17 – 11 – 17

Vars to Temagami, Temagami to Longlac, Longlac to Ignace; three days in northern Ontario, route 17 to 11, then back to 17.

Three days on the Canadian Shield, the Laurentian Plateau, a vast mantle of metamorphic rock; literally a hard land.  There are lakes everywhere but they seem haphazard, just splatters of water collected in crevices.  Viewed from above, Lake Temagami has the profile of an octopus that has hit a windshield at high speed.

The endless and unchanging evergreen forest is just a thin froth of life on the surface of the Shield, like lichen on a boulder, the same thing at a different scale.

The map is almost empty. My ignorance of Canada is profound anyway, but the vast blank spaces on the map make it feel like I’m riding right out of everything. Trees and water and 100 miles between towns.

The two faces of northern Ontario: trees straight up, and trees with water.

Every 50 or 100 miles I pass a long-distance bicyclist and think, Now those people are crazy. The shoulder is only about 18 inches wide, the forest beyond is impenetrable and full of vicious flies, the traffic hurtles by at high speed and it’s stunningly far between outposts, surely a day’s ride each. Then I pass a long-distance unicyclist. I didn’t know that was possible, but there he is, one wheel laden with brightly colored bags, spinning along in the middle of nowhere.

This is what happens to motorcyclists with dead batteries. (Hearst, ON)

The new battery is all over the place, dead after 2 hours, dead after three and a half, dead after half a day. I can tell it’s almost gone when my turn signal indicators start to dim. At least I have the fast charger now.

The rubber stopper that covers the timing hole disappears, lost somewhere across 1000 miles of trees and lakes. I pour the last of the Jameson into a small jar and carve a plug out of the cork.

Jameson Black Barrel.