Melgund Creek, Canada - Polarsteps
This was such a mess of a day. We still had to do our laundry in the morning, and spent a while waiting for it before getting it all packed onto our bikes. We took some wrong turns on the web of back roads back to the middle of town, had to get Kini a new bike helmet because theirs had gotten crunched leaning their bike somewhere, spent a long time trying to get the new one adjusted right, and took some time on the patchy wifi outside Canadian Tire to look up places to sleep down the road. We rolled up the street and did a major grocery run; Kini went inside and I waited with the bikes, getting chatted up by a few too many elderly men who wanted to tell me that what we were doing was crazy, and feeling more and more urgently the need to get out of town and move down the road; everything had taken twice as long as it had felt like it should, and we were already into the early afternoon. We'd really wanted to push ahead to White River to camp with the Winnie the Pooh statue (the adjacent visitor centre has marked part of the park there as "unofficial cyclist campground," the most welcoming words), but as time passed we knew we weren't going to make it that day.
My tires had been heading towards needing replacement; they were the off-brand mountain bike tires that had come with my used bike, and they were each starting to develop a wobble (not the wheel being out of true, but the tire itself becoming warped under the weight of my baggage). The back one was especially pronounced, but things hadn't seemed to be getting worse; we were holding out for the next bike shop in Sault Ste Marie so that I could replace them with proper touring tires. Leaving Marathon I could really feel the tire wobbling, and 15km down the road Kini noticed from behind that it was looking really off. We pulled over and looked at it, and saw that the tire bead was completely fraying apart and the tube was getting ready to pop out; riding any further on it was out of the question. We were across from a little sandy parking area, I think the head of some ATV trails; we pulled in there and called the Canadian Tire back in Marathon, who thankfully had some store-brand tires in the right size, and then called a cab. Kini made it back to Marathon in the hour before the store closed, then back to our random spot by the highway; we were able to get the tires changed and get just a bit down the road to a wild camping spot by a lake a little before dark. We had it to ourselves, aside from some bullfrogs and a maybe-a-deer that walked by the tent in the evening.
Short day, a perfect example of how much of a self-supported bike tour goes towards basic housekeeping, and also a situation that could have been so much worse-- we were lucky to catch the tire issue in time and so close to a store that had a replacement (albeit not the good touring tires I should eventually get, but if these last ones made it 4000km, I should be good for a while). We were a long way from the nearest bike shops in Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie, and about to head into the 220km no-towns-no-services stretch following Wawa; I'm not sure what we would have done otherwise, but it would have been a much more involved and challenging process, when August is moving along and we're feeling the need to get through this part of Ontario.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲