Sunday, July 6, 2008

July 1 - 3: Leaving the Great Lakes

July 1: Canada Day - Wasaga Beach to Orillia 82 km 16.9 km/hr

Just a quick report from Orillia. We left Wasaga after checking out the biggest freshwater beach in Canada (Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron). Here we said goodbye to the Great Lakes, it was our last view of them.

As we travelled up a busy road we discovered that Mike had two splits in his back wheel. Although it made for a short day, we decided to stay in Orillia to catch a bike shop first thing in the morning as they were all closed for Canada Day. We ended up staying at Mara Provincial Park. The campsite was a bit buggy, but the beach on Lake Simcoe was lovely. We had dinner the beach and went back to camp, hung our food, and jumped in the tents.

Our route today took us over Highways 10, 26, 22, and 11. All were fairly busy with holiday traffic, and only 22 and 11 had shoulders. But, the riding was pleasant as the day was clear and sunny, but not humid or too hot. The big surprise of the day was the huge hill in the Horseshoe Valley on Highway 22. What a honker it was --a big dip down and then up. I know the Southern Ontario grid roads are supposed to be, ... well ... grids, but just a switchback or two would have been pleasant!

Animals of note for the day: Turkey buzzards. We did a small ride on one of the concession roads (north-south side roads) and came across several of them squabbling over an egg. We noticed how these birds seem to be much bigger here than those on Vancouver Island. As well, the ones here seem to flap a lot more, rather than glide and soar like the ones back home. Perhaps it is because there is so much for them to eat. In Northern Ontario these birds get lots of moose from road kill. We also got a good close-up look at a muskrat in the water by Lake Couchiching as we rode along the bike path.

The bike path came out right in front of the little community of Atherley where Mike's Grandad, Ralph Whitney, was born. Back then, in the late 1800s, it would have been a thriving farming community on the old settlement road north. Today there is still some farming -- we came across the Whitney Black Angus farm across from the United Church in Atherley (probably a long-lost relative) -- but mostly the community is residential and lakeshore property.

July 2 - 90km to Kinmount
This morning we headed back into Orillia to get a new wheel for Mike's bike, and thankfully we were successful, at the second bike shop we tried. But before the bike shop opened we had time to explore the town a little bit, so I saw the Samuel Champlain monument on the waterfront, and explored some of the residential areas and downtown, filled with lovely brick civic buildings and mansions. After working on the bikes we were out of town by about 11 in the morning, and made good time eastwards as we had a nice following wind for the whole day. Unlike those grid roads we have been on the last few days, the road eastwards from Orillia is an old settlement road and it follows the contours of the land, so it avoids those steep steep inclines that the grid roads tend to have on occasion. Going east on Highway 45 all day we passed through Norland and ended up in Kinmount where Mike and Mary stayed at a B+B, whose owner Patrick very kindly let me camp in his yard!

But the real treat of the day was meeting up with our friend Al and his wife Pat from Burlington - remember Al who cycled with us in BC? Well, we hooked up with him by phone and the two of them drove up from Burlington, met us on the road with ice tea and watermelon, and once we were established in Kinmount they took us out for dinner -- not by bike, we all drove in their car. Faced with a long wait at the good restaurant in Minden we went down to Moore Falls and ate at the very pleasant Sunkiss Restaurant, which had excellent, and plentiful, food and drink. We were there until after dark, catching up with Al and telling him tales from the road, and we finally got back to Kinmount around 10ish to dive into bed. Thanks for coming out Al and Pat! It was really neat to see his photos from the remainder of his trip, reminisce about BC, and think about how far we had come since then.

Due to our delay in Orillia we may have a tough time making Ottawa by Saturday, so we will see how much distance we can put under the tires in the next few days.


July 3 - 88km to Bancroft.
I got a mega rainstorm overnight while camped behind Patrick's B+B but thankfully it cleared by the morning and I just had to pack up the flysheet wet. Do you realize that by the end of this trip I will have unpacked, set up, and packed up my tent close to 100 times? I have a nice little routine for packing up the tent that is super efficient, with variations for each eventuality: tent and flysheet dry, tent dry but fly wet, tent and fly both wet - each variation means they have to be packed up differently.

Anyway, today was a nice rolling and somewhat hilly ride through the Ontario Highlands region from Bancroft, stopping at Gooderham for a snack, through Tory Hill, and on to Cardiff and then Bancroft, where we are camped 4km southeast of town at the Bancroft Tent and Trailer Park. At Tory Hill we pulled into the rest stop and met up with a group of teens with three dads doing a Duke of Edinburgh expedition - a three-day bike ride, totalling 160km, and none of them had done any bike touring before! A great challenge for them, especially with the somewhat hilly terrain (I'm sure they'll find it fairly tough), and they are each carrying all their camping gear. They have a support vehicle that goes behind to deal with bike problems, and a vehicle which goes ahead to the stops to arrange a place for them to camp. They all thought we were totally nuts to be doing our trip, which is difficult to disagree with.

We also met Jeff and John, from Salt Lake City, who were also riding to Bancroft but much faster than us so we didn't ride together - addendum: we met them the next day also - and chatted with them a bit. They are riding around the US, via Ontario, in chunks: they can only get a few weeks off each year, so they do a few weeks of the full circumnavigation, then go home, and next year return to where they left off and continue, etc. And finally, also at Tory Hill we met three guys whose names I didn't get who were riding ridiculously fast on racing bikes and going on some huge rides in the area over several days.

Very odd, you don't see any other cyclists for days and then at one lunch spot you run into three different groups of them. Passing cars must have thought it was some kind of bike rally.

Our campsite in Bancroft is very pleasant and on a nice swimming lake which we have all enjoyed. We also found a big mean-looking toad wandering around, who was kind enough to sit still while I took his picture. What a big froggie he was!


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