Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 18-19

June 18::Schreiber to Marathon
94 km
16.5 km/hr

Another grey, cold, and overcast day, but once again good winds from the west, and I'll trade west winds for sunshine any day of the week! As well, the cold keeps the bugs down -- although poor Mike got 138 black fly bites on him (we counted), so I'd hate to see this place in a "bad" bug year.

Our worries for this part of the ride have not materialized. The TCH is not busy at all, the trucks and cars are, for the most part courtious, the hills are not as steep and long as expected, and the views, at least on this day, are ever changing.

This is my first time in the boreal forest and I am struck by how similar it seems to an alpine environment. For example, I saw bog laurel and something that looked like a type of anemone at the side of the road; I would see these types of things at higher elevations back on Vancouver Island. A deep lichen is also a prominent feature on the rocks. Perhaps this is what supported the cariboo herds that used to roam here.

Today Mike got his 13th flat -- a piece of wire in the front tire. You should see him doing the dance of disgust as he changes inner tubes, swats at black flies, and curses. His camera stopped working too, so we have to try and get it fixed in Sault St. Marie, or get a new one.

Highlights for the day: Trains manuering at the siding and main tracks around Little Pic River. They wind along the lakeshore up high on the side of a cliff. I can only imagine what life must have been like for the workers that build that railway. Hard work and bugs would have been their lot. It was here that Mike saw a huge black bear.

Early in the day we paid a side visit to Aquasabon Falls and then stopped for a 2nd breakfast in Terrace Bay at The Bakery. This is an excellent little place that everyone in town seems to come to for coffee. Everyone we asked said that The Bakery was the best place for breakfast. I got a good vibe from this little town.

We met another cyclist today. Dennis from Korea, by way of St. Catherines. He was heading for Vancouver, and, as a self-supported cyclist, was doing the highest milage of anyone we had encountered so far, an average of 150 km / day. He was 11 days out from St. Catherines.

Today we'll try for White River, we should be at Sault St. Marie by Sunday evening.

I am camping behind a gift shop called May's next to a bunch of RVs and Mike and Mary are staying at the hotel - overall I had a great camp, it rained overnight but was nice in the morning, and we just met up for breakfast at the motel.

June 19: White River: Bugs and Bears

Today we did 95km to White River from Marathon. We left Marathon in good time after a nice breakfast at the motel on the highway after Mike had fixed TWO flats, both his and Mary's front tires. The ride from Marathon was nice and flat most of the day, we stopped early on at the Tourist Info outside of Marathon while Mike fixed Mary's tire again. Continuing on we passed lots of construction early on, which mitigated the traffic nicely for most of the day. The road was generally OK though the shoulders were spotty, and we left Lake Superior behind, which we won't see again until Wawa. We stopped for a late lunch at Gloria's and Mike got the most enormous breakfast you can imagine, which meant we will probably be having a light supper.

Between Marathon and the turnoff to Manitouwadge we passed a whole bunch of mines, of which the largest, the Williams Gold Mine, is apparently the largest in the world (by some metric).

Shortly after the turnoff to Pic Mobert I passed VERY close to a bear hanging out at the side of the road - he was motionless and so I didn't see him until I had almost drawn level with him, though he has only about 4 metres or so from the road, and so I decided it would be prudent to cycle on past and stop a litle further on. He watched me pass, and then scooted off to the edge of the forest when Mike and Mary pulled up, and Mary got some great pictures of him. He was not very big, probably an adolescent, and seeing as we were close to White River he reminded us all of Winnie the Pooh, who originally came from this area!

Approaching White River the highway goes through the site of the big forest fire in 1999 (at one point every forest fire fighting unit in Canada was attacking this one fire) and the huge swathes of devastated landscpe are a site to see. Coming into White River we learned that the two campsites that we had heard about are now both closed! but the nice lady at the Tourist Info phoned her friend at the White River Motel, and now I am camped behind it in the middle of a big empty field near the edge of the forest, and Mike and Mary are in the motel.

The bugs in this part of the country are AMAZING - Mike is covered with blackfly bites, and I have more than my fair share - though apparently the locals tell us this is not too bad, because of the cool spring. We have learned how to camp in bugs, and the bug hats we all got at MEC in Winnipeg have been a lifesaver. The only problem is eating, for which you a) usually have to be relatively sedentary, b) have to be outside your tent, and c) you have to open up your bug hat for! I have thrown caution to the winds and eaten in my tent once, and walking around while eating also seems to work fairly well. I honestly don't know how the locals can put up with it. The blackflies don't seem to be biting me so much as the usual mosquitoes, but the blackflies have gone after Mike with a vengeance.

We're off now to cook dinner, and I'll go to my tent to sleep in the bugs!


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