Day 32 – Atikokan to Shabaqua – Total distanced traveled – 3297kms

Folks, first I have a confession to make, and it’s not easy for me to say this, but I’ve lost sight of why I’m doing this. It wasn’t supposed to be a race, buy lately it feels like one. I’m pushing hard to complete this journey within the 6 weeks I allotted for this trip. But I’ve been pushing so hard I’ve forgotten to smell the roses.

And what roses they’ve been! Today I pedaled through incredible wilderness, shining blue lakes around every bend, eagles flying overhead. Fresh moose tracks on the shoulder.

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I’m glad to get to the top of that hill. It’s at least 50kms of plateau afterwards.

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Lakes like this one around every corner

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Ontario really knows how to do a rest area. I sun tanned at this one.

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Something really neat happened today too, besides entering the Eastern Standard Time Zone, I reached the Atlantic Watershed. That means that all waterways from here on in flow to the Atlantic Ocean. So in a way it’s all downhill from here.

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The Atlantic Watershed

So where does the water flow to the west of that point? Believe it or not, to the Arctic Ocean, via Hudson’s Bay, everywhere this side of the Rockies that is. When the Hudson’s Bay Company claimed “all lands which drain into the Hudson’s Bay” they really knew what they were doing.

On the other hand, you could say the French grabbed all the best parts first: The St. Lawrence River, The Great Lakes, and all the waters that flow into the Atlantic. They also grabbed the Mississippi all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but that’s a story for another day.

My objective today was to reach Thunder Bay, or if not Thunder Bay than at least Kakabuka Falls. But I didn’t make it. I’m in Shabaqua, 60kms from TB, exhausted. I’ve cycled 143kms today over many hills and in hot weather. After over 100kms of no where to buy a bottle of water, or get an ice cream, I’ve never been so happy to see the Timberland Hotel and Restaurant (with an LCBO to boot). Note: there is an outfitters 40km east of Atikokan that sells basic groceries.

In front of me from Shabaqua are 20kms of the busiest stretch of highway in Canada, and then due to the highway being washed out by heavy rains last week, I’ll likely have another 30kms over a crumby highway 102.

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All highways from the east and from the west converge over this 20km stretch of highway

I’ve always wanted to see Thunder Bay. For me there’s always been something alluring about it. So far from the eastern Ontario where I live, but amazingly in the same province. Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay has a Finnish heritage. Even Porter flies to Thunder Bay.

But back to the purpose of this trip: it’s to see this Canada it in slow motion, by bicycle, and to meet the interesting people that make this country so diverse and so special.

So I’m going to slow down a little bit. If I make it I make it. If not, who cares? I’ll be close, that’s for sure. But right now I want to explore all the towns I’m about to go through, take a swim in Lake Superior, see some sights and meet some people. I still plan to avoid the bears, but I digress.

Stats
Distance traveled today – 143 kms
Moving time – 7 hours and 33 minutes
Moving avg – 19.0 kms/hour
Elevation – 510kms at highest point

Giving

Don’t forget that I am raising money for the United Way of Toronto. I’m still a long ways off from my goal of $1 for every kilometre cycled, or $4500.

The United Way is about helping others in our community to have a better life. I hope that my journey will serve as inspiration for others, that if you sent your goals big and overcome challenges you can do great things. The United Way gives people in our community the support they need to overcome their challenges.

Please consider making a donation here. FYI, all the donations are collected through an organization called CanadaHelps through a feature called GivingPages, which enables people to raise money online for the charities they support, such as the United Way of Toronto.

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Day 31 – Fort Frances to Atikokan – Total distance traveled 3154kms

First I have some explaining to. I thought I would be cycling through Quetico Provincial Park for the next two days. I’m not sure what led me to believe that but it has something to do with not having an Ontario road map. Quetico actually lies to the south of Highway 11 and doesn’t have any roads through it.

Nevertheless, it’s still a very unpopulated area and I cycled through at least 140kms of nothing but rocks, lakes and trees. Very beautiful rocks, lakes and trees, but quite uninhabited all the same.

The good thing about all of this is that approximately half way there is a town called Atikokan and that’s where I got wifi access from, and beer.

On the way out of town I learned a little about the history of the area and a lot of things came together for me. The lakes and waterways in this area were used by the voyageurs, and before that the coureur de bois, and before that by French Canadian explorers searching for the Western Sea and to establish the fur trade. Now I understand how the French ended up in what is now Minnesota and Manitoba and went on to explore the Mississippi all the way south to what is now Louisianna.

Ussually the would “water walker” refers to canoeists. But this morning I felt like a water walker as I threaded my way through Rainy Lake over bridges and causeways.

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Crossing Rainy Lake

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I particularly like the Dragon Fly (there were many)

Not far out of town I met two cyclists heading west: Mario and Maxime from Montreal. They are on a world tour on their bikes and once they get to BC they plan to head south, way south, to Argentina, and then east to Brazil, and from there across the Atlantic to God knows where. They’ve got quite a trip ahead of them. They also told me a lot about what to expect for the rest of my trip.

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Maxime and Mario

The ride for the next 120kms was excellent with great roads, light traffic and lots of scenery. I also had my first bear sighting. Up ahead on the road I noticed a car that just passed me stop on the highway and then I saw this big black animal moving along the side of the road. That made me slow down a little. It looked like the driver of the car waited for the bear to move away. The bear eventually left the road and I continued on, at a very fast clip, and on the left side of the road. I didn’t stop to check out the bear.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I’m glad I brought a lot of water through. I consumed more than 3 litres by the time I got to Atikokan. I had actually planned to go further today. Thunder Bay is still 200kms off. I’d planned to stay at a rest area another 60kms up the road. But by the time I’d reached Atikokan I’d altready cycled 160kms.

But what cinched it is that Atikokan hails itself as “Canoeing Capital of Canada”. The town has a lot of potential with Quetico at it’s doorstep, two canoe manufactures, a paddle manufacturer, and it promotes itself very actively. Maybe this town could be the “Revelstoke” of Ontario one day.

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Atikokan has an incredible number of athletes for such a small town

Here’s my route from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay:
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I’ve now crossed the 3000km mark. It’s hard to believe. Tomorrow I plan to take my time and enjoy the great roads and the beautiful scenery because I don’t know when I’ll return next to this historic area. If I make it to Thunder Bay tomorrow great, if not, then it’ll be the next day.

Stats
Distance traveled today – 161kms
Moving time – 7 hours and 53 minutes
Moving avg – 20.5 kms/hour
Elevation – 420m at highest point