Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sudbury, Ont.

Yes, right, but let's take it from the top.
We have had to make some compromises on this trip. The first one was not to follow the Transcanada Trail. The Trail, in BC, is cobbled together from 120 existing trails, which you can download (and get an extra trailer for the paperwork). The distance is also about twice that of following the major highways. The Trail has a nasty reputation in terms of the lack of services and was not an option early as the overnight temps were below zero.So we did what we did, up the Fraser Canyon, across to Revelstoke, down the Kootenay valley to the nr. 3, across the Crow and joined the TransCanada Highway in Swift Current. We just made it out of Saskatchewan before renewed rains made many roads, including the TCan, impassable. Another compromise was made a few days ago. Cross- and headwinds, in addition to rain, have been the story thusfar and averages then drop to about 17 km per hour, making for long days and lots of effort. We made the decision, once we arrived in Winnipeg after another Easterly windy day, and after the forecast called for 50 km easterlies the next day, to explore other options and decided to board the VIA train to Sudbury. We arrived last night at 02:00, put the bikes back together, rode to the nearest Tim Hortons in the pitchdark and waited there until we could reasonably expect to be let into a motel room. That happened at 09:30 this morning, a little past Sudbury. Slept 4 hours, did some shopping and will start for Huntsville and Ottawa tomorrow. The other consideration for taking the train was safety. The TCan past Kenora is single lane with a small shoulder and we have spoken to two people who have been hit by trucks. These are the ones who lived to tell. There are also long stretches without services and the prospect of spending ten hours+ in the saddle for days on end was a little much. Yes, it's cheating, but it ceased being fun. We could have taken the US route, but prefer to leave our money in Canada, until the paranoia in the US subsides a little. We have no stomach for the 3rd degree at the border.

Brigitte purchased a brace in Moose Jaw for what was suspected to be carpal tunnel syndrome and now her wrist feels a lot better. Met up with bikers John (trailer) and later Alain (saddle bags), from France, and a chap in the W'peg train station who had given up beating his brains out against the winds just underneath Saskatoon.

Someone who did not make it!!!
 From Moosomin we travelled to Virden, just inside Manitoba. Took a day's rest on account of the winds and rain (again), then on to Brandon where we crossed the Assiniboine River in spate. Here the road is protected by many industrially sized sandbags and it was evident that the road had been flooded despite the precautions. Next was Portage la Prairie (121 km), and Winnipeg (25 km headwinds). Tomorrow we head south, then east to Huntsville and Ottawa. Now, at least, we are back on schedule and hope to complete the trip to either Halifax or Saint John's while we're still young. We have ridden 2761 kms, or 3561 if we include the training in Victoria. more news later.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Moosomin, Sask.

What a difference an hour makes. During the previous update in Wolseley the wind shifted just enough to provide support and we rattled off another 55 kms in a little over 2 hours, namely to Broadview. Then today 75 kms to Moosomin and tomorrow hopefully to Brandon, Manitoba, weather permitting.

Sandbag barriers everywhere
There are black clouds in the sky every day but thusfar we have been able to keep things dry. In Manitoba the results of recent spring floodings await us and we have no idea of the state of the roads. The Assiniboine river was feared to jump its banks again and everywehere we look, also in Saskatchewan, there is evidence of heavy rains. One of the campgrounds resembled a rice paddy. Just across the border there is supposed to be a tourist info centre: they should be able to tell us what's up. We'll get an Ontario map in Winnipeg for the deserted streches along Lake Superior. Could get interesting.

This morning we were passed by a "fundraiser" for diabetes. His support van preceded him. Must be nice: no luggage, racing bike, anytime you need something you just call.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Downtown Wolseley

Only 35 kms since the last wide place in the road (Indian Head, home of the TV series "Little mosque on the Prairie). Not sure we'll spend the night or go on to Grenfell, 24 kms further but still well short of our target for the day, Broadview. The day started allright but with some threatening clouds. Then the winds picked up and now we have strong cross winds AND threatening clouds. It is not getting any easier. The townspeople are very friendly and stop to chat about their towns. Clearly not much happens here.
We are still "motelling" as spending the night in a tent in this weather is not appealing yet. Have had only one flat tire thusfar, which is surprising what with all the stones on the shoulders of the road.
Two days ago four cyclists with two trailers came the other way, going West. We waved a lot but, as there was no way to cross the divided highway, there was no other contact. Yesterday we saw a fellow cyclist with a trailer scoot out near a gas station ahead of us. We think this is Darren somebody who has been featured on tv and in the local papers as raising funds for a cancer cause. He is 15 days out of Vancouver, a lot faster than us. We can tell that there are cyclists ahead of us by the fresh banana and orange peels and we know that there people are ahead of us by the stories of car drivers we speak to, but we have had no other contacts. Some groups are supported by vans who carry luggage and manage water, food and clothing issues and who carry tired (or fed up) cyclists).

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Moose Jaw

In Gull Lake in the afternoon we went to the post office (yes, there is one) to snailmail something to our Swiss bank in order to continue to do business online. The postmistress (?) was very nice and we talked at length, met the Mayor and a few other influential townspeople. Finally the editor of the local paper, Tim, invited us for a drive through the countryside. We were able to explore the backroads, visited a Hutterite community (according to a local nurse who caters to them there is a lot of depression, which we can fully understand, it all looks a little drab, as do the inmates) and took a look at Gull Lake from a higher perspective. Saskatchewan produces more conventional oil than Alberta, as evidenced by the many pumps in the landscape. The province is also not nearly as flat as we had expected, and hoped, and the many gentle uphills take it out of you!

Nevertheless we made it to Morse the next day and did 120 kms to Moose Jaw yesterday. In the process we crossed the imaginary 2000 km line on this trip while battling head- and crosswinds all day. Today the headwinds are 30 kms and we decided to sit this one out, particularly since the forecast for tomorrow is a 10 km tailwind. We will just do more distance tomorrow and whiz through Regina. It also gives our rear ends a much needed rest...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Gull Lake (downtown library)

All of 1016 people live here, more or less, as there are a few retirement homes and the numbers vary from day to day,,,

We are taking a day off on account of rain and 35 km headwinds. Tomorrow should be free of rain but we don't know about the winds. The young couple on a tandem preceding us out of Cache Creek have quit, rented a van and drove home on account of the weather. Can't say I blame them.

From Taber we headed to Medicine Hat and then to Piapot, population 86, across the Saskatchewan border. We did 123 km with a pretty good tailwind. At the visitor centre, 40 kms inside Sask we were approached by an RCMP officer who said that he had had a complaint about 2 cyclists who had a dog with them. The complaint centred on dog-abuse as it was alleged that the animal could not keep up with the cyclists. The officer took our names, as the colour of our jackets matched the description, but accepted our statement that we had never owned a dog. Someone must have mistaken our trailer for an animal, there are liquor stores everywhere, even at gas stations... See how close you can get to ending up in the slammer in red neck country. We didn't say anything about the countless empty beer cans along the side of the roead: obviously the police have better things to do than checking for drunk drivers...Nor did we complain about some trucks passing about an inch from our elbows in spite of double lanes. Ram trucks (two syllables, pronounced Rahjum in a basso profundo) seem to be the favourite here.

Yesterday we made for Swift Current but one of us was tired and we only made it half way against a 20 km headwind. We are now at about 1850 kms, we are slowly heading east when conditions permit. Two weeks to get through Saskatchewan and Manitoba and into Ontario.  We are not doing too badly, all things considered.

We will write again as soon as we have internet access: public libraries seem to be the place to go, thanks, Leah, for the hint.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Taber, Alberta

From Cranbrook, after a 2 day rain delay, to Jaffrey (52 km). We wanted to go to Elko, but the one and only motel there is occupied by CP crews which makes the motel owners happy but the tourists less so,,, Then on to Fernie, Blairmore and Pincher Creek. Yesterday in one shot through to Lethbridge (109 km) and today into the headwinds to Taber. Prevailing westerlies my ass...Rain is forecast tomorrow and the day after, we'll have to see whether we will brave the elements or not. Into Lethbridge we (or rather Brigitte) noticed that bicycles are not allowed on the highway. I was hanging on to the handlebars at 55 km/hr downhill when the sign came. I can just imagine the discussion with the local fuzz: "but officer we were going too fast to make the turn with only a 50 meter warning. Besides, there was no indication as to where we SHOULD go." Still, you should have gotten off the highway and how you get to the other end of town is your problem." Typical COPout....

Distance is now almost 1600 kms and we are in Alberta, across the Crow. BC was tough, what with all the hills, and while there are still some rolling hills in AB we expect to start doing 100km per day as soon as the weather starts cooperating.