“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.
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.