Hills, Headwinds, and Rain

So it is done. Yesterday was an absolutely brutal and gruelling day. I learned some important lessons. One, if I’m going to be doing a lot of climbing, I can’t expect to go fast or far. And climb I did. One cruel, punishing roller after another. 133 km of cycling rollers is too much for one day. Two, rain will slow you down. And rain it did. For about 4 hours or so. Three, rain gear is worn, not to keep you dry, but to help you regulate your body temperature and to make you more visible. So what an end to a 14 day tour: punishing hills, relentless headwinds, and so much rain. But I prevailed.

I had such an incredible 14 days. I met a lot of amazing people, saw some beautiful landscapes, and learned a lot about myself. And apart from some equipment adjustments, I would not change a thing about the trip if I had to do it again. Talking of doing it again…I am fired up about next year’s journey across Canada.

I’ll post trip statistics later today. And then some final reflections on my trip.

The sun setting at my last campsite in Chesley

Food, drink, and stories

I wanted a quiet, uneventful day today. And that is what I got. Beautiful weather for it too. I rode into Tobermory mid morning, locked my bike in a conspicuous spot, and started browsing shops. I wasn’t looking to buy anything…I just wanted to see what the invisible hand had created.

I had a very nice lunch at a pub. I sat on the patio, overlooking Little Tub Harbour. The couple I was sitting beside didn’t seem talkative, so I just ate my yummy pasta in silence. They moved on, and as I was just about to leave myself, two guys sat down beside me. One of them asked me if the pasta was any good. I replied with a resounding, “yes,” but then quickly qualified my affirmation with a, “But I’ve been biking for many days, so anything tastes good right now.” Rob had done a 6 day tour from Toronto to Montreal earlier this summer. So that was that. We sat and ate and drank and talked for some time. Rob is a lawyer. His partner, Ryan, teaches grades 7 and 8. I quite enjoyed their company.

Rob is familiar with the area, and showed me where to go to get some good views of Tobermory Harbour. So I was off to do some touristy stuff for a bit. But the desire to nap came upon me, so I returned to my campsite for the rest of the day.

It’ll be interesting to see if the bear returns tonight. Hopefully my bear bag setup works.

Tomorrow is going to be a hard day. 124km to cycle with a lot of slow, long climbs. But models are predicting favourable winds. So I’ll have that going for me.

The Light at Big Tub Harbour

Bear necessities

I’m in Tobermory. Arrived yesterday, and am going to take a scheduled day off the bike.

There’s a bear problem in the campground. I was hunkered down for the night last night when a ruckus broke out around 10:30. Everyone on the far side of the campground started banging pots and pans together and yelling “Bear!” The ruckus cascaded through the park as the bear made its way along. Quite the excitement.

Necessary Simpsons reference: Bear Patrol

Well I’m off to find a beach somewhere, and then find food and drink at some point. Time to rest the legs.

My bear bag worked!

We’re here for a Long time

“Why am I doing this?” The question came out of nowhere as I pedalled north . I wasn’t climbing a hill. I wasn’t fighting a headwind. I was quite enjoying myself, in fact. But the question was asked, so it needed an answer. But I didn’t have an immediate answer. Two came, eventually: because I can, and because I want to. But both answers seemed weak. Ask me, “Why do you want to?” and I’d have no compelling reply. I’d try to say something like, “Because I thought of it, so now it must be done.” But that could be picked apart with ease.

As I continued to cycle, I thought of more reasons: because it will be fun, because I want to get in shape, because I want to have amazing experiences, because I want to see how hard I can push myself. But even as the list of reasons grew, the nagging voice of the skeptic picked apart each and every reason.

But that didn’t stop me from pedalling. I made my way north on the 21. The shoulders were narrow and the traffic was intense. And then I saw a fellow traveller heading south. His bike was loaded with panniers and he was towing a trailer. There was no safe place to stop, and traffic was unrelenting, so we waved at each other as we passed by…big grins on our faces. I don’t know who he is, or where his journey is taking him, but in that moment I had my answer: it’s the journey. Instead of doing what I’m doing, I could just go do six hours of spin class for 14 consecutive days. I guess that could be a journey in itself, but it’s not one that I have any interest in. It’d be much safer. But it would be far less rewarding.

So where has my journey taken me the past few days?

I met an OPP officer just south of Kincardine. We got to chatting at a gas station. He’s originally from KW, went to school at uWaterloo, does triathlons, and cycle tours. Oh….and his nephew teaches philosophy in a university down in the States.

Sunset over Lake Huron at Kincardine

I also met the Long family at a campground near Kincardine. They were my campsite neighbours. John and Paul (brothers), Jill (Paul’s partner), and Quinn (the 7 year old daughter of Paul and Jill). Amazing people. Generous people. They shared food and drink with me as we swapped stories.

I took a few wrong turns coming into Cape Croker. Went one way and got chased by 4 dogs. Realized I was going the wrong way, turned around…and got chased by the same 4 dogs again. Miserable creatures.

Oh. And this. This is the view from my campsite at Cape Croker. I wouldn’t get this kind of view in spin class.

Cape Croker Park

The currency of life

Neil is a beekeeper in Saskatchewan. I worked for him some 20 years ago, and now my son is working for him this summer. I drove my son out there this past May. While I was there, Neil and I had a good visit, reminiscing about my time there as his employee. As I was saying goodbye to Neil, he tapped on his watch and said, “Time is the currency of life….not money.”

That has stuck with me, and I was reflecting on it as I wheeled my way out of Windsor this morning. It was so good reconnecting with my friend, Dave. I had such a good time with him and his partner, Lynn. We enjoyed good food, good drink, and good conversation.

Today was amazing cycling. The day off yesterday did me wonders. My route took me along the shore of Lake St Clair and then the Thames river…all the way to Chatham.

Lake St Clair

I made excellent time on account of a really stiff tailwind. That, and my legs are getting huge. I stopped cycling mid afternoon and have just been lounging around my campsite thinking thoughts.

Models are predicting winds from the north tomorrow, so it’s going to be a 120km slog to the Pinery. Nevertheless I’m really enjoying touring on my bike.

Moseying in the Motor City

Yesterday’s trip from Rondeau Provincial Park to Windsor was completely uneventful. In a good way. I stayed mostly on backroads that ran parallel to the 401. There was a slight breeze, so I made really good time relative to the other days when I was fighting headwinds. I arrived in Windsor during rush hour and had to deal with some intense traffic. I finally got to my friend Dave’s place…thankfully in one piece.

Dave and I met as undergrads at uWaterloo…and later did grad work together at UWO. He’s now a library talking guy at the University of Windsor. We spent the evening eating, drinking, and catching up.

We started today by eating breakfast at a diner. After our feast, we made our way over to Detroit.

The Guardian in downtown Detroit
The ceiling of The Guardian

We walked around downtown for a bit and then jumped on the Q-Line and headed toward the Detroit Institute is Art. I think the artwork in the Diego Rivera court resonated the most with me. A volunteer gave us a very compelling interpretation of the artwork.

Feeding the machine of production

Oh capitalists…why so angry????

After a couple of hours, it was back to Canada. This evening will consist of more eating, more drinking, and more great conversation. I’m really excited about tomorrow’s ride. Models are predicting a wind from the west. I’ll be heading east.

You’ve been thunderstruck

I left Port Burwell around 8:45 this morning. It was hot, humid, and windy. The gusts were VERY gusty. I wasn’t making very good time, but I was enjoying the ride.

After a few hours, I was running low on water…and was getting rather concerned. I was coming into Fingal, and was counting on there being a convenience store there. My son and I used to go to Fingal a lot to go stargazing. There is an old WWII bomber training base there that is now a conservation area. The London amateur astronomers use the area for stargazing.

Anyways…there used to be a convenience store there. Now it’s a store that sells garden gnomes. If there’s no market for a convenience store, how is it possible that there’s a market for garden gnomes?! So I couldn’t get water. Luckily a couple was there looking at the gnomes, and gave me three bottles of water. So very kind.

As I wheeled west, storm clouds started rolling in. Fast. I made one last push to Wallacetown and decided to get off the road. There’s a lovely little cafe there. As I sat down to order pie, the lightning stared flashing, the thunder started crashing, and the heavens opened up and unleashed a deluge.

I checked the weather app and was dismayed at what I saw. Nothing but storm after storm moving across the region. After two pieces of pie I was still hungry. So I ordered a sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. As I sat there eating and contemplating my life choices, a couple approached my table and introduced themselves. They had overheard me talking with the locals and told me they had a big van and a utility trailer and were heading my way. They then offered me a ride.

I still had 3 hours to cycle, and there is no way I could have done it without hitting a thunderstorm. I can handle rain. I don’t want to mess with lightning. So I gratefully accepted their offer. We had a good conversation along the way. Both of them are avid cyclists, so we had a lot of stories to swap.

I set up camp…and then another thunderstorm rolled in. I went and sought shelter in the bathroom until it blew over.

Tomorrow I hit Windsor.

Wait…you’re from North Battleford???

Last night I stayed at Almost Home Bed and Breakfast in Simcoe. My hosts were Dave and Mary. They made me feel very welcome. I highly recommend this place.

After waking up, I made my way down to breakfast. I was the first guest down. Coffee was waiting for me. As I talked with Dave, I quickly learned that he used to own an apple orchard. I asked him which beekeeper he used to hire to pollinate his orchard. It turns out I worked for that beekeeper some 17 years ago—the one down in Niagara region. Small world.

Soon after, two other guests came down—a couple from Toronto. As we introduced ourselves and made small talk, it was revealed that he grew up in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. I grew up in Wilkie, just 30 miles south of North Battleford. He played many a hockey game in Wilkie. A really small world.

I left the B&B around 10:30. I only had 70km to ride today, so I took my time. I took the 24 south of Simcoe…which I quickly regretted. The pavement was broken and traffic was intense. So I found a side road that looked decent. The new route took me through Vittoria…a small village that used to be the capital of the London District of Upper Canada back in the early 1800s.

A lot of people honked at me and gave me the thumbs up. I’m not used to this…I’m more used to people honking at me and screaming profanities. You know…because I “don’t pay gas taxes.” Traffic today was very accommodating.

I pulled into Port Burwell Provincial Park around 3:30 or so. I had a quick snack and then set up camp. Once camp was set up I rode into town to buy food for dinner. I really wanted to enjoy some sangria…but every bar I went to looked at me like I was speaking in tongues when I asked for it. Oh well. Another day I guess.

Notice the food bag hanging in the tree. Pesky raccoons.

Tomorrow I’m off to Rondeau Provincial Park. It’s a longer ride, so I’ll need to start earlier than today.