Day 21 – June 28th – Richer, MB to Kenora, ON – 158 kms
Welcome to Ontario!
I installed my new rack last night, had a good kip, woke up early and was on the road by 6:00 a.m. Yes, I finally made it into Ontario, but what a hot day to ride in. The last two were bad enough, but today was/is a scorcher. So my reward for making it to Ontario in less than three weeks is a full day off – Yeay!
I’m at Anicinabe park just on the outskirts of Kenora. Actually, I was lucky to get a spot, as this is a busy long weekend here. After cleaning up, I ventured back into town for some supplies. I happened upon Haps Pub & Eatery on the waterfront, which is where I am typing from!
I had mostly crosswinds today from the south, but it was a good ride all the same. About 15 kms from the Ontario border, the granite rock of the Precambrian Shield began to poke through the grasslands – what a fast change in scenery! I stopped for an ice cream at Falcon Lake just before crossing the border and it was already teeming with Winnipeggers who were there early for the long weekend, so obviously the roads were very busy today. Quite a bit of the TC in Manitoba had no shoulder, especially where it was a divided highway, but once into Ontario, it was two way traffic, but I had my shoulder back. I passed a couple of cyclists on a tandem towing a trailer with their kid in it and a whole bunch of gear. They were from France and are travelling around the world for “Peace and Love.” Good luck to them! I couldn’t chat for long as we were in a spot with no shoulder and heaps of traffic, but they did relate that they had visited Vancouver Island. I thought that I was sweating good today, until I saw the sweat pouring from them hauling their heavy load!
The worst part of today were the deer flies and horseflies, dozens of them continuously buzzing around and bouncing off me. Funnily enough they seemed to decrease the further that I rode into Ontario.
I am in the Lake of the Woods region, and it was sure nice to see a large body of water again (even if it is only fresh water!) after all that riding through the prairies. It’s also nice to get the breeze off the water too. The park that I’m camped at, is right on the water, with lake swimming, boat rentals etc., super place and minimal mozzies – so far! I think that a couple of nights here will be good R&R for me. Kenora seems to be a nice enough place and has that resort town atmosphere, somewhat like Penticton, BC. The local Safeway store here has it’s own boat dock for the benefit of the lakefront cottagers, who can take their loaded shopping trolleys right down to their boats – now there’s convenience!
By the way, yesterday as I was leaving Winnipeg, I passed a sign that said I was passing through the longitudinal centre of Canada at 96 degrees something – just thought that I’d let you know that very important fact!
The hills started just before the border as did the curves and bends in the highway. TC1 changed to 17, after which I’ll be taking 71 south to Fort Frances, but not until Sunday. I’ve flashed through the provinces up to now, but don’t hold your breath on my progress through Ontario, this is a big, wide one to cross.
Enjoy your Canada Day weekend, I will!
Day 22 – June 29th – Rest Day – Kenora – 0 kms
Day 23 – June 30th – Kenora to Nestor Falls – 120 kms
I’m glad that I made the decision to take Highway 71 rather than 17 – not only is this a nice riding and pretty route, but most of the heavy truck traffic seems to take the other route through Dryden etc. 71 was really quiet today, but I guess with it being a holiday Sunday helped too. As expected, I had headwinds all day as I am heading south, perhaps I’ll fare better after tomorrow, when I start in an easterly direction. The route definitely has more hills now and the shoulder is unpredictable, sometimes it’s good, then it disappears for a while, then it returns. For the most part though, the road is in really good shape, much better than I had expected – I hope it continues that way.
My day off in Kenora was great, It was a good rest with a chance to explore the town and its history – Yes, I went to the museum – I love the local town museums, you can get a real history lesson in a short time!
Also yesterday, I met two more lady cyclists at the campground who are heading west. Emily and Mary are from Montreal, so I mentioned that I met two Quebec girls when I was heading up Allison Pass; it appears that one of the girls heading east is Emily’s sister – small world! I also met another lady travelling around on a motorcycle with sidecar – the sidecar’s for her German Shepard! She did give me some good info on road conditions and water stops for my future travels going further east.
It was really hot again today, but yesterday evening was terrible. The wind died down and the humidity level soared. I listened to the local Kenora radio station and at 9:00 p.m. it was 32 degrees with a high humidex advisory – like I didn’t know – I was sweating profusely in my tent trying to fan myself cool with a tourist brochure, sleep was just about impossible. It was still humid this morning when I left, but the sun seems to have burned some of the moisture away – it’s still hot though! Well over 30. Another downfall to high humidity – mozzies love it!
I saw a moose cow with her calf today, she kind of eyeballed me as I went past then trundled off into the bush before I could take a photo. I’m staying at Lecuney’s Camp, one of many on the shores of the Lake of the Woods. This one’s full of Americans. Most of these camps have a main lodge with adjacent rental cabins or space for RV’s and tents. I was hoping to try a cabin for the night but with the long weekend, not possible – perhaps another time?
It seems that I’ve got another day of hot weather ahead but the forecasters said the rains will come and cool things down – we’ll see if they’re right!
Well I hope that I get some sleep tonight, those hot sweaty nights are a drain on my system! At least I wasn’t the only one though – when I got up at 5:00 a.m. – there were all kinds of people wandering around the campground with the same bags under their eyes that I had.
Happy 135th Birthday Canada!
Day 24 – July 1st – Nestor Falls to Fort Frances – 104 kms
Low miles eh? But there’s not much else down the road until I hit Atikokan, which will be tomorrow’s ride, so Fort Frances will have to suffice. Besides I had strong headwinds – again! Even when I turned full east onto Highway 11, I had that south-easterly in my face. Those easterlies usually mean a storm’s coming, and today was true to form. I got caught in a thunderstorm about 15 kms out of Fort Frances – big hailstones too – another good reason to wear a bike helmet! Some places a bit further south had baseball size hailstones to contend with and funnel clouds touching down. The weather still hasn’t cleared though; it’s hot and humid as hell, so I think that we’ll get dumped on later tonight too. Other than the headwind, the ride was reasonable with some really good scenery. I saw a fox today; he ran across the road right in front of me, scared the hell out of Basil!
Just before my second breakfast stop at Emo, I met a fellow cycling heading west. Stan is riding to raise awareness of the D.A.R.E. program, visiting police stations etc. along the way. You can check out the program’s website at: Dare Ontario. He hails from Brantford. ON, and started his ride in St. Johns, Newfoundland. He’s hoping to be in Victoria on July 31st, so keep your ears to the ground for a sign of him. Stan’s travelling light. When I asked where his bags were – this was after I questioned whether he was just out for a day ride! – I found out that he has a motor home for a support vehicle, must be nice eh?
I wouldn’t mind a motor home tonight, the mozzies are really bad at this campground. I don’t know how much more blood I can donate to those suckers, they never seem satiated! I’m camped in a private RV park just east of town, the local town park would have been nicer, but it’s packed with people there for the Canada Day festivities and fireworks etc. are planned for later in the evening. They probably wouldn’t want me flying my dirty laundry at the park’s picnic site anyway!
Fort Frances is quite a big town – paper and pulp mill town. Smells just like Powell River, BC! Fort Frances is also a border town; the Rainy River is the border between the USA and Canada. A bridge takes one over to International Falls, USA. I passed some huge log dumps with acres of cut wood waiting for transport to the mill.
I’ll probably get a motel the next two nights as I’ve got two days of heavy riding, especially if the wind doesn’t cooperate. Besides, it’ll be nice to let some of my mozzie bites and lumps settle down! I need something like a sheep dip – filled with Deet – so that I can dip myself before I get out of my screened tent! And those big flies constantly draughting me as I ride, they bombard and bounce of me, but when I stop for a rest, they stop too! They sit on my bags and bike waiting until I take off again; I leave, and so do they! I’m sure that its the same gang of flies that’s been trailing me from Manitoba – getting a free ride to the east coast I’ll bet!
OK, big wishes for tailwinds for the next two days – at least!
Day 25 – July 2nd – Fort Frances to Atikokan – 148 kms
Prayers were answered – I got my tail winds today, and just as well too, as the road was a roller coaster. Lots of short climbs and not much of any downhills for the effort! Virtually no shoulder either, with a myriad of logging trucks to contend with, on top of regular traffic – but still not super busy, I guess that will happen when 11 joins onto 17. The nicest part of the ride was early this morning as I left Fort Frances on the Noden Causeway that crosses Rainy Lake – very picturesque! There were quite a few washouts on the road today, from recent flooding. The most serious was a missing bridge that had been washed away by the Seine River. A single lane Bailey bridge has been installed as a temporary fix. Apart from that, loose gravel on the roadway was the only other hazard. I had been concerned about this route being open at all, as it was closed for a short while recently. A detour would have constituted returning a long distance all the way to back to almost Kenora. The motorcycle lady (and sidecar with dog) that I met in Kenora, had just travelled this route successfully on her westward journey, hence my decision to venture this way rather than the more northerly route through Dryden etc.
I scored a motel for tonight, as I need a break from the bugs. I’ll swear those mozzies had a breeding frenzy last night, because there was an extra thousand or two to contend with this morning! I had to wear my head-net, plus a ton of repellent on any exposed parts, just to get my bike packed up! Not very pleasant camping in these bug infested conditions! I’ve not seen too many people tent camping around here, and even the ones with RV’s usually have screened gazebos for “enjoying” the outdoors. Last night there were rolling thunderstorms with heavy rain, so most of my stuff was pretty damp this morning anyway and I also discovered a leak in my tent fly. So the motel room is a good place to dry the gear out and apply some seam sealer to the troublesome area.
One of my STI gear shifters went on the fritz a couple of days ago, I tried repairing it, but there’s nothing to be done. The component has about 30,000 kms on it, so I guess that it had to give up the ghost sometime – but why now? Murphy’s Law eh? Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring along a down-tube shifter that I had adapted for just such an occurrence – it’s working fine, but not as convenient as the STI shifting at the brake lever. I’m going to check out the bike shops in Thunder Bay, when I get there, and see if I can come up with a replacement. Might be difficult though, as most of the stuff now is 9 speed and I’m still running 8 speed. Keep your fingers crossed!
Atikokan’s reason for being on the map is iron ore mining. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore around, but it is a community of 3,500, so it’s not quite the hole in the ground that I thought it was!
By the way, I passed the 3,000 km mark early this morning!
WE BOTH CYCLED X-CANADA EXACTLY IN THE SAME TIME! You left Sidney on June the 8th, 2002 and so did I, but from Calgary! And you even took the same ferry route from North Sydney to Argentia (and not Port-aux-Basques). It took me 47 days and 6430 kms though 😉