Back to Manitoba

Ontario - Part 1

This page covers the bike trip from Kenora to Thunder Bay.

Total Days: 5
Pedaling Days: 4
Total Distance: 485.7 km
Total Vertical: 2,564m
Average Speed: 27.1 km/h

Route summary: We took the "north route", Hwy 17.  It is also possible to go Hwy 71-Hwy 11, but it is a bit longer.  The shoulder was pretty good for most of our route, and the traffic was not too bad.
Click on a day below, or scroll down to go through day by day.  Click on any image below to get a larger view.  Click here to go back to the trip index.

  1. Ontario Part 1: June 25 - June 30
    1. Saturday, June 25
      1. June 25 – Ontario border to Kenora
    2. Sunday, June 26
      1. June 26 - Rest day in Kenora
      2. Touring around Kenora
      3. Gulls 'n' Chips
      4. Lake of the Woods
      5. Float plane service to...?
      6. Grocery store parking lot
      7. False moose sighting
      8. Sunset in Kenora
    3. Monday, June 27
      1. June 27 – Kenora to Dryden
      2. The town of Dryden
      3. Camping in Dryden
      4. Me with no glasses
    4. Tuesday, June 28
      1. June 28 – Dryden to Ignace
      2. Lakes and flowers everywhere
      3. I hope our neighbour doesn't come back to camp
    5. Wednesday, June 29
      1. June 29 – Ignace to Savanne (just past Upsala)
      2. Friendly campground food inspector
    6. Thursday, June 30
      1. June 30 – Savanne to Thunder Bay

Ontario Part 1: June 25 - June 30

Saturday, June 25

June 25 – Ontario border to Kenora

Wow – we are in Ontario! Once again, a noticeable change at the border – the scenery here is completely different.  Almost exactly at the border we started getting into some small rolling hills.  We got off to a really late start today – about 11 before we were on the road – and we almost stopped in Falcon Lake (still in Manitoba) at around 3 because it looked pretty nice. However, we decided to press on and we’re really glad that we did because Kenora (pop. 16,000) is a beautiful town, and the change at the border was worth seeing. Kenora is right on Lake of the Woods, with a happening little downtown and some old buildings to give it some charm.

It’s been six days straight since the last rest, so tomorrow is a rest day. I feel lucky to be having that day off in such a nice place. I have to say that in terms of the bike trip it feels great to have the prairies behind us. I really did enjoy the scenery, but dealing with either a massive headwind or tailwind every day made it challenging because you never really knew how far you were going to get that day – or even how long it would be to the next rest stop.

More to come tomorrow – we’ll get lots of photos of Kenora!


Sunday, June 26

June 26 - Rest day in Kenora

This was a great place to have a day off. I’d love to come back here for a vacation someday! Even though the town itself is so much smaller, in some ways, it seemed more bustling than Regina did. We went out for dinner on Saturday night in both places, and Kenora seemed to have more people out and about. Sunday in Regina, the downtown area was almost devoid of people. Very strange.

Touring around Kenora

Kenora has many similarities to Victoria. A great harbour with lots of waterfront, float planes, an old (albeit much smaller) downtown on the waterfront, lots of green scenery, walkways, etc. It would be a great place to own a little motorboat. Or better still a float plane! Looking on the map, there are zillions of lakes all around here, probably many of them are not accessible by road.

Gulls 'n' Chips

The gulls here eat the same food they do back home!

Lake of the Woods

This is a really nice lake - many islands close to the town. I guess people have cottages over on the islands and blast over here by boat to pick up supplies. What a great way to spend some summer time!

Kenora is tucked away on a small bay on the north end of the lake, and the shoreline is really convoluted. I have read that there are 110,000km of shoreline on the lake, and over 15,000 islands in it.

Float plane service to...?

This sure seemed familiar! Even the colour scheme is very similar to Kenmore Air's, although the Otters did not have the turbo modification. They have quite a fleet of float planes, probably a great way to get here.

Grocery store parking lot

Kenora is really built around the lake. The grocery store has boat parking for people that come in from the islands to shop!

False moose sighting

Cheryl managed to get a photo of the rare Canadian Jackass, trying to disguise itself as a moose.

Sunset in Kenora

We had a great day off here, it is a terrific vacation spot. We will be passing through here again on the way back and it will be a nice place to stop. This stretch of road from Kenora to Falcon Lake is about the only place in Canada where there is only 1 road available for the east-west journey.

And once again, I am looking forward to hitting the road tomorrow and seeing what's next!


Monday, June 27

Bike log: 138.9 km, 861m of vertical, avg. speed 29.7 km/h

June 27 – Kenora to Dryden

The ride today from Kenora was one of the nicest is terms of scenery for a long time - until we got to the town of Dryden, at least. There are lakes everywhere! Also, the road is very curvy with lots of little hills. We would have got some more photos but the rain and twisty road made it hard. Unfortunately it rained more or less the whole day, but not too hard, and the wind was mostly from behind. Overall it was a pretty nice day! 

The town of Dryden

The town itself appears to be a pulp mill town.  The town is on a lake but we are not near it. This part of the town is not much to look at, but I’m sure there must be better parts!

There are 2 ways to go from Kenora to Thunder Bay – Highway 71, south to Fort Frances then east to Thunder Bay, or Highway 17 through Dryden then on to Thunder Bay. I choose the latter largely due to some reports I’ve read of other people who have done this bike trip, The roads are supposed to be pretty bad on the other route, and quite good on this one. So far, the roads have been excellent.

Due to the sparseness of towns, taking this route pretty much ensures it is 4 days to Thunder Bay from Kenora unless you go nuts (or get really lucky with the wind) and do a 200+ km day. So the distances are not huge for the next few days compared to some of the days I’ve had. It will be nice to be “taking it easy.”

Camping in Dryden

The campground we are in is very nice –definitely one of the cleanest private campgrounds we’ve stayed in. Sometimes they are kind of hit or miss, mostly miss. There are carpets on the floor in the bathroom and laundry area, and a little radio playing tunes. There was also a radio playing this morning in the grocery store, and strangely I heard the song “Don’t you want me” by The Human League twice today! Now it’s stuck in my head, great.

Me with no glasses

One thing I don’t really like about riding in the rain is that I can’t wear my glasses. My uncorrected eyesight is not terrible, but it’s not great either. Here’s a partial list of some of the things that I saw today and what they looked like to me:

  • Uprooted tree root system = bear in woods
  • Small, burnt tree = bear
  • Line of small shrubs = wolf pack (swaying in wind due to extreme hunger)
  • Poles for safety barrier alongside the highway = mother bear and cubs
  • Mossy wet patch on blasted rock on opposite side of highway = bear
  • Murky swamp in forest = bear
  • Skinny tree at top of cliff = weird man standing up there, probably heavily armed, probably kicked out of Idaho militia for being too weird

I hope it does not rain tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 28

Bike log: 110.7 km, 520m of vertical, avg. speed 28.9 km

June 28 – Dryden to Ignace

As planned, we made it to Ignace today. I lost count of the number of little lakes we passed!  The above photo was representative of what it looked like most of the time.  

It seemed like a short day, and I guess it was. That was only the 4th time this trip that the time spent peddling was less than 4 hours. But there was not much option, the local tourist office in Dryden confirmed that there was no camping between here and Upsala which is about 110km down the road.

Sandbar Lake Provincial Park

We’re staying in a provincial park here (Sandbar Lake) that is quite nice.  Cheryl went for a walk out by the lake - very pretty and peaceful.  It feels very remote out here.  

The only complaint was that  the flush toilets, laundry and main shower building is broken. Funny they didn’t mention that at all when we paid our $26.75, which is the most we’ve paid anywhere yet to camp!  I guess the prime season has started.

Lakes and flowers everywhere

The scenery continues to be incredible. It seems that around every corner there is another lake, and wildflowers everywhere! It is also great to see hills again. The trees are shorter here than they are back in BC – it reminded me of how I was shocked at the size of the trees when I first went out west!

It did not rain today, but it was pretty cool. I actually got a bit of a chill when I stopped for a snack break. Strange to be dealing with cold when it is nearly July, but this is Canada after all! There was a small headwind, today, but nothing like the prairies. The trees provide some shelter, and the road keeps twisting and turning, so it seems like the wind keeps changing – at least you get a break from the onslaught. A few more small hills today as well, but not much really. The shoulder continues to be good, but narrower than yesterday’s full lane.

I hope our neighbour doesn't come back to camp

I am not sure whether to be reassured or alarmed by the fact that there is a bear trap parked in the campsite across from us. I asked for a campsite near the showers and laundry (which are broken), maybe it’s a sore spot with them.

This weekend is a long weekend, so I am not sure what we are going to end up with for camping. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say exactly where we’ll be more than a day or two in advance (if at all possible) so we can’t make reservations. Oh well, I’m sure we’ll figure something out!


Wednesday, June 29

Bike log: 126.1km, 556m of vertical, avg. speed 24.2 km/h

June 29 – Ignace to Savanne (just past Upsala)

I take back what I said about taking it easy for the next few days! Today was hard work. Lots of headwind for the whole day, and getting stronger throughout. It was pretty flat so there was not much of anything to help break the wind. Almost like being back on the prairies, but there was a thin line of trees alongside the road to help a little bit, and a few more curves to break things up. I noticed that the practice of keeping a 20m wide swath of trees alongside the highway in order to mask a giant clearcut is not something that is restricted to BC.

Extra fuel

Loading up with a cinnamon bun and an extra coffee is not a luxury, it is a survival strategy.  It was a bit chilly today – I was in long sleeves and wore a windbreaker at times.  At least the rain held off until the ride was over.  It is coming down fairly heavily now – it’s nice to be warm and dry inside the van!

We are camping at a fishing resort. There are cabins to rent, along with these campsites. Each campsite has its own dock. Looks pretty inviting, even though I don’t fish! Not very busy tonight, but I bet with the long weekend coming up, and being so close to Thunder Bay, it will be filling up soon.

Friendly campground food inspector

There was a dog on patrol in the campsite. He quickly became our friend, it was a slow day. He looked pretty interested in the food we were cooking which is very unusual behaviour for a dog. I’m pretty sure he did not know we are vegetarians. He politely ate the carrots that I gave him.

I passed another smoking cross-Canada biker today – hard to believe! I also saw what looked like a turkey vulture from less than 10 feet away. Weird looking – it looked like an eagle but it had a small red head that appeared to be bald. I surprised it as I biked past, and it flew up from the side of the road. Very big up close.

The shoulder on the road has deteriorated to what I would consider adequate. Still decent pavement (in most places) but it is down to fairly narrow in some places. Still better than a lot of the shoulder in Manitoba!

There were a couple of campgrounds not far past Ignace that we passed today. They did not look too bad. We had not found mention of them in any of the 4 camp/guide books that we have. On this trip we have frequently thought how great it would be to have a completely comprehensive list of campgrounds! I would gladly have traded a few km’s today for km’s yesterday, so we would have pushed on a bit if we had we known. I guess bike camping is not too common of an activity – and if you are in a car it is not so crucial to know that the next campground is exactly XXX km along.


Thursday, June 30

Bike log: 110.0 km, 627m of vertical, avg. speed 26.4 km/h

June 30 – Savanne to Thunder Bay

Another tough day even though it was not that far! Headwind with a heavy rain on the side, and a flat tire to boot. Only my 2nd of the trip, not too bad I guess. This one was due to the nail sticking out of a discarded furniture caster combined with the fact that the rain made it impossible for me to wear my glasses.

This was a pretty desolate stretch of the highway. The shoulder was not as good as it has been, but is still quite ridable. We passed through a “town” that was on the map called Raith, but there was almost nothing there. A very suitable name! It was just about the only thing on the map between Thunder Bay and the place we stayed last night. However, as we got closer to Thunder Bay, there were a few more hills, and then finally – Lake Superior!

The rain was pretty intense today. For the last half of the day, I decided to take off the rain gear and just go with my bike shirt & shorts with no resting at all until we made it here. It was not too cold in the afternoon (around 18C) so as long as you kept moving it was tolerable. With full rain gear on, it was just too hot! Plus I was pretty much soaked anyway, the wind just blew the rain down the front anyway. Needless to say I was dripping wet by the time we got here, so we decided to take July 1 off, get a hotel here and get dried out! It was actually kind of fun, and gave me a chance to push things on the bike a bit. Most days, I do not go at "full throttle" at all because I think it is a bad idea to push hard and risk burn out with so many miles to go every day. But the rain and the promise of a rest day gave me a reason to really go for it - more like the style of riding I am used to!

It appears that we have been staying just ahead of the floods – I read that Manitoba is now getting it. I am not surprised, because we have gone through several deluges and most of the rivers appeared to be very close to their limit already! Watch out, southern Ontario, here we come…