Day 122: Southhampton to Belgrave

There was something challenging about today that neither of us could pinpoint. There was a headwind, but not that bad; a lot of inclines, but no major hills.

We had some waterfront pathways to follow around Lake Huron which made for a nice start to the day. We rode to Port Elgin where Jesse was recommended a barber for another haircut. Port Elgin was also a nice small town with a nice beachfront and a Wednesday market just beside.

A Warm Showers host came through with very short notice which was great. So we made our way to Ken and Jocelyn’s place on quieter farm roads, passing the Bruce Power plant, and many more Mennonite or Amish farms.

Ken met us on the road as we neared his place and showed us the way to his place where we spent a great evening.

Day 121: South Baymouth to Southampton

The large number of Canadian Geese beside our tent ensured we were awake for the sunrise today. I took some photos and then we began packing up our site. This gave us time to return to the same restaurant for breakfast. We heard some more great stories from the owner – he told us we were the third best story he had heard, after a man who biked from Alaska and another young man who was walking from Toronto to Vancouver and then south to Argentina.
At the ferry terminal we saw Don and Kevin again – they made it from their farther site and again caught up with us to catch the same early ferry. While on the ferry we saw a few other bike tourers down below who must have just missed the ferry.

It was a quiet and sunny ride to Tobermory. I was excited to get to Tobermory – somewhere I knew and had visited many times before. Arriving there I discovered how close the ferry terminal was to the town and just how small the town was. Everything seemed much bigger before. We did a quick ride into town and then started down highway 6.

There were small shoulders but we were still very conscious of passing cars. Eventually we did turn towards the west to head to Sable Beach where we were able to ride on a very quiet, and very hilly, road towards Lake Huron.

We stopped at Sable Falls to quickly see the falls, then we rode into Sable Beach. There were some campgrounds in the area but Sable Beach didn’t quite have a good feel to it so we decided to keep going to Southampton.

Southampton surprised me with how nice it was. There were many large Victorian homes, and a really nice waterfront area with a lighthouse. Riding over a bridge and looking to the right the sun was getting close to setting over the water, just past the lighthouse. A perfect picture but I didn’t stop since we were on the bridge, Jesse was behind me and I thought I saw another person behind him in my mirror – though I realized afterwards I must have been mistaken.

We discovered that the campground that we thought was in town was actually just on the edge of town, and it was also the most expensive campground on the trip – $45 for a small little site on a field, and the facilities there were not very good at all. The campground was more of a permanent summer RV home and not really meant for overnight camping. Though it did give us somewhere to sleep other than a motel and put us that much closer to our destination tomorrow.

Day 120: Esplanola to South Baymouth

Today was quite the hilly day over the escarpment and onto Manitoulin Island. Once an area of flatland opened up we were facing incredibly strong headwinds, so that didn’t make things any easier. We saw Kevin and Don again today, they caught up with us at a rest stop. We seem to go a bit farther then them each day, but they keep catching up and passing us mid-day.

A little ways onto the island, just past 10-Mile point, large shoulders appeared beside the road and the ride became very enjoyable. There was very little traffic and the only towns we passed were quite small or off the highway completely.

Nearing South Baymouth we came across three British guys who were trying to hitchhike across they island. They were backpacking across Canada, and since there were no buses they didn’t have any other option to get across. They didn’t seem too sure of this plan at the time, they were concerned for where they would be able to setup their tents for the evening.

We made it to South Baymouth and setup the tent at another waterfront site, then went to the nearby restaurant for dinner.

Day 119: Iron Bridge to Esplanoa

From Iron Bridge we rode to Blind River where we stopped for breakfast. Later two other cyclists sat down in the booth behind us, having seen our bikes from the road. Later on the narrow, busy, non-cyclists friendly highway we had a chance to speak with them for a while (pulled off onto a side road). They were a father and son team from the US, Kevin and Don, who were doing a couple week trip around lake Huron. Kevin works for Google in Denmark so we had fun chatting about that as well. And given their touring setup I think it’s fair to assume this isn’t their first tour!

After passing the town of Spanish I was anxiously awaiting River Rd. Most of today was spent counting down the 90km to where we no longer have to ride on this highway. When River Rd finally came we took the turn off, which added a few kilometers and had us riding sometimes on gravel, but gave us a really quiet alternative to the highway. This road took us right into Massey, where we easily found Lee Valley Rd and continued on the same mix of gravel and paved for at least 25km to Esplanola. The only challenging part was when a car wanted to pass on the gravel. The cars seemed resistant to getting out of the way on gravel, and not understanding that we can’t easily pull over into the mound of loose gravel but need to ride in the hard pressed area where the cars tires usually ride.

It was a great feeling to arrive in Esplanola and know for sure now that we had left highway 17 behind.

Day 118: Sault Ste Marie to Iron Bridge

Much of today was spent trying to avoid the main highway. We took backroads and gravel roads for 70km leaving the Sault to Bruce Mines, where we had to ride the highway. These back roads took us through Mennonite country, which was pretty neat. We passed many homes with homemade signs stating their services, and that they were closed on Sundays. Passing one home we could see a woman out front cutting the lawn silently with a push-mower, her long dress blowing in the wind, three or four kids running around the front lawn as the laundry dried on the line outside. Then a little kitten ran across the grass. Farther on a younger guy said hello as he walked passed us on the road. Then passing another house a man started talking to Jesse, asking him about our trip and sharing dislike for the loose gravel shoulders on the highway, as the kids stared at us from behind him. It was quite interesting hearing his thick accent and the manor in which he spoke. I think maybe Jesse’s beard gave him a bit of an ‘in’ in the Mennonite community!

At the campground we were told about the plentiful wild blueberries that were growing just in the ditch at the side of the road. I was happy to spend an hour picking wild blueberries – fruit is something that seems to be missing most from our diet on this trip!

Day 116-117: Sault Ste Marie

Our first rest day in Sault Ste Marie was spent as many are – a bit of sight seeing and catching up on chores and work. During our bike trip to Velorution (best bike shop with a free campground for touerers) we passed a couple who seemed to be off in the bush. They told us they were picking Saskatoon berries, also known as sugarplums in Ontario. So we stopped to pick a few and try them out. For dinner we went to Evan’s parents place on Goulais Bay where we had a great dinner and again a swim-sauna opportunity.

On Friday we considered leaving, but the weather forecast was terrible and once the rain started it didn’t seem to end for quite a few hours. It was a very heavy rain with a lot of thunder and lightening so we were happy for the decision to stay. It also gave me a chance to make dinner, which made me happy to be able to cook whatever I wanted – having a full kitchen at my disposal.