Soggy tents and windy roads.

/ Wednesday, 15 September 2010 / CanadaNorth AmericaOntario

Hello Southern Ontario! I hopped, skipped, and took a ferry over from Manitoulin Island that is taking me into the heart of the Greater Toronto Area in the next few days to stop in and see some friends that I haven’t seen for a few years. The past three days have been pretty crazy for riding lately – I’ve got energy one minute and then nothing the next.

I woke up early after the night I attempted to take a shower before getting wailed on by balls of hail the size of marbles and headed out, quick to make it to Iron Bridge in an hour and a half. I figured I’d stop and dry out the tent along the way as it was soaking wet and its one of the worst things to deal with at the end of the day..  The road I took quickly turned into farmland from the trees and rockwork I was used to for the previous 3 days and it was an unwelcome change, something about the rocks makes me feel comfortable. I made a quick pitstop at a restaurant and drank a few coffees, ate a terrible sandwich, and a donut – that is the last time I stop at “Timmys’ ever. Gross. I pushed forward, riding on Highway 17 again, this time busy with traffic, semi trailers, and a real poor shoulder. It was tough dealing with all the whizzing vehicles and even got a few fingers from the truckers. I’ve since resorted to taking a picture of their license plate and waving at them so they see me in their mirror. Go ahead, stop – I’d like to have a few words with you about the Ontario Road Laws about sharing the road with cyclists.

I had a good tailwind behind me, and with the sun coming out in bursts, sun showers cooled me down as I pushed myself harder glad that I was back in cellular service again, so I could begin my frantic texting to loved ones just to offset the loneliness. I was about 140km in, with my end stop being Espanola when I hit some nasty road construction. I pulled up – saw the pilot truck coming and braced myself for the unknown. When it was time for us to go I tailed the pilot truck for 16/32 (fractions eh!) of the way before losing my steam, finally letting all the other cars go along side me. I received many thumbs up for making it the 4km I did. Once in Espanola it was getting late (sun sets at about 7:40pm right now) and I was scrambling to find a spot. A worker at the hotel denied me the access to sleep behind a shed but provided me with a little cozy spot in a gravel pit about 2km away. I set up my tent, kept all the doors open and left the mattress out to air out while I sought out food and a few beers, hoping to find a decent internet connection to upload some videos/photos/previously written posts. I managed to get a few uploaded (you read them already) and enjoyed the owner of the bar who got up on the stage and did a one-man-band routine with harmonica, guitar, microphone, and percussion on his drums. After that it was time to sleep so I headed back to a moderately dry tent.

Up early in the morning, I noticed the dew was heavy again so I headed out to the grocery store to load up before coming back to tear down the tent and sleeping gear. I waited 2 hours but it was still wet, so I proceeded again to pack up a wet tent, with puddles in the groundsheet into my waterproof trunk bag, keeping it open with an idea to rotate it and shake it out along the way while I headed south into Manitoulin Island. Some locals the night before told me that it was all downhill, which reminds me, not to trust what people say, as they are all drivers. It was hellish climbs, due to my weakened energy from the day earliers push and a nasty crosswind coming from the west at 30km/h. I struggled over and over trying not to lose my cool and pondering stopping before my planned destination due to fatigue. I put on a few old mixtapes that I enjoyed that worked at a fairly high BPM and pushed through hills, zig zagged roads (a series of 6 at the end nearly destroyed me), and lots of road construction with poor conditions. Another trucker started giving me some grief, and I used my frustration to get me to South Baymouth, where I was to catch the ferry the next morning. I did a quick loop around the town checking out to see what was open, and to find any spots for camping – this night I was prepared to pay for a spot as the lack of showering was onto 8 days and I was starting to reek. I met someone in a campsite who said it was $25 and I turned right back around, realizing that a campsite with a wet tent was not worth that sort of money – c’mon!

I found a sweet park less than 500 metres up that was used for RV’s and community functions, and they happened to have a bathroom that had a shower in it, along with a secluded area that I could setup my tent, let it air and dry out (it was sunset, not like it would help much!) and a sheltered place that had power! I ate dinner, setup my components to charge and headed over to the shower. First I washed my pots and pans, something I really haven’t done in a few weeks, maybe more – Properly. I then went into the shower, cleaned myself from head to toe and proceeded to wash a set of clothing that I’ve been wearing for 2 weeks in the sink. The water was black, and it took a few rinses to make it sort of clear. No one had discovered me after 30 minutes of being in the washroom, so I decided to take the time and do some grooming. I whipped out my Leatherman Wave Multi-tool and proceeded to snip away at hair to clean myself up a bit and to minimize chafing. I can see my lips again! I headed back to the area, organized my electronics pannier and wrote a contact management system on the computer to start entering peoples email, phone, house addresses that I’ve met, so I can send them postcards along the way. Sleep came early at 10am.

I woke up fresh at 6:30am this morning, to a completely dry tent! The wind helped a lot, but I had also setup 4 of the guylines with the tent with my remaining bike hex keys (remember, I’ve lost my tent pegs, to be replaced in Toronto) and I think I have a new appreciation for my tent when you set it up the way it is meant to be setup. No moisture in the foot of my sleeping bag, its stable, and I’d really like to see it perform in 80km winds. I packed up quickly at sunlight just in case someone queried me as to why I was there, and had a quick breakfast. Packed by 7;30am I started tackling some things that I’ve been meaning to do for a while as I knew I had 4 hours to wait till the ferry ran.

I swapped out my right pedal (it was starting to feel grindy after 14,000km and I can’t be bothered to rebuild the bearings, I replaced the left one when I left Yellowknife), and did a minor 1cm adjustment to my saddle to see if it would remove some of my knee pain before heading out to the ferry terminal buying a ticket and swapping out my handlebar tape. This is the 3rd time I’ve ever put handlebar tape on a bike, and I’ve got to say, it is a life skill if you can do it without mucking up one part of it. I improvised to make it look good and feel good, and my hands are thanking me now – the metal was showing on my handlebars before, and that is not entirely too good for it, ya know? I talked to a few passer-by’s about my journey and then hopped on board the ferry, and started working on a few projects that I thought of while riding in the woods last weekend. Highspeed data on the cellular kicked in and I was able to commence an upload of a project (the server kacked out after 50% of the upload 400mb! So I’ll have to find a proper decent internet connection to execute this idea). I talked to a family at the other end of the ferry terminal for a while and gained some valuable contacts for the Greater Toronto Area, and Montreal and Quebec City – I will take them up on a shower offer as I’d like to arrive to see a close friend in Quebec City not looking (and smelling) like a bum.

Heading into Owen Sound, I made good time 20km/h hoping to make it to a friends moms house for the night, but due to my late start from the ferry arriving (1:10pm) I started to wear thin, and worry about riding in the dark. I saw a hotel with a sign for rooms for $39.95 and I decided to stop. Can you believe it that I’ve stayed in 2 hotels the entire time that I’ve been on the road, and not once have I paid for it? Well today was the day, I was going to settle down, have a nice shower, maybe do some laundry and relax – until the owner said they only had rooms available for $91. The motel was empty with no customers, and I hope it stays that way – I politely told them they may want to change their sign wording and moved forward. I hit the town of Wiarton that has a huge descent (55km coming down!) and found an RV Park and Campsite that has been shut down. I circled around to find a spot so that during sunlight I am not to be busted, and finally settled on one that didn’t have power near by, although there is a good Wifi hotspot, I think (I write this from a bar down the road that _does not_ have good Wifi!) so I’ll try to upload some photos tonight off of battery. There is a 24hour food store which is kind of cool, why aren’t all towns like this!

I checked the weather report and it looks like I’m going to get hammered with rain in the morning and all day to the tune of 35mm. I don’t mind it, but it means I won’t make that spectacular distance. That’s ok- I’m 160km from Kitchener, and I’m on schedule for arriving on Friday afternoon. It’ll be a slower day, and I’ll just have to shove a plastic bag over my speakers.. 1 year ago I headed out on my first self supported tour down to Mexico – I’ve been following some peoples tweets about their trek down the Pacific Coast Highway lately and it is bringing back strong memories. If it wasn’t for that trip I wouldn’t be here writing this today!

Sorry, no photos for this post – the internet is out of wack!

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