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Day 58 – June 17 – Walk Across Canada
Last evening, on the outskirts of Wabigoon, an aboriginal woman named Charlene stopped her car on the shoulder of the highway in front of me. She produced a bag of food, hot food, she had just cooked. Plus cheesecake, bread, water, and coffee. She had seen me a few times on the highway, as far back as Thunder Bay, and decided that she wanted to help me. She said it was okay to post her picture, but otherwise, she wanted to remain a semi-anonymous trail angel.
There are such fine people in this country. Even people who you can tell have very little for themselves still try to help. What a splendid display of humanity. Thank you, Charlene.
I’m in Dryden at Timmy’s right now, packing my body with about 1,500 calories of food and charging my phone. My friend, Brad, sent me a solar panel that I can use to charge my phone, but I haven’t seen my shadow in days. So I found a place to plug in.
Walking the road from Wabigoon to Dryden this morning was like winning the lottery. The shoulder was wide and paved the whole way. For the first time in a month, I could get a real rhythm going with my walking. And it’s the first time in a long time that I got into the ‘zone’, that fabulous place where time disappears among the wanderings of the mind. The sky was overcast, but there was no rain. A perfect morning.
My fingers are crossed that the paved shoulder will continue after Dryden. Larry, one of the cyclists I met, thought so, but he couldn’t remember exactly. I’m praying to the asphalt gods.
I stopped at the Husky station for a shower. I probably didn’t need one; after all, it’s only been six days since my last one. But it was convenient, so I dropped in. I stood in front of the mirror looking at my body, studying the poison ivy rash and looking for ticks.
And then I noticed something. Something rather unbelievable. Just looking at it gave me the shivers. It was like reliving the past. I looked again. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be. But the more I looked, the more I was convinced that it had to be. Yes, it just had to be. At the age of 54, I was staring in the mirror at my, gulp, stomach muscles.
Just to be sure, I googled “pictures of abs”, and after pouring through French-Canadian pages of Montreal Canadiens photos, I finally came to some photos of stomach muscles. I held up my phone beside the mirror. What I was seeing in the mirror sure looked like what I was seeing on my phone. So it must be true. I have visible stomach muscles. Woohoo!!
I celebrated the viewing of my stomach muscles by eating a package of red licorice.
To my male friends in their fifties, you too can see your stomach muscles again. And you can eat as many butter tarts as you want to. But you have to walk across Canada. Hehe.
On my way out of Dryden, I learned a bit about the pecking order of birds. (Hehe, pecking order). When there is juicy, meaty garbage to be eaten, the ravens take precedence, while the seagulls stand on the outside waiting their turn. I love nature.
The asphalt gods favoured me. The road was lovely all afternoon long, except for a two-kilometer patch of gravel in a construction zone. I was eating dust for a couple of minutes until Rain came to the rescue. It poured for about two minutes and then stopped. Perfect for keeping the dust down and I was dry within 15 minutes.
I’m a little behind, so I’m power walking until dark.
Day 59 – June 18 – Walk Across Canada
I just had a friendly little chat with Mother Nature. It was precipitated by a conversation I had with my Dad when I called him to wish him a happy Fathers’ Day. I learned that in Ottawa, it’s 27 C and sunny. Where I am, about 50 kms east of Kenora, it’s 13 C, and wet. “This is the same province, after all,” I told Mother Nature. She responded nicely. She gave me precisely 2 minutes and 37 seconds today when I could see my shadow. I wanted to see if the solar panel I was given would charge my battery pack, but by the time I had set it up, the sun disappeared, and for good measure, it started to rain. Oh well.
But the walking has been good. I’ve been daydreaming all morning and afternoon and the day seems to be going by quickly.
I’ve noticed, however, that there is a shift in how I’m experiencing my daily walk. Intuitively, when someone walks for ten hours per day, you would think the first 5 hours would be easier than the last 5 hours. And at the beginning, it was true. But now it’s changed. The first 5 hours seems to drag on forever, and then the next 5 hours goes by in a flash.
I told my friend Mark that I would arrive at his place in Winnipeg next Thursday. When I did the math, I realized it meant that I would have to walk 65 kms/day for seven days straight in order to make it. It’s not a big deal, since that’s what I have been averaging anyway for the last ten days or so. But yesterday, I started late and then wasted a lot of time in Dryden, eating, powering up my phone, and staring at my abs. When I finally got back on the road, I realized I still needed to walk 8 hours, but with only 8.5 hours before sunset. I raced against the dark, and the walking was great. In fact, those 8 hours seemed easier than the first two hours.
I passed a historical monument for the Last Spike at Feist Lake. In 1875, the promise to connect the newly acquired western provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba made some headway. The section of railway from Thunder Bay to Red River took 7 years to build. I had to smile when I read on the plaque, “Thousands of workers battled mosquitoes and black flies as they cut trees, blasted granite, bridged chasms, and filled in muskeg.” The Ontario north certainly makes you earn your stripes.
I sometimes forget that Canada didn’t have all its bits and pieces 150 years ago in 1867. Manitoba didn’t join the Confederation until 1870, and British Columbia joined in 1871. Think about how much railroad had already connected this country before Alberta and Saskatchewan joined the Confederation in 1905. Though I saw a lot of them in Quebec, I still pass by homes that are older than Canada. It’s wild!
The views today are spectacular. I have seen far more lakes today than yesterday, and many of them have islands in them. There’s something about an island in a lake that I love. I even passed a body of water called Island Lake, although from my viewpoint, there wasn’t a single island in it. False advertising, if you ask me. I was thinking of changing the sign to Island-less Lake, but I ran out of white paint last week when I changed the sign ‘Maple Lane’ to ‘Black-fly Horde Lane’. I figured you might as well call them as you see them.
It’s a little after 6:30 pm. I’ve just finished 60 kms in 9:06, a personal best. It’s 82 kms to the Manitoba border, and I want to be there by the end of the day tomorrow. So if I can put in another 15 kms this evening, I’ll break my personal daily distance record, and also set myself up for success tomorrow.
Until then, my friends.