out of the Skeatch, into friendly Manitoba
OK! It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve written, so I’m going to lay out the facts first in case you’re interested, if not, skip it:
Starting June 11, 2008: to Colonsay, Saskatchewan: 57.88 km @ 12.4 km/hr average!! (more on that later); weather-related rest day in the Minnie Winnie RV, then to Wynyard: 133.61 km @ 21.7 km/hr, to Foam Lake: 55.43 km @ 19.9 km/hr; to Yorkton: 102.81 km @ 22.1 km/hr; to Russell, Manitoba!: 110.80 km @ 18.7 km/hr, to Shoal Lake: 79 km @ 17.2 km/hr… today: (June 18, 2008): impending doom cloud, 2.7 km and one friendly Manitoban with a truck later: Neepawa, Manitoba – 90 km by blessed, blessed escape-storm machine.
Here are some highlights! For pictures go to:
We left Saskatoon with the knowledge that it would be rainy and windy. Well, this is what we have come to expect in Saskatchewan, despite the locals insisting that this place is “nearly a desert” (lies! All lies!) and that “we can write this week of rain down as a significant historical event in our journals!” yay? But we didn’t really get how windy it would be. This was the day we made it halfway to our original destination and ended up near the tiny town of Colonsay, 57 km away from Saskatoon. We were pedaling our GUTS out, no matter whether we were going down a hill, up a hill, or flat. I have never before used my granny gear (yes, that one that I am used to using in the Rocky mountains or when EXTREMELY tired up the hill to Steve’s house in Wolfville) on FLAT terrain. This is something that I would really rather not experience again, thank you very much.
Well, we finally made it (slooooowly and paaaainfully) to the “painted rock campground” near Colonsay, set up our tent, and decided to wait out the rain. However. Saskatchewan locals have never been ones to watch bikers in distress, and soon enough the wonderful couple who ran the place asked us if we would like to stay in their unused miniature Winnebago RV. YES!!! It was just so lovely. They invited us to stay an extra day (to avoid biking in a similar wind and worse rain the next day) and even treated us to a delicious breakfast and dinner, where we ate possibly three times the amount they did – THANK you Hugh and Marg!
Finally our next day to Wynyard, the wind decided to change – the first of Saskatchewan’s many attempts to keep us in the province, we decided. Hilarious weather during the glorious tailwind – rain, sun. Hot, cold. Drizzle. Sun again. But all the time, wind at our backs. You know, living in Saskatchewan, you might really start to believe in some higher power. You look ahead towards the horizon and you can see that it’s raining on That house, but not this house… and this house, but not that house over there. Hmm.
When we did get to Wynyard, we were about to turn into the road to the campground… and it was mud city. Sooo we cycled into town, hoping to camp behind a motel or something, and found this little B&B – when they found out about our trip, they wouldn’t let us camp – gave us a whole room to ourselves, use of the bathroom, kitchen, and livingroom… all for 10 bucks each. Have I mentioned how much I love Saskatchewan people????
The next day we decided to make a short trip, just to Foam Lake – so that we would be ending up in large centers again (if we kept doing trips of ~ 90 km, we’d keep ending up in the boonies). Somehow, we ended up getting stuck on main street in Wynyard just before we headed to the Foam Lake campground the day of the town parade. We’re in this pharmacy getting stuff and when we walk out, the whole town has come together, lining the road, and there is a marching band coming towards us! We have to bike down this road to get out of town! We grabbed our bikes and ran, pretty much across the front of the parade, to the other side of the road… and then thought, what the heck. This is what bike touring is all about. Let’s just watch the parade. I’ve seen small town parades before (In Bridgewater) but Wynyard is a REALLY small town. Basically everybody’s kid or grandpa or cousin was there, driving their tractors, nice cars, decorated golf carts, decorated pedal bikes!?? You name it. Mary Anne got a ride in a massive seeder tractor IN the parade!!
The next day we biked to Yorkton, Saskatchewan and celebrated our first-month on the road anniversary by going out to a restaurant and eating the buffet (a good choice for bikers with endless appetites). Unfortunately as we were stuffing our faces with mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, ribs, and chicken, there was a squirrel stuffing his or her face with… my waterproof food panier back at the campground. Bastard! I was so sad and angry when I got back, it actually chewed through two flaps of waterproof material to… chew through more plastic to get at my utensils? (idiot!) and got a few bites of bagel before I got back and yelled at it, tried to throw a stick at it, hit Mary Anne in the head with said stick, and then it yelled at me for a while (the squirrel, not Mary Anne). I managed to sorrrt of repair it with duct tape and seam sealant, but… yeah. SIGH! Oh! The great thing about the Yorkton day was:
Biking biking biking biking
See large white ducks.
Wait! Those aren’t ducks! Those are PELICANS! “MARY ANNE! STOPPING!! PELICANS iiinnnn the PRAIRIES!!” Wow! We stopped and they all flew away majestically, then came back and fed for a while with those great big orange beaks. Why!??? WHY!!! I don’t know, but I love it. I mean, pelicans? Reallly??
Mary Anne and I also realized that we are at this stage in our relationship at this point: “Where’s your?” “I put it in the” “Oh. Ok. Thanks.”
The next day we crossed from the land of wind and rain (aka, Saskatchewan, the province that rained on us every day besides for our one rest day in Saskatoon – yeah) into Manitoba. We actually raced a storm cloud full of lightning into Langenburg where we waited out the storm at an ice cream store (it ended up just missing the town anyways). Mary Anne and I are still laughing all the time, even though we are dealing with the inevitable stress of being together every day, all day!
It’s funny. Sometimes I think I can’t miss dad out here because I’m turning into him – Dad, your klutz genes are being turned on this year in your daughter. I CONSTANTLY trip, bump into things, and skin my knuckles on random pieces of sharpness. Mom tells me my inability to name things in times of excitement or mild stress comes from her. Thanks Ma (“Look Mary Anne! A…. a what? Hawk? Coyote? Fox? Bounding deer? I couldn’t tell you, I’m too pumped about it!)
Our first night in Manitoba we camped at a second rate little town campground, where the single bathroom had two toilets (with no stall divider!?) and no toilet paper. We met a bunch of guys traveling by van from New Brunswick to Edmonton, and I got really excited and jumped up to ask them if I could see their NB license plate. “Sure,” they answered, puzzled – “why?”
“Weeelll,” I said, “I’ve been trying to figure out the little license plate blurbs for all the provinces we’re passing through and we’ve got:
Beautiful BC; Alberta: Wild Rose Country; Saskatchewan, land of living skies (HA! Don’t we know it); Friendly Manitoba; Ontario: yours to discover; Quebec: Je me souviens, NB???, NS: Canada’s Ocean playground.
So what IS on the NB plate!??” I finally got out.
“Nothin’. We’re just PEOPLE.” He said. Hahaha…. Pooor New Brunswick, no blurb!! How about, “New Brunswick: Power and Trees” or, “New Brunswick: the Irvings live here!”?
On the day from Russell to Shoal lake, we saw SO MANY little Prairie dog creatures – ones that are dark with stripes and spots on their backs and chirp and scurry into the grass when you bike by, and a whole big group of basking normal-colored prairie dogs on the side of the highway, stretched out with their big fat tummies just melting onto the hot gravel. Spa day on highway 45 evidently.
So this morning we were preparing to leave Shoal Lake in the beautiful sun shine, and were a little bummed out when the sky turned a little grey, but by the time we reached the highway, we were pretty freaked out. We could see a VERY angry black cloud unlike anything I have EVER seen before approaching us. It was thick and smeary, like icing, but you could see black rain coming from it and white spots coming down as well, which often mean hail. Lightning was jetting around merrily on all sides, and we were hoping like mad that it would just sort of… pass by behind us like it did at the ice cream store in Langenburg. We had stopped to take a picture or two of it and this guy pulled over in his truck and said, “Umm… don’t mean to be presumptuous, girls, but… I just drove through that, and I almost had to stop my car several times the rain is so hard. There’s hail in some parts of this storm as big as pennies and loonies, and a tornado warning. Would you like a drive somewhere?”
Again, yes, we would like your help, friendly Manitoba. Len from Flin Flon, Manitoba, drove us to the next town on our agenda – Neepawa, Manitoba, where we experienced the storm from the relative comfort of several stores in town and then a beautiful, wonderful B&B – the “Garden Path”. Tomorrow it’s off to Portage, and then Winnipeg!!