Day 23: Wednesday 5th July - Tofte MN to Wawa ON (652km = 408 miles) "Beach bummer..." I'd had an absolutely fabulous time with Noah and his family, and after three weeks on the road, had really enjoyed not having to get on my bike for a whole day... However, I was also aware that taking a break so close to my next commitment - the Overland Adventure Rally which is held each year just outside Toronto, in Campbellville Ontario - meant the rest of this week would require a couple of long days if I were to arrive before the official start on Friday... with the venue still almost* a thousand miles away if I were to take my intended route around the top of Lake Superior. (*979 miles according to Google) As usual it took far too long for me to say goodbye - waylaid by pancakes and coffee and the sweetest send-off from the family - and I rolled back onto the highway intending to get the hammer down... Fuelling up in Grand Marais (conscious that fuel was going to be cheaper here in the US than once I'd crossed into Canada again), the road ran right alongside the shore at this point, and I was momentarily distracted by what I felt would be a great photo opportunity, and a fond farewell to Minnesota: photo. It seemed like a good idea at the time... However, having ridden down the shale bank and posed the bike on the pebbles, I soon found myself in a bit of a predicament: photo. I'd already removed my luggage, but the full tank of fuel was not helping matters either! I've been in similar situations before with a big bike (I'm thinking back to my Tenere in the Mauritanian desert), but typically this is almost always on sand, and this was a LOT worse... No matter what I tried, the bike would simply dig-down with the merest touch of the throttle - and this burrowing was compounded the moment I tried to point the beast up hill... Backfilling the hole as best I could and using all my strength to almost drag the bike round parallel with the water, I set it on the side stand and walked back along the beach to see if there was a slightly more gentle slope I might attempt - clearly the only really chance was to try and get enough of a run-up on the more level beach, and use momentum to carry me up any incline. Ultimately I must have tried three or four times - both running alongside the bike (in an effort to have it effectively float on top of the stones), and also seated to try and gain a little more speed - and each time the bike either bogged before the climb, or else dug-in on the diagonal the moment the front wheel started to climb - despite having aired the rear tyre right down. After what must have been half an hour or more, I admit I was pretty much exhausted by now, and there came a point that I even contemplated phoning Noah to come and give me a hand... but knew that to a fellow solo adventure rider, that was a lame option - and one that I'd never hear the end of ;o) Of course I eventually escaped the clutches of the shale - stripped down to just my boots, a t-shirt and jeans - I extended my run-up, jumped back on the bike, slipped the clutch like a drag racer and managed to snick second before it dug-in again, and held on for dear life as I fishtailed up the slope in a shallow diagonal direction - not letting up until the front wheel crested the bank, stones spitting like gatling gun from the rear, and the tarmac was in sight at last! Whether the original photo was worth all the massive effort was something I would contemplate for much of the rest of the day... photo. Canadian border crossing - a very different and far more congenial experience to the last time I was heading north near Vancouver, in the traffic and the rain... Despite getting delayed on the beach earlier, I was confident I'd be able to make it approximately half way today, find somewhere to stay, and press on early the next morning to arrive in good time by the following evening... photo. Canadian hwy 17 is particularly scenic - skirting the Lake Superior shoreline from Thunder Bay to Heron Bay, before it starts to head inland... photo. It's not real... if it was, at this size it would be terrifying! I rolled into Wawa on the west side of the Lake just as the sun was setting, shamed myself in Tim Horton's with a sticky bun, and made use of their free wifi* to try and find a hotel... *My UK cell-phone provider allows me to use my bundled minutes and data when I'm in the USA, but not in Canada - so I had to remember to switch off my data roaming once north of the border... It's ironic really (what with the Commonwealth and all that ;o), and especially since cell phone coverage in Canada seems to be much better than the US in general! ...unfortunately it appeared every hotel in town was fully booked - what? on this, a Wednesday night? A quick ride up the main drag confirmed this with a succession of No Vacancy neon, and I had no choice be to continue south until I found a motel that appeared to have rooms available. The lobby smelt of weed and $110 CAN smarted, but what other option did I have? It turns out there was massive road construction going on all along the highway south of here, and the road crews had booked pretty much every room in town. cont.