Sunday, July 31, 2011
We ended up going a bit further than planned today due to a lack of suitable camping. Our original plan was to camp just outside of Napanee at roughly 110 km. However from there, we hit solid development and farmland for the next thirty km. Finally we found a quiet corner just outside of Kingston to pop the tent.
The advantage to this is we've cut tomorrow's ride to Brockville to approximately 90 km. It's one of the few stretches this far from Toronto that we've biked before and it will be a treat to really be able to take our time on such a beautiful stretch.
As we found our way into camp fairly late tonight I'll keep this short, but we'll close by thanking Steph Colville for having us for cheesecake on such short notice and Sean we'll catch you in the Fall. Brockville here we come.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Nevertheless, the riding becomes strikingly more relaxed and expedient around Newcastle, as highway 2 moves into more rural areas. The Oshawa/Newcastle to Cobourg ride is one we've done a few times, including this past spring as we were preparing for our trip. Repeat routes tend to serve as a barometer of our progress. Happily we found today's ride much easier than before we left, despite that the bikes have put on far too many pounds in the last few months!
Tonight we're cozied up at my sister Tanya's house. Unfortunately, she's away at a wedding so we miss out on seeing her, our two nephews (Dylan and Izaak), and niece (Maiah). Dylan turns ten on Tuesday so we are disappointed to miss that celebration (happy birthday to Dylan!); we will have to ride back to see them in September. Even though we can't visit with Tanya she has left the house at our disposal and Daisy (the dog) for our amusement.
Friday, July 29, 2011
After our exciting day, our remaining time in Toronto has been spent visiting with great friends and enjoying our beautiful temporary home. It's going to be tough to roll away from people we love (and also to move back into the tent) but this break in Toronto has been just what we needed to propel us into the next 3400km. Thank you to everyone for your support, friendship, and company. We hope you will stay with us as we continue toward Newfoundland!
time. Since Vancouver, making sure we would be in Toronto for today's
events was a constant motivator.
From day one, the plan has always been to use today to host a mid-way
rally to build support for the ride. However, as the day crept closer
it grew in importance to what we've been trying to do over the last
For starters, at long last, we can announce that Tridel has stepped up
to donate three dollars per kilometer to the ride. With a planned
total of 8,000 km that's a potential donation of $24,000 dollars.
Factoring in the distance we've covered to date our total donations
have now surpassed our original goal of $16,000 for a grand total of
$19,239. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and thank you
again to Tridel for their generous support of the Cardiac Health
Foundation of Canada.
Our day started at the Toronto Western Hospital where I began my time
in cardiac rehab over five years ago. It was the first time I'd been
back in a long time and it was a real treat to visit with current
patients and staff members Margaret and Tanya, both of whom helped me
get back on my feet after my own surgery in 2006. We had an
incredible turnout of current participants in the program and we were
given a wonderfully warm reception by all who attended. We would also
like to thank Dr. Caroline Chessex and head of cardiology at UHN, Gary
Newton, for their attendance and kind words. Once again, thank you to
the Western Hospital and the University Health network for making us
feel so at home.
Next we took a quick 10 km ride to the Toronto Rehab Institute where
we were honored to be given the opportunity to tell our story
alongside such esteemed guests as: The Medical Director of Cardiac
Rehibilitation and secondary prevention program at both Toronto Rehab
and UHN, Dr. Paul Oh; Tridel President and President of the Cardiac
Health Foundation of Canada, Leo DelZotto; The Honorable Kathleen
Wynne, Ontario Transportation Minister and MPP for Don Vally West;
Norm King of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and lastly Dr. Terence
Kavanagh the father of cardiac rehab and an innovator in the use of
activity for the treatment of patients after cardiac episodes.
Lastly we would like to take this opportunity to thank Barbara Kennedy
and Christina Mellos of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada for
their tireless work on this campaign. Their coordination with rehab
centres across the country and planning of the events that we were so
honoured to participate in today are just two of the most visible
outcomes of their ongoing work. We are so grateful for everything
you've done to date and for everything that is yet to come. Thanks
for giving us the ride of our lives.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Vanessa and I subletted our apartment for the duration of the trip and until recently we assumed we would be couch surfing in Toronto. Luckily for us, Tridel stepped in and has generously given us an extremely comfortable "DelSuite" to spend the next three nights. Our temporary home is a fully furnished and equipped condo on the 15th floor of The James Cooper Mansion. My only complaint is that this gorgeous suite might raise our living standards to an unsustainable level upon our return from this trip. So thank you again to Delsuites.
Mostly today was spent preparing for the month to come. Vanessa and I split up to pick up supplies and run small errands like haircuts and groceries. We wrapped up the day with a lovely dinner at my sister's place with my parents and some close relatives.
Tomorrow is a big day for us. First thing in the morning we're heading to the Toronto Western Hospital to meet with a class, media and participate in a few events. Following that we're heading to the Toronto Rehab Institute for 2:00pm for the "Ride for Rehab" rally, at the address below:
Location: Toronto Rehab Institute Track
347 Rumsey Road
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
This morning we visited with a group of cardiac rehab members and toured the facilities at the Southlake Regional Health Centre. Alex shared some of his post-surgical stories and we were able to learn about other's experiences. Our warm welcome was facilitated by Terry Fair and the rest of the incredible staff at the centre who presented a cake in honour of the ride. We enjoyed the refreshments while chatting with the great group of current rehab program participants.
After class it was time to head south into Toronto. We took Bayview Avenue, which seems to degrade drastically upon entering Toronto city limits --watch out for gaping pits on the road! Traffic was also unfriendly so once we hit Lawrence Avenue we diverted onto residential streets for the rest of our ride to east Danforth. Because we entered the city early to avoid rush hour we had a few hours to recuperate before meeting my brother at the end of his work day. We spent that time eating spicy fries at a local pub before reaching Brandon yet again (this time the fraternal as opposed to the city kind). My other brother, Adam, also came over for dinner and we managed to sneak in a quick visit with Baaba, Brandon's wonderful wife, before she had to leave for a work event.
We've had a fabulous evening catching up over Thai food and recounting the last two months. Thanks everyone for making us feel so at home!
Monday, July 25, 2011
I should clarify that along with my father and brother in-law, my mother came along as a cheerleader for our ride yesterday from Owen Sound. Once again, so strange to be so close that a visit like that was possible.
Today was a surprisingly fun ride, but not one I would necessarily recommend. Southern Ontario has some beautiful landscape, but when you ride primarily on highways with questionable curbs they can be hard to enjoy. We flew through the seventy-five kilometers we covered today, but really had to focus on the conditions of the road and the traffic moving around us.
Tonight we're resting up and looking forward to a visit with a cardiac rehab class tomorrow morning led through the Southlake Regional Health Centre. We would also like to thank Terry Fair for organizing our visit to Newmarket. Terry we're looking forward to meeting you tomorrow morning!
Sunday, July 24, 2011
We had some extra travelling companions today. Alex's father, Luther, and brother in law, Darren, came up to ride with us from Owen Sound to Shelburne. The four of us started out on backroads east of highway 10. We meandered along with little traffic but we hit some long, steep hills that Alex and I would have rather missed. As our loaded packs slowed us to a crawl, Darren and Luther climbed ahead with fresh energy. Eventually, we came out at the highway and met with gentler grades but also many more vehicles and much less riding space.
By the time we arrived in Markdale for lunch, Luther was fed up with the traffic and suggested we get off highway 10 and onto the east back line. Having built up a tolerance for near death experiences, Alex and I were more concerned about the steeper grades and risk of gravel we'd find on the back roads (when carrying 70+ pounds on the bike, both of those things are painful and potentially impassable).
After travelling together for another 10km to Flesherton, the already narrow shoulder on highway 10 started to crumble so Darren and Luther opted to try for more relaxed riding on the back line. Alex and I suggested they call us if it turns out their road was a dream but we kept to the highway. The shoulder returned sporadically for the rest of the ride to Shelburne but it was definitely close quarters on the road.
When we reached the town, Alex and I sat to gorge on granola and fresh Ontario berries while waiting for Darren and Luther to arrive. When they rolled up, Luther proclaimed we each had taken the right route. It turns out they hit more climbs on mostly gravel roads but were happy to have missed the speedway. Since we can't 'do' gravel, we were relieved to learn we hadn't separated the group without due cause. In the end the two had completed a great 108km ride when we left them to drive home as we moved on to find camping for the night.
Tomorrow we have a short ride to Newmarket where we have a Cardiac Rehab event on Tuesday morning. After that we're onto Toronto!
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Vanessa and I could hear at least two outside our tent (we think maybe three) all of which were curious enough to brush up on the tent and stick their muzzles under the vestibule. They came and went over the course of the next three hours and kept Vanessa and I huddled together with a flashlight and a pocket knife for a large portion of the early morning.
At first we took a strategy of absolute silence. No light, no sound. Once we realized they were sticking around, we wanted to try a different tactic, but were unsure of the approach to take: Should we yell, bang pots, play music, flash lights? At this point with one of the bears sniffing at the base of the tent we got the idea to google it. We are truly products of the digital age.
After surfing a few useless chatrooms we found a government of Virginia site that recommended speaking in a loud monotone voice and producing as much light as you can. I now have a bone to pick with Virginia as this seemed to do nothing but peak their interest. This is when we remembered my fox forty whistle. I don't think they were afraid of it, but having it blown in their ear seemed to be enough to at least put them off.
After an hour or two and a few separate visits they lumbered off, and after a few hours more, we got a touch of sleep. After a light nap interrupted occasionally by howling coyotes, we awoke and were relieved to find that the food packs we hung were intact and our gear was basically unharmed.
Once we finally got underway we had a fairly relaxed day. The ride was flat, scenic and we were treated to a wonderful detour for the last 30 km through country roads. Getting off highway is something we've rarely had a chance to do on this trip.
Something I forgot to put on the blog day of, was that we finally suffered our first flat a few days back after I ran over a staple. Since then I've had recurring flats, the third of which happened about 20 km out of Owen Sound. I'm still not sure whether they're a result of injury to the tire or from the replacement tubes being banged around for the last two months in our panniers, but they're really starting to become a hassle. One of our hosts this evening, Maria, suggested that the high heat on the unused tubes could have been weakening them over time. Whatever the problem, I'm hoping that today's flat is our last. Each one sidelines us for about an hour.
Friday, July 22, 2011
In the morning we packed up and found our way to a public access beach and chatted with a local resident about our trip and his suggestions for the Bruce Peninsula. We spent a few hours rotating between the lake and the sand before taking in a double lunch. By late afternoon we were ready to push out of Tobermory and we found where we should have camped yesterday. Maple Ridge campground at Miller Lake is about 30km south of Tobermory, off highway 6, and provides ample space for a bicyclist to have a quiet night and a shower.
As you know, Alex has been hard at work in his quest to develop a mosquito deterrent. Today's photo documents his latest attempt to ward off bites while eating. Note, we are in the middle of an intense heatwave and we are both wearing fleeces. Alex added his bike helmet into the mix for added protection.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
> There, thanks to the Owen Sound Transportation Company we picked up our donated passes and boarded the Chi-Cheemaun to Tobermory. An
> air-conditioned lounge was a much nicer place to spend a record breaking heat day than on the highway. I have some great childhood memories of the ferry to Manitoulin Island and it was nice to reflect on them during the ride.
> We arrived to a much busier Tobermory than we expected. We
> grabbed what seems to be the last campsite in town and are spending
> the evening in a packed campground. We were planning to spend the following day here but are now thinking we'll press on to a more quite locale between here and Owen Sound for tomorrow night.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Regardless, rest days always give us the chance to take pause and reflect on what we're doing. As much as the trip has settled into our daily routine, now that we're more than halfway through we find it hard to actually grasp that we have just cycled from BC to here. Along the way we've been surprised by how many people are shocked or worried about the fact we are self-supported, without a vehicle aid. For us, the opportunity to exemplify a more sustainable mode of transportation is as much the purpose of our ride as raising awareness and funds for Cardiac Rehab. Adding a motorized vehicle to support our trip would be counter to this goal.
We recognize that for some people a supported tour may be the only feasible way to complete such a trip or that the purpose of another person's ride might be the physical challenge alone. We're not trying to pass judgement on drivers or supported tourers --after all, many of us are at one time or another, drivers. However, for Alex and I, it is important to be self-sufficient cycle tourists and to promote the bicycle as a viable means of transportation and travel.We know it is unrealistic and impractical for most people to create the time for a three month trek, it even seemed inconceivable to us right up until this year. But adding cycling into your daily commute or weekend recreation, as little as once or a few times a week can really add up. As more people take up the bicycle for fun and transportation, it can help reduce traffic and air pollution while improving heart health.
At the same time, we have utilized plane travel to start our trip and will be flying again to return home after we reach St. John's, so our trip isn't exactly carbon neutral. We are also reliant on the road network set up for cars, and ironically, on gas stations for washroom breaks and supplies. Even so, crossing by bicycle allows us to experience and visit innumerable communities up close with a lesser environmental impact than other transportation options. We're not saying everyone needs to travel for hundreds or thousands of kilometres, but just try picking up a bike and see if it can take you where you need to go.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
347 Rumsey Road
Back to the day's events, Vanessa and I have been fiercely debating for days where the magic invisible line that separates North and South Ontario lies. Today when we passed the Tim Horton's / Wendy's combo rest stop at the junction of highway 17 and 6 we think we found our answer. Whether or not we are now in Southern Ontario, it sure does feel a lot like it.
I know I harp on about markers and milestones, but they're one of the things that keep you sane on a trip of this length. If all we had was counting down the approximately 50 days left to St. John's I think we might start to go a bit nutty. With this in mind, today we crossed yet another of our many markers. At Espanola we finally left the Trans-Canada highway we've followed without breaking from Sicamous to the junction we hit earlier today. It felt great to finally leave behind the heavy traffic and atrocious curbs we've battled for the last week or so.
I think Vanessa mentioned yesterday that from here on in we're taking it pretty easy to Toronto. We banked a lot of extra time in case of storms, or equipment failure and ended up not using any of it. So don't be surprised if we have pretty low daily distance totals between here and Toronto.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Then today in the middle of our hot ride to Espanola, we were stranded in Spanish for three hours due to a sudden and wild storm that literally stopped traffic. We took refuge under a motel awning and watched the sky unleash fury on the little town. When the rain lessened we continued onward but the storm was moving faster than our bicycles and caught up to us a few kilometres down the road. Combined with the rough shoulder and heavy traffic, this quickly convinced us to cut our ride short and set up in Massey for the night. In the end it works out to be a better split for tomorrow, which otherwise would have been a very short ride to Little Current, where we have a day-off. We've added in all of our extra rest and half days that need to be taken before Toronto so our pacing for the coming week is very relaxed!
Before signing off I'd like to wish our friends from last night a safe and fun journey. Yesterday we were camped next to Lori, Mary, and Mike from Arizona. They're driving around the great lakes on their way to upstate New York to visit Mary's brother. They don't see much rain at home but they survived the storm in good shape. Mary entertained us during breakfast and we bonded over our shared loathing for mosquitoes. As another thing impeding sleep, I thought I'd share a little tip for anyone else with the same plight. I've always been allergic to mosquito bites (more so than most people), so the itching is not just annoying but can be pretty violent. Afterbite doesn't help at all so I had been up scratching and scarring through the nights. Finally, Alex came up with the idea to try antihistamine: genius! Since taking them my itch intensity has downgraded from ferocious to resistible and I'm a much happier camper. I'm not usually one to drug-push but if venomous bites are preventing you from sleeping or enjoying life activities it might be worth a try. Of course the pills do nothing to decrease the number of bugs that bite you, we're still working on a solution to that one.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
walk in a park, but just as much of Ontario has endured today, we
sweat so much we could have filled a bucket.
By the time we reached site this evening Vanessa and I both looked a
wee bit terrifying and smelled like something close to a CFL locker
Now that we've both showered and feel a bit more human it's easier to
reflect on a few big markers we passed today. The first is obviously
day 50. It boggles the mind to think we've been on the road this
long. In some ways it feels like we left yesterday, but in others
it's starting to feel like we've been going for an immeasurable amount
of time. Another landmark that really helped sink this feeling home
was at 74 km today, we passed the 4000 km mark. Once again this is a
double-edged distinction. We've now covered half of our intended
route, which feels incredible. However that being said, we've only
covered half our route.
The great thing about a trip of this length is that you have time to
really sink into it, refine your skills and let it develop into a
lifestyle. At this point it feels like we could almost go
indefinitely. We now know what works, how to have fun and can keep it
up as long as it takes.
This is a first, but it was so blisteringly hot today we failed to
take a single iphone picture. In place of today's photo, I'm posting
an image of a impromptu disco party Vanessa and I had under an oddly
placed heat lamp in a bathroom we found a few days back. It was hot
in there and it is certainly hot out here.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
The road between Pancake Bay and Sault offered mostly rolling hills and picturesque views but with a few steep rises to keep us alert. All day locals warned about the 'mile long hill' standing between us and the Sault. It turned out to be pretty tame but it always helps to have a legendary climb that doesn't live up to the hype. The worst thing about this hill is that it could be seen from more than a mile away. The best part is that it ended after a mile.
When we rolled into Sault Ste. Marie, we stopped by Velorution, a bike store well known among bike tourists because it offers free onsite camping for cyclists. Because we had arrived early and only 73km into our ride we had already decided to keep going for another 30km once the heat broke after dinner. We did take a look at the store and stopped to use the bathroom facilities, after which we spoke with staff for a few minutes. It was during this conversation that I noticed a stream of (clean) toilet paper hanging out of Alex's shorts. I tried to discreetly wait to alert him privately but totally lost it and burst into hysterics. The cover was blown but I'm pretty sure that the workers at Velorution have seen it all before.
After groceries and waiting for pizzas that we quickly devoured, we made our way out of the city and into Ojibway Park. We've already met some friends at the trailer sites, who offered us cold beverages and good conversation. Now we're settled into our quiet tenting area across from yet another pink hued sunset over the water. Good Night!
Friday, July 15, 2011
We turned back and grabbed a campsite at Pancake Bay Provincial Park and have had a perfect afternoon. Despite that there are over 300 sites, they all seem to be secluded between trees and are very cozy. Directly in front of our site is a twenty foot path that leads directly to the beach and we had a large section of sand to ourselves. Yet again we are without words to describe how spectacular the landscape and lakeshore is here, It looks like a tropical paradise, only much colder. While walking along the sandbar, Alex challenged me to see how far we could get but after two steps he was ready to turn back. Once you get in, the water is very refreshing but a little too chilly to spend hours submerged. Regardless it felt great on this scorcher of a day.
On our shortened ride we also came across another bear, although we're sure we've been passing them constantly without noticing. Today's bear poked it's enormous head out of the bushes, took one look at Alex and ducked back in; maybe it thought better than compete with us for food.
Tonight we'll finally get the rest we've been seeking before heading into the Sault tomorrow.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
As I write this I'm sitting on a bench overlooking Lake Superior and watching the stunning sunset you see above. All day we were treated to panoramic views such as this as we wove our way through the hills of Lake Superior Provincial Park.
I'm always hesitant to say these kind of things because we've experienced such varied landscape to date, but I don't think I've ever seen a place more beautiful than this. Growing up on Lake Ontario I've grown accustomed to the vastness of the great lakes and I often forget just how beautiful they are. The sharp cliffs, wild forests and seemingly unreachable horizons of Superior have reminded me just how truly unique they are.
To try and quantify this statement, I've taken more photos with my SLR in the last two days than I had from the Manitoba / Saskatchewan border to Thunder bay. I've actually stepped away from this post numerous times to grab progressive photos of the sun setting over the lake.
North Ontario has been a total surprise for Vanessa and I. Before the trip we were warned this would be the most challenging and soul crushing part of our journey. What we've found instead are vibrant communities, wonderful people and indescribable wilderness and wildlife (and this is all just from the highway).
All this should be taken with a grain of salt I suppose. Across the country Vanessa and I have been surprised and fascinated by the places we've seen. As a child my family joked about my almost daily habit of declaring that "Today, is the best day, of my whole life". Most days regardless of whether I was playing in a park or defrosting the freezer I would most often find some reason to declare those often repeated words. As we've rode our way across the country, seen what we've seen and met such incredible people day after day, its hard to believe that each day hasn't in fact been, the best day, of our whole lives.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
passing 1000 km pedaled in Ontario alone. This brings our trip total
to date to approximately 3700 km. It's funny to think that 46 days in
and we're still a few days shy of half way.
Today's ride was the first we've had in a while with ideal weather.
Sunny but not too hot, with a smattering of small cumulous clouds for
occasional bits of shade.
For the next two to three days we'll be traveling through Provincial
Parks. Although to date, cell coverage has been much better than
expected, we should probably warn you that it may be a few days before
we can post again.
Also tonight is going to be a shorter post than usual because of a
lovely visit we're having with my cousin Meg. She is working this
summer at a wilderness outfitters on one of the most beautiful pieces
of shoreline I've ever seen. To give you an idea, I've taken more
photos today than I have in total between here and Brandon Manitoba.
Now Vanessa and I are going to attempt to break a terrible habit we've
developed lately of staying up past eleven. More so than anything
else sleep seems to be essential to our enjoyment of this trip and
lately we haven't been doing nearly enough of it.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Now as we're settled into camp at White River it seems as though every cross-Canada bike tourist has found their way into town on the very same night. We've reunited with two guys we met back in Princeton, BC on day four and have finally met Jeremy, who has been following the blog for weeks.
Aside from chance encounters and experiences, there are a few things that make up a typical day for us, at least as far as this lifestyle can be 'typical'. We usually try to keep a schedule of waking up at 6 or 7am and break camp by 8 or 9am. Though the other side of the wake-up is that we should be getting to bed around 10 or 11pm and this is rare. The result is we're getting short on sleep but it's hard when there are so many great people around. So our morning routine involves vowing to get to bed earlier the following night. Next we pull on bike clothes, slather sunscreen (now also bug spray), then pack up the tent. For breakfast we usually have wraps with eggs boiled at dinner to save cooking time but occasionally we'll have oatmeal mixed with peanut butter. Our daily pedaling times tend to vary from 4-6 hours but a few have gone longer. That said, it takes us much more than 4-6 hours to reach our destination. On the road we stop frequently to eat (granola, bananas, baked goods) and my tiny bladder adds at least an hour onto every ride. Lunch is a long 1-2 hour break that takes place anywhere from 11:30-1:30, although sometimes it shifts to accommodate 'second breakfast', or merely becomes 'first lunch'. In any case we like to have half of our daily distance covered by this point or at least fifty kilometres, but of course it doesn't always happen (like when we visit or stop for supplies and hit the road at 11am). We almost always seek out a grocery store on the way into camp to find add-ins for our pasta and treats for the evening. By then it's between 5-7pm and we're ready to set up home for the night as the mosquitoes feast on their slower moving prey *they also attack us while cycling but have to work much harder for it*. With that, I have to save some blood for tomorrow and get in the tent. Good Night!
Monday, July 11, 2011
they're staffed by some of the most lovely people you can find.
We started our day in the Wayfare Inn, where Jillian of the Wilson
Memorial Hospital organized a stay for us that was donated by the
hotel. From there we took a quick ride down from the highway into
Once again, we awoke to ridiculously think fog. Visibility was
constantly about thirty feet as we descended into Marathon.
We weren't the only people affected by the fog. Once arriving at
Wilson Memorial Hospital, we discovered that only one of the usual
class participants had managed to navigate through the haze into the
centre. I can't fault them for being hesitant to venture out. The
fog was enough to give Vanessa and I pause.
The silver lining is that through the Tele-health system, we actually
got to remotely video address the Thunder Bay Rehab Centre over 250 km
Thank you again to Jillian for organizing our stay and inviting us to
meet the staff and at least one of the participants at the centre.
Our two biggest obstacles on this trip are weather and timing. We do
our best to navigate around them, but they're bound to throw us a
curve ball from time to time.
After visiting the centre Vanessa and I meandered down to Pebble
Beach, a beautiful shoreline laced with driftwood timber and coated
with tumbled rock. With the thick fog rolling off the bay it was
quite a sight to see.
Above are photos of our visit to the centre, a slightly blurred shot
of the tele-health system through which we addressed Thunder Bay and
the stunning Pebble Beach. We would love to add a shot of the Wayfare
Inn, but the fog made that basically impossible.
Tomorrow we're moving on to White River and then to Wawa, where we're
hoping to meet up with my lovely cousin Meg.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Our day started with a big breakfast at the B&B before we said our goodbyes to our new Wisconsin friends, Jan and John, who made our stay in Rossport an incredible experience. When we started into the fog we could hardly see ten feet ahead of us and the mist left a dew on our clothing and eyelashes. We seemed to pass in and out of the haze all day as we climbed up steep hills and plunged back toward the lake.
Although there are some sharp grades in this area that compare to what we felt on the mountain passes, just knowing that any one hill will last only a few kilometers (as opposed to seventy) helps motivate us up them. The immediate descents also help erase the memory and burn of the climbs. It's actually really fun riding. To put things in perspective, I will share some trip 'crying data'. Although we didn't release this information at the time of occurrence, neither of us have cried since BC. It's true that growing comfort with the daily distances and stronger cycling abilities contribute but I still think BC is the province with the toughest terrain (so far).
Other than big hills, BC and North Ontario also have black bears in common. We saw another one roadside today but this one was much smaller, did not have cubs and seemed unconcerned with us so we did stop to take a few pictures. I'm not sure if it was camera shy or hungry for foliage but as soon as we were ready to hit the shutter button it hid behind a tree so all we managed to capture was its backside. Later on we also saw a little red fox running down the highway on the opposing shoulder, it was carrying it's dinner and seemed to be in a hurry.
Now we're looking forward to our second indoor sleep in a row! We'll be meeting with a Cardiac Rehab Group at the Wilson Memorial General Hospital here in Marathon and Jillian Cordeiro has coordinated a sponsored stay for us at the Wayfare Inn. We're already freshly showered and are looking forward to a good rest tonight.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
The one reprieve was the absolutely beautiful views of Lake Superior we were treated to throughout the day. Highway 17 hugs the shoreline, rolling through steep climbs and quick descents. Coming into this trip, people warned us that Ontario can rival British Columbia for degree of cycling difficulty, but so far, weather aside, Vanessa and I have found it fairly enjoyable. The scenery is beautiful and unlike the mountain passes in BC, when you climb a hill you very quickly get to roll back down it.
Today had the potential to be one of the more entertaining rides of our trip, but by 5pm dense fog and constant rain had pretty much soaked us to the bone. Looking at the prospect of a cold, wet night in a soaking tent, we made the split second decision to treat ourselves to a Bed and Breakfast in Rossport instead of pushing to the campground just down the road.
We couldn't have made a better decision. As I write this at 9:40pm it's still pouring rain and another couple at the B&B offered for us to join them for dinner in Schreiber and we had a great time getting to know them.
Tomorrow it's off to Marathon where we're planning to visit another rehab centre and spend the day taking in the town.
Friday, July 8, 2011
This morning we woke up to scrambled eggs already prepared by Kaleb who later rode part of the ride for rehab tour as he led us to the Nipigon hospital. While there we had a tour of the rehab facilities and had fun taking pictures of ourselves looking out from the telehealth technology. These sets provide instant connection between Nipigon and other centres, particularly Thunder Bay, which helps share resources, knowledge, and staff time between programs while expanding access for residents living in smaller communities. The Nipigon rehab centre takes in about 25-30 participants annually, which is pretty significant in a town of 1800 residents. This is largely because Steve stays on top of local doctors to make sure heart surgery patients are referred to the program. It's still a struggle, even in larger centres, to increase awareness to the point where referral and registration in rehabilitative programs is automatic. In the meantime it helps to inform the general public about the existence and benefits of cardiac rehabilitation. Before leaving the hospital we had an interview with a reporter for the Nipigon newspaper and made sure to get photos done with Steve and our riding partner, Kaleb.
After our hospital visit Kaleb took us as far as the grocery store before leaving to go to swimming class. We took a few moments to debate what to do with our day, whether to ride into Rossport or stay in Nipigon. Since we have another rehab visit in Marathon on Monday morning and need to arrive there on Sunday night we had a free day to be used between now and then. Upon learning that Rossport doesn't have a grocery store, and that the Nipigon Cafe serves pizza, it was an easy decision to spend another night in this pretty town.
We found our way to camp at the marina and have had a restful day eating cookies and cleaning the bikes. In the process we met Scott, who was on a break in his cycle from Montreal to BC. We were also reunited with two other road friends, Jason and Isabelle, who we met back in Ignace and are on their way to Montreal. You never get lonely on the road!
Thursday, July 7, 2011
fruit, prepared by Vanessa M. and Amy. Any day that starts this way
is bound to be a good one.
After saying our goodbyes and a short ride out of town, we found our
way to the Terry Fox Memorial overlooking The Sleeping Giant on Lake
Superior. A light rain was falling and fog had settled on the lake,
which made the view from the monument even more spectacular.
Vanessa and I aren't often moved by memorials, but you can't help but
feel moved as you wander the grounds surrounding the bronze and
amethyst statue. As we stood by Fox's statue, we struck up a
conversation with a couple who was overseas during the Marathon of
Hope. Shortly after his death they participated in a Terry Fox run in
Holland showing just how far reaching an effect he had.
As we rode out of Thunder Bay we we're treated to some wonderful views
and a solid rain that broke just before lunch. For the rest of the
day we meandered through rolling hills and bright sun until about ten
clicks out of Nipigon. As we crested the hill into town we saw some
alarmingly threatening clouds on the horizon. Fresh from our storm on
Davy lake we decided the last thing we wanted was to be caught in
We pushed ridiculously hard for the last four kilometers and made it
through the door with seconds to spare before torrential rain and hail
began to fall on our freshly tarped bikes.
This evening we have the pleasure of staying with Steve Mangoff and
his wonderful family. There is nothing quite so lovely as lasagna and
good company. Especially when the alternative is a hail soaked night
in a tent. Thank you again to Steve and his family for giving us a
warm bed for the night.
Tomorrow Steve is going to give us a tour of the NIpigon rehab
program. One aspect we're really looking forward to is it's use of
new media. During warm-up and cool-down the class is linked live
through telehealth to Thunder Bay where that aspect of the class is
remotely led. More on this tomorrow, but for for the moment Vanessa
and I are looking forward to a good night's sleep.
Before departing Savanne River we narrowly missed sharing our breakfast with a black bear that had been sniffing around the campground while we were busy packing up the tent. Fortunately, it seemed to be more interested in the fish hut on the grounds than our wraps. And fortunately for the bear, the campground manager said he decided not to shoot it because he didn't want to wake people up -whew, glad it wasn't later in the day!
Our trip into Thunder Bay brought us through some of the most beautiful terrain we've seen. If the roads were safer here, this area of Ontario would get my vote for best cycling in the country. As usual we were subject to a wide assortment of shoulder widths and textures. The shoulder was predominantly about a foot wide along this section of highway, though it often slivered away entirely. However, there were a few points where it broadened out to anywhere from two to eight feet wide. We loved those 'safe zones' but approached them cautiously since we were unsure how long we had before they cut out from beneath us. Future cyclists, however, may be in luck. There is a ton of resurfacing in progress to widen and improve the highway. In the short-term cyclists passing this year must ride gravel for lengthy construction areas with one lane full of trucks and no curb. This is currently the case pretty much from Shabaqua to Thunder Bay. We were getting sore and moving slowly on this bumpy route so we decided to take highway 102 across to the east end of Thunder Bay, which connected back with highway 17 just a few blocks from Amy's door.
Our arrival in Thunder Bay could not have been more fortuitous. We happened to visit Amy's place on the exact same day as Vanessa M, another friend from Toronto, and recurring friend Emily who you may remember from our stay in Regina (although they'll be staying for a few days). It was also a night of celebrating Amy and Guillaume's first overnight in their new home. They've been working on the house for months and we can already see how gorgeous it will be. The house full of guests didn't seem to faze our amazing hosts and we felt a little guilty to be unable to contribute to the wonderful spread. We were happy to be treated to another chef Emily dinner, it's been about 1200km since we had a meal that delicious when she cooked for us in Regina, if only we could convince her to meet us another 1000km down the road ;-).
After a visit from two Thunder Bay firemen who came (truck and all) to inspect the pit in the backyard, we capped off the evening by relaxing around the fire. It was a beautiful night and we're sorry we couldn't stay longer. Thanks for the great hospitality and company you four!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
experiences last night.
Just as we were settling into bed, one of Vanessa's tire valves blew
out without warning. Rain was starting to fall, and I frantically
began tearing the tire off the bike, trying to swap in a fresh tube
before completely losing daylight. After wrestling with the bike for
about ten minutes, the manager of the campground came ripping by in a
truck to warn us a tornado watch had been issued for the area.
Vanessa's tire blowout suddenly made sense. A low pressure zone had
rolled in so suddenly that it overstressed the valve and popped the
tire. By this time the sky was a deep reddy, orange hue and lightning
was starting to blow in from the west.
At this point our focus changed to making sure everything was clamped
down as well as we could manage. Heavy storms are a bit alarming if
all you have is a tent in an open field to protect you. (Being in a
campground was a bit ominous as well.)
Luckily, we seemed to just catch the edge of the storm as the worst of
it passed us to the south. Before it was done, we were treated to a
rainbow on a red sky, with lightning forking across it's arch (I don't
know why I didn't grab my camera).
After our eventful evening, our day was rather pleasant. We rode
through mostly flat to rolling land, passing through logging grounds,
lakes, rivers and the (very) occasional small town.
One odd thing we've been hitting, quite literally, in the last few
days is swarms of bees. At first we thought they were horseflies, but
every time we stopped, without fail there would be a bee wedged onto a
break pad or cable. The troves of wild flowers on the edge of the
highway bring them out in large numbers. The sensation of hitting
them while riding is about the equivalent of having a quarter dropped
on your face from a second story building. So far they seem happy to
buzz around us or land on our sunglasses so we have yet to acquire a
Tomorrow we're rolling into Thunder Bay and are looking forward to
spending an evening with our old friend Amy. After that it's on to
Monday, July 4, 2011
The storm cleared off as we were eating and after some grocery shopping we were back in the heat we've been feeling the past few days. Our afternoon was spent with me in the water and Alex soaking up the sun. We didn't put a dent in our seemingly permanent bike-suit tans but Alex decided to clean himself up a little by shaving off the beard (and the food particles that went with it ;-). We're pretty relaxed after enjoying some lake time and getting to skip riding a twelve-inch shoulder through a thunderstorm.
While I'm onto the topic of shoulders... We know most of our friends likely have little to no interest in ever riding these roads but we also hope the blog can help other people plan their bike trips. This means it's time for a shoulder report. We already commented quite a bit on the routes through BC but we stopped reporting in Alberta as the shoulder was generally pretty good. From Canmore through to Regina highway 1 has large paved shoulders that feel basically as though cyclists have their own lane. After Qu'Appelle there are a few rough sections but it holds up well enough until Manitoba. Around Brandon, again heading into Portage La Prairie, and from Ste. Anne toward Prawda the shoulder turns to unrideable gravel and cyclists must take the road. Most of these sections have two lanes so cyclists can get by without too much trouble. North Ontario starts off smoothly but after Dryden the shoulder shrinks down to a one foot width, occasionally widening out to two feet, all alongside one traffic lane. It's a tight squeeze with the trucks passing constantly but so far we've managed with just a few instances of having to ditch. With no alternative road, there's nothing else to recommend other than try to ride straight and stay alert to what's coming up behind you. Otherwise enjoy the view and try to take a dip in a few of the lakes!
Sunday, July 3, 2011
rolled into our campsite on Davy Lake this evening. When Vanessa and
I originally planned this trip we had visions of waking up most
mornings to a dip in a lake or river and spending our free time lying
on rocks and soaking up sun through British Columbia and the Canadian
Although we wouldn't change a thing about our trip to date, the
weather so far has made days like this few and far between.
BC was cold and rainy and the prairie provinces, although magical in
their own right (and also cold and rainy), don't offer many swim spots
in their southern regions. The last three days in Ontario have been
the first we've had where its been warm enough, and the geography
allows us to swim and bask in the sun. With this in mind we're
calling tomorrow a "lake day." Vanessa and I need a good swim and
desperately need a chance to even out the ridiculous tan lines our
bike suits are tattooing us with (underneath we basically look like
we're wearing white wetsuits with valet gloves). Vanessa has also
been having way too much fun at my expense over the goggle tan I'm
developing from my wrap around sun glasses.
That being said, today was a challenging, but enjoyable ride. A bit
too hot for our liking but we hit some fun hills and kept a steady
pace over the scarcely populated road from Dryden to Ignace.
Tonight we're planning an early night and don't plan to get out of bed
for as long as possible. A good night's sleep will do us both good.
Although it may have started a touch late, our cycling day couldn't have been more perfect. The constant hills have been an exhilarating change of pace from the prairies. We're sure the climbing will get more intense further into the shield but so far the hills have been short enough for us to power up them before racing down the other side. Around almost every bend in the road is another beautiful lake sparkling between the trees, it required enormous restraint to talk ourselves out of setting up camp and basking in the water all day.
However, a highway sign did caution us against the perils of not taking breaks (see photo). With this in mind we took an extra long lunch at a lake and enjoyed our first midday swim of the season.
We continued on toward Dryden, feeling euphoric to ride speedily without the wind in our faces. Originally we had hoped to free camp tonight since we figured the campgrounds would be full and/or party central on the Saturday of a long weekend. However, the forest switches to farmland in the last 40km into Dryden so we pulled into the Birchland Campground and we're glad we did. The campground is just outside of town, very quiet, and includes showers and firewood (a major annoyance of ours is the number of campgrounds that charge extra for showers). Tonight we've also met Marieve, with whom we've just spent the last few hours sharing a campfire and good conversation. She's been travelling since Montreal and is heading to the Okanagan with her dog Shiraz tucked into a pannier. I'm sure most of you who know how puppy-crazy Alex and I have been for the last few years will not be surprised to learn Alex is now scheming how he can rig a dog carriage system for future trips...
Anyhow, on account of all of our visiting to top off an amazing day we're going to cut this post short and head to bed.
Friday, July 1, 2011
What is so difficult about prairie riding is just how vulnerable you are to the will of the elements. Your daily distance and ride time has more to do with the direction and severity of the wind than your physical strength and personal determination.
All this changed yesterday as we passed by Ste. Anne, Manitoba and finally hit tree cover, which has stayed with us right into Ontario. Last night we took our first swim of the season, watched fireflies on the water and began to feel like we were coming home.
The woods and lakes surrounding Kenora feel like those we're familiar with in southern Ontario. The highway winds through the same rolling hills and rocky canyons that are seen throughout Huntsville, Muskoka, the Kawarthas and Georgian Bay. The wildlife and landscape have a wonderfully familiar feeling.
This evening we are fortunate enough to be staying with Barb at her home in Kenora. She was kind enough to put us up for the night and we're very appreciative of the hospitality and company that Barb, her partner David, his son Aiden and Barb's mother Bev have given us. One of the things we love most about this trip is meeting new people and tonight is no exception.
We've planned our route through Ontario to be a bit less strenuous than the pace we've set to date. We plan to swim whenever we can and enjoy the month we're going to spend winding our way into Toronto and beyond. We've said it many times on this journey, but tomorrow is the start of something new and we can't wait to see what Ontario has to offer.
The third bike in the photo belongs to Neil, a bicyclist we rode with for a day and a half. There's a great sense of community on the road and it was great getting to know Neil over greasy breakfasts and ice cream. Neil, we wish you the best and hope you enjoy the rest of your ride.
At the halfway point, heat exhaustion was threatening to knock us out and we debated camping at the Lilac Campground Resort. This place looked like quite the party with water slides and live entertainment. For the sake of our rest and recovery, I think it was actually fortunate they were full. However, they did allow us to fill our water bottles and use the bathroom, in which I jumped into the cold shower fully clothed.
After Lilac and hydrating we were able to push closer to our regular pace of about 25kph thanks to an increasing density of tree cover that helped block the wind. Another 11km down the road we met another cross-country cyclist, Neil, who had shared a similarly brutal day in the wind and heat. The three of us picked up the pace to clock in another 40km to a campground outside of Prawda for the night. At this point we were also joined by the mass of long weekend traffic out of Winnipeg. The highway shoulder disappeared at the same time so we were left riding right alongside the much larger and faster moving eastward vehicles. Drivers were pretty good for the most part, some gave us waves and props but a few made a point of passing terrifyingly close and honking to emphasize their dissatisfaction with bicycles on the road. We're hoping most of these folks will be at their camps by tomorrow and the highway might be less harrowing.
We're now sharing a campsite and fire with Neil after our first post-ride swim of the trip. It turns out we have kept to our original schedule and now have eight free days to enjoy before we hit Toronto. Yesterday we scrutinized our route and found some longer rides to split and some rest days to insert. This means we'll have a lot more time to enjoy some lakes in North Ontario, which we will pass into tomorrow!