16 July report, Nancy O’Higgins Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

In Thunder Bay our friends at the bike shop told us we had to eat at Hoito’s restaurant while we were there. Ken and I were the first ones to find it at breakfast on our day off. I had salted fish which turned out to be delicious salmon which came with mashed potatoes and a bowl of clabbered milk that tasted like buttermilk. Ken had the pancakes they are famous for. It is a Finnish restaurant in a building that housed the Finnish Labour Temple. The restaurant started in 1918 because young Finnish bushworkers at Kallio’s camp near Nipigon had no trouble finding a room to rent but had difficulty getting a decent meal at a fair price. The restaurant has a very large step-on scales to weigh yourself when you enter and again when you leave to see how much you ate! We told Dave and Mary Herlt and Irene about finding it when we met them at the library so they headed down there to eat before going back to our camp. They ran into Dave M. and Al on the street so they went there too. Al says he practically stripped to his BVDs before he got on the scale. Marilyn went to the same restaurant coincidentally, when friends took her there. She hadn’t even been at the bike shop to get the sales pitch the day before.

Thunder Bay to Nipigon ‚ 93k
God bless the trucker’s momma!

The trepidation in the air was palpable as everyone gave each other advice about the best way to handle transport trucks on what is the worst and one of the busiest highways in Canada. I warned everyone that I (Nancy) planned to ride in the truck after coffee, that the book I read said everyone should go through the U.S. or get a bus from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie ‚ that the road was too dangerous to cycle.

The first 15 k was rolling and quiet, and an unexpected treat. After 15k when we joined 17 and 11 it was about as bad as predicted. The giant trucks crowded us, there were no shoulders and the road itself was in bad shape. But it still wasn’t as bad as we expected. Then at 30k Wayne was on the highway with the coffee, across from a truck stop where we were able to use the washrooms. Irene chatted up one of the truck drivers, telling him she was riding her bicycle across Canada. He said “why”. She explained was the way she was celebrating her 60th birthday. She told him her son drives a big rig and that she’d appreciate it if he would tell the other trucks there were a lot of cyclists on the road. He said he would as long as we rode in single file. There was no possibility of doing otherwise! From then on, the trucks all gave us a wide berth. The rest of the day was a joy compared to before coffee break. Irene found another trucker to thank later in the day, and again the next morning, stopped one to say how much we appreciated their consideration.

When we got to Stillwater Park at Nipigon we were touched to discover a sign out on the road in big letters proclaiming Welcome Cross Canada Cyclists. We trooped out to the road after supper to have our picture taken in front of the sign, then almost all indulged in frozen yogurt at the Stillwater store

Nipigon to Schreiber 98k

After a cloudy beginning we had glorious sunshine with a little less truck traffic than the day before but Irene worked her magic with the truck drivers again. The hills were long enough to break up any monotony and the views of Lake Superior were stunning. Irene had a flat at the bottom of a hill making it now only three people out of 14 who haven’t had a flat. A group of us had a picnic at what looked like the height of one of the hills with a wide view of the lake but set off after lunch to discover around the bend, the hill kept climbing. There was a debate about whether the long free wheel downhill was worth all the uphill but Mary refuses to believe it is.

Many of us took a side trip into Rossport, a pretty lakeside community, and went into the Serendipity cafÈ, some for brunch, later, others for dessert. The cafÈ was almost hidden by the flowers in front and the desserts were stupendous. For instance, Cloud 9 was made up of two meringues with frozen yogurt in between, fresh strawberries on top and sauce over it. Others had sundaes and still others chocolate cake with raspberry sauce on. Wow!

Schreiber to Marathon 96k

Dense fog. Icy cold. Miserable.

It would have been a beautiful day had it been sunny, Marilyn says. There were a lot of view points that were probably spectacular if you could have seen them. The fog was thick enough to keep the visibility at feet instead of miles.

We planned to ride to a campground that was shorter than usual, 70k, but when we got there it was still before 1 p.m. the camp washrooms were smelly, the ground boggy and there wasn’t really enough room for the tents, and the weather was still thick fog and bitterly cold. The fast men rode down to a provincial campground to see if conditions were better there, but the showers would have been a kilometer away from the tent sites. The group decision was to cycle on to Marathon, another 20k and see if the Lion’s campsite was any better.

I chickened out. I’d ridden as far as we planned that day and I was cold so I decided to ride in the truck. Did I ever learn to regret it! When I got out of the truck at the Marathon campsite I was met by a chorus of ‘Wuss’, and clucking sounds from Harry and Brendan, plus instructions on how to do the chicken dance from Dave Mann.

“You have to tell everyone on the website that you are a wuss,” Harry said.

So here it is. I am a wuss. It was only about 16k from the one campsite to the one we ended up at, so I could have done it. But I didn’t.

Now, Brendan says I need two good riding days then I’ll be rewarded with a tot of single malt.


Al saw two moose, one right in the middle of the road and one on the side. He thinks he might have got both of them in his photograph. Other wildlife sightings ‚ a fox with a chipmunk in his mouth followed me down the highway. Between Schreiber and Marathon several cyclists saw a bear on the side of the road. I did when I was alone and much too close-the distance of the gravel shoulder away. When I saw the bear, it was on the far side of the shoulder from me (eight feet) munching away on grass and contemplatively staring at me. I was saying, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God’ as I was passing him. He’ll think his name is Oh my God.

Biking back from Marathon to the campground a bear crossed the road behind me. George was turning out of the campground and yelled ‘turn around, look at the bear.’ I thought he was kidding but finally looked, and sure enough, it was.

Marathon to White River ‚ 97k

A perfect day. It started with more fog and uphill for 4k to the highway but the fog burned off by 9 a.m. and it was a glorious day. Lots of gentle hills, views we could see for a change, and temperatures that went up to about 35C. Our first really warm day. Dave Herlt had the first broken spoke. Dave and Mary had a magic tool in their kit for an emergency repair on broken spokes, a Kevlar cord that replaces the spoke until you can get to camp and do a permanent repair. It was another of Mary’s finds on the internet. Every time we ask her where she got something we like, the answer is “On the internet.”

The day was warm enough for Al to take a break for a swim at a lake on the way and Al, Dave M. and Brendan headed for another lake just down the road in White River. Sandy, Marilyn, Mary and Dave H. took pictures at the Winnie the Pooh statue. White River is famous for being where the bear cub named Winnie was bought by a soldier for his regiment’s mascot and taken to England in the First World War. A.A. Milne became enchanted with it when it was loaned to the London Zoo when the soldier’s regiment went to France.

White River to Wawa ‚ 95k

Another mosquito haven. We went from cloud to hot sun to marine fog. Most of us stayed in a motel in White River because there wasn’t a campground but a few like Harry, George, and the Herlt’s put up their tents anyway to avoid the crowded motel rooms. The tent dwellers survived a lightning storm and downpour.

During the ride, Ken and Frank startled a vulture feeding off a dead moose. Everyone else coming along smelled the moose.

Wawa to Montreal River ‚ 110k

Lots and lots of uphills and downhills. Sunny, warm weather although a thunder storm threatened early in the day. Montreal River is famous for the long, long, ride down to lake level at the end of the day.

Sandy came on a wolf eating a dead moose and was nervous about passing, since the wolf moved to guard his meal. He was on the bank and the kill was in the ditch. Sandy says she was worried if she moved he might decide she was dessert. She waited for a car to come for added support.

The Montreal River campsite is right along the shore and except for seeing through clouds of blackflies, the view is stunning. Al went for a swim in Superior and looked like he just about got towed off by the current. Most gathered at a picnic table on the bank above the water to watch a glorious bright red sunset.

Montreal River to Sault Ste. Marie ‚ 120k

Gorgeous day ‚ sunshine, tail wind for lots of the time, long stretches of gentle downhill interspersed with some flat stretches. Mary, David, Marilyn, George, Ken and I had lunch at a stunning sandy beach along the shore. Then 10k later, Ken and I had icecream at a cafÈ where Dave M. and Al were having bacon and eggs, all of us to get the strength for the climb up what we were warned was ‘one mile hill’. It was intimidating because you could see it for so far before you reached it, but for survivors of the Coquihalla, it really wasn’t that big a deal. Harold had his pedal fall apart and had to ride in the truck.

We are spending our day off at the Algonquin Hotel (a hostel) in the Sault, a centrally located, comfortable spot. We divided into two groups of those who wanted Chinese food for supper and those who wanted Italian. We are lucky that two blocks away in the Rotary Festival with free jazz concerts, country and rock concerts, a midway, a display of the Bushplane museum, a flea market and tours of the locks. Everyone is busy finding things to do as well as the usual laundry and bike repairs.