Monday, May 25, 2015
Today Michael starts his second stage of his trip toward Thunderbay. Again there is rain in the forecast.
"After my alarm goes off at 6 o'clock I pack up my gear. I'm really getting the hang of it and so I'm at the restaurant in time. I order a good breakfast, but it takes some time to arrive. I want to bike as early as possible while the weather is still dry. The breakfast is delicious. When I’ve packed up my bike, I hand in my key.
I ask the owner of the motel to donate the money that I paid for my stay to Samantha Cedon as a donation. We have a conversation about her. It's very much alive around here. It is a valuable thing to live in a community where people help each other like this. She promises to donate the amount and I leave.
The weather is really very nice. It's cloudy but it's not cold. A little later I am biking in my T-shirt again. After a while I see something move on the side of the road. It is a bobcat. Wow, what a beautiful animal! I'm really happy that I got to see him. Not much later there is another crow that seems to be flying with me and sometimes there are even two.
At around 10 o'clock I arrive at a gas station and decide to have a cup of coffee. This seems a good idea. It is cozy inside and I get some fresh coffee. I have a conversation with the owner about my journey and she tells me that there are many cases of lupus, which is similar to sarcoidosis, at the First Nations reserve close by.
After a while her husband comes in. He asked me if I have already seen bears which very active right now. The problem is that hunting has been restricted which has caused an overpopulation of bears and wolves. He thinks some serious accidents have to happen before something will be done about the overpopulation.
He says that he scares the bears away with rubber bullets and that they don't come back after that. I do kill the wolves, he says, because they do come back. Behind the gas station they are rental cabins. Bears and wolves are often attracted to the smells of barbecue and food. You have to be more afraid of wolves because they hunt in packs, he says. But he also tries to put me at ease. I'm not sure it's quite working; yesterday at a gas station I was also told the same stuff. There there was a picture of a dead bear on the reception desk. The bear weighed well over 700 pounds!! I also understand that a wolf is very powerful and has the power of two big German Sheppherd dogs.
After this “happy” news I continue on and pass the First Nations Reserve. I would like to take a look but my senses tell me not to do it. I keep biking and along the way I eat my bread. All goes well and the rain holds off. I keep thinking about the stories of the bears and the wolves when all of the sudden I see a large animal in the forest but I am going too fast to see what it is. It looks like a big bear, but I can’t be sure...
At times I ride for 15 minutes without seeing any traffic. Suddenly a Land Rover starts driving beside me. It appears to be a couple from Belgium who are traveling all over the world in their Land Rover. As we drive side by side they offer to take my luggage to Marathon. I tell them that I'm on a mission and that I really want to do this by myself. I would rather stop if I can't go on because then I would know that I did everything to finish this journey. It's amazing though, that in the middle of Canada I meet some Belgian people who speak Dutch to me while be both drive on the road...
Several times today I see some large transports. In itself nothing special, but it seems to be unusually well organized. They transport the enormous wings for windmills and still drive 100 km/hr with this!
Not much later I notice that large parts of the forest have been clear cut for the mining industry. It is really big and later I understand they mine for gold here. Unfortunately, a lot of trees were sacrificed...
I am now eight kilometers before Marathon and still no rain!! Crews are working on the bridge here which means that traffic has to take turns to cross the bridge. While I'm waiting I realize that the distance is quite long, I estimate about a kilometer. I will not be able to be passed here. So for my own safety I give a signal to a trucker behind me that I'm going to go through the red light when I see the last car coming from the other side. This appears to be a genius move, because just as I get to the other side the trucker comes up behind me and honks his horn to thank me. The other truckers also honk their horns. It is a wonderful sight to see all these big rigs.
The climb to Marathon is long and steep for about 3 km. I had been warned about this one. When I get to the top it starts to drizzle. I change gears to go a little faster and try to get to the motel. The first motel on the highway has no rooms available. Your chances are not good here, they tell me. The lady can't help me at all. She asks about my journey in my goal. Her husband also happens to have sarcoidosis. His heart is affected and it's not going well at the moment. I give her my card and I ask her to give it to her husband and tell him that I also ride for him.
As I'm driving to the village it starts to rain. I check at another motel but unfortunately it is also fully booked. The very friendly lady checks another hotel for me but: no rooms there either. There are no rooms available in Marathon. My options are to either go on for another 80 km or to go camping. I'd like to go on but my knees can't take it. I'm a little upset because my condition is good enough that I could do the 80 kms, but my knees are not cooperating.
The lady in the motel offers me a hot cup of tea and some phone numbers for motels and Terrace Bay for tomorrow. I book one right away because tomorrow it is also going to rain and this way I will be able to dry my things. After the tea, I bike to the campground. In the rain I have to check myself in by filling out a form. Everything gets soaking wet. I find a beautiful spot and put up my tent. It goes fairly well and I put the tarp over top of it. Then I return to the village and find a place that has Internet. At the shopping plaza I first buy a towel and an extra safety vest. Tomorrow's ride is potentially dangerous with many climbs and descents, but also many turns in the road that take away the view of the other traffic so that they can only see me at the very last minute. I understand that this part of the road between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunderbay has seen many deadly cycling accidents. It is quite serious on this road and I am glad my bike has lights and mirrors that help me to get a good view of the dangers around me.
At a little take out restaurant inside the shopping mall, I order a delicious meal and I am able get on the Internet. At the same time I can dry off a little bit. My bike is also inside in the middle of the covered mall.
Soon enough, I will have to go back into the cold, although thankfully tonight there is no frost in the forecast. When I get back to the camp ground I go straight into my tent. I hope to have a good night sleep because I will need all my energy for tomorrow. I have to say I don't mind to be camping, if only it wasn’t raining..."
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen