Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Upsala, Ontario

May 29 to Upsala : 127 kms for total 3074 kms.

Another landmark! On this, the beginning of our 5th week on the road, we surpassed the 3000 km mark. Brian described today as 3 H's, Hot, Headwinds and Hills, we might add a 4th H for Hard or Horseflies but they call them deerflies around here. Towns are so sparse here, we aim to stop at any dot on the map. One such dot, English River is apparently a resort town, however, we only saw 2 people and a bunch of closed buildings at this attractive little place. The kind lady in the only restaurant in town indicated that for most of the year, the town has a population of 4! (that's right FOUR, not a typo!)

We had to prearrange van stopping points so that we could take refuge from the deerflies, while sitting in the van with the air conditioning running. Wayne remarked that the temperature indicator in the van reached 34 C at one point but that's the outside temperature. On more than one occasion, Wayne has had to summon his counselor empathy as he watched us resume the battle against these extreme headwinds which we've been fighting since our first night of camping at Grenfell, Saskatchewan.

The trek since our break in Winnipeg, has been particularly tiring and trying. We like to end our cycling days with a cool libation but, unlike Quebec where we would ordinarily pick it up at the corner grocery store, each province has its own unique system of control. In Ontario, it's THE
L.C.B.O. outlets, which appear to be few and far between in Northwestern Ontario. Luckily, Wayne found one in the only General Store in Upsala. After seeking his money from the van, Wayne returned to find that the owner had already packaged a '6 pack' as a gift to the weary cyclists! More impressive generosity! Our campsite was 12 miles East of Upsala (20 kms, but people around here are mavericks, they still use miles). We loaded the bikes on the van and drove to a beach/picnic area en route, which was on a pretty lake that Wayne had scouted out for us to have a refreshing swim after our long hot ride. The lakewater was fresh and soothing. While there, 4 girls arrived in a car and we noticed they were speaking French. It turns out they were college students from Quebec City, heading for Colombie-Britannique! They planned to camp at the beach/picnic area overnight (and next morning we saw them arrive at the same Upsala Restaurant we had breakfast at, to utilize the facilities.)

The predicted thunderstorms were coming, we could see them building in the sky so we rushed ahead to set up our campsite first before driving the 20 km. back to Upsala for supper. We nearly missed supper back in Upsala as they were about to close. Remember I said people around here are mavericks, well, this area is officially still in the Central Time Zone, however, we were told that folks from English River Eastward tend to use Eastern Time. The restaurant closed at 8 and our watches were reading 6:45 PM, Central Daylight Time. We decided to alter our watches in accordance with local norms, knowing that the official time zone change would occur en route to Thunder Bay next day anyway, losing another hour in our action packed day.

Yet another thunderstorm while camping! We heard it coming about 9:00 PM then it poured with more continuous torrents of rain. The thunder and lightning lasted until after we fell asleep. The winds were pretty furious. Wayne moved the van keys from his tent pocket, visualizing the prospect of his tent being picked up and flung into the adjoining river! (Our campsites were right next to the water) We understand from our breakfast server the next morning, there had been 80 mile an hour winds and hailstones just 60 miles south of where we were camping East of Upsala so we got most of those winds and rain. As we indicated in an earlier blog, better at night than while riding!

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