The Plan B Bike Tour
After cycling up the eastern shore of Lake Huron during my “Summer in Ontario” bike tour last year, I finally reached the picturesque village of Tobermory, hoping to board the MS Chi-Cheemaun to Manitoulin Island—a cycling haven revered for its calm country roads, and my final destination. Or so I thought.
As with most of my travels, nothing went as planned.
Yes, I’d conquered the never-ending rolling hills of the Bruce Peninsula just in time to catch the ferry.
And, yes, being the only cyclist riding into the belly of the boat—ahead of the motorcycles, RVs and cars!—was darn cool. (Cooler still was disembarking and feeling like I was being shot out of a cannon while spectators on shore snapped pics!)
But not even two kilometers into Manitoulin, I got a flat.
In the middle of nowhere.
And the nearest bike shop was 150 kilometres away—in Owen Sound (on the mainland)!
That’s how, at the mercy of my bike, I wound up at South Bay Resort, a campground on the shores of South Bay, not far from the ferry. It’s also how I ended up getting help from several campers. (There’s something about a woman bike touring solo that makes strangers extend a hand, from changing a tube to offering breakfast, beer and even a bonfire!)
After a gent helped fix my flat the next day, I biked out to Providence Bay (a mere 60 kilometres roundtrip). Manitoulin is large, and I was considering doing a loop around lakes Mindemoya and Manitou at the eastern end. Since Providence Bay was en route and touted for its beach, I had to see if it was worth touring the island (all my cycling friends said it was), packing and pitching my tent every day, instead of doing daytrips from South Bay.
But on my ride back to the campground, I got another flat! A slow leak at the valve, which proved to be unpatchable.
Grrr. Two flats in two days. My bike was trying to tell me something.
And in case I wasn’t getting the message, rain poured down soon after I pulled into my campsite, and it continued till morning.
So much for a cyclist’s paradise. My Manitoulin trip wasn’t what I hoped for: traffic-free country roads, sunshine, beaches, hiking and lots of cyclists. Sure, the back roads weren’t heavily trafficked, but that summer some of the roads were under construction, and 5 to 10-kilometre stretches of gravel roads were not good for my road bike when down to one hole-free tube. Plus, the weather was icky and the only cyclists I saw were racing to the ferry.
So I decided to leave Manitoulin. If I was going to have problems with my bike, I’d rather have it happen on the mainland, where I could hitch a ride to Owen Sound and catch a Greyhound bus to Toronto. And back in Tobermory, I was welcomed by the sun, the start of the 885-kilometre Bruce Trail, and my favourite beach of the trip, which I wouldn’t have discovered had I stuck to my plan of touring Manitoulin. Which is why, when travelling, I’m always ready to toss aside my plans!