Day 26 – July 3rd – Atikokan to Thunder Bay – 203 kms
Yep, when the going’s good, hit them pedals and keep going, and I did! Must have been that free breakfast at the motel this morning; the tailwind didn’t do any harm either!
I’ve got a room at the hostel here in Thunder Bay, it’s at Confederation College; two nights for C$46.00, tax included. It’s a private room, with its own bathroom, fridge and microwave – good deal! You noticed that I wrote “two nights.” Yes, it’s a day off tomorrow; it’ll be a good chance to perhaps resolve my shifter problems, by visiting some of the bike shops here.
I met a young lady triathlete (training) on the bike path system here, she kindly guided me to the College and recommended some bike shops. She was quite impressed with my day’s ride and took me right to the door of the accommodations building – you do meet some nice people! Perhaps that was a repayment for my good deed today, About 20 kms east of Atikokan, I spotted something at the other side of the road as I was riding by – it looked like a wallet. I turned around and went over, and by George it was a wallet. Cash, credit cards, ID, the whole works. I handed it in at the next OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) station that I came across. That should make the owner happy – when she gets that back.
Road-wise, apart from 30 kms of road works, today was pretty much the same as yesterday – Rock, Bush, Swamp, Hill – Rock, Bush, Swamp, Hill – RBSH – you get the picture! I’d get the odd good view over a lake, then it was back to R(ub)B(i)SH! You can get kind of sick of “rugged scenery!” About 50 kms east of Thunder Bay, the scenery did improve though; it’s almost like I had entered a lush valley – hard to explain? I passed a sign today, about 70 kms east of Atikokan, that stated that it was the actual point at which all watercourses now flowed in an eastward direction to the Atlantic Ocean. The sign stated an elevation of 1660 feet. When I came to the junction of Highways 17 and 11, just I expected, the truck traffic increased dramatically. I suppose that I’m going to have to contend with that for quite a few days after I leave Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay’s a city of 125,000, at the head of Lake Superior, so it’s quite a big place, and divided into Thunder Bay north and Thunder Bay south. Tomorrow I’ll get to explore around a bit, but for tonight I found a local(ish) Boston Pizza, where I’m stuffing my face with pasta and quaffing a 32oz schooner of you know what! It’s a hard life, ain’t it?
I lost another hour today; I’m on Eastern Standard Time, so I’m really jet-lagged now, I guess that I’ll have to sleep in tomorrow to try and readjust!
Day 27 – July 4th – Rest Day – Thunder Bay – 0 kms
Day 28 – July 5th – Thunder Bay to Nipigon – 122 kms
Light rain and light headwinds dogged me just about the whole way to Nipigon. The light rain was enough to soak everything though. Temperatures were only around 13ºC too. I’ve motelled again as the forecast predicts more rain and thunderstorms, tonight and possibly tomorrow. With some of the biggest hills to climb tomorrow, it should be a fun ride! Oh yeah, and headwinds are forecast too – beauty! Besides, there’s only one campground here and they wanted $18.00 + tax + $1.00 for a shower – all that for a patch of wet grass to pitch my tent – no contest! I do prefer camping though. Motels rooms are ok to catch up with the news on TV, relax on a soft bed, have a private bathroom etc., but there’s just the four walls and no company – whoops! Sorry Basil! Whereas in a campground there’s usually quite a few people around and it’s easy to get into a conversation with other travellers.
Even though the weather was dismal, it was fairly easy ride today, with slightly better scenery, especially some views of Lake Superior and the islands out there. The road was crappy though, with a broken-up, ill-maintained shoulder, that varied from 6 to 18 inches. The truck traffic was really heavy too.
I stopped for a second breakfast at the Pass Lake Junction truck stop and was warned about the upcoming hills by a guy in the restaurant – I asked him if he’d seen the mountains in BC, he said no – ’nuff said! I also bumped into two young guys cycling from Quebec City, heading west, who also said that the hills were pretty bad between here and the Sooo – I told them that they might just find some in BC too! I feel sorry for them, as I have been watching the weather network and it seems that they’ll be heading into worse weather than I will be. I’m listening to reports of twisters in Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and some destructive windstorms in New Brunswick. Also, heavy rains in some of the territory that I have already ridden through in the past week or so.
I managed to find a new shifter at one of the five bike shops in Thunder Bay. I got to do some sightseeing while tracking this part down, as it was the last shop that I visited that had the goods – New old stock, lucky for me, but it put a big hole in my contingency fund! I installed the new shifter and all is well. Thunder Bay was OK, but I get the same feeling in a lot of Ontario towns/cities – namely, the majority of motorists are lead-footed and cyclist intolerant. However, there were lots of bike paths in Thunder Bay, in fact, a portion of the Trans Canada Trail is part of their path network; it was hard to find a map of the system though, so for a visitor like myself, the routes were trial and error.
My analysis so far, of cycling in Ontario: 75% of bicycle riders ride (erratically) on the sidewalks, 15% ride on bike paths, and the other 10% play Russian Roulette with the (intolerant) traffic. And too many people smoke – everywhere – even in a McDonald’s that I stopped in! Anyway, enough bitching about Ontarians (oops, I know some too!), I figured that from border to border, it’s approximately 2,300 kms, so I’ve got to grin and bear it – I guess – if I have to!
Sombre moment today – just east of Thunder Bay, on the 11/17 Highway is the Terry Fox monument, in the area where his run to raise funds for cancer research sadly ended. The monument is high on a scenic lookout, overlooking Thunder Bay and the Sleeping Giant Park. Also, 100 kms of the highway to Nipigon is named “The Terry Fox Courage Highway.” Standing there, looking up at the statue, it kind of puts everything in perspective. God bless you Terry!
Day 29 – July 6th – Nipigon to Terrace Bay – 109 kms
Well, there were a few hills, and they were intensified by more of the strong headwinds that I encountered all day. The hills today, were steep grades too, but much, much shorter than the mountain passes of BC. Although after climbing six short grades, it adds up to the same I guess? I felt cheated out of the downhills though, because of the headwind there was no real “free ride.” I’m really hoping for better winds tomorrow, as I’d like to cover more distance with less effort! I find that the constant battering of headwinds is very frustrating, but I guess that I have to take what I get.
It rained quite heavily during the night, so I was glad of the motel room in Nipigon. Fortunately though, it didn’t rain during today’s ride, but I just had a sprinkle here at the campsite. I’m camped at a campground that is next to Aguasabon Falls, about 1 Km west of the town of Terrace Bay. Quite impressive, the falls that is. I expected some small trickle, but there’s mist in the air from the huge amount of water surging over the edge of a steep gorge. Quite a drop too, probably 150 ft. or more!
Much better scenery today, I only saw one swamp! But seriously, I had some great views over Lake Superior, too bad it wasn’t sunny though, as I feel that my photos will probably look dismal. It was cloudy for the most of the day with cool temperatures – only around 16°C – it’s supposed to get warmer tomorrow, hopefully. The road was much better too, I had a decent shoulder to ride on and the truck traffic seems to have declined a little. That’s either because it’s Saturday, or a lot of the truck traffic has headed northeast on Highway 11, from Nipigon towards Hearst etc. I’m on 17, the Lake Superior circle route. However, I think that I’ll get more traffic again after the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie). Still more of the scenic hilly route to ride tomorrow. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? If it’s scenic, it’s usually hilly!
Wow, it’s four weeks since I left Sidney, BC, it’s hard to believe! Time flies when you’re having fun! What’s good? – The riding. What’s bad? – The bugs, they spoil the camping part of the day. I know why most of the road crew and other outside workers here wear long sleeves and long pants – even in the hottest weather – the bugs! If you’re covered up, there’s less exposed skin for the little buggers to find. When I arrive at a campsite though, I’m usually only minimally covered – besides being hot and sweaty. So by the time I shower and change, I’ve usually been bitten a dozen times. I hate to get all covered up in nice weather; I guess that’s why I say that the bugs spoil the outdoor experience. It’s kind of difficult to even enjoy a roadside lunch somewhere too, as the little unwelcome guests are everywhere!
I met three other cyclists out from Vancouver, BC, later yesterday. They were part of a larger group (up ahead somewhere?) and were hitching rides when they could and cycling at other times. They, two guys and a girl, were kind of hippy-ish and said that they only rode when they felt like it. When I saw them they had been trying to hitch for four hours (they could have ridden a long way in four hours!). I guess it takes a certain type of person/vehicle to stop and pick up three people, three bikes together with all their camping and riding gear. They did say that sometimes semi-trailer trucks stop and pick them up – well I guess they’d have room – probably pass on the smelly livestock haulers though!
The Tour de France starts today, I’ll have to check the budget and perhaps grab some more motels so that I can watch some of the action on the OLN network.
Day 30 – July 7th – Terrace Bay to White River – 176 kms
I started with no wind, then headwind, then tailwind; a miscellaneous assortment for the day! The day also started out cool, but then, after about 11:00 a.m., the sun came out with a vengeance. The hills between Terrace Bay and Marathon were a real roller coaster of steep grades, but once again, not too challenging. I arrived in Marathon quite early, so I had my second breakfast there and decided to push on to White River. I suppose that I had the “scenic” hills in the morning and the “un-scenic” hills in the afternoon, as there were still some brutes to climb on the way to White River, but the grades decreased considerably as I rode further towards White River.
I had some good vistas today as I passed through an area where there are actually ski hills in winter, complete with chair lifts etc. I also had good views of the CPR, as I believe lots of this route is what was originally built as the transcontinental route. I could see the big cuts where the the trains snake around the shores of Lake Superior and the other huge cuts that had to be made through the rock of the Canadian Shield just to keep the track going through this wilderness. I also passed a whole long train who’s cars were all living quarters for the crews who work on the tracks – kind of a bunk house on wheels!
Then I rode through a huge area that had been decimated by a forest fire – thousands of acres – it was amazing how many trees were destroyed and now sit there as blackened sticks, but the new growth has already begun; it doesn’t take mother nature long to start the restoration process. Interesting day, as I had also passed a huge mining complex west of White River. Some kind of ore mining, I didn’t see any explanation as to what was going on there though.
I caught up to some of my hitch-hiking/cycling friends from yesterday. And I have to take back my (somewhat vilified) first impressions of them! I caught up to one of the group, Aimee, on the road. I rode and chatted with her trying to give her some encouragement up one of the hills – she seemed to be having a hard time of it today. She told me that the rest of the group were up ahead which I discovered after I left her and started passing them. They really are very nice young people and most of them were cycling today with just a couple in a support van somewhere I was told. There were about 9 of them cycling and I managed to chat with most of them.
After that brief social respite, I took off, and on arriving in White River, discovered that there is no campground here. But the young ladies at the tourist information building said that I could camp on the grass here for the night, so that’s where I am. The other riders also showed up here later and wanted to see the “motor” on my bike! – Yeah, right! They were going to camp here with me, but later elected to find a spot at a nearby lake. I was already set up and decided that I was OK where I was – You know, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, kind of thing. They hadn’t ridden 176 kms either, so they still had some oomph left to go scavenging for a campsite. I learned a little more about them and their mission – they’re all (11 of them – used to be 14) riding to raise awareness of sustainable environmental solutions and their expedition was named “Cycling for Sustainability.” The group is made up of young people from Canada, USA, Australia and some other places that I can’t recollect.
I also keep coming across a young hitch-hiker fellow; I’ve passed him four or five times now, and say a flying hello to him. Well, he showed up here in White River too! His name’s Bobby and he’s just travelling the country for the summer, hitchhiking and camping wherever.
Strange happenings today… I was flagged down by a motorist, on the road between Marathon and here. The guy pulls in front of me, stops, jumps out of his car and indicated that he wanted me to stop. Which I did as he walked towards to me. Being in such an isolated area, I was a little anxious as I watched him and tried to think if I’d pissed anybody off in the previous town that I had visited! Anyhow, he reaches me, “Is this the road to Toronto” he says! I couldn’t believe it! So I said, “Buddy, this is the only road to Toronto – for now.” I then had to explain where he should go after the Soo. I guess he’s not a map reader – or purchaser! Kind of disconcerting at the time – but it just goes to show that you do meet all kinds of people!
White River’s claim to fame – home of Winnie the Pooh, of course – what, you didn’t know that?
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 😉