There is a Town in North Ontario

Neil Young, in writing Helpless, apparently referred to “more of a feeling rather than any specific town” in his lyrics. And it was that feeling, that vibe, that we certainly felt on this leg of our journey. The people were extraordinarily friendly, and we were approached by many as we rambled like the Littlest Hobo from town to town. Towns with unique names like Echo Bay, Thessalon, Iron Bridge, Spanish, and Espanola.

Cycle Day # 48 Sault Ste Marie to Iron Bridge 134 kms

Cycle Day #49 Iron Bridge to Massey 109 kms

Cycle Day #50 Massey to Sudbury 102 kms

The impressive Hub Trail in the “Soo” meanders along the waterfront of St Mary’s River where the locks are. The St Mary’s at Sault Ste. Marie is the only water exit from the Big Lake and the water narrows into rapids and heads to Huron on onwards. There are locks on the Canadian and American side. The Canadian lock is used for recreational and tour boats; major shipping traffic uses the U.S. locks. The International Bridge connects Sault US to Sault Canada. This city was split in two after the War of 1812 and both cities liked their name so much they both kept it.

We followed the TCT and had perhaps one of our favourite riding days of the trip! Quiet, mainly gravel roads with many stops for all things Amish.

Our kind of traffic.

There were small Amish markets randomly here and there, stocked with crazy good strawberries and cinnamon buns. But the main attraction (at least for us Westerners who do not see Amish regularly) was the continually appearing horse and buggies, with occupants in their traditional attire from farm clothes to more formal, “going to town”, clothing. It was straight out of a movie set. Sorry, no photos. The folks here like the old ways and “Would prefer no pictures are taken.” We honoured that.

We waved at every horse buggy and hard working gardener and all waved back, some frantically. Maybe because we were on bikes? But it certainly added to the special vibe we felt in this area. In the markets, many were keenly interested in our trip and how far we would ride each day, appearing to be impressed that we liked to ride on gravel roads, just like them in their horse and buggies. It was a fascinating and memorable part of the journey. Jay now wants to grow a beard. His hair is already suitably long enough.

We ran into this crazy group of Sault cyclists that called themselves “The Wednesdays”, or whatever day it happened to be that they all were riding together. Great back road riding around the Sault. Definitely bring a bike here and ride.

The Wednesdays

Musical trivia by Jay for 70’s musical fans: This leg also took us through Blind River, the Ontario town in the song Long May you Run by Neil Young, as pointed out to us by Terry and Steve, among others. It is told that Neil was driving a hearse which he had taken to LA and met Steven Stills on the street. Steven Stills was so impressed with the hearse that he and Neil started playing together forming Buffalo Springfield. The hearse broke down and died years later in none other than Blind River, Ontario – ergo… “Well it was back in Blind River in 1962 when I last saw you alive….”

Another tiny town, Echo Bay claims to have the world’s largest loonie, and it is said that it is valued at 20X the Sudbury nickel. But for me the unrivaled attraction in Echo Bay was the clean, road side public washroom.

Our second day east of the Sault on the Trans Canada Trail was disappointing as we were back on the Trans Canada Highway for most of the day – and all of it with the now familiar fickle Ontario shoulder. We detoured from the trail in order to douse our legs with gasoline – an old Zammit trick that is supposed to remove poison ivy oil if done quickly enough. We have our fingers crossed.

Little traffic along this section probably due to the knee deep poison ivy.

Next day into Sudbury was much better, but still with some time on the highway that I thought we said farewell to in Sault. The TCT in Ontario appears to be variable at best and a little like Forest Gump and his box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.

Food has been great. Fantastic budda bowl lunch at Copper Bean in Bruce Mines and a surprise fine dining experience at the Red Top Restaurant and Motel in Iron Bridge where we stayed. The biggest surprise was that they let us in as we still retained a faint eau de gasoline. The weather has been wonderful, if slightly warm – over 30 degrees everyday.

A special time in Sudbury was spent visiting my nephew Jason and his family in Sudbury. Toured the sites including the impressive Big Nickle at 13,000 kilograms and 9 meters.

Jason with Cam and Katie. Renee and Riley are missing.

Young Cam tried to sell us on the virtues of youtuber sensation DanTDM, unsuccessfully. 21 million people follow this guy who films himself playing videos. Huh? We did appreciate his musical recommendation of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. Added it to our playlist.

Had some bike maintenance done by Kiwi Hunter at Adventure 365.

Hunter managed to get a Fernie hat exchange.

5 thoughts on “There is a Town in North Ontario

  1. Merrilee

    Love the geography/history lessons !!! Keep it coming! Hope you didn’t end up getting poison ivy. Would love to see Jay grow a beard – more Forrest Gump- like on your trek 😁


  2. Georgian Bay….you are in our stomping grounds! Yah!
    Jay/Deb: Just finished Land of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road. The author grew up in the area you are riding through. Just in case you need some inspiration for your next epic adventure 😂
    Always look forward to the next blog. You’re writing skills are book worthy.


  3. Gabrielle Vanstraelen

    Great update! Look at all those coins! Always fun to see those fun, quirky things on a road trip.
    Keep on pedalling guys! Look forward to the next update.


  4. Gord Otto

    Are you guys still riding?
    Hmmm… guess I’m out of the pool… (I bet the Under on numbers of Great Lakes you’d reach…)

    Song recommendations?
    Try “Canada Dry” by Barenaked Ladies
    Parts may be about you…

    Trust you’re already familiar with Stompin’ Tom’s “Sudbury Saturday Night”, but it may draw different meaning now. In fact, you may never listen to any of his songs quite the same again after this journey.

    Keep enjoying your excellent summer.


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