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We have officially deemed the first day after Winnipeg, Day 1 because there is no turning back now...
After 2 fun-filled weeks with family and friends, we were ready to go. To us, leaving Winnipeg and saying good bye to everyone really felt like the start of our adventure. Our resolve was to leave Tuesday, June 14, but a late night of Scrabble and beer meant we woke up later than hoped. Instead of getting on the road late and not getting very far, we changed our plan to leave the following day.
The forecast for Wednesday was for a lot of rain - all the way from Winnipeg into Northern Ontario. We left in pouring rain and rode under thick cloud and showers the entire day. The roads were devoid of any traffic, however, and it felt good to just be 'going' even if we were soggy. The air was fresh and cool and fragrant.
Each of our bikes have lockable aluminum panniers, Jordan has Touratech Zega panniers (2 x 35l) and Sandra has Jesse Odyssey panniers (2 x 45l). We also carry a 70l The North Face Base Camp duffle bag on the back of the bikes. We pack our camping gear and waterproof riding gear, etc. in the panniers and our clothes and other personal items in the duffle bags. This allows us to just grab our clothes and personal items off the back of the bikes when we are not camping, and head in to the hostel or hotel. Today was a rain test for our luggage - the panniers kept our equipment dry, but Jordan's duffle let in some water. We knew the duffles weren't water proof, so we brought along the rain covers from our backpacks as further protection when it rained and we put our clothes in water proof dry bags before putting them inside the duffle. It sounds complicated, but it works - without the extra dry bags, Jordan's clothes would have certainly been soaked. Our rain gear (essentially our wet weather hiking gear stretched over our riding suits) also kept us mostly dry, even though we rode through some massive downpours.
We rode to Fort Francis, ON found a cheap motel in the town's centre and enjoyed pizza and beer while we watched Boston beat Vancouver for the Stanley Cup. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing series, but it felt nice to be our of the rain
The next morning we got a nice early start and rode on towards Thunder Bay. It was a very nice day and we rode though some stunning scenery along Highway 71. The Canadian Shield is beautiful, lovely lakes dot forests for hundreds of kilometres in every direction. The roads have been in excellent condition, however the best part is that there is literally no traffic, we go for ages without seeing any cars. We're not sure if it because school is not out yet or if it is always this quite, but it makes for great riding. We do see a lot of police on the road, the OPP is everywhere and we keep our speed in check. We've seen a few deer, quite a few fox and even a Moose with her calf.
We arrived at Kakabeka Falls just outside of Thunder Bay, for our 1st night's camping. Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, established in 1955, covers 5 kmÂ² (1,236 acres) and is managed by Ontario Parks. It surrounds the falls and extends along the Kaministiquia River, which was used centuries ago by Voyageurs who were the first Europeans to overwinter annually in northern Ontario (brave souls...). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyageurs
Again, the place was deserted, and we had our choice of camp sites. We set up, made a quick run to the grocery store for provisions and made a yummy(ish) dinner. We spent the evening exploring the falls and taking pictures, it's a gorgeous spot and we had the place to ourselves.
We were up and on the road early, with a quick stop at the Terry Fox memorial just outside of T-Bay. It's a beautiful spot and we were both really moved by the monument. Terry Fox was a afflicted with cancer and he was a cancer research activist. In 1980, with one leg amputated, he set out to run across Canada raising funds for Cancer research. His gait and running style is embedded in the minds of Canadians. He was forced to stop his run when his cancer spread to his lungs, near the town of Thunder Bay. Terry Fox was the youngest Canadian to receive the Order of Canada and is a national hero to many. It is well worth a spot if you find yourself in the region. ** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_fox**
Again we found ourselves with excellent riding conditions and empty roads, and we rode on until lunch. We stopped just outside of Rossport, ON, there is a lovely rest area and picnic site along Lake Superior just east of the town, We had just taken off our helmets when we heard someone calling 'Sandra!'. We had run into JD and Susan, a couple of friends from Calgary. It turns out they are also spending the summer on an eastern Canada road trip, what a crazy coincidence! We enjoyed the amazing views (Lake Superior looks like the ocean!), shared a picnic table and a few laughs before seeing them off.
We found another gorgeous, empty camp ground (Neys Provincial Campground) and selected the best spot along a beautiful sandy beach. We've found the Ontario Provincial Parks to be top notch, but very expensive, $36 to camp for the night seems a bit steep… Perhaps beautiful views, nice campsites and fireflies by the truck load make it worth while.
We were hoping that the leisurely start the morning would result in a leisurely day, and that was almost the case….
As it happened, while driving though the stunning provincial park south of Wawa, ON, Sandra dropped her bike in the parking lot of our lunch spot. As luck would have it, another motorbike rider was there to help us pick up the bike (the bikes are surprisingly heavy when loaded and are very easy to drop at slow speed). Everything seemed fine and we had a great picnic lunch on the beach, however once we were back on the trail Sandra noticed a couple of problems with the ABS braking system on her bike. Although Sandra has ABS on her bike, however Jordan has to make do with JBS, the Jordan Braking System (so far it's been problem free). At the next camp site (Pancake Bay Provincial Campground), we did a quick visual inspection of the braking system, everything looked great, we tried resetting the ABS and even disconnected the battery to see it that would help. Several test rides later, we learned that although our efforts had certainly had an effect, there was still a lingering ABS problem, however it no longer made its presence know every time Sandra applied the brakes.
It is worth noting the really impressive service we received at Pancake Bay campground. Shannon, the park Super Intendant, and fellow biker, made a special effort to meet us and ask about the bike and our trip. When he learned about Sandra's braking problem, he tracked us down and delivered extra brake fluid to us and asked it we needed any tools or a place to work on the bikes. He was a really nice guy and certainly made an effort to help a couple of fellow motorcyclists out, much appreciated, thanks Shannon! Sandra also noted that he was quite handsome, looked great in his uniform and was an excellent representative of the Ontario park system, whatever that means…