Big Water Bike Journal (Day 12 – 20)
Day 12 Velorution Bike Shop (Rest Day)
Zach Chase and Kris McNeal are circling the great lakes on their bicycles. In 2007 they toured the West coast.
Woke up early, even on a rest day. We removed all of our things from the shop before they opened as curtesy. Kris and Mona went to get donuts at Superior bakery down the street then went for coffee. While they were away, Zach got his bike looked at, did some more filming, and arranged all of our video so far to be brought back with Mona. Around noon it was about time for Mona to depart so we went through all of our things and sent back quite a bit with her. Mainly small things that we hadnt used and were not going to. It ended up being around 7 pounds of gear! Too bad we wont notice that because we added a bunch more granola bars to our packs. Maybe in a week or so when those have been eaten we will feel the lightened load.
It was time for Mona to leave, she hugged Zach and said goodbye and then Kris walked her out to the car. It was a sad day for the both of us but especially for him. It was like day one all over again with the feelings of leaving her behind coming back. To make us feel better and to explore we got ready and started biking the Sault Ste. Marie HUB Trail system.
The HUB Trail system was really neat. It is approximately 23.7km in length and circles the entire city. It first brought us into Fort Creek park. The park was amazing with high suspension bridge built just for the trail. We got some shots of it on camera and interviewed some walkers as the passed by. It then took us through the industrial district , which was a huge contrast to what we were just in. Very dirty and full of smog as we passed by an enormous steel plant. We then road by the Soo Locks system and along the boardwalk through downtown. It then took us through some beautiful neighborhoods and finally through another wonderful park. We ended up right back where we started next to the Velorution.
When we returned to camp, the two interesting hitchhikers from last night were there again and we had to deal with that while we waited for Jan, the store manager to finish up. We went inside and Kris worked on his bike in the stand and we enjoyed a beer with the crew after close. After that we waited for Jan, and then went back to Bossy’s pub for dinner and watched a Twins and Toronto game and hockey as well. After that we returned back to camp relieved that those two were gone. They left us with 4 huge grocery bags worth of food that people had given them outside of Walmart. Most of it we couldn’t use but we did get some fresh fruit out of the deal. We spent the rest of the night inside the bathroom working on updates and our journal entries. Then it was off to bed in the cold once again but at least we felt refreshed and rested before starting into the new lake and new territory.
Day 13 – Velorution to Thessalon, ON ~ 55 miles
We woke up this morning after a pretty short nights sleep, short for us anyways. We went to bed around 12:40 or so last night after trying to get caught up on things while we had access to the internet. So we woke up around 830 and got our things packed up and sorted through the food that the two hitchhikers had left us from last night. We took some oranges and apples and left some at the Velorution, trying not to take to much unnecessary weight.
After packing up and waving good bye to the shop we went to WalMart quick so Zach could get a small camera…his other one got wet and stopped working so he sent it home to fix it later after a failed attempt the last few days.
Before we headed out we stopped at the Superior Bakery and Deli once more for a quick breakfast. Kris got a giant Apple Fritter and Zach got a Cherry Lattice and a sprinkle doughnut. After eating we followed the directions given to us by the guys at the Velorution for an easier way out of town, avoiding major traffic.
Once we got out of Sault Ste. Marie we got into some pretty flat farm country. Yet another type of terrain we have not seen yet. It was pretty great. We ended up riding on some country roads for a while and hardly saw any cars…just cruising through the country side. We hit a short patch of gravel road about a half mile long and then joined back up with our projected route. It was pretty flat the whole way today, which is a nice change, with only a few rolling hills. We were able to crank out miles pretty quickly.
We stopped for a quick gas station lunch in Bruce Mines because we didnt have much other choice. We sat outside and ate and chatted with a couple locals. From there is was only about 14 miles to Thessalon which was our projected destination for the day so we down to Lake Huron to do a bit of filming. It was the first time seeing it on this trip! Really beautiful and the appearance of surrounding land reminded us of Northeastern Minnesota. We filmed a few things and blasted on to Thessalon.
Just a mile outside of town we ran into a kid on the side of the road who was bike touring. He had a flat and was struggling to repair it. We helped him out and Kris gave him a few patches and Zach ended up giving him a spare tube…he was having a hard time and didnt seem to have many repair items. He was trying to make it to Sault tonight but I dont know if he is going to make it before dark. His name was Ben Todd and he is from Barrie, ON. He is biking to Vancouver trying to raise awareness and support for his nephew who has a disease that made him blind and unable to develop correctly. He was a nice guy though and we wish him the best. We got him going again and then continued in to town. Our verdict was that we should have pushed on to Blind River. There isnt much in the way of food or entertainment in Thessalon, at least today because it is sunday and everything closes early. We did find a small family diner and had a great meal. Much better than fast food and we like supporting local business! The food was much needed because of our small lunch.
After dinner we biked back out the way we came into town and threw up our tent at the local campground right across the road from the shore of Huron. You can see some of the islands way out in the lake from here and in a few days we will be out on one of them. We set up shop and showered and then went down to the beach to enjoy the last of the sun and do a bit of filming.
Overall it was a good day. We could tell the day of rest yesterday really helped because our knees and joints didnt bother us today! It is a good feeling to know that we are getting into the rhythm of things and things are getting smoother with routine. We just have to keep up on our documentation of things and we will be just fine!
Off to the town of Spanish, ON tomorrow night! We are going to bed at a decent time tonight after watching a bit more of Paddle to Seattle on the laptop! Hoping for another clear sky day again tomorrow! I think I just jinxed us….
Day 14 – Thessalon to Almenara en el rio Marina in Spanish, Ontario
We woke up this morning and got packed up quickly and ate a light breakfast. We took off and unfortunately had to pay $23.75 for our campsite. We were hoping to not have to since thew supervisor is not there on weekends but oh well. We headed out of town and kept trucking along until we stopped at blind river for Subway. We met two bike tourists from Quebec, a son and the father who were biking around the world together in 4 years. They were headed out to Vancouver and Then down to South America and then hopping on a boat an over to Africa. We couldn’t imagine doing that with our parents for that long, haha. It was nice at Subway to have a meal that was decently priced for once. Steak and cheese deliciousness.
After Subway, Zach asked a lady how far it was to Spanish and how the town was. She said it was it was another 90km away and there wasn’t much there. After we left we kept on at a very good pace and we realized that she probably thought we meant Espanola, which was further past Spanish. When we finally met back up together, we discussed it and realized we were pretty close to the town.
When we arrived in town we went to the Foodmart to get dinner and Zach got a bunch of great groceries but most importantly ice cream cookie sandwiches! We stopped off at the LCBO and picked up a couple cans of Alexander Keiths IPA and a small taste of Wisers Deluxe. We headed to the marina after that and got setup right on the water next to an old sailboat on the Spanish river. We made our Velveeta Shells and Cheese dinner with cheese rolls and met some people who were working on their sailboat for the summer. We talked to the marina owner afterwards and he told us a little bit of history about lake huron and the area we were in.
We learned that the lake has a still thriving whitefish industry, where boats have quotas of 500,000lbs a year! We also learned that the Spanish river is a large walleye spawning ground and that during Victoria weekend (next weekend) people will catch their limits in under 10 minutes so it seems that we should come back and fish there. We spent the rest of the night listening to Bob Seger and singing along on Zach’s computer looking at the stars……. against the wind.
Day 15 – Spanish to Whitefish Falls
We rose around 8ish and got out of the tent and packed up. We had a breakfast of Olympia Granola and got coffee from the Marina office. We knew we had a short day of around 45 miles but we blasted off because the wind was with us and we were cruising! We got off Highway 17 and onto Highway 6 which is a much less traveled road. We arrived in Espanola, a town built around a paper mill, in a really short amount of time, but we were really hungry and again stopped at Subway for the footlong of the day. Subway Club with chips and some root beer!
From there we only had about 15 miles to our destination at the Pope’s home on Lake Huron in the Bay of Islands. We stopped at eh grocery store on the edge of town and Kris went in to get groceries while Zach sat outside and watched the gear. Zach chatted with a lady who winters in New Mexico. It was nice to talk to a local of the area.
Kris came out and we were on our way again. We faced a few hills on the way as we were heading through the La Cloche mountains range. It is a range that is millions of years old and is said to have been higher than the Rocky Mountains, but has since been warn down. It is also interesting because the range is made of Quartzite so it is spotted with bands of white colored rock. It is a really beautiful area.
We arrived at the Pope’s, a member of Warm Showers, and were greeted by Dave. He was working on his gardens and stopped to offer us a beer. We sat on their deck and chatted and quaffed the beer and then got our things set up for the night. They offered their screened Gazebo for us to sleep in for the night. After getting settled we decided it was finally time to have our first jump into one of the Great Lakes! They had the perfect setup. We reluctantly jumped in and decided to do it a few more times before drying off. Afterwards we interviewed Dave and asked him questions about the area and the decreasing water level in the Lake which is a very complex cycle.
We were getting ready to make dinner when Dave told us that they were going to make us dinner. Such a nice gesture! Dave and his wife made us chicken breasts with marinara pasta and salad. It was delicious! After dinner Dave offered to take us on his boat for a ride out into the Bay of Islands. It is a huge bay with terrain very similar to that of the Boundary Waters except that many of the islands have cabins on them. It was beautiful as we were out just as the sun was setting. We did some filming and enjoyed the ride.
After coming back we sat inside and watched the Coyotes v. LA Kings game on TV, while getting some work done on the computer. Coyotes blew it. But we are still rooting for them!
We turned in around 11 and are heading out onto the Manatoulin Islands tomorrow and across on the ferry to Bruce Peninsula!
Day 16 – Whitefish Falls to Tobermory ~ 65 miles to South Baymouth Ferry
After waking up post cold night in the Gazebo we were invited inside to have breakfast with the Pope’s. It was an awesome breakfast of granola and yogurt, bread with homemade black currant jam, and coffee. A great start to a morning. We packed up our gear, took a couple pictures together and got ready to head out. We said our goodbyes and took off.
We were headed to the ferry in South Baymouth on the Manatoulin Islands. We had a nice tailwind to start the day and the weather was pretty nice. However as we headed toward the Islands the clouds started to move in and for a brief bit we encountered some rain. Before we crossed onto the first Island via swinging bridge we met up with three brothers who were headed North toward Espanola. They were heading back out to Fort Collins, Colorado where they were originally from. They had been living in Toronto for a time and it was time for them to head back home. There name for their group is Tour de Tripod.
We headed over the swinging bridge across the North Channel to the small town of Little Current where we stopped at the grocery store for lunch. We had sandwiches, chips, and blueberry turnovers. Not a bad lunch by our standards. After we ate we continued on along the highway. We reached 10 Mile Point after climbing the long, but not so steep hill that Dave had warned us about. We stopped for a minute to check out the view and then continued on our way.
We knew that the ferry to Tobermory left South Baymouth at 3:50 so we peddaled hard until we arrived. We got there around 2:30 and got our tickets to board the ferry. We grabbed a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup and a cup of coffee from Carol and Earl’s, a local eatery, and then headed to the ferry.
We were the first to board and we rode our bikes onto the ship into the holding level where vehicles are stored for the ride. We secured our bikes with twine rope and headed up stairs. The 365 foot ferry is called the Chi-Cheemaun and holds around 600 people and 125 cars, and has a crew of 36. A really huge boat! We headed up and did some filming before we headed into the lounge where we got a couple drinks and enjoyed the ride. We saw many great sights including the many islands that surround Tobermory. This included the Fathom Five Marine Sanctuary, a world renown dive sight due to the many shipwrecks that sit on the bottom of Huron.
It was about a two hour ride and when we arrived in Tobermory we got a few beers from the LCBO and headed to look for a campsite for the night. We found one for 33 dollars. Expensive, but that is something we have gotten used to in Canada, and it at least had internet.
We set up camp, showered, and made dinner while we enjoyed our beers. After dinner we biked the five minutes back into Tobermory to use the payphone. We made calls to the fam and Mona and Bre and then headed back to camp.
We did our audio journal for the night and checked out the stars after we used the internet to catch up on a few things and then we headed to bed. We decided not to set the alarm because we thought we deserved a good nights rest.
Off South to Sauble Beach tomorrow.
Day 17 – Tobermory to Sauble Beach
Today, having not set the alarm, we woke up at around 9:45am. We got packed quickly and had donuts, oranges, and granola bars for breakfast. There was a chipmunk in camp that wouldn’t leave us alone and we could actually touch him with our feet. I got a super close shot of him pawing at my camera so that was neat. In Tobermory we headed south and didn’t stop until we saw a 24 hour drive through coffee shop the the side of the road. We drank our coffee as fast as we could because the gnats were so bad we couldn’t sit still for too long.
We stopped and had lunch in Ferndale at a gas station and grocery store. We then headed west towards the shore of lake Huron. Once we got there we realized that the road turned into gravel for quite a distance. A guy stopped and helped give us directions who was very nice. We ended up having to go back about 4 miles to get back on highway 6 and travel further south to Mar. There we headed west and got on a very nice quiet road that took us towards Sauble Beach. We stopped at Sauble Falls provincial Park and got some shots of the waterfalls.
From the park we headed into town only to find that the giant gated trailer parks were $40 a night for one tent! We headed back into town and got Subway. We asked people where to stay but they had no ideas. We learned that there is a by-law in the town and no one can set up a tent, even in their own yards. We hung out on the beach for a while and watched the sunset, including a stand up paddle boarder just sitting out in the cold lake watching the incredible colors go down.
We sat in a park across the street from the beach and watched the sunset and worked on our journals. We are off to Gorilla camp for the night behind the library in some wooded area where hopefully we wont be found or bothered. Its cold tonight so I think we will be ok. Off to Point Farms provincial park in the morning near Boggies Beach.
Day 18- Sauble Beach to Point Farms provincial park
Woke up this morning behind the library unseen, so our gorilla camping was a success. We packed up quickly and got out of there before we were noticed and headed down to the Two Chicks cafe right by the beach. It was closed and Kris made the comment that they were probably not up yet as they had been partying late last night. So we headed up to another bakery near the library we slept at. We had coffee, toasted bagels, turnovers, and used their internet. After breakfast we went down to the public restrooms to get changed and ready. While Zach was using the restroom, an older guy came out and told me to tell my buddy that he needs to lay off the McDonalds. I couldn’t stop laughing and couldn’t wait to tell Zach. We finished packing and filled our waters and we were out of town.
We hit road construction pretty quickly. It was about 10-15 miles of grooved pavement with gravel shoulders and no where else to go. Even worse was the holiday traffic flying by us. We eventually made it through the construction having passed some wind turbines and arrived in a small town. We got snacks there and headed down a nice paved side road into the town of Kincardine. We found out that the area we had previously been in was called Power Valley because of all the wind turbines, solar panels, and a nuclear plant.
Kincardine was a nice old port town. We headed down to the marina to wait for a newspaper representative and watch the huge fish being brought in off the lake for the fishing derby that was taking place. We saw some huge lake trout and salmon. After our short interview and photo shoot we were on our way again.
We stopped at Pine River cheese factory and got some really good cheese curds. Then we stopped at a small gas station and got a few more snacks. There wasn’t really much out there in the farm areas so we started to hit a wall having to battle the wind and no real food all day. We finally arrived at the provincial park having biked over 70 miles. We left our stuff in camp and headed back to a nearby gas station where we got ice cream and supplies for our famous chili-mac recipe. We went back to camp and headed down to a very nice beach and sand dunes. We had to climb a ton of stairs on the way back up but we changed and went back down for a swim and to film.
During dinner we met a couple who like to bike tour and they brought us a map later that showed us all of the side roads in the country that could be used instead of the busy highway. While we were enjoying the sunset, we heard a huge crash and screaming and crying from down below by the beach. Kris ran down there to see what was wrong and found out that a kid had flown off his bike, broke through a very sturdy sign, and flown off into the woods. Kris checked him out and surprisingly he was ok considering that his brand new bike was destroyed. We went to bed that night listening to a full campground of screaming children and barking dogs. We cant wait for this holiday weekend to be over.
Day 19 – Point Farms Provincial Park to The Pinery Provincial Park
Woke up this morning at 8:30 to screaming kids, barking dogs, and the hot sun. We could tell that it was going to be a scorching hot day. We got packed up and had a few granola bars and peanut butter. We got some nice shots on the way out of the park of the overhanging trees and wind farms off in the distance. We headed towards the town of Goderich, which was very large and beautiful. Someone on the way told us to stop at Culberts bakery so we did. It is a very famous bakery that just reopened after a destructive tornado ripped through main street last year. The bakery was amazing and there was a good line out the door. Once inside you had to take a number and wait to be called upon. We had turnovers, orange twists, carmel apple cookies, and coffee. We ate outside and then headed for the lighthouse. We learned that the lighthouse was built around 1850 and was the second lighthouse on the Canadian side of lake Huron. There was a photographer there who we interviewed about the town and the tornado. We found out that the tornado only killed one person on one of the ship cranes but devastated the town. It ripped right through main street and then was gone. You could tell that there was a lot of damage and missing trees but the town had quickly rebuilt. He showed us the salt mines, which is one of the biggest in the world that they were still rebuilding. After a quick photo, we were on our way out of town and passed the farmers market.
From there we used our new map to quickly navigate a really nice country road down to Bayfield. The town was really old and still had gravel sidewalks. There we had burgers, fries, and ice cream. After that we went down to the beach and saw a shipwreck that was partially out of the water and we could see the smog across the lake near Detroit. We hopped on another back road that quickly turned to thick gravel and after stopping someone we found out that it was like that for a ways. We decided to head back to the highway and brave it from there instead of the slow going and possibly tire popping gravel. We quickly arrived in the town of Grand Bend, which we were not ready for. It is where all of the younger kids go to for the long weekend to party. There were literally thousands of people in bikinis and swimsuits having a great time.
We got some filming done and left in a hurry towards the Pinery park. Once we arrived there it was another 5 miles or so to our campsite. The roads were winding and the drivers were terrible. This park was huge, over 1200 campsites, a camp store, and cafeteria. There was buckthorn and poison ivy everywhere. We got settled into the city in the woods, as Kris dubbed it, and went back to the cafeteria for chicken fingers and fries. On the way there Kris was almost hit by a car who happily gave him the bird for being on a bike. We arrived back at our campsite at the same time that Troy Shantz got there. He is an avid cyclist and photographer/ documentarian from Sarnia, ON who contacted us after we sent emails to bike groups around the Lakes. Troy had booked the site a few days before so we could have one as the entire park was full. We shared stories and then he and Zach went off in his car to get some firewood. When they returned, we had a fire and beers, which was forbidden in provincial parks for the holiday. Troy told us about the wind turbines controversy that we had seen signs for along the way. We learned that the companies building these things make shady deals with the farmers. They cost about 1.2 million dollars to build but make about $400,000 a year and they only give the farmers $15,000 a year to lease the land. The turbines also devalue house prices around 20-30% and sometimes more than that. The biggest thing we learned was the health problems. People within a mile or so from the turbines have been experiencing sleeplessness, vertigo, nausea, random nose bleeds, and thyroid problems. Cattle have also been getting shocked by the excess power running through the water when they go for a drink. It definitely gave us a new perspective on wind turbines and that more research needs to be done. After that conversation we went to bed late and burnt from the relentless sun.
Day 20 – The Pinery Provincial Park to The Shanz’s in Sarnia
We woke up around 8:30 and Troy started getting some footage of us as he is a photographer and film maker. We packed up and headed back to the store and got some breakfast then took off back through the park to the entrance. Troy got some shots of us biking through the park. Once we got onto the busy highway he continued filming, driving up ahead and stopping and waiting for us to pass. We filmed some wind turbines up close and just before we reached highway 7 we met Matt, a bike tourist from Sarnia that was heading up to the Pinery for the night to meet his friends. We met Troy one last time and then parted ways until we got to his house. We hadn’t had much to eat so we stopped at a general store but it didn’t have much so we had light snacks. Once we arrived in Brights Grove we found out that Troy was not going to be able to meet us and bike us to his place so we kept going.
Once in Sarnia, we passed huge and amazing lake mansions that are owned by the Oil and chemical big wigs in town. Apparently a few ex-NHL players like Dino Ciccarelli live out there as well. Once we got into downtown we stopped at Subway, like usual. It was a very nice place with a TV with Hockey on and they even cut your sub in half and served it in a small basket for people who were dining in. We have never seen that before and thought thats how they all should do it. After Subway we headed through the rest of downtown and made it to the Shantz’s house. We met his wife Dayna and their four year old son Porter. They were busy making a new garden and they had a really cool chicken coupe in back. They let us take showers and do much needed laundry. After that we had a barbeque that consisted of great burgers, a fresh vegetable salad, and watermelon. It was absolutely great!
After dinner we biked along the waterfront and headed towards the Blue Water Bridge that heads across the St. Claire river into the US. We met up with Dayna and Porter and had ice cream a great place called Ice Cream Galore in Point Edward. We went back to the pier and filmed the bridge, the river, the open lake, and an amazing sunset. As we were doing many takes, a guy got in our shot and ruined our best one. We headed back towards downtown and passed the casino. Along the waterfront we filmed the oil and chemical refineries off in the distance. And made some calls on Zach’s phone. Even though we were in Canada his phone picked up US towers and we could make some calls without the International fees that way. Zach decided to stay behind and talk on the phone while Kris and Troy headed to his work to get bells for our bikes. It is a $90 fine in Ontario if you don’t have a bell on your bike but Troy had some extras. We lit some fireworks back at their place and then had a fire in back over some beers. It was a short day and we had a lot of time to get things done but most importantly to relax.
We can’t thank Troy and his family for their amazing hospitality! We are going to leave here tomorrow with three new friends! Creating memories everyday.
Heading to Wallaceberg tomorrow to meet Margaret Baxter and her husband Ken. Can’t tell you how good it feels to know that we have a place to go and meet new people.
Northern shore of Lake Huron complete and now we are off to explore the St. Claire river and start the Northern shore of Lake Erie!