Hopeless Wanderer

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

17 days on Highway 17. Two and a half weeks of rolling hills, rugged rock faces, towering trees, picture-perfect lakes, and a whole lot of highway.

A confession: when I started the bike trip, I dreaded Ontario — it was too long, too traffic-heavy, too bug-infested, and too familiar for my taste. I’ve spent 23 years in Ontario — I wanted to see other provinces.

To my delight, Ontario has offered some of the most breathtaking rides and best memories of the entire trip. It has also challenged me more than any other province — leading to days of doubt, dejection, and utter exhaustion. With each hill to climb, though, comes a summit — and after all the blood, sweat, and tears, I’m still here.

Thoughts and stories from the road:

1. The stretch of Highway 17 in Ontario from the Manitoba border to the Quebec border is just shy of 2,000 kilometres. By comparison, in that distance, you could go from Paris to Rome (1,413 km), Berlin to Moscow (1,815 km), and New York City to Tampa Bay (1,819 km). Yet another reminder of just how massive Canada is.
2. In Thunder Bay, I came across a poem by Jane Crossman that seemed particularly fitting for my journey: “I’ve travelled on foot from the west | Days, weeks, months | Over mountains, across plains, through forests | Until this sea | Surely a sea | So vast, so extraordinary | Stalls my forward trek. | I shall rest here for a day, a season, perhaps forever.”
3. Thunder Bay has a pastry called a Persian — picture a cinnamon bun smothered in pink icing. I nearly went mad trying to get my hands on one. My dad and I went to five different places before I could finally try it for myself — the first two were closed; the following two were sold out. I was a man possessed.
4. Kids say the darnedest things. My dad told a ten-year-old in Ignace that I had biked all the way from Vancouver and was heading across the country. His advice? “Don’t die like Terry Fox.” Thanks, kid.
5. On the topic of Terry Fox, it was a special moment to stop by the monument in his honour, just outside of Thunder Bay. He has been a great inspiration to me, and throughout this ride, his efforts have taken on greater significance — not only as I find myself battling with the elements, day in and day out, but also as I mourn the loss of a cousin to cancer.

Things I’ve seen:

1. Silent guardians.

Inuksuks are everywhere along the Canadian Shield — standing guard over this vast, beautiful, and rugged landscape.

2. Stunning vistas.

Before leaving for the trip, my neighbour described Northern Ontario to me by saying, “you can see where the Group of Seven got their inspiration from.” He’s right. The surroundings are so spectacular, it would be a rarer feat not to be inspired.

3. Waterfalls.

There are two major ones along Highway 17: Kakabeka Falls (near Thunder Bay) and Aguasabon Falls (near Terrace Bay). Both were worthy side-ventures from the road.

Distance travelled: 3,692 km
Mosquito, black fly, and horse fly bites: Innumerable.

16 thoughts on “Hopeless Wanderer

  1. Your insights from the road are inspiring Martin! And how was the Persian!? Keep up the great work!! CMHA is behind you!

    1. The Persian was delicious — well worth the effort of finding.

  2. Thinking of you Martin, as you mourn from a distance. You have been in my thoughts. Terry Fox foundation is one of the charities Clare has named in honour of Shawn’s memory. And when I went over to meet with the family for funeral planning, little Oliver was full of stories about Terry Fox. I guess every school kid knows of him. I think you Mom told me (when she stopped in today) that you are in Marathon right now. I think that’s where Terry’s cross-country run was aborted.
    Best to you- you are amazing!

    1. Thank you, Ardith. You are in my thoughts as well (as is the whole family).

      1. Thanks

  3. These last weeks I have been so mindful of the vast contrast between a young, strong healthy body that is able to allow you to bike so many kms, and a young precious man whose body has been defeated by the horrible disease of cancer. Loving thoughts are with you as you continue the journey.

  4. Forgot to say I received your postcard from Winnipeg. Loved that choice of location! Thank you!

  5. Well done Martin. Glad you’re enjoying the magnificent scenes. Just wait till you travel Wawa to the Sault along Superior.
    You will be missed this week. Our thoughts are with you too as you mourn from a distance.

  6. Anna Brubacher 07/12/2016 — 5:42 pm

    Thanks Martin for sharing your journey with us. I am really enjoying following you and your pictures are wonderful. I love every part of Canada that I have seen and love the landscape of northern Ontario. I am particularly thinking of you as you are so far away and mourning the death of Shawn. Know that you are in our prayers and held by our love.
    Anna and Allan

  7. Arlene Martin 07/12/2016 — 8:42 pm

    Very touching Martin. All the best in your ride Arlene

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. I feel your blackfly pain. When I was tree planting in northern Ontario the day the blackflies came out was the closest I got to quitting. Not a big DEET fan but sometimes it’s worth it.

    We’re in a cottage in Tiny, Ontario right now. Almost close enough for you to hear us cheering you on.

    1. Awesome – I’m getting closer and closer to that part of Ontario each day!

  9. Liza and Stan 07/16/2016 — 7:30 pm

    Martin, first time replying to your insightful blog entries and gorgeous pictures of our vast land…but we check in here most days always enjoying your ‘offerings’, and thinking of you every day. Our love and support go with you, especially in these days around Shawn’s death.
    Stan and Liza

  10. Pictures are breath taking…stay strong!! You got this all the way :)

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