Archive for the ‘Visited Places’ Category

Wild camping with new friends

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Shortly after leaving Gravel River, we ran into Lee, a cyclist from Australia riding to Vancouver. We pulled over and chatted for about 15 minutes and exchanged information on the road ahead. He mentioned a nice place for lunch in a picnic area just after Rossport – and he was right. It was a beautiful spot right on Lake Superior, which would make a beautiful wild camping spot if you don’t mind being close to the highway!

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Our beautiful lunch picnic spot.

We stopped for lunch and enjoyed some of Lake Superior – we used (boiled) lake water to make our noodles. We also took that opportunity to dry out our wet tent and tarp since our camping spot didn’t have any morning sun. Just as we were finishing lunch and getting ready to go, a couple of other touring cyclists pulled up. Martin and Nadine have been on the road for 6 years, and are into the last 9-months of a round-the-world bicycle and canoe tour. They have cycled over 85,000 kilometers and spent several months canoeing in various parts of the world. Very adventurous!

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Scott chatting with Martin and Nadine.

Since we were heading the same direction, we hopped back on our bikes and enjoyed several hours of conversation. After many days on the road, it’s wonderful to have new people to talk to for a while. When we came upon the Tourist Info Centre in Schreiber and discovered free wifi, Scott and Martin immediately sat down to do their daily Internet tasks. At one point there were all four of us sitting on a bench – Martin and Nadine sharing their laptop and us with ours. We must have made a truely geeky sight. After a brief break, we were back on the road.

Since we were having such a great time together, we decided join forces for a few days while our paths intersected. Given their long journey and ultra low budget, Martin and Nadine almost always wild camp. We would wild camp for one night now and then, but generally we stayed in campgrounds when they presented themselves. Wild camping is definitely cheaper, but requires a little more organization and forethought (at least for us). We normally don’t carry enough water to wild camp, so we needed to plan ahead. Camping with others would make it easier for us, but going for so many days without a campground (and shower) would also be a stretch (especially for Becky).

When wild camping, water is our most critical resource. Unfortunately, in Schreiber, Scott got distracted by the Internet and forgot to fill his water bladder – leaving us without enough water for cleaning. We were OK for cooking, but would not have enough to wipe the salt off of us at the end of the day. For Becky, this is critical, which meant that we had to find a wild camping site with access to water for cleaning. A trick we were reminded of later was to carry some baby wipes, for those times when water isn’t readily available and cleaning is necessary. The wipes are also handy for cleaning up dishes when water is limited.

Fortunately, a river with a pullout appeared just as we were contemplating where to camp for the night. A couple in a car had pulled onto the trail just before we pulled in and they too were looking for a spot to put up their tent for the night. It turned out that following the road brought us to a nice clearing where we could all set up our tents and there was a path leading down to the river (a little steep, but still accessible).

While the girls set up tents and prepared dinner, the boys went to find trees to hang food for the night. Scott and Martin compared methods – giving us one more way to hang food, which required only one tree and less line.

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Martin, Nadine, and Scott enjoying breakfast at our campsite.

Our second night together was spent camping just outside Neys Provincial Park. Rather than hanging our food on two separate trees, the boys setup our food to be hung from the same line (with two pulleys and pull lines, but only one base line). This required only finding one “ideal” tree – much less painful.

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All our food bags hung on the same tree. Probably a total of 30-35 kg!

For our third night, we decided to stop a little earlier and find a nice location near a lake. Thanks to Scott’s GPS, we were able to find a road with a small patch of lake access about 1.5km down the road. There was no sign of the lake from the road, so without the GPS we likely would never have found it. We saw no signs of life as we set up, so we were able to enjoy skinny dipping in the lake, but later we heard ATVs in the distance – hopefully we didn’t give them too much of a show. The next morning some cottage owners passed us by as we were drying our tents out on the road. Fortunately we could move them quickly!

The view over our little lake in the morning
The view over our little lake in the morning.

Becky giving Scott a haircut with Martin's battery-powered beard trimmer
Becky giving Scott a haircut.

Nadine giving Martin a haircut
Martin carries a battery-powered beard trimmer for haircutting, and Becky and Nadine both used it to provide much-needed haircuts.

At Wawa we sadly had to say goodbye. We were heading east to Timmins, but Martin and Nadine had an invite to Interbike in Las Vegas where they were to showing off their well-worn Vaude panniers at the Vaude booth. We wish them well, and hope we will be able to visit one day, wherever they end up.

If an opportunity to camp with other cycle tourists presents itself, we would definitely recommend it – even if it is only for one night. Each time we camped with others, we made great new friends and we learned and shared several new tips and tricks. Everyone does things differently, and not everything works for everyone, but there is always something new to learn.

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Becky still can’t believe we did not think of this one ourselves. Martin and Nadine had the same 14-speed Rolhoff hubs we did. They added two chain rings in the front and just manually changed them based upon the terrain. We could have saved much pain and been able to ride a little faster if we had thought to just add the second chain ring. This is definitely a modification we will make when we get home!

89 km, 6h 10 min – Gravel River to Steele River
112 km, 7h 20 min – Steele River to White Lake
96 km, 5:50 White Lake to McCormick Lake
42 km, 3h 15 min McCormick Lake to Gravel Pit (between Wawa and Hawk Junction) – near Ghost Lake

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Becky sitting on top of a picnic table at a not very nice rest area. This rest area did not even have outhouses. It was just a pull out on the side of the road with a picnic table and garbage can – which sadly many people chose not to use!

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A beautiful view of Lake Superior.

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A beautiful and huge mushroom. When walking through the woods at night, these mushrooms stand out so much that they almost glow!

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Nice rest area for a dinner stop. Scott was originally attracted by the bikes on the pole. The rest area is provided by the town of Manitouwadge, a former gold mining town reinventing itself as a tourist destination.

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Riding a little later at night than we usually like to. Notice how our triangle signs seem to glow in the dark!

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Becky and Nadine making breakfast on our second morning.

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A nice posed shot – no we don’t normally ride three abreast!

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White River – home of the bear that inspired Winnie the Pooh.

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Notice how we all have mirrors?

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Approaching Wawa.

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Becky and Nadine sitting under the Wawa goose.

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On the road again … with Terry Fox

Monday, August 31st, 2009

The section of trans Canada highway from Thunder Bay to Nipigon (highways 11 and 17) is known as the Terry Fox Courage Highway. Although it does take some courage to ride a bike on the highway, it was not nearly as bad as we feared. When we asked people about this highway, we received may comments about lack of shoulders; however, people also said there were lots of trucks and lots of bicycles – we aren’t too worried about trucks as they usually pass us with lots of room, and the lots of bicycles was certainly a positive sign. Those that advised us the strongest to avoid this section of road, had not ridden it.

On the Thunder Bay – Nipigon section, there are a few segments where the road is in terrible condition and the shoulders are pretty much nonexistent, but we suspect those will be fixed by next year. There are many segments with new pavement and adequate (4 feet) or wide (greater than 6 feet) shoulders. At Nipigon, highway 11 and 17 split, with highway 17 following Lake Superior and highway 11 heading directly East (and a little North). Once we passed this point, the traffic on highway 17 was greatly reduced, giving us nice windows of time without any vehicles in view.

We stopped to see the Terry Fox monument just East of Thunder Bay. Becky was a little disappointed as she was led to believe there was an 8 meter tall Terry Fox – the moment is bigger than real life, but not that big! Having seen the monument and taken the requisite pictures, we were back on highway 11/17. At this point, it was truly awful, with no shoulders and really rough roads. Fortunately, we were able to detour quickly to a coastal road (Lakeshore Drive) which was beautiful, mostly flat, had nice shoulders, and no traffic.

Our bikes, and the statue of Terry Fox

When we got back on highway 11/17, we met a couple who were walking down Yonge Street; that is, they were walking the entire length of Yonge Street from Lake Ontario in Toronto to Rainy River (all 1900 kilometers of it). Given where they were (just outside of Thunder Bay heading West, they must have been at it for the whole summer. When asked why, there answer was pretty much similar to ours “why not?”. We never did catch their names, but wish them well on the rest of their journey.

We stopped for the first night at Wolf River Park ($20), a beautiful campground in a bight of Wolf River, such that they had River on three sides of the park. We had a nice walk in site right on the river, which felt like we were all alone – except for the sounds of trucks driving by on the highway and the occasional train – seems you can never escape the freight trains in Canada! A chipmunk also reminded us to keep our food bags closed when we’re away from camp, even for a few minutes

Mr. Chipmunk, demonstrating that we should keep our bags closed
Mr. Chipmunk, demonstrating that we should keep our bags closed

For the second night we stopped at the Gravel River Motel ($15). They mentioned camping on the sign out front so we asked. It seems like the campsites behind the hotel are almost never used. They have a shower hut with a nice hot water shower, and a pit toilet, although the restaurant is not too far to walk. The campsites are overgrown with an amazing variety of mushrooms. We have included some pictures below – anyone know which ones are edible? (We didn’t so we had to pass on the fresh mushroom stir fry – maybe next time).

102 km, 6h – Thunder Bay to Wolf River
85 km, 5 h – Wolf River to Gravel River

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Sailing, visiting, resting, and rain

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

We arrived in Thunder Bay on Tuesday evening, and were delighted to discover that Wednesday night was race night. Suzanne and her husband Karl are avid sailboat racers, and we were eager to join in if we could. With Suzanne’s assistance, we each were added to the crew rosters of two sailboats in the A fleet (fast boats) for the Wednesday night PRHF race. Scott’s boat even took first place honours. After a night of racing and the requisite drinks afterwards, we decided that a second rest day was necessary.

Scott acting as 'rail meat' on Mongoose
Scott acting as ‘rail meat’ on Mongoose

Becky relaxing after her race, with the Sleeping Giant in the background
Becky relaxing after her race, with the Sleeping Giant in the background

Unfortunate, the weather took a turn for the worse and we ended up with two solid days of rain. So rather than suffer through riding in the rain (with a nasty headwind too), we opted for additional rest days. We are lucky to have such great friends: Suzanne, Karl, and the girls (Linnea and Mila) who hosted us throughout our stay in Thunder Bay, and happily let us stay the extra time. It was great to visit as well as relax. With Becky eagerly volunteering to cook since she had access to a real kitchen, we can definitely tell that we’re ready to be home soon.

Suzanne, Mila, Becky, Linnea and Karl

Suzanne, Mila, Becky, Linnea and Karl

Yellow eggs and zucchini

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Ok, so not exactly Green Eggs and Ham, but we have another recipe for you.
We eat oatmeal every morning, but Becky often finds that it doesn’t provide her
with enough protein. To supplement the oatmeal, whenever possible, we also
have eggs for breakfast. Here is our favourite recipe. The curry powder adds
and extra zing, and with the variation in curry powders, and the small
amounts we buy, it always tastes a bit different.

Ingredients:
3-4 eggs
1/2 onion (yellow sweet is best, purple also works well)
1 small zucchini (optional)
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt
Olive oil

Directions:
1. Chop onion into small pieces.
2. Add onion, olive oil, salt, and curry powder to the frying pan. The
amount of oil you need depends upon whether or not you have a no-stick pan.
Be a little generous with the amount, as it makes the onion sweeter.
3. Chop zucchini into 1 cm squares – and set aside.
4. Start cooking the onions – if you can simmer on your stove, then cook
them slowly, to bring out the sweetness.
5. When the onions are clear, add zucchini and fry for 2 minutes.
6. Crack eggs directly into frying pan, then quickly stir to scramble them.
7. Keep stirring as the eggs cook to prevent burning. Cook until they are
the texture you like.
8. Enjoy.

Feeds two hungry cyclists in combination with oatmeal.

A day of lasts

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Our day began with a short ride up to the continental divide – from now on all the Lakes and Rivers will flow into the Atlantic Ocean. This is the last continental divide we will cross on our journey and provides yet one more sign that we are getting closer to home. It could also mean that we’re riding downhill from here, but that was disproved a few km later with a climb to well above the height of the continental divide. Oh well…

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Our other last for the day is time zones. Today, we entered the Eastern Time Zone. We will no longer be needing to lose an hours sleep when we feel we need it the most – like just before riding a 140 km day!

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Our route into Thunder Bay brought us by Kakabeka Falls, nicknamed ‘The Niagara of the North’. While Scott was viewing the (very impressive) waterfall, Becky answered many questions about our bikes and our journey. While stopped at the park, we also used their nice shaded lawn for some afternoon yoga before hopping back on our bikes and continuing to Thunder Bay. We also decided that we weren’t vehicles, and thus didn’t need to purchase two $5 parking passes.

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Kakabeka Falls.

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Becky describing our bikes and our journey to passer’s by at Kakabeka Falls park.

In Thunder Bay, we are staying with a friend from church, Suzanne, and her family. It is wonderful to be welcomed into a family and have a roof over our heads once again. We are looking forward to a night or two of rest in a comfy bed, as well as visiting, relaxing and resupplying.

So far Canada has been a wonderful adventure. We only wish we had more time so we could ride a little slower and spend more time visiting the various places along the way. We are definitely feeling the effects of long riding days, and hope the brief rest in Thunder Bay will recharge us for the last push to get home.

145 km, 7h – Huronian Lake Rest Area to Thunder Bay

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How (not) to hang food

Monday, August 24th, 2009

We awoke to a cloudy day with questionable looking weather, however, by the
time we finished breakfast the sun was shining. We were still moving pretty
slowly – with a late start and headwinds slowing us down.

By 6:45 pm, we pulled into the Bunnell campground at Atikokan. We must have
looked confused, since a friendly couple called over to us to offer a site
beside theirs. Just a patch of grass and a picnic table, but it was all we
needed. Later, we discovered that up to three tents were allowed per site,
so we decided to share a site with Wendy and Peter. This made for a very
cheap camping night, at only $5, including free firewood and nice hot
showers.

This also gave us a chance to visit with Wendy, Peter and their friendly
springer spaniel Casey. They had just returned from a 19 day trek into
Quetico Provincial Park, which sounds spectacular. Lots of little lakes,
fishing and beautiful solitude. Another inspirational couple; they retired
early and are spending much of their time in the wilderness of Canada and
the U.S.

As dusk approached and dishes needed doing, the mosquitoes came out in
force. This was the worst bought of mosquitoes we have experienced since
Labrador. Fortunately, we had the mosquito head nets.

We were slow moving when we awoke, and a heavy dew left everything quite
wet. We still try to avoid packing up the tent and tarp wet, which
definitely slows us down on a damp and overcast day. Our plan was for a
long ride, leaving only a short relaxing ride into Thunder Bay the next day,
but this wasn’t in the cards. A strong headwind and rolling hills made for a
very slow day.

Before lunch, we crossed paths with an Albertan couple riding a tandem.
Wendy and Andy were out for an afternoon ride, enjoying the quiet road and
pretty scenery. After sharing a few trip stories, we learned that there was
a restaurant up ahead that had free Wireless Internet. We had not
anticipated any services on the road, so the restaurant was a nice
bonus, and Internet meant we could let the people with which we are staying
in Thunder Bay know when to expect us. Of course Internet is always a time
sink, so we had a longer lunch break than originally planned.

With the slow going and clouds threatening to release some wet stuff on us,
we opted to pull into the Rest Area at Huronian Lake. It turned out to be a
nice little rest area – certainly adequate for camping for the night – and
the lake was not too cold, such that we enjoyed a quick dip to rinse the
road grunge off of us.

After dinner, we decided that we would try a new method for hanging food. In
the past, we haven’t had a lot of luck figuring out how to hang it high
enough – rarely succeeding in getting it more than 6 feet off the ground.
Finding a tree with a horizontal branch which is strong enough to hold our
food, cooking gear and toiletries, and is at the correct height always
proves problematic.

In our latest method, if you can find trees the right distance apart, the
branch height is almost immaterial. Here
is how we did it.

What you need:
2 pieces of line long enough that one line will go up one tree to the height
you need, across to the second tree, and back down, plus have enough spare
for tying down. So, let’s say the hanging height is 4 meters, and the trees
are 8 meters apart, you would then need at least 4×2+8=16 meters of line.

1 pulley wide enough to fit the line. (In a pinch, a loop tied in the rope
will work, but the pulley makes things much easier when dealing with heavy
bags).

1 square shaped rock about 2 inches across – in a pinch a round rock with
do.

The procedure:

1. Identify two trees between which you wish to hang food. Ideal trees are
about 2 meters apart and have solid branches 4-5 meters high.

2. Take one line (line A) and tie the rock around one end of it.
Caution: If you don’t tie the line to the rock solidly, the rock will
slip out of the line when tossed – possibly ending up in the middle of the
woods or worse hitting something you don’t want to hit. Trust us!

Rather than a large rock, we also tried to use a mesh bag full of
smaller rocks. This worked well for the tossing portion of the procedure;
however, the bag was easily caught on branches. In the end, it jammed on a
branch 5 meters in the air, and we were forced to abandon it along with
several feet of our precious rope!

3. Coil line A ensuring there are no knots or snags in the line.

4. Stand on the non-rock end of line A, so it doesn’t get away from you.

5. Using your line-rock throwing skills, toss the rock end of the line over
the branch of the first tree (tree A).
This will take some practice to perfect. Again, trust us!

6. Use the weight of the rock to ease the rock end of the line back to the
ground. You should have both ends of the line in your hand with the bight
looped over the branch. Untie the rock.

7. Secure the ends someplace so you don’t lose them.
Trust us!

8. Repeat steps 2-7 with the second line (line B) and second tree (tree B).

9. Tie one end of line A to one end of line B, using a smooth knot (a reef
knot works well).

10. Tie a bight (loop) into line A on the same side you tied A to B and
secure the pulley to the bight. The placement of this knot should be such
that it ends up in the middle of the two trees when the line is tightened.

11. Take the free end of line B and run it through the pulley.

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12. Hold on to the free end of line B and gently pull on the middle of
line B such that it feeds line A from tree A to tree B. Keep pulling until
the knot is at ground level. Note that as you do this the pulley will rise
out of reach, hence the need to be holding onto line B through the pulley.

13. Untie the knot between ropes A and B. You should now have rope A strung
between the two trees, and rope B fed through the pulley with both ends on
the ground.

14. Adjust rope A to ensure the pulley is in the middle of the two trees.
Securely fasten both ends of the line to the attached tree trunk. (A few
wraps and some half-hitches usually works well).

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15. Secure food to one end of the line B, and use the other end to raise it
between the trees.
If your food bags are heavy, this can be a challenge. Our approach has
been to have Scott stand under the bags and push them up while Becky keeps
the line tight. Once the bags are above Scott’s head, he comes and helps
Becky raise them to the top. We are carrying 35-40 lbs (15-18 kg) of food
and related stuff.

16. Secure line B to a tree.

17. Fall asleep, secure in the knowledge that your food is safe. (Unless
you’re in Yellowstone Park, where the bears know to chew through lines until
the food falls to the ground).

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If you look really close, you can see the bags hung nice and high in the air.

Rainy Lake cottage to Atikokan – 117 km, 6h40 min
Atikokan to Huronian Lake Rest Area – 75 km, 4h 30 min

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Oh how we love cottage life

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

We were having a slow day. We awoke and got moving in time to be half packed up when the first of the ball players arrived – the downside to spending the night camped on a ball diamond on a weekend. The upside being that when the concession lady arrived, she unlocked the bathrooms. We talked to several of the players before their fun tournament began. No one seemed to mind that we camped the night there.

We quickly rode into Fort Frances and started the many chores on our list: get stove fuel at Canadian Tire, veggies at the farmers market, do laundry, find Internet and update blog, and stop at Safeway for some groceries. Our quick set of chores took us 5 hours (oops).

We did get to the Farmer’s Market for some yummy vegetables and elk sausage, and also bought our first basket of Ontario Peaches for the season. Local produce is so much yummier than the stuff we get most of the time.

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Small but sufficient farmer’s market in Fort Frances.

It was mostly as a result of our extended Internet time that we left Fort Francis at 4 pm. We had hoped to make it to the first set of listed campgrounds 70 km away, but we were not riding that fast. Time was ticking and Becky was getting hungry. We decided to stop at a spot on the side of the road with lake access and make dinner. We would then ride a little further up the road and find ourselves a spot to camp for the night. While we were enjoying dinner, a car pulled up with a couple in it and the gentleman asked: “Are you planning to camp there tonight?” Our first thought was that this was someone from the area who didn’t want cyclists around, but after a brief discussion of our plans, he invited us to stay at his cabin for the night.

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Becky making dinner by the side of the road near Rainy Lake.

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View from our dinner spot on the side of the road near Rainy Lake

Now, when complete strangers pull over in their car and make such a generous offer, you have very little time to size up the situation. Are they scary people? Are they mad or just a little crazy for inviting random cyclists home for the night? Looking at the time, it didn’t take Becky more than two seconds to accept their offer. After all, taking advantage of such offers is something we promised ourselves we would do if we could and a night at a cottage certainly sounded more appealing then wild camping, with the added bonus of getting to meet some of the locals.

We finish our dinner, clean up, repack, and we are off to Ed and Colleen’s cottage on Rainy Lake. When we arrive, we were given a room inside (such an extra delight to have a bed for the night). After a brief discussion, we happily join in the evening cottage tradition – enjoy a bottle of beer while watching the sunset, then change into swimming gear and head for the sauna. We got ourselves nice and toasty warm in the sauna and then cooled off quite quickly with a jump into Rainy Lake – which is normally warmer at this time of year, but this year the weather hasn’t been too great – then repeat 3 or 4 times. This must be the best way ever to end a day of cycling!

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The sauna building on the lake at Ed and Colleen’s cottage on Rainy Lake.

We had a lovely time getting to know Ed and Colleen, and are very grateful that they took a chance (or took pity) on a couple of wayward cyclists. For reference to other cyclists – they aren’t crazy axe murders looking for fresh meat and for anyone thinking of stopping to talk to two crazy recumbent cyclists having dinner on the side of the road – neither are we.

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Becky, Colleen, and Ed on the deck at their cottage on Rainy Lake.

70 km, 4 hr Devlin to Rainy Lake cottage

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Hoo Hoo

Friday, August 21st, 2009

We awoke to rain and promptly turned over – hoping it would stop. When that technique didn’t work, we got up and found shelter for making breakfast in the kids play structure. The forecast said it would clear by the afternoon, so we took advantage of the 2 pm checkout time, and hung around. They also had a sauna, so we hung out in it, staying dry and warm.

By 1 pm, the rain seemed to have lighted up and we hoped it would stop for the day. We packed up and hopped on our bikes. Within an hour, the rain picked up again and didn’t stop for the rest of the day. As we approached Sioux Narrows, the rain lighted up, so we opted for camping at the overpriced provincial park ($27.25). Fortunately, they had a dryer, so we immediately headed to the comfort station to dry out our wet weather gear and take a warm shower.

Clean, warm, and dry, we headed out to the day use area in search of a picnic shelter so that we could make dinner without standing in the rain. The picnic shelter turned out to be huge, with six tables and a nice empty table-free space. The campground was almost deserted – we saw only three other occupied sites when we were at the comfort station. Knowing the park was empty, we hoped they would allow us to set up our tent under the picnic shelter rather than moving back up the hill to a formal site.

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Our stuff all sprawled out in the picnic shelter at Sioux Narrows Provincial Park.

Upon entering the picnic shelter, Scott noticed an owl in the tree – at first he thought it was fake, but then it moved. Becky was fascinated by it. It didn’t seem to be bothered by us, so we setup our dinner preparations on the far side of the shelter. At one point, a chipmunk came running through the shelter towards the owl. We expected the owl would have dinner as well, as it swooped down on the chipmunk. Fortunately for the chipmunk, it dodged the attack and froze half way up a tree. Later we watched the owl catch and eat some tiny field mice. Becky found it fascinating, since this was the first owl she’d seen in the wild. It was definitely habituated to people.

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Our friendly neighbourhood owl at Sioux Narrows Provincial Park.

The campground attendant drove by and told us we could indeed stay under the picnic shelter if we wished. As long as the wind didn’t come from the south we would be well sheltered. We spent the night nice and dry under the shelter with the fly off the tent listening to a constant drumbeat of rain. By about 3 am, the rain finally stopped and the skies cleared.

With a nice sunny day, we were able to dry out most of our gear before starting out for the day. The hills were rolling but the wind was mostly at our backs, making for a pleasant day on the bikes. We stopped at the side of the road for lunch – a brief miscommunication as Scott had hoped to pull into a boat launch and enjoy lunch by a lake but failed to communicate that with Becky who was protein starved at the time and just needed food (oh well).

After making slow progress in the morning, the hills leveled out and our average speed increased significantly. Our map showed many small towns after Nestor Falls, but we soon discovered there are no services between Nestor Falls and Emo. We had hoped to camp in Emo, but there were no official campgrounds, so we stopped for pie – which turned into a stop for dinner. At dinner we learned that the nearest official campground was on the far side of Fort Frances. Just before we left the restaurant a nice gentleman came out and told us that we could camp at the Devlin ball diamond if we were not going to make it to Fort Frances.

We had high hopes of making it to Fort Frances on departure, but the sun soon told us we needed to change plans. When we saw the ball diamond in Devlin, we pulled in. There was a nice place to setup underneath the concession stand so we would be covered for the night, and they had several picnic tables. Unfortunately, the bathrooms were locked, so we had to use the nature option. There was also no water available, so Scott ran back to the local convenience store and purchased a 4L jug of water ($2). All-in-all a good day’s ride and a comfy and free place to sleep.

60 km, 3h 45 min – Longbow Lake to Sioux Narrows
129 km, 7h – Sioux Narrows to Devlin

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Sticker shock

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Today was a really short day – we made it through Kenora and almost to the junction of highway 17 and highway 71. Becky was feeling very tired and sore after the long ride yesterday such that every small uphill was just a slog – only 43 km in 3 hours! Rather than continue slogging along, we decided to get a campsite early (around 3 pm) and spend the afternoon relaxing.

We have discovered that camping in Ontario is ridiculously expensive – I suppose we should have known, as we recalled it being expensive, but did not remember it being this bad! The list price on the Provincial Campground website ranges from $35 down to a mere $27 per night! These are basic campsites without RV services. So tonight only, we splurged and forked out $32 for a campsite at Redden’s trailer park – fortunately, it is a nice site near the lake and down a hill from the highway, so we should not be hearing traffic all night. As a bonus, the campground store is also an LCBO (Ontario liquor store), so we were able to have a cold beer with dinner.
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Pretty view of Longbow Lake from the beach at our campsite.

As Becky was purchasing her after dinner snack, she ran into another touring cyclist, Matt – who turned out to be one of a group of 3 cyclists going the other direction and heading to Vancouver for the winter. We shared tips and tricks about the road ahead and passed along our Alberta / Saskatchewan map. Unfortunately, the campground here only allows one tent per site, and it was full, so we wished them well, and they headed on to Kenora. Good luck and safe journey to Jessica, Robbie and Matt!
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Jessica, Matt, and Robbie

43 km, 3 h – Clearwater Bay to Longbow Lake

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Welcome to Ontario and the land of lakes

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning, but that wasn’t to last long. We managed to get ourselves organized, said our goodbyes and profuse thanks to Donna and Tony and got ready to go – then the creepy crawlies hit! Becky put on her helmet and notices a few things flying around her eyes – she thought at first she had some gnats – so she removed her helmet to discover some webs and about 10-15 little black spiders (about 1 millimeter wide). Scott came to the rescue. He blew on the helmet and removed the many strings of webbing and associated spiders – which turned out to be many more than 15. Upon closer inspection, Scott found a nest under one of the pieces of removable padding. After a thorough inspection and careful cleaning of the helmet, it was pressed back into service. Our best guess is that a mother spider nested in the helmet on one of the nights it was left out on the bikes rather than brought into the tent – we’ll be more careful from now on to ensure that our helmets spend the night in the tent – although we are exceedingly glad that the spiders didn’t hatch in the tent!

By the time we got on our bikes and left, the weather was looking rather threatening. Within 10 minutes of leaving a drizzle started – so we donned our wet weather gear and kept on peddling. Unfortunately, the rain held all afternoon. We stopped in Anola for lunch and to warm up a bit; in addition to the wet, the temperature was only 14 degrees making any thought of stopping a chilling idea. After talking to the folks in the restaurant about what services lie ahead, we decided to head north up highway 12 towards highway 44 and the town of Beausejour, which was only 30 km away – rather than riding 60+ km further in the wet.

Just as we pulled out from lunch, we spotted another touring cyclist in the distance. He was on Highway 15, and moving fast, so even if we had been going that way, we likely wouldn’t have caught him. With a mental shrug for lost opportunities, we headed north. A minute later, we saw a bicycle approaching in our mirrors – the cyclist had spotted us and decided to come and visit. We were soon happily chatting away with Dharma and his dog Rowan. Dharma had left from Vancouver Island with Rowan and his B.O.B. trailer a few months back, and is headed for the east coast. In the downpour, we felt pretty overdressed in our full raingear – by comparison, he seemed quite comfortable in a t-shirt and sleeveless vest. We had fun sharing stories of our rides, but in Beausejour he wanted to press on, and we had had enough for the day.

In Beausejour, we checked into the small Motor Hotel for the night ($70) with hopes of drying out a little. There is another hotel in town – the Superior Hotel – but the cheapest rate they would give us was $94 plus tax, which was a quite a bit more than we were willing to pay if we could possibly avoid it. The reaction of the lady at the hotel was quite comical, if a bit annoying at the time:
Lady: You’re all wet! What will you do with all those wet clothes?
Scott: Hang them to dry?
Lady: Don’t get the carpets all wet!
Scott: We can look for another place to stay if you wish.
Lady: No, that’s OK
At this point we figured our wet, muddy bikes were going be a big deal, but she never said anything about them. She later lent us her kettle, and was quite friendly in her brusque way, so we’re guessing she’s just like that…

The next day started with a pocket of sun – we could see clouds both in front and behind us. We quickly got organized and were riding by 9:15 am (early for us). Helped by a nice tailwind and good roads, we made it to Whitemouth just as the clouds gobbled up the sun. Whitemouth has a great little bakery and coffee shop with super friendly people. We enjoyed a first lunch of cabbage rolls just like Becky’s Mom makes, and yummy cinnamon buns.

Our next stop was Rennie for a second lunch and a break from the cold. When the sun left us, the temperature dropped down to 14 degrees. Manitoba certainly is not experiencing a typical summer. In Rennie Becky heard a garbled story about a cyclist ahead of us who had been shot at. We wondered if something had happened to Dharma?

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Welcome to Rennie Manitoba.

Shortly after Rennie the highway turned into Whiteshell Provincial Park. The road quality degraded almost instantly and the traffic went away – no more trucks passing us. There was also a shift from farm land into Canadian Shield country with lots of small picturesque lakes. Halfway between Rennie and West Hawk Lake, the sun came out making the scenery that much more enjoyable. With the Shield we also got hills – and Highway 44 being a minor road at this point, some of the hills were rather steep; however, they were all pretty short so we could enjoy the rolling hills as a nice change from the flattish prairies.

We stopped in West Hawk Lake for our requisite afternoon soft ice cream break to discover that Dharma was at the restaurant. He had just finished up a meal and was about to hop back on his bike – so it was nice to have caught up to him. Apparently, he had been shot at by a passing car – he figures it was likely paintballs they were shooting. He was delayed a little in Rennie when he called the police and gave a brief statement. Unfortunately, he did not have a license plate number, so there was not much the police could do. It was a late model, dark green Japanese sedan, but there are a lot of those.

Dharma joined us for our journey across the border into Ontario. We took pictures at the first Welcome to Ontario sign – which wasn’t that impressive. At the visitor information center (which closed at 5 pm grrrr) there was a much nicer sign, so we paused again for another set of photos.

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Dharma, Becky, and Scott being welcomed to Ontario.

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A nicer welcome to Ontario sign.

We had thought there might be a campground in Clearwater Bay, but were sadly disappointed. There was an seasonal RV park with resort type structures on the lake, and a trailer park which required reservations – neither of which looked good for tenting. We continued up the road to the Clearwater Bay Market (a truck stop) and inquired there about tenting. The manager there said we were welcome to tent either near the gazebo or in the septic field – we chose the septic field as it was nice and flat and well protected from traffic and lights. In hindsight, it also meant that the tent was wet, as not too surprisingly the field had an underground water source! Oops. Fortunately, with our entry into Ontario, the weather improved dramatically – much warmer in the morning, with the sun making an appearance.

75 km, 4h – Winnipeg to Beausejour
150, 7h 30m – Beausejour Manitoba to Clearwater Bay Ontario

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