Monday, June 16, 2008

June 13 - 15: Cruising into Thunder Bay

June 13 Mine Centre (Bliss Campground) to Quetico
135.66 km
7:11 in the saddle
18.9 km/hr

As you can see from the average speed, we made good progress through the lake and sheild country of south western Ontario. We stopped at the old mining town of Atikokan (80 km into our ride -- it was the first place we came to). We detoured off the highway into town and had a fine lunch at the Outdoorsman cafe. We had a chance to chat with some of the locals and got a few good stories about the town, weather, America, gold, bugs, and cancer treatment in Thunderbay and Winnipeg.

14 km after we left Atikokan we saw our first moose. He was browsing in a swamp at the side of the road. We had a good long staring match with one another. Over the course of the next two days we would see one more moose (crossing the road), a dead one, and catch a glimpse of a moose butt as it wandered into the forest.

The weather was in and out rain all day, until we left Atikokan, then a fine blue patch settled in and we had a lovely ride to Quetico Provincial Park where we spent the night. It was here that we got our first taste of Ontario bugs -- the mosquitoes were quite terrible. We were both thankful to have our bug hats! We were also treated to a caterwauling fox in the middle of the night. Mike thought it was a madman with a knife coming to kill us all. We both got up in the night to check the camp and then spent about 1/2 an hour killing mosquitoes in the tent before getting to sleep. However, lest it sound too dire, the sunset at Quetico was spectacular, with loons calling out over the water as soon as the sun went down.

June 14: Quetico to Shabaqua
104.5 km
5 hrs in the saddle
20.9 km/hr

After dealing with the horrible bugs we got a rather late start, but as you can see from the mileage it didn't really make a difference. We had another stunning day in the saddle. Winds from the west, lovely warm and sunny weather, another moose, and the treat of a motel at the end of the day (I wasn't keen on further adventures in bug territory!).

We stopped for a coffee at Kashabowie -- the only stop between Quetico park and Shabaqua. If you ever travel this road, do stop in. The woman running the place (her name is Sandra) is very nice, and has the most beautiful blue eyes. All the local residents stop here too. We had an interesting chat about the mining industry in the area with a retired miner. Lots of exploration going on in the area for gold and platinum.

Although we are not yet north of Lake Superiour, the landscape here makes me feel like I am riding through a Tom Thompson painting. I can certainly see where some of the Group of Seven got their inspiration from. I expect this feeling will increase as we ride around Lake Superiour.

June 15: Shabaqua to outside Thunder Bay
105.5 km
5:46 in the saddle
18.3 km/hr average

Another good wind and fine ride today, with a stop at Kakabeka Falls, a tour of Thunder Bay, a visit to the Terry Fox monument, and a ride on the Lake Superiour shorefront. Today we also rendevoued with Mark and Charlie at Sarah's house east of Thunder Bay.

Due to the recent rains Kakabeka Falls was full of water and you could see the spray and hear the roar from a kilometre away. The falls are just off the road, so it was easy to visit and certainly a must-see. Many of the locals we talked to said they had never seen the falls with more water in it.

We went into Thunder Bay on a quiet (fairly) southern road and ended up in the Fort William part of town. Thunder Bay is made up of two towns - Fort William and Port Arthur. It looked to us like the Fort William part of town was the roughest. It has the mill and the grain elevators. Talking with a fellow from the area we found out that most of the elevators where closed and the mill was running at a very low volume. Clearly Thunder Bay is in an economic down turn.

The Port Arthur part of town to the north is a bit more upscale with some fine residential neighbourhoods and an expansive riverside park. Excellent views of the Sleeping Giant from here. The Giant is a peninsula to the north east of town with huge cliffs that face the city.

We toured up to the Terry Fox Memorial too. The views were outstanding. I can't begin to imagine how mentally and physically difficult it must have been for him to run 42 km each day on a prosthesis from the dark ages -- it is hard enough to get out and do it on a bike! He is certainly an inspiration.

We met up with Mark and Charlie at a lovely cottage in the woods along the shores of Lake Superiour. They had the same fine riding we did, and Mark will give a report on the blog. We will now decide how to proceed next. The next seven days of riding are all along the Trans Canada and the little taste we had today outside of Thunder Bay showed us a busy road with a very small paved shoulder. Starting tomorrow I am sure we will miss the quiet roads of south western Ontario!


ps -- a big hello to Bobby 56 -- the owner of classic cars and a classic lodge (Lakeshore Lodge) along the shores of Lake Superiour, just east of Thunder Bay. We stopped at his place and enjoyed his cars and conversation.


Unknown said...

Great stories of your adventures, Mary, Mike and Mark! Fabulous pictures too!

Congratulations on your remarkable progress, I lost track of you for a week or so. Hate to be a spoil-sport, but you're not in "south-western" Ontario yet even though there's a whole lot of Ontario north of Thunder Bay. You don't get "south" until you cross the French River, south of Sudbury and North Bay. People in Toronto still call Barrie "north", and it's only an hour's drive!

Glad you're seeing some good wildlife. Definitely Golden Eagles, Mark, sometimes look like immature Balds which you're also likely to see. When you travel between Sault Ste. Marie and Espanola, watch for Sandhill Cranes in the open fields. You'll hear them before you see them.

Keep on pedalling!
Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

This is Mike and Heather Latondresse from Vancouver. Mike is cycling alone and I'm running our V W Westfalia with our black Lab, Poppy. We were hoping to cross paths with you again but it looks like we are 3 days ahead of you; on June 17 in Wawa. If you haven't passed it already you should stay at Neys Prov Park - spots right on the beach with the waves crashing; just like at Long Beach,BC. Pancake Bay Prov Park ahead is also like that. Cheers!