Day 24: English River to Thunder Bay (I’ve Died And Gone To Heaven)
3111km to 3286km (175km)
Craig Cardiff – Heaven
With a long day of 175km ahead of us we left the English River Inn before the continental breakfast was served at 7am. I nearly forgot my cycling gloves and just as we were pulling out of the parking lot remembered to go back for them. To be honest they’re so incredibly beat up by now that I sometimes wonder if they’re doing any good anyhow. I can’t possibly see myself using them again after this trip. In the very least I suppose they’re helping to ensure I keep this sweet (read: ridiculous) finger tan line intact. I can’t wait to impress everyone back home with it.
The ride today started off with a pretty narrow shoulder and continued that way for much of it. We were granted some wider shoulders at some point though which was much appreciated. Our research from the night before (looking the route up on google maps) prepared us for a relatively flat first half and a very hilly second half. I remembered as we were checking into the motel yesterday the gentleman that owns the motel telling us that the first half would be great and that we’d probably hate ourselves on the second half. A bit dramatic, but I appreciated the warning regardless.
A number of people we’ve met on the road have told us that Ontario is often the place that destroys or crushes the spirits of cross country cyclists. After today’s ride I have a better understanding of why they warned us about it. There really are a tremendous amount of uphill and downhills in the northern part of the province and I know the worst of it has yet to come. The truth is that now with a few days of cycling in Ontario under our belt while can appreciate and understand why they say it I honestly found today’s ride to be one of the most enjoyable of the trip. With so many days of wind in our face on this trip I actually forgot just how amazing it is to have the wind at your back. Today we crushed 175km and I’m honestly feeling great. Wade tells me our average speed for the trip was 25.5km/h and this includes a LOT of uphill and downhill.
Without a big breakfast today we stopped about 45km into our ride in Upsala to get some food in us. The look on the waitresses face when I order an English muffin and two plates of hashbrowns was priceless. She seemed baffled as to why anyone would order that many potatoes. I just remember Wade saying something like we love our carbs and potatoes for days. Wade got an omelette and some hashbrowns. After packing away breakfast we picked up a couple of drinks to keep us hydrated (including a pink grapefruit red bull) and we continued on until we hit about 75km mark where we stopped to get this photo of the time zone change. Here we chatted with two folks from Regina that where on their way back home after visiting some family in HAMILTON, ON. How weird is that?
Not far of from the change in time zones (maybe 20kms) we also passed the continental divide. For the last while we’ve been in the Arctic watershed (meaning the rivers flow to Hudson Bay) and now we’ve entered Atlantic watershed (meaning the river flow to well… you guessed it – the Atlantic. As I saw the signs I sort wished I could have had a bird’s eye view of all the rivers nearby and watched them flow towards Hudson Bay or the Atlantic.
Around the 120km mark we stopped for a break in a small town (if you can even call it that) called Shabaqua. For real, that was the name. Stopping that what I’m pretty sure was the only store around I got my “cyclone” Popsicle and relaxed chatting to some people around the area. It was when I went back in to use the washroom that I had the fortunate luck of meeting Sandy and Mike. We chatted for a little while about the trip and they were both quite supportive. Asking how they might follow along about the ride I passed along the cards we made up for that exact reason. Meeting people like them along the trip has been one of my favourite parts of it all. I just wish I could have chatted with them longer. Shabaqua blessed me again just as we were packing up as someone getting in their car warned us to be careful with the traffic. Another nearby man I’d later learn was Don echoed the same sentiment and we started chatting about the whole trip. When his wide Karen came out we talked a little more about why were were doing the trip and they gave us $20 on the spot! The generosity of people and especially total strangers will never cease to amaze me. Incredibly we’ve somehow raised over $15,000 now.
Don and Karen – thank you for the warning about the traffic and generous donation! It honestly means the world to me.
With the terrain going from uphill to downhill near constantly in the second half of the day I actually spent the vast majority of the day in some of my toughest gears simply because I couldn’t be bothered to switch back and forth. Anyone that cycles knows that is pretty much the worst excuse since changing gears is just about the easiest thing you can do. I think for me there just something satisfy about getting a climb done and over with quickly and when I’m in the tougher gears I’m usually able to crush them pretty quickly if I stand while climbing. Some people might think that’s crazy, but I honestly enjoyed it quite a bit. I even surprised both Wade and myself a bit today with how fast I took some of the downhills during today’s ride as well. Something about the day just felt right. I was reminded of that invincible feeling I had early on in the trip. It was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I got through the tough parts by replaying a clip from the show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in my head over and over again. Despite never really getting into the show this one clip has stuck with me ever since and if there’s one secret to my success today (besides the wind at my back) it was taken from this clip:
You might think I’m joking, but counting over and over again to 10 was actually surprisingly helpful today. The last bit of the ride into Thunder Bay was pretty smooth sailing with a nice downhill.
Arriving in Thunder Bay at our host’s Wendy (my friend Brianna’s mom) and her partner Blair’s place we were greeted with enthusiasm from their dog. Blair being a former cyclist and a self proclaimed nerd was excited about the tail wind we had today. Putting our bikes in the shed, bringing our bags in and than grabbing a quick shower both Wade and I felt so grateful to be here. Beyond just giving us an incredibly comfortable bed and sofa to sleep we arrived to find two BOOSTER JUICE smoothies waiting for us. Brianna had told her mom that we loved them and she went out of the way to get them for us. I can’ even begin to express how excited and grateful I was to have it after the ride today. Wade and I have seriously been talking about Booster Juice every day since we had one in Princeton, BC. It felt like a gift from the heavens! On top of the smoothie they prepared us some salad, rice and a wonderful vegan chili for dinner. The perfect combination of carbs, veggies and protein. She even packed up some leftovers for our lunch tomorrow!!
After resting for a bit after the delicious dinner we put a load of laundry in and than Wendy and Blair spoiled us some more (because they’re ACTUALLY that nice) and took us on a tour of the city. They were so full of knowledge about the history and geography it really made me appreciate Thunder Bay in a way I certainly wouldn’t have without it. Additionally they took us to the grocery store to pick up “the essentials” which in my case was a box of golden Oreos, teddy graham crackers and box of 4 coconut almond ice cream bars. And yes, if you’re wondering I crushed the four coconut almond bars in record time. 720 calories of pure deliciousness. Reflecting from the comfort of the bed they’ve set me up on I can honestly say that Wendy and Blair made our stay in Thunder Bay feel like home.
Wendy and Blair – we can’t thank you enough for your hospitality! From the moment we arrived and through the whole experience we had an amazing time in your home. Thank you for the delicious and nutritious dinner and tour of the city! It was a really pleasant surprise to have the opportunity to see and learn about the city. It made me look at Thunder Bay in a totally new way. Also an extra big thank you for the Booster Juice. You have no idea how much we appreciated this added touch! Staying at your place I’m sure will be a highlight of the trip when I look back on it years from now.
Tomorrow, we’ve got around 110km planned to Nipigon and we’re expecting to have the wind blowing in our face the whole way…because why wouldn’t it be? The route legitimately looks like a roller coaster with so much up and down. I’m hoping my 10 second strategy works as well tomorrow as it did today. Since it’s a shorter day we’re sleeping in which I’m pretty excited to do. Nonetheless, I should still call it a night. Sweet dreams!
Lots of love,