Biking Across Canada Day 34—Gammondale to Nipigon: Reunion Tour

Bridge selfie

Today I was reunited with the Great Lakes, and started seeing bicycle tourists again for the first time in weeks.

Due to a timezone-change misunderstanding, I managed to get up well before sunset, so I got on the road at a reasonable time. Sue left out some delicious homemade Saskatoon Berry pie in case I wanted more for breakfast, but in my poor judgment I opted for toast instead.

Sunrising over the sleeping giants

I took a detour through downtown Thunder Bay, and got to experience some of the city's strange attitude towards cycling infrastructure. My first encounter was taking highway 61 towards Thunder Bay which had signs saying bicycles are prohibited to take the James Street swing bridge. Which burned down in 2013. Fortunately I'd listened to Canadaland's Thunder Bay podcast before coming here and knew not to take that route.

City hall. I don’t think that bus is coming.

There were some single-block-long bike lanes, and a long section at sidewalk level, which I dislike because it turns every driveway into a potential conflict, and often causes cyclists to ride uncomfortably close to pedestrians. I rode on the street next to it instead. I also spotted multiple signs allowing parking in bike lanes from November to April, because we all know people on bikes sprout wings for the winter months and start flying instead of riding, or just stop needing to go anywhere.

Which side would you ride on?
At leas you can ride your bike at night in the winter.

The worst experience was trying to visit the (spectacular) Terry Fox memorial which is located on a highway that's forbidden to people on foot or bike. I ignored that prohibition, but it's galling that if Terry Fox were doing his run today, he wouldn't be allowed to visit his own memorial.

Why would you want to make it hard to visit this?

At the memorial I had a nice long chat with Mark, who lost his dad to cancer two years ago. It was a good reminder that there are more important things to be indignant about than indifferent and dangerous cycling infrastructure.

After a long rainy ride out of Thunder Bay I started to see bicycle tourists going the opposite way. I hadn't seen many since Alberta. Then about 30 kilometres west of Nipigon I stopped at a convenience store with a big sign saying "Cyclist Haven" and met Taylor, a nurse from Saskatoon. We started riding together towards Nipigon, chatting wherever the traffic and shoulders allowed. He'd never done a bicycle tour before, and decided about a month before he left that he wanted to bike to Halifax. He bought a bike and gear and hit the road, uncertain of how long it will take him. It's quite a contrast between my carefully-planned tour, and I'm envious of him in some ways.

The late sun hitting the red granite was striking.

We stopped for dinner in Nipigon at a very strange Esso-run restaurant. While we were parking our bikes another cyclist came by to say hi, and we both did a double-take. It was Richard, the cyclist from Niagara Falls that I shared a campsite with in Illecillewaet, on day eight! His riding partner, Aaron, went home in Regina, so he's travelling solo now. We caught up for a few minutes before he rode back to the campground he's staying at for the night.

Taylor and I continued on for another hour before stopping at a cellphone tower for the night. Along the way we say a beautiful new bridge outside Nipigon, and their brand-new observation tower. Whoever designed that tower knew what they were doing. The views were amazing, and the tower was a spectacle itself.

Taylor taking photos of Lake Superior
View from our campsite

Today's distance: 155 km

Cumulative distance: 3846 km

John Kyle @JohnKyle