“Perhaps some day I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated”

But thankfully that day isn’t today! I apologise for the photo’s in advance, I haven’t been able to edit them at all.

Thunder Bay to Nipigon(ish) (21st July 2017)

Leaving Thunder Bay I wasn’t able to go on the main road as apparently it gets too narrow, this meant I had to follow Lakeshore Drive which isn’t on the lake shore… in fact you cant even see the lake but it is quite pleasant!

After about an hour I re-joined the highway and the road started to get steeper and more twisty which is fun, but unfortunately less lakes than previously.

In general the terrain in this area consists of sudden sharp rises and steep descents, all these beautiful hills are covered in pine forests interspersed with lakes and rivers. Its rather nice and however hard the ups are the descents are amazing fun as even with a headwind I was clocking up to 60kph.

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As the day went on I got to an area called Red Rock, the clue being in the name here… the road cuttings showed this in all its glory! This was shortly followed by more roadworks, its amazing that there is so much happening in this area but then construction is limited to the summer due to the snow in winter!

There were no campsites and no chance of wild camping round here so I ended up at a motel after 115km it had been a tough but good day on the bike I knew I had pushed the pace too much and tomorrow might be tough.

Nipigon (22nd July 2017)

It wasn’t tough, my legs just didn’t want to work! guess I am sitting today out!

about 10am the rain started… I felt less bad for a day off.

Nipigon(ish) to Rossport (23rd July 2017)

I still ache but I can’t sit around when I can actually move so it was back onto the bike. The views were pretty much the same, that’s no bad thing!

Todays plan is to get to the small town of Rossport, apparently its extremely pretty so why on earth not! nearly 80km of stunning twists and turns and a couple of brutal hills later I pulled into the town and again couldn’t find a camp ground (I’m not good at this am I!) and got a room at a b&b, dinner was at the local restaurant and was one of the nicer meals I have had while out here! I may have had a nap in the evening too… I seem to be tired all the time for some reason.

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Rossport to Neys (24th July 2017)

It’s my Dad’s Birthday today so I gave him a call to start the day. Happy Birthday Dad!

Again similar to the previous few days but in a good way, and possibly more hills with 1061m of ascent in 100km, it doesn’t sound much to mountain folk on foot but on a fully loaded bike its tough!

I stopped at the town of Terrace Bay and had a wander around the beach and rocks, it was the first time I had the chance to actually see the scale of Lake Superior, its is like looking out over the ocean but calmer. I had a wander along the rocks round the cove to have a look see and taste the lake water and had a tad of a fall into a crevice going knee deep and took a bit of a bump but no damage done and was back on the bike in no time. I was tiring at this point though and I was only about 40km in, I was going to camp about 60km ahead so it was a long ride round some lovely lakes and over more hills.

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By the time I got to the campground I was really tired. The ground was so hard I bent some pegs and could only get most in a few inch’s, if the wind got up it could get quite interesting, maybe I should have got a tent that could be free standing… I had the camp “invaded” by people seeing where I was cycling again so quite a social night in camp again, kinda nice!

Just thought a bit about Nays may interest some: During the second world war nays was actually a prisoner of war camp. Most PoW camps were hideous but those in Ontario had a reputation for being quite good places to sit out the war with good rations and not overly harsh guards. It was so good in fact that 25% of PoW’s decided to stay in Canada and many others returning to visit later.

Neys to Marathon (25th July 2017)

The plan has gone out the window today, I slept appallingly I am physically tired, running out of road rations (I have no breakfast foods or snacks left and maybe one day of  lentals and such left, I need to get to a town. I am so tired. I had little motivation and a family of people started chatting to me at the camp ground entrance so I ended up chatting to them for quite a while which was nice.

The climb out of the camp ground was hard but within 10km I found a restaurant and ate. I felt a bit better afterwards but my legs just had nothing in them so headed into the next town, Marathon, and crashed out after just 33km. I needed a rest day, these hills were draining my legs.

Marathon (26th July 2017)

Shopping day, changed the bike chain (that’s number 3) and resting, nothing interesting to report except the town called Marathon doesn’t have a sports shop!

Marathon to White River (27th July 2017)

Not far out of town I bumped into a couple of lovely Canadians (Noah and Sasha) who were doing a supported crossing and spent most the day cycling with them feeling slightly guilty that I was slowing them down but they didn’t seem to worried, they actually took the lead so that I could slip in behind and benefit from the shelter that they provided.

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After a few hours of chatting and riding we stopped for a break and I left them to it knowing that they would catch me up in no time… about 20 mins later a cyclist (Paul Touzin) coming the other way crossed over and we ended chatting for quite a while, Noah and Sasha caught up and it was all very social on the side of the road which was really nice! Paul was in the process of riding every major road in Canada, now that’s an undertaking!

After a while we said our goodbyes to Paul and headed on, at this point it wasn’t far to my stopping point of White River (apparently the home of Winnie the Pooh… :s) The Canadians joined me for some food before heading on. I must admit this has been one of my best days riding since I left the Rockies, it was really nice to have company and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer couple to bump into, thanks guys!

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See I am still having fun even if I am slightly tired 🙂

 

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“Yo Listen Up Here’s a Story…

… about a little guy who lives in a blue world” Well  green if you look at my equipment!

Kenora to Vermilion Bay (13th July 2017)

I was kinda sad to leave Kenora, its a nice town with lots of opportunities to take parts in water sports including Kayaking, canoeing, SUP(ing?), motor boats, jet skiing (although the people I saw using these all seemed to be chavvy), jet skiing and diving! Unfortunately I didn’t have the time or weather to take advantage of this.

Unfortunately I was going to have to follow the Tran Canada Highway which has the potential of being quite busy at time and, at this point, tends not to have a very big shoulder for cyclists. On the plus side this area of the country is littered with thousands of smaller (although still huge) lakes and there are quite a few right next to the road.

Having had a couple of days rest I was feeling fresh, and as those who know me will know this means I tend to push a little to hard! It is a hilly day too with 679m of assent in 88km.

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I wasn’t likely to make particularly good time due to the hills and the fact that I kept stopping to look at the lakes, I even ended up having a paddle in one at lunch. Of course this led to the inevitable mosquito bites, its actually getting to the point where I don’t really notice most of them any more.

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A wee paddle in one of the many lakes

I ended the day at a campsite at Crystal Lake campsite were I had a did in there “pool” which was rather pleasant!

Vermilion Bay to Dryden (14th July 2017)

The owner of the campsite informed me that there wouldn’t be the quantity of lakes that I had enjoyed the day before and that there would be a large amount of road works coming up… great… I love road works…

For about 30km the going was good, there were still hills (hills make me happy!) and some lakes… then the roadworks..

I saw the queue first and scooted down the side of it with lots of people saying “hi” as they waited by the side of them… I was a little surprised that there was between 2 and 3km of tail backs at this point, I haven’t seen any traffic outside of the cities! This had me slightly worried as it means the drivers are a bit ancy to get through the roadwork’s as quick as possible. I scooted to the front of the queue and was warned that the road conditions were quite bad but I really didn’t have much option!

For the next 30km I pushed through the works as quickly as possible averaging 20kph over hilly landscape with rough ground on a heavy bike. By the time I got through the works I was tired,  if I did much more distance I would be in no condition to ride tomorrow, I knew I was going to ache as it was. A few km later I came to Drydon and decided to rest there for a night. Apparently Drydon is the smallest city in Ontario and the only other city apart from Kenora in the Central Time Zone.

Dryden to  Ignace (15th July 2017)

I was right… I ached… The going was slow but I had to plod away the miles, I hadn’t covered the distance I had wanted over the last couple of days so needed to just keep plodding. The going seemed relatively flat and I had a slight tail wind so I was actually making better time than I had realised!

Lunch was next to one of the lovely lakes where I had a good stretch to loosen the legs.

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Lunch break

The day was quite uneventful up until about 12:00hrs, about 20km from my planned stop at Ignace, there was a queue of traffic, I assumed that it was roadwork’s but there were too many people out of the cars, as I slowly made my way down the shoulder I gradually found out more, there was an fatal accident further down the road and it was likely to be up to 6hrs before we would be able to move on… the only way round would be a 4hr car drive back the way I had come then round the south… not a chance I could do that on a bike! I waited for a while then went to talk to the police at the scene to see if there was any update.

As I approached the car two officers got out and one offered to escort me through the scene of the accident as long as I followed exactly what I was told and gave all due respect to the casualty, which I was more than willing to do. Thank you to that very kind officer, I was very willing to wait or even camp on the roadside for the night so that they could do what they needed to do.

I rolled into Ignace about 19:00 hours and couldn’t find the campsite so ended up at a motel for the night.

On a more positive note it was my Mum’s Birthday today… Happy Birthday!

Ignace to English River (16th July 2017)

I woke up tired, I had had a fast day followed by a long day and my body was feeling it, but I couldn’t rest, I need to do more miles so it was back on the bike and on the road albeit slightly later than normal. I must admit I wasn’t taking too much notice of what is around me today I was too tired, if it wasn’t for the heavy traffic I would have plugged into my music but the road was too narrow and I needed to hear what was behind me.

By lunch time I was already thinking of stopping, I had found some nice locations on the way and actually ended up having a quick nap next to one of the lakes!

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Time for a nap.

About an hour later I was back on the road and headed on, about an hour and a half later I came to English River, and it was quite pretty so I decided to stay here overnight at another motel..

English River (17th July 2017)

I am still tired and the weather is foul… I’m not moving today! I don’t want to play.

English River to Savanne Resort (18th July 2017)

The weather has picked up and I feel less tired so get on the road… again later than planned though as I ended up talking to nearly everyone at the motel over breakfast!

Today has only two options its either going to be short or very long unless I sleep by the road and I don’t really want to do that. The scenery is very similar to the last few days and that fine, its quite pretty! It turns out that I am actually quite tired still so I decided to have a shorted day (69km).

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Eve and Frankenbag enjoying a break by the lake

Its been busy on the road today, there have been around about 200 motor bikes making a lot of noise by mid afternoon I came to a campsite and relaxed.

Savanne Resort to Thunder Bay (19th July 2017)

Today was fun… lots of hills with big twisting descents and after a few shorter days I was feeling a lot fresher, I plodded and it seems that today was a day for seeing other cyclists, I came across a few heading the other direction, on the whole only sharing a wave, but on occasion a chat when the traffic allowed us to stop.

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“the hills are alive (unfortunately) with the sound of music” well my singing… 

Just after lunch I came across a cyclist heading the same way as me, Karen is a lovely Irish lady who is also doing the cross Canada ride but doing it in a mere 50 days! While chatting to her chap from Quebec came up, it was all getting very social at the road side! I ended up cycling with Karen for a while until we started to hit more hills, I tend to go up these quite quickly it seems and started to leave her behind, we decided we would meet up at Kakabeka Falls provincial park  as we were both heading that way, I was planning on camping there.

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Selfi with Karen

The falls were stunning, I hadn’t seen any proper falls for quite a way. After chatting to Karen for a while she headed of towards Thunder Bay and I went to the campground, it turned out that the campground was expensive so I decided that I would go an extra hour and a half to Thunder Bay and get a motel for about $20 more.

O and I forgot to mention, I passed into another time zone!

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So that’s how this boy got to Thunder Bay… more next time! Happy adventures!

Lake of the Woods

This has taken me a bit longer to get round to righting than planned! Sorry!!

I had a few days staying in Kenora on Lake of the Woods, Ontario… this wasn’t a planned stop as to be honest I hadn’t even heard of the place until the day before while looking at maps but as I approached the town and saw the Lake of the Woods I knew I was going to be there a few days to have a look-see! So I will start of with some info about Lake of the Woods.

Lake of the Woods (LotW from now on as I am too lazy to keep writing the full name!) is big… we are talking 68 miles long (at its longest) and 59 miles wide (at the widest point) with area of 1,679 squared miles… to put that in context that’s bigger than the whole of Somerset… or 2.6 times bigger than Surrey (where I grew up). The lake has 14,552 islands and over 65,000 miles of shore (including the islands)! This is a big old lake…

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The Lake is quite built up with lake houses seeming to cover vast amounts of shore but not in a tacky crowded way… more in a overly rich playboys getaway kind of way but slightly more classy.

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The main (and possibly only) town in the area is Kenora here is what Wiki has to say about its history:

“Kenora’s future site was in the territory of the Ojibway when the first European, Jacques De Noyon, sighted Lake of the Woods in 1688.

Pierre La VĂ©rendrye established a secure French trading post, Fort St. Charles, to the south of present-day Kenora near the current Canada/U.S. border in 1732, and France maintained the post until 1763 when it lost the territory to the British in the Seven Years’ War — until then, it was the most northwesterly settlement of New France. In 1836 the Hudson’s Bay Company established a post on Old Fort Island, and in 1861, the Company opened a post on the mainland at Kenora’s current location.

In 1878, the company surveyed lots for the permanent settlement of Rat Portage (“portage to the country of the muskrat”) — the community kept that name until 1905, when it was renamed Kenora.

Kenora was once claimed as part of the Province of Manitoba, and there are early references to Rat Portage, Manitoba. There was a long lasting argument between the two provinces known as the Ontario-Manitoba boundary dispute. Each province claimed the town as part of their territory and the dispute lasted from 1870 to 1884. Although Ottawa had ruled the town part of Manitoba in 1881, the issue was finally taken up with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which eventually decided in Ontario’s favour. Kenora officially became part of the province of Ontario in 1889. Boundaries were drawn up for the provinces and the Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods which definitively drew the borders between Ontario, Manitoba, Canada, and Minnesota, U.S.A.

Gold and the railroad were both important in the community’s early history: gold was first discovered in the area in 1850, and by 1893, 20 mines were operating within 24 km (15 mi) of Rat Portage, and the first Canadian ocean-to-ocean train passed through in 1886 on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Among the entrepreneurs attracted to the town was the Hon. JEP Vereker, a retired British army officer and youngest son of the 4th Viscount Gort

Later, a highway was built through Kenora in 1932, becoming part of Canada’s first coast-to-coast highway in 1943, and then part of the Trans-Canada Highway, placing the community on both of Canada’s major transcontinental transportation routes. The original barrier to the completion of the highway concerned the crossing of the Winnipeg River at two locations. The single span arch bridges are among the longest of their type in North America.

During the Prohibition era in the United States, the Lake of the Woods served as a smuggler’s route for the transport of alcohol.

In December 1883, there was a large fire in Rat Portage, rendering 70 of the town’s then population of 700 homeless.

Rat Portage is mentioned in Algernon Blackwood’s famous 1910 story, “The Wendigo”.

The importance of the logging industry declined in the second part of the 20th century, and the last log boom was towed into Kenora in 1985. The tourist and recreation industries have become more important.”

So anyway, I spent a couple of day exploring the town and tried to get a SUP lesson but alas no such luck! On day 2 the weather turned foul and I hid from the weather and did sweet FA (bad Andy!). On the last day I got some chores done including rewrapping my handlebars (again!) as the tape I had previously bought was rubbish, unfortunately I could only get black tape so eve is looking all serious… boooooooo.

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In the evening I took a cruise around the lake on the MS Kenora and had dinner on board, the food was reasonable but I felt I may have missed some of the views as I was stuffing my face!

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The cruise had the typical information about the area, some of the history and such. Whilst underway I was lucky enough (thanks to the skipper pointing it out!) to see a number of Bald Eagles which for me was the highlight of the tour!

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Right I need sleep so that all you are getting!

 

 

Winnipeg Wanderings

I have spent a bit of time in Winnipeg to explore and to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday. Interestingly the city is only about 10km off the longitudinal centre of North America so also marks my halfway point of the journey.

Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba and is situated at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine River. The city is named after the nearby Winnipeg Lake which derives its name from the Western Cree language meaning Muddy Water which given the colour of the rivers running through the town is quite an apt description!

One last fact is that Winnipeg has the highest percent of First Nations people of any city in Canada at 11.7%, the city in general seems to be diverse with over 100 languages spoken.

I got to the city on the 27th June and spent the next two days going between bike shops to get the parts to carry out some much needed maintenance. I had designed the bike so that parts should be easy to come across but I hadn’t taken into account the fact 11 speed cassettes weren’t particularly popular in Canada for some reason! Once I had got all the bits and done the repairs it was time to start exploring properly.

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Winnipeg Legislative Building

On the 29th I walked down the trail next to the river and took a look at the Legislative Building before heading on. The next stop was The Forks which is particularly interesting, this is the point that the rivers join and a traditional meeting point for the First Nations, the area has some old stables that used to serve the river boats but is now a indoor market and restaurants. Pretty much all of the ground floor is food stores with the upper floor being mainly gifts and such. As I am sure you can imagine I spent some time on the ground floor…

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The Museum of Human Rights at the Forks

On the 30th I headed back to the Legislative Building which is supposed to be one of the most impressive in the country, and to be fair it was impressive! The building follows an ancient principle of incorporating the number 13. This may seem odd as its often seen as an unlucky number but in various different times it was given homage either to stave of bad luck or to invite good luck. Another curious feature (for all you acousticians and other geeks) is the Pool of the Black Star, a circular room underneath the dome that, when you stand in the centre, amplifies the sounds around you.

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Looking up from the Pool of the Black Star

After the Legislative building I headed over to St Boniface to have a nosey around the cathedral and university, while trying to get a shot I ended up chatting to another photographer who was going to do the photo’s for tomorrows festivities, as ever I got some info on where to go and local attractions.

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St Boniface façade

After St Boniface it was on to the remains of the old fort then back to the hostel to cook up some food.

1st of July… Canada Day.

A few of the peeps from the hostel and I spent most of the festivities at the forks where there were six stages of live music, a powwow, food stalls and a cheerfulness that only a few thousand friendly Canadians can exude.

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Main Stage at the Forks

I spent most of the day at main stage but couldn’t resist lunch at a pancake house, dinner of poutine and watched the powwow for a while. The night finished off with a fireworks show before I headed back for some much needed sleep.

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Big bangs

It should be noted that not everyone was celebrating, there was a demonstration by a group of First Nations people about the way they have been treated and the treaties that Canada has broken with them. One of the ladies at the hostel did a few interviews to try to understand what this. Check the video out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JecB6Bm5iyc&feature=youtu.be

The 2nd July was at the hostel having a good old natter with some of the other residents and resting up.

 

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Winds of Saskatchewan

 Moose Jaw to Buffalo Pond

On leaving Moose Jaw I headed slightly east before going directly north on the 301, this road goes parallel to the road I entered the town buy but is gravel. I followed this until I reached Buffalo Pond Provincial Park located in a valley next to a lake. I had every intention of just passing through but there was scenery other than farm land so I decided to set up camp for the night. I had a paddle in the lake and washed down my bike before spending a very pleasant evening chatting to some fellow campers who were a couple of pitch down from mine, they handed on a bit of knowledge on what’s coming up, wildlife around the area (one of them was a biologist and twitched (called birders over here apparently)) and some Canadian history.

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Pelican at Buffalo Pond 

Buffalo Pond to Regina

After cooking up some porridge and breaking camp I followed the valley path as far as I could, the path was a mix of gravel (tough to cycle on) and grass (even tougher to cycle on) for about 20km where I left the park and headed back on to gravel and dirt roads towards Regina. Due to how flat the land being so flat I could see the city for miles before I got the industrial areas at the edge of town. After a few minutes I passed these and found a route to the river which, as seems the case with most cities, I was able to follow for a few miles to the city centre and the youth hostel I was to stay at for a couple of nights. The hostel was slightly run down compared to the other Hostelling International hostels I have stayed and quieter but as ever the staff were amazing and there were people to talk to. After a shower I went for a wander into the Down Town area and found a “traditional English pub” to eat at, it wasn’t very good… I should know better by now than to go to that kinda place! Then back to the hostel for some much-needed sleep.

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Its not all gravel grinding! 

Regina

Today I wandered round Regina, first exploring the bike shops… again its Sunday so not many were open and they didn’t have the cassette that I was looking for, seems that the “easy to getÂŁ components that I had built the bike round aren’t always that easy to get, also it was bad timing being a Sunday. After this I had a wander around Wascana Park (the name “Wascana” is derived from the Cree word Oscana meaning “pile of bones” in reference to the plains bison bones scattered around Wascana Creek before the area was populated by non-indigenous people). The lake is quite pretty with a number of islands and some stunning views over the impressive Legislative Building, possibly the nicest building I have seen so far in Canada. After this I headed back and got supplies for dinner (quinoa with lemon and chilli halloumi yum!) and pack and prep for the next days ride.

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Legislative Building through a waterfall 

Regina to Fort Qu’ Appelle

From Regina I was heading in a general north western direction to Fort Qu’ Appelle. I followed route one out of town, this was slightly dodgy as there were a lot of roadworks going on meaning the road was narrow and more lorries. I followed this to White City, which seemed to be a service station, and had a Subway for early lunch. After about another 30mins I left route 1 (after having to cross 3 lanes of main road moving at 100kph, thankfully Canadian roads are quiet!) and joined route 10 a few hours of flat Saskatchewan prairie I dropped down into another of the almost hidden valleys and into Fort Qu’ Appelle and headed to the campground and set up the tent. I headed into town to explore and visit the museum to learn a bit about the town, there wasn’t much to learn apart from the fact that it had been set up by the Hudson Bay Company as a trading post and fort and the museum had the second oldest building in Saskatchewan. That night I was treated to one of the most amazing sunsets over Echo Lake that I have ever seen. 20170612_205521.jpg

Sunsets… pretty!

Fort Qu’ Appelle to Lemberg

I decided I wanted something other than porridge for breakfast and headed for my first Tim Hortons (aka Timmies), to be honest they aren’t anything to write home about but Canadians make a big deal about them so…!

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Apparently this is quite Canadian!

I decided to follow the pretty route (read long and hard!) down the valley of gravel paths with headwinds, it was hard going and it detracted from the beauty of the place the head winds were brutal. A storm had been forecast for about 4pm so I couldn’t hang around which was a shame as at about 1pm a local farmer drove out to offer me lunch which I unfortunately had to turn down due to worrying about the storm. About an 10 mins later and the owner of the museum I had visited yesterday drove up to say “hi” after he had noticed my tracks at the turning and wanted to check how I was getting on.

 A few hours more gravel grinding I got to the small town of Lemberg where I got a hotel room to shelter from the potential storm that had yet to appear. As ever it was a quick shower before heading out to look at the town and find some food…. Everything was closed so I had a pizza at the hotel bar and chatted to some “quirky” locals, as I was finishing dinner the lady behind the bar told me that I had been invited around the house of another of the servers to say “hi” as they were English too, so I was walked over and introduced to Tammie, Neil and family. I had a lovely evening with them and am very grateful for their hospitality and the nicest cup of tea I have had this side of the pond! O and the promised storm hadn’t appeared.

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Lemberg Elevator

 Lemberg to Melville

I woke up to rain… and nearly didn’t bother getting out of bed but I have miles that I need to make so even if its only a short day I had to get moving. I popped into the local coop to pick up supplies for the day and then hit the road, I followed the main roads east and north in the rain and brutal winds; I was also tired from the day before and knew that I wasn’t going to be having a big day so just toughed it out to the next town, Melville where I stayed at a cheap motel and hid from the rain, I was soaked through and cold… my waterproof jacket had wetted out and the temperature had dropped to about 15oc with the wind it had got into my bones.

 Melville to Yorkton

I struggled to get out of bed again today and was slow getting going… especially as I stopped at Timmies for breakfast again. I think taking pity on me the staff gave me a voucher for a free coffee next time I stop at one. The countryside is slightly hillier today and there seems to be more trees, it vaguely reminds me of Cheshire but flatter. I only 45km; all of which in pretty much a straight line and the wind had dropped; I couldn’t help but try and push the pace, I covered the distance in 2hrs. The scenery is the same until I got to Yorkton. I have to say I was majorly underwhelmed by the city on entering the first thing you see is the Casino in a rather tacky first nation style, the main area of the town is surrounding Broad Street, a three-lane highway right through the middle…. I will stay here a few days to recover and see if I can get my new cassette… Wish me luck!!!

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 Some days be like…

 

 

 

Moose Jaw

After a tough cycle in I needed a few days rest in Moose Jaw, I spent the first two days just eating, drinking and sleeping I was truly done in and the weather was still sweltering hot. On day 3 I had a walk round town and did a tour of the tunnels below the town and learning a bit of the history of the town and the country.

The first tour was about the way that Chinese immigrants were treated and the conditions that they lived in. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Chinese immigration was seen as a big problem, especially in British Colombia, to try and limit immigration a charge was put on Chinese trying to come to the country, this had little effect and in 1923 a full immigration ban was introduced! Those who were in Canada were often hated and heavily in debt to “Coolie Brokers” who had put up the money for the trip over. Due to there social stigma the Chinese often worked in menial labour such as laundries, which is the main occupation shown in the tour. They were treated badly and paid poorly, the living conditions often being 3 men to a bunk. I was slightly horrified at it but know that this was going on with many other races in other countries so wasn’t hugely surprised.

On the tour they also explained why the tunnels under the town had been constructed, the primary reason being for the boiler engineers. During winter Saskatchewan gets cold… -30-40oC cold. Going from a boiler room that can be in excess of +40oC out into the bitter cold can be lethal, if you are doing that multiple times a day it can be rather bad on your health, therefore they built tunnels between the different businesses and boiler rooms. Simple solution really.

Tour two was about the bootleggers during the prohibition period and the way they used these tunnels to smuggle alcohol into the US. The main operation was run by Al Capone but some of his men also made a bit more money with there own work on the side, if they had be caught they would end up “sleeping with the fish.” During this period Moose Jaw was a seen as a den of vice and nicknamed “Little Chicago”

I had a bit more of a wander round the town and more rest and food. before moving on…

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Tough times

On leaving Saskatoon my general direction is down towards Moose Jaw, mainly because I love the name, but also because it has a bit of history to it. I had estimated that this would take a couple of days but I underestimated the effects that weather would have on slowing me down…

Saskatoon to Danielson Provincial Park (2nd June 2017)

From Saskatoon I headed south following the river as far as I could then headed through a dog park where I had my closest animal encounter with the typical “he wont bite!”… easy to say when you aren’t the one being run at by an angry looking dog… I have come across bears that are less aggressive then these domestic creatures!

It was nice to be back on the bike and not on roads but hard work as after the dog park it was onto gravel roads heading past Cranbury Flats conservation area and then back onto tarmac on the 219. I would be following this road for most the rest of the day, and in general it gradually rose in altitude for approximately 50km but only by about 100m this still takes energy out of you especially in 30 degree heat. Again this was all through prairies so the countryside is all very samey and I must admit its starting to get slightly lonely while cycling.

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Same old, same old…

By the time I got to the provincial park (effectively a large campsite owned by the province) I was drained both physically and mentally. I erected my tent, had a shower then started to cook dinner, while doing so I noticed some rather large black clouds coming over, it looked like a storm… I moved my cooking into an undercover area and finished up my vegi stew but by now big drops of rain were falling… I have to admit I was worried that this might be an uncomfortable night and had the bivi easy at hand in case I needed to escape a collapsed and broken tent, I haven’t tested it in really heavy wind! Thankfully it wasn’t a storm but the wind was high and the rain heavy… and the tent didn’t even seem to flap, most impressed!

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Camp

Danielson Provincial Park to Central Butte (3rd June 2017)

The day didn’t start well, although the tent had been good I had slept appallingly, so was sluggish when I got up, after my morning porridge I went to the site shop to get a sugar hit only to find they had no change and the card machine wasn’t working! The temperature was already getting hot as I slightly disgruntledly got back on the bike.

It was more miles of the same types of farmland until I got to my lunch spot of the town of Elbow, what an unusal name! After ouch the temperature was really starting to get to me, I never cope to well with temperature approaching (or in this case exceeding) 30 degrees. By the time I got to one of my only potential stopping spots for the day at Tugaske I was ready to rest… only to find the hotel I had planned to stop at and was signed from the road had been closed… my only options were either a roadside camp (les than ideal) or go 20km out of my way to Central Butte, 10km of that down gravel roads, so yet again I was on my last legs when I got to somewhere to sleep and not worried at how run down it was, I had drunk 3ltrs of water and eaten all my snacks but was still not doing well….

Central Butte to Moose Jaw (4th June 2017)

Setting off the day was already quite warm at 9am, and the local grocery store was shut… this meant that I had to hope that one in the other 2 small towns on the way would be open… I had packed a extra couple of litres of water to ensure that I wouldn’t run out today, after all I wouldn’t drink more than 4.5 ltrs in a day right???

After 25km I re-joined the 42 at Eyebrow (what’s with the town names round here!) and headed south east, as had been the case on the last couple of days the wind was coming generally from the south, this makes it hard even without a head wind. It turns out that all the shops and restaurants in the area are closed on Sundays so I have no food for the 100km ride! this was going to cause some issues! To top things off the road after Eyebrow turned in to a gravel surface for 20km, given the heat and dust I was going through water faster than I had anticipated.

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Some roads are better than others

I was struggling with the heat and the lack of food, by 14:00hrs I was in quite a bit of trouble, I was down to my last 1.5ltr of water and I was “bonking”, I had nothing left in the tank, everything was struggling to work an I was in a low gear just to keep my legs turning. And I still had about 20-30km to go. I kept having to rest and thoughts of just quitting were now firmly in my head. It took me about 3hrs to cover a distance that would normally only take 1.5hrs, I was supposed to be camping in Moose Jaw but I couldn’t make it past the outskirts of town where thankfully there was a hotel. I was a sorry mess when I checked in and I am sure I probably came across rude to the receptionist but I wasn’t meaning to be. I hit the vending machine to get some quick food before crashing out for nearly an hour. A shower followed and then it was off to get some food, oddly I couldn’t take much on for fear that I couldn’t keep it down. Also considering how tired it was I had an amazingly bad night sleep.

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I need a rest!

 

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Heads or Tails

This blog covers the section of the route between Kindersley and Saskatoon, a distance of just over 200km which is about 200km (120miles) or two days ride. In true British fashion I will mainly be talking about weather… This is because Saskatchewan is notoriously dull! The whole province so far has been relatively flat agricultural land, but it does have some interesting weather. Sorry for the lack of photo’s

Kindersley to Rosetown (24th May 2017)

Leaving Kindersley the weather reports were looking like I was going to get a few showers through the day, it had been a while since I had been rained on and given how dusty it can be I was hoping the showers would give some release from this. After about 30 mins I realised I had a lovely tail wind that was making going really easy and happened to glance behind, apparently the weather predictions had been correct that it would rain…. but wrong on how much, there was a full blown storm spinning around the plains behind me, it was hard to tell if it would hit me more not as it seemed to move away them come back before moving away.

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Keep a weather eye on the horizon

About 30mins after spotting the storm the edge of it came in and, just in time, I  was back in my waterproofs as hail the size of garden peas started falling for about 30mins (seems one of those days!) 10 mins after leaving the hail a driver flagged me down to warn me there was a hail storm about 10mins ahead… kind of them but it was the storm that had already passed over!

The rain started not long after and gradually got worse till about midday when I decided to stop at a restaurant in one of the local towns to hide from the worst of it…. the restaurant was closed and the weather was decreasing rapidly as the full force of the storm was coming in, I decided to hide under the eves of a building, just as I was getting into the shelter a local came by and opened the local hockey rink for me so I could shelter inside, very kind of him!

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Hail…

I hid away for over an hour and had to change out of my damp gear and into some of the warm stuff I haven’t used since Jasper as the temperature plummeted. I tired to open the door a couple of times to check the weather conditions, I have no problem riding in the rain but I wasn’t going out in a full blown storm… well I couldn’t open the door more than an inch as the wind was so strong!

Once the storm had passed I was out and on the road again, light drizzle came in and out but I made good time with the tail wind and was in town Rosetown about two hours later, I was drenched and slightly cold and there were more storms coming and predicted for the next day so I got a room in a motel and rested up and dried out, the owner was amazed that I had cycled through the storm.

Rosetown to Saskatoon (26th May 2017)

Today was quite different to the last cycling day… sunny and with a 15-20mph headwind… it was going to be a hard day with 120km to cover. I struggled through the day eating all my snacks and easily eatable supplies to try and keep my energy up but 6hrs of cycling into the wind was brutal and by the time I got to Saskatoon I was done in (yet again!) and struggled to even walk to a restaurant to stuff my face with a huge 3 course meal… when I returned to the hotel (I am in town for a few days awaiting a package so splashed out on a bed and shower!) where I got some of the complimentary fruit and munched on that too!

 

 

Into the Badlands

It’s been a few days since I have written one of these so sorry if it gets a bit wordy!

I left Calgary on Monday 15th May and took another detour from the originals route based on advice from locals and other travellers and decided to head to Drumheller and the Badlands… this place is also dinosaurs country but we shall come to that!

This the first time I had used my Garmin Edge Tourer GPS for anything other than recording the ride as I have a terrible habit of getting lost in cities… mountains or wide open plains, fine! But cities are a maze to me! So the GPS (from now on refered to as the scatnav) did well, keeping me off main roads most the way out of the city then through suburbia and the industrial areas and out onto the wide, flat, agricultural landscape of Alberta… this is were things got interesting, the scatnav took me down some lovely backroads, again keeping me away from traffic but unfortunately these roads then turned into gravel tracks… this is fine, Eve is built as a steel framed cyclocross or gravel bike but with all the equipment on her she isn’t quite so handy as normal (but still good!)

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Gravel Grinding

The first hour or so was fun with the tail of the bike kicking out on occasion so I was having think of what lines to take on these roads but as the day wore on I was finding it harder to keep the level of concentration and there were a few times that I nearly came of when the back kicked out too much or I over compensated. After nearly 7 hours on these roads I had had enough, the landscape is just field after field of cows, the roads varying levels of gravel or grit and I was tired, hot, dehydrated (there was nowhere to fill up my filter bottle and I had drained all of my three bottles that I carry…. and worse… I was hungry… on long days I have to keep eating and today was 140km… that’s approximately 3000 Calories burned so I should be eating over double what the recommended daily intake of food…. I had probably eaten 1000 calories all day.

Eventually I came back onto asphalt just outside of a lovely named village of Rosebud but the scatnav wanted to take me back onto the gravel… I ignored it and headed straight north of lovely smooth roads into the Badlands, I stopped briefly at Horseshoe Canyon before heading down a spectacular road and eventually into Drumheller where I was beginning to feel ill through lack of food so quickly showered and headed to the nearest food place and ate everything I could think of!

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Horseshoe Canyon

Drumheller 16th and 17th May 2017

Drumheller is known as the dinosaur capital of the world because of the high concentration of fossils located in the area. In the 1880’s, J.B. Tyrrell came to present-day Drumheller looking for coal and found the skull of a dinosaur near the Red Deer River. That dinosaur became known as the Albertasaurus and so began the collection of dinosaur remains that are sought after by museums all over the world and is provides a steady stream of tourists to the area.

 

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Drumheller water tower

I spent a couple of days in Drumheller having a look round cleaning Eve. I spent the first day eating and having a look around the town itself, its quite nice and has a clear dinosaur theme going through it! Day two I told the scatnav to take me the quickest route to the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum which resulted in a rather hot and sweaty 50km bike ride for what should have been 15km!!! But the museum was interesting and lets be honest, who doesn’t like dinosaurs!

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T-Rex!

Drumheller to Hanna (aka “Power of the Voodoo; Hoodoos?”) 18th May 2017

I decided to take the less obvious route down the valley today to see the Hoodoo’s; unusual rock pillers often with a “cap” of rock on top that form totem pole like shapes, these only really form in Badlands and deserts so I thought it was worth the trip.

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Hoodoos

Because of this detour I ended up on gravel roads again… and then the gravel ran out and it was onto dirt tracks…. then through fields with hundreds of cows with there calves, if only I had listened to the reprogramed scatnav! It turns out that cows in Canada are scared of bikes and being in a field with literally hundreds of cows stampeding is scary as hell! After a couple of fields (probably 15 miles of track) it was back to gravel roads where a vehicles that came from the farm stopped and the driver asked if I was lost, then laughed as I told him what had happened.

 

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There goes the gravel!

Eventually I got back onto tarmac and after another 2 hours on lovely smooth roads with boring farm landscape I got to Hanna, I was tired so decided to have a couple of nights here, the gravel had drained my legs completely.

Hanna to Oyan 20st May 2017

To be honest there is not much to report from today, the landscape is a never ending sea of farm crop fields and there was nothing on route apart from one bad truckers diner from the start of the day to the end it was slight rolling hills flanked by the golden stubble of last years crops until I got to Oyan  where I set up the tent and cooked myself an excessively spicy salami hash (fried salami with sweet potato, onion and a tin of chopped tomato’s)

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Camp dinner

I wasn’t the only one having dinner, the mosquitos were out in force and were having a feast on me! The prairies (which I was now in) may not be that interesting to ride through but boy, the sunsets are something!

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Prairie Sunsets are quite something!

Oyan to Kindersly 21st May 2017

This was much the same as yesterday with the exception of crossing out of Alberta and into Saskatchewan, I had now passed through two states in full but I knew this one was going to be tough, and it seemed that started as soon as I was on over the state lines, the wind seemed to switch straight away and it became a head wind blowing over miles of open planes at about 20mph, it felt like an uphill battle. the few times that the headwind dropped it became a sidewind and pushed me all over the place on the road, and the amount heavy goods on this section was increasing the buffering I was getting to the point that I had a close call of getting pushed by the aerodynamics into the side of a lorry travelling at 100kph, brown trouser time! on a more positive note though I saw a beaver in a pond off to the side of the road. Unfortunately the wind didn’t help get rid of the mosquitos and I have been eaten to death!

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Saskatchewan…..

I am having a couple of rest days at Kinderley, there isn’t much here but I need to pick some stuff up and possibly get a new chain for the bike, mine is nearly worn out after the last 1800km.

 

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Hangover on Wheels

10/05/2017

I have been on in Canada for a month now, how exciting! Today I went up to Banff Cave and Basin, this is the birthplace of the national parks in Canada. The caves and basin are two thermal mineral pools (one in a cave and one outdoors) that are fed by a number of springs that run of Sulphur mountain.

I am not very good underground… in fact I am down right terrible! But I can’t let my fears stop me from seeing interesting things so I headed on into a really rather wonderful little grotto. Due to a unique type of snail you can no longer access the water but I sat by the side and soaked in the relaxing atmosphere (occasionally broken by school groups or tour groups) for about 30mins or an hour. The slight humidity, hint of sulphur, sound of running water and general ambiance of the place was relaxing. Its really no wonder that the First Nations thought that this was a spiritual place.

Banff Cave

Originally the cave was only accessible through a skylight but the Europeans blasted an access to it to make it easier for the tourists and small resort was built so people could “take the waters”.

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The hostel had organised a trip to the local climbing wall, so I thought I would join in and meet some more new people. The climbing was good, although my lack of practice was quite evident (to me), its amazing how just a month or so of not climbing makes you significantly weaker! After this it was a dip in the pool then back to pick my bike up from having a service, no issues but as I was in town for a few days I thought its was worth the while, and bike shops are an invaluable source of information for what is coming up next!

That eve a few of us went down to the bar for a pint… this turned into a few pints and I crawled back to my bunk at about 2am…. enough said about that!

Banff to Canmore (12/05/2017)

At 8am I was up and packing the last of my things back into the panniers, rather less organised than it had come out but I was feeling sick as a dog and had no idea how I would even with the short day to Canmore, this is only 22km and relatively flat. The views, those that I could pay attention to, were slightly different as the road follows the wide glacial valley with the mountains seeming to get further and further away.

Exiting Banff National Park

I am sad to say I left the national park on this journey and in the next day or so I will be leaving the mountains all together.

I got to Canmore at about lunch time and found a hotel, I was still feeling rough and ended up sleeping most of the afternoon. I can never work out if what I call a hangover is purely the alcohol or a lack of sleep and the fact I can’t really eat the next day.

Canmore to Calgary (13/05/2017)

Today I will be leaving the mountains behind me, and a sad day that is. I headed for route 1A and with my typical grace in towns, got misplaced… After a few wrong terns I got on the right route and headed up into some of the foot hills and climbed for about 30 mins, I was now out of the national park and it was obvious, after the first hour I was seeing signs of mineral extraction and other associated industry that isn’t allowed in the park.

20km from my starting point and I was out of the mountains all together and the next 50km after that were a gradual down hill. I stopped at an old Church called the McDougall Memorial United Church. This place was built in 1875 (old for this part of the world it seems) and was built as a mission to the Stoney-Nakoda and Blackfoot First Nations of this area (its located in a Blackfoot reserve). It was also a pioneering settlement, featuring southern Alberta’s first permanent homestead, first herd of breeding cattle, and first Protestant church, as well as one of the province’s first trained teachers.

McDougall Memorial United Church
After this I briefly passes through Cochran which seemed like it was still a cowboy town! Then climbed a rather large hill that required more effort than I really wanted to give, Granny gear even came into play again! At this point the road was getting rather busy as well so I was glad a few km later to take a turning towards Tuscany, no not that one! this was a suburban maze that confused me like you would not believe, I only wanted to get to the river then it was a straight (or as straight as rivers are!) run through the city to the hostel. pretty much the whole of the river in Calgary has been turned into a park so it was a rather nice journey into town, I was joined by a local commuter for a while which was nice, he had seen the panniers and was interested to know what I was up to.

After winding my way through riverside walk for about 15km I got to the hostel then it was the normal gig of shower unpack a few bits, wipe the bike down and go find some food.

 

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