I’m relieved to have bypassed the section of Canada most notorious for cyclists’ safety concerns, without feeling unsafe for a second. My chosen route from Kenora to Thunder Bay turned out to be an excellent one, and I was glad to meet another cross-Canada cyclist on it too!
With a fresh chain and a good night’s rest, I set out from Kenora on Wednesday curious if my research on road conditions would prove to be accurate. It was. Seconds after turning off the busy highway 17 to the less travelled highway 71, I was puzzled yet relieved by the sudden vanishing of vehicles to my left. I checked out Rushing River Provincial Park before setting up camp near Sioux Narrows.
Thursday brought more tough pedalling along many small lakes and ponds.
As I wondered what’s been happening lately in the men’s doubles tennis rankings, I reached this informative sign.
Nestor Falls provided quite the view, featuring a group of pelicans right at the foot of the waterfall.
As I continued South, the hills got gradually smaller, and in the vicinity of Emo I found myself back in the prairies.
I’d hoped to make it to Fort Frances, but fell just short, pitching my tent in Devlin. Mosquito levels were about the same Thursday and Friday nights, as I struggled to set up my tent bug free… And failed twice.
Friday was a major grocery stop in Fort Frances, as the upcoming 300km+ push to Thunder Bay would be quite remote. Kicking myself for not investing a mosquito mask yet, I set up off a side road 50km before Atikokan, breathing through my nose as much as possible to avoid unwanted snacks.
Saturday was monumental: Day 67, when I finally met another cross-Canada cyclist. I was packing up after feeding my sweet tooth at Atikokan’s Robin’s Donuts with a Persian donut, which is basically cinnamon plus butter plus strawberry icing (yummy!). A cyclist rolled up beside me, only two small rear panniers on her bike. After hearing she was on a cross-Canada trip my expression became a rare cross-breed of excitement, confusion, and curiousity. “How do you travel so light?”
Barb pointed to her husband Geoff, who’d just parked their SUV – Support and Utility Vehicle in this case! She uses panniers mostly to look the part, while Geoff carries most gear in their Volvo. We exchanged stories from our similar yet different journeys, then headed to Atikokan’s Little Falls as the rain strengthened.
We cycled together on and off to Quetico Provincial Park, where the three of us shared a campsite for the night. I heaved trying to keep up with Barb, eventually giving up. She sure burns up those hills! We exchanged info and I set off before them Sunday morning, promising to holler when approaching their home province of New Brunswick where they plan to finish mid-August.
I pushed to reach Thunder Bay Sunday night, crossing into the Atlantic Watershed and Eastern time zone.
There I met my Warmshowers host Annie, finding my last bits of energy to join her at Marina Park on Lake Superior to hear Randy Bachman at the blues fest.
My legs felt the effects of my efforts the next day, so I took a rest day and stayed another night with Annie. We cycled around town, I found a much overdue mosquito net, and she showed me a massive bulk store, where I struggled to not buy everything I could eat!
With fresh legs, I set out Tuesday morning. Annie rode with me for an hour to show me a nice route near the coast of Lake Superior and set me on the right track. Nearly 700 hilly kilometres to the next major city of Sault Ste. Marie. Ontario is huge…