Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thunder Bay, ON to Winnipeg, MB

Before riding out of Thunder Bay, Frank made sure to fit in some must-see/do things in town. We started out by visiting the Terry Fox memorial. Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. In 1980, after battling cancer and losing his leg, he starting running across Canada to raise money and awareness. His run ended in Thunder Bay when he became too sick to continue.

Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay

The next stop was downtown to Hoito's for some amazing Finnish pancakes. I'd been told all the way back in Barrie, ON that this was a must. They're a thin pancake and very good!

Frank took me out to have Finnish pancakes-a Thunder Bay tradition at Hoito

Then it was back to the road. I stopped in to see Kakabecka Falls and on the rolling roads ran into John again. I thought he'd be a day ahead, but turned out he needed a day off in town as well. The day was cold with passing thunder showers all day and good head winds, not exactly the most pleasant riding.

Kakabecka Falls

Stopping for a quick bite to eat at the boundary to the Arctic Watershed, Rudy Gillis came out and invited me in for the night. Being just mid-afternoon I wasn't sure I was ready to stop, but a few minutes later a heavy rain shower and sudden cold convinced me. I rode to Rudy's place just a minute away and met his wife, Anna. They took me in so generously, fed me a fabulous home cooked meal and were great company for the evening. It was a nice surprise to have such a enjoyable evening with the Gillis', this was also only the 4th random invite I've had my whole trip.

Rudy and Anna Gillis

The next day the sun shone the next day even if the winds didn't let up. I had a little excitement when I had to put my breaks on for a moose that ran just meters in front of me. Shortly after, what I believe was a cougar crossed the road ~100 meters ahead-I just wish I'd gotten a better look and could be sure.

Much of what I rode through
I also had the excitement of my first bear at my tent one evening. Every other cyclist I talk to is paranoid about black bear, or even terrified of them, but I tend not to worry. I haven't hung my food and even eat in my tent. Although I know that there are plenty of bears out here, from what I've seen they're all pretty small blacks. However, I heard something outside my tent this evening, I banged on the wall and yelled, then looked out the door to see a little ~200lb bear outside. I hurried out of the tent to yell at it and chase it away. Unfortunately it wasn't the least bit scared, just walked slowly, then turned to look at me. Once I finally got him to run off I gathered my food and hung it. I was sure he'd come back that evening so didn't get much sleep, but it didn't return.
On Canada Day I rode into Kenora, explored the town a bit, then met my couchsurfing host, Gail, for the night. The Kenora area is full of lakes both large and small. Just about every vehicle I saw in the last few days carried some sort of boat. Gail is an avid kayaker, so it was fun to learn about the area from her.

Huskey the Muskie in Kenora, ON with rotating art display in front
That evening we went to the neighboring town for the Canada celebration. They had events all day, good live music, and fireworks at night. A family country band played while we were there; Gail and I both called it a night before the fireworks started up.

Keewaiten Canada Day celebration

From Kenora I got the wind at my back and decided I could make it all the way into Winnipeg. It was my first day over 200 km and longest day by far at 131 miles! Right before crossing into Manitoba, I gathered a swarm of flies that stayed with me the whole day. They bit me often and were a huge pain. It was nice to finally have some choice in roads again, I was able to get on quite back roads and away from the traffic and noise. The terrain also quickly flattened out and likely will be dead flat from a long time.
I felt good even though the winds changed and the second half was filled with head and side winds. Having the motivating factors of getting to friends and seeing my mom made the day easy. I arrived at the Kampen's house and was able to settle in before they returned from their days outing. It was wonderful to see my mom and meet longtime friends of my parents.

Art, Nadine and their three children have been making us feel right at home and treating us so well. Art's been getting us ready for a canoe trip, supplying us with not only a route but nearly all the gear. Art and Nadine also took us on a great tour of Winnipeg. It's a beautiful city, full of huge parks and green space, culturally rich, and overall just very impressive. The only bad thing has been the heat. The day we arrived temps rose and the humidity made it nearly unbearable. Fortunately things are cooling down a little.

The Meeting Place at The Forks, a historical landmark in Winnipeg

This was a really neat thing at the Forks. If you stood in the middle you were surrounded by gun sight-type things that would point out a star on a certain day of the year, the stars and stories were described for each one.

Art, Nadine, and my mom

Sea monster in one of the gardens of Winnipeg

My mom and I are leaving this morning for a 5-6 day canoe trip-driving back to the Kenora area. It should be a great time!

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