With over a month on the road cycling across Canada, it never ceased to amaze me – the things you see and the people you meet! My ride was full of chance encounters along the way and I loved it!
After a great sleep on my new Therma-a-Rest (life is too short for leaky beds!!!), I hit more hot weather and headwinds as I continued cycling across Canada. Riding your touring bike, fully loaded and into the wind can do crazy things to your head. Before you knew it, I was doing the one thing my father really didn’t want me to do – free camping at the side of the road. “No place for a girl”, he would say, “it isn’t safe”. But that is exactly what I did when I got to a picnic area on the side of the Trans Canada Highway at Lake Superior. My tired body would not be pushing the pedals another meter. At nearly 90kms, I was baked, fried and finished for the day.
To try and be discreet, I didn’t set up my tent during the remaining daylight hours. I swam in the water, read my book at the picnic table, and appeared to the drivers that were pulling in and out of the rest stop, to be taking a break from the road. I didn’t want to draw any attention to what I was planning to do – free camp on the side of the highway! Next thing you know, a man in a truck pulls in – the day was getting late and he was looking of a place to stop for dinner. We got to talking – he was travelling East to West along the Trans Canada as I was heading West to East. He shared his fresh salad, including decadent organic produce. It was a huge treat – salad vegetable just don’t travel well stuffed into the bike panniers! No one wants to eat salad soup at the end of the day. We had a great time chatting and he seemed to be quite comfortable – after all, his truck had headlights and he could continue to drive into the night. Me, on the other hand, I was getting rather antsy – I wanted him to move on so that no one would know I was here alone. Before long, it was dark, and I had to confess that I was planning on camping at the picnic ground. We stayed up half the night talking.
Another spontaneous rest day and we were off to kayak on Lake Superior. We had camped a few kilometres East of Rossport, a picturesque village on the shores of Lake Superior. Superior Outfitters were more than able to get us set up and on the water. The thing about Lake Superior is that it is the largest fresh water lake in the world, but it acts more like an ocean. Ships have been lost in her storms and the tempestuousness of the sea is mirrored in her tide. We paddled out with amazing weather, but before long, the tides began to change. A full blown storm was headed our way and we needed to find shelter, fast.
We found a beach front and cottage and paddled as fast as we could as the storm whipped up. Lucky for us, the cottagers were home – they invited us in to shelter from the storm, offering us hot tea and blankets at the temperatures dropped and our teeth started to chatter. We were not the first, they told us, and surely would not be the last, to be stranded out on the water. They assured us they have had a number of day paddlers caught out by the fickle winds and conditions. We sat in the comfort of their cottage as the lightening brightened the black sky and the rain pelted down. Truth be told, while I was really happy to not be out on the water, I was also happy to not be on the bike.
With the excitement over, we paddled back to town, and back to our picnic station. Another night of free camping and it was time to go our separate ways – I continued to head East as he drove back to Vancouver. It was tough to pedal on after having had such a connection over those days. Luckily, I found more people to cycle with as I road my bike to Marathon. They were significantly faster than I, so my time with them was short lived, but I bounced along, meeting a couple from Nova Scotia at the campsite, and people to share dinner with.
With winds still trying to blow me back to Vancouver, I stopped to call it quits for the day. I had paid for my campsite and was munching on a snack when a stranger came up to me. She had seen my fully loaded touring bike and wanted to let me know that there was a couple of Swiss cyclists just up the road – they were camping at the Provincial Park. With my campsite fees refunded – I headed on up the road for Obatanga Provincial Park, and sure enough – setting up camp were my cycling friends from Switzerland. We shared a campsite that night and I was thrilled to catch up with all that they had been up to.
We cycled and camped together for a number of days. As a couple, they had their morning ritual running like a Swiss time piece -fast and efficient. I tended to be a little less organized and took twice as long to pull down my camping gear each morning. I was only one person to their two after all. It worked out quite well – they would tear down and head off on the bikes while I was still getting myself organized, and I would ride out alone until I found them on the road. I was a faster rider – so would usually find them by mid morning snack time. We would ride together to lunch and eat together. From there, I would head out and find a campground, and we would share the campsite and the evening. It was perfect. We did this at Rabbit Blanket Provincial Park and Pancake Bay Provincial Park. It was great fun to have people to ride with, but even better was having someone to eat dinner with! While being independent has its advantages, being solo can be rather solitary at times!
We enjoyed the beach and being out in the fresh air. With the humidity approaching 100%, summer storms and soggy riding was ahead of us. Before splitting up the next morning, our merry trio of cyclists enjoyed a soggy breakfast under the campsite office awning – not wanting to get cornflakes soggy! I spent the rest of the day dodging rain storms, taking refuge in derelict old motels that had long ago gone out of business and pushed through air thicker than pea soup. It was great to have friends to cycle with on my journey cycling across Canada.