Head-down highway days
Published on July 23 2017
Part of a series about Canada 2017
The Trans-Canada highway runs 8030km from Victoria in the west to St. John’s in the east. We’ve flirted with it before on the ride but this is our longest continuous stretch at 430 miles so far with 300 to go.
Kenora to Borup’s Corners was beautiful. There were lakes around every corner, the hills were gentle and rolling. We rode at the pace we expected to hit in the flat Prairies, energised by the new scenery and unhindered by a headwind.
Riding 60+ miles in a day has gone from daunting at the start of the tour to easy now. The gaps between rest stops are increasing too, sometimes up to 35 miles. Our gear is consolidated and refined; roadside repair (currently exclusively Kristian’s domain) is more efficient and effective.
It’s going well. We are two well-oiled machines riding two well-oiled machines.
We spent two nights wild-camping next to lakes, the first loud and next to a highway, the second secluded and offering a beautiful sunset and fresh water to wash in.
We also got caught short by our logic that if a town is on the map it will have a shop, and ran out of food that could be eaten cold (this was before we replaced our stoves). Sharon and Cliff saved us from malnutrition by inviting us in, boiling our twelve eggs, and feeding us toast, coffee and decades of accrued life advice.
“Buy a piece of land when you’re young, a bit outside a city so it’s cheap. Build on it gradually. Train as an electrician or a plumber and you’ll never be out of work. Don’t try to get rich, just live one what you need. Learn to use your hands. Watch the documentary about Victorian England.”
Actual advice from elderly people outside of your family is quite rare but always well intentioned, even if you don’t agree with it all. Listening to Cliff reminded me of Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen.
After a few days the default scenery of trees and shrubs gets a bit monotonous and you beging to feel ungrateful for riding twenty miles without looking up. The lakes and vistas earlier in the ride have spoiled us.
But the scenery has changed enough in the past couple of days to make it fresh again. The highway winds through chasms of rock that were dynamited to make room for the road. You can see the back of the bore holes the dug and filled with dynamite to blow it open.
People we’ve spoken to have promised that the next section becomes especially beautiful.
Lake Superior isn’t far away, although it’s been obscured by trees and roadworks all the way. I’m writing this beside the road while Kristian repairs another issue with his bike, and ahead I can see a slither of the lake which barely hints at its actual size.
We’ve been told about impressive and potentially spooky fog that sits over the lake in the daytime, before moving inland later in the day.
We’ve also been told about how beautiful the islands dotting the lake are, by a guy who was genuinely distraught that he hadn’t brought his spare boat, “otherwise I could’ve given it to you guys and you could’ve explored the river”.
Just more examples of the curiosity and generosity that follow us wherever we go. Tips we’ve collected recently include location of really good pie, and a bunch of free camping spots for cyclists.
The horizon is a wall of trees and rock. The forest alone is impressive, but the wall of red rock behind it which has another layer of trees above the first treeline, and one half way up, is something else.
As I appreciated the majesty, a huge hill appeared around a corner to whisk us up for a closer look. The first proper hill we’ve ridden since B.C.
“I dare you to ask the next person if the Lake is the Atlantic Ocean”, Kristian said half way up, causing me to have a short stop because it’s impossible to pedal up a hill while laughing.
From the viewpoint just up the road though, it really did look like the ocean.