We’ve made a tactical decision…
The irony of being woken up by a thunderstorm in Thunder Bay was not lost on us early this morning…
…hoping that it was still the early hours more disappointment came when the alarm went off 10minutes later and after late night of admin and drive belt changes (we know how to live it up in smelly motel rooms!) we were still flummoxed by the time change. Although we’ve ridden through many thunderstorms on this trip, dragging ourselves out of bed into one before it gets light is another matter… we rolled over a got some more much needed sleep.
When we did get up we were faced with a dilemma: over 120 miles into headwinds and up hills or under 70 to the nearest motel. Camping in between was unappealing given the weather and lack of bear spray. Feeling worn down by the challenges over the past few weeks we knew we could do the longer distance and get in after dark…but was it worth it? Knowing the wind would turn tomorrow added to the conundrum as why ride headwind miles today when they will be tailwind miles tomorrow?
Stopping early would give a proper chance for recovery after such good progress through the first half of Canada, Laura time to work on the ferry issues (an potentially rerouting Europe!) and Stevie time to rest a knee niggle he’s been managing.
Dropping the distance was hard thing to get our heads around though and we didn’t want to lose momentum.
We got on the road and into a dismal day. Missing the Terry Fox memorial statue ( inconveniently on a road you’re not allowed to cycle on ) we at least got some views of Lake Superior whilst using what might be the worst public loo in Canada!
Then the rain came and cold and wet our decision was made! We didn’t have the time to push on and it was just miserable!! Finally finding an open garage at over 40miles sustained us to Nipigon where we stocked up at the shop for a cosy night in making plans and resting up. More miles to factor in but hopefully it will pay off in the long run.
We started out slightly later than intended (Laura may have melted her shoes slightly.. ) it was still pretty gloomy and we’re going to have to get used to dark mornings.
Bit we’d missed the rain and the sun and views of the massive lake Superior soon came up. We were to be treated to views of the lake all day, but usually while flying down a sharp descent before grinding up the other side. Our poor legs have forgotten what a solid climbing day on the laden tandem is.
Facilities were still sparse with 2/3 of the mornings 2nd breakfast opportunities closed, either fir the season or permanently. We finally got a sandwich at Pays Platt near a native community reservation.
The hills didn’t relent for the afternoon and too soon the sun was setting like a blazing fire over the lake. We finished off the ride in the dark, now paranoid about another accommodation disaster but were checked in and tucking into instant noodle surprise for dinner.
The geese are getting bigger..
An early start and still dark…which will be something we’ll have to get used to now! We weren’t overly cold setting out but were looking forward to it warming up as it got light, but if anything it seemed to get colder. Stopping for a snack mid morning we donne dmroe layers and it was just as well as the Northerly winds were freezing and the first garage at 40miles was shut! Not as cold as it has been but still seriously chilly and we suffered numb hands and feet.
Making White River we treated ourselves to burger and fries and bought a thermos bottle, fed up of trying to drink icy water.
The sun came out for a bit in the afternoon and the sunshine on the lakes improved our spirits. Laura was on moose watch, but the warning signs were sadly inaccurate…
Or moose only come out at night?!
Stocking up in Wawa for the evening and a long ride to the next facilities tomorrow we were pleased to make the motel before dark after a reasonably solid day.
It’s been the kind of day where if you just look at the photos it will look blissful, beautiful and serene…
…here’s the truth!
Starting in the dark again we were riding into dawn and hoping it warmed up a bit. The wind was still from the North at this point and cold but it was due to come from just about all direct various points of the day. Our foodland bag was bulging as we knew that facilities were even scarcer than previous days- as remote as the Nullabor desert!
Stopping to pee in the woods was accompanied by a check for bears and snack stops were brief. We were definitely due a break by the time we found a scenic view point at 45miles and got to enjoy some scenery. A lot of the views we’ve had have been on short shape descents, soon followed by the accompanying ascent and we felt sure we must have done most of the elevation for the day.
Getting our “picnic” of cold rolls and our new thermos of coffee we were glad we’d thought ahead and enjoyed a few moments of sunshine, until a cloud came across and we rushed to get back on the bike as it suddenly got a lot cooler. That wind is bitter!
Pushing on again for another 45miles the restaurant, gas station and store we had expected were all closed and luckily we had plenty of snacks left as it was now well over 100miles between any facilties.
Lake Superior was vast and the hills kept on coming giving us glimpses of what seemed an ocean between the pines and granite crags. The sandy beaches in the bays gave more of the impression of a seaside rather than the World’s largest freshwater lake. The sunset and we still peddled, a few more sharp climbs before finally getting to Sault Ste. Marie with a sense of relief!
Finally time for a cup of tea!
Another long one as we juggle more accommodation options! The don’t feed the bears signs have put us off camping sightly…
We skirted around Sault Ste Marie and managed to avoid crossing into the USA by accident to head West, diverting off the highway before rejoining it later in the day. The scenery has changed again: lots of Autumn colours and still lots of lakes but much more populated than the last few days which aas good news in terms of stops and we managed to get an awesome second breakfast of bacon and eggs and poutine at a roadside cafe.
With reasonable weather we made progress and picked up and official bicycle trail giving us more room in the shoulder which was much appreciated at the traffic was busier than we’d got used to too. It was still a long day in the saddle to get to Spanish, but our mileages are totting up and a couple of you regular followers have pointed out were now averaging >100miles per day!! And don’t our legs know it!!
It didn’t seem that cold as we set off from the motel and we had visions of us getting lovely morning photos by the “Massey” sign (well done to everyone that spotted that-it was on Laura’s crib sheet!)
A few minutes in and we rode into the mist…or the freezing air soup. Laura faired OK on the back but poor Stevie took the brunt of it on the front with the moisture refreezing on his bar, gloves and beard!
Luckily Massey wasn’t far down the road and although the photos didn’t come out great it was a necessary stop for warm drinks and more layers. Braving the cold again we were sure it would burn off soon, but we were horribly wrong and it took until 11am for the mist to lift!
Diverting on a bicycle trail onto a minor road backfired too at the surface was potholes and intermittent linear cracks made our lives a misery. Combined with Stevie’s numb hands despite 3 pairs of gloves changing gear was tricky to say the least.
The sun finally broke through and we pushed onto Sudbury meaning to stop there for food but in no time at all Laura’s amazing routing to avoid the busy centre (we’re now not sure there was one..) put us straight onto back roads with more cracks and awful surface. Tim Hortons came up just in time over 80miles in!!
A bit of a tailwind cheered us up a bit but the road surface back on the highway was still awful and the Thudbuster was getting a full work out on the back while every point of contact became more painful. Everyone seemed to be a rush too and more close passes than we’d had in Canada so far didn’t help pur mood. Finally onto a rolling back road we pushed hard for another big distance to Noëlville for the first suitable accommodation in an Airbnb.
We wouldn’t have known it but it was Denise and Tim’s first time hosting and we couldn’t have been made more welcome with Denise going to the shop for us before it closed and then sharing a meal a few beers and getting a look at Tim’s retro hot rod fixie bike! It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good chat in the evening and a wonderful end to a hard day’s ride.
After a wonderful night’s rest at our Airbnb in Noëlville we set off into pea soup again- but thankfully not as cold and persistent his morning and the mist lifted to a glorious day.
Running a bit late for a snack we were rather confused when a vehicle in the hard shoulder flagged us down… only to find out that Carrie and Len had been following us, both virtually in real life!!
Taken aback by our first en route cheering on we were really grateful for a very kind donation and advice that there were places to get food just around the corner. Another real spirit boost for us.
Almost as good was the pizza vending machine around the corner for lunch and this set us up for a rolling route past Parry Sound through a miriade of little lakes with occasional beaver houses.
The sun got lower and the lakes were perfect mirrors of the woodlands around reflecting the light spectacularly on their glassy surface. Tha ksful of a shorter day we made good time to our next Airbnb run by the lovely tSue who turns out to be a barefoot runner and cold water swimming instructor! Laura was disappointed not to have time for dip but Stevie wasn’t convinced by the ice bath!
Weekly distance: 784 miles
Total distance: 14842 miles