I woke up late and spent my first hour awake typing out blog posts on this dumb phone. Just so you are aware, dear reader(s), this cell phone has the most finicky keypad and it tries to sneak in periods between.every.single.word. This is problematic in my personal life, as I usually forge on with the punctuation intact, ergo most people assume I must be drunk when I message them. A friend of mine told me she assumed this until one day I had her text from my phone (I was being a responsible driver/outsourcing my work) and she kept cursing trying to delete the periods that kept popping up. So you can imagine how frustrating it is typing out these posts and trying to retain some sense of professionalism by keeping the punctuation correct. Bah! Technology!
By the time I got downstairs the house was empty. I find a housemate on the porch, the one who was afraid I’d kill her. She had spent most of my visit in a purple bathroom, either in her room or smoking cigarettes on the porch. No judgement, as I spent most of the ages 13 through 16 in a bathrobe (teen sloth). I ask her where everyone went and she tells me they are at church. “Well how long does that take?” I ask, incredulous that adults go to church voluntarily. “A while”. It was almost 11 am so I decided to roll out without saying goodbye to my host. I start chatting with the housemate as I leave and she asks me about Minneapolis. “Do you know a black person?” wide eyed jester smile “a, uh, Muslim person. We have a Muslim family here now.” The conversation rolls into my fears of rural Ontario and traveling through it solo and she asks “do you have a knife? I have a switchblade you can have. They’re not legal in Canada…” OH YEAH. The one thing that Canadians ask me about are guns and our tendency to keep shooting one another. It’s baffling to them (and me as well!). Regardless, the housemate goes inside and get the petite pink knife. She shows me how to flick it out with a press of a button. I thank her warmly (doesn’t seem to be a hugging type) and tell her that I will think of her when I stab someone. As I roll away I hear her “get ’em good…I WANNA READ ABOUT IT IN THE PAPERS.”
First stop is a grocery store and I roam around just overwhelmed. My appetite has zeroed out since I started the tour, so I’m just looking for things that are lightweight and calorie dense and can be made in minutes. The best decision I make is buying a bag of the Haribo Star mix (which has the gummi fried eggs) and their sour gummi mix which have these black currant flavored gummis with the fluffy white bit on the bottom and are dusted in sour sugar. *swoon* I finally fill up my basket and head to the checkout, where the young cashier is rocking the fuck out to the Phil Collins song playing through the loudspeakers. He is singing along to the lyrics and drumming on the register and the middle aged man who is paying for his groceries is unmoved by this display. This man’s enthusiasm is the most human I have seen in an entire week. I feel bad interrupting him. I ask him if he knows of any restaurants that are open, because in Thunder Bay Sunday is the Day of Rest so most things are closed. He rattles off a few names but dismisses each one because it’s Sunday. I leave him to his music, load up my groceries and start rolling around the downtown area when I spot those golden arches. THANK HEAVENS. Of course they’re open and of course they have wifi and of course seconds after sitting down with my stale nuggets and hot coffee I am talked at by the young man next to me. Loose t-shirt with a lone piece of orange shredded cheese stuck between his breast and belly, long hair tied back and some teeth blackened. He starts talking to me about Pokemon which leads to a discussion on manga and kung fu and how Jackie Chan is the best and that you shouldn’t cross your chopsticks over the top of the bowl. He spies my journal and tells me that he makes his own and he used to make some for friends, one for every month based on that month’s theme and he asked what he should make for October, he made one with a forest of peering eyes last time. I suggested a spider with glitter web theme. The whole time he’s talking I watch from the window this man creep close to my bike and sit directly next to it, almost hugging the front wheel. It’s all very odd. I bid goodbye to the gent who was filling my ears. As someone who rambles on about nonsense most of the time, I’m keen to repay the favor when I can and just listen. By the time I get to my bike the man is gone. I’m excited to get out of Thunder Bay and back on the road.
I’m back on the Transcanadian Highway 17 and the soreness that I felt in my kneecaps yesterday became deeper with each rotation. I’m trying to take it easy but it’s still too soon to be back in the saddle after that long brutal border rush. Around 4 pm I pull into a roadside restaurant and order a cheeseburger and onion rings, fulfilling a promise to myself that I’d eat one restaurant meal a day, to make sure I was getting enough calories in. The food was well prepared but I was indifferent. It all got gobbled down regardless.
Another hour or two of riding and I notice a sign SLEEPING GIANT CAMPGROUND: 4 km with an arrow pointing right. From what I could remember from the map, the Sleeping Giant Regional Park was on this massive peninsula…but signs don’t lie, right? They must have a campground close to the highway. Then I look at the road that lies ahead:
I breathe deep and start the roller coaster scream down this neck cracking incline, praying I balanced the weight in my panniers else one sharp breeze and I’m tumblin’. I glide down, tapping on the brakes and make it to the bottom. Huzzah! Now just a nice little ride to the campsite and I can set up and cook some ramen and everything is gravy!
Alas, this is just a weary woman’s delirious dream. I bike the 4 km and arrive at this adorable little lake and this tiiny outpost and RV park. A sign in front states LAST CHANCE FOR SUPPLIES TIL SLEEPING GIANT, 29 km. Wait, what what? 29 km??? But the sign at the top of the hill….Friends, the most forceful lesson I’ve learned while in Ontario is that you can piss and moan all you want, but it doesn’t change the distance you gotta go. So you might as well just cry and swear on the bike because you have some riding to do!
What was going to be a light day of riding ended up with another twilight slog through winding hilly roads yet a beautiful boreal forest. My knees were crunching so bad I couldn’t really enjoy the majesty. By the time I got to the park gates it was dusk and another sign stated 19 KM to the campground. Why of course! The gates were flanked with enormous pine trees that flowed scent but it reminded me too much of cheap cologne (the patriarchy ruins everything). Those last km of the day were brutal and disheartening and I just crawled into my head and found my happy places. Or “less pain” places. I rolled into a dark campground and tried to spot a fellow camper. I saw the shadow of a tent and set up camp two spots away. Ontario Providential Parks are closed after Labor Day, but you can still use them, they just have no running water and only pit toilets. I put all my food and smelly items into my most waterproof pannier, roll it up tight and place it under the picnic table away from my tent and bring the bear spray and knife with me for a late night cuddle. I crawl into my tent and I can hear the faint sounds of a truck door opening and slamming shut. At one point a dog comes and sniffs round my tent and I shoo him off LEAVE IT ALONE BUDDY. I spot no humans and a light rain begins to fall as I stuff my limbs into the sleeping bag and zip it tight.
MILES RIDDEN: 86 km
CURRENT MOOD: Blergh (must eat/don’t wanna)
HAPPY PLACE (during the brutal Sleeping Giant stretch): firm leather booth at Mancini’s, chilled gin martini with a lemon twist, listening to my friend Bill chuckle at whatever dumb tale I’m spinning.