Into Quebec and a change of language
Sault Saint Marie to Ottawa
Solo again after parting with Buck at Sault Saint Marie. Noticeably a bit down without the company. The trans-Canada highway is the only option for this stretch. It is not a bicycle friendly option. Shoulder is non-existent most of the way, traffic is heavy with big trucks centimetres from my elbow. So head down and a couple of 160 km days put that behind.
Brent from my local bike shop had put out the call to relatives in Sudbury - so my two long days ended in comfort with Rochelle and Brent (another one) in Lively just outside Sudbury. Warm comfortable bed and meal was welcome, many thanks. Rochelle's sister Lorraine also arrived to hear my story and provide a generous donation.
My instructions to see the local tourist attraction of the Big Nickel went astray despite turning onto Big Nickel road. Somehow I was out of Sudbury Nickelless. A night beside the Nipissing Lake before North Bay. A kind couple in the camp reimbursed my camp fees to add to the growing list of random donations.
North Bay I found some cycle trails heading south initially bypassing the busy highway 11. A hour or so of peace and quiet in the forest. Highway 11, despite being a major arterial route down to Toronto had the advantage of separated carriage ways for north and south, and a generous shoulder. I reached South River ready for food and rest.
The information sign at South River was misplaced outside a canoe outfitter (as it turned out one of the best manufacturers of Kevlar kayaks and canoes in the region, Swift Kayaks). Bob Stinson the owner greeted me with a larconic "I guess you are looking for information?" No campsites in South River but plenty of space behind his canoe racks. Along with the quirky campsite Bob treated me to breakfast next morning in the local diner, sharing some of his life and passion.
Bob lives for the water wilderness and the long connection of water ways that allow escape for months at a time to his hand built log cabin. The long River connections run all the way to Hudson Bay and polar bear country. He guides an annual group of promising youth for 60 day canoe adventures, a great introduction and test of character.
The bad news Bob left me with was that highway 11 was actually closed to bicycles, but alternate choices at that point were nil. I found something interesting to look at in the forest diverting my attention from the signs at the highway on-ramp. Ignorance would be my defence. It was an anomaly that the only highway with adequate infrastructure for cycling (and the only possible route from North Bay) was closed to cyclists. However I was a little nervous with the truth revealed. The first (and only) police car passed without a second glance, obviously more important crimes on the agenda, I relaxed a little.
I turned east onto highway 60, which would take me through the canoe Mecca of Alonquin Park. Traffic peace and scenery I could breathe again. A night in the park then a short day out to Madawaska River. I was feeling the cumulative effective of many steep hills in the park. The riverside camp was run by a ninety year old woman and her son. Despite the long pauses between sentences the delightful old lady waived the camp fee and perilously drove her ancient Nissan through the camp three times to check up on me.
Next day I passed through Barrie's Bay, as I cycled on and stopped to admire a Catholic Church of elegant Polish architecture. A car pulled up and a reporter from the Barrie's Bay "Valley Gazette" pulled up. Mark Jones, interviewed me on the church steps, and the conversation diverged. I ended up calling into his house where his wife provided a great pie and we talked for an hour or so. I had to decline the invitation to stay as I needed more kilometres to be in striking distance of Ottawa so I could warn friends of my arrival.
The warning never eventuated. In failing light, the only option for the night was a campsite with no internet. Alex, cycling friend from both Africa and New Zealand would have an unexpected arrival land into his busy schedule. All was generously swept aside and I found myself in his classic house overlooking a lake in central Ottawa. Another great rest day location to enjoy.
The ride across the Quebec border (as well as the abrupt change in default language to French) provided some great back country lane cycling into small villages down the Outaquais River along with some gravel and a first need to extract the GPS to check location.
Video update on Cancer Society Everyday Hero page:
Swift Kayaks campsite South River
The town of Huntsville had character - at the turnoff to highway 60
The namesake on my original route
Alonquin Park canoeist Mecca
Evening at Cache Bay Lake Nipissing
Misty morning Madawaska
Morning visitor Cobden campsite
Outaquais River crossing into Quebec
Classic Canadian architecture
Quebec farm scenes
First geographically challenging intersection yesterday