Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Days 48-49-50-51 - The Home Stretch

Here's a rare four-part blog to get you up to speed.  It brings you from Batchawana Bay to Flesherton, where we are starting from Tuesday morning.  That way you will be ready for our homecoming on Tuesday afternoon!

The centre of Canada.  
Day 48

We start the day from the exact centre of Canada, according to an official Geodetic survey.  So when we say we cycled across Canada but started in the middle, now we know exactly how close we actually are.  It is the specific midpoint between the extreme east and west, and it is only 500m from Mike's place in Batchawana Bay.

From Mike's, it is an easy 45kms into Sault-Ste. Marie, with only one 8% hill.  The most notable part of the day is the our stop to true my wheel from my crash the day before.  Velorution might be the greatest bike store of all time - not only did they fix my wheel quickly, but they also have showers, wifi, and free camping for cyclists!  This is a must-stop for any cycle tours through Sault-Ste. Marie, and if we had had reception around Lake Superior, we might have accelerated our route for the specific reason to end up there.
Thessalon Canteen.  This was the most interesting picture from the whole event.

But our plan is to go another 90kms, and we do.  This takes us to a small town on the North Channel of Lake Huron, Thessalon.  Lucky for us, it is their major annual event this weekend, but it didn't have much of a vibe.  We ate at the fairgrounds, and since it is our last day with the Martins, they treat us one more time to a delicious pizza supper.

Day 49

Like father, like son (thumbs).  Dennis, Kyle and Helen.
On the final day of our seventh week, more wind today keeps our speeds down.  The Martins give us our panniers back around lunch, and at this point, I would like to quickly reflect on the support of Dennis and Helen Martin.  I know that this blog has whole dedicated posts to the support crews of Monica and Elaine and also my own family.  The Martins haven't been recognized in quite the same way, but that is due more to the haphazard nature of the blog than the level of our gratitude.  Dennis and Helen left cut no corner in their support - preparing meals, icing water, and finding us places to sleep.  They carried our panniers for six days up and down the steep shores of Lake Superior, and their incredible generosity is overwhelming.  A surprise to us is that Bell has no cell service between Thunder Bay and Sault-Ste. Marie (no joke, 700kms), so we had no internet access to find campsites and grocery stores.  The Martins played an invaluable role in smoothing out this otherwise difficult stretch.  We have met cyclists that, after having cycled Canada, determined the northern and eastern shores of Lake Superior to be the most difficult stretch of the entire country.  For that, we can't say thank you enough.

Now fully loaded, we continue east for about 100kms to Espanola, where we stay with an old friend of the Cadmans, Dave Westwell.  Dave is the consummate host: cold water in the fridge, takes us out to dinner, breakfast in the fridge, an also prepares an RV for us to avoid that night's thunderstorms.  We didn't know what to expect, and we were again blown away, as we have been so many times this trip.

After having carried a deck of cards for the entire trip, we finally teach Kyle how to play cribbage, where he promptly rides a wave of beginners' luck to an easy victory.

Day 50

Oh, wind.  That's the story.  After almost 49 days of riding straight eastward, we finally permanently change direction to south.  It is at this point that the weather plays a cruel homecoming joke on us: we face what we estimate to be 30km/hr crosswinds from the west and southwest today.  One day late!

The big canoe.
These record winds make it extraordinarily dangerous and difficult to cycle: pushing us into traffic and slowing us down sharply.  Eventually we reach Manitoulin Island, which is the largest island in a freshwater lake in the world.  (For a more detailed yet hilarious list of Manitoulin's records, check out their Wikipedia page.)  By the time we leave Little Current, we are moving at such a slow pace that we are not going to make the ferry, and that poses an obviously significant problem.  We take drastic measures: Tyler sprints ahead to the port, and Kyle and I redistribute weight so as to increase our average speed.  Ultimately, the ferry is delayed, but we would have made it anyway.  The MS Chi-Cheemaun is nice, but unremarkable.

We are relieved and glad to be back in southwestern Ontario, and something else has changed: tailwinds!  Although Tobermory is our scheduled stop for the day, we push on another 30kms because if nothing else we are relieved to stretch our legs in the favourable wind.  Another obstacle to the day is the sleeping arrangement - this is the Sunday of a long weekend, and no campsites have availabilities.  We weren't able to book in advance because we simply didn't know where we would end up, and we are certainly glad that we had the flexibility to go the extra 30kms.  Here's why:

In this situation, without a campsite, we are basically looking for some running water and a flat patch of grass to pitch the tent.  We find out about a campground approximately where we would like to stop, Miller Lake Family Campground.  Our plan is to hopefully use their showers, or at least fill our water bottles, and then sleep in the ditch.  As has become our routine of late, Tyler and I ride ahead, and then wait at turns for Kyle.  So Tyler make the turn down the lane to sweettalk the staff, while I wait at the road.  By the time we make it to the site, Tyler has worked the magic that only a Cadman can.  Not only do we have a shower, but we have been taken in by whole neighbourhood!  HUGE thanks to Arlene and Ted for letting us pitch our tent on your property, for cooking our pasta on your real grill, and for everything else.  After we shower, we come back to an incredible feast: pasta (which Tyler didn't have to cook), burgers and drinks (thanks Bill and Deb), and corn on the cob (thanks George and Janet).  What could have been a crummy night on the side of the road has instead become one of the most rewarding and hospitable experiences of the trip.  Thanks everyone!!  We collect donations for the Heartwood Place, and get a great sleep on a deck made specifically for tents...a true luxury.

Day 51

This is the home stretch.  We're practically in our backyard in Southwestern Ontario.  The day starts with a fantastic breakfast of fried egg sandwiches and tea from Arlene and Ken, and then we're back on the road.  First, we meet my old friend James for lunch in Wiarton, then it's off to McDonald's in Owen Sound for some more free fruit smoothies.  The first 80km is relatively easy, but we spend  the rest of our Civic holiday learning a lot about this part of Ontario: it is hilly.  Very hilly.  I'm talking about a half dozen hills of 9-11% grades, which is something we haven't seen since Alberta.  And we climb.  Up, up, up, up, to a max elevation of almost 500m above sea level - we had no idea about these elevations.  Tomorrow is going to be all downhill!

Chez Wilton!
We're on the way to Tyler's uncle Doug's place, and on the way, we come across a pleasant surprise: Doug, his son Scott, and Tyler's mom Peggy meet us on the road in Chatsworth!  They take some panniers, and give us a motorcycle escort for parts of the final 40kms to the Wiltons' place near Flesherton.  There, we are again spoiled with an incredible dinner, laundry, a pool and hot tub, and a real computer on which I can write this blog.  Although as you know we have been incredibly blessed with support this whole way, especially now it's obviously good to be back with family and friends.  That leaves us late into the evening, anticipating our conclusion tomorrow afternoon.  See you there!  

No comments:

Post a Comment