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

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Tour of Winnipeg

2724 St. Mary’s Cathedral on York Street, in view from my hotel window

Statue of the Hindu deity, Ganesha, in front of the East India Company restaurant on York Street

A classy-looking restaurant flung out over the Red River, attached to the side of the Esplanade Riel a footbridge.

Legislative Building for the Province of Manitoba

Government House, residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, 1883 .

Government House, Legislative Building in background.

“Bears on Broadway” polar bear sculptures by Helen Toews, “Because we care.” Canadians are very conscious about the environment.

Louis Riel 1844-1885, leader of the Metis people of the Prairies, president of the nation of Red River, a Canadian folk hero. He is honored here with the Legislative Building in the background.

Elm trees. Dutch elm disease, which has destroyed most of the elms in the United States is still being actively resisted in Canada. Everyone is encouraged not to use elm firewood or to transport its lumber very far.

Assinboine River, looking upstream from the Osborne Bridge. Many of the great cities can say “A river runs through it." The Red river and the Assinboine run through Winnipeg.

Ukranian Canadians were imprisoned in Winnipeg during World War I, simply because of their race. Now, after the nationrepented, their leader is honored in front of the Legislative Building. The United States did not so honor the Japanese after their internment based or race during World War II.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Units of Measure

Canadians buy gasoline for about one dollar a liter. But they talk about fuel efficiency in miles-per-gallon. If you ask an old-timer for the distance to somewhere, he’s just as likely to give it in miles as in kilometers, sometimes adding with a smile, “I’m from the old school.” All the signs show distances in kilometers, save the occasional advertising sign that tries to seem old.

Farmers talk of wheat yields in bushels per acre—100 on average. When they get $1.60 per bushel, as it seems they will, they complain that fertilizer costs $100 per acre. Farmland sells for $50 to $100 per acre, an impossibly high price if buying it for wheat crops.

I entered the prairie at elevation 900 meters above sea level on June 11. Twenty-two days later I am near its edge at elevation 200 meters in the richest farmland the Canadian prairie offers. Many different crops grace the fields here, even corn, that commonest of grain, but the first I’ve seen of it in Canada. You can see in the picture that it will not be ready for the Fourth of July, like mine was in Tennessee, if I planned right and was lucky. Grain has built the lifestyle of this prairie, mostly wheat, mostly spring wheat. Grain has driven the economy for many years.

And the hub of Grain is Winnipeg. I felt sucked into the city on the only road you can take eastward through eastern Manitoba—the Trans-Canada Highway; and even it has a gravel shoulder. Imagine the I-10 Freeway having a gravel shoulder. I avoided it where possible by taking some frontage road or riding on the left side if that shoulder was paved. But mostly I trudged ahead, drawn to the edge of a prairie and a lifestyle.

I felt drawn out of normal life as the city closed in around me, into a place where the order of things has changed. It’s still my life and I recognize it, but people and places have changed. Big businesses live here—car dealerships, computer stores, office buildings—things that seem strangely foreign, even though I used to walk by them almost every day. Drivers honk at each other when annoyed, something you never hear in a small town; he could be your coffee-mate tomorrow morning. Their horns sound like people screaming at each other.

Refined young women flaunt their sophisticated nonchalance. I understand refinement as a point of view but have been away from it so long it irks my sensibilities. I feel like a shoot of spring wheat, insignificant in a field of millions, all just the same. In small towns, people stand taller than wheat shoots.

I will stay in Winnipeg until Tuesday when I fly home.

The ubiquitous raven lives in Winnipeg too

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Light rain met me at the motel door before sunrise in Neepawa. This is the day I would ride to the very doorstep of Winnipeg, stopping for the night in Portage La Prairie, leaving only an 80km day to the end of a long trek. The air was comfortably cool, the wind was nil, and no woman-eating insects came strafing.

Sunrise over Manitoba Plain refracted a rainbow against a drizzling cloud.

A sign of little consequence to the motoring public. Everyone I had asked about this road said it has a good paved shoulder all the way to Winnipeg.

Most of the gravel was compacted and smooth, causing only a 50% reduction in speed. But where the grader had recently worked it, the surface of round rocks was like a floor covered with marbles. See the track where I lost control and the bike where I got up, thankful not to be going fast.

It’s a kind of wilderness experience, riding on rock marbles. Intensely aware of potential soft places, ready to swerve at the first lean of a tire, the first sink of a wheel. I suppose it’s the kind of close watching that soldiers exercize when the enemy could be lurking anywhere. But right beside me, cars and trucks swish by on the smooth pavement, modern luxury traveling beside a jungle nomad.

Wildlife came to join me whenever I stopped to rest. They even liked to ride along with me, darting about my face and legs. Since my speed was reduced by the gravel, they could keep up and seemed to enjoy a traveling feast.

This is the richest farmland in Manitoba. See how much taller the wheat is here than in previous pictures I posted. See how green everything is.

Gravel-riding lasted all day, and the mosquitoes mostly gave up after I put on a dose of deet. But the wind was mild, the rain was not heavy, and all the cars stayed off of my gravel shoulder.