I have made it to Ottawa! Not the end of my trip yet but for so long now I’ve been fantasizing about the day I’d crawl out of northern Ontario. Today I was starting to feel downright giddy just thinking about where I’d be by the end. The excitement began to build from Sudbury a few days back where it felt as though a switch flipped. Once through that city I could feel myself finally traveling east. Before the direction was less distinct or simply too far to fully grasp the progress I was making. It’s feeling less like cycling through a foreign land and more like I’m in my home territory again. I’m feeling it in the bones. Read more
My relationship with mornings is complicated if not a little ridiculous. I hate getting up in the morning. Nothing would please me more than to remain snugly ensconced in my cocoon of a sleeping bag. I’m of course always full of regret when I do. It’s embarrassingly pathetic but I possess so little willpower when it comes to getting up. However, I love riding early in the morning while the freshness still lingers in the air. The traffic is usually lighter, the heat hasn’t begun, and naturally little to no wind to speak of yet. I could also mention the birds chirping but what really thrills my ticker in the morning is the optimism and hope for the day. It’s like I can smell the sweet possibilities of the day in the dew so light and clean. I know it’s not so much the early morning dew as the fact that I thrive on a schedule.
On a cold May day in 1934 in a drafty farmhouse near the village of Corbeil, Elzire Dionne went into labour two months premature. The midwives were called for and Elzire gave birth to a little girl and then another and another. Her husband Olivia went for the doctor in the nearby town of Callander. By the time he returned with the doctor, there were five. Elzire had suspected twins but this was unheard of. The doctor saw no hope of Elzire or her five babies surviving the night. He went home while the midwives remained to care for mother and children, rubbing them and giving them warm toddy through the long night. All lived to see the morning and thus began the saga of the Dionne Quintuplets.
June 26, 2014
I have mulled this post over on many occasions and today’s as good a day as any to get it out. Unfortunately, the people to whom I’m writing this in my head are not likely to read my blog but take the complimentary parts as my thanks to you.
When I am on the road all day, there are a few things I wish I could impart to motorists as the speed by and on with their life. We may be a nuisance on the road but in the grand scheme of things or even in that particular car trip, only a momentary blip. But you might want to think of the cyclists on the road as triple score opportunities for your karma, heavenly reward, good vibes, or what have you. We spend a lot of time negotiating, promising, pleading with the highway gods so you’d rather have us bless than curse you. It takes very little effort on your part to please us. Give us a few feet of room, maybe ease up on the gas for a moment. It won’t really make a difference to your trip but makes mine a lot less stressful. As cyclists, we love getting encouragements whether a honk or wave. But don’t honk behind or beside us; it scares the living bejesus out of us. Honk and wave once you passed and you’ll see us grinning and waving back in your rearview.
No miracle is to be today. My phone hasn’t come online again since last night and after waiting until 11am for the resturaunt to open so I could contact the waiter I talked to, I discovered it was not turned in to her. The fact that it showed up at that resturaunt/motel was a coincidence. Waking in the morning, I considered leaving my stuff at the campground and doing a long day to Bruce Mines and back or hitchhiking there. Thankfully, I counseled myself to patience for it would have been a day wasted. So I’m resigning myself to the idea that the phone is really gone. It seems a rather silly thing but all day, or the half day left, I felt like my bike load wasn’t complete and that I forgot something important. Mostly, felt more alone on the road than I have in a while. No longer are there a whole list of friends and family a text away. A new dimension of the trip begins until I get a another phone.
June 24, 2014
On the road alone, the restraints of social acceptability become less imposing from wearing the same two outfits all summer to talking to yourself for some company and so on. I have starting singing myself through the difficult bits. It’s nothing elaborate but little mantras to get me through whatever’s oppressing me. Still a little flustered about my wayward rest day, I sang myself out of The Soo. I was feeling pretty good when I heard what sounded like my back tire catching on something. Checking whether the rims were hitting the brakes or if a spoke had snapped, everything looked copacetic until I noticed the huge nail sticking out of my tire! It must have been perfectly aligned in a pavement crack to catch my tire at all. With my pliers, I was able to dislodge the nail as it would not budge otherwise. The tire seemed to remain fully inflated and I couldn’t hear air coming out so I kept going. The protective strip inside the tire for preventing punctures had finally come through for me. The hilarity of it all is that this huge nail did no damage other then putting a hole in my tire while a few days back I had a lot of trouble with a little piece if needle about a millimeter wide and maybe three centimeters long. I got a flat coming into Terrace Bay but for the life of me could figure out why. It was on the side of the tube, which is odd, but there was nothing in my tire and I couldn’t find a puncture. I reluctantly put a new inner tube in which lasted a good day before the same flat. This time I found this minute needle almost parallel with the tire wall. It goes to show that on occasion, contrary to the parable, the splinter is more of a problem than the spike.
Let me tell you a story about the trials and tribulations of doing your laundry on the road. I carry limited clothing with me as I only have so much room in my bags thus getting the clothes clean again is a pretty big deal. There was a laundry beside our camping spot in Agawa Bay last night but I figured it’d be nice to start out from Sault Ste Marie rested and with clean clothes. But like Aesop’s fox, I should have been satisfied with what I had. I called the laundromat close to the bike shop this morning but the answer machine didn’t list their hours so I waited until 9am. Turns out they don’t open until 11am which was a little troubling but I dutifully returned at 12 and they still weren’t open. Had I had my wits about me I’d have left immediately but instead I waited an hour. The tailor next door generously gave me directions to the closest laundromat but it was a good 30 minutes walk under a very warm sun. To make this short, I returned to the bicycle shop/camp at 4pm! Thankfully, I managed to do some shopping for necessities or all I would have managed with my day would be one little load of laundry.
I made it to Sault Ste Marie, the city of salvation on the horizon or so it felt the last two weeks. I expressed my initial ambivolance about northern Ontario well The Soo was the point at which I felt like I could come up for air again. Another week of traveling lies ahead of me before I reach Ottawa but the towns are situated closer together, which feels more comforting. It just means the grocery stores are more frequent and hopefully the bike shops too. The trip around Lake Superior turned out to be really spectacular and well worth the strenuous climbs. Having someone to ride with was also a great boon. But most of the trip is mental perseverance.
As I cycling along hour after hour, many times I think I should write about this or that. Too often the thought amounts to little more than a one liner or a photo with a tag line. Today was one of those days when various little things occurred but nothing that amounts to a lot so I’ll dig into my treasure trove of ‘topics for northern Ontario’ and continue the A Day In the Life series.
A good portion of my day revolves around food. When I’m not eating, which doesn’t usually take that long, I think about food, which can swallow up hours. For all the time I think about food, I don’t eat a great variety just a great quantity hence the title fressen. In German you make a distinction between the eating/essen a person does and the fressen an animal does for which there is no English equivalent; it suggests great quantities and consumed greedily. To get the best sense for my eating you’d need to use the more vulgar low German fraeten. I think that gets us pretty close to pigging out at the slop trough. And I still lost about 20lb in the first few weeks.
June 20, 2014
It is going to seem trite to say that being on a bicycle lends itself to different perspectives but that doesn’t make it any less startlingly when confronted with them. Take Wawa as an example. I’ve traveling through town by bus on at least four occasions. Maybe it was the late Sunday afternoon dullards, nothing too thrilling happens then, but my impression of Wawa was that it was a sad, lonely little place in the middle of nowhere. Tumbleweed don’t roll here but I could just about see them heading down main street. Coming in on the bicycle today, I was surprised to see how bustling the town is. With a well stocked grocery store, multiple motels, and numerous other businesses, this wasn’t the Wawa I remember. Heck, they even have a Tim Hortons! If you’re not convinced yet, Stomptin Tom Connors wrote a song ‘Little Wawa’ about a goose and love in Wawa. Go listen to it right away for some awesome Canadiana. Timmies and Stompin Tom is practically an endorsement from Her Majesty herself. Maybe the rugged isolation of northern Ontario is getting to me and am now too easily impressed.