Day 29: Wawa to Batchawana Bay (The Pay Off Of Perseverance)
Day 29: Wawa to Batchawana Bay (The Pay Off Of Perseverance)
3767km – 3919km (152km)
The Clash – London Calling
Chvrches – Mother We Share
When the alarm went off at 6am today there was nothing I wanted to do less than get out of bed and get on my bike. I hate admitting it, but the truth is some days it’s a real struggle to ride. Anyone that tells you it’s all wonderful is a liar or has quite a knack for forgetting about the tough times on their trip. When you wake up your body is aching, you’re still tired and in my case the night before I felt like I was maybe starting to get sick. Rest easy – I think I managed to sweat it out. Knowing we had about 160km planned for the day didn’t help me feel anymore excited about the day, but I told myself that at least much of it (around 85km) was through a provincial park so it was sure to be beautiful.
On the road at 7am the ride started off a little chilly, but the uphill quickly had us shedding our jackets. Around 10-15km into the ride we officially entered Lake Superior Provincial Park and as expected it was GORGEOUS. It seemed everywhere we looked there was a beautiful view. It took some serious willpower not to get off the bike and want to take a ton of photos. Starting earlier also meant for the first while of the ride we had very little traffic as well which was quite nice. In addition to this for most of the day we had some great weather with only a bit of it feeling pretty warm.
Feeling the heat a bit and simply being called by the beauty of Lake Superior we opted to take a break about 65km into the ride, at place called Katherine’s Cove. This spot wasn’t all that far from another lake in the park called Mom Lake. I mention all of this because my mother’s name was Catherine and it just seemed so fitting that of all the places we’d choose to stop (and it was Wade that made the decision) this is where we ended up. Photos can’t do it justice. It was simply incredible. Walking knee deep into the water was so refreshing and simply feeling the sand on my feet in between my toes felt like magic. Still though even after walking in it I felt the lake calling to me and I couldn’t resist it anymore. I opted to jump in and go for a short swim in all of my cycling clothes! Well I can’t actually choose it certainly ranks among the most enjoyable moments of the trip so far. Ringing my clothes out and knowing the sun would dry me pretty quickly we carried on with the ride.
Around 75km into the ride we caught up to a cyclist on the toughest climb of the day. Climbing some of these hills with our two back panniers and handlebar bag is a big enough struggle so watching someone loaded up with a handlebar bag, front panniers and back panniers is always an impressive feat. I’m not if I’ve written about it yet, but it’s worth noting that when you’re taking a ride like this there really is this special kind of connection between cyclists. Little did I know that the choice to ride up next to Andy and chat with him would turn out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made on the trip. Andy and I hit it off instantly and ended up spending the next 75km chatting and cycling together as Wade rode ahead a bit. Laughing over the shear amount of sweat we were both producing tackling this hill and our mutual appreciation of how tough some days on the bike can be we made a connection I think will last long beyond this trip. The rest of the ride we chatted about everything and anything. I learned that he also met up with Paul (the gentleman we made a few days prior that has crossed the country 11 times) and a number of other people on his trip. Andy is from London, England, but has taken a 6 month leave of absence from work to cycle across Canada. Unlike most people though he’s making his own route and going wherever he feels like seeing rather than just taking the most direct route. He’s been on the road since April and has done about 1000km more than us. I can’t imagine how nice it would be to be to be able to tackle the country at his pace and really soak up the sights. I was quite envious when he said that if need be he’ll be able to extend his time to complete the whole country. Of all the things we bonded over I think it was perhaps our shared appreciation of disconnecting from the news and just living in the present that brought us together.
Andy – I can’t begin to expres how much I enjoyed riding with you and getting to know you a bit! I wish our pace allowed for us to ride together some more. I hope our paths cross agin one day in England or somewhere else in the world! Keep working to bring people together and focus on our similarities rather than our differences. You’re a great guy!
With Wade’s stomach growling so loud I could hear it a couple hundred metres back we knew stopping for food at the first chance we got was a necessity. It may also have had something to do with the fact that he said he wanted to do so. At almost exactly 100km into the trip we saw a sign for “Twilight Taters ” and pulled off to get some food. Here we were greeted by an incredibly friendly guy that ran the little place that made mostly deep fried foods. I opted for some cold orange juice, onion rings and French fries (because apparently I haven’t overdosed yet) and Wade got just some fries. Andy being an omnivore got a burger and some fries. Using this time as a good rest period we made our way through the food with ease and continued sharing stories from the road. Not long before we just about to leave a group of three other cyclists came pulling to get some food. They were camping in the park and not too far into their day as well. The three riders consisted of two guys from Quebec City that started riding through the Rockies and our own their way home and another young woman that started in Vancouver and met them on the road back in Thunder Bay. They all seemed to get along quite well as she was also from Quebec City. Having already taken a long break for lunch and the swimming break earlier we couldn’t stick around long to chat with them much, but felt pretty confident our paths might cross again on the road. Unsurprisingly we saw them later that day as they opted to stay at the camp ground immediately next to our motel. I failed to get their names, but they seemed like a really nice group of people.
As we arrived in Batchawana Bay we took a short break to re-energize at a gas station and looked into where we could stay tonight. Our two options appeared to be the “Chicken Shack” and the Voyageur. The idea of staying at a place called the Chicken Shack was something Wade simply couldn’t get pass so we opted to ride the extra 10km to the Voyageur. The decision to stay at the Voyageur was in my opinion quite possibly one of the best we made on the entire trip. Andy opted to follow suit and book a room there as well. So what made staying at the Voyageur so great? The answer: Alex Rosso, but more about her shortly.
With our bags unloaded in the room there first thing on my mind was getting a few snacks and than getting back into the lake – which was conveniently a 1 minute walk from our motel (another point for the Voyageur). Inside the store we had a hilariously awkward encounter with an older gentleman that was delivering some of his home made local beef jerky to the store to sell. Wade and I somehow ended up being his unfortunate (mostly for him) targets of promotion. Not letting me get a word in to explain to him that we don’t eat meet he insisted I take a pack to share with Wade and that he knew we’d love it so much we’d come back to by more. Rather than break the poor guy’s heart I took it and figured that Andy might appreciate it. Wade and I thanks advantage of the beach and went for a short swim. after Wade went back to the room and I swam a bit more I connected with a really nice couple from Chilliwack and shared the details about our trip.
Opting for a warm cooked meal at an actual restaurant (don’t worry Subway -we still love you) we decided to eat at the motel restaurant (there also wasn’t any other option, haha). I was pleasantly surprised to see they had a black bean burger on the menu! I got it and a glass of orange juice. Wade and I ordered pretty much the exact same thing (with the only change being our salad and his gluten free bun). While the food was pretty decent what made the experience so memorable for me. It was at the restaurant where I had the extreme pleasure of actually meeting Alex. Alex, in addition to checking us into the place was our wonderful waitress for today. More than that though she was simply a really cool person! A vegetarian herself she seemed to appreciate the silliness of Wade and I ordering the same thing. After our meal I chatted with her a bit and learned she’s a student at University of Ottawa, but originally from Sault Ste.Marie. She’s set up in a trailer nearby and is working here for the summer. With only a few electives in our degree left to complete she’s Scotland bound soon to finish them abroad. Feeling like we connected well we exchanged contact information so we could stay in touch and she could follow along the rest of the ride. Immediately after saying goodbye I regretted not asking her if she might want to hang out after her shift. Having been on the road for 29 days we’ve met so many incredible people, but I consistently found myself disappointed that I didn’t have the chance to really get to know any of the people in any meaningful way. I went back to the room added her on Facebook and sent her a messaging that she’d get it before too late.
With the beef jerky still with me after dinner I asked if the staff working might be able to share what room Andy was staying in for the night. For privacy reasons they couldn’t share his room number with me and this in fact turned out to be quite a blessing as it let to another really great connection tonight. Trying to think about how I might find out what room Andy was staying in I went back to the room and send him a message on Facebook and Instagram. Wade suggested we trying watching Game of Thrones now, but the extrovert in me still had an itch to be scratched so I encouraged him to watch it without me. I later learned it wasn’t loading so it looks like we’ll watch it tomorrow. I was still also hoping to hanging out with Alex after her shift and didn’t want to risk starting it and than needing to stop mid way through. Not hearing back from Alex I went to go look for any sign of Andy’s room. Walking to the other end of the motel I noticed a gentleman sitting out of his room and asked if he happened to see what room another cyclist might have been gone into. He mentioned seeing another cyclists earlier, but based on who he described I was pretty certain he was talking about Wade. Asking this one question turned into a much longer conversation about bikes, the trip and our lives. Inviting me to sit and join him outside the room I learned that his name was Don Herriman and that he grew around here, made a career in hockey and lives in Peterborough, ON now. I also got the chance to connect with his partner (Ellen Korpel) and learned that they are both pescetarians. I also learned that Ellen is the aunt of a guy I have three mutual friends with back in Hamilton! Once again the world was feeling so incredibly small! I think what I appreciated most about my conversation with Don and Ellen was the sincerity in which they asked questions about the trip and my reason for doing it. The insects starting to get bad and a message from Andy letting me know which room he was in we wrapped up the conversation by sharing our information and Don incredibly kindly offered to help me out if I ever found myself in Peterborough. Again, the kindness of generosity of the people continues to astound me. It feels at times like they’ve all been infused my my mom’s passion for helping others.
With it getting late I quickly popped into Andy’s room to deliver the beef jerky and explain the hilarious context in which I got it. He appreciated the gif, we said our goodbyes and agreed that if things worked out that we might meet again tomorrow in Sault Ste. Marie with the three folks from Quebec. Either way I think we both felt confident that our paths will cross again one day even if it’s years from now.
Around 11:30pm just as I was ready to give up on the idea that I might get to hang out with Alex and I started to get ready for bed I got a message from her saying she just saw the message and than invited Wade and I over to the trailer to hang out. Wade of course was fast asleep by this time so I met Alex outside of the motel and we went back to her trailer which was just a couple minutes away. Hours passed and it felt like minutes. Conversation with Alex flowed so easily it felt like I was talking to someone I’ve known for years and yet still had so much to learn. We talked about family, work, music, the bike trip and simply about life. There is something so profoundly special to me about just meeting someone and feeling as though you can completely open up to them about your life. Alex and I were able to shared that tonight and I’m super grateful for it. I attempted to leave a few times, but I think we were both enjoying the conversation so much that it was hard to say goodbye. Around 2:00am quite exhausted I finally managed to make the responsible decision and head back to my room. With a few big hugs we said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch. On the way back to the motel I remember looking up at the sky and being totally blown away by the stars in the sky. It was INCREDIBLE. With so little light pollution I’m pretty certain I could see the milkyway galaxy. I remember thinking to myself just how lucky and blessed I was to be there in that moment experiencing it all and making such a meaningful connection.
Alex- I really can’t thank you enough for making my time in Batchawana Bay so memorable! I’ll never forget it! You’re a really cool person and it meant a lot to me that you took the time to get to know me and share about yourself. A real and authentic connection like this is exactly what I had been craving for days. Best of luck in Scotland next year and with med school applications in the future! I’m confident whatever path you choose you’ll do wonders! I wish we had got a photo together!
Amazingly, today we also managed to secure a place to stay in Lionshead on the day we were worried about finding a place for Tobermory! Facebook sharing for the win! Someone named Jo-Anne got in contact with Wade and offered us a free place to stay. To make the world even smaller it turns out they know my uncle Joe, Aunt Sandra and Aunt Rina quite well!
When I reflect back on the day it’s hard to believe I didn’t want to cycle this morning. All of the incredible experiences and connections today really go to show much perseverance can pay off! Tomorrow we take the 2nd or 3rd shortest ride of the day to Sault Ste. Marie which is expected to be about 70km. I’m pretty excited for the short day of riding even if there will be some big hills. Once in town I’ll be heading pretty much straight for Velorution bike shop which has been recommended to me by a number of people. I’m excited to have them take a look at my wheel and make any other necessary adjustments so that the rest of the trip will be problem free! The rest of the day is a mystery so far, but I’m sure we’ll make the best of it!
Love, Peace and Bike Grease,