Day 17: Stonecliffe, ON to North Bay, ON + rest day

Yesterday was a very hilly ride. Truly, I do not blame that guy I was talking about in my previous post, and why he decided to give up after having gone through North Bay. I have trained extensively for this journey, and have been through very tough moments throughout the past 16 days of my trip, yet nothing has been as challenging as this leg.

I got too tired of hills to the point that I was just counting the kilometers as I go, which I have never done before. It is definitely easier to cycle along flat roads, going constantly — as long as the wind is not against me. I have to admit, though, that hills can be quite fun at times, knowing that I will be able to continue with my journey without having to exert any energy once I go downhill.

Which made me think: isn’t that what life is about, though? The hills? If life were all constant and flat — where’s the architecture? Where’s the story? What would make us appreciate the climb, appreciate the downhill? The struggle of the hills will make it all worth it in the end.

I arrived in a rainy North Bay, where my girlfriend, and one of our hosts, Alex, were waiting for me. I was soaked and fatigued from a day of going through hills, but was rewarded in the end by two pieces of fat, scrumptious double-chocolate chip cookies lovingly offered by my girlfriend, with the company of fun and welcoming hosts.

Arriving in North Bay, holding my reward

Arriving in North Bay, holding my reward

Our hosts, Alex McKenna and his wife Kristin, very welcomed us into their home in North Bay. They own a very impressive set of anime-related collection: you name it, they’ve got it! Alex started the first anime group in North Bay, which grew big so quickly that it attracted attendees from towns far away. They were really a fascinating couple; we talked about a variety of things from their time in Japan, to their interesting family backgrounds, and to their interest in good eating. They are excellent cooks, too: they made us a wonderful baked Atlantic wild salmon with steamed vegetables on the side, plus a big breakfast ready to feed a sumo during the two mornings we were there. It makes me hungry just thinking about how well I ate during our stay with them.

With our hosts, Alex and Kristin McKenna

With our hosts, Alex and Kristin McKenna

The next day marked 15 months of Frances and me being together. To celebrate, we explored North Bay and got some equipment, camping food, and treated ourselves to ice cream. We spent time walking around Lake Nipissing, the north shore of which surrounds North Bay. It was such a vast, beautiful lake, and with the sun kissing its surface and the rocks outlining its shores, it was truly a view like no other, and for some reason, reminded Frances of Lac Leman in Switzerland.

That night, we cooked curry fried rice for our Alex and Kristin, then headed out with them and their friends to play Geocaching. Geocaching is essentially a real-world treasure hunting game, wherein you use an app on your smartphone to locate “treasures” in your town that were kept by other “hunters”. Treasures can be as big as a basketball, or as tiny as an adult thumbnail. Once you find the box of treasures, you may take one provided that you leave one as well. We went around North Bay — it was dark, which made it even more exciting. We found around five “treasures chests”, and for each, we left a pamphlet from the Canadian Pain Coalition, as well as a pen from the Association de la douleur chronique. It was a lot of fun — we all took it very seriously, searching under tree roots, hidden corners, holes… The evening was made even more magical by a meteor shower — which was rather easy to watch from the small town of North Bay.

Leaving our treasure in the chest

Leaving our treasure in the chest

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The Geocaching team

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Watching out for meteors

I guess I could also say that my journey has been a treasure hunt. The only difference is: I do not search for them, I simply go through the hills, endure all the pain, and the treasures appear here and there. Beautiful views of my country, good food, plenty of positive realizations, support from my loved ones, and wonderful people willing to help me all along — these are the treasures I am most grateful for.

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