I’m in Thunder Bay tonight. We haven’t had cell service for three days, and we likely won’t have service for the next 5 days either. My apologies, but these are fairly quick blogs. It’s late, I’ve lost an hour transferring to the Eastern Standard Time Zone, and I need to wake up early tomorrow to get a good distance in while the rare pleasant weather lasts. As you’ll read in a moment, the last couple days haven’t been enjoyable—with the exception of this afternoon.
Camping spot east of Kenora to a rest area past Dinorwic – 165km
I felt great coming off my first rest day since Calgary. I didn’t feel stiff. I forgot what it felt like not to feel stiff. It was raining, but I didn’t care—all my gear was dry and clean. I ate a good breakfast, suited up, and headed out for my pedal. I was on the road around 10am—later than I like to get on the road, but the extra rest was nice and needed.
It was a fairly slow day. Hills and wind were against me. It rained for the first two hours of the pedal. Eventually it cleared up, and the wind from riding dried my gear. I wasn’t under any stress, I was well rested, I had recently come from the Prairies (so the hills were welcome), and I found it fairly easy to keep a relaxed mindset…for most of the ride. I tell myself: “just pedal quickly and easily, don’t push it, you have time, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the privilege of seeing everything slowly, and don’t worry about the time—you’ll get there”.
I passed through my original destination, Dinorwic. There were still a couple hours of light, so I decided to meet the support vehicle later on, and to keep pedaling. I wanted to be certain that I could get to Thunder Bay on time for our Monday event. It started to rain again. Oh well, I was dressed for it. The support vehicle passed me—‘see ya in another hour and a bit’. I cycled contently for about 5 minutes. Then I noticed how hard it was raining. Then I noticed that although I was dressed in 100% waterproof gear, I was soaking. It didn’t feel pleasant, but I was still warm. Trucks were misting me. I began to start regretting my decision to pedal on. Then I got the flat tire. Side of the Trans Canada, middle of nowhere, gravel shoulder, soaking wet, trucks whizzing by with their mist, limited time before dark, I was less than thrilled. I took my wheel off and did the routine. I took the tire off, and was trying to check for what caused the flat. I couldn’t find anything in the tire. I was getting really frustrated. Now I was cold because I stopped moving. I popped my wheel back on, not fixed yet, and walked on. There was a rest area 1km ahead. I found a gazebo. I took another stab at the tire. I found a fragment of glass embedded in the tire. Normally I would use a pair of micro-pliers to take something so small out, but I didn’t have that luxury. I was shivering, and trying to get that hated sliver of glass out. I couldn’t do it; my hands were trembling too much, had no grip because they were wet—I pretty much had a mental breakdown right there. I eventually got that sliver out, but it was getting dark, it was raining hard, and the visibility was miserable. I decided to call it a day. I couldn’t reach Gail in the support vehicle because she had driven out of cell reception. I assumed that she would figure out something was wrong and turn back. It wasn’t pleasant for her; she had quite the scare when I didn’t show up, but eventually she came back and found me. Sorry mom. She would probably like to elaborate on that story, but I’d like to move on.
Camping spot east of Dinorwic to camping side of the road past Upsala – 180km
I woke up to the sound of torrential rain. My gear was still damp from the day before. I ate my breakfast slowly, spaced out, hating that I was up at 6:30am and about to go out into heavy rain for hours. And that’s exactly what I did. There are some days where you say to yourself at the beginning: “How am I going to do this, or is this possible?” Often, I re-evaluate the situation: “There’s got be another way”, and then I realize there
is no alternative. At the end of the day I looked back, and thought to myself, “I would do anything to not be where I was this morning, what lay ahead of me is now behind me…somehow”.
I thought of myself as a vehicle, and my mind as the passenger, my body as a machine. Underneath the rain gear, behind the windshield of my goggles, I have to tell myself that all I have to do is stay seated. Keep those legs moving, fuel yourself with the right fuel, don’t run on empty and just keep going. I didn’t want to get off my bike. I think of it this way. If you choose the right equipment, maintain your equipment, train properly, and fuel yourself properly, you’ve done the hardest part. The rest will take its course.
Another day in the rain; 6 of the last 7 days of cycling have been rain. That was also a headwind day.
Camping spot east of Upsala to George Jeffrey Children’s Centre, Thunder Bay – 147km
I woke up at 6am today. I knew I would be losing an hour to the time zone change. It was annoying, yet exciting at the same time, changing back to my native time zone. Today was a hustling day. I was riding a moderately relaxed pace for the first 3 and a half hours. I passed the Atlantic Watershed point today, which I found interesting how they determine such an exact point. Every rain drop that falls after this point that runs off into a river, will end up in the Great Lakes basin, with a chance of graduating to the Atlantic.
I had to be in Thunder Bay by quarter after 3 to meet some new friends who would be riding with me. The last 2 hours of my ride, I was really pushing it. I didn’t want to take a chance of being late—so much so that I didn’t stop to look at the time on my phone. It turned out that I was 45 minutes early. Then the sun came out. I had a pleasant afternoon break.
I relaxed in a grocery store parking lot about 5km away from the George Jeffrey Children’s Centre. Robin, Nicole, and George rolled into the parking lot. We met, and then pedaled to the fundraising BBQ that Nicole and Robin had arranged—they deserve many thanks for the event they arranged. It wasn’t huge, but there was a relaxed atmosphere, we met great people, they had made a lovely welcoming banner for us (which looks like it involved a fair bit of effort), and between an employee “dress-down day”, a donation from Nortec Computers, and funds raised from the BBQ, the George Jeffrey Children’s Centre raised a little under a $1000 for Kilometres for Communication.
I continue to be amazed by the generosity of people as we travel from place to place. We continue to talk with delightful and inspiring people. We continue to hear that the same issues loom in every region we’ve visited so far. Long waiting lists, but also, the problematic attitudes of people—talking to adults like children because they have a visually apparent disability, talking around people as if they aren’t present, and a lack of openness. What do I mean by a lack of openness? Dawn and Tracy whom I met today gave a good example of what their experience was with some Thunder Bay bus drivers—one in particular according to Tracy. When the bus stops, and lowers, and it is taking someone a while to get on the bus, there is this bus driver who ignores the person who is elderly or disabled who is boarding. Imagine if you felt the tension of someone turning their head, looking in the opposite direction while they wait for you, seemingly annoyed. Now imagine if you have a condition where your muscles spasm or you don’t have great voluntary control over certain muscle groups which you need to move around—when you feel that tension, it might take you a little longer to get on the bus if your muscles stiffen up. In contrast to this silent bus driver, Dawn gets on the bus much more quickly with the notoriously snarky bus driver who’s been known to offend many people. When Dawn wants to board this fellow’s bus, he teases her. But they have inside jokes, and it’s a friendly tease. Dawn feels relaxed, and she’s able to get on the bus more quickly.
Today was a success. I’m exhausted and having difficulty writing coherent sentences. Thank you spell check—but my creativity is lacking a bit right now. I’ve caught up on almost everything that I need to before I go back out of cell service. I think blogs are unlikely the next number of days as I will be out of cell service until Sault Ste Marie.
Tomorrow I want to get a good distance past Nipigon, maybe even Schreiber (200km away). The day after that I want be in at least Marathon, and then the following day, near Wawa. After that, it is off to Batchawana Bay near Pancake Bay Provincial Park, and then to Sault Ste Marie the next day. If I stick to that, I’ll be a day ahead of schedule to catch up on blogs in the Soo!
That’s all for now; there should be some gorgeous cycling, lots of big steep hills, and rain is in the forecast again.