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

Day 30 – Warroad MN to Fort Francis ON – Total distance traveled – 2902kms

I’m back in Ontario again! My plan was to stop in International falls, MN. But the beer sucks in the US so I decided it was worth the extra push to cross the Rainy River into Fort Frances, Ontario.

Oh, what a delight! Look, a TD bank! And there’s an LCBO! And finally, a Super 8 with a Boston Pizza next door! Oh my God, I’m in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong: Minnesota is awesome. There’s all kinds of things to do. Way more than I realized. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, skiing even. There are more cycling trails in MN than in any other state in the US. The cycling was fantastic, the people were friendly, the drivers were incredibly considerate.

So why am I so glad to be back in Canada? I have no idea. I guess is just a familiarity. I know I can use my cell phone without ridiculous roaming charges. I know I can use Canadian cash. I know what to expect from a Tim Hortons. The music they’re playing in BP is exactly what I want to hear. Elton John, the Beatles, James Taylor, the Eagles.

And then there’s the beer. The restaurant last night didn’t serve alcohol,. Nether did the one in Steinbach. Bible thumping country? I don’t know if that’s the reason on not. But I need my beer, for medicinal reasons of course. You know, carbs and all that stuff.

Aside from all of that, I feel good about getting across the border. I’ll have another big day tomorrow and I need supplies which I have to get on the Canadian side.

Speaking about crossing the border, it was another interesting conversation with the customs agent. This one Canadian. Keep in mind that I’m in the car lane:

Customs Officer (CO): Where do you live?
Me: Ottawa, Canada.
CO: Where are you coming from?
Me: Vancouver, via Warroad yesterday.
CO: Um, where are you headed?
Me: Toronto.
CO: How long are you going to be in Canada?
Me: Actually, I’m Canadian.
CO: You’re on a bicycle?
Me: Yes.
CO: What’s you profession sir?
Me: I work at MTS Allstream.
CO: How did you get to Vancouver?
Me: I flew, with my bike.
CO: How long is it going to take you to get from Vancouver to Toronto?
Me: 6 weeks.
CO: And why are you doing this?
Me: It’s a life long dream and I’m raising money for the United Way.
CO: Well ok, I guess you’re good to go. I just never heard of anything like that before.
Me: Surely a lot of cyclists come through here in the summer?
CO: Yes, but they usually go through the pedestrian walkway.
Me: Oops, sorry.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How was the day? Awesome, awesome, awesome. Roads as smooth was glass. A tail wind (yes, really). Places to stop and look around.

I awoke to a beautiful sunrise in Warroad. I clambered out of my tent to use the washroom and perched on a dead tree above me was a Bald Eagle. As usual, by the time I pulled my camera out it was gone, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Sunrise on Lake of the Woods

On the way out of town I found out why this town is called “Warroad”. It lterally comes from an Indian word meaning “war road” but the “road” is a river, not a road. The Sioux would come down the river to war with the Chipawa for control over the rice fields. This went on for a long time, and the name stuck.

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Where the name Warroad came from

There are all sorts of old rusting equipment along the side of the road. But they’re displayed, not just abandoned. I’m not sure if they’re for sale, or it’s some kind of display of old machinery.
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Please choose a car from our line of gently used vehicles

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Wally the Walleye in Baudette, MN

The ride along highway 12 was pretty uneventful, accept for one section that turned out to be a workout, just after Baudette I faced the dreaded “Road Closed, Detour” sign. For a driver in a car this may not be a big deal, but for a cyclists: how long is the detour and can I get through anyway? I took the detour for a short stretch and it looked like it was going to be long so I re-joined the highway a little further up. Grooved road turned into dirt road which turned into soft sand, a cyclists nightmare. I stopped a driver who confirmed that I could get through and the that the sand/gravel only continued for another 2 miles. So I stuck with it and soon enough I was back on grooved road, and a couple more miles later back on pavement. The rest of the ride was extremely quite (most of the cars were on the detour).

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Cycling along the Rainy River

I reached International Falls by about 5pm, stopped to take a snap of Smokey the Bear, and kept going.

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Smokey the Bear – International Falls MN

After circling around Fort Frances for a few kilometres I finally found the Super 8, checked in, and had a long hot shower.

Now, where’s that beer?

Stats
Distance traveled today – 179kms
Moving time – 7 hours and 55 mins
Moving avg – 22.6kms/hour
Elevation – 358m

Giving

If you’re enjoying my blog please consider making a donation to the United Way here. The United Way of Toronto 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 amazing things. The United Way gives people in our community the support they need to overcome their challenges.

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.

Thank you all for the donations so far. They helped a lot to bring me closer to my goal of raising $1 for every kilometre cycled, or $4500, but I’ve still got a long way to go.