Cycling And Rain

July 21-22

Rains came overnight while we were at The Pinery, but it was spit-and-stop for a while, so we took down the bikes anyway and headed to the “long ride” that we’d driven last night to get to the sunset beach. Much of the trail was bike-only, through the pine savannah and appropriately named the Savanna Trail. 

It was both on- and off-road, with at least 12 km along a little-used (badly paved) one-way loop road. The non-paved lengths were mostly packed sand for a really lovely multi-use path. We started getting thoroughly wet as we found the Visitors Center, and took some shelter in there, looking at the kid-friendly displays (it was a great center to initiate “citizen scientist” interest in the younger set). 

I found that most of the “leaflets three leave them be” plants around the sites (and through which we had to high-step to get to the shared pedestal for power) are NOT in fact, poison oak. There is, however, lots of bona-fide poison oak and ivy interspersed amongst these taller, woody-stemmed bushes.

Which turned out to be “fragrant sumac” (rhus aromatica) described as a harmless cousin to poison ivy. The info at the Center said that the bush grows where sand dunes have stabilized, has aromatic foliage and bright red berries, and is the most common shrub in the oak savanna. Fragrant sumac grows up to 5 ft. tall and is food and shelter for countless birds, mammals, and insects. I took a couple of photos of the two plants, both found around our campsite:

The rain became more insistent as we waited, so we retired with our bikes to a nice little gazebo next to the VC, and played on their wifi for a while, checking emails etc.

Then we just had to go on. The rain let up a little, but as we rode, it got heavier and just as I was about to ask Jack to carry my camera, it abated a bit. 

Still, you’re going to be as wet as you’ll ever get within the first half-hour of riding in the rain, so we carried on, and scooped the long paved loop to and along the beach parking areas (but we could not see any water from our vantage, as the dunes are substantial between the road and Lake Huron). 

Just where the one-way road ended (near the end of the beach access points) the Savana trail headed off-road into the woodsy area, and what a great ride that was. We were nearly the only ones out in the drizzle, so we really pushed the speed along the trail, and hit some rollers that were truly fun and exciting to alternately fly down and push up, keeping our speed pretty steady, but still getting a great workout. It was like bicycling along a roller-coaster track.


The rain finally stopped and we got back to the campsite hoping that by hanging our wet gear (including gloves and shoes) in the screen house, at least some of it would get dry.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time = 54 minutes
  • Stopped time = 1:10
  • Distance = 10.5
  • Average speed = 11.6MPH


Then Jack put a “potlatch” dry rub on the salmon steaks we’d bought in town on Friday, the 20th, and we grilled it up, with asparagus and mushies, and heated up half of the remaining frozen mac-n-cheese from our HALS party. Yum! And Jack dug out the Solo Stove from the truck and we had a lovely fire during and after our meal. 


The rain chased us under the awning a few times, but let up enough for us to thoroughly enjoy the beautiful fire.

Unfortunately, the rain kicked into high gear after we cleaned up from dinner, and kept up through the night and into the 22nd, and really swamped the area. Where a gentle, intermittent rain was able to soak into the sand pretty readily, the steady downpour we experienced created vast lakes of puddles, especially in front of the bathhouse (which, by the way, had too few toilets, showers, and sinks — at least in the women’s side — to accommodate all the adults and kids swarming the place). That also made the campground quite loud, overall, with many screeching and wailing children. Of course, it was a weekend, so I guess we should have expected that.

So we tucked in during Sunday the 22nd. I took some time to ready the backlog of blog uploads, and we went up to the Visitor Center again to take advantage of their robust wifi, and hung out there for a long while.

Returned to Roomba to crank up our next movie: Dunkirk. It was really good, although somewhat confusing in terms of the time frame because the 3 stories that come together in the end are not told chronologically. But once we caught onto the actors playing each major role in each of the three separate stories, it became more clear. But among the focal points near where all the stories intersected was a British mine sweeper that gets bombed by a German bomber, so we had to watch that happen several times, which was not pleasant, but was a bit of a triumph when the stories merged. I’d definitely recommend it, and I might even see it again, knowing now what I was unsure of then.

Our “goodbye Canada” meal was another grill meal. On the same shopping trip on Friday, we’d found turkey thighs—unfrozen, farm-raised, and fresh—and Jack put a bit of Bicentennial Rub (Penzies) on them, and they were delicious!

Every November, we think we need to eat more turkey, but in the states (at least in VA), if it’s not October or November, you cannot find un-frozen turkey—much less turkey pieces. 

So this was a real treat and super easy and yummy. I actually think I liked the turkey more than the salmon (but don’t tell Jack I said so).

We had another campfire in our super Solo Stove, and headed to bed as the embers glowed red.

One final note: Before we left The Pinery, some locals said we HAD TO VISIT a place called Tobermory, north of The Pinery, on the Bruce Peninsula. I place that here with the hope that a reader or two, heading that way might schedule it; and also so we won’t forget, because we will be back in that area again in the future.



The Pinery on Lake Huron

July 20-21

It was, indeed, a very long drive. We managed to get away by about 6:30A and caught some breakfast as our first stop, and took several other rest/fuel/food/driver-change stops.

We followed the directions given to us by Jim and Jen and Chris, taking route 7 quite a large portion of the way west: destination The Pinery, on Lake Huron (pronounced like the tree: PYE-nuh-rie).

We got past Toronto without problems, and then went slightly off track and hit some slowdowns as the 407 transitioned to the 403 near Burlington and Hamilton. I navigated us off the 407 too soon by about 7 clicks, and we got into some late-afternoon, pre-rush hour traffic.

Once we got past that, however, and once we jiggered through and around London (a poor, gritty looking place) we managed to arrive at The Pinery around 5:30P. It had been a very, very long day, and I was particularly pleased to see that our site (#280 in the Dunes section) was a pull-through.

While we had discussed doing a “minimal setup” upon arrival, because we were both so tired, we actually did the whole shebang, with screen house and everything.

Went to bed quite early after a quick re-heated sausages dinner, and stayed asleep until nearly 9A—close to a 12-hour sleep.

We headed into the totally-touristy town of Grand Bend for groceries and lunch, and found a place by a marina called Smackwater Jack’s Tap Room. Not as compelling as its name, Smackwater Jack’s had a nice shady waterside deck, but VERY expensive menu. 

We might have known what was coming by the very few patrons at 1:30P. We sat for a very long while before a waiter (not ours) gave us some water; and then a longer time until our waitress came so we could ask about their beers. She was clueless about what they served, only pointing out that this or that was quite popular. She kept asking what we normally like and order, and when we pointed out (again) we like ales and IPAs, or British-style brews, and also told her we were from Virginia, she immediately forgot what we’d said in favor of telling us she visited the states frequently. Doh.

There are quite a few interesting visitors around the dunes savannah (a pretty interesting ecosystem, we learned at the Visitor Center, which is a great place to learn more as well as having incredible wifi) including chipmunks, an entire crow family complete with begging branchers (loud), osprey crying above, and more black squirrels (which are quite bold and brave).


The clouds began to roll in so we were reluctant to take down the bikes before tomorrow, with the hope that it would be less likely to rain then. Instead of biking we drove out to the sandy beaches (there are rocky and sandy beaches, evidently) and watched the sunset over Lake Huron. While there was plenty of sand at this part of the beach, there were tons and tons of very interesting rocks, too. As the sun set, everything began to be bathed in red.

National Geographic has reported is one of the best places from which to watch sunsets in the world. I took many sunset pix, grouped below, if you’re interested. Or you can skip them if you’ve seen too many sunset photos by amateurs in your lifetime. But it was extraordinary. And fun.

Naturally, I picked up and brought back to camp pockets-full of really keen-looking rocks! My mom will be so pleased. Whenever I travel and find neat rocks, we split the cache and add them to our collections. So mom, here are a few of the ones I picked up from the shores of Lake Huron. We will split them up when I get back.


Hit the hay early again after a chicken salad and cold cut “leftovers” dinner and slept well again. Hoping for a good “every left turn” bike ride tomorrow.