Day 35 – Cavers to Hemlo, Ontario – 157km

Over a month ago, as we were driving out west, I was feeling quite scared seeing the roads that I’ve been on today and yesterday. I saw the speeds that the trucks were driving, narrow shoulders, and countless steep climbs and descents. I had some long distances planned—I really wondered if my itinerary was realistic. As we drove into Thunder Bay, a lane was blocked on one of the arterials. A dog had been hit by a car. A line of cars had stopped behind the car that had hit it; there was a crowd of people around this poor creature struggling for its life. There was a noticeable pool of blood around the dog people were trying to wrap in blankets. It was quite a disturbing scene. We drove by, but didn’t stop.

Shortly after, we stopped for the night in a Walmart parking lot. I couldn’t sleep. The image of that dog, the blood on the road, and the unexpectedness of the situation for whomever was involved—they triggered something in me. There was a bit of homesickness. I wanted to see my dog and my loved ones. However, there was another fear. After driving over 800km on roads that scared me, seeing all the truck traffic, and seeing how impatient and fast the truckers were—I felt terrified that I would be riding this stretch a month later.

Well here I am. The roads aren’t as bad as I feared. My distances were long, but despite wind and rain, I’m actually 30km ahead of schedule. I should be a full day ahead of schedule by the end of tomorrow. The shoulders are great at times, but quite narrow for the most part. Usually the trucks and RVs will go into the other lane to pass me. I do have to be hyper-alert, but I wouldn’t call it nerve-racking.

Anyways, I probably shouldn’t even bother writing about the weather, because it seems to have been the same for the last number of weeks: headwinds, cloudy, and patches of rain. The scenery has been spectacular (I did get the helmet camera out for the first time today since the Rockies). Small mountains of Canadian Shield line Lake Superior, and the highway goes down to the shoreline, in-land into river valleys, and up several hundred metres to the top of these mini-mountains for stunning views. The road goes up 200 to 300 metres, then it goes down. Up, then down, up…then down. Today was mostly slow on the climbs, fast descents to compensate, and fairly slow on the flats with the fierce wind. The wind was a little ridiculous at times today. I climbed to the top of a mountain, and was met by a fierce gust at the top. Ok, I’ll be going downhill soon enough, not a problem. Nope. The road did go down. There was actually a long descent with about a 3-4% grade, but the wind was blowing fiercely against me. I descended this mountain in my lowest gear. I was going only slightly faster downhill than it took me to climb. I kept checking to see if I had a flat tire. Nope. I felt like a piece of paper. I needed more weight behind me. Gravity wasn’t a strong force compared to the wind.

I’m leaving the coast of Superior for the next day as I travel to Wawa. Today I passed through Schreiber, Terrace Bay, and Marathon. Hopefully I’ll be in Sault Ste. Marie a day early for a rest day! I’ve been making good tracks in Ontario; 860km in 5 days of cycling.

In my mind, challenges have 2 characteristics. One: they are daunting. Two: they can be overcome. Two years ago, at the beginning of my year off between high school and university, I knew what I wanted to see out of Kilometres, but had no idea how to go about it. Bit by bit, things came together. I was lost at times, excited, and sometimes had no clue. Bit by bit, I’m cycling the roads I feared, and exceeding the distances that I thought were ambitious. Many people were telling me before the ride had started that my distances were too long.

So, we’re faced with this challenge: in Canada, waiting lists for communication devices and services are long (lengths vary from region to region). Every day, there are adults in Canada who get talked to like kids, because people don’t understand that “speech disability” is not a synonym for “slow, immature, or stupid”—there are many other common attitudes and assumptions that need to be extinct. Policies aren’t what they should be in many places, AAC isn’t a high priority in most governments (but what is one of the most important things in life…communication?). There are people out there who can communicate, but don’t have a way to because they don’t have the access, or there isn’t the recognition in their community. All of this is a challenge. Bit by bit, it can be overcome. Is there a clear linear path? No. We don’t really know where the road will wind, how many hills and valleys it will climb, or what the weather will be like. We do know where the road ends. We keep going until we get there. We don’t know how long it will take, but we do what we can, and one day we’ll get there.

-Skye

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