Home > Day to Day > Why I am writing three segments to cover two (bi-polar) days — …” – Nipigon to Neys, and Neys to Obatanga

Why I am writing three segments to cover two (bi-polar) days — …” – Nipigon to Neys, and Neys to Obatanga

Part One: This will be a challenge…and we’ve done it before

This would be our third “century” – a little over 160 km. Everyone prepared for an early departure, stocked up on food and water and underwent their own version of self-psyching in face of the challenge ahead.

Ric, Graham and Jim left at 06:30. Owen and I agreed to leave by 07:30 which we did, to the minute. The air was cool, around 22C, and we made very good progress. By noon we had covered almost 100 km! And what a ride it was! The scenery was among the most spectacular I have seen on this ride so far! In all directions were rugged hills, in stunning reds and greys and greens, topped by forests and exposing naked flanks of jagged rock faces, exposing their ancient layering for everyone to admire. And to our left the gorgeous expanses of Lake Superior bounded by pebbled beaches, simultaneously inviting and yet really cold. And, as Pam had foretold the previous day, our progress involved repeated climbs, many as steep as 8%, lasting two, four, even six kilometres! By noon we had climbed (and descended) over 1,200 meters. (Our total for the day would exceed 1,500 meters.)

A thick bank of fog suddenly blew up from the lake and across our path. We rose above it…and realized that the forecast 40% chance of rain would become certainty in a matter of minutes – by now we were both well attuned to the related drop in temperature and distinct ‘rain-in-the-air’ smell.

Part Two: Words can’t adequately describe the next 20 hours

No sooner had we donned our raingear and the skies opened up.  And stayed fully open for the next three and a half hours, as we fought dropping temperatures (down to 12C), pelting rain, breath-stealing climbs and descents and long stretches of construction, crowned by segments of muddy gravel or, even worse, stripped asphalt. This is a densely pockmarked surface left after a huge machine scrapes the top layer off a road in preparation for a new coat of blacktop. This particular surface created a huge challenge — it bounced us around leading to loss of traction and hence lower speeds. For the first time since Alberta I spent considerable time in my Granny Gear, cursing all the while.

I was cold and drenched. My feet were swimming in my cycling shoes. The hairs on my arms and legs were standing straight. And eventually we reached the entrance to the park! According to Bud’s map we only had a kilometre to go. And the rain had let up! It looked like blue skies were on the way.

One kilometre on the poorly maintained road turned downhill and went to two, then three, then four kilometres and then, just shy of the five kilometre mark…we reached out truck, just behind Ric and Graham and Jim. Wow, what a master of understatement is Bud!

We all scrambled through wet forest brush to our campsites and set up our tents. And then we headed back to the truck, for dinner. At which point the skies opened up again, with renewed vigour. We arrayed our chairs one next to the other along the narrow corridor in the truck and ate our dinner there, watching the deluge. And then watching Landen, Chris and Isabel pull in, soaked to the bone.

There was nothing to do but go to bed. I made a mad dash to my tent and dove in, trying to minimize the wetness inside. I arranged my stuff, crawled into my sleeping bag, and … watched the most incredible and terrifying scene unfold overhead. Out of nowhere came a massive sheet of lightning that blinded the sky…and thundering booms followed less than a second later, combined with massive shock waves and vibrations that went right through the earth and me and the tent! (For those of you who don’t recall your physics, when there is a very short space between lightning and thunder it means that the event took place very near by.) In our case, this explosion (and the many that followed) took place immediately over our tents. And this epic tour de force of nature was accompanied by a torrential downpour that rocked the earth. I was scared, period. Would lightning strike me? Would a tree topple over me? Would the tent hold? What would I do if my little world got flooded? I kept staring at the ceiling for several long minutes. Some  drops made their way past the rain fly and into the tent. But on the whole things seemed to be dry. Then a kind of serenity came over me: I decided to sleep and deal with whatever developed when I awoke, whether that was in the morning or in five minutes.

(The next day we learned that (1) this storm had blown the roof off the Thunder Bay Airport control tower / main terminal and that (2) according to several locals, this was by far the worst storm they had ever experienced in the area! And the storm was reported countrywide.)

In the morning everything was either ‘wet’ or ‘moist’. I had a few puddles in my tent. The floor had gotten soaked from the outside in. My gear would need to be dried out thoroughly. Others had not fared as well – their clothes and sleeping bags were drenched. But at least it was no longer raining. On the other hand we were looking at another 150+ km day!

Once again we left early – 07:30 in the case of the Three Mouseketeers and Owen and I.  The temperature had dipped to 11C! We rode the 4.6 km from the campsite to the road through dense fog. And when we reached the road we realized that the fog extended…in all directions. To cut a long and unpleasant story short, for the next four hours and about 65 km we cycled slowly through clouds of mist with about 20m visibility. We were wet and cold and spoke little, focusing on putting distance and the past day-or –so behind us.

Part Three: Warmth returns, along with a tailwind, fresh asphalt and a lovely burger + fries + root beer at the A&W in White River!

We rode past…who knows what? The only things I saw and identified were the Barrick and Lac Corona operations, followed by the Yellow Brick Road. There was a strange naive native playground / information centre at one junction. And then the temperature started rising and the fog lifted. We rode down a long gradual incline…to a young, cute signal-woman who, very sternly, ordered us to stop. Cars and trucks lined up behind us, 30 or more. Then an OPP cruiser rode down to us along the left lane. A young officer spoke to several of the drivers and then approached Owen and I. “You guys were speeding!” “Yes, that happens to us a lot” I replied. He smiled and headed for the signal-woman. They had an animated exchange, part of which I overheard: “…I work weird shifts…”: he was trying to pick her up! She blushed, and I think they would be getting together – how cute!

Eventually it was our turn to ride across the construction zone, which included a single lane across a bridge that was being rebuilt. And on the other side were tens of cars and a large crew resurfacing one of the two lanes, the one we would now ride on. Again, it felt like being sucked down or as if the whole surface had been covered by two-sided tape. At least this time our bikes and our legs did not get covered in fresh tarred grit! A short while later the tackiness went away and we were left riding across a totally fresh surface! This, and the traffic pattern continued  its ‘on-off’ pattern: several tens of cars and trucks would rush past us and then no cars would go past for 10 minutes or more. And we got a tailwind to boot! Our spirits kept improving, further helped by the knowledge that food, proper hot junk food, was just around the corner!

We each wolfed down a lovely burger + fries + root beer at the A&W in White River. From there to the Obatanga Provincial Park was a quick dash. A one-and-a-half km gravel road took us to our site. A ten minute walk took me to the showers. Then back to the truck to spread out my tent and sleeping gear, hopefully to dry. Then blogging. Dinner. More blogging. Sleep.

“Fueled by Equator Coffee!”

imageAnimal rivalry in the ‘wild kingdom’ of an RV trailer and tent camp…
imageBefore the storm…
imageStunning vistas of Lake Superior — at every turn!
imageClimbing into a rapidly-moving fog bank…let the misery begin!
imageHad we known what the next 20 hours would be like…!

Calm before the —- came down upon us!

Categories: Day to Day
  1. July 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Stunning pix. Love you!

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