DAY 10:

Storms blew in overnight and every rattle of my tent was a curious bear or lighting strike or DOOM ITSELF. Sleep was light and I didn’t bother wandering around the park when I awoke at daybreak. I’m sure it is absolutely breathtaking and worth the many kilometers deep into the bush, but all I saw was a quite nice lake. *shrug*

I started the long and lonely road back into the highway without coffee or breakfast. I remembered that there was a truck stop at top of the hill so at the very least that could motivate my push onwards. Wellll, I didn’t get less daunting overnight.

I grabbed my handlebars and started the slow march. Oh, yeah, I have NO SHAME in walking my bike up hills, especially these long and brutal inclines I encounter in Canada. It gives my knees a bit of a break and my body the opportunity to use different muscle groups for a little bit. I don’t want to be giant calves and noodle arms. Even though I didn’t pedal up this beast, I took at least three brakes and also just enjoyed the view a bit. I finally reach the top of the hill and run across the highway for some tasty hotcakes. Oh goodness, those pancakes. Putting on my food nerd cap, I notice that poutine is offered as an additional side and there are these pastries called persians that I was told about in Thunder Bay as being a regional specialty and I see them on menus as “toasted persians”. I never order one so the mystery still stands…

I’m chugging coffee, cramming in loud bites of breakfast, eyeballing the handsome construction worker to my left and sucking on the sweet free wifi, furiously messaging with bike tour veterans back home about what I should do about my knees. There is some talk about IT band stretches and ice but mostly I’m told to stop stressing and take it slow. Just let the pedals spin and stop forcing it too hard. I try to let this sink in as I finish my last drops of coffee and fill up my water bottles at the server sink. She told me not to use the bathroom water because it isn’t good and so going forward I always ask cashiers and servers to fill ’em for me, which they do patiently trying not to show how grossed out they are by the grungy vessels, covered with road gunk.

After my meal and warming internet chats with friends, I’m feeling more optimistic. I received a strong and stead tailwind for a good hour or so and it feels like I’m being pulled along via an imaginary ski lift. I liked to think that a friend of mine in the afterlife pulled a spike from the front wheel of St. Catherine’s cruiser bike and patched the flat and this was the small miracle she repaid him with…

The kilometers pass by smooth and around 4 pm I see a sign WOLF RIVER CAMPGROUND: 1 KM. I take a deep breath and hope for not another red herring as I turn off the highway onto a dirt road. The ride was short and I ended up at a private home with a garage and a sign pointing to the porch door as OFFICE. A note was tacked up stating they were working on the grounds. I begin to wander around the grounds, noticing the heavily decorated and fortified RVs, hoping to spot someone shuffling about but it was all still. After about five minutes I see a man in the distance with a chainsaw in one hand walking slowly towards me. “You the owner?” I ask. He gestures towards the chainsaw as if “well, duh.” We head into the “office” which is the side room of the house outfitted with a wooden counter with a neat pile of the local newspaper and a small display of amethysts for sale. This region of Ontario is known for its amethysts mines and these were a bit rough and tumble, not tourist slick. I imagine they were scouted by the owner. This is a 100% DIY operation. I get a campsite for the night and a bag of ice for my knees. I jokingly ask about bears and he says that one took out his apple tree for the second year in a row. “I now know when I tell the wife we should pick the apples tomorrow, that really means TODAY.” He also mentions that the salmon aren’t in the river in his campground, but plenty have bern spotted at the conservatory across the highway. Oh, and the hills that I have coming up. He states with a chuckle that the next few days will be challenging. Har har har.

My campsite is quiet and only a few minutes hobble away from Wolf River. For the duration of my stay, I will not see another human. I’ll hear a few hushed words, a screen door shut but no one says hello. Rural Ontario is an introvert’s paradise. No small talk, no smiles or hand waves, just ghosts.

After chilling down the knees I made a deluxe dinner of lemon garlic noodles, which I added extra garlic for maximum stink (and to fight my cold), dried shiitake mushrooms and mixed in 1/4 a kilo of local gouda cheese curds I bought in Thunder Bay, creating a sort of bastard poutine. For appetizers I ate an avocado with my spork and took shots off generic orange jello powder because the gelatin might help my joints?  Whatever, it was 88 cents and I’m still getting in some sugar.

I spent the rest of the evening reading in my tent and listening to my trumpeting cheese farts echo throughout the silent campground. Canada, this is my mighty roar!

HAPPY PLACE: sitting outside Modern Times, drinking a cup of coffee knowing that in 20 minutes I’ll be shoveling in a plate of migas with scrambled tofu and avocado slices and it’s all squirted with their homemade habanero hot sauce.

SONG OF THE DAY: Slow and Low by the Beastie Boys