Eastern North America Tour Y2K
Day 47: I wake up very late this morning, and take a while getting up, so I don't get started until seven. As predicted, the mosquitoes aren't a real problem, although their numbers increase as I prepare to leave. I notice that the leaves are wet while my tent is dry. This isn't dew, so it must have rained in the morning hours, and the heat of my body must have dried it off of the tent.
After I start going, it starts to rain, first a nuisance rain; that is, too little rain to put a raincoat on for, then a somewhat heavier rain that forces me to put on the rain jacket, and then finally a torrential downpour that forces me to don my rainpaints while being soaked. By the time I get them on, I didn't need them much, as most of the rain has already ended. However, I wear them as I start down the highway because I can see black thin clouds overhead in the reflections from the road, and I noticed that patches and waves of rain are coming down in front of me. One remarkable, intense shower of rain is less than 20 feet in diameter. After five or ten minutes, the sky above me, as seen in the sheet of water on the pavement, is completely clear, so I stop to remove the rain clothes. I have encountered these tiny patches of rain frequently in Ontario and nowhere else.
Riding into Kirkland Lake, I stop at the supermarket, but I am disappointed to find that they do not make fresh bread, so I get fruit and yogurt instead, hoping to get bread elsewhere. As I go on into town, I am looking for two things: a fax/copy center and a bike shop. Seeing a Subway, I stop there first and have a good sandwich, and the woman who makes my sandwich tells me I have already passed both places.
I go to the office supply place first, explain what I want to do, make my phone call, receive my fax, have duplicates made, and am charged a dollar. Then I have to find an attorney to notarize my statement, and the first lawyer's secretary sends me to a second, who is a very kind and interesting person. We talk about my trip for a good while, and he notarizes the statement for a low fee.
At the sports shop, I find the mechanic has gone home, but they call him, and he shows up quickly and applies himself to the task. I thought the problem was dirt in my hub, due to the dust cap coming loose, but he immediately discovers that the axle is broken. I must have broken it on the same day as the flat tire, as it certainly wasn't broken when I fixed the tire, and as the problem began that same day. The repair business is small, and he doesn't have a spare axle on hand, so we use the one I save for such emergencies on the road. However, the person selling me that axle had given me one a little too long, so he has to add a washer. After I take the bike out and began to ride, the wheel slips, so I have to return. He quickly determines that the axle needs a spacer on the other side as well, and now the problem is resolved. Again, the costs are reasonable: $15 Canadian dollars to repack the rear hub including new bearings, changing the freewheel, and making various adjustments with the derailleurs, etc. I could have done all this myself if my wrench had been large enough for the freewheel remover, but due to the problem with the axle being too long, I feel pleased I have gotten help.
My final visit is to a bank, where I receive over $145 Canadian dollars for $100 in traveler's checks.
I then leave town, it being late in the day already, but I fail to find another grocery on the other side. The next two stops result in some snacks and drinks -- including my first V-8 since Canada, but I know I needed a real meal, so after turning north on highway 11 and traveling a few miles, I stop at a picnic area and make a good meal using rice, pasta, sardines, and dehydrated vegetables. [NOTE: I usually get on and off my bike cowbody style, and at the second stop, I accidently kicked my solar panel pretty hard. Whether this kick was responsible for future events, I cannot say.]
By the time my meal is over, the bike packed, and some new water filtered from a small lake there, the day is shot, as it is well past six. I ride up the highway a few miles looking for a spot and decide to try a spruce woods again. The ground is a carpet of moss. Unfortunately, under the carpet are lots of fallen, rotten spruce logs, so finding a comfortable sleeping position takes some work, as I have to move logs to find a flat space large enough for the tent while the mosquitoes get intense, requiring me to put on the rainsuit and mosquito veil. I test the spot, put everything in the tent, and then crawl in.
Once inside, I find that there were logs under the moss that I didn't see. But I don't know where to relocate the tent, the mosquitoes are swarming, and I'm ready to crash. So I make myself as comfortable as possible and go to sleep.
Lardner Lake - Sesekinika, 40.4 miles, 10.8 mph, July 17, 2000.
Day 48: I wake up to a rainy and cold morning. The logs underneath had made for tough sleeping during the night until I found a comfortable position. The rain soon ends, so I pack the bike, pick my way over spruce logs, and am on my way. My hands are very cold due to my gloves being wet from packing the tent, but the gloves dry as I ride. However, my legs continue to be cold, so I stop and put on my rain pants. At times, there are little showers of rain which add to my being cold. This is the type of day to make me glad I have a three-layer Gore-Tex jacket. The temperature is in the low 40's (Fahrenheit), the sky is overcast, and I am pushing against a hard, cold wind. I often have my overly-large hood on due to falling rain, which makes looking back for trucks impossible. I already can't hear them, due to the wind.
I'm very hungry too, but my slow speed makes the next town of any size a long distance away. After a good while, I reach Ramore, which is off of the road to my right, but a look in that direction sees to tell me that the town is very small. As I ride on, I see the town stretches out parallel to the highway and is larger than I thought, so at the next turn, I pedal into the town and find a very small grocery where I buy a V-8, some wafers (looking for cheap and easy-to-eat carbohydrate), and some peanuts (good buy). The woman at the store speaks both English and French excellently, a common characteristic of this area. Everyone wants to know about my trip. The store is too tiny to eat inside, so I step on back out into the rain.
Outside, I eat the cookies and put my thermal shirt on under my raincoat. I then head on down the road, the weather not having improved. The nine miles to Matheson pass slowly. The terrain is gradually changing to farm land, and I wonder if that change will continue. I am climbing small hills, which actually help by blocking the wind. The shoulder is incredibly soft. At one point after stopping, when I start back onto the roadway, the bike spills over, and I land in the roadway, with my pride more badly bruised than my hand. Then, after I begin again, I see my handlebars are crooked and pull off and nearly crash again.
In my years of adult cycling, I have had just six accidents while riding, with the injuries all coming from falling off of the bike. More embarrassing are four other falls (including this one), that occurred when the bike was not really moving. I suppose I fell other times as a child, but I have no memory of them. I didn't even fall when my handlebars came off once while going downhill. I guess I have an excellent sense of balance because I once braked too hard when traveling downhill on a dirt road and remained upright with the bike stopped facing backwards.
I reach Matheson, and one of the motels advertises rooms for $45. I am very tempted, as I am miserable and not making any progress. I really can't get out of the weather and relax anywhere either. If only I was near a bigger town with a library. Matheson has a bigger store but no hot bread. Around Lake Superior, every small town had hot bread except Nipigon, and I stopped there on a Sunday, with the store barely open. The fruit here is all reduced in cost because it is overripe, so I get some grapes and just two bananas. I get some bagels as the only bread I feel like eating on a cold day. A van with boys, girls, and two women has stopped in front of the grocery, and as I wait there, I get friendly smiles from everyone in the group, but no one asks me about my trip. I ask a man about taking a back road, and his directions just put me on highway 11. I wonder if he was French Canadian and didn't understand me clearly.
I stop again a few miles up at picnic area. The Ontario picnic stops mostly lack water and have outhouse-type sanitary toilets. I eat my grapes -- finding the ones in the center spoiled -- and two of the bagels. My spirits are low. I picture riding the rest of the day in very cold weather and then having an even colder night. My stop does not help, as I become chilled. I have been worried about cold weather in the Rockies, but I never expected it here.
At Val Gagne, I see a motel that advertises rooms for $39.95, and I decide to call it quits. I am going to exhaust myself to cover few miles and have a miserable evening. The price does not include tax, which increases the cost to almost $45. Some hours after I stop, the sky clears, but too late to warm things up much, and the night will be colder as a result. I can't use the internet because I am too far from an urban center, but I do use my time to go back and revise and correct my trip account to date.
I plan to not eat at the restaurant, as I predict the price will be high, but I have little on my bike to eat; mainly a large packet of peanuts. By seven, I am too hungry to ignore the restaurant, so I go down to eat. The choice is primarily between foods that I can not eat and starts at nearly nine dollars. The best I can do is to pick the Chinese dish for $9.95, but I can't eat the egg rolls because they contain pork, so they agree to subtract them from the price. I have some tomato juice, a very small amount of chicken, and what looks like a heap of rice but which is a small meal for me with a total price of almost $14, including the tip.
This cold rainy, windy weather is terrible for me financially. I can't make any mileage under these conditions, I can't cook outside, and I can't afford to continue to stay at motels.
Sesekinika - Val Gagne, 35.8 miles, 9.1 mph, July 18, 2000.
Day 49: As is often the case at a motel, I did not sleep well last night, or at least I don't think I did, and I feel very much like sleeping in later. I fell asleep at about eight, I would guess, and was back awake by twelve and using the time to work on the computer. But I didn't get back to sleep until much later, and now I have slept in and still feel groggy.
I get everything ready to leave by nine. Oh well, I've given it more time to warm up this morning. I start off without my leg warmers or raincoat on, as I feel it's warm enough. Well, it's rather crisp and cold to not use them, but I'm not miserable. After a few miles, I take the back road into Iroquois Falls, as I haven't had anything to eat for breakfast. The road is marked on the map, but I have to guess which road it is because there is no sign, but the guess is obvious, since the other two choices parallel the railroad track.
It's very nice to travel on a back road: no trucks, in fact, no vehicles. Then I pass a cyclist and say hello to him. In response, Jerry immediately turns around and joins me. He is retired, and he rides 15 miles each day for his heath. He also lifts weights and swims and, in the winter, skis across country. He tells me that he is following his doctor's advice and doing so gives him something to do. I tell him that I want to use the internet, so he is anxious to guide me to the internet cafe in town. He stops at his house, and I go on, and he meets me in town in his car (because he says he has a tight schedule today) and leads me to the right building. He also indicates the route out of town and tells me where I can find a grocery. I can see why he wanted to help me as the location is not at all obvious.
Inside the internet cafe, I am told I can use the internet for one hour for two dollars. That's a reasonable fee, and an hour gives me enough time to get my mail, check on my website traffic, and check on my bills.
I then go down to the grocery and get some food for the day, but unfortunately they have no hot bread. However, I do get a fresh, large breakfast bread for just a little more money. I'm sure it would provide a good breakfast for a dozen normal people or one cyclist. I return to leave along the route Jerry pointed out, but here I am confused by the roads, as they are not marked. Here, the right choice isn't obvious. Backtracking a bit, I find a Subway on the other side of the same building where I used the internet. So I eat a sub, and then ask for directions to Nellie Lake. The man at the cash register tells me to go down a different road than what I had supposed and to turn right just before the railroad track. When I ask him if that is the main road, he does not answer directly but says, "You don't want a gravel road, do you?" So, I follow his route, but it seems to be straight down the main road as it is broad and has a double line. I get angry as I ride along. Jerry would have told me if the Nellie Lake road was partially gravel. Still, I point out to myself, the other road might not be obvious for me to follow. Getting lost would certainly take more time than a long detour. Then I reach the turn off to Nellie Lake and, just across the railroad tracks, highway 11. I am now convinced that he sent me down the wrong road. However, just up the road, I pass the turn-off to Tunis. This has me thinking again. I should have reached Nellie Lake before I reached Tunis, yet I saw no such turn-off. Maybe he sent me exactly the right way.
I have 25 miles to travel before I reach Cochrane. The weather turns cloudy again in the afternoon, and the wind picks up against me. I have to put on my rain jacket and then my leg warmers. I stop and eat at a picnic stop -- these stops are frequent through here. I also stop very briefly at the next two picnic stops, each with some historical information of little consequence. When I arrive in Cochrane, it seems like night because it is so dark. I get some hot bread, and I also see a small box of cooked chicken which had been in the heat to long. In Alabama, the last bit of chicken is often sold cheaply, but the woman here wants me to pay $1.60 a piece for white or $1.20 a piece for dark meat, ignoring the fact that all she has is wings. So I don't buy any. Because it's so late and I'm anxious to find a camping site, I do buy some water, so I won't loose any more time finding a source.
After leaving town, I run into a construction area. There's bad road, lots of construction workers and vehicles, and the cars and trucks are being halted to travel in single file through areas where the construction machinery is partially blocking the road. After passing through one of these roadblocks and before reaching a second, I notice a high embankment with lots of small trees on it. There's no traffic either way, so I push the bike up there and find a site invisible from either directions. The mosquito population is heavy though, probably due to the rain, so I put on my mosquito veil and rain pants before setting up the tent.
When I start to use the computer, I discover that the battery charge is still very low. There was some good sun in the morning but none in the afternoon. Is there a problem with the panel, the battery, or the cords, or was there just not enough sunlight?
At any rate, I'm sleepy enough to go right to bed anyway.
During the night, I have get up to pee, and then I have to kill more than two dozen mosquitoes inside the tent.
Val Gagne - Cochrane, 54.3 miles, 10.4 mph, July 19, 2000.
Day 50: In the morning, the front of the tent is thick with mosquitoes. I put on the mosquito veil and full rainsuit before getting out of the tent. It's cold anyway, so the extra clothing won't be a problem. After packing, I keep the veil on all the way out to the road and then pull it off but just tuck it under my rainsuit (the veil fastens under my arms, so to take it off, I would have to remove the rainsuit). A couple of miles down the road, I stop at a roadside stop to remove it. Before leaving, I talk to the operator of a scraper who's working there, and he tells me that he sees a bear nearly every day on his job.
For a long distance, I am riding in a deep, four foot wide groove cut out of the pavement, almost down to the dirt, until I pass the machine cutting the groove. The construction company is evidently stripping the pavement down to the original pavement before paving. Very few vehicles ride in this groove at all unless there are vehicles coming the other way, but one driver of a small car nearly hits me due to refusing to move over.
After riding some miles, I stop and remove the rain pants because the temperature has improved, but I have to put on the leg warmers at the same time. I keep the jacket on, but keep it partially unzipped to allow moisture to escape. Then, farther down the road, the rain begins. It's light, so I don't have to put the rain pants on right away, but the temperature is dropping again. When I reach Smooth Rock Falls, the drizzle has begun, and I'm pretty miserable. I find a grocery without hot bread, so I get some bagels, yogurt, and some cheap peanuts. I ask the cashier if there is a laundry, and she has to call out to the woman at the meat section in French to find out, and then she directs me down the street. I walk down the street, looking at every building, but I see no laundry, but I do find another grocery, this one with hot bread. So I get some bread and plums and ask again. She sends me back down the street. About half way, I am peeking in a back door, when the person living there shows up and asks me what I am doing. I explain about the laundry, and he tells me it is two doors down. Going there, I see no sign of a laundry; however, there is a door on the side of the building (the main door is to another business, which is for sale), and it opens to a flight of stairs leading down to a warm laundry. So, I go get change, and take several trips to tote my clothes down there. There are several advantages: I am out of the weather and in a warm room, I get to wash my clothes -- especially my raincoat which has become quite dirty, and I get to type my notes. Laundries are the best bargain on the road. The machines in this laundry are old, and I'm not even certain which ones work, but I have no problems.
When I leave, the weather is still cold, and it's drizzling slightly. A couple of miles out of town, the rain is harder, so I stop at a rest stop to put my rain pants back on. I wait there a while, hoping the weather will improve, but there's no real shelter, so I go on. Some miles up the road, I encounter a bridge, so I explore to see if I can get down there. It's a long distance down, and the flat area at the bottom is very close to the water, so it might be wet or might flood. A short distance away, I stop at a little store, get a V-8, and talk to the woman there. She is evidently worried about bears and tells me of several incidents that have happened recently. She's also somewhat sympathetic to the bears, as she tells me that a late frost killed all the berries this year (I had been wondering why I had found little fruit). On the other hand, she thinks the bear situation would be improved if Ontario went back to two hunting seasons for them. While more use to cold, rainy weather than me, she considers the weather quite unusual.
After I leave the store, the rain starts falling heavier. As I have nothing else to do, I keep pedaling. However, the rain quits before I get to Fauquier, and the temperature gets warmer, so I stop and remove the rain paints and put on the leg warmers. While going through the town, I see some boys fooling around with a three-wheel recumbent, which they say was made in town. The bike steers by leaning the body, which changes the angle of the wheel. [I don't think this is safe.] Before leaving the town, I see a park near the river, where I could possibly camp. Then on the other side of the river, I see some other camping possibilities. However, I've gone less than 50 miles, so I keep on. Beyond the next town, I stop at a gas station and get a V-8 splash, explaining to the fellow operating the station that it provides vitamins A and C and thus is important to me, so he gives me two free bottles, which embarrasses me. He says that there is no place to camp before Kapuskasing, but that I will find an open area there.
I continue on into the outskirts of Kapuskasing without seeing any real possibilities. The area is a mixture of houses, fields, and low-lying spruce woods. Then I see a motel with a sign announcing a room for $25. Considering that it could begin raining again at any time and that a campground could cost me $20, I decide to get a room. The owner of the motel is an interesting person. Besides working and running a motel, he makes beautiful scrollwork, wood engravings, and furniture. He is working on a book to sell to wood cutters. The room is also odd, evidently intended for temporary workers, as it includes three single beds and a kitchenette. I waste no time in preparing myself a big meal. This rainy weather has no only been making the ride more difficult but has also been preventing me from cooking which has hurt my pocket book and energy level.
Cochrane - Kapuskasing, 62.9 miles, 10.9 mph, July 20, 2000.
Day 51: When I get up, I take my time getting ready to leave because I am not anxious to face another cold, wet day. I think about cooking another meal on the stove before leaving, and I do take another shower and write down all the events of the day before I go. I even play a computer game for half an hour.
Part of my reason for being so slow is that I want to be sure that the library in town is open when I get there. I open the door, push the bike out, and the weather doesn't seem to be too bad. But before I travel more than a few yards -- I'm still within the parking lot -- I want to turn back. It's a cold, windy, miserable day.
Oh well, I think, let's see what it's like at the library. I first go by the supermarket, however, and spend some time hunting for bargains. I almost buy some Greek salad because the price is so low when I notice that the price is for 100 grams, not for one pound. Weighin by the pound is used at the supermarkets because it weighs less than a kilogram, the offical measure, but here's a market that has found an even smaller amount to keep the prices looking low.
When I get back out, I discover that my front tire is partially flat. Since the front tire is much easier to remove, I release the front brake, pop the lever, lay the bike on its side, pull the tire off, pump it up, and roll it through a convenient puddle to see if I can see any air coming out. No such luck. Not wanting to waste time on a slow leak, I put it back on the bike and head for the library.
At the library, I use the internet, but I can't pay my bills because the Netscape certificate has expired, and I can't get my email because (according to CNN) there has been a storm in the town where my web host is located. My web site is on-line, but not the computer with the email.
I fool around for a couple of hours, hoping the email server will come on-line and not wanting to leave. Finally, I can't find any more excuse for staying, so I go back outside. Of course, the tire is flat, so I pump it up and leave.
At least now the roads are dry, and the air is not as chilly, although the sky is dark. I leave town at twelve without any enthusiasm and stop every few miles to pump up the tire. Finally, I stop at a turn-off, ready to tackle the tire. I remove the front wheel just as I had before, making sure that I lay the bike down with the tools on the upper side, and then I get out the tire "irons" and remove the tube. I look around at the available puddles of water -- there's always at least one puddle within spitting distance in this weather -- and pick the easiest one to lower the tube into, which happens to be a ditch. I then pump the tube up extra plump, so there'll be lots of air squirting out. However, to get the tube into the water, I have to knell down and lean forward, and each time I try I get a face full of black flies that keep me from accurately locating the leak. If nothing else, I am persistent, so I try a dozen times, but each time the flies are worse. Nonetheless, I finally get my fingernail on the very leak, but it's no use: there's no mark to identify the spot for even a second, and huge numbers of flies are in my face. I can't mark the spot with one hand, repair it with another, and kill flies with a third. Finally, I give up and replace the tube with another.
Then when I begin, the tire thumps alarmingly. I get off, inspect the tire, and I can find nothing wrong. I know what the problem is: 27 inch tubes, for some reason, are made longer than the tires they must fit inside, so it's more easy than not to end up with a bunched tube, and I had put the tire on hurriedly. However, I certainly am in no mood to take the tire back off, as I am still surrounded by a cloud of black flies, so I just let the air out and pump it back up, hoping the tire will correct itself. No dice. So, I continue thumping down the road.
Then I come to a picnic area, so I stop to rest, finish my bread, and use the john. I also let the air completely out of the tire and fill it up again. When I leave, I am pleased to see that the tire is no longer thumping.
By this time, it's already starting to get dark, and I have no enthusiasm for pushing on. I stop at a monument for three workers killed during a strike. Across the road, I notice a ski lane -- or something -- and just out of sight of the road is a field full of small trees, so I pitch my tent there. My entering the field arouses huge numbers of mosquitoes, but I already have on my rainsuit due to the cold weather, so I just put on the veil, and pitch the tent in relative peace.
Kapuskasing-Louther, 37.9 miles, 10.6 mph, July 21, 2000.
Day 52: When I wake up in the morning, I know I will be facing the same cloud of mosquitoes when I crawl out of the tent, so I put on the rainsuit and veil and have everything ready to pack before I get out of the tent. Of course, while I'm loading the bike, I have hundreds of mosquitoes flying in my face, but what is that to a former beekeeper?
It's a long ride to Hearst, but I am in a better mood today. And on the very edge of the sky, I see a patch of clear sky, very light blue in color, possibly meaning colder weather. I reach Matheson, get some bagels (no fresh bread), bananas, and yogurt. There's a provincial park in town where I can use the john, but the sign says in English that I must get a permit to camp there and in French that I must pay to camp there. I appreciate the greater honesty in French, but I would appreciate even more the actual cost being mentioned. At the bridge leaving town, a sign explains that Missinaibi River was used by the fir traders as part of a route, along with the Moose and the Michipicoten, to travel from Lake Superior to Hudson Bay.
In Hearst, I was traveling down the four-laned street when the fellow in the pickup behind me honks and motions for me to pull over. Then he pulls his truck up onto the curb. I wonder, do I know these people? I scan their faces as they get out of the vehicle, and the woman explains that they had to pull off of the road to check the tire on their trailer. But why did he ask me to pull over when all he had to do was to pull up on the curb behind me? Motorist mentality, I guess.
I found the library without help and was pleased to discover that I could use the internet for $2 an hour, so I received my email, checked on my website traffic, paid my bills, scanned the touring reports, and soon found myself paying $4. Much of the time was spent supplying information to the British Medical Journal, which wanted to publish my letter but needed my references.
I then go down to the supermarket, where I buy some cooked chicken, which is a little old and dry but also cheap, some lentils, but no bread, as it's not quite fresh.
Back outside, the sun has finally come out. Earlier, I was pleased to see my shadow for the first time in days for a few minutes. Now I have enough sun to check to see if my solar panel is working. It hasn't charged the batteries in several days, although they're not running down either. However, my check of the panel, using my multimeter, reveals that it is now producing no power.
I decide to contact the company that sold me the panel, so I travel back to the library to plug in the laptop and get the phone number. I ask where I can find a phone and if I can leave the laptop, but they point out that they will be closing in fifteen minutes, as it is now approaching four o'clock their time. Where had the time gone? I call the seller, but the company isn't open on Saturdays.
When I get back to my bike, two women stop and ask about my trip, and one says she loves to read about trips like mine and that she reads all the bicycling trips, so I give them both cards.
Before leaving town, I get some fresh bread and other food and head out of town. I now have my usual task of putting on some miles late in the day. But, unlike yesterday, the sky is bright and so are my spirits, so rather than stopping early, I ride an extra hour. Because it's warm, I find myself drinking up the water that I had gotten from the motel the day before and had barely touched in a day and a half. So, I find a stream and filter some water.
Finding a camping spot is not as easy tonight as it's all spruce on either side of the road, except for an occasional clump of birches, and there are deep ditches too. My goal, as usual, is to find a spot not visible from the road. Finally, I see a mound and some shrubs that would shield my tent, so I walk across two dry ditches to find that it looks ok, without seeing a single insect. There are also some tasty, tiny strawberry on the route. However, after I get the bike and come back, the insects start arriving. At first I spray myself with deet, but they're not much deterred by that, so I put on the rainsuit and veil, although the veil is not really necessary here.
After getting into the tent, I see by the insects against the mosquito netting that the greatest number of insects here is not the mosquitoes or the black flies but no-see-um's, which are visible only against the sky or white side of the tent and never when biting an arm. Each no-see-um that I kill leaves a red smear, showing that they have been biting me.
Louther - Calstock, 60.2 miles, 10.7 mph, July 22, 2000.
Day 53: I slept well until midnight last night, but I had trouble going back to sleep after then. Still, I feel fine this morning. The sky is blue and white, that is, a mixture of clear and clouds. It's a little cold, but the kind of cold that disappears easily. I put on all the insect gear before leaving the tent, but the mosquitoes are not bad, and the black flies and mosquitoes don't appear.
I travel 3½ miles down the road to a picnic area where I stop to eat my bananas and bread. There are half a dozen vehicles here, including an ice truck and a boat trailer, lots of kayaks, tents, drying clothes, and a class in progress. Evidently, they have all spent the night here. I sit at a table far away from them, and the mosquitoes are worse here than where I was camping. They also seem to know to go for the socks rather than for the pannier bags or the rainsuit. As I eat, three people drift over separately and ask me questions about where I'm going and what is the solar panel hooked to. I feel awkward answering personal questions, as I am in an isolated area and outnumbered, so I explain to the first, "It's not who you are but where we are."
After they decide to leave me alone, I change my clothes in the john. Now that I can't use the laptop, I am not bothering to get my clothes bag out of the panniers at night, so I hadn't yet changed. I also explore the panel further, prying the connection box open, and discover that the contacts are good, so the problem must be within the panel itself. Now that the panel is not working, I'd like to stick it in my bag, so people won't ask questions; however, it is very slightly charging the batteries, I think.
Not much further down the road is an intersection that leads to White River. It is tempting to leave this rather boring highway and go down to Lake Superior, but it would cost an extra day or two to do so now. A small V-8 costs $1.44 here, but then the restaurant is in the middle of nowhere.
I now ride another 17 miles to a second picnic area, where I prepare a real meal, as I won't be reaching a town until tomorrow. I use water from the stream plus dehydrated vegetables, tiny macaroni, rice, and chicken bullion. The results are rewarding. I clean the pot and use it to hold the water which I filter into my bottles.
After packing, the time is now two, and the wind has picked up. The hours drag on due to the battle against the wind. The terrain has gotten more hillish but the grades are still slight. However, I must use the triple uphill as I have both the hill and the wind to push against, and I have to push downhill as well.
As it nears evening, I find I am below the number of miles I want to cover, nearly out of water, and needing another meal. I see some good places to camp, but if I stop now I won't have the miles, water, or food. The miles are especially important, as I want to make it to a phone in the morning. I see a dark red stream down under a bridge. It's very rocky down there, and I'm quite far from any bushes, so I don't expect insect problems, but as I pump the bottle full, more and more black flies and mosquitoes arrive to pester me.
This experience convinces me that I should forget about cooking again this evening. At seven, I climb a hill, and I decide to go ahead and find a place as I've traveled over 50 miles and am quite tired. I look at several cleared lanes, and finally pick the third. I'm not sure if these are supposed to be ski runs in the winter or what. This one has had some motor vehicle traffic when the ground was wetter and softer, as they have left deep tracks. There are also deep, dried old moose tracks here. Today is the first day I've seen any evidence of moose in Canada on this trip, although it has not been much.
There's no sign of traffic in months, and it's very late in the day, so I decide it's OK to camp here. I have the usual insect problems, and I find that the ground is very hard, but I sleep ok.
Calstock - Hwy 11, 56.6 miles, 10.0 mph, July 23, 2000.
Day 54: In the morning, I have a long ride to Klotz Lake. My spirits have been dropping over the last few days. One problem is the isolation, not only the long distances between towns, but also the lack of conversation when I reach a town. My inability to use the computer at night also bothers me very much. I'm afraid my trip account is going to be damaged as a result. The weather has been the biggest problem overall. I knew that I would be facing headwinds, but I had also expected some breaks. Since arriving in Canada, I had averaged as much as eleven miles an hour on only two days, averaging 11.8 and 12.0 mph on those days. I have averaged only 54 miles per day on the trip and actually fewer miles per day since entering Canada. I need to have been averaging 66 miles per day. Finally, the biggest problem has been the rain and rainy weather. Directly, the rain hasn't affected me much, as I have a good tent, rainsuit, and tight panniers, but indirectly the effect has been worse. The rain has kept the insect numbers up far past their season. I'm well prepared for them at night, but the fact that I can't take a walk or rest, fix a meal along the road, or even stop on the roadway itself without being attacked by them is very depressing. The rain has often directly prevented me from camping. The significance of all this is that I intended to be in the wooded areas all the way to British Columbia. How can I put up with this all the way across Canada? Or even as far as Kenora? I am very worried about cold and rainy weather in the Rockies. A final problem is that my expenses are much higher than expected; I have traveled 1/3 the distance and spent 1/2 the money.
In addition, while not having much to think about, I have been exploring what I want to do when I get home. If I return home now, I can finish my cabin before winter sets in, while if I complete the trip, I will have to wait until spring to begin.
At Klotz Lake, I stop to cook, as I am very hungry. While I am eating, an MTO supervisor stops by, and I get to have a good conversation. However, when I leave, it is already two, and I have gone only 16 miles. Where has my time gotten to? Fortunately, I encounter a phone before I reach town, but I have already lost my mission. The person at the other end of the phone will be happy to send a new panel to Kenora, but I am no longer sure I want to go there. I tell him that I will get back with him.
After many hours I reach town, but I find no fresh bread, no public toilet, no fast food outlet, and of course, I no longer need to use the phone, so all I get are some somewhat green bananas.
After leaving town, I have to find a place to squat, and of course the mosquitoes tear up my bottom while I'm doing that. Further down the road, I see a side road closed to motor vehicles and go in there. All I find is the site of a gravel pile, now flat and overgrown with small trees, but the time is late, the night is getting dark, and rain is threatening. Before getting in the tent, I eat some of the bananas, which don't agree with my stomach. After I get into the tent, I have to get up six times because of something I forgot, and then I have to kill mosquitoes after I get back in each time.
Before getting ready for bed, instead of working on my trip account, I spend some time on my cabin plans. During the night, it rains and rains. I feel fortunate at being on a gravel pile for this reason. I toss and turn without sleeping and have to pee a half a dozen times -- a lot more than what I think I drank during the day. The tossing and turning is due to a mental struggle. I both very strongly want to continue this trip and very strongly wish to abort it.
Hwy 11 - Longlac, 55.9 miles, 10.1 mph, July 24, 2000.
Day 55: I wake up to another wet day. The tent is almost dry inside; however, there are some puddles. After I get going, it seems as if it takes forever to get to the next town, even though it's very close. The sky is black, and the road is wet. It's warm, so I stop when I spot a post to learn the bike against and take off the rain pants, and I put some air into my rear tire. The gradual leak in that tire, rather than getting worse, has been needed less and less attention. This is the first air in several days.
I go a short distance, and it starts raining, so I have to put the rain pants back on. The rain keeps increasing. By the time I reach the turn-off to the town, it's pouring, so I stop at the store there and get a drink and some cookies, which I eat standing in the door. The Coca-Cola man is having to wheel drinks in and out in the rain, and the young woman working there is laughing at him getting soaked. This is the first place that's sold any quantities of soft drinks that I've seen on this trip to Canada. It even has Dr. Pepper.
I'm very much in the way as the only place to stand is in the entrance, so I ride into town in the rain, but I don't find any shelter anywhere. The first store doesn't sell fresh bread, and the second is so small I don't go in. The library, when I find it, doesn't open until the afternoon. It's raining so much that I check prices at the motel, but the cost is $54, before taxes. I go by the bank and dribble water everywhere. There's no shelter or overhang anywhere, the stores are tiny and quite unsuitable for pretending to shop, and the rain keeps increasing and increasing. Eventually, even inside Gore-Tex, I am completely soaked. The ground is flooded everywhere, and I don't even notice when I step into a deep puddle. I am thoroughly chilled. I go to the second store and find some good bread and cheap bananas. Finally, I give up and get a motel room and use the rest of the day working on the computer.
In the afternoon, it quits raining, but remains overcast. I eat my bread and bananas and, in the early evening, get a small pizza for $12. According to the TV, the weather to the west includes a lot of rain, especially lots of rain in British Columbia.
I have had enough. I can't afford motels and restaurants, I don't want to ride in heavy rain, and I am tired of not being able to stop and rest anywhere. I certainly don't feel like risking the Northern Woods Route in this weather, and following more southern routes may require stopping at motels. When I get to Thunder Bay, I will turn south and head through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, down to the Land Between the Lakes and route 13 south, which runs through the woods to Alabama.
It disappoints me to give up my big trip. However, I feel it is more important to have a good trip than to have a long trip. I would have been better off traveling clockwise around North America, as the wind would have been more helpful. I probably included a bit too much in the trip. On the other hand, if the weather had been drier, I am sure I would still be traveling onward.
Longlac - Geraldton, 17.7 miles, 11.2 mph, July 25, 2000.
Day 56: The sky in the morning is gray but brighter. I stay in the room until fairly late because I'm typing up the record of the trip. When I go to pay my bill, there's a baby girl crawling on the floor out from behind the clerk's counter. I notice that she has picked up a button-sized object that she could choke on and tell the clerk, who obviously is her daddy and who evidently is the owner of the motel, so he can take it off of her. He lets me hold her while he answers a dispatch. His business included a taxi service, which can be quite expensive for those traveling in by seaplane to visit the hospital, which the natives, who live far in the interior, sometimes have to do.
I go down to the store to pick up some more 39¢ bananas and good bread. Geraldton looks very different and almost strange, since I had seen it only in the pouring rain. On the way out at the edge of town, I notice a shelter that I had not seen in the rain on the way in, intended for a tourist rest stop.
The weather today is cool with no wind or sun. I ride twenty miles before I stop for a picnic at a rest stop to eat some bread and bananas. I think about cooking here, but I have more than enough bread to eat, and I decide to cook at the next stop.
However, I find after pedaling about another twenty miles that the second picnic stop marked on the map is obviously non-existent. However, I do find a place to stop and pick blueberries, even though the insects slowly begin to torment me and then have me itching all over for doing so. The next picnic stop is missing as well, but I do find a place to stop for a V-8 drink.
There is a major climb before reaching Beardmore, the steepest and longest on this rather flat journey on highway 11. Beardmore is very small, but does have a motel, hotel, and a small store. Still, it's the only community of any size since Geraldton. But I'm feeling strong and self-sufficient, so I don't stop.
The climb after Beardmore is even higher and steeper. On the way up, I notice a shape on the tracks below. Is it a small moose, large dog, or average sized bear? It disappears, but I wait, and it comes back. Beyond question, it is a bear, and it seems to be making repeated trips across the railroad track. I think about climbing down the embankment to get close enough to take a photo, but the bear disappears into the bush on my side of the railroad, and I realize that it could be heading in my direction, so I go on.
Further up the hill, I discover a new pickup with a young man and woman trying to replace the tire. The truck has moved forward, leaving the jack stuck, and the fellow is unsure of what to do. So, I tell him to easy the truck forward a little, clearing it of the jack. The woman is so thoughtless as to try to pick up the crank just as he is about to start forward, putting her hand directly in front of the tire, but I warn her, and she waits. Then I get them to place rocks in front of the front tires, so the truck won't more, and I crank the jack back down and position it properly. He takes over jacking, but I have to warn him to loosen the lugs before jacking too high. Then, after taking the old tire off, he is too anxious to get it into the bed of the truck, and I have to warn him of how important it is to get the new tire on first, as if the truck comes off of the jack now, he is really stuck. Then she knocks my bike over while walking past it. That wouldn't be hard to do, as the bike is leaning against the truck, and we have jacked the truck higher, but I watch her do it, jump back, and then exclaim, "I didn't touch the bike," rather than try to catch it before it could come to harm. I give him some final instructions on tightening the lugs and leave.
The next valley turns out to be a poor place to camp, as almost everything has been destroyed by a forest fire, which had reached the tops of the trees (800 X 467 the burned woods). Amazingly, here and there are little clumps of trees that have not been touched. Up the next hill, I find the next picnic stop, so I stop there and cook a meal, even though it is already six o'clock, the lake next to it furnishing water, and the picnic clearing helping provide some relief from the black flies and mosquitoes.
Before I leave, a motorist stops who explains that the fire happened two years earlier from brush fires, and who predicts that I wouldn't find a camping site for ten or fifteen miles. I find an invisible site within two miles in a road cut.
Geraldton - Rocky Bay, 67.2 miles, 11.3 mph, July 26, 2000.
Day 57: In the morning, I encounter high palisades formed of volcanic rock east of the road. Then I reach Lake Helen, which is part of a second Amerindian water route from Lake Superior to James Bay, this route using the Albany River and Lake Nipigon. I stop at a great picnic site here, next to some great smooth rocks that reach down to the water. Out on the lake a quarter mile away is another rock which has been taken over by the gulls and other birds. Some of them land near me and seem quite unafraid.
I put some clothes and my tent on the rocks to dry and cook some lentils and brown rice with onions. A man and his son show up, the son with a fishing rod, and I point out that the rock bottom and clear, shallow water make it a poor place to fish, but the boy tries for a while anyway.
After I start again, I pass an Amerindian community, and a father sitting out with his boys waves to me, so I give them a friendly wave back. Then I reach the intersection with 17 and take the road into Nipigon. The grocery does not have hot bread, but the Subway does. I visit the library, where I get to use the internet for a couple of hours for free.
Back on the highway, I encounter heavy traffic and narrow or missing shoulders. It's very ironic that this 100 kilometers of road has been dedicated to Terry Fox, the runner who tried crossing Canada, a marathon a day, after loosing leg to cancer, as it is absolutely the most dangerous stretch of road for cyclists and runners.
After a long ride, I reach the same camping site I used two years ago, after having passed many other opportunities. This site is on top of a steep embankment, behind some power lines. However, the bushes have been growing for two years since I was last there, and I have a much harder struggle getting the bike up there this year. One advantage of this site is that it is so far from the road that no one would bother me up there, even if I was noticed.
There's lots of blueberries up here, so I have to gorge myself, even if I do become rather itchy after a while. I don't know what bug or plant is making me itch.
I prepare the tent for rain when setting it up, which ends up being wise as it rains rather hard during the night.
Rocky Bay - Pearl, 67.5 miles, 11.6 mph, July 27, 2000.
Day 58: In the morning, the bugs are missing, even though I get up with rainsuit and veil on, anticipating lots of mosquitoes after a rain. The push down to the road seems even steeper on the way down this morning than it did on the way up last night. At one point, I notice that the bolt has pulled completely loose from my right front rack. It's wonderful that I see it before it falls off, not only to avoid an accident, but because the hook attached to it is an unreplaceable part.
I then have to brave more traffic on my way to Thunder Bay. However, at the first opportunity, I take a road with less traffic, sort of a back way into town.
In town, I find a small grocery, and sure enough, it has a great loaf of bread. Before leaving, I ask about a bike shop, as I need to get a spare rear axle. Two people tell me that the bike shop is obvious.
I stop at a park to enjoy the bread and see two touring cyclists, both with Bob trailers, but they won't stop to talk to me.
Farther down the road, I begin to get the idea that the bike shop is not obvious, so I ask a cyclist and discover that I have to backtrack and that the shop is located behind some other stores. I go in the store and buy two spare axles. I wish there was something else I could buy, as I need to get rid of some Canadian money, which does not exchange well. The rear tire looks fine.
Outside, I get in a conversation with a teacher selling raffle tickets, and before I leave, he looks my bike over. Doug tells me of a company that might be able to help me, so I ride across town following his instructions, and the secretary at the company calls someone on the phone to come down and help me. Ray and one of his coworkers analyze the panel and find the bad spot, which is in or under one of the cells. However, they can suggest no cure.
After leaving, I find a Subway and, at a supermarket, another load of fresh bread, probably the last I'll see.
South of Thunder Bay are high uplifted domes of volcanic rock (800 X 250 high domes). I find myself on a fairly flat road, riding through farm country, and wondering if I will be able to find a place to camp. There are scattered patches of woods, usually not suitable, and always with a house too close. But finally, I find a place with woods on both sides and push my bike back far enough to be invisible. This camping site is surrounded by small birches.
Pearl - Hwy 61, 65 miles, 12.3 mph, July 28, 2000.