On September 5th, my trip tracking odometer rolled over to 501km as I reached the boarding dock for the Chi Cheemaun. Such a great feeling… and a very cool spot to reach that milestone too!
Throughout this trip there has been no shortage of challenging situations where the kindness of strangers made my day far easier. Here are a few of those highlights:
- Emergency phone charge at Seaforth Mini Storage when I made a wrong turn on my way from Exeter to Bayfield. I now have two robust charging blocks!
- Frozen water bottles from beach goers at Port Albert when I asked about a place to buy water.
- Help lifting my fully loaded bike up when it fell over. This has happened a few times, but was especially notable when I arrived in Kincardine feeling exhausted, ravenous after running out of protein bars, and maybe a bit dehydrated too… it was a hot day with temperatures in the 30s. I missed my aim when I went to prop my bike against something and it went down. All I wanted was food and *cold* water. I sighed, then sat down to drink water before unloading my bike, lifting it up, and reloading it. But before I’d even moved it to the sidewalk it fell over again! I was sooo tired! So I went to the road and flagged down a driver to help me pick my bike up without needing to unload again. The driver also topped up my water bottle and pointed me toward an excellent restaurant.
- Free produce from Earth Bound Gardens in the midst of a food desert near Red Bay. Surprisingly this was my first roadside produce stop in all my travels! There haven’t been a lot along my path. Their gardens were also a hidden gem and I felt like I’d stumbled into gardens from a fairytale. More on that another time though.
- A tampon. Everyone who menstruates can relate to needing feminine hygiene products when out and about!!
- Help getting my stove lit when all I had was a cigarette lighter. Maybe ten minutes earlier I had watched a group of Muslim women figuring out how to set up a privacy shelter for the first time. They worked together and seeing their collaboration made me smile. I struggled for a few minutes on my own, before asking the group if they had a BBQ lighter or matches. It was easier to ask them for help since I’d seen them struggling earlier. They didn’t have an alternative, but came over to help when they realized I had a cigarette lighter. One of them suggested we try lighting paper first, a couple of us blocked the wind, and together we managed to light the stove. That night I cooked my first (very basic) camp stove meal. A couple days later I bought a pack of 3 BBQ lighters, so I’ll be set for a while yet! This is key, because stores are further apart now, so I have to be able to cook my own food.
- Creative problem solving regarding where to put my food bag when it was tricky to find a decent tree to hang the bear bag in. We ended up putting it in a locked outhouse with rocks blocking it. Yes… I know it probably wouldn’t have worked if a bear came along and wasn’t satisfied with the nearby garbage, but it was a good team effort. Don’t worry, I camped waaaay down the beach from it so I was safe either way!
- Directions plus loads of useful local info when I had no cell service to check my map. Yay friendly and resourceful librarians who are eager to help even when they aren’t at work!
- Just before I caught the Chi Cheemaun to Manitoulin there was a power outage and everything shut down. I had intended to restock food and water supplies before catching the ferry and since I hadn’t had access to the internet for a few days I wasn’t sure what would be available on Manitoulin. As I made inquiries about where to get supplies one person offered me a bottle of water, another a granola bar, and another 4 bottles of water! This helped me realize that even if there wasn’t a grocery store, I could likely knock on a few people’s doors and ask to buy a few eggs from their fridge to get me through.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the way perceptions and stereotypes impact interactions between strangers. How much more readily have strangers helped me because I’m white, thin, and female in a society that views those attributes as safe, non-threatening, worthy of care, and even of needing protection? What role do my academic background and social skills have? What about the fact that I can often present as middle class, even though in reality I live under the poverty line?
Today I am absolutely loving this journey, but how might I feel if strangers weren’t as kind to me? What if I were experiencing microaggressions rather than support and kindness? It’s difficult to imagine what some days would have looked like without kind strangers. Even more so if I was experiencing microaggressions.