Sunday, 25 August 2013

ON IN ONTARIO

After staying with Colin in Toronto for more than a week I had to carry on moving again. My bike, Old Saartjie, had lots of new bits and pieces fitted, and was certainly in much healthier condition than when I arrived in the city.
Thanks to Colin for the stay at his home, for organizing the presentation which I did, for giving me some spare bike parts, for entertaining me and showing me around his home town, for fixing my computer, and for the cash he gave me when I left to see me on my way.
On the 3rd day after leaving Toronto I camped in the back garden of Jim and Joan (friends of Colin) in Kingston, Ontario. Jim had cycled the Tour D'Afrique with Colin 10 years ago, the bike was gathering dust in the shed, so he urged me to glean from it whatever I needed (thanks Jim, your bike lives on!). The two of them wasted no time in taking me out for dinner and breakfast, and leading me on a walking tour of their lakeside town on a beautiful Saturday morning. It was nearly mid-afternoon by the time I left their house, heading north-east through Ontario province down the St Lawrence river.
Without really thinking about it, I assumed that the Thousand Island salad dressing originated somewhere in the Carribean. Now I discovered that the "Thousand Islands" are in this part of the world, where the St Lawrence river flows out of Lake Ontario east towards Quebec. The river forms the boundary between Canada and the USA at this point, and there are a number of high bridges crossing the border.
Earlier, while in Toronto, I was interviewed on-line by Dave Briggs, and the interview is posted on his TRAVELPAGES (click on this link to see it).
Daily distances cycled since Toronto have been:- Port Hope 96 km; Bellville 112 km; Kingston 71 km; Lansdowne 47 km; and Long Sault 129 km. The distance I've cycled so far since entering Canada in the West is 5 369 km, and the total distance on this trip is 115 169 km.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

THE GREAT LAKES

Now I'm back in Canada again, after the sojourn into the USA to the South of Lake Superior. On the Canadian side of Sault Saint Marie I spent the night in the biker's free camp site behind the Velorution bike shop.
Unfortunately it was Sunday, and the next day was a holiday, so I never met owner Andre. Also camping there were French Canadians David and family, cycling across Canada in the same direction as me. The other campers that night were Alex and Deanna. Again, the weather wasn't wonderful, but I successfully sheltered behind a church one night. On another occasion I could see the clouds building in the late afternoon (and they build rather fast), so I camped inside a dilapidated house. Well, after the repeated storms that night everything was soaked, as it turns out there was practically no roof anymore. To add insult to injury, the resident mice chewed a hole in my tent (probably after the smell of former food, as I didn't actually have anything to eat with me then).
As I was cycling through the small town of Thessalon, I suddenly heard somebody shouting a lot of things towards me, in AFRIKAANS. I spun around to see what THAT was all about, and there stood Dave Chamberlain, pushing a pram. He has run in various places around the world pushing his gear along in a baby stroller, now he is crossing Canada East to West. We had a good chat there in the middle of Canada, sharing experiences. (By the way, as I may have mentioned before, just about everybody in Canada seems to have a South African doctor - I wonder if there are any of them left in SA?).
I started to expect rain every night (even although it may not have seemed that way). At Webbwood village General Store I enquired about the possibility of a covered space to camp, and owner Bunny offered up the verandah of her house next door. For supper her and her sister gave me sandwiches from their store, coffee and more sandwiches for breakfast (as well as some cash to take care of my next meal).
I took the short cut (also to avoid traffic) across Manatoulin Island towards Toronto, which meant a ferry ride from the Island to the Bruce Peninsula on the mainland to the South. At the ferry dock I again ran into cyclists Alex and Deanna (who I'd met earlier). Alex was fishing off the dock with some rather light tackle when he hooked a huge rainbow trout (luckily another fisherman had a net with a long handle with which to haul up the fish).
And so, eventually I got into the outskirts of the sprawling city of Toronto. First I had to cycle through (cities in their own right) Brampton and Missisauga (see pic of "Marilyn Monroe Towers") - luckily it was Sunday and the traffic was not too heavy.
Colin had given good directions, and before dark I managed to find my way to his home not far from down-town in Toronto. I'd met Colin in 2005 after the Tour D'Afrique in which Leana had participated, and he stayed on in Cape Town at her place for a while (pity Leana isn't here as well).
So now I have an opportunity to shake my feathers right, and to take stock before I head off again. My bike, Old Saartjie, needs serious attention (I almost didn't make it to Toronto), so now I have some time to try and sort that out (thanks again to my sister, Olga, for the funds - and thanks also to prospective cyclist Peter for the donation). I've done my laundry, Shampoo'd and showered, and I've even shaven my face for the first time in a long time. Even Colin's cat, Tobias, seems happy with my presence. It seems likely that I'll stay here in Toronto until next week, as I may do a presentation of my trip on Monday night.
Daily distances cycled since I re-entered Canada at Sault Ste Marie have been:- Bruce Mines 57 km; Blind River 78 km; Webbwood 110 km; Manatoulin Island 109 km; Miller River (+2hr ferry) 59 km; Shelburne 165 km; and (eventually) Toronto 124 km. The total distance which I have cycled so far since first entering Canada about 7 weeks ago is 4 914 km. The total distance which I have cycled so far since the start of this journey in Cape Town is 114 714 km.

Monday, 5 August 2013

BACK IN THE USA

Since before my previous report from Winnipeg, I had been advised by various sources that the Trans Canada Highway through parts of Ontario Province was narrow, busy, and hilly. It would therefore be better for me to cycle across the border, back into the USA for the stretch Eastwards, South of Lake Superior.
There were various options regarding where I could cross the border, but the day I left Winnipeg the wind was from the North, so I went due South. I was kindly escorted to the city limits by my Warmshowers host Art, on his reclining bike.
Although my US visa is valid for 10 years. I still need to get an entry permit at the border, and I had one for 6 months when I came into Arizona from Mexico. Now I entered the USA again, even before the first permit had expired, but because I had handed that card in when I entered Canada, they gave (sold) me a new permit which is valid for another 6 months.
On the Southern side of the border I found myself in North Dakota state, and I kept going South for a while until I caught Hwy 2 East at Grand Forks. Things in the grocery store were cheaper than in Canada once again, although I didn't really have the money to splash out. I then cycled through the Northern Mid-Western state of Minnesota, there were a lot of farming communities and people were very friendly. On the outskirts of the small town of Deer River I had a puncture late in the afternoon with the threat of an approaching storm, I asked to camp at the nearest house, and Wade Wilson suggested I sleep in his caravan to escape the rain - he also fed me and gave me a bag of snacks for the road.
There are also many lakes and Indian Reservations in the area, such as Red Lake and Lake Leech communities. The legendary Missisipi river has it's source in this region, where it is just a small stream which I crossed a few times.
Apparently the most Western American port accessible from the Atlantic Ocean is Duluth, a city at the SW tip of Lake Superior. There I arrived in the rain at Warmshowers hosts Leah, husband Jeray, & hound dog Sasha. We had a good bratwurst dinner, my laundry went into the washer for the first time in a while, and the following morning Leah escorted me on the bike paths and back roads to the bridge where I could cross over from Minnesota to Wisconson state. It was still somewhat rainy, so I was not surprised to be the only cyclist on the bridge-bike-path that day.
It didn't take me too long in the rain to reach the small town of Poplar, Wisconson. There I stayed with another Warmshowers host! (sometimes I'll spend 2 weeks filthy dirty, camping in the bush, now I have 2 luxury accommodations in a row!). Scott Lundberg owns the local hardware store (as well as some other interests in the area). I had the run of his personal "den", which is built off the garage/workshop where I could spread out my stuff to dry. Scott's wife was away and he wasn't going to cook for me, so he took me out for the best prime rib I can remember eating (and of course we made a turn at the local bar afterwards). The following day the weather had not yet cleared, so I decided to stay and work on Old Saartjie in the workshop (constant attention to the bike is necessary at this stage). Well, of course I was taken out again that night, this time for a "river bottom" gourmet pizza! I realized that this was a close community when we bumped into the lady from the visitor centre in Superior city, where I had obtained a road map when I entered Wisconson. When I said goodbye to Scott the following morning at his hardware store, he went overboard and even gave me some money to see me on my way (and I'm extremely grateful - although I wasn't supposed to say anything about the luxury treatment either, as other cyclists may expect the same!).
There is also a lot of Finnish and Swedish heritage in that region. Many Northern-European settlers arrived there generations ago (I guess they were bred to deal with that kind of weather), and they are still somewhat proud of their heritage. Even in Minnesota, where I stayed with (German) Leah and Jeray, they still maintain their roots. In those few states (Minnesota/Wisconson/Michigan) there were more Lutheran churches than what I have previously seen in total).
Mostly the road didn't run flush alongside Lake Superior, but sometimes it did. I was lucky one day, when on leaving the town of Marquette it looked like rain again. The sky cleared and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. I found a nice secluded spot on the shore of Lake Superior, and set up an early camp. I could have a wash in the chilly waters of the largest fresh water lake, and also rinse out my cycling gear.
Lake Superior apparently has a big influence on the weather in the area. One afternoon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the sky suddenly darkened, and I quickly found shelter in the workshop of a logging camp (I'm particularly scared of the hail, which has nailed me a few times already). I chatted to the truck mechanic there while I waited, asking him about the weather prediction. He told me in simple terms:- "Welcome to the UP, if you want to know what the weather's gonna do, then wait 10 minutes". Well, I'm still a bit confused, because in the next hour it went from drizzle to hail to heavy showers, and just as suddenly the sun was shining again. During the worst of that storm I sheltered under the verandah of a church, and thinking that I may need to camp right there for the night I filled up with "holy water" from the gushing roof gutters (I needed it that night anyway, as I found a good spot to camp just down the road). On my last night in Michigan the sky looked threatening, and I saw a farmstead with a rather large barn. I headed down the drive, knocked on the door, and met Andy & Rhonda. I broke in their brand new horse barn (no horses inside yet), and they fed me a hearty egg-breakfast the following morning (fresh from the nest), and gave me a bag of boiled eggs for the road (my dinner that night).
My return to Canada was on a breezy day, at Sault Saint Marie. I'd cycled East through Minnesota on the Upper Peninsula North of Lake Michigan, and I'd reached the Eastern end of Lake Superior. Although the sign read "only motorized vehicles", for a toll fee of $1-50 I was allowed to access the rather long and narrow bridge. There was a gusting cross-wind on the bridge, and I had to stop a few times to let traffic pass. The bridge goes over the locks by which the ships can enter Lake Superior, but I had no time or space to take pictures of those interesting activities as I passed overhead. My Canadian visa is for a single entry only, but while it is still valid I'm allowed to cross the border to the USA and come back again - they just didn't stamp me "IN" again (pretend I've never left Canada, but that's OK with me).
Daily distances which I've cycled since my last report from Winnipeg have been:- Pembina (USA) 135 km; Drayton 64 km; Crookston 141 km; Bagley 101 km; Deer River 138 km; Floodwood 103 km; Duluth 74 km; Poplar 65 km; Hurley 143 km; Trout Creek 121 km; Michigamme 90 km; Shot Point 83 km; Seney 101 km; Brimley 127 km; and Sault Saint Marie (Cananda) 43 km. The total distance which I've cycled since first entering Canada is 4 212 km, and the total distance of this trip so far is 114 012 km.