I was in the middle of a deep sleep when I heard what sounded like a child being pulled in a wagon. I checked the time – just after 3 am. I guess that’s what happens when you’re camped next to the washroom. Foot traffic to and from the facilities was inevitable. I looked out of the tent window and was surprised to see that a group of four young adults had arrived. With their flashlights in hand, they were setting up camp. It took a noisy 45 minutes before they finally stopped rustling plastic, chattering, setting off their car alarm, and waking up almost half of the campground. I was tempted to enact my revenge with a noisy tent takedown at 6:30 am, but figured that would make me just as inconsiderate to the other campers.
I had originally planned to have a more typical 150 km day, but I was eager to get out of Michigan and the US. One week in Trump territory was enough for me. The more time I spent in this part of the UP, the more I realized that these weren’t my people. You need – at minimum – a truck, ideally with birthing hips, or an ATV and a fond appreciation of country music to blend in with these country bumpkins. I also like the convenience of being able to use my phone and money without the trouble of exchange rates and user fees. I made the decision to take the long jump from Munising to Sault Sainte Marie. It would mean another 200 km day (minimum) and no strong winds at my back to push me along. It was going to be a day of work. Work, work, work, work, work, work. Thanks Rihanna. I packed up camp and hit the road, eager to get to work.
Remembering yesterday’s breakfast lesson, I stopped for food in Munising, a short 4 km ride. Along the way, I saw lots of ads for Picture Rock tours. There are apparently great expeditions to rock formations along the shore of Lake Superior. John and Doug had recommended that I take one, but it wasn’t going to fit with today’s agenda. Next time, Lake Superior. I stopped at the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore for my morning fuel. I had one of best cinnamon buns I’ve ever tasted. While accumulating my carbs and calories, I ran into those noisy 3 am campers and gave them a healthy dose of cutting glances.
My legs were feeling strong today. They didn’t ache the same way they did over the last few days when I suffered through any uphill terrain. I felt confident that I would make it to the Soo. Kind of like Maria von Trapp singing “I have confidence”. I tackled the first two climbs up to 80 meters in elevation during the first 15 km. I would be spending most of my day on Highway 28. After the hill work, there was a dead straight stretch of road for at least 55 km. There wasn’t a single hill or bend in the road. There were no towns or services. The highest point of excitement on Highway 28 was being passed by an army convoy. It allowed my imagination a few minutes to consider where they were going and what they were up to. There were also loads of travellers, which I should have anticipated on a Saturday afternoon. Those tour bus-sized RVs are (a) ridiculous and (b) terrifyingly close to the shoulder of the road. On three occasions, they approached me so closely that I jumped. After the boring stretch, there was the usual mix of small towns and forest. I tackled another 8-10 shorter (20-30 meter) climbs, finishing off most of the elevation for the day. I started to struggle around 160 km, but chipped away at the distance 10 km at a time until I hit the Interstate.
The trouble with the Interstate is that it is intended for motorized vehicles only. There are usually signs everywhere forbidding walkers and cyclists. Interstate 75 was no different. Truthfully, I doubt I would have wanted to go on it anyway. Instead, I took a parallel route along the South Mackinac trail that dropped me off into Sault Sainte Marie, but still stuck on the American side. Barred from the Interstate, I zigzagged through a maze of streets and connected to a very bumpy bike route by the airport and college. I could see the bridge into Canada and the on-ramp. It was so close, but those signs kept “strictly forbidding” me from entering. I checked my phone. Google told me it was okay to proceed, so I ignored the warnings and cruised onto the bridge.
The Sault Sainte Marie Internationatonal bridge is a massive 4.5 km span across St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. It’s a toll bridge, but I didn’t think they would charge me. Bikes get the discounted rate of $1.75 (US), half of the car charge. Maybe it’s based on the number of wheels? The whole span of the bridge didn’t come into view until I reached the first of two peaks. The bridge was under construction and had a section of single-lane traffic. I thought I had finished all of those construction areas back on the American highways. I would not classify it as a bike-friendly crossing, but it is the only crossing. There’s no sidewalk, for one thing. It is single-lane in both directions. The advice from the toll collector was “ride on the right side”. The rapids were waiting menacingly below. I was too scared to snap a photo.
There was a long wait on the descent into customs. I thought it would be rude – and probably dangerous – to sneak beside the traffic and bypass the line. I met Kim and Ros (sorry for the likely spelling errors, guys). They’re cyclists (in their car) from Wisconsin who were visiting their lakefront cottage in Northern Ontario. They commented that they had never seen a cyclist on the bridge before. I could understand why! I had a long chat with them while waiting to clear customs. Our conversation distracted me from the perils of the bridge and made the wait actually enjoyable. When I finally reached Canadian customs, the agent recognized that I had nothing of interest and nearly waved me on before asking a question.
The Soo, I made it! I always have a sense of accomplishment – and relief – when I reach my destination. Today, I worked hard for it. There was only a short 7 km span to go. Hardly anything compared to the day’s distance. My friend, Jonny, and his husband, Wes, live in the Soo. He kindly invited me over for BBQ and then offered to house me for my rest day in Sault Sainte Marie. Navigating my way to their place, I was happy to see that the city has developed some cycling infrastructure. I connected with the gorgeous, paved Fort Creek trail. It wound through a conservation area. When I arrived at their huge house and property (by Vancouver standards), I was welcomed with a shower, fresh towels, protection from bugs, and warm dinner. These guys know how to host! We finished off the night with ice cream at the Big Moose Ice Cream Parlour. I went with Wes’ recommendation of the Chocolate Moose Tracks in a waffle cone. My legs definitely needed the cream and sugar infusion.
For what I thought was going to be a boring day and short blurb, it was a very full day…or I have trouble with brevity…or both. I have a break day in the Soo tomorrow. I suspect it will mostly involve being horizontal and watching Netflix.
Start time: 09:53
Finish time: 19:48
Riding time: 8 hours, 19 minutes (skewed by bridge and waiting at customs)
Distance: 214.38 km
Total distance: 3867.98 km
Elevation gain: 686 meters
Total elevation: 18063 meters
Average speed: 26.3 km per hour (skewed by bridge and waiting at customs)
Number of army convoy vehicles: 13