I made it! All the way from Minneapolis to Kingston - 1700km - in just 12 days! I arrived in town around 8pm today, tired but happy. Nothing a good sleep and a few days rest can't take care of.
I enjoyed the last blog entry, so I'm gonna give you the play by play from this past week as well. I think these two posts will really communicate what life is like on the road when I'm riding under a tight schedule. Here we go...
Woke up early, and a little hung over. The hostel had a nice little bar in the basement where I sat and sorted through my photos while drinking cheap ($2.50) pints all night. I went and took care of my errands (laundry, banking, etc.) while I left my bike at a local shop. My headset had been making an annoying clunking noise for a while which I wanted a professional to look at. Turns out it was nothing serious, but it took them til 4:30 to deal with it. So I didn't actually get out of town until about 6pm. Arrrgh! Behind schedule again! Rode until the sun went down, but couldn't make it past Bruce Mines, a full 20km from where I had wanted to stop.
Had a really good night of sleep and got up super early - maybe around 7am? I got on the road and really pushed myself all day long to catch up. By night I had made it as far as Nairn Centre, 191km. Nairn Centre is the first town since the Rockies where they have those bear-proof garbage cans actually in the town - not a good sign. I looked around for a place to camp, and the most inviting spot seemed to be a park smack dab in the middle of town. But just to be sure I dropped in on barbecue that some people were having nearby. They told me there was a "perfect" campsite just north of town on the river. I went to check it out, and I have to admit, it was beautiful. But after an exhausting day I just didn't have the energy to bushwack it that night. I hopped on my bike and headed back to the park. Unfortunately I knew I was gonna have to pass by those people again, and probably endure a good dose of ribbing about being afraid of bears. Sure enough they waved me over and the first thing they said was "See any bears down there?" But to their credit they didn't laugh at me - they just nodded their heads. Then one guy says: "I don't blame you. You shoulda seen the size of the one that was here on my lawn last week - and in the middle of the day, too!" So that night, despite the fact I was sleeping in a public park in the middle of a town of 400 people, I hung my food from a tree on the edge of town. I must've been tired, cause I slept like a log.
Got up early again and rode through Sudbury and on to North Bay. Not much to report here but that the riding was infuriating on account of the terrible road conditions and the hideous amounts of traffic. Would it hurt to have any sort of shoulder whatsoever on the road? You're gonna laugh here, but North Bay kinda reminds me of California. Lake Nipissing could pass for the Pacific where all the beach houses have yards that run right down to the water, and the carnivalesque California atmosphere is provided by, well, a carnival that runs along the shoreline about 100 metres back from the beach. I found a sheltered, secluded spot right on the beach to pitch my tent and bunkered down for the night. By midnight a serious storm had blown in and knocked out power to most of the city. But the brunt of it passed just a kilometre or two north of me, so I was out of harm's way for the most part.
Having slept only intermittently because of the thunder the previous night, I got off to a slow start. I didn't leave town til about 11am. There's just some invisible force in cities that sucks me in and keeps me there - on second thought, it might just be the bacon. The road conditions continued to be miserable, however I forced myself to do 170km to Deep River. But I think things started to shift in my favour when I stopped for the night. I was thinking of camping in some cover near the tennis courts when an older gentleman came and asked if I was looking for a place to camp for the night. He introduced himself as Alex, the commodore of the yacht club, and told me he had just the place for me. A few minutes earlier he had offered the yacht club lawn to another cyclist, and said I could share the space with him. Alex introduced me to Reuben, a guy from New Zealand who is riding from Victoria to St. John's, much of the way off-road, and gave us access to bathrooms, a shower, and perfect little patch of grass next to the Ottawa River. I even got a beer out of the deal since there was a function happening there that night. Reuben and I stayed up chatting for a while until the mosquitoes drove us into our respective tents. We determined that our trails overlapped long enough to ride together most of the next day.
Most of my riding has been a very solitary exercise, so I was happy to have Reuben for company most of the day. He was pleasant conversation, and I think we have a really similar philosophy on our activities. We rode on some quiet country roads - yes, there are alternatives to the highways once you get out of the north - and stopped for at least two breakfasts and lunch by about 1pm. Reuben sets a pretty good pace for a guy on a mountain bike, so we made great time. But he was heading to Ottawa, and I to Kingston so before the day was over we had to split up. Too bad, but there is a slight chance we may meet up again in Newfoundland. I rode on to Renfrew and Calabogie where I found a sweet camp site in an overgrown baseball field. Overall, one of the most pleasant days of the whole summer.
70km to Harper Village where, in 2001, I did an apprenticeship with a salt-glaze potter named Jackie. I pulled into the driveway around 2pm and found him and his wife Joanie out in the garden. I've wanted to visit them for a long time, but haven't been anywhere close to nearby. We hung out for most of the day, picked some veggies, cooked supper and cleaned up, and watched a movie. I was thankful for the shower and the nice soft bed to sleep in. They visited Newfoundland last summer and brought back lots of stories to tell, so we each had our travel diaries out. A great, relaxing evening, to say the least.
I got up early the next morning and joined Jackie in the studio, just for old times sake. All my bowls turned out terrible, but Jackie assured me that he'd be able to salvage some of them. He is always so positive. He does a huge fundraiser every year called Empty Bowls where he makes hundreds or thousands of bowls and sells them to support local charities. It's a really big event, and still growing. I didn't get to contribute much this time around - as quick as I arrived I had to leave again to plunge the final 85km into Kingston. I got on the road around 1pm and rode towards Westport. I stopped at a pub for lunch and a pint, where I lucked into an impromptu music show. Some dude just showed up at the bar with his guitar, played about three Johnny Cash songs, then quietly put his guitar away to enjoy a pint himself. It was really cool - the pub was just about full, and everyone really got into it. Best Monday afternoon show ever! I finally got into Kingston at about 8pm, found the house where I'm staying and got cleaned up. My show begins 11 hours from now...gotta get some sleep!