Day 33 – Shabaqua to Thunder Bay – Total distance traveled 3380kms

The two cyclists I met outside of Fort Frances told me that there was a great place for breakfast in TB. All they knew was that it was on Algoma St. I figured there was a fat chance of me finding the place, but it’s worth a try. “You mean the Hoito” responded one stranger when I asked. So there I went.

Hoito means “care” in Finnish. When in the city young Finnish bushworkers had difficulty finding a decent meal at a fair price. I had an excellent eggs, pancakes and bacon breakfast with coffee for under $10.

I spent the rest of the day at Historic Fort William. Hotel rooms were in short supply because of the flooding (the Super 8 was completely shut down) and Donna have me a strong recommendation to see Fort York and I noticed they have camping. But a great way to spend the day.

So I cycled the extra 15kms and set up camp. It turned out that I was the only one there. For the entire night. It was a little lonely, but very peaceful. I woke up the next morning to geese outside my tent and a deer within a 100′ of my tent.

Fort William is fantastic. You’re give a tour by actors in period costume. Fort William was a Northwest Company trading post. Each year a 1000 or more voyageurs come from all around for the “rendezvous”. We were a little early but none the less we were greeted by Kenneth McKenzie, a cousin of the famous explorer, and wife gave us a tour if the facilities.

The two most interesting buildings were the apothecary and the canoe shed. With regard to the apothecary, apparently my black feet indicated foot rot and they would likely need to be amputated. But at least I didn’t have a toothache. They device they use to do a root canal looked particularily evil and they waste costing pain killers on such a simple operation.

At the canoe shed they construct birch bark canoes. They had two under construction and several hanging from the rafters. These are massive canoes, enough for 12 voyageurs and goodness knows how much cargo. Each voyageur was responsible for two 90lb packs of fur amd if they lost one it came out of their salary.

The food is really good there too. I had an early dinner – beef stew with fresh baked bread – so they I wouldn’t have to cook. I should also mention they served Rickard’s Red.

The thing that impressed me most about Fort William is the authenticity. They actually make 90lb packs of fur, they make the canoes from birch bark and use spruce root for twine. Everything is real.

By the way, if you have something against furs you should skip this place. There are hundreds of furs: beaver pelts, seal skin, timber wolf, wolverines, skirls, muskrat, fox, mink and on and on. The photo below of Kenneth’s wife beside a fur is a timber wolf. It’s bigger that she is. It would be very scary to meet one of these animals.

I’ll talk briefly about my ride into TB this morning. I woke up at 6am, hit that busy stretch of the Trans-Canada, and took that awful detour on 102. There’s no point in talking anymore about it other than there were some outstanding views coming into TB, and I got another flat. The cause of this one was easy to find: a big staple stuck in my tire.

I need to be on my way so I’m just going to attach some pics and you can figure out where they belong. I’ll probably sort it out later.

Stats
Distance traveled today – 84 kms
Moving time -4 hours and 28 minutes
Moving avg – 18.7 kms/hour
Elevation – 190m

Update: I was very excited to learn that the NorthWest Company is still alive and doing very well.

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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.