Segment 8 - Sault Ste. Marie to Tottenham, Ontario
Our rest day Monday, 29 July was atypical since it was truly a rest day. It had rained during the night, so after hanging camping gear to dry, we lounged about. The campground was far enough from town that riding there on an off-day was not a thought for many including Joyce and me. While Joyce did the laundry, I was helping others with minor bike problems, checking e-mail, and working on the blog to fill the day. For supper, the group got together and ordered many pizzas, which seemed to inundate the pizzeria since the order was slow in coming. No matter! The pizzas went down nicely. A beautiful, restful day on the banks of the St. Mary River came to an end shortly after supper with tent time.
Next morning, Bill, Joyce and I departed the campground by 7:30 am. We weren’t on Highway #17B long when our directions took us onto #638. The highway number was a good indication that we’d be following a hilly, meandering road. To add to a tough ride, the road surface was rough hardtop. In Bruce Mines, about four hours later, we were back on Highway #17 and its narrow, paved shoulder. A restaurant stop in Thessalon and an obvious stop at Tim Hortons in Blind River, since others in the group had congregated there, including some ol’ stand-by PBJ supplements, fuelled us the rest of the way to Serpent River Campground. Our top notch, secluded campsite next to the river was separated from the main part of the campground by railway tracks. We were in the tent, asleep, by 8:30 pm. with that 170k day completed.
The railway tracks, a mere fifty metres away, must be a main line. Two trains passed during the night. The train whistles didn’t awaken me, but the severe shaking of the ground certainly did. All I could think was, “Please, don’t derail!”. Sleep returned quickly until our normal 5:30 am. alarm.
Leaving the campground, the highway’s shoulder began to narrow and deteriorate as we biked east. By 10:00 am., two hours after our start, we were in Massey, where we stopped for a PBJ break. There, we continued to follow the days’ directions along a back road into Espanola. In spite of the road resurfacing, the route was preferable to #17. Seven of us amassed in a bakery shop for coffee, soup and sandwich. When we left Espanola into headwinds, we were grateful for the food break. About four o’clock we crossed the bridge onto Manitoulin Island and into Little Current, most of us stopping at the ice cream store on Highway #6. At $4.40 for a double, the cone was “highway robbery”. By 5:30 pm., we arrived at our Sheguindah campground. The superb, spaghetti dinner that evening capped another, arduous day.
The first of August, the ride was a short 60k to South Baymouth, the ferry port, delaying our tent exit to 6:35 am. We still managed to leave camp by 8:11 am., for the two and a half hour ride to the ferry dock, ample time for the 1:30 pm. sailing. Our spare time was put to good use at a restaurant for bacon and eggs topped off with a slice of raspberry pie, . . . a la mode, of course. An interesting, local museum filled in the remaining time.
The ferry ride of one hour forty-five minutes was a perfect length of coffee break. Once in the busy, tourist town of Tobermory, it was interesting to sit back and put up your feet to simply “watch as the world passed by”. However, Joyce and I didn’t dwell in town for long since we were on cook duty that evening. By 4:20 pm., relatively early, we were in camp and preparing the evening’s supper.
Our only route south from camp, next day, was busy Highway #6. About forty kilometres along, a quiet road to the east took us off #6 and led us into Wiarton past bush and farmland. Like a “pied piper”, Mike turned into Tim Hortons and Joyce, Bill, and I were quick to follow. With our caffeine and sugar kick satisfied, we followed the shoreline-hugging road east from Wiarton. There were great vistas of Colpoy Bay. But, the ominous looking sky to the east along the sound concealed any views the further we cycled south. Eventually, to rejoin #6 southbound into Owen Sound, our route turned west, uphill, into the wind, and rain drops. We donned our rain coats. Somewhat of a false alarm, little rain fell as we rolled into Harrison Park Campground. We learned that riders, who had arrived earlier, experienced a downpour in camp.
It was Friday night of the Civic Holiday Weekend. The campground was bustling. Alot of the patrons were dog owners in town for the weekend’s dog show. The chorus of yipping dogs, quite evident until dark, was not a concern during the night.
Joyce and I arose, packed, ate, and departed camp in good time anticipating our rest day at home tomorrow, 04 August. Mike, from England, rode with us for the day since we’d invited him to our home for a change of pace. The ride was hilly around the edges of the Dufferin Highlands, the high point of Southern Ontario, until we connected with the rail trail into Collingwood where we enjoyed a Tim Hortons and lunch break.
We got more of a taste of the highlands on our push to Tottenham, particularly a steep downhill into Creemore. A lively “farm fest” was in full swing on the closed, main street. Next stop was Everett, where a visit to an ice cream parlour was unavoidable. Their 2-scoop, $3.50 cone was a dandy deal, almost convincing me that the first cone should be a “practice cone”.
Eighteen kilometres from camp, we came upon two cyclists lounging beside the road. Good friend, Ron Jacques, and a fellow named Larry, had come out from Tottenham to meet us. Both were riders in the 1988 Tour du Canada, its inaugural year. Ron and Larry were part of that 1988 contingent, who were gathering at the campsite to celebrate Tour du Canada’s 25th anniversary. Congratulations! Tour du Canada has helped many to see this awesome country in a way few have seen it, from the seat of a bicycle.
Ron, generously, had volunteered to drive us back to Huntsville. Once finished celebrating and packing, Ron, Mike, Joyce and I were Huntsville-bound to begin our rest day and our only summer visit home.
Segment 8 - Sault Ste. Marie to Tottenham
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