Ontario Part 3: July 7 - 13
log: 78.9km, 650m of vertical, avg. speed 29.0 km/h
7 – Pancake Bay to Sault Ste. Marie
really enjoyable, fairly short ride today – to be followed by a
full 2 days of rest! We are planning on spending 2 days in Sault Ste.
Marie because Cheryl needs to do her online registration for
university this Saturday, and since we’ve had bad luck getting
internet access in many places, we figured to be safe we would stay
here in the city. There are also a number of small things we need to
do once again - a bit of bike maintenance, make like Voyageurs and
pick up some supplies, etc.
The ride continued to be a bit hilly,
with 2 good ones as you get close to the city. The shoulder was rough
in places, but not a problem to ride on. Wind was not much of a
factor today. We got a few last glimpses of beautiful Lake Superior –
more beaches, coves, and island views. We have really enjoyed the
scenery on this last part of the trip and are looking forward to
seeing more of it on the way back. From here, we head east along Lake
Huron’s north shore, and then cut across Manitoulin island and down
into southern Ontario.
to the USA
US version of Sault Ste. Marie is very close – there are car and
train bridges to both. I think this is one of the rare (only?)
instances of a border town where the Canadian side town is much
larger than the US – about 4 or 5 times the size. We chatted with a
guy who was zipping around along the trails along the river with his
4 kids, and he said this is the highest he’s seen the St. Mary's
river – last year it was dry enough to walk across this part.
the short ride today we were able to spend almost the whole afternoon
exploring the city. We hiked along the waterfront – the St. Mary’s
river. It is nicely preserved, or probably restored! It is a big
industrial town, with power generation, steel, and pulp & paper
being the big ones. But along the water there is a nature preserve
which even has beavers! We saw evidence of them – dams. I have seen
quite a few dams along the road, but never in a city.
the river in Sault Ste. Marie
was really great today to have the energy to go for a hike with
Cheryl. Most days, I am too whacked at the end of the ride to
accompany her as she does her standard two hour after dinner
exploration. It is interesting how we have had different views of the
country on this trip. I see more things along the road, being on a
bicycle as opposed to zipping by in a vehicle and not being able to
take your eyes of the road. But Cheryl usually sees a lot more at our
campsites and rest stops.
Soo locks were pretty impressive – although the ones on the US side
are much larger, being able to accommodate the massive lake
freighters. We saw some lakers moving through today - the lake
freighters are longer than ocean freighters, since they do not have
to withstand such huge storms. Along those lines, we passed a
viewpoint the other day where you could view the spot where the
Edmund Fitzgerald went down nearly 30 years ago. And yes, I have had
the song stuck in my head ever since. Oh well, it has finally
displaced "Helpless" by Neil Young (you know the first
line? "There is a town in north Ontario...")
light in the hotel room
the rest days, we have gotten used to checking into a hotel for a
nice rest and a real change of pace. We get a room with two beds –
one for the bike! Cheryl looks concerned in this photo not because
she is squinting into the sunset, but because she was concerned by
this weirdo waving at her from outside our window – and we were on
the 7th floor! It may have been another sighting of the rare Canadian
Jackass - Cheryl claims to have had numerous sightings though I am
yet to see one myself.
8,9 - Rest days in Sault Ste. Marie
am glad we stayed in the hotel we did – Holiday Inn, down on the
waterfront. I had to do a number of things on the days off and so I
got to see a bit of the town. There are some nice parts, and some
not-so-nice parts! As with so many cities, it looks like all the new
development is largely in the form of strip malls. These stretch for
miles along the highway. Driving through it gives you the weird sense
that you are not going anywhere. However, the older neighbourhoods
were quite nice – lots of older buildings, very reminiscent of many
towns I have been in in Ontario. The stretch of river near our hotel
is nicely kept up, and there are lots of people out (Friday and
Saturday nights). We have a great view of it from our hotel window,
where these photos were taken.
Note the flame erupting from the stack
just to the right of the bridge, visible by day and night!
went to see “War of the Worlds” tonight in the theatre. Not
recommended – more of a horror/thriller movie than a sci-fi
have not had 2 consecutive rest days for the whole trip, and I am
very much looking forward to hitting the road!
sun at last
it's me! The weather in Sault Ste. Marie is gorgeous, which is funny
because it seems to be raining everywhere else, including Victoria.
But on the eastern shores of Lake Superior they have had a very dry
summer so far. The city is not bad--nicer than Thunder Bay, but still
very industrial. Smokestacks line the horizon, creating an L.A.-style
smog over the city, and giving a 19th-century England feel to the
place. To think that is still legal! Not sustainable at all. As I
cross this country, I can't help but notice evidence of Canada's
colonial past--and present. Many towns celebrate the first white
explorers and heroes of industry, while relegating Canada's native
past to a mere detail about "the Indians," who are never
named or celebrated as individuals and never recognized for their
healthy stewardship of most of the regions they occupied. You only
have to imagine for a moment that you are looking at it all through
native eyes, and you can see how insulting this is. But of course,
every town has other faces besides the one promoted by the local
chamber of commerce. The population is much more diverse here than in
the prairies, where Chris and I finally realized why the local
grocery stores felt different--"Every single person in here is
white! Weird." But I have also been surprised by the consistent
friendliness of the people we meet. I haven't felt threatened once,
anywhere. If a man approaches me when I'm out walking or pulled over,
it is always to ask if I am having car problems or need help. It's
kind of funny--maybe I should call it "the Volkswagen van
effect"! That could come under the heading, "How to find a
husband in Saskatchewan in under 30 minutes"!
there have been no bears or weirdos (other than Winnie the Pooh and
Chris, of course), and no nasty flies (just the fishing variety). The
most dangerous thing I've encountered on my journey into Canada's
Heart of Darkness has been a bad-tempered poodle. And perhaps a
little complacency. And some really bad beer. But that's it!
log: 172.4 km, 657m of vertical, avg speed 30.6 km/h
10 – Sault Ste. Marie to Spragge
theme for today was – heat! It got up to 32C, pretty near 90F! It
was pretty humid too, sort of felt like it could be thunderstorm
weather, but that held off. Tomorrow is supposed to warm up a few
more degrees as well! Pretty hot for biking, I couldn’t tell you
how much water I drank. The hottest part is on the hills, when you
don’t have much of a breeze to cool things down, and the sun is
really cooking the old black pavement. On days like this, I am really
glad I have a camelback, with a drinking tube hanging on my shoulder,
rather than having to reach down for the water bottle every minute.
of our rest stops today was at a town called Iron Bridge, and Cheryl
managed to find a place we could get into the river there. It was
great! I had just done a 50km stretch from 12:30 to about 2PM, pretty
much the hottest part of the day. Did it feel great to take a break
and get in the water! At the next rest stop, I didn’t really have
the time (nor was there a place) to swim, so I settled for a towel
soaked in ice water and then stuck on my head!
ride should be shorter (jinx!) as we get onto Manitoulin Island, but
I wanted to cover as much distance as possible today. Mostly this was
because today is Sunday, and this road, which connects Sault Ste.
Marie and Sudbury, gets very busy with truck traffic through the
week. I’ve only got about 65km or so to go before the turnoff for
are staying in a KOA tonight. We have not stayed in one before. They
sure pack them in! However, everything is clean and well kept up, and
there was a pool which we hit to cool down. We were lucky to get a
spot with a bit of shade, it must have been cooking inside some of
we are now travelling along “The North Shore”, as this area along
Lake Huron is called, we only got a few short glimpses of the lake
itself as the road winds its way along some distance from the lake.
We started passing through farmland today, which is something we have
not seen in a long time. There was a little bit of farmland around
Thunder Bay, and some just north of Sault Ste. Marie, but otherwise
that has been all since leaving Manitoba. The shoulder was pretty
good for the most part, except for some overzealous application of
the rumble strip in a few places. The wind was a mix of head, tail,
and cross as the route was far from a straight line. Also, the hills
have more or less stopped. I miss them already!
passed 2 cyclists going my way early in the day, as well as seeing 4
others heading the opposite way. I did not see anyone I knew from
before, not surprising since we took 2 full days off in the Soo.
log: 135.0km, 699m of vertical, average speed 27.5km/h
11 – Spragge to Sheguiandah
ride was indeed a bit shorter than yesterday’s, but as usual I
“misunderestimated” (to quote President Bush) the difficulty.
Largely this was due to the heat and humidity. Wow, was it hot today!
It was 34 degrees in the campground when we showed up at 5PM, and it
had already noticeably cooled down a little bit from earlier in the
afternoon. I think it was probably the hottest weather we’ve had so
far on the whole trip. Fortunately, we were able to swim in a little
river about midway through the day.
View of Georgian Bay
first half of the ride, completing our trip along the North Shore,
was pretty uneventful – fairly straight, flat, and just a few small
towns. For the second half, we headed south along highway 6 towards
Manitoulin Island. The road got interesting there, lots of ups and
downs, as well as really terrible pavement for a lot of it! Not much
traffic, which was good because there was no shoulder, and the road
was pretty badly broken up in many places. Painful to ride on! You
know those little stretches that go "bu-dump...bu-dump...bu-dump"
as you drive along? After 100km sitting on a bike seat, it's like
getting kicked repeatedly in the pants! The hills also started up a
bit too – nothing big, but continuous up and down. And as usual,
there was a headwind. I was glad I got so much training battling the
wind on the prairies, it was hard enough to concentrate on riding
with the intense heat and bad pavement.. Still a pretty enjoyable
ride though, lots of great views of Lake Huron from the hilltops, as
well as small lakes here and there.
through the town of Espanola today. It was just down the road from
Spanish. One of those towns is full of “splitters,” I am sure. It
had a fairly massive Domtar plant, as well as a dam on the Spanish
river that you could see from the highway.
Crossing onto Manitoulin Island
Island is connected by a one lane swing bridge to the north (shown in
photo above). It is the largest freshwater island in the world –
something like 130km long and 50 km wide. I spent some time here
nearly 30 years ago, I have vague memories of many parts of it. I
know there is a store in a town nearby where you can get Cream Soda,
for instance. It is very nice here, lots of farms and rolling hills.
As is common with island life, it seems to be a bit more laid back
here as well. Not so much traffic, not so many speeders.
campsite (Batman’s – we choose it because we liked the
also really nice, one of the best kept ones we’ve been in, and
sites are almost as big and separated as a provincial park. They have
a beach here as well, which we used immediately upon arrival. (This one
was kind of weedy, but you could easily walk out past the weeds on the
sandy bottom. The photo above of Cheryl was at the nicer, sandier
water is pretty warm, much warmer than I expected for this big lake.
Still, complete submersion for about 5 minutes did a pretty good job
of cooling us down…although we were hot again with a half hour.
are going down the east side of the island, and therefore we are
looking out onto Georgian Bay. Tomorrow, we will be catching a ferry
(our 3rd of 5 for the trip) off the island and heading down into
"southern Ontario." Or is it central Ontario? I am not sure
where the official boundaries are. It does not have anything to do
with linear distances, as we are already well into the most southern
corner, but I feel safe in saying that we will no longer be in
Northern Ontario once we get off the ferry!
log: 100.5km, 642m of vertical, avg. speed 31.8km/h
12 –Sheguiandah to Lion’s Head
hot today, although not as bad as yesterday. Also not too long of a
ride, due to the fact that we had a ride on the Ferry (Cheechimaun)
in the middle of the day. We waited for about 2 hours for the ferry,
and the ride itself was nearly 2 hours.
Cruising on the Chi-cheemaun
A beautiful trip, though.
Unlike BC ferries, the workers on the vessel seemed to be happy and
friendly. The food was actually fairly decent as well. And there was
a person there who told the cars to keep moving up until they were
within inches of the one in front of them. I bet if BC Ferries had
that, we would not have missed the ferry on the first day of our
On the ferry, we met
another 2 cyclists. They were going from Vancouver to Montreal. These
guys had a pretty deluxe setup as well – one guy’s wife was
driving a truck pulling a huge trailer. They had come through the US
route, south of Lake Superior, and had met one of the other cyclists
I ran into on the prairies (a 64 year old man from Holland). Small
world if you’re on a bike!
Cheryl on board, the wind felt great
ride across Manitoulin this morning was great. Lots of little rolling
hills, and farmland everywhere. Somewhat reminiscent of Vancouver
Island. It’s the closest thing I’ve felt to homesick since
leaving – although still a long way from actually feeling that way!
The Bruce peninsula, as this stretch of land which separates Georgian
Bay from Lake Huron is called, is also very nice.
road here (highway 6) is not great – the pavement is quite broken
up. There is no paved shoulder, but the traffic is light so it is not
a problem. Still, the difference in traffic volume between here and
Manitoulin is noticeable. I am looking forward to getting clear of
the southern Ontario congestion before the weekend! We are hoping to
meet up with my aunt, uncle and/or cousins tomorrow in Collingwood. I
have not been able to call them to warn them that I am coming since
the cell coverage is so bad! I saw someone at the next campsite over
using their phone, I think maybe Roger’s doesn’t have such great
coverage here in the east. I guess you should not expect much from a
I was enjoying the beach, Cheryl spotted and photographed what appears
to be a subspecies of the Canadian Jackass, which is the Dancing
campground is right on a beach which looks out to some really
interesting cliffs – similar to the ones we saw up in Thunder Bay.
They make you want to dance! We hit the water as soon as we got into
the campground this evening (around 6). I was just about melting, it
is very humid here. The water was very refreshing – cooler than
yesterday but not so bad that you couldn’t stay in for 5 or 10
minutes. That did the trick!
Cheryl with flowers
are staying in the municipal campground here. It is very well
maintained as they often are. Nice paths and gardens. It is
situated almost "in town." Due
to getting in late, we ate dinner in a restaurant in town tonight.
That was the first time in a long while we did not cook in the van.
Nice to have a night off cooking and dishes!
knew it would be a short(ish) day today, so I decided to ride it a
bit differently than usual. Today was split into 3 sections of about
30-40km apiece (pre-breakfast, post-breakfast, and post-ferry) with a
reasonable rest interval inbetween. Normally I try to pace myself for
the long haul, but today I decided to go all out for each section,
kind of like a time trial in bike racing. It was fun to go fast,
although I was paying the price by the end of the day! Hopefully my
legs will not be too mad at me tomorrow.
log: 160.0km, 627m of vertical, avg. speed 25.4km/h
13 –Lion’s Head to Elmvale (near Orillia)
with the wind, or the rain, I will stop making comments about how hot
it is, and how it can’t possibly get much hotter! (Anyway, it’s
not the heat, it’s the humidity that gets you…) Today was a long
day! There was big chunk of construction on highway 26 east of Owen
Sound that stretched a 45 minute ride into 2 ½ hours – not
fun in the sun! At places it was down to 1 lane for about 300m or so,
and you had to wait for the flagperson to wave you through. I then
had to sprint the distance so I wouldn’t hold traffic up too much
going the other way – what a riot! I think most people who looked
at me assumed I was crazy (a logical assumption) for being out there,
but there were no signs up saying how long the construction went on
for, or a suggested detour. There are alternate routes (I later found
out) but you kind of need to know where you are going.
was pretty heavy today past Wiarton, until after Wasaga Beach (except
for the backroads which my aunt tipped us off to). Probably the
heaviest traffic we’ve had since near Winnipeg. I guess everything
around here is under the Toronto influence to some extent – I am
anxious to get through it. We are planning to go north of Lake Simcoe
and head for eastern Ontario via backroads as much as possible.
Probably take a bit longer but it will be much more enjoyable. The
shoulder also alternated between excellent and really bad, which was
a tough combination to deal with in heavy traffic…but I made it!
Wiarton is know for “Wiarton Willie,” the albino groundhog who
forecasts the end (or not) of winter each year. It is apparently
quite an event to see! The photo above is of a statue erected in his
honour. It's a good 8 feet high!
getting through the construction zone, we came to the town of
Meaford, right on Georgian Bay, and hit the water! What a relief, to
just get submerged in the water for 10 minutes. Normally it would
probably be fairly uncomfortable, but in this heat it felt so good.
I finally met up with the “Family of cyclists.” I had been
hearing about these folks since Herbert, Saskatchewan, and got
reports every week or so that they had just been through. It is a
family who was living in the Okanagan Valley and are moving to Nova
Scotia. The parents and kids are all riding their bikes! Now that is
an incredible achievement! The mom of the group flagged me down in
Owen Sound to ask for directions, and mentioned she got separated
from her husband and kids. I said, “Are you the family from BC
moving to Nova Scotia?”, she said “Yes!”, and I said “I’ve
been following you since Saskatchewan!” It was pretty cool to
finally meet them. I really hope that they did not take the same road
under construction that I took, I kept wishing I could get a message
back to them telling them to go for an alternate route. Oh well, I am
sure they figured something out.
Me, Nancy, Rob, Lorna, and Roger
of family, I stopped in for a visit and awesome dinner with my
relatives (Aunt Lorna, Uncle Roger, and my cousin Nancy and her
husband Rob) in Collingwood. It has been a long time since I saw
them, although we used to see them all the time when I was young.
They are still in the same house, it was really great to see them
again! It was kind of a brief visit, but after today’s delays due
to heat and construction, and the dread of dealing with the traffic
around here, we needed to press on and get as many miles in before
weekend traffic descends upon us. So we headed out, aiming to get
close to Orillia, but we had to stop a bit short when the
thunderstorm started up in Elmvale! Fortunately we had just passed a
campground about 4km back, so we turned around and called it a night.