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Day 27 – Walk Across Canada
Well, I started the day off right. Dad made me a whole plate of eggs, and then there was toast, peanut butter, home-made jam, bananas, and (are you ready for this?) THREE cups of coffee with Bailey’s.
So that’s why I didn’t get started on the road again until 10 am.
I had my first weigh-in yesterday. Dad has a bathroom scale, so after a monster-sized supper and a couple of (okay, a few) beers, I stepped on the scale. Despite stuffing my face with every fat-forming type of food humans have ever produced, and the numerous stops at restaurants along the way, I have still lost 15 pounds in 26 days. So I need not worry about stuffing my face with even more food, or, you know, more ju jubes.
It was a beautiful day, hot, about 29 degrees, sunny, and filled with promise. Ottawa is a large city, so I spent a lot of time walking along the sidewalks. Lots of streetlights, so it was slow progress. I started getting excited as I walked along Rideau Street and saw the Rideau Centre, wherein, by the way, at a place I think was called the Elephant and Castle, I drank my first pint of Guinness at the age of 19. There have been many more pints of Guinness in the last 35 years.
I hit a pedestrian traffic jam near the Rideau Centre. It was like driving from a 100 km/hr zone down to 30. Do we really walk this slowly when we’re ambling along? Kitty was growling. She wanted off her leash to run like a cheetah.
I lived here in Ottawa for a couple of years back in the early 80s, so it was like seeing old friends. The Rideau Centre, the Chateau Laurier, the Rideau Canal locks, the Parliament Buildings, the Eternal Flame. Ah, it felt good to be here, especially with such fine weather.
Right now, I’m standing beside a statue of Terry Fox. I came here on purpose for inspiration. There’s a plaque that displays one of his quotes: “I was lucky to do what I did. How many people ever get a chance to do something that they really believe in?”
Indeed, Terry. Indeed.
This was a my first trip to see his statue. It was unveiled in 1998, and I haven’t been down here in the last twenty years. And it’s located exactly where it should be – directly across the street from the Parliament Buildings.
Well done, my friend, Terry Fox. Your legacy is still inspiration for us all.
I’m now at a Timmy’s (locals pronounce it ‘Tim ‘Orton’) on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. I didn’t claim Ontario as a milestone yet because I wasn’t quite finished with rural Quebec. Since I can’t walk on highway 417 in Ontario until it turns into highway 17 north of Arnprior, it’s actually shorter to cross back into Quebec and get back on highway 148, and then cross over again after Arnprior.
It’s already late and my productivity was low. I had a late start, I goofed around in Ottawa sightseeing, and I took a 5-km detour to go to Mountain Equipment Coop to buy another pair of shoes and other stuff.
Low productivity, but a super great day.
Day 28 – Walk Across Canada
I was awake at 5:00 and on the road by 5:30. My stealthy campsite wasn’t so stealthy once the sun came up, since it was right beside the road.
I’ve never seen so much traffic on the road before 6:00 am. I’m guessing a lot of people try to beat the morning traffic by getting into Ottawa early.
I went into a little grocery in Luskville, kind of like a gas station food store, but without the gas pumps. It’s hot out, so I picked up a few necessities – ice-cold cola and ice cream – and went to the cash. After paying for the order, I asked the woman where I could fill up my two water bottles.
“I only sell water,” she said. “I don’t give it away. I’m in the business of selling, not giving away things.”
I pointed at the things I just bought and said, “Well, I am buying.”
She said, “Oh, well, since the flooding, I don’t trust the water to be clean.”
“Ah, I see.”
It’s the first time I’ve been denied water on this entire trip.
Hehe. Crazy world, crazy people.
I don’t post pictures of road kill because I don’t think it’s appropriate. But there is a lot of it. I think it would shock people to know how many animals are killed by vehicles in a single week in Canada. If what I have seen is comparable to other parts of Canada, the number must be staggering.
I mention this because I saw another deer in the ditch. It must have just happened last night. What was different about this one is that the tiniest little fawn that wouldn’t have even reached half way up my shin while standing, lay dead in the ditch with her mama. Of all the dead animals I’ve seen on this trip, that fawn touched me most. So sad.
Patience and stamina were the name of the game this afternoon. The highway asphalt shoulder narrowed to a couple of inches and I spent the afternoon pushing Kitty along the gravel shoulder. Normally this wouldn’t be so difficult, except that today’s highway had gravel a couple inches thick and about ten years of winter gravel deposit on top of it. It was hard work all afternoon and, frankly, I found it quite frustrating. Especially the hills. But I’m proud of myself, because nary a single bit of profanity escaped my lips.
The difficult shoulder seemed to never end. It was like a barrier thrown before me. I wouldn’t let it defeat me. I’d be huffing and puffing pushing Kitty through the dirt up the hill and chanting ‘I will not quit, I will not quit’. I pushed Kitty through that dirt for six hours, skipping up onto the highway from time to time for a 20-second reprieve before the next car came.
I didn’t lose much time compared to my usual pace. Calories, yes. But virtually no time. I felt like a work horse.
And all of that hard work just made me show even more grit.
When I got the Shawville, I waited out a thunder and hail storm in a gas station. But then I carried on. I hadn’t had a sit-down break all day. The grit in me had set a new goal for the day. I carried on toward Portage-du-Fort.
On the way, the black flies came out in force. They were so bad that in desperation, I sprayed insect repellent directly on my face, squishing a few against my skin with the spray. The application lasted exactly 45 minutes before the flies were back. Reapply repellent. “I will not quit.”
Then the wind came, and then the thunder storm. It was pouring, the rain slanted right at me from the wind. There were gusts so powerful that I had to drop my body at the waist with my arms fully extended against Kitty so as not to be pushed back. “I will not quit.”
When the storm finally passed, the flies came back. Reapply repellent.
Soon, I made it to Portage-du-Fort, but I wasn’t finished yet, even as the sun was setting.
No, my goal was the Ontario border. It was a tough day and I wanted a milestone for it. Two milestones, actually.
Today, I made it to the Ontario border. And I’ve finished 25 percent of this walk. I only have to do what I’ve already done three more times and I’ll be in Vancouver.
And despite the terrain, the black flies, and the thunder storms, I managed to pump out 75 kms today. My best distance day to date.
It’s been a hell of a day. I suspect I’ll sleep well.
Day 29 – Walk Across Canada
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but when you turn a map of Ontario sideways, it takes the shape of an elephant, with the Bruce Peninsula as the tail. The trivia question of the day is, “Do you know which town is situated as such that my childhood friends used to call it ‘The elephant’s arse-hole’?” (By the way, I didn’t use such language then; I was a good boy; I used to call it the ‘elephant’s anus’) I’ll give you the answer at the end.
After yesterday’s toil, I slept straight through the night and woke up refreshed. My feet were sore and my legs stiff, but after ten minutes on the road, everything was running like a well-oiled machine.
When I finally arrived at highway 17, which I will follow all the way to Manitoba, I realized my troubles weren’t over.
I know a few people who have cycled across Canada and two of them said that highway 17, which is really the only route through most of
northern Ontario, was really frightening because there is virtually no paved shoulder and the paved foot or so of space between the white line and the shoulder is covered with rumble strips, which is not something easily cycled on.
The gravel on the side of the highway isn’t quite as bad as yesterday, but it’s not a lot better either. Tractor wheels have churned up the soil, so I don’t have a clear lane. It helps when I can get at least one of Kitty’s wheels on the asphalt, but it’s not always possible.
I may have to resign myself to the possibility that every day I spend in Ontario will just be a long, difficult slog through dirt and mud. I’ll have to get my head around that. It’ll be tough waking up in the morning thinking there will just be no reprieve, no easy walking for the day. Just a slog.
I thought maybe I had made a mistake and that carrying a backpack was a better way to go. Walking through this dirt on the shoulder of the highway is certainly easier than pushing a stroller through it. But then I realize I’ve still got a pretty good pace going, even with the extra work. I’d still be walking about one km/hr slower with a backpack, which, over the length of Canada, is about a month’s worth of walking. So I guess I’ll stick with Kitty.
I may need to buy more comfort food, though. By which I mean more ju jubes. Hehe.
The police stopped me today to see how I was doing and to wish me well.
Officer: Where are you headed?
Officer: Where did you start?
Officer: Been in any trouble?
Me: Just one near miss from someone texting and driving.
Officer: No, I mean have you been in any trouble with the law?
(We both laugh)
It’s been sunny all afternoon, which is nice. It’s cool, which is nice. And I’ve been walking into a heavy head wind, which is nice in the sense that I haven’t had to worry about bugs.
Sometimes I don’t realize how much energy I’m exerting to combat the force of a heavy head wind until, as occasionally happens, the wind abruptly stops, and I nearly trip as Kitty goes shooting forward.
Soon, my old military friend, Rick Malone will pick me up. He said he’s going to cook me a vegetarian meal. Woohoo!
So I’ll sign off now so that I can be an attentive guest.
Answer to trivia question: Owen Sound.