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.
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/