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Days 3-4 - The Bridge to Canada
Jackson Parr is riding his bike from Milwaukee, Wis., to the 2012 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, set for Aug. 18-19 in Burlington, Vt.
Day 3: Flint, MI -> Sarnia, ON
Distance: 70.00 miles
Time: 5 hours, 13 minutes
Average Speed: 13.4 mph
My morning in Flint got off to a good start with some local coffee but riding out of town proved a bit difficult. It was highly reminiscent of the Chicago suburbs that I am so used to with heavy traffic and stoplights every fifty feet. The eastern wind was light but it was still holding me back a bit and I got quite used to the drop bars by late in the day.
Yet with towns spaced ever twenty miles, the legs seemed to go by faster as I put on an audiobook and zonked out on the empty eastern Michigan roads, which were back to their flat nature. I was doing my best to get to the border crossing as early as possible. I had no idea what kind of crazy customs they would put me through or even how I would get across the bridge. The Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron to Sarnia, ON is a six lane highway with no alternative for pedestrians or bicycles.
Arriving at the bridge, the first of the truly grandiose sights of my trip, I was a bit overwhelmed in thinking that I had just crossed the entirety of Michigan in less than three days, and here I was on Canada’s doorstep. I spent some time sightseeing around the historic construction and even popped my shoes off for a dip in the cold but vibrant blue water beneath the bridge.
With the tourism over, I followed the large sign reading, “Bridge to Canada”, thinking that would be a good start. Soon I found myself in a toll booth line between two semi-trucks while entertaining the stares from folks in their appropriate vehicles. After a few phone calls, my bike was loaded in a Michigan Department of Transportation truck and I was hauled across to go through the usual routine of crossing borders. The Canadian border patrol seemed more interested in my trip as a story rather than explanation of my intended time in Canada, so I got off easy and rolled to the house I was staying at less than two miles from the bridge. With a home-cooked meal and some friendly conversation about American accents and Canada’s Olympic outlook, I hit the bed for 11 hours and was ready to burn through Ontario.
Day 4: Sarnia, ON -> Lake Whittaker, ON
Distance: 75.03 miles
Time: 5 hours, 1 minute
Average Speed: 15 mph
This was potentially the hardest day of riding I have ever encountered. The 11-hour sleep, although appreciated, gave me a late start and the sun was already high in the sky by the time I rolled out. I picked up some famous bacon (Canadian by nature) at John’s by recommendation of a local. I will forever claim that the best restaurants are ones with the large vague signs saying either “Restaurant” or my personal favorite, “EAT”. Despite the good breakfast, the hot day would not dip below 100 degrees for the five hours I was on the road.
In my experience, Canadian roads are more accessible for cyclists and that was reassuring as I took only one road straight east for the first fifty miles. Unfortunately, that eastern wind from the day before had picked up and I was crouched low fighting for every mile. The open fields of Canada provided little protection from the wind or the sun. I found myself wondering which felt worse, the screaming headwind or overheating as I looked at my distance, which seemed stagnant.
I was drinking four water bottles an hour when I had the chance, which was not often. Throughout the day I would find myself without water or cell phone service, forcing me to cross my fingers that every turn would stand a gas station. A few times I imagined I was seeing a car approaching behind me when really I was the only one on the road for miles. Yet it seemed that every time I would take that last sip of hot water, something would pop up; even if it meant a family reunion at a farmhouse with some ice-cold tap water.
With some difficulty I managed to hit my campsite just as the sun was getting cooler. Twenty easy minutes in the spring-fed Lake Whittaker served as my shower after finding the campsite showers out of order. A humid night in my tent is predicted to turn to rain throughout the next day. But after a scorcher that was my experience today, I can’t say I want to see the sun for quite a while.