Day 21: Out on the shield

Day 21: Out on the shield

Today was a pretty great day on the bike. I got rolling more or less on schedule, had a beautiful coffee stop an hour in, then another beautiful stop for lunch, both overlooking serene lakes. At lunch, however, I started putting serious thought into my plans for the coming days and a change was in order. Between Dryden and Thunder Bay (350 km) there is nothing. No campgrounds. No grocery stores. A couple gas stations. Basically just mile after mile of Canadian Shield. With thunderstorms scheduled for Saturday a rest day is likely necessary. That means stopping in Thunder Bay. So I could do two nights in the bush and a short ride to Thunder Bay or a shorter day today, a night in the bush tomorrow, and a good effort to the Lakehead. I opted for the latter, and am now happily at the last campground between Dryden and Thunder Bay. Showers are too appealing.

Very early on today I began to thank Alfred Nobel for his help on this ride. The shield is hilly, today ranked as the 7th most climbing and yesterday was the 9th. But thanks to dynamite the hills were a little more manageable than the way Mother Nature intended. A road running between two cliff faces that have been blasted away

Thanks Mr Nobel

The first coffee stop was at a rest stop with a dozen picnic tables and some toilets. Ontario definitely has the best rest stops yet. I passed a few others without stopping in but the picnic tables were great and the sites excellent.

A three-panel image. Clockwise from top left: a campstove and supplies on a picnic table with a lake in the background, a lake beside the road, a bike with gear leaning against a picnic table.
Some sights from today

I paused for lunch in Vermillion Bay then hit up a cafe to use their wifi to plan the next few days, as discussed above. I had a lemon tart with the coffee, which was a wise choice.

After the long stop in Vermillion Bay I headed to Dryden. This should have been easy (40 km) but I felt like I was fading the whole way. Hill after hill greeted me and my heavy bike. The stove and pots I dropped freed up space which was taken over by surprisingly heavy foods. Finally, I made it to Dryden, a town entirely defined by its massive paper mill (and even larger parking lots), and I grabbed more food for the two days of isolation. Hopefully I will get to Thunder Bay with empty bags and a chance to start fresh on nutrition.

On the way in to Dryden I rolled over some incredibly smooth asphalt and the best shoulders yet. Last year, my friend Mike, who inspired me to do this ride in such a short time frame, hit construction on that stretch and sucked back a lot of dust. It was worth it, Mike!Fresh pavement and a wide shoulder

Beautiful roads

My plan after the grocery store was to get an ice cream (there was a heat warning today), but instead I got a Frappuccino. I have been a sucker for the mid-afternoon sugar bombs this trip. I’m sure a handful of nuts would’ve done the job. Without the frapp today would have been around 3,000 calories, 90 g sugar, 300 g carb, and 100 g protein. The frapp added 500 calories and 66 grams of sugar (that is an insane amount of sugar, for non-experts out there). Oh well, I enjoyed the treat.

Finally I rolled up to my campsite and had a short conversation in French with my neighbours. Then I made the mistake of asking the campsite owner about his Avro Arrow model. Never ask someone about their Arrow model. It will unleash a rant. After said rant I enjoyed my supper, a Knorr select pasta with a can of smoked mussels. Definitely worth trying again.

I’m definitely feeling the mid-point slump now. The next ten days take me through some pretty desolate areas, and the motivation to get up and go is waning. I hope to restore some motivation tomorrow and crank out a big effort for the longest day of the year.

Today’s distance: 145.6 km

Cumulative distance: 2,879.1 km

Today’s climb: 958 m

A map showing the ride from near Kenora to near Dryden
Today’s effort

4 thoughts on “Day 21: Out on the shield

  1. Ben, happy travels! I’m enjoying your blog, I appreciate your focus on food and your attention to detail. No need to eat poorly, everything tastes good when you’re outside, and yes, it is important to weigh what you carry – as a fellow self propelled travel enthusiast (you’re the real thing!) I am very aware of what goes into my backpack. The scale is never far away. Congrats on your Pocket Rocket 2 – I have the original, a door prize at a screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Yellowknife, 15 – 20 yrs ago. With a 1 litre pot it has served us very well; Aeropress, another wonderful pack item. Love it. On a recent road trip to Yellowknife, 15′ camper, had a French Press + Aeropress + Melitta drip filter on board. Taking no chances. Mirror on the bike … I have one at the urging of friends. Love it too. Question … what is your sleeping pad? Meal ideas (short cooking times) from Canadian grocery stores … instant potatoes, delicious with a can of corned beef. Gnocchi, cooks quickly, short boil, let sit. 5 minute polenta, it works! Canned wild sockeye salmon. Bistro express rice packets, just heat up in a bit of liquid, powdered bouillon adds flavour when a little liquid needed. Ghee (lots flavour, calories)/coconut oil. Boiled eggs. Lentils, add meat. “Crunch” – cabbage, red peppers, radishes, carrots, peas, water chestnuts. I have an idea … when visiting friends perhaps they’ll share small amts of tasty items to enhance your road meals – hot sauce/mustard/mayo/kimchi. Accidental discovery: mayo plus kimchi makes excellent salad dressing. Travel safely, stay hydrated. Enjoy Ontario one day at a time. It is beautiful country. I drove solo, Halifax to Revelstoke to Yellowknife about 20 years ago, late June/July. Great Finnish pancakes in Thunder Bay. Unforgettable trip, and you’re bringing back memories. Big hugs to you. “Only one who wanders finds new paths” – Norwegian proverb.

    1. Thanks for all these tips! There’s a few I can check out after Thunder Bay. As for the sleeping pad, it’s a thermarest.

  2. Hi Ben!

    Your trip is really impressive! It is cool that you packed all that you need for an entire trip on your bike. What was your favorite spot so far on your trip?

    Also, we think you should come to Yellowknife soon

    Have fun on the rest of your biking days!

    1. Tough to pick a favourite spot, Regina really surprised me, haven’t really been to any stunning small spots as the whole trip is right along the highway.

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