Sleep was minimal due to caffeine crazed midnight life organization lists but I eventually got a few hours, lulled by light raindrops on tent nylon and the faint sounds of Lake Superior’s splashes. I was determined to have a productive day and roll out of camp by 9 am. I paused briefly by the lake’s shore, asking a blessing and dribbling a bit of water on my bangs and brought a few drops to moisten bikey’s front wheel.
First stop was a snack run at a generic gas station, where I bought two of every protein bar that was on sale along with a pair of orange gatorade. It was a Noah’s Arc of calorie rich material. “Food” might be a stretch.
I started the push towards Grand Marais, which was yet again on the Gitchi-Gami and yet again totally lovely.
I arrive at Grand Marais around lunch and am totally baffled by town I find. There are the traditional retirees in fleece vests but also young gents with tied up long locks and folk schools and a goshdarn bike lane painted down their couple of blocks downtown. The view of the lake is big and blue. And I wandered into a little coffee cafe that was located across the street from a microbrewery. I walk inside still scruffy from the road and Boy Problems is blasting and I bump my little hot pink fanny pack on my hip and order a double shot. Take a look at this quaint handcrafted mug.
The coffee was REAL and compared to the instant stuff I’ve been slugging back, it lit a fire deep in my gonads. I got cocky. I cried out towards the border TODAY WE WILL MEET. I made a brief stop at the supermarket for bananas, ginger, tortillas, shredded cheese and a can of refried beans. I tossed headphones into my ears, pressed play on the Major Lazer workout mix and started pushing hard. That workout mix got me through three alleycats, two 24 hour bike races and if I ever have a kid I won’t be in labor long. I’ll just blast that mix and the birth will be breech because baby is coming out booty first, just bumping. My pace was swifted and I was mashing on this pedals, a naughty habit I picked up from my single speed. By the time I get to Grand Portage, my knees start to sting. I try to get a room at the only lodging available at the local casino, but the teenage desk crew were more concerned with the blooming romance of one of their coworkers. No rooms. To the border it is! Wincing knees be damned!
The road up to the border has the first brutal mountain climb of the trip. I don’t have any photos of this, I was just trying to get up the damn thing. My knees really started to scream and I walked my bike for some really steep bits. I get to the border guard station, answer about four question before I’m waved through. I ask where is the closest place to pitch a tent. “There isn’t anything before Thunder Bay, which is about 40 miles.” It is roughly 4 PM. My body was toast 20 miles and a mountainside ago. But there is only one way out…
Clouds roll in as I start this last leg and there is nothing but an expanse of rolling hills and small farms ahead of me. Within the first kilometer there is a worn sign FEMALE ABUSE IS A CRIME and it gives a number for a domestic abuse hotline. It really sets the tone for my twilight ride through this blank landscape. GO AS FAST AS YOU CAN DO NOT STOP. The only lights I see are headlamps from passing cars and bits of yellow beams through cracked open barn doors. I watch as a heard of sheep scurries home as the clouds deepen and night falls.Kilometer after kilometer, I bury deep into the pedals and go go go. At some point I see bright lights and sigh relief until I realize that I’m looking at the brilliance of Thunder Bay’s correctional facility. A few more desperate kilometers and I see the blessed sign of a hotel chain. I stumble into the lobby and yes they have a room and they’ll make it on the first floor so I can just ride away in the morning oh and here’s a free breakfast voucher for the restaurant. I almost cry with joy. I drag bikey down the hallway and tussle to get him into the room.
I crack open one of the two Surlys I had in my panniers, set the other on ice and walk into the best shower of my life. I step out and find the clothing iron in the closet and upturn it and start toasting quesadillas. I flip on the TV and watch an informative yet informative documentary on Chinese immigration to Canada while rubbing salve onto my raw parts. It took both beers to calm down and finally give in to the king sized bed and fresh sheets. T
MILES RIDDEN: 105/165 km
SONG OF THE DAY: “Work, Bitch” by Britney. Yeaaah, I dunno either, dude. I’ve heard it maybe once before but it was on mental loop while pushing past sheep farms.