Friday, July 23, 2004

Thunder Bay to Hanmer : Chloe

10 days straight of riding, one bear, 2 moose and of course bugs, bugs and more bugs, thick traffic with no shoulders on the road and we are out of Northern Ontario!  It really wasn't that bad.

We are now in Hanmer which is about 20 km north of Sudbury taking a much needed rest at my Aunt Leone and Uncle Berns home.  We have been hanging out by there pool in there beautiful oasis of a back yard, drinking beer and trying to figure out what to eat next, we have about 6 choices of meals we could eat for dinner tonight, which sure beats the boiled vegetables and pasta we eat every night.   We have also got to watch a bit of la tour de France, I think the appeal to us, is that its nice to watch someone else work hard biking.

We went from Thunder Bay to about 20 km past Nipigon, where we ducked off the road to camp for the night .  It was about 9pm and we were both reading when Chris herd heavy breathing outside the tent and sat up, I herd a crunch sound like something had stepped in moss.  So Chris, the brave one out of us poked his head out of the tent and saw a little black bear 2 meters from the tent and coming closer.  He yelled and then clapped his hands which scared the bear off.  We got out of the tent and took the air horn off my bike just in case the bear came back, but luckily we did not have a return visitor. 

We biked through the Lake superior National park which was very hilly, but also very beautiful.  We saw some of the nicest scenery around this area.  Just after we left the Park we camped in Batchawana Bay at a camp ground where we made friends with the owner "Dan"  and his girlfriend Ellen.  We stayed up to 1 am talking with them about the local area, and basically the out doors: from ice climbing to canoeing to caving and exploring old mines.  They even gave us beer!  It was so refreshing to talk with them, they just seem to have a special spark for life inside of them that spreads when you spend time with them.

Since we went through Sault Ste Marie the road hasn't been so good.  It is narrow and full of big trucks and lots of traffic with no shoulders.  We have 1 more day of riding on it once we leave Hanmer and then we turn off and follow Manatoulin Island and the Bruce peninsula down to highway 10.  The traffic should then lighten up a fair bit. 

It feels good to have made this much progress through Ontario,  the province isn't quite as threatening as it once was.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Thunder bay

It's taken a little bit to get back into the swing of things. We had an incredible break with the Deans in Kenora, we were treated to good food, a bed, and the chance to paddle for 4 days on beautiful Dryberry lake. The paddling was the nicest treat, we had gotten used to "camping" next to the highway and in R.V. parks and the quiet and solitude we experienced were priceless. After spending a week off our bikes we both knew it was time to start riding again if we wanted to make it to the east coast with any time to spare. We decided to travel Highway 11 south from Kenora towards the US border then across to Thunder bay, it turned out to be theright choice! The traffic was so light it didn't matter if the shoulder was a mess, we just rode on the road. Our first day was a downer for me, shield country is beautiful, but hilly and unrelentingly buggy. If we want to stop we have to find just the right spot so the bugs are "less" bad and when we ride our speed yo-yos constantly between 40kph and 5kph as we weave our way through the shield. Luckily for my moral as soon as we left Kenora we started meeting more and more bicycle tourists like ourselves. We shared camping on our first night with another couple biking across Canada who had traveled more or less the exact route we took! It was great to be able to exchange stories with other bikers, it seems we camped in allot of the same places as well. Our last day on the road before Thunder bay we met 2 more parties of bikers, two men finishing their tour in Thunder bay and two more, a father son team, on their way to the east coast as well. They were moving fast! Averaging over 150km a day, impressive! We're taking two days here and then we'll be off around lake Superior. We've been told that our next leg is the sketchiest of the whole trip, the road along the lake is apparently very windy with little to no shoulder. It should only be for a couple days before we're back on safe roads again!

Northern Ontario: the land of Trees,Moose, Mosquito's, and lots of bugs that want to eat me: Chloe

My shiner is gone and there is not much trace of my accident left, although I now ride over railway crossing with a bit of apprehension, tightly gripping the handle bars.

We are definitely in bug country. We had a couple of bad nights where the mosquito's were really pesky but the worst was when we camped at Falcon lake which is on the Manitoba/ Ontario border. We pulled into the camp site hot and sweaty after riding a 140 km day to be welcomed by hundreds of swarming mosquito's. We had to take turns cooking. One of us would sit in the tent while the other watched dinner then we would switch off. That was so unpleasant, but luckily they haven't been that bad since, we eat dinner in the tent most nights, but my idea of being eaten alive by mosquito's has a whole new meaning. I have also had the chance to experience black flies, they don't touch Chris but they eat me alive. I have to say that I personally think the black flies are the worst bugs we've encountered, they seem a little smarter than mosquito's, they go straight for my neck and behind my ears, and they leave the itchyest bites.

This is my first time in shield country. I like all of the rock and trees, it is so different from the rest of Canada. When we went canoeing near Kenora we camped on a big clean rock slab the jutted out into the lake. It was definitely one of the nicest places I have ever gotten camp.

We have started running into other bike tourists now that there is a choice of 2 highways. We have been playing leap frog with another couple (Joanne and Dave) since we left Kenora. Its been so nice to talk to someone who knows what you've gone through to come this far.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Ontario ... the Big One Baby!

Accidents do happen they say, and the odds were against us riding our bikes all day, everyday, for a month on end. After spending our rest day in Souris Manitoba, we took off eager to ride 100 kilometers or more. 10 kilometers out of town we crossed a set of railway tracks that angled across the highway at about a 45 degree angle. I watched from behind as Chloes front tire was caught in the second track and her bike was thrown over onto its side. We were doing about 20-25 kph, in her own words "it happened so fast I was more surprised than anything", she landed on her left side and bounced, first hitting her helmet, then her cheek. As soon as she stopped, she jumped up and ran off the highway, at least I knew she wasn't too badly injured! Chloe got away with a black eye and some bruises. Seems like it didn't affect her riding performance though! Afterwards we rode 110km, 100km, 150km and 90km over 4 days to reach Kenora, Ontario the home base of our friend Jeremy Dean in Canmore.
Our ride over the last stint has been fast, the wind was with us everyday but the first. When we passed through St. Claude, Manitoba, we were spared having to camp next to the high school safe-grad by an incredibly kind couple of bicycle tourist sympathizers who put us up in a bed and fed us breakfast before we left for Winnipeg. We got on the road so early that day that we arrived in Winnipeg around noon that day. We had enough time to go into the city, hit MEC and get the goodies we wanted and walk around enough to get the gist of Winnipeg, nice city! We left the next morning and biked 150 kms to Falcon lake, the beginning of the Canadian Shield!! It's so exciting to have some new terrain, it's not flat anymore, and there are trees! Fabulous trees! Ones that grow in a forest, not in a perfect horeshoe around the farm house. There's granite about as well, piles of it, everywhere, all around us and for the next little while I'm sure .... It's all very exciting. Right now we're about to celebrate Canada day in Kenora and head out on a four day canoe trip tomorrow morning! Wish us clear skies and waters!