Blog Posts

July 29: So many things!

It was raining hard when I woke up this morning. I checked the weather forecast and immediately curled up in the fetal position wishing the day away. I was 227 km north of Sault Ste. Marie.

It’s 12 hours later and I’m 66km east of the Soo. I had an amazing ride and am sharing a campground with 150 other cyclists…one of whom is Coco! Coco and I just had cheesecake and all is good in the world.

Here’s how I got here.

No cell service

The last I posted I was lamenting the fog in Marathon. I waited for hours for the fog to disperse. Things cleared a little around 2 in the afternoon. So I texted my partner, Judith, and said I was going to start pedalling. I wasn’t clear on where I was trying to get to that evening. I was just trying to get some miles in.

I made it 60km to a provincial park and decided to camp there. But there was no cell service. Well…Bell customers have something resembling coverage. But no one else. I asked if there was a pay phone. There was…but it wasn’t working…and Bell wasn’t keen on fixing it. I asked if I could use the park phone, but was denied. I asked if I could use the park computer to send an email, but again was denied. I asked around but no one was with Bell either. So there was no way to check in with Judith.

Our deal was that if I missed a check-in that the reasonable next step was to start contacting police, etc. Which is what Judith did. But not knowing where my end point was, the police didn’t have much to work with. Lesson learned: with so much dynamic planning going on…I need to be much more specific with stating my intended destination.

Still no cell service

Anyways…I woke up early on Sunday, picked up camp, and started pedalling toward White River. I stopped at a gas station 10km into my ride, but it didn’t open until 11. There was a pay phone outside, but it didn’t work either. What’s up with that, Bell?!

I kept pedalling and a few kilometres later I came up to a semi parked on the side of the road. The driver was out checking his load, so I pulled up and asked if he had cell service. Amazingly he did, and let me send a text to Judith.

Off to Wawa

I eventually made it to Wawa yesterday. It was a horrible mental day. The hills where tough and the headwind was fierce. I had to pedal downhill to get up over 20kph. It was a slog.

I stayed at a campground just outside Wawa. As I was setting up camp, one of my neighbours, Peter, came over and started chatting. He’s recently retired, and he and his wife are touring around Canada. We had a really good chat.

As I was pulling up camp in the rain this morning, Peter came over and asked if I wanted a lift to the Soo. The winds were already 30kph from the south…which is the direction I was heading. So I jumped at the offer. I am so glad I did. There was no way I was going to get many miles in today with the weather as it was. The wind was wild.

We got to the Soo mid morning. I loaded up my bike, thanked Peter and his wife Nancy for their generosity, and left to find a laundromat. I did some laundry, resupplied at a grocery store, and bought some lunch at a Pita Pit.

I checked the weather forecast and saw the winds had shifted and were now blowing from the west. They were still incredibly strong. It was around 2 in the afternoon, so I decided I needed to take advantage of the wind, and headed east and was able to make it to Bruce Mine. It was an amazing 66km ride on mostly flat roads with a few punchy rollers to keep things real.

Coco!

Coco and I parted ways back in Nipigon. I was worried that I was holding him back. And he was worried that he was pushing me too hard. So despite our mutual feeling of loyalty to each other, we agreed that we would not be beholden to each other.

Coco is an incredibly strong cyclist and was putting on big miles each day. Given that there’s so little cell service up here we weren’t giving each other updates.

So…as I was pulling into Bruce Mine to find the town’s campground, I got a call from Coco. I answered and all I heard was him laughing. He was finally able to ask how I caught up to him and told me to turn around. He was standing outside a restaurant down the street. So we’re back together! Of course he had to point out that he too had been offered a ride, but unlike me, had declined.

Both Coco and I are free-riding with a group of 150 cyclists at the campground. They booked the whole campground for the night…but have been kind and allowed us to camp with them for free. The cyclists are with Great Waterfront Trail Adventure. It’s an organization that promotes the development of cycling trails around he Great Lakes.

Canada phase 1

I’ll be wheeling into Espanola in a couple of days. When planning the trip I figured the day I pedalled past Espanola would require a lot of fortitude: do I keep going east to complete the trip, or do I turn south and be home within a few days?

Well, familial obligations are calling me home. So I will turn south at Espanola and make my way home. Added to this, I’m so far behind schedule there is no way I could finish the trip on time and on budget. I shall finish my cross-Canada adventure another time.

I have had such an incredible adventure. It’s been a lot of work physically, mentally, and emotionally. But it has been ever so worth it.

I have met incredible people. Kind, friendly, generous people. People who are committed to making their part of the world a better place. I have heard a lot of powerful stories about the places I have travelled through.

I have seen beautiful landscapes and skyscapes. I’ve enjoyed every waterfall I have seen…big and small. I have a new appreciation for coulees and false flats on the prairies (a 6% grade is a 6% grade whether it be in the mountains or climbing out of a prairie coulee). I always forget how breathtaking prairie sunsets are…so expansive and colourful. And I respect the strong beauty of the Canadian Shield.

I have had butterflies flutter along beside me as I cycled. I’ve ridden past a bear, beehives, herds of mountain sheep, white tailed deer, antelope, and countless gophers. I have heard the yipping of coyotes on dark prairie nights.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned about my limits and how hard I can push myself. And importantly, I’ve learned about the importance of detaching my ego from the expectations I put on myself. It’s one thing to conceive of an adventure and plan for it using google maps while wearing pyjamas and sipping wine…it is quite another thing to climb mountains, battle headwinds, and suffer through bone-chilling rain.

I have no regrets about this trip. And I have no regrets for ending the trip ahead of schedule. It just means that I have more adventure to look forward to!

I emerged from the fog to see this!

White River, Ontario
A huge raven begging me for food
Peter and Nancy…such amazing people!
A concert in Bruce Mine

July 27: So much wow

Yesterday I forgave northern Ontario. Today it was a complete and utter jerk and responded with thick fog coming off of Superior. I pulled up camp and cycled about 4km and then decided it was too unsafe to be on the roads. Visibility was pretty much zero. I pulled into a gas station to wait it out. And I’m still here….5 hours later.

I’ve been trying to catch a lift to White River…but it turns out to be more difficult than I thought. I guess no one wants to give a lift to an old guy that looks like a vagrant. Seriously. I’m just sitting here and some guy walks up and asks me if I need money.

So much wow.

July 26: a day off…or two?

I wish there was a class I could take that would help me make better decisions. We could call it Probability and Decision Making. And it could be taught in the winter term. I’m sure they could find someone competent to teach it. Or maybe I just need a crystal ball.

I took a motel room in Terrace Bay last night. I needed the comfort of a bed. My air mattress sprung a leak the night previous…and I didn’t want to sleep on the hard cold ground. (I tried the soapy water trick to find the leak…but found nothing. Grrr. The nearest Canadian Tire is a day ride from here.)

Anyways. I woke up this morning with a body quite resolute that It was not cycling today. So I took the day off (my last day off was in Winnipeg). I replanned my route once again, and checked the weather forecast to see what kind of winds I can expect over the next couple of days. Nothing too concerning.

Well let’s just say that the forecast has changed drastically since this morning. Right now the forecast is for a high of 14 tomorrow…with lots of rain and thunderstorms. Sigh. It’s a 83km ride to Marathon with a lot of climbing. So even under good conditions it would be a solid day of pedalling.

I’m so far behind my original schedule it’s laughable. According to the plan my pajama wearing, wine drinking self made back in January, I should be well east of Sault Ste. Marie by now.

So…two days off?

July something: Broken but unbowed

I haven’t been posting stuff the last couple of days. I’m having a tough go at it. Northern Ontario is ruthless, relentless, and wrothful.

Google is a tool

And I don’t mean that nicely. The stretch from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay was incredibly tough and stressful. It was really hard to plan a day around access to drinking water. Google listed service stations and convenience stores that aren’t open anymore. And it didn’t list others that are. Not knowing where you’ll be able to get water next is really stressful!

Mind your tires!

With my focus on avoiding thunderstorms, tornadoes, and stressing about water, I wasn’t paying enough attention to my bike. Specifically, my back tire. When I finally got east of Thunder Bay I took a moment to do some quick maintenance on my bike…which is when I realized my back tire was worn right down…to the point where the orange hey-you-need-to-change-your-tire paint was visible. I was nowhere near anything at this point.

Canada’s smallest Canadian Tire for the win!

I was able to get to Nipigon on the tire and went into Canada’s smallest Canadian Tire with the faintest hope that they’d have a tire that fit my rim (I needed a 700×32). They did not. BUT Jason—an avid cyclist who was working at Canadian Tire that day—told me that he’d help me out. He had a tire at his house that he was willing to give me (a 700×25). I graciously took him up on his offer. Turns out Jason is the owner of the store! So peeps…next time you’re going through Nipigon, stop in at Canada’s smallest Canadian Tire and show them some love. Thank you Jason!!!!!!

(Of course this means I have mismatched tires…but they will get me to Sault Ste. Marie where I can get a new pair of touring tires at a proper bike shop.)

And finally!

Bingo winners!

We have two bingo winners! I haven’t asked their permission to post their names…so I won’t…but they are getting some awesome souvenirs!

Now some pictures.

Quetico Provincial Park

Just Canadian things

Notice the “Earth is flat” graffiti!

A feast suitable for royalty!

View of Superior from my campground!

July 18: Not quite 100 miles

Bingo word: Soooo much rain!

Okay let me start with some stats for today:

Distance: 153 km

Duration: 8:29:02

Average speed: 18 kph

Metres climbed: 925

I am super happy with my day, even though I didn’t quite make it to 100 miles. I could have ridden loops around the campground…but I didn’t have the will to do it. Besides, another nasty storm was coming up hard. Fortunately I was able to set up before it hit…and when it did, the heavens unleashed another deluge. There was soooo much rain! I escaped pretty well, but Coco got a lot of water in his tent.

We dragged a picnic table into the men’s washroom so we could cook dinner while we waited for the storm to finish hating on us. There are only 2 other campers here…in RVs…so we figured we wouldn’t be inconveniencing anyone.

Not sure what tomorrow will look like. We’re still 200km from Thunder Bay…and there isn’t much by way of stores or campgrounds along the way. As in…there is one store and one campground between here and Thunder Bay. And they are 40km from here. I suspect I’ll be getting my century ride soon enough.

July 17: Tornado warning

Bingo word: Caught in a storm

Coco and I met up again in Prawda, MB. He’s a much stronger rider than me, so we don’t ride together…but we always plan where to meet for the night.

On Monday we only managed 25km because of a wild thunderstorm. We were able to get to Rushing River Provincial Park and camped there. We can handle rain. Neither of us are willing to risk lightning.

Rushing River

Yesterday we had a good day of cycling and got in about 110km. We decided to wild camp last night and found an old logging road that led to a nice sandy area where we could pitch our tents. No bears and no raccoons visited us. I was surprised by that…but not disappointed.

Wild camping!

Today was a wild weather day again. It poured all afternoon, but we fought the rain and headwind and got to Fort Francis. Looking at the forecast, we decided to book into a motel. There was more wild weather coming our way.

As we were eating dinner in a restaurant, everyone’s phone starting beeping wildly. We were all getting a tornado warning. There was a little bit of a collective freak out. Some people went over to the window to see what was happening. Others were asking the servers where they should hide. It was a thing!

Nothing happened right away so—wisely or unwisely—Coco and I decided to make a dash for the Safeway two blocks over. As we were getting supplies for the next few days, the heavens unleashed its fury. The wind was fierce. There was a deluge of rain. And the lightning was ferocious. We had 2km to cycle to get to our motel. A kind stranger told us to throw our bikes in the back of his work van and he gave us a ride instead. But we still got soaked!

I am so happy we didn’t stay in a campground tonight. We both have really good tents…but I’m pretty sure we would have either floated away or be blown away.

Tomorrow will be my first century ride on a loaded touring bike!