as well, the traffic picked up heavily - a lot of transport trucks and holidayers towing trailers with boats or campers. To top it off, it started to get very hilly and I was under the (false) impression that the rest of my ride to and on the Island would be hilly. So I decided to pull off towards the first campsite I came across. Campgrounds in the area are expensive. $25-$30 while they were $10-$15 in other provinces. I'm not sure how some of them get away with it, either. I mean, yes, it's camping but tonight's campground charged me $27 for a site that really wasn't a site at all - but a broken plastic table thrown in the woods, without seats or a fire pit or even a flat part to set up my tent. Of course, I don't 'Need' seats or a fire pit or a flat part for my tent to have a good time - you all know I've spent many nights in the middle of random forests wearing nothing but a smile (sometimes literally). I just don't know that these conditions warrant a $27 price tag.
It's time for a break when road signs
start to become 'exciting'.
start to become 'exciting'.
July 2nd, 2007. Distance: 154 km, Odometer: 4356 km.
Sault Ste. Marie - Algoma Mills, ON
My best ride for as long as I can remember. I was positive and felt strong and great on my bike. I find when I'm tired during riding, I go "to the darkside" and start to think negatively... I have to avoid that. The shoulders could have been better, but I'm not complaining. I'm staying at a campsite tonight on a lake and there's an old guy fishing off a dock, the sun is setting, there isn't a fly to speak of and I'm clean and sated. Life is rough, but someone has to do it.
July 1st, 2007. Nothing
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Tried to make the most of my relaxation today and my body thanks me for it. After doing some grocery shopping, I checked out the harbour front which was crowded with people eager to see the Canada Day fireworks. There was live music and the usual festivities. It was nice to see hundreds of people celebrating a place I've been exploring intimately for the past 51 days and it made me wonder if they had any idea how much appreciation the country deserves.
June 30th, 2007. Distance: 133 km, Odometer: 4201 km.
Lake Superior Provincial Park - Sault Ste. Marie, ON
I really need this break. I kept thinking on the ride today of how I only have a days' rest here and how I have another 750 km to Sarnia to visit my Uncle. The ride today should have been wonderful, beautiful and made me feel great to be alive, but instead I was just tired. A type of tired that doesn't go away with sleep, but only goes away by doing something else completely. Some of the views today were incredible. At a few points, the views of the greenish-blue waters, long beaches and Islands reminded me of Thailand (minus the palms). I really don't like being in this frame of mind and I want to figure out the source of the problem to avoid it again. I'm in a hostel tonight in S.S.M and the city seems nice enough.
June 29th, 2007. Distance: 109 km, Odometer: 4068 km.
Wawa - Lake Superior Provincial Park, ON
How do I put today's rides into words? It was miserable: cold, constant head-winds, hills and I had problems with my front racks. That, plus I had a coffee at Tim Horton's, which I never drink, but wanted to warm up, and it made me stop every 20 minutes to pee. Very annoying. The campsite tonight was no better. I had to drop to money for the site into a box because no one ran the park. I paid before realising that the park didn't have showers. There was a pond which the campsites were around, so I thought I'd go for a swim to clean up. Within a few steps I found the lake-floor to be muddy up to my ankles and the water smelt like dead minnows and after a few moments of inspection I spotted the evidence - floating, headless dead minnows. I'm pretty sure I came out dirtier than I went in. There were signs saying around the park that the water from the manual water pump wasn't treated, but I thought since I was only using it to boil some pasta, that I could use it. Well, the pump was completely broken and once I figured out how to maneuver around its failings, it took a long time and a lot of energy to squeeze out a litre of water that looked and smelt like amoebic dysentery. I boiled the heck out of it for a long time and crossed my fingers and I'm still alive at the time of writing.
With all that said, I made myself a tasty supper and am now enjoying the view of the pond from my tent. The sky is pink and the pond is covering itself with a light fog. I can see beavers swimming and I hear frogs, birds and, I think, the call of a moose on the other side. I'm thinking that this almost makes up for the miserable day I had.
June 28th, 2007. Distance: 129 km, Odometer: 3959 km.
White Lake - Wawa, ON
It was fricken cold this morning at 6am when I woke up. I thought for a second that I could get on the road early, but the cold did a fantastic job of persuading me to fall back asleep until 8am. Head winds again today and they were cold. I can honestly say that I was bored today. I didn't feel like listening to music but did anyway. Coming into Wawa, the winds off of Lake Superior were really cold and I had to thaw out in a warm shower. The campsite was expensive and when I expressed this to the owner through facial expression, as if to justify it she said, "You can also use the pool." Verbally, I said "Ok, thanks..." but through facial expression I said "nice try lady, but it's effing freezing outside."
June 27th, 2007. Distance: 143 km, Odometer: 3831 km.
Terrace Bay - White Lake, ON
For part of the day I rode with an American family that I met last night at the campground. I realised how un-enjoyable riding with other people can be. Not that it had anything to do with this family, they were nice people, but I was always thinking about my pace relative to theirs... Am I going too fast? Too slow? Are they waiting for me to catch up and should I stop with they break? Cycling together didn't last long and we decided to meet up at a site at the end of the day. I realised how important cycling at my natural pace is and I realized how specific this pace is. At this pace, my mind can wander and I don't have to be as present. I'm sure I could get used to riding with a partner, but in the mean time, I'm enjoying going it alone. Again, the landscape is very hilly - one after another, but by the end of the day I can see that the hills are becoming less frequent.
June 26th, 2007. Distance: 111 km, Odometer: 3688 km.
Nipigon - Terrace Bay, ON
I've been told that this stretch of road is as challenging as the rockies by a number of different people. It's hilly, that's for sure, but it's nothing compared to the long, gradient hills in the west. I figure that reputation was created by people who A) have travelled from the east and hit the rockies when they were in better shape or B) have travelled from the west and become lazy in the prairies what with the flatness and tailwinds. Met Steve from Holland who is saving money by sleeping on the side of the highway and when I saw him, hadn't showered in 5 days. I don't know how he does it. I also met Brad who was cycling with his girlfriend from St. John's, Newfoundland. Looking at our bicycle computers, the odometer read nearly the exact same mileage so we congratulated each other on reaching half way and wished there was a pub near by to celebrate officially. Their adventures are published at http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/cross-canada---07/.
June 25th, 2007. Distance: 99km, Odometer: 3577 km.
Thunder Bay - Nipigon, ON
I wasn't going to stay in Nipigon, but I was told there wasn't another campsite for quite a while and while I was sitting at a picnic table in the town, I was approached by a nice woman, curious to know about how I can come to be in Nipigon. It turned out she was a reporter for the local paper and she recommended that I stay at a nearby campground for the evening. A few minutes later, another gentleman introduced himself and spoke highly of the town and said I should stay for a few days at least, to check out the hiking trails and other attractions. Turned out this guy was the mayor of Nipigon. It was great to talk to someone who sincerely loved their town. It showed and I stayed and I'm glad because it's a cute place and I'm glad that I could help out business in my own small way.
I also met a group of people who are supporting Robert Bertolas who is spending 6 months travelling 10,500 kms across Canada by bicycle, rollerblades and by foot to raise money and awareness for MS. He's had the disease for over 20 years. For news and donations, visit http://www.crossingbridgesinc.com/
June 23rd, 24th, 2007. Nothing
Thunder Bay, ON
Unfortunately my Aunt and cousin had to leave for the weekend but the house was being watched by Brian, my cousin's boyfriend, who took it upon himself to show me a great time while I was here. He and his buddy, Dan, showed me some of the sites like the Terry Fox monument, the marina and a wake boarding competition. We went swimming and cliff jumping in a near by river and finished the day with a get-together and a visit to a dance club. It was an eventful weekend and again, I'm surprised by the unexpected great times I've had in Thunder Bay. Thanks Brian, Dan and my family for getting my bum off the saddle and having a good time!
June 22nd, 2007. Distance: 140 km, Odometer: 3477 km.
Upsala - Thunder Bay, ON
Head winds made the ride today feel 200km long. The hills are getting taller but the scenery makes up for them. There are lakes everywhere and I'm surprised I haven't come across wildlife yet. I'm visiting with my Aunt Gisele while in the Bay and her hospitality was greatly appreciated. It was great to sit down to a home cooked meal, chat about life, watch a movie and sleep in a real bed. It's great that I appreciate these things now.
June 21st, 2007. Distance: 113 km, Odometer: 3338 km.
Ignace - Upsala, ON
Great ride today - hotter than usual but supplemented with a wind that rarely directed itself head-on to me. The landscape is hilly but nothing that I couldn't tackle without hesitation. I would have cycled further today but something that I'm realizing is that Northern Ontario is pretty desolate so when I come across a campsite I'll really have to think about whether I can make the next one in time. The camp tonight is ran by a gas station. At first I was sceptical but it turned out to be really nice, with a couple of beaches. I went swimming today for the first time on my trip - fitting for the first day of summer. It's funny, the gas station is also a restaurant, bakery and grocery store for the town. I treated myself to a gigantic burger and slept wonderfully in my tent in the middle of the empty grounds.
June 20th, 2007. Distance: 105 km, Odometer: 3225 km.
Wabigoon - Ignace, ON
Today is why I love cycling solo. I got to bed early last night and was woken up at 1:30am by rain. It stopped quickly but I was wide awake. By 3am, I thought, heck I'm going to hit the road and I did! Packed everything up in the dark under a clear sky and stars and hit the road for 4am. The sun was rising and the air was cold but brisk with a fog over the creeks and meadows I cycled by. It was cold but energetic and I was really glad to be on the road at that time. The highway was empty and completely mine. By noon, I had cycled 100 km and the short sleep last night was catching up with me so I pulled over into a park and enjoyed the rest of the day reading and doing a once-over on my bicycle.
June 19th, 2007. Distance: 119km, Odometer: 3121 km.
Willard Lake - Wabigoon, ON.
This morning was horrible because of the psycho bugs and their efficient strategies to bite every inch of my exposed skin. I didn't even have breakfast and just packed up frantically. Someone watching me would have seen me folding up my tent while dancing about and constantly waving at perceivably nothing. This set the mood for the rest of the day. I guess that it didn't help that I woke up damp and cold, along with all my stuff, and it didn't shake off for the day. The scenery is really nice though and it shows that I'm in Ontario - it's so rocky and there are trees now and hills. There is no wonder that people love to cottage out here. I would want to. In Dryden I picked up a portable radio player so I can hear about what's going on in the world.
June 18th, 2007. Distance: 207 km, Odometer: 3002 km.
Not too much farther outside of Winnipeg, MB - Willard Lake, ON
Lots of mileage today from a sweeeeeeeet tailwind. Early this morning, I was passed by two cyclists riding fancy Devinci road bikes. Since Devinci is the same brand of my bike I called to them saying that I liked their rides. We stopped and one of the guys says, "Really? I make them." Turns out, I was speaking with the Founder and CEO of Devinci bicycles, Felix from Quebec. I couldn't believe it. He treated me to a set of Devinci water bottles and told me to visit the factory in Quebec when I pass through. It was nice that he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say about the bike concerning how it was running and holding up during this arduous trip. Considering my bike is their newest version (2007) of touring bike, who knows, maybe there isn't another with as many kilometers on it so I'd be the expert! Anyway, I was giddy like a school girl to meet this guy and shake his hand and I'm going to make sure to swing by the shop when I'm in Quebec.
I also met up with a guy, Fred, also cycling across Canada. He's a scout leader and is promoting awareness of Scouting Canada. We rode together for a few hours and his account can be seen at http://www.veloscout.ca/. It was nice to chat with him, especially since it brought back my memories of being with the scouts, which I hold in high regard. It was nice to tell him that.
No campsites around so I pulled over into a deserted dirt-road. The blackflies were so dense that at one point, before I put in tent pegs, they started off with my tent. Luckily I had a small bat (for self-defense, of course) and beat the swarm into a viscous bug jam. I managed to bathe in a small creek near by, which was FREEZING but I was more concerned about my nakedness being exposed to the nearby highway. I wonder what the reaction would be by a driver to see a random naked dude standing in an ankle-high creek in the middle of nowhere. Oh well.
June 17th, 2007. Distance: 55 km, Odometer: 2765 km.
Winnipeg - Not too much farther outside of Winnipeg, MB
Today was a poopy day altogether. Sorry for the language, but I have to express myself. Leaving the hostel was rough, not physically, but it was hard saying goodbye to about the dozen friends I've made to hit the road again, alone (poor me). Mainly because I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked hanging out with some of these people. It was great to chat with Ben and Bethany from Halifax and it would have been awesome to hang out longer but the road was calling. The head winds today were gruesome and highly annoying. There's something about cycling at the incredible slow speed of 12 - 14 km/hr while sweating over the pedals that plays havoc with my generally positive demeanour. To top off this 'wonderful' day, I pull over into the first campsite I see thinking, heck, I've only pedalled 50 kms, but I don't care. Turns out, the campsite was more of a Kids Resort, with water slides and mini putt and wave pool. The site that I got cost me more than twice as much as I usually pay, which I told them, and they justified by telling me that I had a day pass to all of these wonderful attractions. I tried telling them that I have no care for waterslides and cotton candy... I just want to set up my tent and go to bed... But it fell on deaf ears. So I spent the night listening to whining and crying and skipping about. My bike and I in the middle of Happy World Land and a million kids. Usually I love kids, but today is a different story.
June 16th, 2007. Nothing
Slept in and enjoyed relaxing around the hostel. There's something about a full hostel that has a good energy to it. Good people from all over the world just hanging out. I checked out Winnipeg this afternoon and I'm thoroughly surprised. It's beautiful here! The parks are huge and there are a bunch of things to do in the city. Next week is the jazz festival which is being attended by The Dave Brubeck Quartet and Herbie Hancock! I completely didn't expect Winnipeg's liveliness and I'm thinking it's the most under-rated city in Canada... It gets a bad rap because there's nothing else out in Manitoba, but it's uncalled for. Winnipeg will definitely be a highlight of my trip, but another highlight is how all of these places that I didn't have much hope for turned out to be great places to visit - Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg. Great times.
June 15th, 2007. Distance: 150 km, Odometer: 2740 km.
Sidney - Winnipeg, MB
Got into Winnipeg early today because of a generous tail-wind giving me my highest average speed yet (28.6km/hr). Winnipeg seems nice and I'm staying at a hostel that is filled with people from all around the world - UK, France, Switzerland, Australia, and Halifax. Steve (a Londoner) and I thought it would be a great idea to celebrate the Friday at a nearby pub and proceeded to convince the rest of the hostel to do the same. I guess they thought it was a good idea because by the end of the night, we had the pub filled with people from the hostel, even Ashely, a girl who works the front desk came out to celebrate. It was a great time... Especially for me since until Winnipeg I've stayed mostly in empty campgrounds. Thanks Steve from London, Ben and Bethany from Halifax, Manny and Nicola from the UK, Sophie from France, and Kathleen and Felicity from Australia for the memories.
June 14th, 2007. Distance: 132 km, Odometer: 2590 km.
Oak Lake - Sidney, MB
Today I'd like to write about shoulders, only because the ride was completely ruined from a lack of them. Actually, not only did the highway not have shoulders, but it was full of cracks, potholes and other inconsistencies. I was really surprised to see this, for one because the highway has been immaculate until Manitoba, and for another, because it's the trans Canada highway! I thought it was a source of national pride but in some parts I thought to myself that I couldn't tell if I was in Canada or in India - the conditions were that bad. At one point during the day, a minivan whizzed by me. I'm not kidding when I say that when the van went by I felt it's heat against my legs and I thought I heard it brush against my panniers. It's a two lane road and in the far lane was a transport truck and the van was closest to me. I can't understand why some people refuse to slow down, as if the max speed is their right and slowing down would be an inconvenience so severe that it justifies jeopardizing my life. Most drivers are great and will get into the other lane, but a few have tried to squeeze by without even an attempt to give me some room. I guess they don't understand how the many inconsistencies in the road, or the wind, or stones makes it impossible for me to cycle in a perfectly straight line. This is why paved shoulders are important and I think it would be great if the Trans Canada Highway was paved from one end to the other. Of course, I'm biased, what with me on a bike, but I'm sure it's a lot safer for drivers as well... Otherwise, why would they do it in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Anyway, that's my shoulder rant for now.
June 13th, 2007. Distance: 155 km, Odometer: 2458 km.
Broadview, SK - Oak Lake, MB
Today was a fantastic day to ride. The highway was flat and the wind was at my back - so much so that my average speed for the day was 27 km/hr when normally it's around 20. The only bad part is that the shoulder left me today. I heard that Manitoba's highways are dreadful and I think I'm going to have to deal with them for the next few days. To help with safety, I've put on my pannier covers with are bright yellow, since I have to cycle on the highway itself and vehicles have to go around. I'm at a nice campground tonight which is completely empty except for a few retired people in large RVs. One day, the campsites will start having kids my own age and it'll be less quiet and I'm looking forward to it.