Sunday, June 27, 2010

Endless Ontario

So, for those of you not familiar with Canadian geography, Ontario is an enormous province. In the 17 days I've been in Ontario, I've ridden around 1700 km (~1000 mi) and still have another 500 km to go before reaching Manitoba. Things are just plain big and remote, which I really like. It's also continued to be a very social experience. With only one road choice in parts of the province, and being full-on touring season, I'm seeing other riders every day. The majority are riding from west to east in hopes of having the advantage of prevailing winds (though most I've talked with said they had headwinds all through the prairies). There are a few of us tough riders heading west, and I've had the pleasure to spend a little time with two this past week.

From my last post in Parry Sound, ON I had a nice ride up to the east side of Lake Huron. Nothing too exciting; I saw two black bears one evening (I assume) munching on the wild strawberries that lined the roadside. I rode a mere 5 feet from one before I noticed, it, but it never took notice of me. Turning west again I faced a few days of strong headwinds and hot weather. I've always tried to ride as many side roads as possible, but here in Ontario nearly every side road has turned to gravel at some point. Although most have still been decent riding, others have been pretty bad, you think I'd learn. I've also had to get used to the remote riding once again. For so long I've had multiple places to fill my water every day, so never worried about running out. However, here I may only pass one place a day and it took me a few days of running out before I got back into the habit of carrying extra water (I haven't had to do that since the SW).

Before Sault Ste Marie, I debated going back into Michigan to get away from the traffic and lack of shoulders in Ontario. I met Rob, riding from Vancouver to Saint John's, Newfoundland; he was helpful in giving me advice about what was ahead and helped convince me to stay in Ontario. Preparing for a very remote ride around Lake Superior, I stocked up on a weeks food (I'd only meant to get 4 days but always have too much). My panniers were much heavier then they'd been in a long time. Stopping at a bike shop on the way out of town, I met Jon, who was riding west as well. We decided to ride together for awhile, it was nice having the good company. Jon's crossing Canada from his home in Halifax to Vancouver, riding to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.


Rob


My camping spot on the solstice. I was excited that there were few mosquitoes so tried sleeping without my tent. At 1030 the bugs were horrible, I tried sleeping with my head net on, only to give up at midnight and set up my tent.

Jon and I had a great first night on a beautiful sandy beach of Lake Superior, going for a swim after riding. The water was extremely clear and clean, perfect sand, just wonderful. From there we got into the beginning of the hills I'd been warned about, some good climbs and fun descents. The next few days Jon and I met up and lost each other a few times, camping together when we found each other. The hills of Lake Superior were great; with the beautiful scenery the climbs didn't bother me at all. Each day was riding through lakes, meadows, cliffs, the occasional view of the big lake and maybe some islands. I loved the remoteness of it, only passing the rare town, mainly just in nature. The traffic also wasn't as bad as I'd imagined, although a shoulder was still rare.



Swimming Beach


Old Woman Bay, Lk Superior


The goose at Wawa, celebrating the building of the trans-Canada hwy



Jon

Lake Superior

A few of the other riders I met that made a strong impression on me were Richard and Armando. I let Richard riding east. He'd hoped to cross the country in 30 days. Unfortunately he pushed so hard the first few over the Rockies that he put himself in the hospital. However, he got back on and is ridding like crazy, often 200 k a day (124 mi). He says this trip isn't for enjoyment, "it's for punishment." I didn't ask what he was punishing himself from.

Then the other day, I met Armando, an Italian living in Germany. He's riding west so we rode together for the afternoon, my struggling to keep up. Next year he'll reach one million km of touring all over the world. He rides no less them 150 k a day and up to 220 k. I was very impressed, especially since he rides 'till 3am many nights, only sleeping from 3-8am. I can surely day that is no t for me, I like my sleep (I've even been sleeping in a lot lately!). In broken English, he told me how great Australia is for touring-the second rider to encourage me to go there.


Armando

Yesterday I made it into Thunder Bay, the first big town in a week. I'd ridden two hard weeks without a day off and was in need of a rest. Fortunately, I got in contact with Frank and have my first Warmshowers host since way back in North Carolina. Strangely enough, my dad actually met Frank back at the Olympics and had told him about my ride, so I'm really glad this has worked out. I'm taking the day off today, being cold and rainy it's a good day to be off the road.

Last night I got a wonderful surprise as I was invited out to a barbecue at Ken and Lissa's camp on a lake outside of town. We had a traditional Finnish sauna which was incredible! It was great food and fabulous company. Ken and Liisa are strong, admirable athletes, Frank has toured around the world, and Louise also rides all over. Currently, Frank is also training for a cross Atlantic row, trying to break the record on a 14 person team. Later in the evening, Frank brought out his harmonicas and Ken his guitar for some fun music. (Frank even played happy birthday to my mom for her 60th birthday that evening). What a treat!



With Frank, Louise, Liisa, and Ken

In the morning I take off and have a few more days of riding to get to Winnipeg. There I'll meet my mom, get off the bike, and go on a little canoe trip. I'm really looking forward to seeing my mom and switching it up for a little while!

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