Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cyclostravaganza 2008 - Summary, White River to St. Joseph's Island

Hello from St. Joseph's Island, Ontario!

My cycling trip has been going quite well. This is a summary of my trip to date. At a later date, daily blogs and photos may be added if I have time... or not!!

Lake Superior is a superior lake indeed. Is it heresy for a Nova Scotian to think it might just be better than the ocean? No jellyfish, no seaweed, no bad smells, crystal-clear water, an abundance of sandy beaches, waves (although not as big as on the ocean), water you could drink while swimming... it's just been a wonderful discovery.

The coast of Lake Superior, from Wawa to Sault-Ste-Marie, was very hilly. There were lots of hills (up to 511m) and although the climbs were not overly steep (the steepest marked grade I've seen was 7%), they were long. On the slow climbs, I sometimes reassure myself by considering that the sum of my weight, my bike's weight, and my luggage's weight is about 275 lbs, and that it is therefore okay if my own pedal-power isn't all that fast.

Much of the ride was inland but the portions by the lake (Wawa, Old Woman Bay, Agawa Bay, Alona Bay, Katherine Cove, Pancake Bay, Michicopoten Bay...) were stunning. In Wawa I stayed with a friend at his parent's house on Lake Superior (magnificent!), then I camped at Agawa Bay (beautiful) and Pancake Bay (wonderful but not quite as nice as Agawa Bay).

I took three days to ride from Wawa to the Sault. I felt a little under-achieving when I later met cyclists who covered this stretch in one day. I'm still in awe of them, but I have to remind themselves that while I was just at the start of my cycling trip, they'd been on the road for about 6 weeks or so, having started their journeys in Vancouver or Victoria. Their warm-up was with the coastal mountains and the Rockies.

In Pancake Bay I saw a brochure for a bike shop in the Sault called Vélorution, which offered mountain biking trails and free camping to cyclists, so that's where I stayed in the Sault. I was initially a little suspicious (would this just be a place for teenage mountain bikers to run away from their parents, and be loud and drink beer?) but instead it turned out to be a wonderful place. The owner is a bike-loving physiotherapist who opened this shop about 3 years ago. He added a separate entry to the bathroom with a shower, and a small campground at the rear. This was actually where I met those trans-Canada cyclists. On the road, you don't always see them; in bigger campgrounds, you get mixed in with all the other campers; so it was really wonderful to have this small community of cyclists where we could swap stories and share tips and advice.

On Sunday, I took a rest day for the Agawa Canyon tour train. It's about four hours north of the Sault (that is, four hours on a slow train) through scenery that is by turns okay and by turns spectacular. The canyon itself is fantastic with its steep walls and river valley. I had some lovely hikes on the canyon's very well maintained trails. The train ride back was a bit long, but hey, it was a chance to read, snooze, and write in my notebook/journal.

In the Sault I bought a rear-view mirror for my bike. I wish I had this earlier! I must say that on the whole, drivers (and especially transport-truck drivers) have been very good about giving me a wide berth, but all the same, it's so much more reassuring when you can see what sort of (and how many) vehicles are about to pass you.

On Monday I once again had some great luck. My friend D. and his Mom had to come into the Sault to do some groceries, so we met up, and D, took my bags with him in his car. It's amazing how much faster you can cycle without 52 lbs of gear! I then cycled out to St. Joseph's Island, where I am visiting with him for another rest day.

Goodness, a family email like this should contain some food matters. I have mostly been eating in restaurants (as carrying food is heavy). When I look at the super-sized portions, I think about how crazy this is for the average person... but how great it's been for me. Cycling burns a lot of calories. Through Lake Superior Provincial Park, there are long stretches with no services, so I had to do some cooking. My main course one evening consisted of two packages of ramen noodles, 1/2 of one package of seasoning (spicy chicken), and one tin of herring fillets in hot sauce. It was actually not that bad, though next time I'll use Thai-flavoured spicy tuna and add some peanut butter to make the broth into peanut sauce. Man does not live on ramen alone, so fortunately I also had cheese, crackers, fruit, and hot chocolate.

Tomorrow, the journey onward continues. Wish me good weather! The stretch from here to Espanola should be okay, but I'm more looking forward to Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula... and then rest days and visits with A. & S. It will be great to see them.


Daniela said...

Keep on trucking Victor!
Can't wait to see the pictures of your cycling adventures in Ontarioland



Jari said...

Forza Victor!