Day 19: 157 km. Same old shit. Cloudy and cold. Shortly after the start Mr. Iik stops at Esso restaurant for the usual dose of breakfast and coffee. He notices that an elderly lady from the table nearby is particularly interested at him. As she is leaving, she comes over for a chat and when she learns that he is cycling from coast to coast, she can't hesitate to finally ask:
'But why are you doing it?'
The promised road in Ontario.
'So that I can brag about that I didi it', Iik answers and the lady seems satisfied with that. Although, as we know, it is not the only reason.
The road to the border with Ontario is a mix of excellent wide stretches and parts which are hopelessly beaten up and patched over and over again. Right on the Ontario border, however, a shock: road works and gravel. Fortunately it doesn't last long, after 15 km there is wide paved shoulder which looks promising. The scenery is excellent, there are thousand little lakes and rocks along the road. The road is waving up and down, but not excessively, so with a bit of standing on pedals on up hills and aerodynamic posture on down hills Mr. Iik manages to master the road and even enjoys it. In fact, he finds himself regretting that the whole thing will be over in about 20 days.

A butterfly on a motel door.
Day 20: 207 km. The usual day, overcast at the start, then clearer. After Dryden the paved shoulder vanished. The conditions now are worse then on shoulder-less Manitoba sections because it's the two-way road here with just one lane in each direction. When two trucks meet, there is no room for a cyclist on the road. And there are a lot of trucks, almost every second vehicle is a truck. Iik meets another cyclist, a 66-year old Canadian from Quebec, doing the Trans-Canada coats-to-coats. He is an inspiration for Mr. Iik's future trips: it means he has at least 15 more years to improve cycle touring to perfection. After arriving in Ignace Iik finds a mosquito-infested wild camping spot. These kind of camps are good for breaking the speed record of setting up a tent.

66 and still going strong.
Day 21: 225 km. The hills are getting steeper and longer. It's no longer possible to get over the hill using the momentum from the previous downhill. Soon Mr. Iik will have to use the granny gear. He meets again the Canadian cyclist from yesterday. They cycle together for a while and exchange a few words in French. The Canadian stops at Upsala and Iik carries on until Kakabeca falls, some 30 km before Thunder Bay.

Day 22: 150 km. There was a 'No camping' sign at the rest area where Mr. Iik spent the night. He left the area early, making it the earliest start so far at 6:30, leaving no trace. Soon he is in Thunder Bay and even sooner out of it, on the memorial site of Terry Fox.
Terry Fox memorial.
A few kilometers later he sees a sign for a hostel just a km away and decides to go and check what kind of facilities these things have to offer. He finds a great place and is a bit sorry that it is so early in the day and he can not stay. There he meets another cyclist going in the opposite direction (as usual Iik forgot his name). The cyclist had just prepared the soup and he invites Mr. Iik to join him. He has some interesting stories to tell: last night a black bear came to his tent which was just outside on the hostel's lawn and the day before he got trapped between two trucks passing him, had to evade into the gravel shoulder, had crashed, bent the handlebar and trashed the wheel. Mr. Iik doesn't find this too surprising, given the conditions on Ontario roads. But, he notes the warning and will be more careful, more so as he now knows that such roads are to be expected at least up until the border with USA. In the hostel he meets also a pair of his country mates, two Slovenians traveling around the world.

Day 23: 194 km. As Mr. Iik looks at his image in the mirror in the motel room in Nipignon that morning, he realizes that he had lost quite some weight. Must be around 5 kg or 7 % of his normal body weight. The 'michelins' are certainly gone, so he might as well end the trip right now. He had benefited from the weight loss, if not earlier, then right this day, as immediately as he leaves Nipignon big roller-coaster hills start and last up to the end of the day ride at Marathon. Most of the day the road is rather peaceful with little traffic and at times Mr. Iik feels like a pioneer settler from centuries ago wandering through vast North American wilderness.
There are few views of Lake Superior and once the road descends right to the shore of it. Mr. Iik uses the opportunity to refresh in the cold water and rests a bit laying on the big rocks on the lake shore. These rock are much older then him and he feels a certain respect to the experience and knowledge that the rocks accumulated over the millions of years. They might have been deep down under the water some time in their life and maybe buried hundred of meters in mud. He envies them that they do not suffer the cold, they are indifferent to being wet and they do not hide from mosquitoes in the tent at night but gaze at the stars instead. He decides to take two stones with him. A hard decision to make for an ultralight fanatic as he is (he later weighed them: 202 g and 134 g). But he will take them home, to comfort him in the times of darkness, to observe them and to learn the truth and to become as wise and peaceful as the rocks of Lake Superior.
On the rocks of Lake Superior.
In Marathon Iik has a bit of a problem to find a campground. A lady who was walking her dog helps him and describes the way to the campground in such accurate detail as if she was walking that road every day for the last 50 years. She was also picking litter from the road that obviously she didn't throw away. A litter hero maybe? Mr. Iik wouldn't be surprised to find a stone in her pocket.

Day 24: 173 km. A misty morning. Then a rain. Another day of changing back and forth from rain jacket and pants to tyvec suit. Almost until the end of the day the rain was light, so a tyvec suit worked quite good: enough protection from the rain and great ventilation so that you don't cook up from the inside. After all, this is a suit of size XXXL, cyclist sometimes fells like a balloon, but at least he is well ventilated. And then at the end of the day as Mr. Iik approached his destination at Wawa, the Rain God considers that he wasn't suffering enough today and sends him another storm that soaks everything he has on. Wet Iik stops at a motel 15 km before Wawa, orders a pizza, has a bath, turns on heating, changes the tube (he had a strange puncture in the middle of the day with such a slow leak that he made 70 km with one re-pumping), prepares coffee and looks on the forecast on TV: cyclone is twisting endlessly around Great Lakes and we are looking at another week of thunderstorms.

A shot made few minutes before the encounter with a bear.
Day 25: 160 km. Before leaving the motel in the morning Mr. Iik has to fend off the owner's hyper active young dog. The dog leaps on him and on his bike and while trying to fend it off Iik wounds his leg by hitting the pedal. Not long after that he meets another animal - the black bear. The bear slowly crossed the road and then vanished in the forest - at least it seemed so. Mr. Iik gave it a few minutes to disappear, but as he rode on, he met the bear just a few meters from the edge of the road. When the bear heard him, it run away into the woods. This greatly increased Iik's self-confidence. After all, the bears are afraid of him! He used to sing or shout to acquaint the bears of his presence, but from now on he was silent, impatiently expecting another animal encounter.
In Wawa he stops for a coffee and doughnuts and there he decides to change the route. Instead of following #17 south along the Great Lakes, he will turn north on the road #101 and make a detour through Timmins. He hopes to avoid the forecasted cyclone and rain, or at least a part of it. From the start it seems like a great decision; the road is smooth, the traffic minimal, the clouds are disappearing and the sun starts to shine.
The lack of traffic brings wildlife closer to the road. He sees two cranes, some kind of partridge with a crest on its head, a fox and a strange black creature the size of a big cat with long fat tail (a wolverine maybe?). There is also a bird who sings similarly to the refrain 'We all live in a yellow submarine'. This becomes a hit of the tour, especially the beginning 'In the toooown, where I was boooorn, lived a maaaaan, who sailed the seeeeeas', as this is all Mr. Iik can remember from the song.
OK, not everything was so cheerful. There was a section of road works with bad road and at the end of the day, again just 3 km from the destination at Chapleau, he was again caught in the storm and was soaked for the #5 time.

Day 26: 206 km. We don't believe everything we hear, do we? So why should we believe weather forecasts? For example, today was totally different from predicted. In the morning it was foggy, but it was soon clear that there were clear skies above. And so it was all the way to Timmins where, for once, Iik manages to dodge the storm and retreat in the motel on time.
The road was so-so. 50 % of the time there are cracks in the road, the whole width of it. The worse thing about them is that they come at regular intervals, roughly every 10 meters and every 10 meters you get a kick in the butt. It's like Chinese torture.

Day 27: 163 km. The riding pattern is now all too predictable. You ride all day, 160 km (100 miles) or more and then 1 km before the finish the rain hits you and you are completely wet.

Day's end.
Day 28: 120 km. Mr. Iik was complaining yesterday about predictable riding and rain pattern. Well, today it was not. It started raining right from the morning and he was soaked several times that day, not only in the finish line. The best strategy is just to grin and bear it. As he arrives in Temangami, and stops for a sandwich, he already dried. 20 km further he checks in a cottage at the shore of Angus Lake and takes a ride in a canoe.
Yes, such is the life of a cyclist. In the morning he was dripping wet, the passing trucks spraying him as much as his own wheels, he was cursing everything and everybody, and in the evening he is now sitting on veranda overlooking the lake, sipping a cold beer and smelling the sweet smell coming from the kitchen where he prepares enormous pasta dinner.

Day 29: 187 km. Mr. Iik cooks the rest of the pasta for breakfast. He ate the whole 450 g package of spaghetti. Some say this is not possible, but they are bitterly wrong. Not only that, he soon stops at the next petrol station for another breakfast and caffeine stimulation. A few last mornings he feels a certain tiredness and he needs the dope. Why is he tired? He is cycling for 29 days now without the rest and should be well accustomed to the rhythm. In North Bay he continues his eating orgy and devours 600 grams of yoghurt right at the exit of Wal Mart and then immediately goes to Tim Horton's to have his daily fill of chocolate and maple dipped doughnuts. The tailwind blows him off for 50 km to Mattawa, where he is hungry again and comforts himself with a collection of muffins, brownies and sneekers bars. In Deux Rivieres he runs out of imagination and buys just a pepsi.
He finds camping space in the rest area 5 km down the road. There was the biggest convention of mosquitoes so far. If someone had seen him putting up his tent, one would conclude that he is the most accomplished break dancer. In the night he had to go out to the bathroom. A couple of mosquitoes took advantage of it and sneaked into his tent and they all had a buzzing party for the rest of the night.

Day 30: 142 km. In the morning Mr. Iik can't believe his eyes: there were about 20 mosquitoes sitting inside his tent walls. He kills them all. Others are still hanging outside the net. He is quick to put his tent down. With 5 minutes he probably sets the new world record.
It was a hard day today: tiredness, bad wind, bad road and lot of traffic. He stops in Cobden for n-th coffee and doesn't feel too much desire to continue. He meets Dan, another cyclist, outside the petrol station. Dan is traveling on a single speed bike, on a very tight budget, sleeping always outdoors and once in a week in a campground where he washes off a week's sweat and dirt. Mr. Iik is shocked to hear that Dan sleeps without the tent, just with a sleeping bag. After last night's experience Iik can't understand how that could be possible.

Before the Parlament.
Day 31: 171 km. It rained throughout the morning. Iik didn't bother to put his rain gear on. He was in his wind breaker jacket, got wet, but was not particularly upset, as he knew from experience that he will dry out at the end of the day. Soon after Cobden he takes the side road and decides to ride on the Quebec side to Ottawa. But in Chenaux the people from a petrol station tell him that it is a very busy and narrow road so he chooses to follow #1 along the Ottawa river, but on Ontario side. It is a peaceful road, even more so because there were some detours due to road works that took him through some even minor roads. He comes to Ottawa on a busy #49, but it has a wide shoulder and even a cyclists lane. Across the street he sees Dan, who cycles in opposite direction without the luggage. He needs an hour and a half to get to Ottawa center and another hour to get out of the town. It is already night when he finds a motel.

No comments:

Post a Comment