Stuck at the library. It was inevitable but G's tire is finally done and no stores for miles around. Closest "big town" of Timmins, pop. 50,000 - has nothing for us. Looking at trying to get one shipped from Thunder Bay. As options go this one's a pickle..It just might be bus time.
July 27 (today!)
Wake up early, prescribed rain. 5am but our loaf of bread is missing. Maybe bears. We wait out a storm for an hour then start off before and as the torrents return. We paddle our way into Tim Horton's hometown as I get another flat (it's now 8-6 for me) - thankfully I limp into the gas station. Right now I'm writing these words in the Cochrane library and we've got a short trip to go after a long lunch in front of the supermarket.
Attention home invaders: Hanging out in front of a supermarket your best option, about 3 or 4 different people approached us to ask if we needed a place to eat, stay or wash up in an hour.
We figured out that the trip could be over by Aug 17 - but there's no ferries that leave so instead it will be St John's on Aug 21, giving me about 12 hrs to ship everything home before jumping on a plane to NYC.// Life is good.
July 28 (yesterday)
Up at 6am, Gerald makes us French toast. Ha. Its funny these two don't miss a beat if they miss an English word. Finally we say goodbye, head past Curt's hometown of Kapuskasing and into Smooth Rock Falls. G + I talk about teachers, basketball, and the apparently dedicated scholarship in law students compared to those in med.... usually we don't talk that much on the ride so time flies and we're in Smooth Rock Falls by 1pm. Pass out and hang around there for a ridiculous 6 hours maybe, the gas attendant who arrived after we did is already off shift. A jumbo poutine later we push 1 more hour to Driftwood. Every day recently we seem to hit 130-150km pretty easily due to early starts.
Day 39 (???) - (more delightful Frenchies)
I realize that my calendar is completely off and I've lost a few days. Beautiful sunrise ride at 6am makes for a complete day by 11am into francophone Hearst (pop. 3,000?) , ON beating the heat. No dehydration here. All signs in French. Bilingualism at its conceived perfection. Poutine and we meet the outgoing Gerald + Julie who offer to put us up in nearby Matise for the night. We meet a creepy but lonely old guy in McDicks, and G asks him for directions to the lake (which we already know).
The old guy offers to show us the way but we politely decline, then he follows us anyway. Lots of kids by the 'beach' across from the airport. Nice though before a bear wanders in and the old guy scrams. In Thunder Bay, the biggest town in Western Ontario, TH donuts are 80 cents but here they are 85. Is the local dependency on frosted pastry that much greater? G spills his Ice frap, and echo of my TB experience. Myths of infinite recurrence..
Late in the day we push the more difficult 50km past Hearst towards Gerard and Julie's place, but get lost on a side road into a huge gravel patch that backtracks as far as the eye can see. Cursing we trudge the 5km hills before the gravel ends and forest swamp begins. My bike flips over a ditch and G finally informs me that we are obviously lost.
We do get there eventually, finding a scenic log cabin spread out over Shallow Lake. Inside our hosts force beers into our hands and engage in some wonderfully friendly conversation. Fed steaks and plenty of wine. An introduction to creme de menthe. This couple (like most people we met on this trip!) is too good to be true. Unfortunately we can't stay an extra day although they're more than game to chat and host the night away... so we put up in their comfy trailer, the best 5hr sleep of my life.
Day 38 (the gauntlet is run)
Sharing a tent makes for hot sweaty nights. We meet Frank again in the morning before pulling away. The 215km stretch of b/w Nipigon and Longlac awaits - we planned to overlap/split it into 2 days with plenty of water. We continue on, looking for the 'gas station' - last stop before nothingness. But it's abandoned. I hook up a trailer hose and drink water til delerium, but 2 hours later low on water again. Just 7L of water for 190km between 2 of us and sweating maybe 1L/hr in sweltering conditions.
All the rivers are red and still - teeming with mosquitoes. Then we hit a 20km stretch of 1-lane gravel construction through the hills. I get rolled off the road by a semi. But the mud stretches are refreshing. Probably the most difficult stretch since BC since we're both dehydrated and desperate. Running out of day, we check one of the highway gravel silos for water. Nope. Then an abandoned campground complete w/ church. Nada. But I see a bridge running over a red river.
After 180km finally we pass a group of buildings, forlorn and isolated - an old cabin retreat. I try out the red mosquito-bed river. Looks horrid, tastes OK. We find a cabin to crash inside and plan a pre-dawn getaway (120km to civilization), and the teabags I find inside a cupboard help mask the river water. How poor Frank will do his planned 215km in one day we don't know.
Day 37 (its hot~)
We come across Frank, an old cyclist from Ottawa pulling a 70lbs trailer. Stop in Beardmore for a Freezie. Pass Frank again. Find a lake for a dip. A fish bites Goran and we try to catch them by ing them with stones. 185km today and my butt is . BUT the 11 highway through north Ontario is much flatter and quieter = faster riding. Camp out behind an old gold mine near Geraldton.
Day 36 - July 22
Wake late and everyone's at church. By the time we're ready they're back and drive us out to Terry Fox Memorial (he stopped his run just outside TB) - taken by cancer at 22 years of age. Last photos and off, but past Dorion it gets stormy and we take shelter underneath a stationed semi-trailer for 3 hrs. I eat raisins and read.
Day 35 - July 21
Get to meet Cheryl + Tim, Matthew's parents - Cut drives us 'downtown' to a couple bike shops for spare tubes (I find out on July 29 they are the wrong ones again, but more $$) and we go to the Dragonboat Festival where the entire town is partying. Back to the house for homemade burgers and Kill Bill 1 + 2.
Wake up literally in the bush off a dirt road. Stole G's toque for a pillow so he froze. 42kmt into a little diner in Upsala where I was lectured by the manager in front of several customers for filling up my water. Funny. Go for broke, 130km more to Thunder Bay (pop. a dwindling 110,000) among hills. I keep losing my balance into the gravel. Reach TB tired and meet a kind young father named Amin who tells us about his Osoyoos to Coquitlam ride (a difficult ride that way) - he buys us coffee and donuts. Picked up by G's family friend Janet and entertained by their Pokemon-obsessed grandson Matthew late until Janet's husband Curt arrives home.
Day 33 (back on the road)
27 biking days left. I sleep great in a double bed and we get up early to finish the Nutella sent by SJ. Pack leftover BBQ chicken sandwiches and exchange the Vonnegut for a Richler. Good weather to leave, hoping to do 170 each of the next 2 days. No shoulder though, and now only 2 lane highway. Semis of all kinds dance inappropriately close to us - we pass a Taiwanese guy biking to NYC who speaks no English.
In solitary hills, during mid-30 heat, he wears a FUBU hoodie and fat skater shoes.
Day 32 - July 18 (Ah Kong's Birthday!)
I am embarassed not to remember how old though. There is something about sitting her on an open deck overlooking a breathtaking view, pondering a GQ article on genocide at 830am over my 2nd Keiths - while G makes eggs and hashbrowns. Is this symbolic of everything well intentioned but wrong with the First World? This is too heavy so I skip over the article, the next piece is on a white barber who speciazlies in black hair, suitably trivial.
Barb and Mike come out from Dryden to make us a splendid meal that once again defies the physical boundaries of my stomach.
Day 31 - July 17 (summer vacation)
9am start, a good sign considering a halfday to Dryden to stay with Melissa Hamilton's brother. G's knee is flaring up again. Of course as soon as he stops his tube pops out... it slowly expands, then pops with a that echoes through the hills. His 4th flat, 2nd explosion. I've also ripped the brand new MEC compression sack, our gypsydom is overwhelming.
We pass a 'Cop for Cancer' rider and his infant kid, he's training for the Penticton Ironman - 3.4km swim, 180km cycle, 40km run (marathon). Yeesh.
About 10km after Dryden we find the McCauley cabin, meet Mike and his son AJ on beautiful Thunder Lake. Mike offers to take us waterskiing, like an idiot I accept - forgetting my ly allergy to water. After 5 ridiculous half-drownings I catch on for a pretty sweet ride. Waiting for us in the cabin is a goodie basket from the wondrous SJ and a fully stocked house to supply the Canadian Armed Forces. Chips and Nachos and Spaghetti and Nutella and Butter Tarts, Frozen Lollipops and Pizza for breakfast. My chinup ability is halved.
Day 30 - July 16
Awake in Falcon Lake and friendly church volunteers let us wash up. On the move and into Ontario, where the hills are reminiscent of mini-BC - short quick climbs. Into Kenora, a waterfront town much like Hope - of course I bust another flat waiting for G. That makes 7 for me. Run out of daylight so we stop before Vermilion Bay, I see a bear stumble across the road by our truck stop/diner campout. Lots of potentially fashionable trucker hats at what used to be a hunter/fisher hangout, and brown water.
Wake late but in any case G's bike pulls another flat coming out of the garage. I have one of those unpleasant dreams people get when leaving a place they'd like to stay. We finally hit road at 1230 fuelled by peanut butter sandwiches, ten run into an old couple from Victoria (John + Joan) biking to NS. They used to live in Dartmouth, where we'll be staying with my grandaunt.
She's maybe Chinese. What gives people the right to ask perfect strangers their ethnicity? And what they are studying? A joke about English not being practical, how did my parents ever let me study that? He means well and apologizes but I'm not offended (just on principle of PC-ness) until I think about it later. 150km into Falcon Beach (Lake?) - pretty sure this is where that Canadian OC show is located. Serene sandwiches and Slapstick on a pier for me... sweet.
Day 28 - July 14
'Persuaded' by Richard to stay another day in Winnipeg - we do. Take the Jeep out in the rain (good call on a rest day) to the Forks, where Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet. Imagine a poor man's Granville Island. The walkway is flooded and there's a high school benefit concert in the plaza, pretty genuine indie kids. We head north to check out the oldest Anglican church in Canada and Fort St. Garry, complete with 18th century costumed actors in the village. A quick, free (we like this) tour because they're closing. Perogies and roast chicken and strawberries with whip cream are our sendoff dinner.
We pretend to burn some calories around at a school hoop several inches too high - nothing like it to make you feel like a talentless 8 year old again.