The road through the wardrobe
Trip Start Jul 12, 2013
16Trip End Oct 01, 2014
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For 25 out of the last 26 days I have been riding across the province of Ontario. I was seriously beginning to feel stuck in some geographical twilight zone. One where all roads lead uphill and where the provincial boundary between Ontario and Manitoba was just the stuff of fiction. Tales of mythical lands touted to gullible cyclists.
But, I have found my way through the wardrobe and have finally entered my second out of five provinces, Manitoba, which at less than 500km across, promises a welcome, short ride through.
In the last week, since leaving Thunder Bay I have also crossed my first timezone, gaining an hour of time, if unfortunately not milage, my first land crossing on foot (or wheel)
The Trans-Canada Highway remains with me, or I with it. It's comforting, it feels like I am journeying with a friend. The highway, completed in 1971, is one if the longest in the world, going through all 10 Canadian provinces to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. During the last 1000 miles it has ranged from a roaring, fast flowing four lane torrent, to a single lane trickle, unmade in parts due to construction, carrying a wake of gargantuan multi-sectioned trucks which pass inches from you in a never ending thundering wall of steel. Also carried in it's wake, huge RVs towing cars, cars towing trailers, Harley Davidson's and the odd, wobbly cyclist (approximately 42 to date).
It's a fascinating road, not least because of the pace in which I travel. The visual aspect isn't done justice by my photographs, but it's travel that excites all the senses.
The smell of pine wood from the forests and wafted from the massive logging trucks thundering past. The indescribable stench of a flattened skunk, that is heralded, peaks and lingers for a good half a mile.
Lakes and rivers provide shade and the chance of a lunchtime swim to cool off, washing off some of the dust, bike grease and insect life that is drawn to the skin like a magnet. Walking over carpets of leaves and wading out into warm sandy bays.
The sounds of the road too form a strange soundtrack to trains of thought, insect and bird calls, the ever present wind, roaring or whispering in the grasses and in quiet moments and the sound of water. The growl and ground-shaking of monster trucks, the (I think) friendly hooting of cars and the soporific swish of bike tyres and clank of gears.
There's much time to watch the stunning scenery slip past, but equally fascinating to me is the morass of debris discarded on the side of the road. A deciduous layer of the lost and abandoned remnants of a thousand daily journeys.
My top 4 in reverse, preferential order:
4) Wildlife, especially insects, carpets of crickets and a plethora of bugs hitching a free bike ride. And the deceased variety, numerous birds and mammals reduced to 2D caricatures
3) Vehicle parts, including fundamental components such as doors, wheels and an engine!
2) Shoes, always the left ones?
1) But by far and away the winner, the copious number of plastic drinks bottles (all varieties) filled with a strange amber liquid.....Not apple juice, but the mobile toileting solution of the male, vehicle driving population (sorry chaps, but I have have yet to meet a woman who can aim accurately into a bottleneck).
One of my many roadside games is to fleetingly analyse the colour, linked to hydration state of the owner. Ooh, I think, that one was a little dehydrated, or, gosh, that really looks problematic.
My favourite to date was a spring water bottle whose label proudly proclaimed "A Canadian product, naturally filtered and bottled at source". Still technically as advertised I guess!
Since Thunder Bay I have covered a non-stop 484 miles (779km) in 6 days, including my first ever 100 mile or 155km day. Camping or staying at Savanne River, Ignace, Vermilion Bay, Kenora and Prawda. I also acquired a camp mate for a few nights. My new cycle buddy Peter, has been heading in the same direction as me, 'commuting' to work from Hamilton (near Toronto) to Winnipeg. Fortunately for him it wasn't a weekly trip!
So, life on the road continues, Manitoba is already flattening out, the Canadian shield (a great swathe of pecambrian igneous rock which covers half of Canada) diminishes,softening from jagged rocky hills to flat rolling prairies which melt into the horizon. A few rest days and then off on the road again.
Huge thank you's, for all the emails and comments, they continue to be a real source of support. To my lovely couch surfing host Gail, a true port in a storm! To fellow travellers Sam, Diederick, Thomas and Jonathan, Shirley, Shirley and Gary, Candice. And to Bill for the beer and cheer when it was needed most :-)