30 July report, Nancy O’Higgins Sault Ste. Marie to Ottawa, Ont.


Or things I forgot to put in at the right time.

Al saw a big semi advancing on him in his mirror at the same time as he saw a billboard through the corner of his other eye proclaiming: “Prepare to meet thy maker.”

When Marina was getting ready to leave us in Winnipeg Ken gave her a card that we all signed and in his farewell remarks said she was aptly named as Queen of the Sea only it should have had a p in it instead of an s. Marina gave each of us a gift of a container to put our lunch in and candy hugs ‚ appropriate since she was the queen of hugs which I miss since she left. She also wrote a touching and individual letter to each cyclist. George, her riding partner, also gave her a card and a pin from the farmers of the prairie provinces for her determination to fertilize their crops with nitrogen.

At Winnipeg we were joined by Marilyn from Ottawa who has already done most of the route but because of an accident in the Sea to Sea in 2000 was short the route from Nipigon to Sault Ste. Marie. We have rarely seen anyone as focused and determined not to let anything get in the way of completing her trip across Canada, cut short by breaking her little finger in a crash with another cyclist, resulting in a air ambulance trip to Thunder Bay and the first of three operations.

When we reached Sault Ste. Marie, Marilyn bought a couple of bottles of champagne and invited everyone to her room at our hostel, the Algonquin Hotel, where we spent our rest day, to toast the completion of her mission.

We couldn’t have picked a better time for a rest day. Sault was buzzing with Rotary Festival, with different music venues and non-stop entertainment only a few blocks from our hostel. A midway was part of the fun so I made sure I got a ride on a ferris wheel after a group of us had dinner at a waterfront restaurant. The night we arrived eight of us ate at a Chinese smorgasbord while the rest went to an Italian restaurant, except for George who discovered Mary’s, a bakery-restaurant which so impressed him he ate there five times, joined by others for some of the meals, and everyone for breakfast on our final morning (except for Sandy who bought one of Mary’s cinnamon buns the night before to heat up so she could sleep in). Mary’s special breakfast came on two plates, it was so large.

Sault to Iron Bridge 130k

Local knowledge told us to take Highway 638 instead of 17 on the way to Iron Bridge, that it was quieter and no farther. Wrong. The road was quiet but extremely hilly, and the surface was bumpy. One of the hills was as bad as anything we’ve seen, and that’s saying something. It probably only added 10k to the day but it made it a hard day. Harold disagrees with this and thought it was a wonderful side route ‚ very like England. Viking Tent and Trailer Park at Iron Bridge had a soothing swimming pool to wipe away the aggravation of the day.

Iron Bridge to Espanola 130k

A beautiful day, with the first section of the road as close to idyllic as possible ‚ beside a river, wonderful shoulders, slight tail wind, sunshine and about 24 degrees. It became the usual Highway 17 unpleasantness eventually, with too many trucks too close to us, with 10k of road under construction to add to the joy. After an icecream break at Massey, several of us took a highway to Espanola, again under local knowledge, but this time it was a happy occasion. It rolled through picturesque farmland, (and so did we.)

Espanola to South Baymouth 108k

Manitoulin Island was long, uneventful, and hot. Irene says it wasn’t as pretty as we expected. She liked 10-mile Point best, visiting it with Al, Dave M. and Ken, Mary and Dave. South Baymouth was a pleasant camp site with a superb ice cream selection down at the ferry dock of local Manitoulin-made icecream. Raccoons got into our garbage and Irene cleaned it all up before we got up.

South Baymouth to Hope Bay 62k

Ferry ride was through smog rising from Southern Ontario but was flat calm and a neat change from setting out for a hard day’s ride early in the morning. We had a short ride by bicycle ‚ only 62k ‚ to Hope Bay. After dinner, everyone went to the resort store for an icecream cone and sat on the deck for the evening chatting in the usual catching up on the day way, and waiting for the stream of people to use the telephones.

Hope Bay to Thornbury ‚ 97k

Marilyn went to the hospital at Thornbury to get a nasty sore on her ear looked at and we didn’t take everything we needed off the truck to prepare supper first. While waiting for Marilyn and Wayne to return so we could start supper, we ate two boxes of Fig Newtons donated by Chris and Anita, drank Nancy’s single malt and Sandy’s vodka, then visited a neighbouring camper after deciding to order pizzas. While we waited for pizzas to be delivered, we danced. There was to be an Elvis festival in Collingwood the coming weekend and the campground had a number of people staying there who got there early for the festival. Country music came from a few spots, but one in particular had a genial host who didn’t mind us dancing at his front door while he played the music and watched. George turns out to be a terrific dancer, with the women waiting their turn to dance with him by dancing with each other. Dave Mann and I were enthusiastic participants, if not as smooth as the others (definitely not Dave’s fault). Mary and Dave joined the dancers along with Irene and Sandy. Harry and Frank stood watching, looking amused but making sure they were far enough away not to get dragged onto our dance-grass. Brendan read in his chair, ignoring us. Ken stood out by the gate waiting for the pizza truck, but probably just wanting to avoid the dancing. The pizza truck arrived at the same time as our Budget truck returned with a bandaged Marilyn and patient Wayne. At some point, most people have thought they were getting bug bites on their right ears which usually turned out to be sunburn.

The same night, after we went to bed, we heard a lot of crashing and bashing around the cook tent. Raccoons were visiting. Irene thought it was Harry up and starting breakfast earlyãat 2:30 in the morning. Brendon had left his shampoo out on a picnic table and it disappeared. It must be the cleanest raccoon in town, Brendon says.

One of the earlier nights (and I’ve forgotten which campsite it was,) there was the usual sound of water swishing into what we all thought was a V-8 bottle, regularly every half an hour. Irene thought to herself, “We have to stop all this beer drinking.” We all lay there awake thinking someone had an incredible bladder, not realizing it was a motor home’s air conditioner.

Thornbury to Alliston ‚ 90k

Pleasant ride, not too stressful. At one point, some of the men riding with Irene, Sandy, Mary, and Marilyn took off, leaving Ken to guide them. Irene looked around as they studied the map with Ken, and said, “It’s Ken and his Barbies.”

Camp site called Rolling Acres Farm Camp turned out to be a boggy spot in the middle of a bunch of permanent trailers. On our way in the gate, Irene managed to not trigger it to go up and smashed through it, breaking it off. She wasn’t hurt, luckily but it could have been serious. Management was profuse in apologies to her and replaced the lifting board immediately. We wonder how many times a day they have to replace it, because in the middle of the night a rescue truck came through it smashing it again, followed by a fire truck. Then at 4 in the morning the garbage truck came through and emptied the big containers. Not a great night’s sleep for anyone. A tom cat was prowling and howling until George yelled: “Go ahead, Irene’s not coming out.”

My friend Kathleen Redmond who saw us off in Fort Langley turned up to take me out for supper ‚ too late because I had already eaten earlier but it was great to get together with someone from the West Coast.

Alliston to Port Perry ‚ 100k

Day started off beautifully with the first 14k to Collingwood on the Georgian Trail, a converted rail bed that meant no cars and we were able to ride side by side. There were lots of dog walkers but every dog was well trained and sat at its owners side as we passed. Another part of the route was picturesque and peaceful, through Bethany. The day ended not so great with a section of road under construction in Port Perry and a truck carrying a wide load honking at us to get off the road, then with me hurling head first into the gravel shoulder to avoid it. We all walked up the hill on the new section which isn’t finished yet and Dave H., Ken and Chris lifted our bikes over a very tall cement barrier at the top. Chris stayed at the back with me, nursing my wounded ego until we made the last 10k into camp and his support was very appreciated.

That night, my sisters Beth Mariglia and Shirley Imaizumi brought dinner for the group and joined us along with their husbands Vince Mariglia and Court Elliott. My niece Susan appeared with her husband Bill and two little guys, my grand-nephews, but we’d eaten all the food. The little ones made us realize how much we all miss our grandchildren. We had a fabulous meal of lasagna, barbecued Italian sausages, meat balls, garlic bread, salad and two cakes, a chocolate one and a lemon poppyseed as well as copious quantities of wine, a present from me. It was such a treat for me to see them all, but it was much too short. Shirley and Court came all the way from Toronto and the others from Bowmanville and Ajax to see us.

Port Perry to Colbourne ‚ 126 k

Beautiful day. Al said it was his favourite day of cycling yet. Highway 28 was hillier than expected and too busy but once we hit Port Hope we all fell in love with Southern Ontario. The old houses, brick and stone, the charming streets, the stores and main streets, were all unfamiliar to those with West Coast roots, used to frame construction not older than 20 years. Al went for a swim in Lake Ontario at Port Hope and decided its reputation for cold wasn’t true ‚ it was at least in the 70s. Harold and I went into at least three restaurants besides the shady roadside space we found to eat our lunch. It may have made the day longer but it made it seem a lot shorter.

This was Dave Herlt’s birthday so a Black Forest cake with sparklers was produced for dessert with lots and lots of good wishes. After dinner, Mary, Dave, Ken, Irene and I went for icecream with a walk back to the highway. Can’t let a day pass without at least one icecream.

Colbourne to Adolphustown ‚ 83k

This was Brendan’s birthday so he spent it riding with us instead of leading the pack. He drafted me for a while so I said, “It’s your birthday but I get the free ride.” Lovely ride along Lake Ontario with some of it taken along a trail before we went back out to the highway.

Ken felt sorry for a bird eating road kill on the highway, so he kicked the carcass off the road to keep the bird alive. It had in a previous life been a skunk. He was told he could sleep in his tent but his shoes had to move a long way from the other campers. He spent some time scrubbing one shoe and now they look like they are from different pairs.

Adolphustown celebrates the United Empire Loyalists and a billboard on the highway before we turned into our campsite announced afternoon tea at the Queen Charlotte house museum. After tent pitching and showers, Harold, Ken, Wayne and I went for afternoon tea. For $7 we got a pot of tea in a choice of kinds, raisin scones with clotted cream and rhubarb and strawberry jam, and a dinner sized plate with two each of a dozen different treats, from date squares to tiny cheesecake, pound cake, apricot squares, etc., for each two people. We took a plate of treats back to Brendan for his birthday and he shared it with everyone else before dinner. Al decided to go swimming instead of out for tea and regretted it ‚ he cut his foot in clean Lake Ontario.

Dinner included a mocha cake for Brendan’s birthday with sparklers but we haven’t quite got the hang of lighting sparklers yet. We need more practice and more birthdays.

Harry recommended exploring the UEL cemetery on the highway at the corner where you turn in to the campground so Harold and Ken walked back after dinner to look at the old stones, some 200 years old, trying to read dates.

Adolphustown to Kingston ‚ 50k

Lovely, short ride to Lake Ontario Park at the edge of Kingston. Everyone was there before lunch with tents put up, then headed for the bus into Kingston. Ken said Kingston was his favourite day off (and of course it wasn’t a real day off but felt like it.)

Nine of us took a tour bus from the information center to get the highlights of Kingston and it was well worth it. We saw John A. Macdonald’s many homes, the fort, the Royal Military College, etc. Al, Dave Mann and I went to the Maritime Museum but it wasn’t as good as the one at Selkirk.

There were two homemade icecream places on the main street which found customers, and a pub serving German beer imported in casks where Harry and Brendan found it necessary to make a repeat visit later in the afternoon.

Kingston to Johnstone ‚ 118k

It was pouring when we woke and had to pack our tents ‚ a rare occurrence for us. We rode on the Thousand Island Parkway. It took us longer than on the faster road, but was much more relaxing. Marilyn came along in a car and told Mary, Irene and Dave that she wouldn’t be rejoining us for cycling after all, that she was staying with her sister and would see us in Ottawa. Harry said I had to put in the journal that he was disappointed that she wasn’t coming back to help him with the cooking and unloading the tent but he was offered help by all the other women to make up for his cooking buddy’s disappearance. (Marilyn later said that she did feel guilty about it.)

We went into a movie theatre at the National Park on the parkway and saw films about the area while we ate our lunch. I fell asleep and had to be woken up by Sandy and Al when it was over.

Johnstone to Ottawa ‚ 93k

A speedy trip to Manotick where we arranged to meet members of the Ottawa club to ride in with us. They kindly showed us the least busy route possible for getting to Ottawa and then the bike path to the University of Ottawa where we actually sleep for three nights in a row in a real bed. Inge, who will join us for the last leg of our trip starting Saturday met us first and was a welcome addition. More details about our rest days in Ottawa in the next entry, probably at Quebec City.