Bruce Mines, Canada - Polarsteps

Sault Ste Marie marked a massive shift in our Ontario cycling experience. We'd had some questions about the old highway out of town, which was officially part of the Waterfront Trail route but had been heavily under construction earlier in the year; it was hard to find up-to-date information on whether it was cycle-able, so we posted for the first time in the big 'Biking Across Canada' group that I'd reactivated my Facebook account to join (it's run by Richard, our Warmshowers host back in Castlegar). Rapidly, we got a series of replies from cyclists both on tours and local to the area who had ridden the road very recently, giving us detailed information about that stretch and the trail route beyond it; this group is such an amazing resource, and we've searched it a few other times for biking-relevant information about other parts of the route. We left town onto the quietest country backroads where a small few vehicles passed us each hour, and farm fields replaced the forests that had lined our route for so long. We knew we were heading into Amish and Old Order Mennonite country, but weren't sure where it started until we were in the middle of it and started seeing the buggy signs, buggy tracks on the road, farmers mowing their crops with small horse-drawn mowers, fields of haystacks gathered and piled by hand, and mailboxes with neatly hand-painted names like Ezekiel on the side. Towards the end of the day we passed a couple of children around 7 or 8 years old in straw hats and overalls driving massive horse-drawn wagons loaded with hay down the road; we waved to them and they gaped at us, then turned around to watch us after we'd passed them. We had a lot of on-the-road encounters in the following days; some of the best images are the ones we couldn't take photos of, entire families in full traditional dress packed into horse-drawn buggies, excitedly smiling and waving to us as we rode by on our own non-motorized vehicles. This section of the Waterfront Trail rarely followed the waterfront and was almost never a trail, and took us onto some roads made of loose, large gravel that would climb a steep, intense hill, come back down, then climb a steep, intense hill again, repeatedly for hours. We were consistently grateful for it; struggling with the surface sometimes was many times a better experience than sharing a shoulderless highway with maniacal drivers, and the slow tour through Amish/Mennonite farm country was beyond worth it. A couple of times the trail route took us back onto Highway 17 for a while, but it was with lots of room to cycle and the protection of rumble strips and a double white line on our left. Cycling infrastructure changes everything; we can relax, think, look around, and enjoy the ride instead of focussing our energy on the movement of traffic. The day we got to Bruce Mines, we stayed at the local campground and a group of ladies who live there seasonally invited us to a dessert bar they'd set up outside one of the trailers; we spent a really lovely evening with them there, sheltered under the trailer awning while it rained. Picture #1: Kini back from a Tim's run, bike full of coffee, shirt full of timbits. -Sara
  1. derailed
  2. 🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲
  3. Bruce Mines