In Ottawa

How am I ever going to go back to sleeping in a tent? I am way too spoiled right now. That was a wonderfully refreshing and much needed visit with my mother who drove to meet me in Ottawa. If course, she offered to take me back to Toronto, which, of course, I declined.
Again, here’s a breakdown of events:
We slept in and had a lovely brunch with Matt and Fuqu (friends) and some of their friends. They were in Ottawa to have some wedding photos done. Because they knew I was going to be in the city, and because they believe me to be a rain goddess, they warned the photographer that it would be cloudy. And guess what – it rained both days I was there. Take that weather network.
We ate brunch at the Murray Street Cafe, which was super delicious. They cook everything in pork fat. I like them.
Mom and I walked around the market and bought some local berries. I ate all of them.
We went to dinner at Play, a wonderful restaurant in the market. We ate super fancy food and drank super fancy wine pairings and had a super fancy but very nice server. Such a good meal.
I bought Lovely Bones for $2. It started raining so we got coffee.
I started watching Orange is the New Black and am now addicted. If anyone gives any plot points away I will disown them as a friend. Promise.
For dinner we bought a bunch of meats and cheeses and fruit and wine from around the market and ate in the room while it poured rain outside.
Titanic was on tv. I would never sit down and watch the movie on DVD or Netflix, but it was the only thing on! It was good but I didn’t get to watch the end. If anyone gives any plot points away I will disown them as a friend. Promise.
I slept wonderfully in a bed. I like beds.
We watched Mosaika, the light show at night shown on the parliament buildings. It was really good! Better than I had expected. It was cool because it told the history of Canada and then had people talking about what it meant to be Canadian and it was really fitting for my mid-trip break. I felt super Canadian and it reinforced my desire and need to finish the trip. I was never doubting that I would finish it, but the light show and story definitely motivates me more. I was a bit antsy to be on the road afterward.
My foot hurts. I think I tied my shoe too tight one day last week and now the top is sore. I was icing it at Kyle’s and in the hotel, but because I was walking (even though I was in sandals), it is swollen and sore. Not cool, foot. Not cool.
There was a fire drill in the hotel. At least it wasn’t in the middle of the night.
I’m for sure a rain goddess.

To Ottawa

Sadly, the time has come to leave Pembroke. It’s been a blast, but I must move on. Today, on a mere 4 hours of sleep, I will attempt to ride the 150km from Pembroke to Ottawa.
Oh, and there’s a headwind. Awesome.
I am going to miss this bed. Even though I’m headed to Ottawa to meet my mom and stay in a hotel for 3 nights, I really liked this bed. But after a giant breakfast and a farewell hug from Kyle, I am off.
I manage to find my way back to highway 17 without major incident, thank goodness. This highway is far from my favourite – the big rigs, sharp turns and lack of a shoulder make it unkind to cyclists. But since it’s Saturday, there are few trucks. Joy.
The headwind makes my day super slow and very long. While I usually try to maintain an average speed of at least 20kph on terrain like this, the wind slows me down to about 17.5, which makes my day a whole lot longer. All in all, I am on the road for about 10.5 hours, including a couple of short breaks.
Since the 17 turns into the 417 in Arnprior, I am forced off and must take side roads, which is a pleasant change from the main highway. Even so, it’s a really long day.
While my legs, arms, and back were happy for the days off, my butt is getting its revenge. The saddle is not my friend. I will have to recondition myself after such a long break. Ugh.
I finally pull into Ottawa at about 7:15 and find my mother waiting outside the hotel for me. After a quick shower we eat a hearty Italian meal and it’s bedtime for me. I’m the life of the party.

In Pembroke

That was the best 4 day off I could have asked for. My body desperately needed it, and I think my mind probably did too. It was fantastic to see Kyle and have conversations with people that I actually know. I’m tired of these 5 minute conversations whose topic tends to be my bicycle trip.
I spent 5 nights and 4 days in this wonderful place called Pembroke. Mostly wonderful because of the presence of friends. Instead of breaking the awesomeness down by days, here’s a breakdown by events:
I got to see my friend Jess, which was awesome. We walked around downtown Pembroke and saw the waterfront and caught up over coffee. Good all around.
I understand the workings of Les Mis. Kyle was playing Marius in Deep River’s production of Les Mis. Having never seen the play before, I was frantically reading the Wikipedia synopsis up until the curtain of the dress rehearsal on Tuesday night. I gave up reading when I realized there was a second half. The info I did absorb proved helpful while watching the 4 hour dress rehearsal. Later in the week I watched the movie (don’t ask why, I’m not sure), and then read lines with Kyle. Then I saw the opening night show on Friday. It was quite well done and Kyle was amazing – every time I see him in a show he is better and better. I think I’ve reached my lifetime quota of Les Mis related activities.
I got to see Kyle’s family and my friend Julie. We cooked a fantastic meal and entertained and all was good. I like those people.
I got to sleep in a bed!
I got to do laundry. I smell ok again. Not great, but ok.
I went to volunteer in Kyle’s kindergarten classroom. That is one more job I can cross off the list as it’s certainly not for me.
There was a last day of summer school staff party, which was a blast. Teachers are hilarious.
On the way back from the opening night cast party the Deep River police department was conducting a Ride program. With both of their cop cars. It would have been fine to speed on the way home that night as we knew where the police were.
There was a lot of relaxing and enjoying the sun, and I was happy about that.

To Pembroke

I get to sleep in a real bed tonight! This is very exciting news. Just thought I would share.
Because of my push yesterday, I only have to do about 80km to my friend Kyle’s house in Pembroke today. Which is good, because I still have a headwind. This whole prevalent wind thing is ridiculous – I’ve had headwind for half of my ride days. Not fair.
I had told Kyle I would be at his house at about 4:30, so I had plenty of time to ride. Even though I had eaten breakfast not 3 hours before, I stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. Because I was hungry, again. I’m looking forward to eventually not having to eat 6 meals per day, plus numerous snacks. It will be relaxing.
Knowing that I didn’t have to ride too fast was quite nice. I was able to stop when I wanted and relax a bit. It was nice because highway 17 is not my favourite highway. It’s not so bad on the weekend when most of the trucks are off the road, but during weekdays it can be brutal. The road itself is also not in great shape, so there are tons of potholes and other similar obstacles. No fun.
I arrived in Pembroke and made my way to Kyle’s house. His directions were awesome and I didn’t get lost even once (which is pretty impressive for me). When I arrived I was shown to my room, where there was a care package and a dress waiting for me. That’s right, a care package and a dress. Because I will be seeing Kyle’s play on Friday and he knew I am travelling super light and therefore don’t have any nice clothes, he got me a dress. Best host ever? Yes. Hands down.
After a much needed drink, a luxurious shower and a spectacular dinner, I was off to bed. A queen sized bed. I plan on taking up as much room as humanly possible on that bed. Have I mentioned I’m looking forward to sleeping in a bed?

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To Stonecliffe

That was a day. It was one of those days when I could convince myself to get on the bike, but that was about it. “What? I have to ride again? But I just did that yesterday!” Basically the only thing that kept me going was that in Pembroke I would get to stay with a friend and I wanted to get there soon (tomorrow). I knew that every kilometre I did today would mean one less kilometre to do tomorrow, and getting to Pembroke that much sooner.
After convincing myself that I would eventually have to get out of my sleeping bag, I packed everything up and dragged my butt onto my seat. I had to cycle 12km from the campsite through North Bay just to get onto the highway. Not the best choice in campsites, but there you go. After the first big hill into a headwind, I realized this was going to be a long day. My goal of about 135km was not looking great.
Yesterday there were towns every 20 or so kilometres so there was always a place to stop to refill water or use the bathroom. Today though, I was cycling just north of Algonquin park, so it was a bit more desolate. This meant that whenever I did find civilization, it was easier to find excuses to pull over. I stopped at a little motel and restaurant in middle-of-nowhere-ville and had breakfast. Then I had tea. Then I had coffee. I was just not ready to be on the bike this morning.
When I finally got going again I was moving quite slowly and decided to abandon my odometer and speedometer. They were just making me sadder.
By my next stop it was 3:00 and I was only about 63km into the 135km ride. I decided that if I wanted to really make it to the campsite tonight I would just have to go for it. I got on my bike and pedalled. I got a second wind and things were looking up. Up and down I went, along the edge of the Ottawa river. At the top of a giant hill, I knew by the elevation map in my guidebook that I was close. It was an awesome and rewarding ride down the hill to the campsite. I got there just before 8, so I actually made pretty good time this afternoon.
I went to the registration office and realized I was really, really hungry. Too hungry too have civilized conversation. I paid, went to my site and sat on the ground to eat. I had several meals and snacks throughout the day, but my crazy metabolism had used up all of my energy, and I was wiped. I cooked some dinner and ate it by the river, then had an amazing shower. I love nice showers, it makes the end of the day that much better. I’m glad I rode so far today because I know there will be more headwind tomorrow, so it will be good to only have to do 80km to Pembroke.

Photo: view of the Ottawa River. I know what you’re thinking – haven’t we see enough photos of sunsets? Probably, but here’s another!

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To North Bay

Another day in the life…

6:30 am: alarm clock goes off. Hit soon button only once. Wake up.
Eat breakfast, consisting of 1 avocado with 2 tortilla wraps, salt and pepper.
Notice small hole in mesh of tent. Google tent warranty. Can’t find warranty online so quickly give up looking. Decide it’s a problem for later.
Pack up gear and load bike.
Cycle out of camp ground and up giant hill toward highway. Get into lowest gear. Dislike hill.
Cycle east on highway 17.
Caterpillar crosses road.
Man on motorcycle passes and asks where I am going.
Pass through town of Hagar. Look for cartoon Viking, unsuccessfully.
Practice French frog voice. Realize I will have to reveal this in blog post. Resolve not to practice other voices today.
“Eye of the Tiger” song stuck in head.
Climb various hills.
Same man on motorcycle passes again and asks more questions. Hope he is not following me.
Stop for a snack, consisting of one fruit and grain bar and one granola bar.
Apply sunscreen.
Stop for another snack, consisting of fruit and nut mix, and sour keys.
Continue cycling. Road flattens out.
Stop at rest stop for lunch, consisting of 2 tortilla wraps each with peanut butter and one banana. Dessert is one chocolate granola bar and one bear claw.
Meet cyclist whose name I forget. Guy is travelling from Quebec City to Winnipeg with a huge trailer and flip flops. Wonder how this guy will fare on the hills past Sault Sainte Marie.
Continue cycling.
Get “Emerald Isle” song by Whitehorse stuck in head.
Get very uncomfortable and unhappy. Take Advil for cramps. Become happier and more comfortable.
Stop at restaurant for cup of tea. Elated to find milk instead of cream on the table. Procure 2 packets of jam for later. Check email on free wifi.
Continue cycling. See guy in the distance riding his touring bicycle on the wrong side of the road. Catch up to him and politely inform him it’s illegal. Cyclist thinks it’s safer. Abandon hope for cyclist. Hope Darwin was right.
Arrive in North Bay.
Go grocery shopping. Chat with guy I want to call John who asks interesting questions about my trip.
Go to LCBO. LCBO is closing. Curse guy I want to call John for speaking so long. Get let into LCBO by employee with promise I will make a purchase quickly. Buy beer.
Cycle toward campsite. Take extremely long and hilly detour around construction. Finally find campsite and register.
Change campsite for one with a picnic table.
Phone a friend.
Set up tent.
Begin cooking dinner. Have pre dinner snack consisting of 2 containers of blueberries, container of Greek yogurt, and package of donut holes. Eat dinner, consisting of rice and can of chilli.
Drink a beer.
Wash dishes.
Have much needed hot shower.
Debate writing blog post now or tomorrow, and decide on now.
Hopefully sleep.

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To Sudbury

That was a ridiculous night. I’ve camped in thunderstorms numerous times this trip, but that was by far the worst. The rain was pelting my tent and the thunder and lightning sometimes sounded like they were right over my head. I could hear the storm moving across the sky and each time it sounded like it was moving away, another storm would approach.
I managed to get to sleep but woke up in the middle of the night. I listened to the storm for a while and noticed that there was a new sound accompanying the rain. The new sound was the sound of rain drops hitting a puddle. Uh oh. I tried to think of the area I was camped in – how far away was the lake? Was my tent set up in a depression in the ground? Was there a drier place I could move to? I grabbed my headlamp and had a look outside. Without opening the fly, if I tilt my head at the right angle I can just see the ground outside 3 sides of my tent. It wasn’t looking good. The rain was coming down so hard and so fast that the ground was simply not able to absorb it quickly enough, so I was essentially camped in a shallow puddle. This was not an ideal situation.
I had a look around the inside of my tent and found no water. There was a bit of dampness under my Thermarest but that was only because all of my weight was on it. It could have been worse. My tent has about 6 inches of solid, mostly waterproof material up each side before the mesh starts, so I figured it could withstand another few hours of rain before I had to bug out. Right? That’s assuming that I’m not camped in a depression and that the lake level doesn’t rise and that the rain keeps a steady pace and does not increase. It was a lot of ifs.
The sound of the rain lessened slightly so I grabbed my rain jacket and headlamp and went to inspect the situation outside. Fortunately, it looked better. The ground had had a chance to catch up to the heavy rainfall and had absorbed much more water, so I was no longer in a puddle.
Still, I could not get back to sleep so I had a snack (because I’m always hungry) and read a book. After a couple of hours I went back to sleep, only to wake up to the sound of my alarm and the sound of rain hitting my tent, still. While there was no longer thunder and lightning, there was definitely still rain.
I slept for a while longer because I was exhausted, and only had to ride about 60km to Sudbury today. In the end, my tent had faired quite well. Some of the rain had splashed on the ground and ricocheted into my tent, and under my Thermarest was a bit damp, but I was quite happy. Once again I was so glad to have a good quality tent.
Once everything was packed up I set out on highway 17 toward Sudbury. The sky was not looking good, but it was not raining anymore. Thank goodness.
It was a quick ride today, because I did the extra bit to Nairn Centre yesterday, so I arrived in Sudbury quite early. I went to a Tim Horton’s to come up with a plan of attack. I wasn’t keen on the idea of camping in a thunderstorm again, so I wanted to have a motel as a backup plan (there are no hostels in Sudbury). Unfortunately, the motels listed online were quite expensive, as the cheap motels can’t afford websites. I finally just made a decision and went to the campground. As I arrived, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Yay! I unpacked and dried off my tent and some other things (like my towel which had not had a chance to dry yesterday). The sun is still shining now so I feel like I made a good decision.

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