Update: I am now in Toronto!! I’ll be here for another two weeks. Hope you have your reading glasses handy, because I’ll be aiming to crank out quite a few articles in the coming days.
Another Day in Northern Ontario
Back at it. Ontario wasn’t going to bike itself! Once again, I needed to aim for at least another 100-120km in order to stay somewhat on track with my initial itinerary.
This was another beautiful, but tough route through lake country.
One thing I really enjoyed seeing along the highway are all the vintage lodge and tackle shop signs. Definitely a vibe!
It was also pretty crazy to see the amount of abandoned businesses… Motels, gas stations, general stores. A constant ghost town. It served as a reminder that there can really be nothing out here. You’re on your own.
Before that stretch of nothing, I did find a town to stop at for lunch, and this is where I first came to the realization that dine-in is not a thing at all in Ontario. Right away, it may not sound like much, but I knew this would add an extra layer of difficulty to this two week part of the trip.
No dine-in meant that plugging devices in to charge them was much more of an inconvenience. It also took away important rest stops; a chance to get away from the sun and the heat. Honestly though, I was just thankful to be in Ontario in the first place, since the provincial border had opened up only a few days before I had crossed it. Incredibly lucky timing!
Let the Fun Begin – Flat Tire #2
I had arrived in Dryden, ON, seeing what I thought at first were huge high rises in the distance, but soon realizing these were in fact some kind of production plant, shadowed by large clouds of smog. I was excited to finally be in a town, and get a meal in, before continuing the long road ahead to Ignace, the next town over.
Within minutes of rolling through Dryden, just as I could sense that the energy was ever-so-slightly off, my back tire was flat.
…Not this again!!
Still remaining positive, I figured I had already done the whole procedure a couple times by then, so might as well just get this over with quickly and painlessly! I found the source of my troubles; not one… Not two… But THREE tiny metal shards lodged into the tire!! I removed them, and switched out the damaged tube with one of my two spare ones.
Mid-way through my struggles, a lady had spotted me from her window, and walked over to give me an ice-cold bottle of water, and see if I needed any help or tools. Her name was Keshatay, and was yet another kind-souled and warm-hearted stranger that just seemed like she was meant to be there in that moment, crossing paths with me. At that point, seeing that it was mid-afternoon, and I still had some work to do on the tire, I decided to ask her about eventually crashing in her backyard for the night. To which she said yes. She also let me leave my bags and gear inside.
With a place secured, and the tube replaced, I hopped back on my bike, and headed down the road, on the hunt for dinner.
The Bike Gods Have Spoken – Flat Tire #3
Well, to my dismay, a couple short minutes later, the same tire was flat once again…!!!
I couldn’t believe it… How?
It turned out I had missed another two of those tiny metal shards, which were nearly impossible to see since they were so tucked away. Ahhhhhh. This sucked. Stress levels increased. I knew that I was down to my last spare tube, and there were no bike shops for hundreds of KMs in either direction. This was not the place to get in trouble, and the margin for error was next to zero.
Rollercoaster of Emotions
Coming to this stressful realization of exactly how much trouble I was in, as if the bike gods were playing a game on me, I was beholden to the sight of a Canadian Tire, right in front of me. Do they sell tubes?? I have no idea. I walked in, and there they were, 700x35C tubes… Only one option, and a handful left in stock on the shelf. Wow, my luck was pretty insane once again.
Slightly scarred at the back-to-back flats I had just gotten; I loaded up and bought four, just to be sure I would get through this next long stretch of wilderness.
Helpless with a Side of Greasy Pizza
It’s been a day. Time to eat up, and call it. I sat down at the Pizza Hut next to the Canadian Tire, left my dying phone with the staff to charge, and ordered a high-calorie cheese-crusted pizza to feast on and forget about the rough times from earlier.
I realized in that moment that this was the most helpless I’ve felt this entire trip. I was way out into this tiny remote town, exhausted, with a bike that couldn’t be ridden, and a phone that wasn’t far from dying on me. All of my possessions were locked in a stranger’s house (even though Keshatay was a lovely person, I still had to take into account that we hadn’t truly gotten to know each other at that point.) I wasn’t even certain of the address, or how far I’d need to walk out to get there.
One of the bright spots of this day was meeting Paolo, a trucker who was sitting by himself at a table in front of me. Just an awesome guy, and both being used to the solo life, it was great to just socialize with him. He couldn’t believe what I was doing, and I just enjoyed listening to his own stories on the road… Like how he had seen a crazy rollerblader on the highway a few days ago!
He sneakily also paid for my dinner before I even had a chance to. This is getting ridiculous!!
The Radiant Keshatay
With my crippled bike, and crunchy-sounding clip on shoes, I walked the long walk of shame back to Keshatay’s house, where she later invited me to come in for a warm shower, drinks, and time to regroup.
I also got to spend time chatting with her, and learning about her heritage as an Ojibwe first nation, and her life where she has seen her fair share of challenges and hardships, but ultimately making her an extremely strong person that just shines with life. Fitting, considering her name means “Sunshine” in Ojibwe.
She’s also a badass logging trucker who is used to driving out hundreds of KMs into remote areas, on tiny dirt roads. Loved her stories!!
She helped me set up my tent in her backyard. What a day. I was just hoping for a better one tomorrow.
- Route: Vermilion Bay, ON —> Dryden, ON
- Distance: 51km
- Elevation gain: 370m