July 11, 2008

7/11/08 Nipigon, ON

108.1km/3520km

Well, we survived the gauntlet that is Hwy-11/17 from Thunder Bay to Nipigon. This route can be dangerous enough that some guidebooks even suggest skipping it and taking a bus. Mike and I made it through with little problem but I can see why others would avoid it.

It was so nice to sleep in a bed indoors for a change. No mosquitoes to deal with, more space to pack, and even a desk in which to surf the net. We even slept later than we had planned (too much surfing the night before) but looking out the window didn't speed us up any either. The skies looked like they were full of rain just waiting for us to step outside.

Our dorm room

The guys at Rollin' Thunder gave us a great route out of town that would skip a huge chunk of highway. We met Marian and Christine on a training ride on Strathcona Ave. We told them about our trip and they mentioned that they were going to Iowa next week. I just knew it was to ride in RAGBRAI. I told Marian I was from Kansas City and she said my accent did seem a bit different. Her's was different too as she is from Ireland. They told us this cold wet weather is unheard of for this time of year, and they thought we were going to get wet soon.

And they were right. Almost as soon as we reached the junction of Hwy-11/17, a freezing drizzle started. But to make the day even better, we battled headwinds too. Later Mike and I decided that this section of highway is the worst road we've been on all across Canada. The road looks like they just threw a bunch of broken asphalt down on the ground and painted lines on it. At one point, riding on the gravel was smoother than riding on the pavement. Later the atrocious road conditions changed as they was a lot of new road paving and construction. Unfortunately for us, a huge section was still rock and packed earth. Locals say the government works on the roads every summer but it never seems to get done.

We knew it was going to have a lot of heavy traffic and that was true. We're getting to be pretty good at riding in the gravel shoulder and we did a lot of that today. Plus we saw the police patrolling the highway a lot. I figure we saw them over twenty times, which is more times than we've seen the whole month across Canada. The shoulder varied from non-existent to a full car-width across, but mostly it was about 18" across. Enough to ride on with cars passing but not wide enough when the trucks came by.

The drizzle eventually stopped but the sun never came out once. We got a bite to eat in Dorian but got back on the road quick to beat the coming rain. We made it to the Stillwater Campground just outside of Nipigon. They have a amethyst shop selling jewelery and such. Dana, one of the high school girls working there this summer, made a lot of the earrings.

Amethyst Shop

By the time we got set up and showered, the rain started to really come down. And we have a new menace, the dreaded black flies. They could teach the mosquitoes a thing or two, as they swarmed your face and especially the eyes. No wonder I have heard of stories of animals burying their heads in the snow to escape the black flies only to die of suffocation.

So, we've mainly avoided the little buggers by hiding in the internet shack or the laundry room. Tomorrow we hopefully leave most of the truck traffic behind as we follow the coastline of Lake Superior.

Later Mike and I met Mario and Christin from Germany. They had been working as civil engineers in Vancouver for the last year and quit to see a bit of Canada before going back to Germany. They hope to stay in Toronto this fall and work a bit. It was fun to compare our experiences since they are traveling essentially the same route but by car. I wished them fun travels ahead.