I’m sitting in my tent, in Dryden Ontario about 200km away from the Manitoba border. I’ll just start off and say it’s quite interesting to setup a tent when you’ve realized you’ve left your tent pegs somewhere. I tracked back as far as I can go and without success, so am using some backup pegs I had stashed away, and hex keys to fill the void for the remainder – Toronto is a ways away (2000km!) so I have to suck it up and buy some cheapo ones from Canadian Tire for the time being. But – I’m comfy in my tent, although gagging a bit from the smell.
I first noticed a smell in May coming out of my tent, first my Air Mattress collecting the sweat and grime from my daily travels – and I spent considerable time airing it out, washing it off and making sure it didn’t get packed away wet. In Winnipeg I thoroughly cleaned my tent and the mattress, but neglected to touch my sleeping bag. I stayed with someone for the past 2 days on their enclosed porch with the sleeping bag, and it stunk up the entire place. I’m a bit leery on washing the bag so soon in the journey, as I’m aware down filed bags start only have limited washing capabilities, but something has got to be done. I promise I’ll record the cleaning of the bag in the bathtub so you can see what sort of goop comes out of it. Dirt, Sweat, Mud, dead bugs, suntan lotion, bug spray, gold bond, you name it, this is going to be something you are not going to want to miss – or maybe you will.
I stocked up on food in Dryden tonight as opposed to in the morning, frustrated with unable to find a decent coffee shop to hook into the internet to take care of loose ends and fire up my Manitoba Statistics, and somehow wonder tonight if I will be visited by a creature as the food is in my vestibule, and its awfully aromatic. I ask for trouble sometimes, and this certainly invites them to me, even though I’m in a residential’ish’ area. The bears are back, however I have a feeling this time my bear encounters will be a bit more scary, as they will now be scrambling to get ready for the hibernation phase and a bit less fearless than in May/June.
I had a tough time with Winnipeg, which seemed to redeem itself on the day I left, Friday. I headed out early in the morning, said goodbye to a dear friend who I will not see for quite some time again and headed out east, into the shopping district, a large pocket called Transcona. Here I was puffing away on a clove cigarette when someone pulled up beside me to ask for a photo. I obliged and we ended up chatting away for close to a half an hour, and hope to see some of the photos he took. In the meantime a curious woman approached me and asked me a few questions before being invited out to share lunch with her. The meeting was brief however we shared some good stories and went off on our own way. By this time I was about 7km in my daily distance quota of 100km and realized it was 2pm, I still hadn’t gone for groceries, and it was turning into one of those things that I figured I should follow my instinct and connect with a new friend I met during the week as I felt we left things hanging, and found the feeling was mutual on the other end. So that’s what I did – I stayed an extra day with an artist who was Russian born, however moved to Israel during the time the USSR was disintegrating just-recently-moved to the city and looking to head out west for more excitement. I felt very comfortable speaking about things that I normally wouldn’t let out of my head and felt a bit more at ease from Winnipeg. All good things come to an end, so I ventured off early in the morning with my destination of who-knows-where, Manitoba.
The rain picked up for the first time in a couple days from what I gathered, as the roads were covered in white slime, and I took my first tumble on this tour – My back wheel slid out from underneath me and got caught in a train track, tipping me over with my right side of my body breaking my fall, until my bike fell on the left side. Yeah – it hurt, and the bruising isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, however things are a bit tender in the upper leg region. I also managed to do a number on my man bits due to the fact my saddle wasn’t adjusted correctly after the replacement I had to perform a couple days earlier on the seatpost ring. I rode the entire day (130km ish) with it out of wack and gave myself a soreness on one of my testicles, and caused some torturous pains to my prostate, something I have done research on, and is a very delicate and touchy area for those riding bikes for long distances. Some people laugh when they hear someone say “It hurts when I pee” – but goodness – this was something that makes me not want to look forward to being 60. I’ve sorted the issue out now and all is good. Ahh, add this to my broken toes, the chainring to the face, the chainring to the shin, and other numbness in fingers and digits and I’m just falling apart! This is what happens when you put yourself through extreme forms of physical exertion on a daily basis. No regrets. I feel great, and most people who saw me last week all said similar things that I looked alive as well. Cool!
The rain was a bit of a mess, but I kept going down a side road away from the busy highway traffic. I saw a few signs along the way while I was dodging frogs and snakes for “Bryce Fest” with some neat designs, alien heads and such on the side of the road. As I kept riding throughout the day I started hearing amazing amounts of low frequencies, and music. So I decided to stop in! Bryce, the owner of the property throws a party once a year, typically for the weekend and it turns into a big corn roast, meat roast, and hair flinging good time. They said it gets best at about 4-5am – and they offered me a beer and some food. It was raining so there wasn’t that many people around at the time, maybe 30 – but it was still early in the day for the shenanigans to start. I had a beer and one of the partiers took a few photos of me in my rain gear, before heading off another 40km eventually ending up in the town of Rennie. I needed a good night of strangers, so parked my bike in front of the bar, the only other business besides the general store and sat to charge my components, while tasting some of Manitoba’s beer for the last time for the foreseeable future. The UFC fight was going on, and there were a bunch of people getting all aggravated and yelly, while the people at the VLT’s were making considerable amounts of money in the triple digits repeatedly – sounds like a good night for the locals!
I ended up striking up conversation with a half dozen people throughout the night, and didn’t get to sleep until far too late, well after the bar had closed down – tent pitched right beside the bar, not worried about any of the locals harassing me, nor the police – as I had permission from the owner. I woke up a bit groggy in the morning to a nice sunny day, with only a kilometre of riding before I was in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, on a nice windy road, Historic Road Number 1 taking me through the Canadian shield with rock formations similar to what I saw up north on the way into Yellowknife. My heart ached a bit for some of the people that I met up in the area, as that was the only thing I found missing to the park, as all the people I encountered were either too caught up in gasing up their speedboats, not willing to look a stranger in the eye, or were caught up in dealing with the little ones causing trouble. I hung out at Westhawk lake for a bit and people watched before going through the final 10km push of Manitoba, to what turned out to be the worst roads I have ever ridden on in my life. Thank goodness as soon as you got out of the province and entered into Ontario the pavement was smooth, shoulders wide, and traffic double laned.
The first thing that was noticeable, were the hills – these guys are serious! The landscape changed dramatically as well, with lots of rockfaces, and an absolute tonne of lakes in the area. This is cottage country for the big city of Winnipeg, and I played a game of count the Manitoba license plates – I would say it was 90:1 in favor of Manitoba. All the folk I met at the gas station where I stopped to refill water, make lunch, and just make conversation were from the area as well and gave me good tips on what to do while getting into Kenora, my stop for the day. I noticed a definite increase in my speed and energy with new terrain, being able to take advantage of the descents into the next climb even though the heat was unbearable at some points. I met a cyclist on the road who was coming the other way, head down to the grindstone for the past month coming in from New York, with a goal to be heading to BC and finally terminating his trip in San Francisco. Turns out we know some of the same people, and he taught at a school with another cycle tourist who’s going into Antarctica right now – small world.
I wasn’t 6km away from my destination before the thunder and lightning came in, followed by intense raindrops soaking me in a matter of seconds. Too late for me to put on my rain gear, I rode into it, loving every moment of it, being cautious of the slippery pavement conditions that were occurring. it stopped about 1 minute before I arrived at my hosts cabin about 10km out of town. It was great to see this friend, someone who I had a business relationship in the past, and met the family and the significant other. We spent the first night conversing, gawking into the sky watching satellites pass over us, and got into some heavy geek speak. One of the people there had some history with computers and we fell into some fairly technical conversations, confusing the others around us. I saw parallel lives with this person, also who had left the IT industry as they wanted their hobby back, but heading towards a degree in linguistics instead of hopping on a bike. We spent the next day and a half hanging out on the porch, outside by the lake, and I got to ride in their boat – unfortunately it was too crappy to rove around in a kayak or drink beer in a lounge float-chair, but I got the rest I desperately needed, while eating bison, other meats, and vegetables. I also got to recharge my components, specifically my Kindle – the battery finally died from its charge in early June – not bad for reading 3 books, and being tossed around in a bag all day long!
I spent some time patching up some holes I found in my Ortlieb pannier, unfortunately the one that carries all my electronics. Nothing got wet, but this could have been a disaster if it did. Shoe Goo to the rescue, and I put the rest of the tube on my shoes, which are falling to pieces. I plan on sending off a letter to the company and asking about how long the life expectancy their shoes are to last as they aren’t meeting my expectations whatsoever.
I left Kenora bright and early heading with a huge tailwind pushing me along up and down the hills for 3/4 of the day – Speeds of 45km were not uncommon, and the average turned out to be 23km/h over 6 hours before getting into Dryden. For a town of 8,500 people I’m not impressed – it looks dirty with the exception of where City Hall is, it has a horrible layout to find amenities, and the people are flat out grouchy. Not all of them, but I noticed definite scowls from a good chunk of them.
I’ve decided for the next few days I’m going to ride on the Trans-Canada Highway to prepare myself for the upcoming hills after ThunderBay. It’s less hilly and the roads are in better condition, rather than shocking my system after riding on moderately flat terrain for the past bit through Saskatchewan and Manitoba. A friend in Yellowknife set me up with one of his friends in the city so I’ll get a chance to recharge before going for 14 days with minimal reception on anything technology related until reaching Kitchener/Greater Toronto area. This might be good for me. You’ll see an upcoming post shortly of my electronic components going up for sale anyways, as I prepare for the future – so this is just training grounds for me
I found a route that will let me get into a National Marine Park and let me take a ferry, which appeals to me greatly, with a small tax of 100km distance tacked onto the overall trip. It really means nothing. Let’s hope for continued Western winds to keep my energy stores up, no bugs, and a bit of clouds throughout the day to keep me from getting melanoma! Talk to you soon!