Going the Distance: Days 34 to 41 (Thunder Bay to Cochrane, ON)

June 14, 2010: Thunder Bay to Nipigon, 114 km

The day greeted me with sun and a few clouds in the sky. I took Lakeshore Road out of Thunder Bay. It was about 10 km of quiet car-free easy riding. One of the houses I passed had four homemade directional sign posts. Each one had about a dozen signs pointed to various destinations around the world made by visitors passing through.

Gas stations are usually boring. There was one that I passed that captivated my interest. The outside of the building has a mural illustrating the great outdoors. Wolves on one side and postcard style illustrations on the other of bears, fishermen and a hillside.

I met another cyclist while camping in Nipigon. Bruce was from Port Perry, Ontario and happened to be celebrating his 70th birthday. He was a tall, fit man with short white hair who looked like he could have been 60. His wife Judy was with him driving their van and camping trailer. A green canoe was fastened atop of the van. Bruce’s goal was to bike 1400 km back home and take some time to fish and camp. Their dog kept alert for bears and other wild animals. Our mutually destined route was Hwy 11. The flatter roads would be easier on our knees. I could have accompanied Bruce on the next day’s ride but I preferred to sleep in that morning. 🙂

June 15, 2010: Nipigon to Geraldton, 163 km

To my surprise this route did have some nice scenery and some hills. Riding around Helen Lake provided some quiet tranquil moments. There were few cars and trucks on the road to interrupt the morning part of the ride. And peaking out on a hillside was a small waterfall.

I caught up to Bruce 88 km into my ride, just shy of Beardmore. He had called it a day and was with Judy at a rest area. They were going to camp out for the night and continue the next day to Geraldton. I wished them a safe journey and rode on to Geraldton, MacLeod Provincial Park.

June 16, 2010: Geraldton to Klotz Lake, 83 km

This was a short ride of 80 km. I took a break in the town of Longlac, 30 km east of Geraldton. Longlac is at the north end of Long Lake and was used as a trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1814. The people there are very nice and helpful, especially the ones working at the post office. I had to triple check that there was indeed a campground at Klotz lake. It is a long ride to Hearst and Klotz Lake would provide a slightly shorter distance.

Off I went to Klotz Lake Campground. It is a fishing and hunting resort complete with rustic cabins and camp sites. Klotz Lake is popular for fishing. It’s 16 km long and about 2 km wide with small islands that add to its beauty. This trip is about luck and being at the right place at the wrong time. I stayed at Klotz Lake campground the same time a whole bunch of fishermen from Michigan did their annual trip. That night I enjoyed a pot luck dinner with beer battered deep fried fish, fresh from the days catch, soup, pasta, lemon cake, a wine cooler and venison (or it might have been bear meat, not sure). I wasn’t able to supply any real food of my own. Unless you consider eating granola bars and trail mix a better choice of food that what was enjoyed that night.

June 17, 2010: Klotz Lake to Hearst, 167 km

This is the day I have been thinking about since Thunder Bay. A 160 km ride with nothing but trees. It was a hot day to start off and I needed to be focused. Along the way I could see a few closed down motels, boarded up for reasons unknown. The heat brought out plenty of bugs. I could see them circling around me trying to find a good landing spot.

When I ride I prefer to have my hands on the lower part of my bike’s drop bars. It’s the most comfortable position for me. But today was the first time I could feel pain in my wrists and arms. A few times I had to change hand positions and shake out my arms to alleviate the pain. It wasn’t until later on in the ride that I popped some pain killers.

I made sure I had plenty of water with me. I’ve done longer rides before but riding in the heat is a new element for me. I was used to the wet weather that marked that last couple weeks of the trip. Today’s ride was one of the few psychologically challenging ones I’ve endured to date. There was no escaping the lack of scenery, the blazing sun, the bugs and the long distance until I reached my destination.

Bienvenue Hearst, a town who’s primary language spoken is French. Pourquois? Turns out many people from Quebec migrate to Northern Ontario for work. They have settled in Hearst, Kapuskasing and Cochrane.

June 18, 2010: Hearst to Moonbeam, 120 km

It was an easy ride to the town of Moonbeam made famous for a UFO sighting. Oh wait…I was just informed by some men in black that it was actually a weather balloon. I stand corrected. I stayed at Twin Lakes Campground. This trailer park has two man-made lakes in its centre with sandy beaches and a 225 foot slide that drops into the lake for kids. Even though there were thunderstorms that night it was sunny the next morning.

June 19, 2010: Moonbeam to Cochrane, 104 km

I was going to take a day off in Moonbeam but the sky was cloudy and the wind was to my favour. I didn’t leave until lunchtime. I had opted to relax a bit in the morning. It’s only a 100 km ride to Cochrane (again, two months ago I would never used the words “only” and “100 km” in one sentence, lol)

My first stop in Cochrane was Canadian Tire. Not the most exciting stop but I was looking to pick up some supplies. A man shopping there saw my touring bike and was interested in knowing more about my trip. Steven, a local resident, did his own tour of France when he was younger. On his tour Steven received the hospitality of people he met on the road often staying in their homes. He wanted to pay it forward by offering me a place to crash for the night and share a few stories from both our travels. I didn’t stay the night but did stop by to enjoy dinner with his wife Heather and two daughters Jennifer and Michelle. Jennifer is in senior kindergarten and Michelle is just 14 months old. Jennifer took a curious liking to me but since I just finished my ride and had yet to shower I told her I had “cooties”. That word must be ingrained at a DNA level. She didn’t know what it meant but instantly backed off and started building a fort with blankets and pillowcases to protect herself in the living room, lol.

Steven talked about his own trip. He knows bikes and did a lot of racing in his younger years. I was surprised and envious to hear that his average speed was 35 km/hr on his French tour.  He had thinner wheels with 110 psi max. I have thicker wheels at 85 psi max.

While at his home I took the opportunity to weigh myself with Steven’s bathroom scale. I’ve lost 17 lbs since the start of my trip. And its not for a lack of eating.

June 20, 2010: Cochrane – Day off.

Time to relax and rest my legs. I visited some stores in town and inside a gift store-trading post they had three vintage Bombardier snowmobiles on display. One was the first sold in Ontario in 1951 for $991. Even though a sign said ‘no photography’, I took some quick discreet photos of the machines when staff wasn’t looking.

Total distance traveled: 4200 km

Total donations received: $2700

More Photos from Days 34 to 41