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Thunder Bay to Sault Saint Marie, ON

Lloyd's Bunk Barn and tent
Tree sprayers' accommodations outside of a barn at Lloyd's "Thunder Bay" hostel. (Summer jobs for the especially strong in Canada revolve around the forestry industry, such as tree planting or spraying. These are back breaking positions with pay based on quantity planted or sprayed - potentially high daily earnings.)
8-16-01 Out of the corner of my eye I saw a gray wildness of hair peek into my room. I had been reading a framed poem on the wall written in the first person by a pair of well-traveled hiking boots. "Is this your writing?" I asked the old man connected to the hair, Lloyd Jones, who was the co-owner (with his wife) of the remote but highly recommended hostel. "Why yes" his face beaming at the recognition and the obvious enjoyment his writing had given me. "I have written quite a few poems, and even published a collection of them!" The couple had lived their lives traveling from hostel to hostel around the world, and now were "retiring" at their own hostel, hosting a crowd of people like their younger selves. The half day of rest, along with a bed, pillow and shower gained at hostels were something I looked forward to on my long days of biking. Here I laughed, ate and shared traveling stories with others on the road.

There was one story I had heard many times since leaving Winnipeg. Even passing motorists would stop to see where I was going, and tell me about a Japanese man riding a scooter across Canada. Some told me that he must not have understood the large size of Canada, being from Japan. Others said that he had already traveled across both New Zealand and Australia as well as his home country on the same scooter. Some told stories of how he was traveling with a friend on a mountain bike who was pulling him across the prairies into the headwind. Still others recounted seeing him alone, pushing his scooter up all the hills he encountered. I tried to envision the person behind all of this collective amazement, and wondered what portions were part of the true story. Perhaps the only thing that everyone agreed upon was that he was moving very slowly and I would surely catch up to him "in the next day or two". That was almost two weeks ago, but today's story was perhaps the most intriguing... He had been at this hostel, and had only left the day before! I was getting close to meeting him!

Shattered Mirror8-17-01 I headed out to the mountains of Ontario with a bit of a rocky start. Only two hours into my day, a car came too close and smashed my mirror as I was riding along on the narrow shoulder. I stopped and stood on the side of the road, expecting the car to stop, shaking at how close the accident had come to hitting my handlebar. To my absolute amazement and horror, I watched three wide-eyed faces staring out the back window, as their car sped quickly away from where I stood trembling. Fear quickly turned to anger and I decided it was prudent to stop and eat lunch to burn off some steam and stop shaking before forcing myself back onto the busy road. My faith in humanity was regained by a "Canadian Tire" store owner (the most common hardware stores in Canada) who refilled my stove's fuel container from his own personal stock, and had a little mirror for sale to replace my now shattered view of the vehicular world.

Tree desktop picture I marked the size and general features of each hill climbed in my journal, numbering them as I went. From hill 2's "Not much to mention" to hill 13's "Killer never-ending hill, every perceived top is just a turn to more steepness" my book ticked off the hills of the area like items on a to-do list. That first night finished at a rest stop on the very top of the fourth climb. The view from the top was beautiful, a thousand foot drop to the lake and forests far below.

Construction Worker
Canada's large size combined with a relatively small population requires roads to be made as cheaply as possible. However, this type of construction requires more frequent resurfacing. This provides jobs in many areas where work is scarce and large percentages of the population are unemployed. Perhaps the largest difference between US and Canadian road crews is the pride in the smiling faces of the gratefully employed.

8-18-01 I tended not to stop in "First Nation" reserves, as my introduction to these reserves had not been favorable, and I was a little concerned by the poverty and different law enforcement procedures on reservations. But the Plays Platt reserve was the only spot to refill my water bottles and eat lunch that I saw on the map, and the people outside the store looked interesting, so I stopped. There are 60 people living on the reserve, mostly retired folks and their grandchildren, as many of the adults had moved to the cities to earn salaries larger than the government stipend given to all those of First Nation heritage. The clerk, George, of the gas station/convenience store, was sitting outside on the picnic tables with three of his fishing buddies, filling out the government forms for their catch that morning. Everyone on the reserve is allowed to catch as many fish and animals as they please, but they have to report what they take, and are only allowed to sell a set amount of the meat per month. George's comment on this regulation was "Otherwise we'd all be rich!" sweeping his arm towards the mountains and the ocean to indicate the endless bounty of the wilderness he had been describing earlier. The conversation was very interesting for me, as it explained the severe lack of wildlife I had seen near any reserves across Canada. When asked whether there were bears in the area, I was told "Oh, yeah, there was one a few years ago, but uncle shot it." Near the end of our conversation, I decided to buy some ice cream at the store. "Sorry, the credit machine isn't working." George said, with no thought to moving from the table and his paperwork. "Oh, that's OK, you take cash right?" I replied and George now seemed interested at the prospect
Petroglyph of Lake Superior's weather monster
Petroglyph on the shores of Lake Superior of the mythical creature that lived in the lake and determined the size of the waves and safety of those on and near the water.
of a customer. For a brief moment there was an entire conversation in a non-verbal language that I didn't understand. Eyes flashed back and forth between the group with small movements and it looked as if any of them might get up from the table at any moment. I hoped they all worked for the store and were trying to decide who would go inside to process the sale. But there was something threatening in the eye movements. I smiled and said quietly, "If it's a problem don't worry about it." George's reply explained everything, "Don't worry I won't let these guys take anything." He shot a firm look to one of his friends, and they all deflated back to their original postures. Sensing the extent of my former silent feeling of educational superiority due to an understanding of the logic behind the environmental government rules, I was overwhelmed with the realization of how greatly I had been the naive and defenseless member of the group.

The perfect job
The perfect summer job... The forest ranger in charge of answering the questions of those visiting the petroglyphs.
That night's camping spot differed from most by the presence of an overhead street lamp. I hadn't thought much about it while making my bed going to sleep, but part way through the night I was awakened by the noise of an animal trying to open my glass food jars. I looked out into the forest and could actually see what was going on! A fox had found my jars and was carrying them around by their zip-lock baggy protectors (I later removed these before nightfall) and tearing through the plastic only to be disappointed by the glass and then starting in on the next one. I watched the fox with interest, as it was the closest I had come to one of these animals. It was beautifully colored with an orange-red back and white belly, with black distinctions, highlighting the vivid colors. I sat up and tried to see if the hanging food bag had suffered from any attention. There were squirrels leaping through the forest with jumps that didn't seem physically possible. Where these flying squirrels? I couldn't think of any other explanation for their jumping ability, but thankfully, they wouldn't land on the mysterious plastic bag. The fox gave up on the bags, having torn all of them apart, and headed over to my tent to see what had made noises earlier but did not approach or challenge it for the potential food. I held my breath and beheld the beauty in the approaching face. Nose to nose, I looked into the eyes of this wild animal, but it didn't seem to be looking into mine. Losing interest, it left and disappeared into the forest. I sat, wide awake watching the squirrels "fly" through the trees, and wondered about the encounter with the fox. Then I realized - the light was reflecting brightly off the outside of the screen door - the fox couldn't see me - though I could see it as if the screen hadn't been there.

Nao Portrait8-20-01 As I sped down each hill I thought about how the scooter must be going faster than I. Each flat section I was convinced a scooter would be faster as I had to pump my pedals where even a small motor could speed along, but the uphills, where the scooter would have to be pushed I would definitely be gaining on him. One person who had spoken to him said that he was traveling about 70km a day, though days of over a 100 were not uncommon. I was averaging about 100km per day, and therefore should be gaining 30km or less a day. After a few weeks of hearing I would catch up with him in a day, my anticipation was mounting! Finally in White River I saw not a motor scooter as I had pictured, but a push scooter(!!) next to a picnic table where three people (the "scooter guy" as he was known by passersby, and a touring cyclist couple) were cooking dinner. I was stunned and shook hands with the shy celebrity. His name is Naoya Nishinaga and he liked to cross continents on his push scooter. He knew exactly how large Canada was, and planned to travel from Vancouver to Toronto (not further, so as to avoid the chance of winter catching him). He had already scootered New Zealand, and one coast of Australia. Nao on the moveHe traveled alone on all of these trips, singing along with his tape player which was strapped to the handlebars playing Japanese popular music, while covering between 70 and 100km per day with a maximum of 120km on a tail wind day in the prairies. I was amazed, and learned from him a new level of patience. If he walked up every hill and pushed on the flats and still was covering close to 100 km per day, then I shouldn't become impatient at my slow speed while pedaling up these same hills! We passed each other many times over the next three days from White River through Superior Provincial Park to "The Sue", each pausing for food and side-trip breaks at different times during the day. Prev Next