Well I made it to Thunder Bay. When I last checked in I was in Sault Set Marie. Here we go.
Sunday in the Sault I got to meet some of the blossoming ultimate community at a pick up game and then when out for ice cream with my two hosts Evan and Angele. They continued with their incredible hospitality sitting me down to a delicious lasagne dinner and then we watched a movie that was basically 85% about bear attacks, which was a terrible idea considering where I was headed.
I pulled away the following morning going into probably the most remote section of my trip cutting up the shore of Lake Superior through a provincial park that had no stores, restaurants, or cell phone reception. I did feel fairly Lightfoot when I set up my tent not too far from the site of a famous ship wreck on Lake Superior, only slightly concerned about bears. I ended up seeing one the following morning about 7 Km from where I broke camp. We were both pretty disinterested in one another as the rain beat down heavily and the visibility decreased to less than a few metres for the majority of my ride into Wawa. Even though I arrived around noon, my goose was cooked and I was considering paying for accommodation.
Luckily Dave, my Montreal to Ottawa bike companion, had a few friends from his forest fire fighting days and put me in touch with Lee. Lee and I met at a fitting location, the Beer Store, and I followed him back to his digs. Lee also happens to be the childhood friend of my backyard BBQ buddy from Guelph, Paul, man it seems like a small World. Lee knew just what a wet and tired rider needed and we sat down on his couch: crushed a case of beer, ordered an extra large pizza, listened to some sweet tunes, and talked about life. His roommate Zach showed up we put on a movie and all hit the sack feeling pretty good.
Even though I was tempted to stay on in Wawa because there is pick up ultimate on Thursday nights; I still left the next morning and ran into two other cyclists right away. One was heading East and the other West. We chatted for a bit and then my Westerly companion and I joined forces and biked out of the Wawa fog into a nice day of riding. It turns out my new found friend was only going 50 Km that day and then was going to set up camp and go for a run. He was a retiree biking across Canada to train for his 8th Iron Man competition in Whistler. It was nice to have the company and not long before splitting up we encountered a group of 3 girls who were biking out of Victoria headed our way.
Two of my classmates from engineering, Trevor and Jeff, had embarked on similar bicycle journey to my own right after we graduated from University. I looked to them for motivation and advice particularly in the barren landscape of Northern Ontario. Jeff had recommended a cheap motel right beside White Lake provincial park and I paid for accommodation for the first time ever in this location. At $28 a night it was tough to turn down.
Coming away from White Lake I made for the beautiful town of Terrace Bay, Ontario and was now starting to see other cyclists more regularly. One, in fact, was a South Korean who I have now passed about 5 different times. His English is very limited and it looks like he is on a Canadian Tire bike but he seems to be having a ton of fun on his journey from Toronto to Vancouver. I find it an unfortunate that he will travel all that way and not get to play a single game of ultimate. Maybe I will get him out to one the next time I pass him.
My brief tenure of ultimate in Fredericton has yielded a lot of connections throughout the Maritimes and now Thunder Bay can be added to the list. Kat, a friend of mine from Freddy, put me in touch with Kristin and Dan two ultimate players who live in Thunder Bay. They offered their couch, food, and laundry to me and have been great hosts through and through.
Word of my arrival spread a little bit in the ultimate community of Thunder Bay and another player, Rita, invited me out to some Saturday happenings in town. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I trucked down to the bar and was sipping on some local Sleeping Giant ale when Rita came up and introduced herself. Turns out the band from Sault Ste Marie was great and the crowd even better and the night became a real dance party.
Waking up Sunday morning I decided to take a personal trip out to the Terry Fox Memorial located on the highway outside of Thunder Bay. I find it interesting that the particular stretch of highway it is on is only accessible by car, so a tribute to a Canadian legend championed for running across Canada can only be seen by those in motorized transport. Criticizing aside, the monument was very moving and having now done by bike some of what Terry did on one and a half legs I have even more admiration and respect for the man. Truly an amazing individual.
Seeing the memorial for Terry and now beginning to meet many other travellers who are moving across this country on quests of their own gives me motivation for reflection. It makes me think of two personal anecdotes that have made think about what is truly valuable to humans. The first story involves a man I met on this trip who, at 76 years old, was planning to bike across the country. I met him near Peterborough but haven’t shared his story until now. He was in the middle of training for his bike ride, that has probably just begun, goinf from Vancouver to Newfoundland. As we sat and discussed some of the different aspects to cycling he looked at me and said he was jealous of one thing I had that he figured he no longer did. This leads into my next story when, several years ago, I was sitting in Nepal sipping whiskey with another young traveller like myself talking to someone who I admire greatly for his commitment to helping others, Peter. Peter said to the two of us that we possessed the greatest respurces any person can hope to have and that is our youth.
Peter’s words have echoed in my head several times on my various travels and in particular this current one. Many people hear what I am doing and say they wish they were younger so they could be doing something similar. Well, I always appreciate the compliments but in the end every single one of them has this very special resource. After all we are all younger today than we will be tomorrow.