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 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!