I’ve been resting the past 3 days in the windy city of Winnipeg, Manitoba – my old stomping ground for 6 years during my 20s. It was a defining moment for me to leave in the center of North America and I found that it defined me as a person, helped me realize some goals and dreams, and understand myself personally, without the reliance of anyone around me, as I moved to the area not knowing friends or having the family fallback. The weather was cold as hell some years, but the summers were warm, and the people were open to some of the uncanny ideas that I had throwing events, and with other extra curricular activities. I exposed the city to some pretty weird electronic music on a radio show that I brought back to Vancouver for its twilight years, and imprinted some memories into friends and acquaintances heads surely. I had computer clients in the area so I frequently traveled back to the area throughout the years and always caught up with friends during my off-time. This time I’m here with no work commitments, and no plan – and to be honest I’m not having the greatest of time.
You see, when I’ve been traveling, it has been to cities and towns that I’ve previously not explored, where as here I have a solid friend base, know the area, have explored the underground tunnels that criss-cross throughout the city, and feel that I have nothing else left to see, other than new experiences with strangers on the side of the road. It’s not that I don’t like my friends company, I’m ecstatic to be spending time with them, but it feels weird for me to be in this city, so I’ll be moving on in the morning onwards towards Thunder Bay, Ontario. I’m making a little B-line out of the province and going to take Highway #1 – the Trans-Canada highway, busy with semi trucks, and the vein for traffic from west to east or east to west depending on which way you look at one side of Canada to the other.
I spent my last night in Saskatchewan in the small town of Dubuc, which turned out to be one of the most positive and hilarious experiences of the trip. The locals, as they were in other Saskatchewan towns were very welcoming, interested in my story and had a hell of a sense of humor. One man who was just passing through the area who once lived there as a youngster popped in to talk to me at the combo bar-postoffice-casino-general store-bus depot-hotel floored me by buying me a room for the night rather than camping out in my tent. I felt pretty honoured, and spent the majority of the evening speaking to locals sharing crazy stories, and left with a few souvenirs that I will hold onto for the remainder of the trip. Saskatchewan truly was one memorable experience, and I recommend that anyone looking to tour off the beaten path head over to the area.
The ride out the next morning was fairly easy, however winds were coming at me slowing down my progress. I spent the entire day in the sun pedaling away before I reached the border of Manitoba, into the small town of Binscarth. Right before the town was one of the most scenic valleys I’ve ever experienced in my life and I took the time to take in the beauty of it for an hour before trying to meet my 100km target daily distance. I stopped in the small town of Foxwarren, once a bustling area of agriculture now muted by newer generations moving to the bigger cities closeby, such as Winnipeg and Brandon. The town had a great community campground that offered an area for me to setup my tent and even had power outlets to charge my components. It was also extra nice to see the sun set at 9:00pm again, as Saskatchewan doesn’t go through any time zone changes, and darkness set in quite early. So for now I’ll be riding in the CDT timezone (GMT -6) for who knows how long.
Following the Foxwarren stay I headed East on the Yellowhead highway, Route 16 – which I had my picture taken at Mile ’0′ way over in the Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. It’s a boring highway, with a lot more traffic than what I was used to, and I stopped as many times as possible in the small towns dotting the way before stopping in the picturesque city of Minnedosa. This town was obviously setup for visitors, with a huge beach for relaxation, offering those with canoes, kayaks, and motorized vessels to get wet. I met a woman who was an IT teacher in the province at a gas station and ended up meeting up with her at a campsite and camped with her family for the night, a nice gesture saving me the $20 fee keeping my daily budget of $30 in check. Minnedosa has a small park area with 3+ bison roaming around, strictly for tourism – It brought back fierce memories of my time in the Northwest Territories riding on gravel roads for days without human contact and running into the wild herds not knowing what to do about a sweaty human riding some sort of mechanical contraction blasting weird music from his speakers.
Heading east from Minnedosa puts you past the town of Franklin, a ghost town with only a community centre leftovers from when it was once a large centre for agriculture as well. I once had a partner who has family in the area and was hoping to pop by and say hi, but the timing wasn’t right and I moved forward through heavy fog and wind until about 12pm when it lifted in the city of Neepawa, a beautiful area that prides itself on its lilies and had a pretty awesome birdhouse in a park that had over 3 dozen perches and “rooms”. This day was very tough on me physically for riding – with the temperature pulverizing me at 35 degrees, and the humidex making it feel like 42 Celsius. That combined with the 30km/h gusts of wind coming in from the east sapped any sort of energy reserves I had, however I remained focused enough to make it over to Portage La Prairie for the night, staying with my 2nd couchsurfing host, a very talented artist and interior designer. I arrived late to her place due to a minor mis-step with my GPS device, and I recorded segments of the journey that I’d like to share with you.
For those who don’t have the ability to watch, the GPS sent me down onto a gravel road to steer me away from the busy Highway 16. It worked well for the first 2 minutes as I was able to bang on a farmers door and refill my water bottles – I was bone dry, and getting dehydrated. I continued to follow its path until I reached a dead end, even though the GPS claimed it was still a road. Humming and hawing, not wanting to backtrack as per usual I continued to ride down the grassy path until the next road intersection. The conditions became progressively worse finally turning into me riding through 4 foot high fields of wheat, waving to the farmers working in the fields in their big tractors. This adventure went on for 2 hours before I finally spotted a bridge far off in the distance putting me on something a bit well travelled. I had a great time doing it, and wasn’t frustrated that the GPS sent me on a journey – isn’t this what it’s all about? I just hope Monsanto doesn’t try to come after me and say that I stole some of their seeds/or crops that are wedged inside my tire. Kidding. I really destroyed myself with the winds and sun and slept minimally before the final trek into Winnipeg – where I was then presented with many more winds, cloudy skies, and major amounts of traffic.
Winnipeg the city is a sprawl of about 40km, and it’s incredibly difficult to get places in an effective manner. Worse, the traffic has been the most aggressive for me being on a bike, and I’ve not had a positive experience when trying to get from end to end taking care of errands/seeing friends. One of those errands was to pick up a new set of business cards, It’s hard to believe I’ve already given out the first batch of them! I modified the card a bit and updated the photo, as with the crazy beard I have going on right now it made sense to have something that looked a bit remotely like me. I also spent some time at the cycle stores browsing, and replacing some parts, namely my Seatpost clamp which became unusable when a a bolt head broke off. Frustrating that I am seeing these components break, but I suppose I have done a good amount of distance and wear and tear is normal in these conditions.
I’ve decided that I’m going to be selling my Surly Long Haul Trucker at the end of Canada, the bike that has been my pal and horse for a few bicycle tours. I’m looking at doing some considerable upgrades to the bike, and the actual cost vs investing in a new bicycle with the components already setup properly without any hacking or modification actually works out for the better. Í’m sure I can find a buyer somewhere in Canada and let it go for a very reasonable price. It’s a rock solid unit that’s made for exactly what I’m doing – but I’m wanting to change my handlebars, brake levers, and my shifting components, front and rear hubs – which would just end up in a frustrating peacemeal craigslist used selling experience.
I seem to have a small dark cloud following me lately and I’m looking forward to getting back on the road to shake it. Let’s see where I end up next!