Winnipeg to Ottawa, Day 2 East

Up, somewhat more refreshed, at 7:00. The little bicycle pump allows me to touch up the tire pressure easily, in front of the hotel — I should have had this thing long ago. I’m a little worried, as I reattach the Givi bags, about the loose seal of the top one with the broken catch. I dig around and get a bungee cord out, then pack it where it is handy, in case this becomes worse. Gas up in town, then head out about 7:30, Km 16127 (850 for the return trip).

Just outside the city, two deer are crossing the highway a short distance in front of me. I slow & put on my blinkers. They seem stumped by a guard rail, then suddenly hop over effortlessly and trot away into the woods. It’s a bit foggy. I’m wearing my vest but it’s not cold, just humid, so the heat is not switched on. The next 100 Km or so are uneventful — the road near Thunder Bay is good, quite straight, and quiet, and the time passes pretty quickly to Nippigon. I pull in to a truck stop there at Km 16244 (127 today). The breakfast special is great, as it always is in these places, and inexpensive.

Resolved to get pictures this time, I take my camera out & hang it, with shortened strap, around my neck. I want to find some way to capture the feeling of the scenery from the bike, as opposed to glamour shots including the bike.

This is still my favourite stretch of road. I think eastbound is a bit better, as there are more places where hill & curve placement leave you looking down a length of highway, over a cliff, to water or woods far below; or to a towering cliff in the distance, with the road just visible winding up & around it. I remember many years ago when the trees were still cut back and there were no guard rails, there were many spots that created the illusion you were going to drive over a cliff into the water. Not any more, but it’s still stunning scenery.

Near Rossport I stop for a bum-rest at a lakeshore stop, Km 16322 (195). There is a refreshing cool breeze coming off lake and a spectacular view, making me want to stay a long time. Reluctantly, I get back on the bike and move on.

At my next rest stop, 100 Km farther on, I follow picnic signs up a twisty lane to a lookout on a high bluff above the highway. The spot overlooks the lake in one direction and a railway line snaking around the hills in another, and is one of my favourite lookouts. Several RVs are picnicking here, and we exchange a few words. Then I wander over the guard rail & onto the hillside; pick a big handful of blueberries & a few lingering raspberries and munch them with water from pack. The RV owners mustn’t have realised where blueberries come from — they’re fascinated by the idea all this bounty was only metres from them. Refreshed again, I twist back down to the highway and move on.

Approaching Terrace Bay, I notice a tourist attraction sign I’ve never seen before, for “Aguasabon Gorge”. That sounds like it might be interesting, and I need a stretch. It turns out to be well worth it. Access is via a nice 1/2 Km twisty paved road to a big gravel lot. Then, a stroll down a wooden catwalk leads to a high lookout over a gorge carved by a waterfall and river. Very pretty indeed, and the sound and mist of the rushing water is refreshing.

Gas up while in Terrace bay. @ 16357. Six people on three GoldWings are at the gas station. They’re from Fargo ND, making an annual long trip — have circumnavigated the lake & are heading west. I recommend the gorge stop, and suggest highway 11 as an alternate to their plan to cross over at Duluth. (Though Duluth has the advantage of letting you visit Aerostich — another option they weren’t aware of.)

One of the Wings is Trike converted. I have a bunch of technical questions & curiosity about how it handles. This and general enjoyment of the company of fellow riders takes up the 15 minute rest break, then we all suit up and head separate ways.

As I continue East and approach White River there are big gray roiling clouds ahead and to the North. I assume I’m going to catch up with some heavy rain, or it’s that heavy fog again. At White River it’s 2:30 PM and Km 16529 (412 today). After filling the gas and lubricating the chain at the Esso/A&W, I enjoy a root beer while the chain wax sets. Nothing tastes better than cold A&W root beer served out of a proper heavy glass mug, frosty cold. I’ve never been able to reproduce this taste at home. Getting ready to move on, I put my vest on, thinking that the rain I’m expecting may make it cold too, and head out. The rain never happens — just heavy cloud.

A few minutes from Wawa, a dead moose on the shoulder reminds me of the hazards of night and early morning driving around here. Mental note: keep the speed down and be very alert in the morning.

By the time I see the goose at Wawa it’s 4:00. I’m tired and sore and my speed has been dropping. Trouble maintaining a consistent speed is one of my personal early-warning signs that I’m getting fatigued. I don’t feel like Wawa is very far from Thunder Bay, but I’m determined not to do another excessive day. It’s several hours past Wawa to the next motels, so I stop at 4:00 for the night.

The tourist town of Wawa has many hotels. I find a simple and cheap one, the Algoma Motel. It has small clean rooms and, best of all, a little porch so you can park your bike right outside your room then sit on the porch, next to the bike, and watch the evening come on. This has to be one of the great experiences of travelling.

I unclip the saddlebags, bring them inside, and use my collapsable pail to wash the bike. It’s quite grimy from two days on the highway. Thankfully, the Givi topcase with the damaged catch has not got any worse, and is still sealed and holding well. Again, I’m the first tenant into the motel, but within 90 minutes it’s full up.

The motel has no restaurant but is on the main street, so I go for a walk. On the desk clerk’s recommendation, I go to a larger hotel across the street that advertises “Home cooked meals”. The food is OK, but it turns out to be a little too “homey” for me. The owner’s kids are running between the tables, friends of family are wandering through the dining area, etc. I feel like I am eating in a stranger’s living room, disturbing their normal family routine.

Large numbers of young people hanging around outside the restaurant are eventually picked up by two big vans labeled as some kind of forestry intern program. I wonder what they’re doing for their summer. Counting trees, planting them, ?

Back to my hotel and the patio bench beside my bike. I sit and watch the evening come on, as does everyone else in the hotel. Main street Wawa is fairly busy. Eventually I realize it’s the same dozen or so vehicles going by again and again. Cruising main street, just like in the old movies. It’s mainly pickup trucks, but there’s also a brightly painted CBR600, and bright graphics on the rider’s helmet. It goes by again and again, never out of 1st or 2nd gear. I think it odd he wouldn’t take it out on the highway for an hour or two rather than just making loops on main street. I try waving from my bench but fail to catch his eye.

As I sit there it strikes me there is an odd pattern on my rear tire. I realize it’s wear — a lot of tread is gone down the centre (not much on the sides I’m sad to say). My extended high-speed runs on fairly straight and very hot pavement have taken their toll. A quick inspection convinces me I’m ok to get home, but I’ll need new ones soon.

I plan to leave early in the morning, but haven’t forgotten that dead moose. This time I manage to stay awake somewhat after dark, listening to the noises from the street and the radio.

On to Return Trip, Day 3


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