Biking Across Canada

Coast to Coast 8500 KM

 

Follow the adventures of Bryan Thorp as he lives his dream of riding across Canada from coast to coast.

 


Ontario

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Day 49 - July 31 - Fri

Sault Ste Marie, ON - 10km - rest day

I sleep in because that's what one does on a day off! I go to the post office to send a camera memory chip and other stuff home, and go for a walk and take a few photos. Eventually that morning, I called my warmshowers.org host to advise him I'm on my way over. I vacated my hotel room, loaded my bike and headed for brekky.

About an hour later, I arrived at host's home for the next 2 nights. My hosts are Doug and Sharon Cuddy. Doug is a retired Fisheries biologist who worked on the sea lamprey project for most of his career with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Also, he is a cyclist. In 2006, he started a ride from Vancouver and ended up being hit by a car from behind doing 100+km/h near the MB-ON border. Amazingly, he wasn't killed although he had numerous and serious injuries. He's not yet 100% recovered although the casual observer would think he's fine. His story is amazing and fascinating. I got to see the photos of the accident scene with Doug on the ground, plus Doug showed me his helmet - cracked, of course - and slightly damaged Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire (my exact tire!).

Sharon, Doug's wife, still works, so she didn't arrive home until close to 19:00. We spent the afternoon and evening talking, except for,a few hours when I attended to some periodic bike maintenance and threw some laundry on. Since Doug's retired and Sharon's not, Doug generally does the cooking. He made an an awesome healthy dinner that I certainly appreciated. Doug and Sharon's 2 kids, who were not home, are both about the same age as mine, so we commiserated! ;-)

Day 50 - Aug 1 - Sat

Sault Ste Marie, ON - rest day # 1

I slept very nicely, thank you. Doug cooked a breakfast for me. I sure was treated like a prince in the Cuddy residence! We were going to go kayaking today, but it was raining, so instead Doug showed me his property with the 3 wind turbines on them. I first encountered wind turbines on my tour in Laflech, MB where I had camped close toa farm of 75 turbines. Doug's property has 3 turbines on them. Doug doesn't own the turbines but leases his land to the company that installs them and they send out a royalty cheque based on the gross amount of electricitgy generated. It was a pretty cool experience to see these machines up close! I still want to get up into the cockpit of one someday, though!

On the way home, we stopped by one of the local bike shops, named Velorution, to see if they had my chain in stock. This same bike store is one I've read of previously on the web: they offer touring cyclists space behind the shop to set up camp plus bathroom and shower facilities - all at no cost!

That evening, back at Doug and Sharon's, we had another awesomely healthy meal. Doug also makes his own beer and wine, but none for me that night as I would be back on the road in the morning. :-(

Day 51 - Aug 2 - Sun

Sault Ste Marie, ON - Blind River, ON - 137km

Ah, another good sleep! I could get used to this, but I gotta get those miles in to get to NF. Again, Doug made an awesome meal,this time from his own pancake mix, blueberries and even his own homemade maple syrup! That's the first time I've had homemade maple syrup! Nice!

Eventually, we say our goodbyes and I'm back on the road. Doug had given me instructions on a safe route out of the Soo for a bike, but eventually I have to connect with dreaded hwy 17. The section of 17 from Sault Ste Marie to approx. North Bay has, at worst, a tiny <1/3m shoulder. I'd been warned by a number of people in the last few days that this segment would be nasty. Indeed the 1st 45 to 50km clicks from the Soo are the worst case scenario where I have to ride in the lane as the shoulder is just to narrow for a heavily loaded bike. After that segment, The shoulder widens a bit.

Even though I've ridden bikes a lot more than the average Joe over my lifetime, I still get nervous when I have to share a lane with motorized vehicles. I even have vehicles - traveling in the opposite direction, i.e., coming towards me - passing and using my lane. That's gotta be outright illegal on their part when I'm in the lane, and it infuriates me that someone would take that kind of risk with another person's life. I'll be glad when I reach the North Bay area and the shoulder widens, as I'm told.

Near Desbarats, ON, I stopped for a lunch and not finding anything but greasy stuff on the menu, I made some comment about the unhealthy selection - politely, of course - and the lady offers to make me a custom salad, served with a homemade soup. The last time I got such a salad was in Cadillac, SK. That was very nice of her to do that.

I stopped later in Iron Bridge for dinner. I ask around at the diner for camping info in Blind River. For some reason, Blind River has nothing listed in any of my camping guides! Someone mentions that McIver's Motel in Blind River permits camping in the back. Sounds good to me!

Meanwhile, one gentleman, who kindly retrieved his Ontario tour book from his car for me, told me that Vancouver lawyer Dugald Christie was killed just a few hundred metres from the diner in 2006. I remember his death because I put a Google alert out to track the trial of the driver who mowed Christie down. 3 years later I still have that alert active and I've not heard one thing about charges or a court hearing re: Christie's death. I quietly paid my respects to Dugald Christie. What a tragic loss of a life his was.

I hit the road again and eventually I did come across McIver's campground just on the western outskirts of Blind River. I'm told that it's $18 for camping which I find on the high end, although I've been warned by others that municipal campgrounds and other cheap campgrounds are more rare east of Manitoba. I bite the bullet and set up under the trees as I expect it to be wet in the morning. Jeez, those skeeters are BAD here - the worst yet! I find 3 earwigs in my tent - alive - who came with me across the border. I'm really feeling that I've had my fill of the outdoors! Call me a city boy! :-)

Day 52 - Aug 3 - Mon (Civic Holiday in ON)

Blind River, ON - Sudbury, ON - 159km

Yup, it had rained overnight, but being under the trees mitigated the wetness somewhat as I saw huge puddles on the road later on, so it must've rained heavily during the night. I packed up a wet tent - that means I must air dry it ASAP or I'll have mold on it eventually. The forecast is for thundershowers all day, so it might be a motel tonight. Unfortunately, I have to scrape off slugs from the outside of my inner tent and both the outside and inside of the outer shell. Yuch! Oh well, at least they're not quite as disgusting as earwigs.

I headed out for brekky which was 7km away, right in Blind River. I saw the Timmy's was packed, not that I'd ever eat breakfast there (not enough volume of food for me there). I find Blind River's main street but it was deserted so I ask a city maintenance worker for his recommendation. He points me to a motel with a restaurant. I get a 3-stack of pancakes. It comes with little containers of "breakfast syrup". What a cool made up name, eh?!

My next stop was Serpent River where I go into a restaurant for a coffee. I rarely have coffee after breakfast , but it was a miserable, drizzly day, so I felt like sitting down and holding a warm cup in my hands. For the first time that I recall, I met 2 cyclists going my way, on my route. They were 2 young - 25 to 30? - female Quebeckers. Unfortunately, their English wasn't great, and my verbal French isn't great either. They also weren't falling all over themselves to invite me and my Paul Newman blue eyes to sit with them, so all I found out was that they were doing Vancouver --> Montreal.

I the left and churned out 40+km to Massey, ON. Traffic today was pretty busy, it being a civic holiday just as in BC. I guess everybody was rushing home. I didn't enjoy the cycling at all today. The 2 girls and I leap-frogged each other a few times, until I saw them check into a motel in Massey.

I did a quick lunch, which wasn't very good, then churned out another 80km all the way to the outskirts of Sudbury. Somewhere in between Whitefish and Naughton, I was caught by surprise by a black bear galloping across the road less than 50m in front of me. That kinda scared me, as my bear spray was packed away in a rear pannier and was essentially inaccessible. The bear continued into the brush fortunately. At least 2 cars stopped to check it out, so it must've been somewhat unusual. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a bear since BC!

Since it'd been raining off and on all day and my tent was already wet, I got a motel room for $60 plus $8 in taxes. I've noticed everything is a LOT more expensive than in the US states I just came through, even when exchange is factored in.

Day 53 - Aug 4 - Tue

Sudbury, ON - Pisimi Lake, ON - 185km

I woke up reasonably early and took advantage of the free coffee in the room. I actually left 'early', by 09:00, but I still had to get thru Sudbury. The motel owner wanted to get my photo before I left and I gave him my blog's URL.

So, I hit the road with the objective of getting to the other side of Sudbury then grabbing a brekky. It was extremely humid, the worst since I left home, and what I'd typically expect of a city like Montreal or Toronto. At least one local confirmed that the humidity was worse than usual.

Sudbury's roads are pure crap - huge cracks and potholes. Again the worse of of any city I've been thru so far. Truly, we have it good in Vancouver with respect to the state of our city roads and the infrastructure for cyclists. I noticed a lot of either drunks and/or druggies in some of the areas I passed thru. Sudbury does have a bike path I used for a lot of the way, but I frequently had to go into the vehicle lanes due to the poor pavement.

Eventually, I do get to the other side of Sudbury and back on to hwy 17. There was a restaurant right at the intersection, so I got my daily 3 pancakes there. I stocked up on groceries a few clicks down the road as I had eaten most of my food last night in the motel. The shoulder improved a bit in width in some areas, but then between Hagar and Warren there was no shoulder. Not good - it was basically white knuckle cycling. I'm still getting morons passing - in the opposite direction - and using my lane! :-( Ontario drivers are the worst yet.

I stopped for a late lunch at 15:00 in Verner, as the next 54km to North Bay seemed rather devoid of services. It didn't rain at all this day, and the sun actually came out a few times. I cranked out the miles to North Bay and took the bypass around the city and continued on. I still had issues with the shoulder and the quality of the road road in places, but overall it seems to have improved since North Bay. I stopped at the intersection of hwy 17 and 531 at a motel to enquire as to their rate, and they wanted $70! Wow! What an expensive province! They came down to $65 but that was still to rich for my taste* so I headed for a rest area another 15km down the road where I guerrilla camped for the night as I couldn't find a legal campsite or reasonably priced motel. *

What's a good price for a motel? Somehow, I've figured $50, preferably after taxes, for any place in the boonies. There are exceptions, such as sleeping and eating right in front of a glacier! If I can get a hotel room in the Soo (pop. 80K?) For $38.50, why should I have to pay $70 in the middle of nowhere for a room?

Tomorrow I meet up with Craig. Craig and I have been in touch with each other about 2 - 3 months before I started my tour. We connected with the possibility of starting from Vancouver together, but he had already committed to a airplane ticket from England - where he lives - to Vancouver. I did meet him at Vancouver Airport on May 1st and showed him around Vancouver a bit. We will meet tomorrow in Pembroke, ON, about 180km from where I stopped tonight.

Day 54 - Aug 5 - Wed

Pisimi Lake, ON - Pembroke, ON - 174km

Since I was guerrilla camping, I left one of my hearing aids on just in case a parks official or cop wanted to kick me out. Firstly, all the trucks going by on the highway weren't too conducive to sleep (who would've thunk?!). Secondly, motorcycles and cars kept on coming into the rest area long after sundown. One motorcycle had his radio blaring away for a good 5 minutes. Another time, I heard a load pop-pop-pop - I couldn't figure that one out. I wasn't worried or concerned about my welfare, so after about 3 hours I finally removed the aid. I THEN fell asleep.

The Pisimi Lake rest area was about 25km west of Mattawa, so I had to work for my breakfast, and yes, we're back into rolling hills here - I figure I did about 75m of climbing in that 25km, but that was nothing to the surprise climb of 120m right after Mattawa. Even 'worse', the day's total climbing was almost 1100m - the most since the Icefield Parkway! Did I mention the hills here?! Hwy 17 approaching, and in Mattawa, was a real bone shaker. This is where shocks might be nice but touring bikes don't typically have shocks. I grabbed a stack of 3 'cakes for brekky in Mattawa, topped up my groceries and took some photos of some of the older buildings. It would be a rush day, as I had to meet Craig in Pembroke, so I didn't have much time for sight-seeing.

After riding almost 44km I came to a rest stop right beside a lake, a few kms before Bissett Creek. Right at the same time, another cyclist came rolling up from the opposite direction. He turned out to be a high school teacher from nearby Deep River, a town which I passed thru later in the day. His name was Aubrey - an English name that I don't recall hearing previously. Aubrey and I made our lunches beside the lake and I learnt he was going to Manitoulin Island and back. Manitoulin Island would be a ferry ride and it'd be perhaps 2 or 3 days toward Sault Ste Marie to get to the ferry. I mentioned the poor roads to Aubrey and he indicated that once I arrive in Pembroke the roads should be fine all the way to Ottawa. Aubrey also has a Crazy Guy on a Bike web site that details his bike travels, and he's done France and New Zealand!

After lunch, I basically focused on getting to Pembroke, for my meet up with Craig. With all those hills, which eventually leveled out by Petawawa, the CFB base, I didn't arrive until 21:00. Then I looked for a wi-fi connection in the dark. Not fun! I needed the wi-fi connection so I could check my email to find out where Craig was.

Well, I ended up booking a hotel room thanks to my late arrival, which couldn't have been helped today, so I'm not 'sweating it'. Checking my email, I find that Craig's had multiple problems: he's not feeling well and his rear wheel self-destructed and had to be rebuilt. Craig's in Ottawa, 150km south of Pembroke, thanks to those issues! So, I'll have to figure out what I'm doing to meet Craig, but I'm too tired to even think. Sleep is nice.

Random info: Today marked the 2/3 mark of the tour! Hopefully, it's all 'downhill', from here! <knock on wood>, <salt over the shoulder>, <sign of the cross, etc>!! Speaking of superstitions, etc., I do have my 'mojo' with me, who happens to be Nanook, a Beanie Baby that my daughter 'rejected' when she was younger (I forget why now, perhaps a duplicate?). So, I adopted Nanook and usually she has her place of honour, watching over me, on the dashboard of my truck. Her place of honour (?) for this trip is under my bike seat - at least she's out of the rain!

Day 55 - Aug 6 - Thu

Pembroke, ON - Kinburn, ON - 129km

Oooo, I woke up and knew that today would have to be a 'short' day, say 100km or so. The last 4 days of approx. 650km from the Soo plus all of yesterday's climbing did me in. I emailed Craig and suggested he meet me at Fitzroy Provincial Park, about a 90km ride for me, where we could camp. I then hit the road and looked for a breakfast place in Pembroke.

Wow - it was tough to find a place. I guess I was on the wrong side of town. So I rode thru town, which I had to do anyhow, and asked a couple people and both recommended Fresco, on the road out of town (hwy 17). It turned out to be a good choice for the usual 3 pancakes at a reasonable price and with friendly service.The town of Pembroke, which I've never been to in my adult life, has some nice, older buildings and a museum. Apparently, it was named after another town of the same name in England.

I rolled out of town down the TC, which is hwy 17. There's not much of a paved shoulder, as usual, and I'm finding it stressful. Eventually, I get to Cobden, and I take the opportunity to top up my groceries. I do that, and get myself a 6-pack of Ensure Plus, since I'm low on energy today. Outside the grocery store, I meet Dave Fleming, who admires my bike. Dave's riding a 3-speed Sturmey Archer! I had one of those that I bought with my paper route earnings when I was 12 years old! I don't recall the brand of bike he had but it sure is nice to see those bikes still being ridden. Dave asked if I wanted to get off the busy TC, and of course, I responded "Yes!". He started to tell me the routing to the quieter riverside drive, Ottawa River that is. Then he essentially said, "What the heck - I go with you part of the way". Dave rode with me almost 20km, if I recall correctly. He then told me how to get the rest of the way to Arnprior, which is the last major town before the campground. It sure was nice to get off that highway and do some real back country Ontario roads. We only saw a handful of cars the entire 20km!

Eventually, I reach Arnprior. Now this was a town with some significant older buildings - we're really getting into some serious territory here! I took some snaps of the ones that caught my eye. I then searched for a dinner place and found PJ's on the way out of town. I ordered a baked lasagna and caught up on emails with the free wi-fi. I found out that Craig didn't get my message in time, re: meeting up at Fitzroy Provincial Park for camping, and he had paid for another night in Ottawa. So, there now wasn't much point in heading to Fitzroy after dinner. My CAA map showed another campground in Kinburn, on the way to Ottawa. Sounded good. I hit the road and made it to Kinburn - about 20km from my dinner spot - by 20:45. However, Kinburn was tiny and I didn't see any signs for campgrounds. There was a small gas station/convenience store, so I asked there. The nice East Indian lady didn't know of one in Kinburn, but there was one back about 6 - 7km. I hate going back, and even if I have lighting on my bike, I'd rather not ride at night. The lady offered to call someone to drive me to the campground, but, of course, I politely declined as that'd be 'cheating'. It was already pretty well dark. I asked about camping at the local school, etc., And she said, well, "you can camp on my grass [at the side of the gas station]." Sounds good to me!

So I went out to start setting,up my tent and while I was spraying DEET on myself, a gentleman by the name of Geoff had come over. Apparently he was a friend of the gas station lady and he and his wife we're willing to host me for the night (his wife, Mary, wasn't home from work yet, so she didn't know of me yet!). So we walked over to Geoff's house and put my bike in their garage. Geoff already had their dinner going so while that was cooking, Geoff brought out his old atlas of Canada and wanted to know my routing from home to Kinburn. I learnt that Geoff worked at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, where he worked in a technical capacity, mostly related to setup and display of exhibits. Mary came home from work and we did the intros and then Geoff served dinner. Having just recently polished off a large lasagna, I ate lightly but sure appreciated a home cooked meal, especially the local raspberries and brownies! I then found out that Geoff had WALKED across Canada in 1979 sometime after completing his schooling! Wow! That would definitely involve some careful planning on a daily basis, e.g., food and water. I find that a lot of people who accomplish these kinds of feats are usually quite young and don't hear the older ones saying "You can't do that!". Perhaps ignorance is bliss in some cases. Ignorance often leads to great accomplishments. I never fully understood Geoff's real motivation for his trek across Canada, but he was delivering letters to mayors across the country, and I think this was tied into an art project of some sort. Anyhow, Geoff had to work the next day, so it was off to bed, and I got a comfy living room couch! Nice!

Day 56 - Aug 7 - Fri

Kinburn, ON - Rockland, ON - 107km

I was hoping to see Geoff before he left for work at 07:00, so I could get ,his photo and say goodbye, but I missed him :-( I finally got up at 07:45. Mary made me a breakfast and we chatted. Mary is a librarian in the town of Carp, just south of Kinburn. I learnt that Geoff is artistic and had done many of the collages hanging on the wall of their home.

I checked my email but no important messages, and no acknowledgement from Craig of our proposed meet up on Parliament Hill today. I left about 10:00 or so to meet Craig in Ottawa. On the way out of Kinburn, I stopped at the gas station to thank the very helpful East Indian lady - a friend of Geoff and Mary's - for setting everything up last night!

On the way to Ottawa, I had a bit of a tailwind, which seems to be a regular thing, thankfully, but then that's why the majority of cyclists ride west to east! I stopped in Carp, ON to 'refuel' with what I had on hand and ended up talking with 2 cyclists for almost 1/2 hour! Carp looked like a nice little town one might stop off while driving thru the countryside: have a cappuccino or late breakfast, browse the little stores, and just generally relax and enjoy the little town.

I hoofed it to Ottawa and made within minutes after the appointed meet up time of 13:00. Ottawa has quite a network of bicycle paths plus they have cycling lanes on a lot of their streets. It's done a good job getting people onto their bikes as I saw all kinds of people riding bikes, from 3 year olds to seniors. Alas, Craig was not in front of the parliament buildings. I asked a cop stationed nearby if he'd seen a cyclist with a BOB (Beast of Burden) trailer but got a negative response. I waited for over an hour for Craig but no sign of him.

While waiting I got some photos of the gorgeous buildings. Although I was born in Ottawa, we moved away when I was an infant. My 1st visit was when I got my 1st car, probably close to age 24. On that trip, I just looked at the Parliament buildings and then turned back to Montreal. Short and sweet! :-( I would like to come back again someday and do a proper visit, e.g., The Museums of Civilization, and Science and Technology, Train Museum, Flight Museum, a proper tour of Parliament, and so on. Also, just before cycling by the Governor General's residence, I saw some very stunning looking embassies, notably the Saudi Arabian.

While waiting for Craig, I posed with a 2 hot Mounties, one on a horse and one on foot, in front of the bell tower. That should be proof to y'all that I actually DID this trip! Well, I couldn't wait any longer for Craig. I asked a cop for directions out of the city but he wasn't sure of a safe route for me. He suggested I go across the street to the National Capital Commission's Info Centre. It was a pretty crowded area and I expressed concerns about leaving my bike in front. He said leave it right against the wall - on Parliament Hill property - and he'd watch it for me! Wow - my own RCMP officer watching my bike! My tax dollars at work, eh?! ;-)

Inside the info centre, I got real lucky: I got a clerk who had a clue about bike touring - he had done the Maritimes the year before - and he printed off some web pages with km-by-km routing from Ottawa to Montreal via country roads! Awesome! ( www.hedley.com ) So off I went down the city's Green Belt bike paths, which went from Parliament Buildings to 25km down the Ottawa River, sometimes hugging the river bank! I think this bike path equals almost anything Vancouver has, as it actually goes somewhere.

Vancouver's Stanley Park bike path is nice, but it serves a very limited population: tourists and West Enders. The Skytrain path, at least from New Westminster to downtown Vancouver, is OK. Where Vancouver does a good job with cycling is, not the paths, but traffic calmed bike routes, e.g. Union, Adanac, etc. I'm sure Ottawa has some of those, but I didn't get the opportunity to check them out.

Eventually, I reach the end of the bike path and get onto real roads, the first 5 - 10km are busy, but I survive. I pass many beautiful homes, some made of ,brick, some of stone and others of wood. I reach Rockland and for dinner have a baked lasagna and pecan pie for dessert at an Italian restaurant. Nothing like pasta and sugar for us cyclists!

I hit the road again and only need to,go 10km or so find my campground. I find it easily enough. Kinda expensive at $25 but I have little ,choice. They even charge for showers. Sheesh - that's nickel and diming. I check the weather and no rain is forecast for the night. Whoo-hoo!

Day 57 - Aug 8 - Sat

Rockland, ON - Carillon, QC - 96km

It sure looked like it rained last night but it turned out to be a lot of condensation on the shell of my tent. There was little or no wind last night and as a consequence, a lot more condensation than usual. So, I ended up packing up a wet tent shell <sigh>. I slept quite a bit last night - around 11 hours.

I didn't get going until 11:30. I stopped about 5km down the road for 3 smallish pancakes and coffee. I've been hearing a lot of French in this part of Ontario - the beautiful and picturesque Ottawa Valley - and this morning, at breakfast, I heard 20-somethings at the next table speaking both French and English, and transitioning frequently and effortlessly between the two languages. Nice.

On the road again, I stopped quite a number of times to munch, take photos or to just take a short break. There's no big rush to get to Montreal. Susan is flying out to meet me on Monday for 3 days. I'll probably be there Sunday evening, so today's and tomorrow's rides will only be about 100km each. Easy! Easy is nice after those 4 hard days from the Soo. The routing is working out very well. I see very few cars and I'm not stressed out.

I stop in Hawkesbury for dinner and get myself a ravioli au gratin and sugar pie! Sugar pie is quite common in Quebec - which is just across the river - but I don't ever recall seeing it in Vancouver. After dinner, I cross the bridge at Hawkesbury, ON to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and ride on La Rue Verte route 1, which follows Hwy 344 at this point.This is my official entry to province #5, but unofficially, I accidentally crossed to Quebec the day I left Pembroke. My map was a bit ambiguous so I ended up in Quebec for a few minutes, but we'll ignore that, eh?

There are some very beautiful houses along Hwy 344. Some of these homes have to be over 150 years old, and are immaculately kept on large properties. Also, starting a day ago or so, I've noticed that a lot of towns now have 2 or 3 churches or more! In Quebec, a town ain't a town if it doesn't have a few steeples! One sure knows when they're in Quebec... And it's great to be back. I wish I'd come back more often since I left in '79.

So now I'm looking for a campsite. My 1st choice is full, so I check out my 2nd choice at Carillon, right beside a causeway and Hydro Quebec generating station. Only $16 - that's more in line with what I've been paying for campsites, rather than the $25 I paid the previous night.

 

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