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Jul 28

I Get Knocked Down…But I Get Up Again

by in Ontario

Friday
Distance: 157km
Time: 7:46:47

Saturday
Distance: 125km
Time: 5:01:17

Dear Northern Ontario,

Up to this point you had been fair to me. You gave me reasonable roads, nice weather and friendly drivers. I have seen and met more cyclists among your scattered towns then the rest of my trip. I was starting to think you weren’t all that tough.

Sure, I had that day where my head wasn’t in it. You had something to do with it, but mainly that was just a ‘me’ thing. Then yesterday, you thought it about time to knock some Northern Ontario sense into me. I had become too cocky on your roads. Yeah, my plan was to ride 180km from Nipigon to Marathon. In fact, I had to get to Marathon because my mother was waiting to show me around on her first visit to her hometown since she left in Grade eight.

You started the day with a nice steady drizzle. Get me damp, but not soaked. Cool me down, without freezing me. You left that drizzle in the sky just to wake me up, because I left especially early to be in Marathon early. Smart play. After about 30km of reasonable riding you started up the north winds. You decided I needed to be knocked around a bit so you added gusts around 40km/h, but I persisted.

The road construction for 30km was like a reminder from home. There’s always construction in the summer, why would you be different.

Northern Ontario, you weren’t satisfied were you? So, you turned down the thermostat like my Dad used to. Down towards 7 degrees, you kept the drizzle and the winds. Then I rolled into your secret weapon, hills. Not little rollers for you either, nice 2km climbs often at a 6% pitch, but sometimes blasting up to 9 or 10%. Really giving the legs a punishment. Good on you. But like a boxer in the late rounds I kept swinging.

That’s about the time I left Terrace Bay, cold, wet yet still smiling having just run into some other cross-Canada cyclists an just 80km from Marathon. Thunder, lighting and a downpour that had me questioning my brain capacity were your last little trick.

Needless to say, you won. I threw in the white towel, twenty-five kilometers from Marathon I knew I wasn’t going to make it before dark. The two hours of shivering while pedaling despite throwing layers on, the toes I was convinced might get frostbitten all little pieces of my decision. I stopped at Neys Provincial Park. I wasn’t going to make it Marathon by bike, so I called my mom for a ride into town.

But then you showed the welcoming side of you Northern Ontario, the people. Mae and Chaz Chesnick from Marathon, who had been friends with my grandparents over 50 years ago, opened their door to me, soaked and freezing. They had started the woodstove, cooked a meal and brought colour back into my hands and toes. You showed me that the people of Northern Ontario are some of the best.

Me, Mom, Chaz and Mae

Me, Mom, Chaz and Mae

After a good night sleep, a warm breakfast and a trip down memory lane with my Mom, I was driven back to Neys Provincial Park to rejoin my journey from where. I left off.

Northern Ontario, you gave me a little fog and twelve degree weather to start but I had earned your respect as the last forty kilometers into White River you even gave me a nice partially sunny welcome.

You’ve earned my respect, Northern Ontario. I won’t take your distances or weather or terrain for granted. I will spend the rest of my time here recognizing your rugged beauty and peaceful isolation. Most importantly, I will take with me how great the people are.

Sincerely,
Scott

Ride on.

P.S. To the bus load of kids who all hung out the windows in the rain on Friday to cheer me on as you rode past, thanks, you warmed me up when I needed it.

P.P.S. Just as a side note, I walked into the little restaurant in town tonight in White River and ran into Karen, who I had last seen in Vermilion Bay. I said, “Wow, I’m so surprised to see you here. I’ve been doing some big distances and you’ve kept up. Good on ya!” She replied, “Oh, I’ve gotten picked up and driven every day it’s rained, so that’s been helping me keep up.” Needless to say, we had dinner together like old friends. Anyone who rides a bike is a friend of mine.

2 Responses to “I Get Knocked Down…But I Get Up Again”

  1. From Betty Anne Carse:

    Dear Scott,
    From the beginning of your journey, I have cheered and been awestruck by your tenacious tour across our incredible country. Today, as I read, I cried. I felt the cold, the wet, the wind and the love of the people. Thanks Northern Ontario. Just as David overcame Goliath by slaying the bear and the lion first, congratulations Scott — Goliath will soon rest with the Sleeping Giant.
    Be well. Be safe. Ride on.
    BA

    Posted on July 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm #
  2. From Paul Shinkar:

    Love the prose.

    Posted on July 29, 2013 at 10:17 pm #
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