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Days 40 - 45

Day 40. June 24. 204 km . Total 2740 km. Deleau. 10 hrs.
Manitoba and my first century.

With a nice strong tailwind all day I was really able to fly. I also completed my first century (100 miles) and boy does it ever feel good. The road for most of the day was in pretty good shape although the section between Stoughton and Carlyle was a little rough but still 10 times better than the road near Cadillac. As I approached Redvers the scenery began to change, the rolling grasslands of the prairie began to give way to flatter, forested areas interspersed with small farms. Hwy 2 in Manitoba is in much better condition than the roads through Saskatchewan. There is only a gravel shoulder but traffic is light and the road is wide so I did not feel pressured by the cars. One thing that I have been noticing through Saskatchewan and Manitoba is the amount of road kill. Flattened prairie dogs are everywhere and I pass by 4-5 squashed skunks every day! Ewwww!!!!! You have to hold your breath for about 1/2 km to try to avoid the stink but even then it sticks in your nostrils and you can practically taste it. I don't know if skunks around here are particularly plentiful, particularly stupid or a combination of both but they sure are disgusting to cycle by when they are dead.

I checked my e-mail today and discovered that I now have a place to stay in Winnipeg. My uncle works for CN and spends a fair amount of time working with the other major rail centers. He had told one of his friends in Winnipeg about my trip and asked if they would mind putting me up for a day or two. Well today I got a e-mail from them saying that they would love to have me stay with them and that they will feed and shelter me, boy you don't have to ask me twice.

Day 41. June 25. 58 km. Total 2798 km. Carroll. 10 hrs.

Shell shocked, I think that is a fairly accurate description of the way I feel. My body is numb with fatigue, my ears are ringing from the roar of the wind and I want to go home. Well I wouldn't really go home but if someone offered me a ride to Ontario right now I would be tempted, I have to get away from this bloody prairie wind.

I had heard yesterday that rain was predicted for today so I set my alarm for 5:00 and was on the road by 6:15. At that time there was already a slight headwind and the western horizon was dark with clouds so I was pushing it to try and stay ahead of the storm. I had only gone 10 km when CRACK, a spoke breaks. A real Murphy's law event because of course the broken spoke would be on my rear wheel AND on the cassette side (hardest to replace). Then to make matters worse it started to rain. I tried to hitchhike to the next town so I could fix it under cover but after 5 trucks drove by (there is that rural helpfulness again) I ended fixing it up right there. At least I now know that I can replace spokes myself because this was the first time I have had to do it.

By the time I finished, the wind had switched around to a headwind and picked up in force. The rest of the day it only got worse. I spent most of the day in my lowest three gears and occasionally I even had to get off and push into the wind, there was nothing else I could do.

I just don't get the weather here. The storm blew in from the west but the wind kept coming from the east. Then once the sky was completely covered in clouds (really neat, some were wave like, others came in rows like a plowed field, yet others looked like bubbles). I could see clouds at different heights all moving different directions. One group would be moving south while above it other were moving north while higher still they were traveling east, very hard to predict where the rain would come from. I managed to duck one deluge (~1.5 cm of rain in 1/2 hour) but was hit by a couple others.

In a nutshell the weather sucked and so far I don't really like Manitoba much either. Saskatchewan was open and very pretty but here it is quite forested and plain looking. I also think that the license plates "Friendly Manitoba" are a lie. So far I have found Saskatchewan much friendlier, here the people just don't seem as nice. They pass by closer on the roads and I also get the impression that people here along this route are much poorer as well. While most houses and towns in Saskatchewan were nice looking and in good repair, here I see a lot of run-down areas. Plus there is the ever-present wind. Why is it blowing West? It is so hard bicycling against it. I would guess that there are 50-60 km gusts right now. How can I express in words just what it is like? It is horrible, the wind constantly tosses you around with gusts from all directions (except from behind). It will lighten up for a minute, teasing you, then return in full force. It screams in your ears and draws tears from your eyes. Oh yes, and since the temperature is only 8 degrees, with the wind chill I am just freezing. There has even been hail today. To sum up my feelings about today, when I finally found an inhabited house to stay at I was nearly crying with frustration. Nuff said.

Day 42. June 26. 235 km. Total 3033 km. Winnipeg. 13 hrs.
Now THIS is flat!

Now today was a LONG day. Because the wind was so bad yesterday and I feared it would be bad today as well, I was up extremely early (4:00) and on the road by 5:00. But there was no wind, HURRAY!!! I did have a new type of weather though, pea soup fog. It was so moist that I had to put on my rain gear and even then I got wetter than some of the days in the rain, that fog just enters every nook and cranny.

The roads were in fair to good condition and flat most of the way. I stopped in Wawanecha for breakfast (open early and cheap pancakes) and boy is that ever a pretty little town. It is nestled in a quaint little valley and it looked like they kept much of it forested parkland, a nice change of scenery from the rest of Manitoba.

Just outside of town I met up with my first cyclists on the prairie. One was a retired police office (57 years old) from Quebec who was biking from Vancouver to Montreal (it sounded like he would like to go further but his wife wouldn't let him :-). The other guy was younger and is a contract engineer. He works until he makes enough money for the year then he quits and goes touring. He has toured Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands and now he is going from Vancouver to Newfoundland. For a change of pace we road together for most of the day and boy did we ever burn along. The road was level and the wind picked up into a nice tailwind that grew stronger and stronger as the day progressed. We ended up passing another cyclist later in the day and she was amazing. She was 62 years old and pedaling a fully loaded touring bike alone! She was going from Lethbridge, Alberta to Prince Edward Island. Why? Because she always wanted to go there, that's why. Sounds like a good enough reason to me.

I left the other guys at Elm Creek (~160 km into the day) and pushed on to Winnipeg where supper was waiting, that's all the incentive I needed. Towards the end of the day the wind was so strong that I was averaging 40 kph and when I passed under power lines they sounded like flutes. In total I covered 235 km in 13 hrs and I am certain that this will be my record distance for this trip. When I got off my bike at their house I was definitely walking funny, something that the grandmother had a great time poking fun of.

Day 43. June 27. 15 km. Total 3048 km. Winnipeg.
What a great family.

This could not have worked out any better. These folks are some of the nicest people I have ever met. After spending a day with them I feel just like one of the family. They have a 13 year-old daughter, that loves to hear my stories and I have been having fun telling them. By the end of the day I feel almost brotherly towards her, that's how at home I feel. It has been really great to just hang out, talk, relax and of course EAT.

I am quite stiff today and somewhat sore in the neither region but it is not too bad. Perhaps I overdid it a bit yesterday? (I KNOW I overdid it!) I had to bike into town to get a tune-up at Woodcock Cycle and Sports (I would recommend them) and biking was ok, I only feel stiff while walking. It must be noticeable because the grandmother staying there is enjoying teasing me about it.

I tried to type up some of my journal today but I just could not get motivated, oh well I guess it can wait.

Day 44. June 28. 0 km. Total 3048 km. Winnipeg.
One more day.

I was planning to head out today but as the weather did not look very good and I was still a bit stiff, it did not take much to keep me here for one more day.

Day 45. June 29. 57 km. Total 3105 km. Vivian. 5 hrs.
Whole lotta mosquitoes.

I did not end up leaving Winnipeg until 12:00 which meant I a shorter day on the road. Nicole (the 13 year-old) wanted me to stay another day and I kinda wanted to stay as well but it is really time for me to get back on the road. I took the bypass from the southern part of the city to Hwy 15 and then took the 15 east to Vivian. Hwy 15 is similar to Hwy 2 in condition and scenery but was a good deal busier. However it was still not as bad as Hwy 1.

I was in no hurry today so I quit at 5:30 and set up camp in the back of someone's yard. The mosquitoes are really bad here but I have found that although they can bite through my track suit they can't get through my rain gear so that is what I wear until I can dive into my tent.

Tomorrow I hope to make it to Falcon Lake (~108 km) which is right at the Manitoba - Ontario border.

On to Ontario

Back to Saskatchewan