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

Route Map

Route Map

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The Yellowhead Highway (Canada 16) has been a friendly path since I joined it at Yorkton. Its wide paved shoulder has provided plenty of safety and easy riding. On Sunday, traffic was light, although it doesn’t need to be light for pleasant riding. As long as I have my cherished shoulder, riding is unmolested. I assumed it would last all the way to Winnipeg.

I rented a room in Russell, and in the early morning of departure, entered again my private shoulder, my exclusive lane on this major highway, a place on the earth to which I acquired a prescriptive right and on which nobody else rides. I have seen no long-distance cyclists in many days, none since the German back on the Icefields Parkway in British Colombia.

Then the unthinkable happened. My rightful property was confiscated. My paved shoulder turned to gravel. I was deprived of what I had come to expect as a cycling visitor to Canada. At first it didn’t matter very much, before traffic really began. I rode in the driving lane, stopping or veering onto the gravel only when cars came in both directions at the same time. But as the day brightened and traffic increased, I was excluded from the pavement and sentenced like a criminal to the loose gravel shoulder.

I decided to inquire at Foxwarren, which boasts a café and hotel on the internet. But on arriving, I learned that neither exist. I came to the intersection with Highway 83 where the gravel became so loose that riding was impossible. I could walk some unknown distance to where a good shoulder resumed, or I could turn south on 83 and lengthen the ride by going to a road that would continue east. At least I would be away from the heavy traffic. The choice was not pleasant, but it was easy. I went south.

At the town of Birtle, I found an open café and went in. The strangely dressed stranger raised hardly a glance—nobody cared that a cyclist had joined their little circle. When I finished a lonesome breakfast and came out to the bike, the wind had started, and not from the west as forecast—wind pressed into my face from the east.

I rode toward to Shoal Lake, pedaling as slowly as reasonably possible. Wind pressure is lowered with lower riding speed, and to go slow saves energy. Occasionally, the wind would decrease, and I could up-shift to increase speed for a few minutes or seconds before the blast took me back to a cowering velocity.

I came finally to Strathclair, very tired and hoping for a room. The internet shows a hotel, and this time it existed. Otherwise, I would have camped in some field, protected only slightly from wind and mosquitoes.

The Strathclair Hotel was not bad. I carried everything upstairs, above the bar, which they call the beverage room in this part of Canada. My room had a bed and a sink. There was a shower across the creaky-floor hall. I went down to the bar for a beer and a sandwich, and could hardly stay awake to learn that crops are dry, that unless rain comes soon, a lot of money will not be made. Then I lay down on the bed for a few minutes and did not wake up until daybreak. I looked out the window and saw no wind. Surely, I thought this will be a wind-free day.

The dawn mist formed in tendrils, undulating along the prairie in layers, leaving spaces between them—delicate fabrics that melted in the rising sun. Such lacework does not form in even the slightest wind. The lakes still fluttered with birds, the air full of their conversation, the deer never far from view.

But it was not to be. When I began this trip I could not have ridden today. The second day of continual pushing into headwind would have stopped me. Even when I tried to rest beside the road today, I became food to be landed on and consumed by mosquitoes. But over the past six weeks on the road, my body has become tuned for this, and now the trip is almost over. At the start, I would have been in trouble, but now it seems that whatever comes is what I deal with—whatever. I am fortunate to have no physical pains or ailments.

This flower traps small insects in its bowl, scented to smell like me. I thanked it for its kind help along the road.

The wheat is much taller here than it was back west. Still they say it needs rain soon ar the harvest will be scant

I came to Neepawa and took a motel. Tomorrow is Canada’s biggest holiday, July 1. Everything will be closed. I went to the store and stocked up, planning to stay right here until it’s over. I look forward to a relaxing room with lots of internet and no wind.

Wind is Taoist
it makes me like water that bends around rocks
it’s a man who never lets up
where you make do and take the luls


  1. Happy Canada Day!

    And may the wind be always at your back.


  2. I hope you realize how wonderfully poetic your thinking and writing is here... I am happy to see you falling into verse by the end... I have the feeling that line breaks alone would bring much of your blogs into an epic poetic form. Neepawa is a Cree Indian word meaning "land of plenty" so I am expecting you will have plenty of internet, wine, relaxation, inspiration and laughs while you are there, you certainly take your challenges with grace. Love the little flower that smells like you and catches bugs, you will have to find the name, and coin a perfume? I will be so thrilled to see you, to share a toast and host the "Vancouver to Winnipeg" Salon! What a story!

  3. Thanks, Ritchie,
    The last time you gave me that old Irish wish (Do you know that I am a third Irish?) It was like the overture for a few days free from headwind. I need only two days this time, starting tomorrow, to make Winnipeg.

    Kath, your comments here have been so encouraging. You make me think that, just maybe, all that gush of written words I thought of as poetry might not have blown away in Manitoba wind.

  4. Welcome to Manitoba ! What a nice name, I think it means wind in French. You are truly a marvelous writer and your voice is you -- what a concept. One of the terrible things about being in the northern part of North America in the summer is the bugs. I forget about this stuff having lived most of my adult life in the southern parts of the US, but yes I do remember the mosquito from days of yore, when I was a young man living in the northern frontier and getting bit by bugs. I remember going to sleep at night with my mosquito netting on my face as I camped under the stars listening to that continual buzz in my ear. Oh yes, but the northern country is so lovely and the days are long and the horizons are endless. Enjoy the remainder of your journey, and I look forward to the next post.

  5. I hope that everyone who follows this blog has clicked on the link to Michael’s detailed map. Michael has updated it often, showing my location and the places I have been. The link is just under the broad-brush map at the top of this blog. Thank you Michael for doing this.