Day 50 - 58 Thunder Bay to Sault St. Marie

So it's been a while. This biking across Canada thing takes up a lot of time and energy. A bunch has happened in the past couple weeks, lots of good, lots of bad, some ugly but more than anything its been filled with some incredible experiences. I'll break it up into 2 posts and likely skip a day here and there for time's sake. Here we go, best clip in. 

Day 50 Thunder Bay to Mirror Lake, On.

We had a few big days into Thunder Bay so we allowed ourselves to sleep in and take a short day up to Mirror Lake, about 55km. We stopped at a McDonald's to work on the blog and got out on the bikes by noon. We went down to the marina before leaving town, chatted, enjoyed the views and talked of coming back to hike through Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. 

Back on the road, the air smelled of hot pavement and sweating fir trees. The shoulders were wide and the gravel between us and the ditch quickly changed from white to a coppery red. It was a gorgeous day. We stopped outside a hostel with some multidirectional sign posts. There were 4 posts, each with at least 10-15 signs with cities and how far away they were. 

Xela, Guatemala- 3757 km, Hamburg, Germany- 6401 km, Tokyo, Japan- 9504 km, Vancouver, B.C.- 3050 km.   

It was pretty cool to see and made me feel a lot more at peace about how far we'd come so far anf how much farther we had to go. Our total trip will be over 7000km and sure we've done over half of it but it really just feels like we wake up each morning and go for a long bike ride, set up the tent, rinse and repeat. It was a nicely timed reminder that we do travel a distance, it feels small but we're still going. One kilometer at a time until we've travelled the country. I looked over at Cat and said "The world isn't so big eh?". Without missing a beat she looked back and said, "Nope, just Canada is". 

With that, we were back on the road and the rest of the day was a nice ride. Long hills with long downhills kept me cool and didn't end up sweating too much even though the temperature was hovering around the high 20's. We arrived at Mirror Lake in time to make supper and walk up a couple trails. We went to the chalet where we found a Willie Nelson type character named Erik who told us where to look for gold along the hwy, when his mother would be starting coffee in the morning  and that the lake water was drinkable if you didn't mind fish sperm. I wish I could make this stuff up folks. 

Day 51 Mirror Lake - Nipigon, On.

We were all packed up by 7:45, and waited for Erik's mother to open the chalet for coffee. When we got in we saw Erik asleep on the couch in front of a tv playing an old episode Star Trek recorded on a VHS tape. Other campground regulars followed us in and helped themselves to coffee. We followed suit and were on the road by 8:30. 

The pavement was red and the sunrise was short, climbing up behind the clouds as the day went on. By 10:00am it was dark and grey. We could smell the thunderstorm behind us and anytime we slowed down going up a hill we'd start feeling the rain. Each time we looked back the sky got darker and darker. We decided to stop looking back but that didn't stop the storm from hitting when we were still 30km out. That's where the road construction began as well. The lanes cut down from 4 to 2 and the shoulder was occupied by pylons. It started pouring, the cars seemed to go faster and even had some oncoming traffic passing in our lane. Probably one of the more dangerous streches of the trip. A close second to the grizzly. 

We arrived in Nipigon and headed straight for a gas station restaurant to get out of the storm. We stayed about 2 hours hoping it would let up. It did for about 15 minutes so we took our chances and tried to get to the campground and set up the tent before it started again. That didn't go as planned. The rain, thunder, lightning, the whole shebang was in full force before we made it down the street. We did get lucky though. Coasted into the campground, barreled straight past the office and under there large, open, paved gazebo about 50m from the entrance. We called the office to let them know we arrived and asked real nice if we could camp under there. They obliged and we spent the rest of the day watching the storm and setting up the tent. We were safe from the rain but the air was so heavy that everything we had was damp by the end of the evening. 

Being in the gazebo in the middle of a park, we had lots of visitors and quickly came to realize that Nipigon, On. was one of the friendliest towns in Canada. Even tourists passing through, something in the air made it feel like everyone was your brother. At one point a dog ran up and gave us his ball for a game of catch. It was a good evening. As we were headed to bed another cyclist showed up, dripping and looking tired. We chatted for a few minutes before he went off to his site. 

Day 52 Stormed in Nipigon, On. 

We got up early and the storm was still going. It was calmer than it was overnight but we still decided to wait for it to stop before we left. The second biker, Rob from Australia, was up shortly after us and made the same call we did. We all headed to the local coffee shop and ended up chatting and eating until 4:00. 

Day 53

This is where things started getting rough. I was feeling better and rested but Catherine was hitting a wall. It was still raining and she hadn't eaten enough the day before. Getting out of Nipigon you climb 4 or 5 steep hills in a row and by the last one she didn't have much left in her. Feeling defeated, wet and cold, we stopped in at a rest stop and tried to regroup. We had done it at a fine pace but it took a lot of energy, especially first thing in the morning. This leg of the trip was proving to be the hardest both mentally and physically. We stopped for the day to give Cat more rest and ate what little snacks we had. We got a call from Catherine's parents that they had been planning to come and surprise us on the road the next day but called and told us since we were feeling down. A huge relief, some familiarity in a time where every face is a stranger's and the scenery is always changing. Not to mention, they were bring fresh fruit and baking. We slept easy knowing we wouldn't shrivel up somewhere along the north shore of Lake Superior. 

Day 55 Schreiber - Marathon 

Day one of having an assist car. Cat's parents, Hayley and Leaigh fed us breakfast and we left them with most of our bags. It was a good day but I could feel my chain needed a good cleaning. It was rattling and felt like I was going uphill all day. Just before lunch we stopped and met a 72 year old man biking across Canada with 3 other grandpas! It really goes to show anyone can do this, you just have to be willing. They had a follow car all the way across and told us they couldn't imagine doing it without one. We couldn't imagine cycling across Canada at 72. 

We found a rock to climb in the afternoon and had a snack up there. Our feet were dangling over the edge, a 30 foot drop onto a railroad. It was an amazing view and then the train came. We just about shit our pants. It vibrated the whole rock as it screached by. One of those incredible experiences that you never expect to have. 

Day 57 Wawa to Montreal River Harbour 

Catherine's parents were still with us but we decided to carry half our usual weight on the bikes. Didn't want it too easy. We biked through Lake Superior Provincial Park, one of the most beautiful days we've had thus far. On the high cliffa you could see for miles over the glistening lake then you'd ride down to each of the coves and through the bush, see sandy shores and smell coastal breezes. We found an abandoned gas station for our afternoon snack. It had been trashed, grafittied and likely burnt but it was a peaceful place that softened the noise from the highway. 

We arrived in Montreal River Harbor where Hayley and Leigh had got us all a cabin and cooked us a big steak dinner. We ate and watched the fall behind the lake. Beautiful. Just beautiful. 

Day 58 Montreal River Harbour to Sault St. Marie, On. 

More amazing views as we travelled along the lake. It was a big 125km but with all the food and cozy beds that Cat's parents were treating us to, it felt like a breeze. We're both really grateful they showed up when they did. Having them there reminded us that we can't just run on food and sleep. You need to take time to enjoy each moment and really appreciate what this trip has to offer. They stayed a final night with us in the Sault and said goodbye after breakfast the next morning. 

I have to get going but I'll try to get the second post up today or tomorrow. Off to explore more of Toronto today. 

Peace 

Bob EssexComment