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.

Day 115: Marathon to Sault Ste Marie

We had previously looked into various ways to avoid this section of highway. We had thought of going south through the States, getting a one way car rental, or even taking the Greyhound. However once we had gone too far with this route, going through the US was no longer an option. We looked at car rentals but we would have to pay $1/km. Many people ride this route every day, and after being told it wasn’t that bad, we had decided to keep going. However this morning after hearing the news about a crash killing two cyclists, we decided this would be an alright stretch of road to skip, plus it would put us ahead a couple days.

So after calling the Greyhound and finding out that yes they do have to bike boxes in stock, we decided to go into Marathon and catch the bus. Luckily the bus was late so we had a chance to get all our things boxes in time to catch the afternoon bus. From the bus the shoulders looked tiny, much smaller than they look from the road. These small shoulders seemed to continued for what for us would have been at least a day, maybe two for us, and the on and off again afterwards.

We knew we were missing beautiful scenery. The area around lake Superior really is stunning, and a very challenging ride due to the hills – often considered the most challenging part of Canada because of the unrelenting large hills. However it is also because of how stunning the area is that we could be sure we would make it a destination to come back to at some point and properly explore, so it wasn’t too difficult passing it on the bus.

Jesse had called his friend Evan to tell him a bit last minute that in fact we would be arriving in Sault Ste Marie today. After arriving in town it took us a while to get the bikes together again. Once we did, we went to Evan’s place where we greatly enjoyed a homemade Pad Thai dinner with some fresh mango for dessert. Pad Thai being my favourite meal and mango my favourite fruit, I certainly was happy!

Day 114: Terrace Bay to Marathon

Having stayed in motel we had a late start to the day. Though yesterday we had three very large hill climbs, today we had repeated hills and it was again tough day.

The highlight of the day was meeting Angelo, Ally and Olmo. An Italian father and his two sons who flew from Scotland to ride across Canada. We had been in contact with them before they left for their trip, and we had thought we wouldn’t cross paths since our original plan was to ride through the US on this stretch. We spent quite a while talking at the side of the road. It was unfortunate we didn’t meet at another spot where we could sit and talk for longer, but we still had a great time talking.

We continued riding to Marathon. Today we were able to enjoy the spectacular views around the lake. Though with very inconsistent shoulders, often very narrow, there were many times we weren’t able to relax enough to properly take in the sites.