Sharon Hawley has finished her bicycle trip in Canada for this summer. She hopes to complete the adventure in another year. Please follow her winter adventure at http://sharonswinter.blogspot.com/
Friday, June 26, 2009
Back in Saskatoon I booked the last low-cost seat on an Air Canada flight to LAX. Since then my face has been set for Winnipeg and the 820 kilometers of sparsely populated prairie between. I planned no forced march, but gave plenty of days for rest and unforeseen difficulties.
I avoided the Trans Canada Highway, diverting southerly through the farmland and small towns, ending in Watrous on the first day since making that decision. The next day I swam in the murky waters of Manitou Lake, which most of you thought looks more like cesspool water than the golden healing dip that has lured visitors since the Indians ruled these lands. Having soaked in the healing fluid, I proceeded southeasterly on another fine day, and the wind was not from the east.
The glacier that made Manitou Lake left many others for my pedaling enjoyment along the way. Waterfowl rose all around me from the marshes as I approached them on roads that see hardly a car. Lakes and ponds dot this part of the prairie, and sounds of the birds who live there or visit there ring in the air. Their calls mix in a kind of harmony, older then instruments. Some birds are curious about the strange new thing entering their territory. They fly circles about my path. Others won’t let me get within photo distance.
Where the earth rises above the wetland, farmers have planted traditional crops of wheat and newer ideas like lentils and canola.
Winter wheat, which you can see headed out in the picture, was planted after last year’s harvest and before the ground froze. It came up a little last fall, then lay dormant under snow in hard frozen ground. At the first sign of spring it started growing again. Spring wheat was planted this spring and it still looks like grass, just a few inches tall.
Canola looks like a weed, but its oil is good for cooking. Canadian cooks don’t care much about its healthy qualities, they use other oils, but canola brings a good price and provides a diversified crop in this cold north farmland.
Lentil plants are tiny and will produce seeds for lentil soup.
I came to Nokomis, the first place with a bed for rent, and checked into the Nokomis Hotel. I unloaded the bike and carried everything up the stairs to my room over the bar. I’m getting used to these old hotel/bars with their bathrooms down the hall. I settled in, took a shower, and went down for a beer. I sat at a long dining room table where half a dozen old-timers were chatting over beers or coffees. They looked at me with suspicion. Canadian small-town people are not curious like their counterparts in the US. When riding across America, I had only to pull up on a bike and the questions came. Here, I have to initiate conversation or read my book alone. I was feeling lonely in Nokomis, without internet, in an old hotel on a gravel road called “Main Street.” Then in walked a farmer in coveralls.
“Been spraying,” he said to nobody in particular.
“Wheat?” I asked.
“I saw a lot of it as I rode the bicycle from the west,” I ventured.
“Don’t ride tomorrow,” he said pouring a cup of coffee from the pot on the bar.
Taken aback, I didn’t how to respond. Of course I asked why.
“We get the shortwave from ‘Environment Weather’ on our tractors.”
“I saw the TV report—nothing unusual there,” I said.
“Don’t believe the TV.”
I waited, worried, hoping he’d explain.
“Wind from the southeast at 40 tomorrow, gusting to 60,” he said in a casual, but understanding voice.
“That’s the worst possible condition for riding,” I said.
“Thought you’d like to know.”
I checked the TV again and discovered that the forecast had changed, and what the farmer had told me was no joke. The smart choice was clear. I had budgeted a few extra days. I should not ride tomorrow, but wait in Nokomis, hoping for change.
But I was lonely, and did not want another day of loneliness. The next known bed was 130km away. After some soul-searching, I called the Ituna Hotel and made a reservation. They didn’t even take a credit card number; most of these old hotels don’t.
I hoped to beat some of the wind by starting early, and to defeat the rest of it by shear determination. At 3:30am the alarm sounded, and by four, I was on the road in first light. Wind was calm, and I made good time to Raymore, where with 87km to go, it seemed the forecast might be wrong. They are often wrong. In the calm morning, birds called and rose from the lakes and marshes when I came too close. A few deer crossed the road, a fox, but no cars.
A barricade presented itself across Highway 15, telling me that construction demands I go on another road and gave me an arrow. The detour went to off somewhere to a vanishing point in the wrong direction. I decided to ignore it and rode around the barricade. It turned out that some construction was ongoing, but today, nobody was working, and I rode through unhampered.
Then Highway 15 turned to gravel, and my speed reduced for its marble-like rocks. But after a few kilometers, all there was to hinder my riding was wind.
When the wind began today, it was gentle from the southeast. I pedaled into it with easy downshifting. When the wind strengthened, it pushed on my face like a hand saying, You can do it but it’s going to be hard. When the wind blew strong from the southeast, and after it had blown hard for an hour, I came upon the Muskowekwan Restaurant with the realization that I could not make the remaining 40km to Ituna. I asked about rooms and learned that in Leross, just ten kilometers further, there is a bar and also a motel.
Oh, another thing, I had been harassed by huge flies whenever I had stopped. They look like houseflies, but are much bigger. And they sting. At least in the restaurant I was free from them and enjoyed a meal before pushing on.
I came to Leross and turned into its dirt street, looking for the motel. I heard a voice behind me say, “You thirsty?” I turned back to a man holding a door open to the bar.
“I’m looking for the motel,” I said.
“This is it.” I looked and saw only a sign for the Bar T Saloon.
“Just roll your bike in here and I’ll fix you up.” The man was sloppily dressed, long beard, red hardhat, and spoke with a slur.
I was too tired to go much further. I had ridden 99km, most of it into the wind. Camping would mean putting up those terrible flies, probably mosquitoes too. I figured I could at least go inside the bar and then decide. As I passed close to the man, a strong alcohol smell increased my suspicion. It turned out that he runs the bar and five or six rooms attached. I could rent one very cheaply and probably be the only tenant tonight. I decided to risk it and to blockade the door of my room with a chair. I paid him and went to bed without dinner.
I left the Bar T Saloon at four in the morning without a weather forecast, with only a look at the sky and a feel for the wind. I had another hundred kilometers to make Yorkton, a large town that would have regular motels. If only the wind would stay favorable.
The wind did not stop me today. It blew from west or north, having none of that terrible southeast direction. And so in Yorkton, in a good motel, I give you this report.
Posted by Sharon
- ▼ June (13)