Day 31 – July 8th – White River to Agawa Bay Campsite, Lake Superior Provincial Park – 186 kms
A long ride today, but I’ve got a mindset for turning that corner and heading east from the Soo!
I had a lot more of the scenic hills after leaving Wawa, where I stopped to eat. There wasn’t a truck stop or restaurant for just about the whole way from White River to Wawa; I was starving by the time I arrived there. On that stretch of road I met up with Randal, who’s from Saskatoon and riding a recumbent. He started his ride in Victoria and is heading for St. John’s, NF. We rode together for quite a while and he seemed quite speedy. I ribbed him that he needed more weight on his bike to slow him down and he replied with a, “no thanks.” He got rid of all his camping and cooking gear after the first climb up Allison Pass in BC. His wife was following him at that time, so he gave her all that stuff to take home. He’s strictly motel and restaurant now, so his cargo just amounts to some clothing, riding gear and spares. Nice fellow though, we had the famous second breakfast together and chatted for a while. He wanted to ride further than Wawa today, but was limited by motel location. There are motels in Wawa, but the next ones are in Montreal River – 115 kms further south. 85 kms of that 115 kms is through the Lake Superior Provincial Park. And besides two campsites, there are no other accommodations. As I did myself, he had also just ridden the 90 kms from White River, and didn’t want to chance not making Montreal River. So he was a bit envious that I had camping gear and could continue, because he’s just about as fed up with Northern Ontario as I am.
It was raining this morning in White River, so I packed up my stuff as quick as possible. Luckily, the tourist info centre had a huge awning where I packed my gear and cooked the regulation breakfast (You know!… Hot oatmeal with a banana washed down with a nice cup of tea), without getting soaked. The rain continued on and off all day, but not too heavily. They had a huge downpour at the campground where I’m staying tonight, which soaked all the campsites and made a soggy mess. The sites are right on the shore of the sandy beaches of Lake Superior. Too bad the weather wasn’t nicer though – kind of a dismal campsite for $21.50, which is what it costs to camp in all Ontario Provincial Parks. RV, tent, doesn’t matter – same rip-off price, if you’re a tenter! It would have been a nice view of the sunset too, but a heavy humid mist has been left behind after the rains. I guess that I’ll go to bed instead!
I saw two live moose this morning and all kinds of dead ones at the sides of the road, stinking the place up. I had a fox follow me for while down the shoulder – now that that was freaky! A lot of the foxes in Ontario are known to have rabies, so one acting strangely like that can be a sign that the animal is infected – needless to say that I high-tailed it outta there! Lucky that I wasn’t crawling uphill! Got a photo of the big goose at Wawa.
I didn’t expect it to be this far to this southernmost campground in the park, but when I asked the girl ranger/attendant at the northernmost campground, how far it was to Agawa Bay, she looked at me, in my bike gear and helmet, and said, “about forty-five minutes by car.” So I told her that meant nothing to me; she gave me a kind of plywood look and said that she didn’t have a clue as to the distance. So I guesstimated the distance, and was a little out! Anyway, I’m closer to the Soo, and glad of that, as I’m heartily sick of the roller coaster of “scenic hills.” Apart from the rain and constant undulations today, it wasn’t too bad a ride though. Winds were variable, but light. The shoulder came and went, usually leaving when I really needed it!
The girl attendant at the southernmost campground asked for my vehicle license number when I registered (I was still in my bike gear and helmet)! So for a bit of fun, I spelled out, “B-I-K-E.” She didn’t miss a beat and wrote it down! – Some park attendants!
I hope that we don’t get more rain tonight, it’s starting to feel like BC!
Day 32 – July 9th – Agawa Bay to Sault Ste. Marie – 144 kms
Yeay, finally made it here. Now I feel like I’m getting somewhere. The clock turned 4000 kms today too!
I’m celebrating with a motel room and a beer, besides my gear is really damp after last night. The mist from the lake and the heat made the campground like a sauna. I tried to read my book in the tent, but my reading glasses kept fogging up – no kidding! Slugs all over the tent fly in the morning – wonderful place!
I met two other cyclists today who had stayed at Agawa Bay the previous night to my stay. They said that the water system and showers were out of order when they were there, but they were still charged the full price! – Welcome to Ontario!
The ride today – yes, there were more scenic hills – actually the hills were less in number, but a little more severe. However, I must say, that for vistas of the the lake and riding close to the shores, today’s ride was the best so far. I passed lots of sandy beaches and wonderful views of islands and rock formations jutting out of the lake. As I neared the Soo, I once again started seeing farmland and livestock, something that has been absent for many days of riding.
The inner city was nothing spectacular, another big city that I’ll be glad to get out of – quickly! I checked out the local hostel, which was in an old downtown hotel, but the management wouldn’t allow me to have my bike in my room, so I elected for a motel on the east side of town – quick getaway in the morning! Besides, there’s a pub on one side of the motel and a home-made pizza parlour on the other – guess what’s for dinner?
I guess that there’s a lot of history to the city though, as there are some wonderful old heritage buildings downtown. The Soo is one of the major border crossings to the USA, so there’s lots of truck and rail traffic here. However as a cyclist, I tend to want to depart the bigger cities, rather than stay and explore. I find that the traffic and roads (the curb lanes in some of these Ontario towns/cities really make me appreciate my sprung saddle!) are just a pain to negotiate. I really find the smaller towns more interesting and the residents much friendlier than in the cities.
The weather turned to hot again today, my gauge is that it was a three ice-cream day! Not to mention the cold drinks that I scarfed back.
Basil’s forgotten all about growing his fur long and getting a bead necklace as we’ve left our hippy-ish friends way back up the road. The lads that I met today had also bumped into (and ridden with for while) the big group (Cycling for Sustainability). Perhaps we will all meet up in the Maritimes somewhere?
Day 33 – July 10th – Sault Ste. Marie to Spragge – 166 kms
A great day to ride, the sun was shining, a nice tailwind, and not too hot. The road was pretty good, as was the scenery. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it really was a good ride, only marred by the heavy truck traffic and bad shoulder in places. I also hit some major road works for about 20 kms just before Spragge – more of a delay than anything, but with gravel and grooved pavement to ride on. Once again I’m glad of my Schwalbe Marathon XR tire choice for some of these adverse conditions.
Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll be able to get off the Trans Canada onto Highway 6. There will be a lot less truck traffic to contend with then; I’m sure that the ride will be more enjoyable on 6 and also on other secondary roads that I plan to take on my way to Ottawa. In fact, I don’t think that I’ll have to ride the TC for any long stretches after tomorrow – hopefully!
The ride today was mostly due east on what is known locally as “The Northshore.” It is in fact the north shore of Lake Huron, as I left Lake Superior back at the Soo. Much more interesting riding, as I am passing through more small towns that are fairly close together – more places to buy ice-cream! Lots of nice farms, riverfront, lakefront and landscapes.
I stopped for that second breaky in Bruce Mines and got chatting with three young people (two guys and a girl) in the restaurant. They were really interested in my trip and I think I got them convinced to try some cycle touring. They had all been to BC and worked as tree planters, so it was good to talk about places that we had all visited. They asked the same questions that many people ask me, and most of them gape in awe when they find out that I started on Vancouver Island just a few short weeks ago. I suppose that to many people, cycling long distances just doesn’t seem possible, until they actually meet someone who’s doing it. But it makes for a good conversation starter, as people are not shy to drill me with questions. The best one I had yet, was a young lady who said, “but don’t you have a car?”
For road snacks today, I was scoffing the remains of last night’s pizza. I usually have no trouble in demolishing a medium sized one on my own, but the one I bought last night was in a rectangular shape and also thick, HUGE and delicious! Definitely unlike the any of the pizza franchise offerings, this one had that home-made touch from a genuine Italian pizza parlour. I ate about half of it last night, washed down with a brew and watched the third stage of the Tour de France – life’s good ain’t it?
There’s not much here in Spragge though; basically a campground, a small motel and for some unknown reason, a car dealership? There’s not even a store here, but there’s a car dealership – only in Ontario eh! Maybe there’s more to the village over the hill to east; I guess I’ll find out in the morning.
Day 34 – July 11th – Spragge to Sheguiandah, Manitoulin Island – 138 kms
A brisk northeast wind created a strong headwind for me all the way to my exit from the TC. Regardless, it was superb to finally leave that mayhem of truck traffic behind. Early this morning I counted the ratio of transport truck to car traffic, the ratio was 5 trucks to 1 car over the period of an hour – incredible. Hardly surprising though, as it’s the only road for truckers to take from the Soo to Sudbury. But it’s sad to see a vacant rail track beside the highway where all those goods could be moved by train – and much more efficiently with at a lower cost to the environment and road maintenance. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now!
As soon as I started riding on Highway 6, the road became very hilly, but I can handle that much better than the constant drone of those big wheels going past me. I just had the odd truck go by, but otherwise the traffic was very light especially south of Espanola. The scenery is really splendid, many different views of the North Channel as I rode down the peninsula from Espanola. All the way from the TC I spotted an abandoned rail bed running almost parallel with Highway 6. It was a little too rough for me to ride on though. But what a resource that the Ontario government could exploit for outdoor enthusiasts – rail trail in the summer and snowmobile trail in the winter. I’ve passed many abandoned rail beds in the past few weeks and always wonder why those rights of way are not better utilised?
I stopped in Espanola and Little Current for a while to poke around a bit and check a few things out, pick up some supplies and buy a new book to read. There was no campground in Little Current, so I ended up about 10 kms south of there at Sheguiandah. This campground is one of the better ones that I’ve been to, the people are friendly and the sites are nice and open – minimal bugs so far too! And they have a store with ice cream!
I met a lady here from Chemainus, BC, who is running a bicycle touring company on Manitoulin Island. She was full of questions for me and we chatted for quite a while – about two ice-creams worth! I wondered afterwards what she does in the winter when there’s six feet of snow on the ground? Snowmobile touring? I never thought to ask!
I also met yet another cross country cyclist at the park in Spragge last night. This young fellow, Chris, started from Vancouver on May 10th, so he’s really taking his time. We compared notes and discovered that we had stayed at a lot of the same places, including the hostels. It was fun to hear another person’s conclusions coincide with mine. He was telling me that he’s been plagued with broken spokes on his back wheel and also had to replace his tires already. I suggested that he transfer some of his heavier stuff to the front panniers, as the front wheel on a multi-geared bicycle is usually the strongest one. I thought that he might show up here on Manitoulin Island this evening, but he did say that he only likes to ride 80 to 100 kms a day, so perhaps he stayed in Espanola?
The weather was hot today, with hotter stuff in the forecast and perhaps rain for Saturday, but to be honest, I haven’t had an accurate forecast for a long time – perhaps it’s because I’m constantly on the move?
Factoid: Manitoulin Island is the largest fresh water island in the world – How about that? The swing bridge was in operation just before I crossed over to the island – very cool to watch. Especially so, as it was opened to let one sailboat through and a whole mess of traffic had to wait for the boat to putter through! A short day is in the cards tomorrow, as I have to catch the ferry to the Bruce Peninsula and will probably just stay in Tobermory for the night. That’ll be something different, a ferry ride!
My new book awaits…