Storytelling

/ Wednesday, 18 August 2010 / CanadaNorth AmericaSaskatchewan

My lips are burnt, my tongue aches and my skin is peeling, I didn’t eat anything hot, I just went for 4 rounds in a sweat ceremony today, in the Qu’appelle valley, in the town of Lebret, Saskatchewan – or Starblanket, as it’s known to the Cree aboriginal people. The past 5 days have been nothing short of epic, with a little bit of confusion sprinkled in along the way, however it is something that I need to address – work out – and move forward, being realistic about life.

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Shelter camping in Davidson

After I wrote the previous post in Davidson I left the bar and proceeded to camp right across the street in their public space, where a gigantic coffee pot is resting in mid air. After the days rain, lightning, and hail I was not interested in getting wet and starting off my day with a soggy tent so proceeded to rig up my tent in between two picnic tables under a shelter and used bungee cords to act as pegs. The tent looked wonky, but it worked and I was dry, up at 7:00am before anyone saw and came and told me to get out of the space. I’m sure with a little bit of communication from my end would have likely defused the situation, but I was just not interested in even starting the slightest bit of issues.

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The "hill" I was worried about..

I continued to head south east, knowing I had a large push to Regina of almost 150km. Luckily the rain never came, but left a wonderful wind from the northwest that pushed me so far in such a short time. 100km in 3h12 minutes is what my cyclometer recorded, a record and I proceeded to send a text message to a potential host for me to relax and recharge for a few days. She said everything was alright for me to stay so I felt a lot better due to some stressing of having to sleep in a park in a big city. I continued riding through the plains, until I saw the town of Lumsden, nestled in a valley in between two large hills. Large for Saskatchewan, taking me 10 minutes to get up the other side. Before I was able to make it however I had another flat with my front tire. If you can remember, I had one the night before for the first time on my front tire. I figured two was enough in two days, put on the spare Schwalbe Marathon XR tire that I’d be carrying since Edmonton and continued moving. My chain was slipping a bit and giving a bit of grinding and I found it quite odd since I had just had some work done less than 200km back.

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I made it into Regina, luckily for me the host was in the Northwest end of town so minimal city navigating and proceeded to meet my host, Kara who worked with the Government. After a quick shower she and her boyfriend Steve who is a maniac on the BMX bike and one hell of a bike mechanic at Western Sports took me over to his mom’s house for a family BBQ. I was fed steak and shrimp, stuffed to the gills with cupcakes, and had a great time conversing with new people. Later we ended up hanging out conversing, laughing at the amount of gear I carried with me, and headed out to the neighbourhood pub for a few cocktails. Typically I wouldn’t write about something like that, but one of the highlights of the night was ordering a Rusty Nail, and the waitress stating they didn’t have one, and finally telling me they had Guiness instead. We all laughed and things were jovial. I introduced Steve to Dealextreme.com – a liquidator of electronics parts based in China with all sorts of weird gadgets. He browsed the site for a few hours and I’m sure they are to receive a bit of business from him. A few of my friends and family have partaken in ordering from this weird place on the internet with much success and lots of laughs.

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We headed out the next morning to visit the RCMP Heritage Museum, an experience I found not worth the $12 admission fee to see historical exhibits of the RCMP and Northwest Mounted Police. I found the sections to be scattered, some of the wording on the verge of offensive, but some of the artifacts saved were pretty cool – namely the flask that fit over the front part of the body, obviously when bootlegging Whiskey was in full force. We also had the opportunity to visit yet another legislative building, so that I could continue my headstands. The tour was brief, not very well presented, and lots of areas were blocked off. They wouldn’t let us view the mace, however the library had all sorts of historical pieces such as a table where the Confederation was signed. We got into a bit of trouble by deviating from the group and exploring floors that were off limits and snapped a few photos, giggling while we were asked to leave. We meant no harm, just wanted to see what else the building had as the tour was far too brief.

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Saskatchewan Legislative Building

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We shared a few cocktails, I enjoyed a 8 layer shot which I can’t remember quite the name of (nor remember much after it for that matter!) and a lot of relaxing on a sunny day. The couchsurfing experience was wonderful, it being my first after I’ve stayed at many Warmshowers hosts along the way. Steve offered to give me a tune up before I headed out of town and fixed some issues with my shifting, some lubing, and replaced my cassette. He also hand crafted me a chain whip and cassette remover in a matter of minutes – super cool guy.  I’m getting a bit tired of changing the chain and cassette and in a future post will explain what I’m going to do to solve that problem. It will cost a bit of coin, but eliminate issues in the future. I felt truly welcome by these two kindred spirits and they pointed me in the direction of the valley again for a more scenic route as I head off to Winnipeg. I rode a short 95km and ended up in the cozy little town of Fort Qu’appelle. I stopped to do the charge-o-rama of components and met a nice couple, Wilfe and Deb in the pub who invited me over to their house to use their guest bedroom and enjoy BBQ”d duck. It was tasty, and I had a great time learning about how their lives have progressed, learning that Wilfe was a teacher at the last residential school in Canada. He’s of Denae heritage which means from the Northwest Territories – surprise surprise I get to meet yet another Yellowknifer on my journey.

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The duck gave me such wonderful dreams throughout the night, although I couldn’t remember a single one of them the next morning – and it prepared me for a good run over to the next location 100km away. I didn’t make it a kilometre before stopping at the Home Hardware to pick up some epoxy to fix my speaker’s wires that were corroding. The coffee shop lured me in from across the street and I ended up meeting 3 women who invited me to their table in search of some of my stories. I was invited to eat at the restaurant that one of them managed so I gladly accepted, taking in more people time that I so desperately need at this stage. I’ll be honest, I’m getting lonely. I’m craving much more detailed conversations than the common 10 questions asked of me multiple times per day. Diana, a yoga instructor has quite a bit of travelling under her belt and let me know that a Healing Gathering was happening a short distance away – it sounded fun so I made my way over there. 500 metres from the gate a man was standing in the middle of the street curious to where I came from and invited me into his private club, offering me beers, and I spent the entire afternoon conversing with the locals, most retired hearing historical stories about the area, and an amazing story from one who had to escape the Dominican Republic via a stolen tugboat during a political coup. Even more amazing was that a few months ago, while in Toronto he hopped in a cab and the driver was his partner who he stole the boat with, before running out of gas and eventually getting picked up by a freightliner. Truly magical experiences, showing that the world is a wonderful space.

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In the early evening I finally made it inside the gates and was given a warm welcome by the members running the gathering. There are close to 200 people here from various communities in the area, and I was taken back when they requested I sit with the Elders and Chief of the band. I was fed, offered extra blankets, and even a space inside to sleep if I wished, but I decided that it was time to rest it out in the tent. It was good, as I had a bit of a meltdown inside the tent due to some unforeseen news coming my way, sending my mind on a bit of a spiral. Things in my life where I would normally detach and run from, I’m trying to cope with now using a different mindset, being more open to experience and change. The mind is a funny thing, emotions still run wild, and this is what this quest is all about.

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The thoughts carried with me until this morning, and I was invited into the Sweat ceremony. I have partaken in a ceremony before, on my 19th birthday when I was in detention, from being a bad ass. That experience shaped the next few years of my life and I hold fond memories of it, assisting me through some rather confusing and rough times not knowing what I was to do next. Today it seemed fitting with a cloudy mind to enter into this ancient ceremony, and I went through all 4 phases with 7 elders. The third phase, was the most emotional to me, and I broke out in tears and proceeded to moan and wail, while the heart rate escalated to a very rapid pace due to the 40 rocks that were in the tent. We used 10 litres of water, and by the end I was scrambling to find a hole in the tent to cool down. They prayed for me to have the strength to continue my journey around the world safely and to come back when I was done to let them know how I made out. Such wonderful people. The stories they shared in the dark in this hot tent were sometimes heart wrenching, but beautiful in the same way. I feel blessed to have shared this experience with these friends.

I ran into my friend Diana again a bit later and met more of her friends, students from her teachings and shared experiences and stories, and was sent off with good tidings in my continuation of the trip, super cool to welcomed by these generous ladies. We headed back to the site and proceeded to watch some traditional horse dancing, and many interactions with the other visitors to the gathering, hearing stories of body piercings during ceremonies the week earlier, and the upcoming pow-wow next week. The generosity and warmth of the people has blown me away, something I’ve found all over this province of Saskatchewan.

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I met a young man somewhere along the way in the past few days who had an encounter with a cougar 3 weeks ago in the Stein Valley of BC. His hair-raising story included a cougar coming out of the woods while he was cutting a path with his machete, he bopped the cat on the side and threw his pack at her while chasing her away, not before getting slashed in the arm. The scars that it left is legendary, see the picture to see what I mean. I tend to think Cougars are at the top of the food chain, and I recall being quite afraid when I was on Vancouver Island, and traveling through the western parts of BC.

Steve in Regina, being the bike nut he is, posed a simple question to me: What made you decide the bicycle?
That question threw me off for a bit, as I’ve never really thought about the deep meanings to it. I was depressed, stressed out, tired and frustrated at my life, constantly upset about things not going the way I wanted them to. I don’t know what triggered the bicycle to be used at my mechanism to wash my soul. It’s been a wonderful way to travel at 15km/h and has made me feel great each time I achieve a milestone, or arrive in a new town, to wide eyed locals wondering about this big hairy monster coming in on a 120lb horse. When I was leaving many people thought I was running away from my problems, and in a sense I was. I needed to get out of the destructive cycle I was in, causing mass destruction to my health, mental state, and people around me. I got out to achieve happiness in my life, something I have now, new experiences – which I have daily, and a different way of managing problems. It’s all new to me, but it’s working. I hope to inspire people that if they ever feel like the world is on their shoulders, to step back and reassess what’s really important. Food, Water, Shelter. Thanks for reading my stories.


3 comments

  1. August 20th, 2010

    WOW at that cougar story! and that is a truly epic scar!


  2. preston woodhouse
    August 29th, 2010

    Hello there! You are absolutely inspiring! it takes great determination to do what you are achieving. I can only imagine what it takes. I met you in the small town of Minnedosa in Manitoba, it was at a little cafe, I stopped in for a pop and introduced myself because i was curious of where and how far you’ve come, I later told my girlfriend where you came from and where you were heading, I was amazed and now I now understand why from your stories. It must bring a great feeling after you achieve each milestone along your journey! I wish you the best along the rest of your journey across Canada, and i can imagine the feeling you’ll have when you dip your front tire in the Atlantic and shave your beard like you said you would. What you’re doing is great!

    Preston Woodhouse


  3. July 20th, 2012

    Enjoying a read of your stories, a few years later. Sounds like an epic journey. Saskatchewan is a fascinating place to explore. I grew up not far from Fort Qu’appelle and bee to Lebret many times.


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