Day 46: Mew Lake to Golden Lake (112km)
So it turns out that cycling is faster than hitchhiking.
I first saw Ross standing by the side of the highway only a few kilometres from Mew Lake campground. It was not yet 9am and the road was very quiet. He was wearing jeans, a tshirt, a red bandana and a cheery smile. On his back he had a large yellow Ortlieb rucksack. His bike (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) was lying on the gravel by his feet. At first I thought he might have a flat tyre so I slowed down to see if he needed help.
“Nah, I’m fine thanks. I’m hitchhiking. I’ve just completed a bike tour of northern Ontario,” he explained, “but now I have a flight to catch from Ottawa.”
Ottawa!! Yes, I am finally closing in on the known world. I saw the first sign for the capital city on my way out of Huntsville. My skin pricked at the sight of such a familiar name.
Unable to give Ross a lift, we said our goodbyes and I pedalled off up the hill.
I cycled through Algonquin with my eyes peeled for signs of the King of the Forest. The scenery looked just right to have a moose in the foreground. All around was lush forest, broken up by granite rock and cuts in between the hills to reveal a lily-pad sprinkled lake or a swamp buzzing with flies. Algonquin park is like a big adventure playground. All morning I passed canoe outfitters and signs for snowmobiles, campsites and picnic spots. It was all very beautiful but it was sorely lacking one thing: a moose.
All day I encountered hills. Monty and I were either pumping away to maintain 10km per hour, or whizzing down at over 40km per hour. There was no flat all day. I lost count of the number of 7% gradient warning signs I saw. But I didn’t care. For the sun was shining through the white, drifting clouds. The wind was behind me and my legs felt fabulous. Indeed, today I hit a new maximum speed: 69.8km per hour (42mph).*
After leaving Algonquin, gradually the scenery changed to become more agricultural and settled. Small roadside towns and cottages appeared. Fields of hay and golf courses replaced the forest and rock. The only thing that stayed the same all day was the hills.
By 2pm I was cycling out of Barry’s Bay and racing towards the campsite. Lo and behold on the highway ahead of me I saw the familiar outline of a man with an Ortlieb pack and a Surly bike at his feet.
“When’s your flight?” I asked Ross as I slowed down for the second time.
“In 4 days,” he replied, “but I want to get there early and spend some time with me friends.”
It’s Tuesday today and I am planning to arrive in Ottawa by Thursday afternoon. I wondered if Ross would be better off cycling but he’d sold his bike trailer a couple of days ago. Cycling with his pack on his back was very uncomfortable.
Ross was from BC and originally he’d wanted to cycle across Canada but couldn’t find anyone to go with. There have been a few people I’ve met who said the same thing. My usual reply is “Oh, I’ve met lots of people cycling. Just go for it!” I couldn’t find anyone to do it with me (and I did ask!) Yet thanks to the Wanderers, Kat, Bryan, Nicholas, Rob, Courtney and Danica, I’ve enjoyed some excellent company en route. Although today, other than 2 brief conversations with Ross, I have not spoken to anyone.
But on balance, the solitude of the road is worth it for every pedal stroke that I get to see a bit more of Canada, for every kilometre that the sun shines on Monty’s spokes, and for every tree truck that I excitedly mistake for a moose.
On balance, if something is worth doing then it is worth doing solo.
*thats the fastest Monty has ever been cycled and the fastest I’ve been in Canada. The fastest I’ve ever been was 51.3mph (83kmph) on my mountain bike down a very, very steep hill in Oxfordshire.