Each day on the prairie I awake to the alarm at 4:30, and hit the road about 5:15, just as the sun rises. I head east, and the sun rises to my left, a few degrees north of my due east heading. I tilt my helmet to the left and down, its visor shading my eyes. If the sun were to rise directly in the east, this relief could not be accomplished and I’d have to start later.
I ride in comfortable morning air, around sixty Fahrenheit degrees, usually without wind. The wheatfields are barely out of the ground in this short growing season of the north. The wheat plants look like grass. At about eight o’clock, wind speed picks up to about 10kmh/hr, usually from the west. Of course my spirit lifts with a west wind, and I face the day with hope that it will hold its direction as speed picks up to about 20km/hr by noon.
I pedal throughout the day without finding stores or restaurants, or not expecting to find any, so if one pops up, it’s a real treat. I am thankful to Canada’s government that the shoulder along this road has been wide and safe since joining Highway 9 north of Drumheller. These days have been mostly pleasant riding.
Around noon, little puffs of white sprinkle across the sky like popcorn. Sometimes in the afternoon, one of them darkens and swells, rumbles a bit, blows strong wind down onto the ground, and rains. I often sit happily in a motel room watching the evening show around seven or eight, happy in having gotten up at 4:30 and settled into the motel early. By the next morning, the sky has cleared and I rise early for another day.
But today there was an exception to the way things usually turn out on the prairie. I awoke and started riding east in an early tailwind, keeping an eye on a storm to my left. It appeared to be about 10km, raining hard, and moving northeasterly. Then suddenly the wind around me increased and changed direction, coming straight from the north, a cold gush blowing out of that big cloud. I thought the wind would diminish as the cloud moved away, but it did not. The storm worsened, though still many kilometers to my left, and the north wind continued, steady and strong. That would have been alright, except that the road turned and headed northeast for a distance of thirty kilometers. Now, if trigonometry serves, and I am heading at forty-five degrees into the wind, then I receive 71% of the wind velocity into my face. Today, I learned that trigonometry rules. I pushed hard into the wind.
After an hour, I came to the Saskatchewan boundary. And before me stood a restaurant. Of course I stopped, as much to hope the delay would bring better wind as to satisfy hunger. But after an hour the wind persisted from the north and I drove ahead into 71% of its speed.
The last forty miles to Kindersley were due east again and the wind finally turned back to west. I cruised at the astounding average speed of 25km/hr.
But it was not over yet. Approaching Kindersley, there stood over the town a black monster. I could see its anvil head and its veil of rain, clearly drenching everything under it. I waited before going under it, hoping it would leave. And the wait worked.
This amazing prairie of cantankerous winds and storms and pleasant winds.
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/
- ▼ June (13)