Day 47: Golden Lake to Shawville (88km)
“Congratulations!” She beamed with a broad, excited smile on her face. She had a copy of the Merchant of Venice tucked under one arm.
We were standing outside the pubic library in Eganville, a small town straddling the Bonnechere river in northern Ontario. I had a large grin on my face too. Thanks to the library’s free wifi I had just found out that I had a new job to look forward to when I return to the UK. But the Merchant of Venice lady didn’t know that. She’d just asked me where I’d biked from. Congratulations, Dino, you’ve just cycled from Victoria.
Resisting the urge to whoop and yahoo inside the quiet library, I saved my woohoo moment until I was safely 2km out of town with the noise of the wind and traffic to disguise my private celebrations. All day I rode with a smile smeared on my face like chocolate round a kid’s mouth.
The morning routine of stuffing bags, drinking coffee, stretching hamstring etc, had been interrupted by a telephone job interview. Even in northern Ontario, sitting under dew wet trees on the shore of Golden Lake, I couldn’t shake off the pre-interview nerves. Last night I went over possible questions in my head, explicating my vision for the future while poking the charcoal of my campfire. And what should I wear from my interview? At 6.45am the air still held the cool freshness of night so I dug into my stuff sack for my thermal leggings. I munched blueberries, watched the blackbird hopping across the sunlight-dabbled grass, and waited for the phone to ring.
Interview over I pedalled off in high spirits. The scenery was changing, the forests were giving way to farmland. And I knew that by the end of the day I would be in a whole new province. It felt like the start of a whole new adventure.
After 26km I stopped in Eganville for second breakfast and to check my emails at the public library. Discovering I had a new job and the congratulations from the Merchant of Venice lady only boosted my mood even more. I spun fast out of the town and headed along the highway east.
I passed stretching corn fields, shining like pots of honey in the sun. Barns painted in fresh vermillion, looking like Monopoly hotels, stood squarely in the corner of the crop fields. Fresh green hay bales lay in the fields. I turned off the highway towards the Ottawa river.
In the distance the grain stores stood like colourful minarets calling birds from across the fields. Swallows dipped and dived over the swaying fields of corn. Whisps of cirrus cloud floated in the sky. A chorus of cicadas buzzed from the tall grasses. A herd of cows munched languidly.
A long bridge carried me over the Ottawa river. After 2,500 km and a whole month of cycling I was leaving Ontario. Ontario had been an adventure inside an adventure. It’s shown me fireflies, bears, the northern lights and just how bad mosquitoes can be. It’s showered me in terrific thunderstorms and fried me in the sticky heat. Your lakes and forests were so beautiful I didn’t think I’d ever get bored. And I didn’t.
Quebec appeared on the other side of the river promising poutine and bike paths. Soon enough I arrived in the town of Shawville. I pedalled off in search of a celebratory drink and returned to the campground with two beers and a pot of poutine. One beer to celebrate the new job, the second to celebrate cycling across Ontario and the poutine because I was hungry.
I am camped by the stream in the town park that doubles as a free campground. My tent is pitched next to the small stream, bordered by a bush or two of pink fuchsias. I can hear the soft, rhythmic thud of the old water mill churning. I am sitting drinking my cold beer and picking at the flaking emerald paint of a roofed picnic bench.
I raise my second drink to the sky: here’s to you Ontario. Here’s to cycling across Canada.