Day 35 – Nipigon to Terrace Bay – Total distance traveled – 3647kms

I started off my day slow today. Breakfast at Tim’s. Blogging while I waited for my clothes to dry in the sun (I washed them in the sink the night before). Once I was fed and bike was packed I moseyed on down to Nipigon (pronounced Ni-pi-gin by the locals, not Ni-pi-gone the way I was pronouncing it).

My first impression of Nipigon last night wasn’t very good. The first thing I wanted to do was find a nice place to eat and have a cold beer. I cycled “downtown” to the Nipigon Cafe which advertised it was licensed by the LCBO. I sat down and ordered and was informed it was no longer licensed.

I think the server had a bad day or something. She took forever to bring me water (imagine how thirsty I was), even longer to take my order, never refilled my glass even though I drained it in 20 seconds. The restaurant owner gave free dessert to the table next to me but ignored me completely. The food was excellent but the experience was terrible.

Anyway, enough about the restaurant. I only mention it because first impressions can be wrong, very wrong.

This morning, after searching relentlessly on the Nipigon website I finally found out where everything was, including the marina and the “Paddle to the Sea” park. As I arrived I was greeted by a gentleman sitting at a picnic table. Friendly people here I thought.

The Paddle to the Sea park is absolutely brilliant. It’s a retelling of the story in the form of a playground. It should win an award if it hasn’t already.

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Paddle to the Sea Park

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While I was there a gentleman rode in on his bicycle and started talking to everyone. His name was Jim McCulla and spoke about Nipigon and how he and the gentleman sitting at the picnic table, Howie Chavoyer, had cut the walking trails in the area.

I spent the next hour talking to these gentleman about Nipigon. How tourism used to be much bigger, how the pickerel were depleted by a landslide, how the gold mine that should hoave lasted 20 years only lasted 15 because someone found a quicker way to extract the gold, how they “chased” trains for days to see where they were headed and what cargo they were carrying.
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Howie and Jim

Later I cycled down to the marina where then Paddle to the Sea park continues right down to the end of the story. It used to be a busy place but there were now visitors that day.

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That’s me!

Nipigon has such a vibrant history and it’s and outdoors enthusiasts paradise. I wish there was something I could do to help bring more people to this place.

The ride
I climbed some nasty hills today but I also experienced some spectacular views. I particularly liked the one in the middle. I didn’t know I was supposed to bring my climbing gear with me. I may get as far as Terrace Bay.

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This is where the highway splits – trucks to the left, to the left

There seems to be a bit of rivalry between the North of Superior cyclists and the BC cyclists when it come to who has the bigger hills. The Ontarians claim that the BC hills are long but not steep, and that the Lake Superior hills are shorter but the steepest. Boys will be boys. 😉

I’m starting to think that a hill is a hill and it’s meant to be conquered. And besides, nothing could be worse than Heartless hill, or the 4.5km climb to Chateau Lake Louise, or the Big Hill outside of Cochrane. One thing I will say for sure: if you can climb the North of Superior hills you can climb the Rockies, and vice versa.

I quickly point out however, it’s not the hills that kill you, it’s the prairies when it’s cold and there’s a headwind. That will turn any avid cyclist into a heap of smoldering goo. Give me a steep hill anytime. At least you know there’s a reward at the top and on the other side when you cruise down.

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Looks inviting doesn’t it?

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The road just ends and you go for a swim

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A lake cradled in the arms of the mountains

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Reflections

I arrived in Terrace Bay by 5:30. I could have gone on, but there are storms coming, and Terrace Bay looks like another place I want to explore.

Stats
Distance traveled today – 109 kms
Moving time – 6 hours and 5 minutes
Moving avg – 17.9 kms/hour
Elevation – 410m at the highest point

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Day 34 – Thunder Bay to Nipigon – Total distance covered 3538kms

This morning was the lowest point on my journey. It’s my son Andrew’s graduation from Carleton today. He’s graduating with a Bachelor of Information Technology degree from the prestigious and challenging Interactive Media and Design program. I’m so proud of him.

Last night I was less than 5kms from the Thunder Bay airport. Every time I saw Porter aircraft take off I thought I should be on it. But flying to Ottawa would put me seriously behind schedule. It’s really difficult to know what’s right sometimes. There are sacrifices you make and it’s hard to tell at the time if it’s worth it.

But what helped me feel better last night was Andrew who said “Dad, what you’re doing is awesome”.

Well Andrew, what you’ve done is even more awesome. Four years of incredibly hard work and sacrifices. I’m so proud of you. And I’m also proud of Eric who graduated from OttawaU and now holds an important role with Scouts Canada, and Ryan who’s going to make a great lawyer, and Vicki for completing her Queens Executive MBA.

I never finished my degree. I started working at CNCP when I was 18. I went back to university for a few courses but didn’t finish. I’ve done alright for myself but I always wonder if I should have completed my degree. Maybe I still will some day.

Here’s to you Andrew on your special day. Way to go and I love you.

Dad.

About Nipigon
The one reason I wanted to see Nipigon was because of the short film “Paddle to the Sea”. Based on Holling C. Holling’s book of the same name, Paddle to the Sea is Bill Mason’s film adaptation of the classic tale. I would have been pretty young when I first saw this film, but it had a life long impression on me. Maybe it’s what gave me my sense of adventure? Watch it and if you have kids show it to them too. It’s available from the National Film Board’s website.

About great people
The other thing that happened today was I met some great folks from Fresh Air Experience in Thunder Bay. I was almost out of Thunder Bay when I noticed a wobble in my rear wheel. I flipped the bike over and checked it out: a broken spoke. It’s something that has to be fixed, so, back to Thunder Bay. I knew there was a Fresh Air in TB so I looked them up. Eight kilometres across the other side of the city. By the time I got there my bike was functioning pretty poorly. I was worried about how long it would take me to get this fixed.

It only took one look from the gentleman behind the counter to know I had a problem as I wheeled my bike into the store. “Bring it to the back” he said. No questions asked. I explained to Jordan what had happened and he dropped everything he was doing.

I love watching professionals work. He had the wheel off, the spoke replaced and the rim trued up in about 15 mins. Then he said “do you want me to give your bike a bath? It’ll run a lot better.” Absolutely, I replied. While Jordan was cleaning my bike I spoke to several gentleman about my experiences so far and they gave me advice on the what to expect over the next few days.

Jordan brought out my bicycle, now gleaming like new and the chain freshly lubed. “How much?” I asked, quite willing to pay anything at this point I was so happy. “$9.28” was the reply. “We don’t charge labour for emergency repairs”. What a great bunch of people. And the folks at Fresh Air experience in Ottawa are the same. They got my bike ready for me before I embarked on this journey.

The rest of the ride to Nipigon was great. A nice tail wind and good roads got me there in less than 5 hours.

Stats
Distance traveled today – 157 kms
Moving time – 7 hours and 36 minutes
Moving avg – 20.6 kms/hour
Elevation – 262m