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Day 59

We woke up this morning and kept pressing snooze. Our original intent was to wake up at 5. We actually got out of bed around 6:40. When we were leaving the hotel, we bumped into Robert Tailleur again. We were glad we did because he never came by last night, and we didn't know where he was staying and didn't want to disturb him last night! He took our pictures, and we got a group shot, then exchanged email addresses and we gave him our blog address. We are really glad we went to eat at Husky's last night! Meeting Mr. Tailleur was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! We hit the road and had pretty good wind! It was a really nice day, and the scenery was beautiful! Just like Agnes said, every time you cycle up a hill you're met with amazing scenery! It's almost like it doesn't belong in Canada, but rather somewhere south or tropical. Lake Superior's water is such a surreal, lighter blue (lighter than the royal blue of most of the lakes in Ontario). It was such a great day to cycle! Initially, we lucked out as well because it seemed that at every uphill there was a tail wind! The winds only seemed to change going downhill. That didn't last the entire day, unfortunately. All along, people have been warning us about the hills in northern Ontario. In Manitoba, people said the hills will start once you cross the border. Then people started saying it's pretty flat until Thunder Bay, and then the hillls just hit you. Then it got pushed back to after Nipigon, then just before Rossport. Let me clarify. There are decent rolling hills coming into Ontario, then the closer you get to Thunder Bay, the more it levels out. Then it's really decent all the way until just before Rossport. The two hills just before Rossport, contrary to what everyone says, really aren't that bad! Maybe it's another “Malahat” where, because we were so intensely warned, it didn't seem bad at all. Or, maybe the winds helped a lot, who knows. Either way, we definitely expected worse! We made our first stop at Rossport. Several different sources said it's a really cute town, and highly recommended seeing it. It has a lot of history as an old fishing town. We made the detour into town and had lunch. We sat on the dock and ate our bars (we found out our bagels were mouldy and there wasn't anywhere to buy new ones in Rossport). There was a local waiting at the dock for gas, and while he waited for the marina to open, he talked to us while we were eating. He was very friendly and told us a bit about the town. He also told us an alternate way out so we didn't have to climb the hill we just came down (a flat way that met up with the highway!). As we were leaving town, we saw him again by a beach. We stopped off and got our feet wet in the gorgeous bay area of lake Superior. The water was really warm at first, then when it got a touch deeper and further from the shore, it was freezing! We didn't stay there too long before we took off again. Our second stop of the day was at Asomething Canyon, It was really pretty. Not quite as stunning as the Ouimet Canyon, but still really nice! We then continued all the way until Nays. It was an old POW camp for Germans. It is also a place where Lauren Harris came to paint. We opted to camp at the provincial park so we could have lake access. We spent some time on the beach, which was really nice! Then we went to bed! We didn't see the nurse we met yesterday, which is too bad. She said she was aiming for here as well. Maybe she stayed in the other campground in the area, or who knows. I hope she's enjoying herself more now that the winds changed a bit!!

Day 58

We kept pressing snooze this morning until we FINALLY woke up at about 6:30! It was such a comfortable sleep! Dave left for work before we headed out, and we got to say our goodbyes (we were so grateful that he let us stay and him and his family were so great to us!). We hit the road around 9am and went the route Dave recommended (the same route as the guys in the bike shop as well....those guys also warned us that the streets in Thunder Bay seem to change names often. They weren't kidding about that!). Our first stop was at the Terry Fox memorial (it's the spot where he was forced to abandon his Marathon of Hope because the cancer spread to his lungs). It was a really nice shrine dedicated to Terry Fox and his accomplishments. All through this trip, two things have been shown to us over and over again: the importance of the railway and the importance of Terry Fox. He really was amazing, and (I know a lot of people, specifically Canadians would say the same) if I were to chose an 'idol' it would have to be Terry Fox. He did so much at such a young age. It's amazing really. The monument also overlooked the Sleeping Giant, which was really nice to see! We stayed there for a bit then hit the road. It was such a nice day! Not too hot or cold, and really sunny! The winds, at first, were really good and we just flew! The roads were good, and contrary to what everyone told us, there weren't a lot of hills from Thunder Bay to Nipigon at all! Everyone also warned us about the horrible road conditions, but they were really good!... at least to start. Only about an hour into our cycle from the Terry Fox lookout, the winds changed and remained a headwind all day. The roads also got worse. There were pockets of construction, which sucked, but worst of all were the little shoulders. The shoulders would have been acceptable if trucks gave us our space. We had to cycle off the road three times to avoid being hit (they didn't give us ANY room! I didn't realize it was a competition of who could push who off the road. I thought it was obvious they would win every time!). What was almost worse than the trucks not moving over were the two separate occasions where cars traveling in the opposite direction decided to pass just as they were passing us (which is REALLY scary, when there is no shoulder so nowhere for us to go, and there is a car coming towards us in our lane). I don't know why they couldn't have waited the 5 seconds to pass AFTER they passed us, but it definitely made us nervous! We definitely used the "DITCH!" rule quite often! But other than the roads (which were mostly decent), and the headwind, the day was pleasant! We met up with the two on the tandem bike again, and met another woman (a nurse from Vancouver) cycling across as well. We took a second detour to see the Ouimet Canyon. We were torn weather or not to do the Eagle Canyon as well. The Ouimet Canyon was a provincial park, and a larger canyon, and more or less free (they asked for $2 donations to the park), but the eagle canyon has the largest suspension bridge in Canada (they claim), and a zipline, but the actual canyon is smaller, and it costs like $20 to walk on the bridge, and like $52 to do the zipline. We thought it would be cool to do the eagle canyon, but it was really expensive for what it was. That being said, that's the bridge that's on all the pictures in the "Ontario, Yours to discover" booklets. So, although the counter argument was "when in Rome," we decided to save our money and see the more stunning canyon. No one told us about the REALLY big, steep road to the canyon. It definitely gave us a sense of accomplishment when we finished that hill! It was 3km long, and before the hill there were about 3 signs warning people about how steep it is. They actually had a parking lot specifically for people's trailers because they wouldn't be able to handle the hill. I don't know what the grade was, but it was STEEP! The canyon was stunning! It was really cool to see! We were glad we went!!! And the ride back to the highway was really sweet! All downhill! But then, we were hit with the wind when we got back to the Courage Highway. It was a constant, brutal headwind all the way (the last 45kms) to Nipigon! The last (about) 11km were the worst! There was construction the whole way into town. The concrete was all grooved, so it was SUPER shaky and horrible to cycle on! It was slow going and uncomfortable and just horrible! The construction was bad enough, let alone the wind which just seemed to be getting worse! When we got into Nipigon, we went straight to the first place we found to fill up our water bottles and get food (being a Husky restaurant). We didn't initially plan on eating out, but we felt we needed a pick-me-up after that last little stretch (actually, all the headwind really, but ESPECIALLY the last little stretch). We happened to see the nurse there as well, and we sat with her while we ate. It was really nice to hang out with her. She seemed to be having a bit of a tough time at the moment with the trip (she's a little frustrated). But she's really nice! While we were sitting eating, a man (roughly my parent's age) came over and asked if those were our bikes outside. We told him yes and that we're cycling across Canada. He thought that was amazing and it's something he always wanted to do but it's too late. He used to do a LOT of cycling in the past (all through Europe) until he was hit by a car and had to stop for a year or so, then when he was visiting his parents in Florida (he's from Quebec) he decided to cycle back and was hit again, so he couldn't ever do Canada. But he asked if we knew where we were staying, and we said we were figuring it out. He said he would be honoured to pay for our motel room for the night. It was so nice of him! So now we're in the motel room, for free thanks to the wonderful man (whose name and info we got so we can later send him a thank you!). I can honestly say, Michael and I (and Travis back in the "mountain" chapter of this trip) have been really lucky! We've met so many amazing people and done some pretty cool things! Mr. Tailleur is the newest to be added to the list!

Day 57

We woke up this morning, fully rested, in the motel room. We got all our gear together, and hit the road sometime between 8:30 and 9am. We were pleased to see the weather turned around a full 180 from yesterday! It was a bit chilly, but other than that it was nice! The wind (although not ideal) was pretty good, the sun was shining, it was a nice day! We were flying, until we heard a noise. It sounded like Michael ran over a rock in a way that sent it flying, or maybe even gave him a flat. At this point we were only like 15km out of town. Michael stopped, and I figured it must have been a flat. Turns out I was wrong. He said after the sound, he thought it was a rock as well until he heard/felt "thump thump thump." His rim broke (the metal actually split and was jutting out!). It was gone! We had no other option but to hitch hike to Thunder Bay (Dryden didn't have a bike shop. The closest was in Thunder Bay). My bike was fine, so technically I could have kept cycling while Michael hitched, but it really wasn't safe (or at least I didn't feel safe doing that. I know there are a lot of people who tour on their own, and a lot of women do as well, but I would rather not). It's safer to hitch hike in pairs, and it's much safer to cycle in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (there was NOTHING between Dryden and Thunder Bay) for two days with two people than on my own! So, while Michael was checking out his bike, I stuck my thumb out. A bunch of cars passed us by without stopping (obviously! We were hitchhiking, which can be sketchy as it is, but we also had 2 bikes loaded with gear! We would need a pickup truck or van or truck to realistically pick us up!). Before we got a ride, a cop car drove by without stopping. We were really surprised. We were far from anything, and CLEARLY were in some sort of trouble since we had BIKES and were trying to hitchhike (clearly there was something wrong with our transportation!). The cops didn't stop at all to make sure we were alright, maybe give us a taxi contact or SOMETHING. Not cool OPP! But we were picked up in the end by a really nice trucker! He was so nice to us and drove us all the way to Thunder Bay! It was only part way out that we found out he was a member of a Hell's Angels. At first it weirded us out, but he was so nice, and after dropping us off, he shook our hands and wished us all the best! We asked around and finally got directions to the nearest bike shop. Michael insisted we try and cycle because it's much quicker than walking. That didn't last long. We hard a loud pop, and his tire came off, and the inner tube was gone! So, we walked down to "Rolling Thunder." It was such a good bike shop! The three guys working there were very knowledgeable, very friendly, and didn't charge for anything that didn't need fixing (they quickly looked at and fixed up my bike and didn't charge me!). And they did a really good job! We bought everything we needed for the next leg of the journey (new chain, new tubes, new wheel for Michael, etc) except a new tire for me because they were out of stock of my sized tire! So I had to go to cyclepath. Cyclepath was also good, but not as good as Rolling Thunder. If anyone is touring and passing through Thunder Bay, I highly recommend that shop! But after finishing our errands, Michael called Dave (Steve's brother). When we were in Beausejour, Steve said to give his brother a call. We felt it would be imposing to call and ask if we could crash there, but since he does live in Thunder Bay, we figured he would be able to recommend somewhere. Turns out he offered us his garage, which was amazing! We didn't care where we crashed really! Before heading to his place, we went for dinner at Mad House, a place recommended by the guys working at Rolling Thunder. We ordered the burger (as was recommended). It was REALLY packed (esp for a monday night!), but the burger was really good! It took a while though because it was so busy, but we finally made it over to Dave's. We had this image of pitching our tent next to his parked car in his garage, but turns out, he had the most amazing, ideal-man garage! In the front was a lounge area (with a TV and beer fridge of course, and a bunch of really cool decor (ie. retro coke posters and products)), and in the back was a workshop. It was better than we could have imagined! Dave and his wife Cindy were lovely! They were both so nice (they let us shower and do laundry, and put us up last minute!). And Steve and Dave's dad was there as well, and he was so nice and funny ( a really good way! He was such a cute man!). But it was a really fun night and we had an amazing rest!

Day 56

This morning we didn't hear the alarm go off! We must have been so tired last night! (We also later found out the earphones were still in the ipod). Last night, I had a bit of a freak out. I had to go to the washroom in the middle of the night, and as a truck went past, I saw something shinning in the bushes. Nicole's dad told us a story before about how he saw a bunch of wolf eyes in the bushes in northern Ontario when he was on call one night, and my imagination was going wild! I rushed back into the tent as fast as I could, but was faced with a huge dilemma. I really had to use the washroom, but was really scared there were wolves in the bushes. I stuck my head out the tent to find out that the light was only a few fireflies. Talk about an overactive imagination! But this morning, we went back and forth about the plan for the day. Since Michael only had his front brakes, it's not safe cycling in the rain, so we considered not going. We mooched someone's unsecured wireless and checked the weather network. According to the website, it would be cloudy with showers all day, but only 1mm of rain. We figured that wouldn't be too bad, so we thought we should go to Dryden then re-evaluate. We got all packed up and hit the road. It wasn't too bad at the start, then the killer headwind and major downpour started! It was not safe to be on the roads! It was pouring down like crazy, and the visibility was poor, and so was the effeciency of the brakes! Unfortunately, there was NOWHERE to pull over! The closest place was in Dryden. The first place we came to (a motel) was closed on Sundays (random and strange for a motel!). The second place we came to was reasonably priced. It was more than we wanted to spend, but in the present conditions (we were soaked and freezing!) it was worth it! The owner was very nice and drove us to WalMart and the food store. He also talks a lot! It was funny! So thanks to the weather, today is a day off, and we're a little behind our ideal schedule. It's nice to veg out though. We watched the news for the first time in a while, and couldn't help but see what a mess Toronto is right now! Thank god we're not cycling through that! But we're using today as a relaxing day where we can update the blog and just enjoy not being outside!

Keeping dry in Dryden

Last night we were woken up with pouring rain from time to time, and we were a little reluctant to leave the tent. We slept through the alarm again, so we didn’t hit the road until 10 am. We had a big headwind and just 20 km out of Dryden, it started to pour, without back brakes, fogged up sunglasses and narrowing shoulders with transport trucks zooming by, we felt very unsafe so we went to the first open Motel we could find. The manager was very talkative, and although he couldn’t get us a deal, he let us air out our stuff and keep our bikes in his garage. He even drove us into town to do some grocery shopping. It was nice to lounge around indoors for a change.

Fun facts, stats and lessons learned

Distance travelled today: 44.5 km

Total distance travelled: 4217.8 km

Starting point: Bobby’s Sports Store parking lot, Vermillion Bay

Our Route: Trans Canada (Highway 17) all day. The roads and shoulder were pretty good all day, except the shoulder disappeared in Dryden.

Ending point: Dryden Motel & Suites, Dryden

  • Whomever said that the prevailing winds are from the west was lying.

Day 55

This morning we woke up and saw there was someone else who was thinking like us and camped out (in their camper van) in the back parking lot of the info center. They were up not long after us, and the woman (it was a husband and wife with two kids) came up to talk to us. She asked us in french if we were going across the country. We told her we were and told her a bit about our route. She told us the roads ahead would be brutally hilly. Everyone tells us that! But it was really nice to have a conversation in french (it's something I haven't done in a while!). And it's pretty rare for someone in Ontario to START the conversation in French, which is cool that she did! When we left the info center, we planned on having second breakfast in Kenora. The winds were less than ideal (ie cross head wind), but it was a nice day, and the roads were amazing! When we got into Kenora, we found a Tim Horton's and got some hot water (they charged us for a tea for the hot water, so we got some tea bags on the side for later). With the hot water, we made porridge. We stayed there for quite a bit, talked to some of the locals, then hit the road for a bit. The roads became less than favourable, and we had to cross a lot of construction zones. I had to pull over to fix my front panier at one point. While fixing it, randomly, one cyclist came in the other direction, and two in the direction Michael and I came from, and all happened to meet up in this one spot. We talked for a bit about our trips so far (the couple were riding a tandem across from Victoria to St. John's, while the single guy flew from Spain to New York and is cycling from New York then across Canada, heading west). They were very nice (all three of them) and we talked for a while. Then we went our ways. Michael and I talked about how difficult it might be on a tandem. We can't imagine it would be easier, but who knows. We've never done it! Not long after the random meeting, we had to stop again because Michael's wheel wasn't spinning. He fixed it, only to notice he needs a new wheel! The rim is bent at one point. To allow it to spin freely, he needed to release his rear brake completely. We continued cycling through the heat, until about 60km from Vermillion Bay. It was so hot, and Michael was so tired from the added friction all morning (until he took his brakes off that is) so we decided to take a nap for an hour! When we woke up and packed up, we saw the two girls from Trail again (we knew we would see them somewhere around the Manitoba/Ontario border, but that's probably the last time we see them). Then we went straight into Vermillion Bay. We didn't think we would make it all the way to Dryden today (especially after the several bike fixes, the long second breakfast, and the nap). We were about 20km from Vermillion Bay when it started raining. It wasn't hard, but we had two options. Either we try to make it into town, or we set up camp now, and not get wet before bed. We decided on the latter, but couldn't find a good place to camp for the next 10km! By that time, the rain stopped and we were only 10km from town, that we decided to at least go that far, if not further (not much further, maybe 5km as it was going to be around 7:30 when we got into town and I don't like cycling past 8pm for safety reasons). When we got into Vermillion Bay, we stopped off at “Bobby's Sport Store” to use the washrooms. We talked to someone outside and he told us we should just camp over to the side of the parking lot on the other side of the giant Inukshuk statue they had there. We said we might get in trouble and he told us he owns the place so it's not a problem. Since his place was open from 6am-10pm we thought that would be a good idea! That way, we could use proper washrooms before bed and when we woke up! Also, since we had a hard time finding somewhere safe to camp before the city, we didn't know what to expect after. And the giant statue was good protection from cars! So that's what we did! Right when we were in the tent and ready for bed, the rain started up again. It started slow, then downpoured! It did not sound pleasant at all outside! We figured we would see what happens tomorrow and decide from there if we cycle, or stay here another night.

Siesta in Northern Ontario

We woke up next to a camper van who was doing the same thing as us - trying to sleep for free at the Info Centre. They were from Quebec, and we were speaking to each other in French. They’re going across Canada too, but east to west, and they warned us of the hills that are coming up.

We stopped in Kenora at a Tim Hortons, and ordered an xl tea so we could use the hot water for our porridge for second breakfast. There was construction on the road in town on our way out, and as we were biking along gravel I noticed that my back wheel was rubbing on the brake. My rim was cracked. Earlier in the day, it felt a bit hard to bike, but i just attributed it to the headwind. I sure hope that it doesn’t break on me for the next 500 km to Thunder Bay!

The roads along this route were very pretty with rock face cliffs on either side at points and lakes all around. The sun was very hot all day, and we were both tired, so we stopped at one of the many lakes, found some shade, laid out a tarp, blew up our sleeping mats and took a 1 hour nap. We felt very rejuvenated from it and pedalled to Vermillion Bay. It started to rain about 15 km out of town, so we were looking for a spot to camp at the side of the road. There are always places to camp, but for some reason, not in this stretch! The rain went away before we could find an appropriate place, so we just went into town.

We stopped at the shell gas station with Bobby’s Sports Store and we talked with them for a bit. They were very friendly, and they let us camp by the Inuksuk at the end of their parking lot. We were lucky because It started to rain just after we set up camp.

Fun facts, stats and lessons learned

Distance travelled today: 147.19 km

Total distance travelled: 4173.3 km

Starting point: Info Centre just past the Ontario border

Our Route: Trans Canada (Highway 17) all day. The roads and shoulder were excelent for most parts, except going through Kenora with potholes and construction, and points where the shoulder got really narrow at points.

Ending point: Bobby’s Sports Store parking lot, Vermillion Bay

  • We knew we weren’t the only ones cycling across Canada, but we encountered at least 6 others doing this sort of trip too today.
  • Kenora is a town mostly for Manitobans as a cottage country location.
  • Moose are dangerous at night because their eyes don’t reflect light the way other animals eyes do, and they’re so top heavy and tall that cars tend to take out their knees and the moose’s body goes through he windshield.

Day 54

This morning, we woke up and had a huge breakfast of crepes with frozen yoghurt and bananas, yoghurt, fruit, raisin bread, etc. It was amazing! His mom also prepared a massive lunch for us! Both his parents were so nice! We got everything packed up and then loaded our bikes and our gear into the van. Rather than cycling back around the lake, it was much quicker, and easier, and cooler, to row across, then cycle from the other side (Kirk's dad helps run the Pinawa rowing club). Kirk's mom rode the bikes to the other side in the minivan, while Kirk, his dad, Nicole, Michael and I rowed across. It was my first time in a scull. It was tons of fun, but I was really bad (Michael and Nicole said I was pretty good for a beginner, so I'd hate to imagine how frustrating it would be to run a learn to row program!). I'm glad we only did 4km though because I do not have the muscles required to row! It was tough! Good thing I was in a two man with Michael. He definitely did most of the rowing! But it was really fun to try something new and sculling is something I have always wanted to try! Nicole and Kirk's dad were in another double, and Kirk was in a single, but only rowed part way with us because he had to go back to work. When we got to Otter's Bay, we helped load the boats onto the van, and got all our gear together. Kirk's parents and Nicole saw us off as we hit the road! (and we realized how big the lunch was that Kirk's mom prepared for us! It was so generous of them! And it included home made cookies!!!). It's funny because Kirk's dad asked us how the bugs were, and so far we found that as long as we were moving, they didn't bother us. It was only when we stood still that they swarmed. How naïve! Today we found they were always bad! We were constantly surrounded by a cloud of horse flies! It was not pleasant at all and I got bit (which is rather painful!). There was no escaping them! It really made the ride unpleasant. Other than the bugs, it was a nice day (a little too hot, in all honesty), but really nice. And we cycled through Whiteshell Provincial Park, which was really scenic. We stopped off in West Hawk Lake (it was only there that the bugs stopped being so bad, and we weren't about to stop and be eaten alive any sooner!). Along the way we saw a few foxes and deer. For dinner we ate the rest of the lunch prepared for us, then continued to the Ontario border! We didn't want to stay on the roads too long because I was tired, and it's not safe to be on the roads around dusk, when all the wildlife is out. We ended up camping in the backyard of the Ontario info center (it's away from the highway traffic, well maintained lawns, and out of view. The info center said it would open tomorrow at 9am, so we would be out before anyone arrived. We hung our food in a tree, then went to bed! It's exciting being in Ontario because we're home! (Well, province-wise, we're home, but city-wise, we're not even close! We're actually closer to Calgary than Toronto!). But it feels very productive to be here already! We've crossed off B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Now we have thousands of kilometers before we're out of Ontario, but it feels nice to be here! And it's exciting to see parts of Ontario I've never seen before! I'm excited!

Row, row, row your boat...

We woke up today to an excellent feast of a breakfast prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Vilks. They made us pancakes with raisin bread, frozen yogurt, plums, bananas, and yogurt. To get back to the highway, instead of backtracking a good 30+ km, we went out to the Pinawa Rowing Club and took out some touring doubles and rowed across the Winnipeg River instead of having to backtrack and ride all around it. Nicole R had never rowed before, so the three of us were teaching her. I had a bit of fun yelling at her :).

The row was beautiful. Probably my favourite place that I’ve ever rowed. It was a river that seemed like a lake with little islands and trees all around. Nicole R & I were in one double and Mr. Vilks and Nicole B were in another, while Kirk was in a single. Kirk had to leave early to go to work, so he only joined us for about 15 minutes. We made it across to find Mrs. Vilks there with our stuff and she made us a lunch. We put our stuff on our bikes and hit the road. Going along the 307, I had never seen so many horse flies in my life. They were swarming around us even as we cycled. At least in Saskatchewan, the mosquitoes only hit when we stopped. But miraculously, we escaped with only a couple of bites. Maybe they just liked our company. I don’t blame them. We made it to the Ontario border and camped out just behind the Info Centre for the night.

Fun facts, stats and lessons learned

Distance travelled today: 99.19 km + 4km row

Total distance travelled: 4026.1 km

Starting point: Pinawa, at Kirk’s place

Our Route: We rowed across Winnipeg river until Otter Falls, and tok the Manitoba Highway 307 to the La Vérendrye Trail (Highway 44) until it met up with Highway 1 (Trans-Canada), which quickly turned into Highway 17 past the border. Highways 307 and 44 had small lanes and no shoulder with a bunch of cracks & potholes, but since there was little traffic, we were able to avoid the big ones. The Trans Canada had a good shoulder, and the road became excellently paved just at the Ontario border.

Ending point: Info Centre just past the Ontario border

  • We couldn’t avoid seeing deer. They were everywhere.
  • It’s amazing how much faster you go with nicely paved roads. The roads in Ontario are (so far) better than in Manitoba, and just crossing the border gave us a boost of about 2-3 km/hr.

Beausejour, Pinawa, and cycling with Kirk

We got all our stuff together and hit the road a bit late. Our bikes were so heavy from the food shopping, and we were all amazed that it all fit... well, sort of. Nicole was going to meet us in Pinawa with the rest of our food. We wanted to see the geographical centre of Canada, so we did a little detour. It felt like an accomplishment to see, but we knew our trip was far from over.

We headed to Beausejour to meet up with Steve, the chair of the Beausejour Bonspiel, of which I participated in January 2009. He invited his fiancé over and he took us to the Howland Hotel for some drinks and food. They were very kind and we had fun talking about the trip, their upcoming wedding and the bonspiel. I really want to do the Beausejour Bonspiel again next year! Also, the co-owner of the hotel, after hearing of our trip, left $20 on our table to cover our meal, and as we went to pay the tab, Steve said that he already took care of it and for us to keep the $20 for food later on. That was so nice of him and his fiancé!

Just as we were finishing up, Kirk came by with his bike, and he joined us for the rest of the trip to Pinawa. We put our gear into the back of Mr. Vilks’ vehicle, which made for quite an enjoyable ride with great company. This leg of the trip just flew by, and before we knew it, we were on the highway that led into Pinawa. Kirk was also being our tour guide, telling us “to the left you will see... bush. And to the right, you will see... bush.” Mrs. Vilks caught us just before town to take pictures of us riding along the way. We got in at 10:30pm, just before Nicole B and Mr. Vilks arrived, and we had a wonderful steak dinner. Both Kirk and Nicole’s families have been so kind and welcoming to us on our trip!

Fun facts, stats and lessons learned

Distance travelled today: 140.45

Total distance travelled: 3926.95 km

Starting point: Nicole’s place, in Winnipeg

Our Route: We took the Perimeter Highway (Highway 100) until the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1). Both roads had a fair amount of traffic, but were decent and had good shoulders. We went North on Highway 206, East on Highway 15, North on Highway 302, and East again on Highway 44. We then followed it until Highway 11, and then finally took the highway that goes into Pinawa. All of these highways had either very little shoulder or no shoulder at all, but with less traffic it was easy to avoid the cars and the potholes.

Ending point: Kirk’s place, in Pinawa

  • The geographical centre of Canada is just East of Winnipeg, close to Highway 206.
  • We couldn’t avoid seeing deer. They were everywhere. Apparently Pinawa is known for that.

Day 53

We were woken up by Nicole this morning (as was the plan). We had breakfast with her (her dad made us Bacon and eggs, which was amazing!). Nicole's mom and sister were already gone by the time we got up (but her mom left us a really nice note saying have fun on our trip!), and Nicole and her dad left after breakfast for work. Michael and I spent the morning packing everything up and doing last minute bike repairs. We left Nicole's house just after noon and headed to the perimeter highway until the Trans Canada. We went that route so we could see the official halfway mark of Canada. We then went up north on highway 206, then zigzaged our way up to Beausejour where Michael and Rob went curling two years ago (they randomly went to a bonspeil in rural Manitoba). We met up with Steve, one of the organizers that Michael keeps in touch with. We met him at his work, then went to the local (Howland Hotel) for a drink and some food. The owner came out and Steve told him about what we were doing and he insisted (and said he would be honoured) to pay for our dinner. He put down $20 on the table for us (which was SO nice of him! Talk about friendly Manitoba!). We ended up having four rounds with both Steve and his fiance (they were both so lovely!), and pizza and wings. They paid for it (which we didn't expect at all! It was so nice of them!) and told us to pocket the $20 for later. We contacted Kirk to tell him we were having food in Beausejour. His dad went to Winnipeg to pick up Nicole for the weekend, and on the way, he dropped off Kirk in Beausejour so he could cycle the rest of the way to Pinawa with us (just over 50km away). He was a good tour guide, pointing out all the bush along the way. On highway 211 (the highway that only goes to, and ends in Pinawa), his mom met us in a car to take pictures of us along the way (it was really cute!). We got into Kirk's place at about 10pm, and Nicole and Kirk's dad showed up around 10:30. We showered, and then ate a feast his parents prepared! It was unreal! And there was so much food! It was wonderful! Then we went to bed!

Day 52

We didn't set up an alarm last night, so woke up naturally at around 8-9am (well, I did, Michael needed to be woken up around 10am. When I woke him, he asked what time it is, and his reply was “10?! It's so early!” But he got up anyways). Nicole made us chocolate chip waffles (from scratch) for breakfast and they were SOOO GOOD! We then set out to get some stuff done! Our first stop on our tour of Winnipeg was to the Royal Canadian Mint. It was cool to see! We didn't take a tour, but instead saw their display in the main lobby. We make a lot of money for a lot of countries! They also had the olympic medals on display, which were cool to see (they're really big!). The second stop was at Nicole's old gymnastics gym. It was fun to see and fun to jump on the trampolines and just play around! Michael had tons of fun! We probably could have left him in there the whole day and he wouldn't mind! The next stop was the Forks. We walked into a VERY expensive candy store in an old train car, then went into the market and bought some frozen yoghurt. We walked up to the lookout as we finished the yoghurt, then walked through the park. Our next step was very important. We went to the zoo before it closed to see the Winnie the Pooh memorial (and then stayed to look at some of the animals). On the way back to her house to pick up her dad for Costco, we passed by Lois Riel's house (a drive-by viewing of it). Turns out, Nicole's younger sister was competing at a Track and Field competition today, so we dropped her and her dad off at the track, then the three of us went to Costco and bought A LOT! We were told that northern Ontario has NOTHING so we have to stock up! And we did! (We even have the receipt to prove we did!). Then we picked up Nicole's dad and sister from the track and headed back home for dinner. We met her mom, and she was also very nice! They made us steak and potatoes and salad and garlic bread. It was delicious! As a thank you, I made desert. At first we considered going out, but instead we stayed in and talked to Nicole and her parents all night. It was a really nice evening! We had a lot of fun! Then it was off to bed again!

Day 51

We woke up just after 8am today. We wanted to hit the road just after 9am to avoid the commuters. It was a draining ride. The winds weren't in our favour, and we just wanted to rest in Winnipeg already! And the signs didn't tell us the distance to the city center, as all the other signs did until now. Instead, it measured the distance to the perimeter highway. So when we reached the preimeter highway and realized we had another like 30km until we got to Nicole's house, we were disheartened. And it turns out, the roads were wonderful! We probably could have cycled it last night (but wouldn't have, for safety reasons!). But everyone's advice didn't seem to match with what we saw. There were really good shoulders coming into Winnipeg. In the city was another story though. The shoulders were all gone, and the roads were NOT well maintained! Instead of going straight to Nicole's, we went straight downtown so Michael could go to the bank. We went to the Forks area of town. The outskirts of Winnipeg weren't very nice, but the downtown was. It was so brutally hot too! After the bank, we went to pick up some supplies at MEC, then we booted it to Nicole's. She had only a small window when she would be home (she works two jobs and only had between like 3:30 and 4:30 that she would be home before having to go back to work). We got a bit lost, then got redirected. As we were pulling up, she was pulling out, taking her little sister to practice(?). She quickly told us where things were, and then took off. She wouldn't be back until 9pm. In that time, Michael and I set up our tent to air out, and lay out our sleeping mats and sleeping bags, showered, and did laundry, along with a few other errands. We were definitely not idle until Nicole came home! When she came back, we decided to go out for dinner. We went to Earl's because Michael and I keep seeing it everywhere out west, but we've never seen it in Toronto or Montreal (or out east in general). The food was good, but you definitely don't get your money's worth in portion sizes! We were going to go out and get a drink (as we haven't properly celebrated being done Alberta or Saskatchewan), but we were so tired! We went straight back to her house, and stayed up and talked to her and her dad (her parents just got home from a week in Jamaica. We didn't meet her mom because she had already gone to bed before we came back). Her dad was very friendly (and obviously so is Nicole). Then we went to bed!

Day 50

Last night, Michael and I heard dogs? (or wolfs or coyotees? Do they bark?) barking. There was also another animal sound (deer? I don't know what) that was being scared away. Michael and I were scared because the animals were RIGHT outside our tent! We had our bear spray at the ready (actually, since the night we heard random singing, we sleep beside our bear spray, dog spray, air horn, and leatherman). We weren't about to stick our heads outside the tent (obviously), so we fell back asleep after hearing no more barking for a while. When we woke up this morning, at 3am Saskatchewan time, 4am Manitoba time, Michael stuck his head out the tent and noticed it was still dark. We figured we would sleep in another hour (for safety reasons. Cars wouldn't expect to see a cyclist so early in the morning, so if it's dark or if the sun is in the driver's eyes, they wouldn't think to look for anyone cycling at the side of the road. We got up at 5am Manitoba time and got all packed. Just as we were ready to leave the tent, we heard barking again. We finished all the packing, then I put my head out and didn't see any dogs. When I went out, I saw them in the distance, and they saw me, and then they started running to me. I bolted into the tent SO FAST! They came up and surrounded our tent, walking around it in circles. Now, as most people know, I am not good with dogs. But they weren't barking anymore, so we figured they might be friendly. Only the mesh part of the tent was zipped so we could see them, and we called them over. They came over obediently (without barking) so we figured they were friendly, and probably a local farmer's dog. So, I went out of the tent first (another example of Michael being a gentleman). They jumped up on me, but they were friendly, so it wasn't too bad. They wouldn't leave us alone to pack (which dog people would see as cute, but in reality, they just got in the way). So after our one hour sleep in, and the dog interruption, we finally hit the road at 5:30am, Manitoba time. The dogs followed us. At first we thought they wouldn't be able to stay with us for long, but turns out they have stamina! They followed us for just over 10km, traveling at an average of 24km/hr. I hope they can find their way home! But it was a fun way to start the day! We first busted it to Moosomin to use the washrooms, then another quick break at the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border for a photo (where we met the two girls from Trail B.C. The guy in Indian Head was telling us about! They cycled from Trail and are headed to St. John's as well. They cycle less than we do per day, but they don't take days off. They were very friendly.) then straight to Virden for our first break of the day, and for second breakfast. We stopped into Tim Hortons and had the sandwich/donought/coffee deal. We talked to a few locals who were very friendly, and were impressed with our trip. They told us that in the paper, they talked about how Manitoba drivers are the friendliest drivers, and most biker friendly in the country (we never found this to be true. In fact, it was quite the opposite!). They also told us to be careful because a few years ago, two cyclists who were also cycling across Canada were killed about 5km east of where we were. When we cycled past, we saw a little shrine, with a white bike and two headstones. It was kinda scary to see, and although we were always aware of the risk of cycling on the roads, it's still an eye opener to see. We continued, without break, to Brandon. It started getting REALLY hot, so we had to delayer as we ate lunch (peanut butter sandwiches to finish off the heavy jars to make ourselves lighter for our long trek of the day). We obviously also had chocolate milk! When we were just about to leave, Michael got a text from Nicole telling us that it's pouring in Winnipeg! We talked to a few people who just finished driving from Winnipeg and they said it's brutal up until about 30km away from here. Michael and I figured we would keep cycling west and deal with the rain when we get to it. Worst case scenario, we have to call it a night early. The cycle was alright. The roads were less than ideal though. The worst section we have dealt with all day, and all trip for that matter, was about 60km west of Portage la Prairie. There was NO shoulder and the roads were all ripped up and full of pot holes! We spent as much time looking in our rear-view mirror as straight in front. Anytime a car was coming, we were ready to swerve into the ditch if need be! Thank god we didn't need to! But it was a tiresome stretch! Our arms were hurting from trying to keep our handle bars straight! A little ways after that, another cyclist flagged us down. He was spending ten years cycling around the world. He started in New Zealand, and cycled 37 countries and is now in Canada. He said he cycles no more than 100km/day. Spending so much time on your own wouldn't be my cup of tea, but good for him! We were a little confused though, why, after so much time, he didn't want to ever do MORE than 100km/day (it would be so much quicker!), and why, after so much experience, he wasn't cycling from west to east (for the prevailing winds, that we have not really experienced yet...maybe he knows something we don't!). But it was fun to hear a bit about his experiences! He gave us a whole bunch of advice for places to stay along the way towards Montreal, but he threw out SO many names, we didn't remember any of it! We got into Portage around 8pm. We finished cycling just over 300km! That's huge! And it's our biggest day so far! Michael wanted to continue all the way into Winnipeg. I was leaning more towards not. We've been told by NUMEROUS sources that the stretch of highway 1 into Winnipeg is the worst in the country. We didn't know how lit up it would be, or how the drivers would be. By the end of the cycle, we had a wave of wicked tail wind and were flying (over 30km/hr)! That is, until the last 20 or so kms. Then the winds changed, and we were tired. We were only cycling at about 15km/hr at the end. We decided to stay in Portage for safety reasons (both to avoid bad roads at night, and to prevent injury). We stayed at Hiway motel. It was very cute and clean! And they gave us a small discount, which was amazing! We felt we earned the hotel after the long day! The plan was to wake up, and get into Winnipeg in the morning! We met another cyclist who was going from Quebec city to Vancouver, but he didn't think he would be able to continue because he hurt his knees (he has been in Portage for the past 5 days and they still aren't better!). We planned on hanging out after Michael and I showered and ate dinner, but after we did that, we just passed out! We were so tired (the long day mixed with the sun is a deadly combination!).

Day 49

Our original plan of waking up at 5 turned into 6 so we could sleep in a little. We got all packed up, and got our bikes from the storage. While Michael did some bike maintenance, I made breakfast (I found a microwave and made the rest of the oatmeal we had). Michael finished fixing his broken spoke and we hit the road at 9am. It was such a hot day! We were flying! We changed our route around though. At first we were going to go north, through Fort Qu'appelle, then Melville, and then Russell and down into Winnipeg. We decided to, instead, take the Trans Canada straight to Winnipeg. It was about 100km shorter, and although Agnes recommended the Fort Qu'appelle route, we figured we already saw the Qu'appelle valley coming into Moose Jaw, and we could save ourselves a day if we went via highway 1. And we would rather spend that extra day in northern Ontario, or on the east coast. So we gunned it! We decided we would have second breakfast in Indian Head. The kilometers seemed to pass by pretty quickly, which was good! It was a nice day, and the wind wasn't too bad (not quite a tail wind, but it didn't hinder us!). When we got into Indian Head, we asked someone working at the gas station where to find the grocery store. He told us, and also said there were two girls that passed through two days ago cycling from Trail B.C. (which we've never heard of) to St. John's. We headed into town, and bought some lunch. This lunch included some fresh fruit, and chocolate Lucky Charms. We couldn't say no! We also had some peanut butter and honey sandwiches (and we also bought supplies for the next few days as well. Enough to last us into Winnipeg). While in the grocery store, we heard someone in a different isle wish his friend a happy father's day. We then realized it was Sunday already! We made a note to call home later today! We also asked the cashier what time the Rough Riders were playing. Being in Saskatchewan, we felt it was necessary to see at least part of a game! She said 1pm, so we decided to head to the nearest next town and find a pub and watch the game. The next town, Wolseley, was 33km away, so we gunned it for there. Along the way, we passed a very slow moving older man cycling across Canada. We saw him for kilometers before we caught up, and talked smack behind his back about how slow he's going. Maybe we have an ego problem, but whenever Michael and I see another cyclist (specifically another touring cyclist) ahead, we assume we can not only catch up, but pass that person! We were right (at least in this case). We easily caught up (while obviously talking smack the whole way up) and soon saw he was older (like grandparent's age). He was cycling on his own, and a little odd. We talked for a bit, then Michael and I shot off to go catch the game. The old man then drafted off us for the LONGEST time. It was super awkward because he was just THERE, and he never once took the lead, until at one point, he was getting cocky, and took the lead, but instead of taking the lead so we can draft, he took the lead and shot off. He didn't go fast for long though, and we soon caught up, passed him, and then he fell back fast. I think we wore him out (keep in mind he probably had no idea of our smack talk, or our competition to take the lead and leave him far back either. But we won in the end, and that's all that matters!). When we made it into Wolseley we went to the gas station to ask where the best place would be to see the game. Apparently they don't televise pre-season games. We were gutted so decided to instead buy an ice cream (it was BOILING hot outside and we saw someone walk out with one, which made us really want one too!) and listen to some of the game on the radio in the store (when in Rome, right?). We took a longer than expected break there just because of the heat! Then we hit the road again. We made one more little stop in Grenfell to buy a Manitoba map, then another stop in Whitewood to call Dad for father's day. We were just under 20km shy of doing 200km that day, so we thought we would at least do that before calling it a night. We started looking for a site after cycling 200km and found a nice spot between the road and the railroad tracks. It was a nice spot with tons of room between the road and tracks so we were safe in both directions. It was also flat, and there wasn't any visible water around (all along the highway, there were pools of water in the ditches at the side of the road from the rain from the past few days). So although we were strategic in minimizing our mosquito exposure, we were still surrounded! We QUICKLY set up our tent and went to bed, with the intention of waking up at 4am (Manitoba time) to do a 300+km day tomorrow! Maybe, if we're lucky, we'll be able to get all the way into Winnipeg! But for now, early bed!

Day 48

We woke up early today so we could hit Moose Jaw at a respectable hour, and then make it into Regina. We woke up at 4:30 and hit the road by 5:30. The wind was in our favour, at first, and the roads were empty, which is nice! It was a good thing we left so early because highway 11 is the major highway connecting Saskatoon and Regina, and it's Saturday! We definitely noticed the roads get busier the later in the day it became! But it was really nice in the morning! Towns were spread roughly 15-25km apart, so it kept the route interesting. At first, it took a while for the sun to come out, but eventually it did, and it was quite hot when it did! Unfortunately, the winds kept changing into a headwind, which was not cool! But for the most part, it was a fairly pleasant ride. It was about 100km from where we camped to the turnoff to highway 2 into Moose Jaw. The roads there SUCKED! They were not well maintained at all! But it was fairly scenic (the most scenic being when we dropped into the Qu'appelle Valley). There were little prairie dogs everywhere, and it's a wonder there were so many! They're not overly smart. One ran out right in front of me, then decided NOT to move out of the way. I swerved, and then it ran at the last second (towards the direction I swerved, might I add), and SOMEWHOW I didn't run it over! Don't know how, but it scared the hell out of me! But about 55km later, we were in Moose Jaw. There was a street festival of sorts going on downtown (it was very populated, and VERY spaced out!). Michael and I had to get off our bikes and walk through the crowds to get to the tunnels. They were very nice there, and let us store our bikes in their building while we did the tours. We decided to do both tours (“the passage to fortune” and “Chicago connection”). The first we did was very good and informative. We weren't allowed to take pictures, so I'll do my best to spoil the experience with just a written description. The guide flipped back and forth between being our guide, and acting like a character from the past (the past being when CP was building our railroad). Basically, the tour talked about how poorly Canadians treated the Chinese. It was really good to see the tour didn't try to hush over Canada's ugly past. We as a country have come a long way! But using drama and fictional characters, they told the story of how it would have been for a Chinese immigrant in those days trying to make his fortune in Canada (specifically Moose Jaw). In the States, the railway company hired a bunch of workers, then decided to give the Chinese a try. They were so impressed that they hired a whole bunch more, and Canada decided to follow their lead. They brought a whole bunch over and got them to do the really shitty, and really dangerous work. They were seen as replaceable, and if anyone died, they felt they could just get more. After the railroad was built, the Chinese had a hard time getting work due to the racial discrimination. There was one buisiness in Moose Jaw that decided to capitalize on their desperation and hired them to wash clothes. They worked underground, and lived underground (in horrible conditions which they had to pay dearly for). They worked like 16hrs/day 7 days/week. Our government had a law saying a Chinese couldn't hire a white woman to work for him. They also kept increasing the head tax to prevent more from coming over, and then went so far as to forbid them to come (only 25/yr were allowed in). The Chinese were the ONLY race to have a head tax or to be banned. Then they lifted all the unfair rules and made it even for anyone entering our country, and the government formally apologized and is repaying the head tax to people if they are still alive. But it was an insightful tour that took us through a bunch of underground tunnels that run all through the city. It was cool. The second tour was more like a bunch of drama students who were so excited to be given their shot. It was another tour through different tunnels, where Al Capone allegedly hid when smuggling alcohol past the border during prohibition. The problem with that tour is that Al Capone being in Moose Jaw is all hearsay, so any info (the little they had), was all second-hand from grandchildren of people there, or from rumours. The fact was that there was a very corrupt police squad, and people claim to have had dealings with Al Capone (there just isn't any proof. So it is very likely it did happen, but the tour didn't really talk about it much). The tour was just a bunch of actors living it up in Moose Jaw, sparing no expense to be over the top. But it was still fun to go through the tunnels, because underground tunnels are cool, no matter what anyone says! And if Al Capone was in Moose Jaw, that's a pretty cool story! But after the tours, and after eating, we set off for Regina. I had a flat on the way (my second of the trip), and we used the CO2 pump for the first time (the mosquitoes were so bad we wanted to pump the tire and get moving AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!! and the bugs don't seem to bother us when we're actually moving, only when we're standing still). It was really sunny by this point, and really hot! About 25km away from Regina, we looked up and noticed some buildings off in the distance. We figured it must be Regina, because there was no other city between Moose Jaw and Regina (esp not one that would have any high rises). But we were so far, we didn't know if it could be Regina. Turns out it was! We could see it VERY far away! We weren't even looking for it, so maybe we could have seen it for kilometers prior as well! It was crazy! But we headed to the university to stay in the dorm because we were told dorms are really cheap! Turns out one res was fully booked, and so we tried our luck at another. Steve (the guy working there) was SO nice and set us up nicely! We were so tired and sweaty, that the shower, laundry, and bed were SOOO nice! We did 233.1km today, and so Steve's hospitality made us so happy, words cannot describe it! Needless to say, we passed out immediately after our heads hit the pillow!!!

Day 47

Today we slept in a little. We set the alarm for early, but didn't want to start cycling through the rain. So we woke up at around 6:30, saw it was still drizzling a bit, then went back to bed for an hour. We got up, got everything packed up, at the continental breakfast offered at the hotel (it was dismal at best, but it's exactly what we expected based on the room). Before heading out, we had to do a bit of bike maintenance, which pushed back our departure time to about 11am. My back brake was rubbing against the wheel, and when Michael went to loosen it, he noticed one of the screws was stripped so luckily we had extra bolts to fix the brakes! So it was fixed! But at closer inspection, we noticed that there was in fact rust on my new chain! Not cool! But after our bikes were all sorted out, we hit the road! The rain had stopped, although the ground was still wet. And we had a wicked cross-tail wind! We were averaging between 35-30km/hr! We busted through to Rosetown (which, we realized would have been BRUTAL if we attempted it yesterday with the wind, but which was nice and quick with our wind change!). We didn't stay there long, and went down the 5 for a few kilometers until we hit the 15. Saskatchewan looked much nicer without the rain! It was very nice and very green. It was a very enjoyable ride because it was fast, and the scenery was, although flat, pretty in a different kind of way. It wasn't stunning, but more of a peaceful, subtle pretty. The grass was very green, and the sky very large and blue. In BC, the mountains are the scenery. In Saskatchewan, the sky becomes the scenery, contrasted with the green grass. It was quite enjoyable! On the 15, at one point, I thought I heard my front pannier rub against my front tire, I adjusted it a bit, but as I did a gust of wind came, and I swerved a bit, which in a normal situation would be alright. However, there were cars coming, so to avoid swerving into them, I quickly changed directions and lost control of the bike (and not wanting to risk hitting a car, I heard Mike (the warden's) words go through my head: “DITCH!”). So I flipped over my handle bar (which has NEVER happened to me before! In fact, I've never had a real fall on my bike! I only ever fell from clipping in or out (while more or less stationary) when I was learning to use my clips AGES ago!). My helmet cracked, and I somehow (don't know how) managed to unclip and do a front roll of sorts (based on my lack of injury, and where my helmet cracked, my form was pretty good (I would like to think)! Must be a fluke or I'm just a pro-star at front rolls!). But in all seriousness, I didn't have a scrape on me! My helmet took the brunt of it! One of the cars turned back to see if I was alright, which was really nice! Michael checked to see that my bike was alright, while I checked to see if I was alright, and then we were off again! Being a giant baby, I jumped at Michael's idea to have a treat in Outlook (when kids get hurt, their parents give them treats, this was my equivalent!). So we stopped off, went to the grocery store, and had lunch/dinner, and then some ice cream and Saskatoon berry pie! (When in Rome, so we HAD to have Saskatoon berry something before we left Saskatchewan!). While we were eating, a cyclist (who we never got his name) came over to talk to us. He saw our panniers, and figured we were cycling across Canada. He did the trip the year before, and was very excited to talk about his trip, and tell us how much fun we will have on ours! When we were saying how much fun we've been having so far, he was excited to tell us it will continue all the way through! He said if he could, he would jump on his bike and join us! It was fun to talk to him! One thing he warned us about, was Manitoba. He said the roads were worse in Manitoba than anywhere else in Canada (even worse than northern Ontario, which has a bad reputation). And, he said the Manitoban drivers are the worst for giving space to cyclists. When we said we heard that Hwy 1, coming into Winnipeg was the worst section in Canada (our dentist who cycled across Canada a few years back told us that), this guy agreed. He also told us about Hwy 1, just outside of Medicine Hat, over the border into Saskatchewan. Apparently like 8 miles are completely under water! They are derouting the trucks (which is why there are trucks on this highway. Usually there aren't really any that come up this way). But it's a really good thing we didn't take that route! It could have been disastrous! The worst we had was a storm, during which, we just stayed inside! After a nice, long break, we hit the road again. We stopped just outside of the turnoff to highway 11, and camped at the side of the road (the cyclist told us he knows all the farmers from Outlook to the turnoff, and none of them would have a problem if we just camped out at the side of the road! So we did!). When we stopped, we were SWARMED with mosquitoes though! The rain from the past few days must be responsible! But it was brutal! We threw together the tent as fast as we could, and quickly unzipped the tent, threw in a bag, then quickly zipped it up again (and then repeated the process). Since we were in such a hurry to both get everything and ourselves in fast, while avoiding getting any mosquitoes in the tent, we unfortunately ripped the mesh in the tent. When I was putting in Michael's pannier, the hook on it caught and tore the mesh. We temporarily repaired it with duct tape, but will have to do some proper repairs when we get a sewing kit! But on the plus side, we had our longest day today (just over 200km!). We probably could have gone longer if we left earlier, but we were pretty happy about our 200!

Day 46

We were so tired this morning! I didn't even hear the alarm go off (for once Michael actually heard it). He pressed snooze, and apparently accidentally turned it off (or we just never heard it go off again and it gave up on us). I woke up at 6:30 and checked the time and realized we slept in! We fell asleep last night at around 9pm, that should have been tons of rest! However, we had a long day of pure headwind yesterday (and the day before, and the day before). But, that only played a small role in our fatigue. The biggest reason was fear. We camped out at the side of the road last night (Bruce told us the other night that it wouldn't be a problem at all through the prairies to northern Ontario if we just camped out at the side of the road and we shouldn't waste our money paying for camping! People are nice in this area of Canada (unlike his experience in Toronto, where he and Lyanne felt people were more like cattle, and even the cattle out here is friendlier). So, that's what we did! But both Michael and I were woken up at midnight (exactly. Michael checked) by someone walking around outside, chanting. It was a weird melodic chant that was a different language (I thought it sounded almost like a native chant). We were freaked because there was NOTHING around (we were just on the outside of a field, but the farm or house was FAR off in the distance (and you can see FAR in the prairies!). There was NO reason for someone to just be walking around in the dark, alone, at midnight. We didn't hear a car start (but one might have) after the chanting was gone. I thought it was a woman's voice (which would be weirder I think), and Michael thought it was a man's voice. It was just so soft and melodic, almost eerie. It was the first time we thought, instead of being afraid of wildlife, we should be afraid of humans while we're sleeping. It sucked too because after the person was gone, because the winds were SO strong, it sounded like someone was walking around the entire rest of the night. I took out my bear spray and had it at the ready (literally right beside me all night), and put on my headlamp to check outside to see if people were actually walking around. No one was there (keep in mind this was probably like 10min after the chanting stopped, so that person would have been long gone. It was to check out to see if people were walking around the tent). As consolation, Michael pointed out that the chanting sounded very non-threatening, so it was as if either, he didn't realize we were there, or wanted to let us know he was there (to not scare us), in a non-threatening manner. Still scared the shit out of us. So Michael and I were awake for a large portion of the night, with bear spray at the ready, and a plan of attack in our heads in case we needed it (and don't worry, Michael checked before we even set up camp, he had cell reception, so we could have called 911 if necessary). But thankfully, it turns out it was nothing! And all it did was scare us, make us lose sleep, and make us re-think staying at the side of the road where we're in plain sight in the prairies (at least in BC, most of Alberta, and Ontario eastward, we can hide in the trees so won't be bothered by anyone, and if we keep food far from the tent, won't be bothered by animals either). But now onto today. We woke up early to get a big, long day of cycling in. We needed to cover some ground! Unfortunately, the wind didn't agree! It was just as bad, if not worse than yesterday (so many times during the night, we were woken by the howling winds, and would wake up with the thought of “oh fuck, we'll have to face that tomorrow!”). It took us just over 2hrs to only do like 33km! In that time, the rain started, and the wind was relentless! We were going to stop at the info center to ask about the weather for the next few days (to plan our route to best optimize tail winds, which we have seen none of lately!). But, we got distracted by a Tim Hortons and decided to stop in to warm and dry ourselves up a bit. We ordered a hot drink (tea for me, coffee for Michael), and a 20 pack of timbits. Outside the weather just got worse! People in the tables beside us were talking to us and impressed with our cycle (and impressed we were cycling through this weather! Everyone recommended just taking the day off because 5 inches of rain is expected for the day, and it's a brutal wind that goes back and forth between a headwind and a northerly wind (traveling at 50km/hr). When we finished our drinks, we weren't ready to hit the road yet so we ordered more food, and with it came another hot drink! In that time, about 2-3 different groups of people came and went in the tables and chairs beside us, and we ended up talking to all of them. Some showed us the weather and wind reports for the next few days. Then, the last group of people we met belonged to the Saskatoon cycling club. They were headed down south of Calgary for a three day, 100km/day tour where their gear was being transported separately and their accommodation was already arranged. One of the guys holds the record for the most recorded kilometers cycled (with the club, he has clocked over 100,000kms!). They also recommended taking the day off. It was fun to talk to them about our trip, and hear about their different experiences! It was great! After they left, we realized if we wanted to cover some ground, we had better hit the road! Once we stepped outside, we realized we should take everyone's advice because the winds were brutal, and the rain was just pouring! We started cycling to the info center to find out the best place to stay, when it felt like something was pulling me back and I realized my rack broke already! When Aaron did it, it took weeks of cycling before it broke, and while it was installed it was SECURE. It didn't move around at all. Even when the duct tape and zip ties were make-shiftedly used, it was secure. But about 100km after leaving Calgary, I noticed the rack was VERY wobbly! And look, it lasted what? Three days after they “fixed” it!? What a waste of $400! I would definitely not recommend that bike shop! But we quickly tied it together with a zip tie, until we could properly fix it somewhere dry (and by properly fix it, I mean without blowing tons of money and using duct tape and zip ties again). We were miserably wet and cold! We found the cheapest hotel room (we asked the girls working at the gas station where they would recommend and they said it's a really expensive town because of all the oil being pumped around here, so the cheapest room we could find would be crossroads or somewhere else. Crossroads was cheapest, so we went there). Let me tell you, you get less than you pay for! That's for sure! The room is shabby at best! The carpet is stained, the bathroom door doesn't close, the wind keeps opening the door leading outside (we put a chair and table in front of it to keep it shut, and we lock it with the chain lock), need I continue? But it's the cheapest place in town (surprised?). So, although we could be very productive out in town, we haven't left the motel because it's so terrible out! The area is expected to have 75mm by tomorrow, with prevalent winds at 50km/hr (with wind gusts at 57km/hr). Did I mention headwind? So clearly, we stayed indoors, called home, watched some TV, updating our blog, etc. So, time for bed before a big day tomorrow! (hopefully...unless there are horrible headwinds again!).

Day 45

This morning we were woken up by the rooster at around 6am. We slept for another hour because Michael didn't want to get up yet. We packed up and had eggs for breakfast. Bruce and everyone was so nice to us we left this morning on such a high note! The day looked really nice! The sun was shining, it was really warm, and it seemed the thunderstorm from yesterday was gone. Once we hit the road around 9:30, everything started becoming less peachy. First of all, we had a brutal headwind. Not cool! It just kept getting worse and worse as the day went on. We made our first stop of the morning in Cereal just to use the washrooms (and no, we didn't eat cereal in Cereal because we wanted to cover some distance!). Our second stop was in Oyen to get Saskatchewan maps. We stayed in the info center for quite a while to rest our legs a bit, and also because we didn't really want to face the howling winds outside! But eventually we had to face the fact that we needed to cover some ground! The clouds up ahead did not look very friendly so we put on our raincoats to keep warm, and to be one step ahead of the weather. Turns out it was necessary! The winds just kept coming, and the rain was getting really bad! We thought we would stop in Sibbald to dry off for a bit, and maybe grab a drink to celebrate the end of Alberta. We rode up the one street (and I swear there were only like 6 houses), and at the end was a Town Hall of sorts and a REALLY seedy looking strip club. It was so random (and we CLEARLY did NOT stay. We jumped back on our bikes and went back in the pouring rain). I guess everyone in the “town” (?) works there. I don't know. But about 10km later, we were at the border! So we are officially done Alberta and now in Saskatchewan!!! The rain died down a bit, but the headwind persisted. We were initially planning on making it all the way to Kindersley today, but the winds were too much of a struggle, we decided to camp at the side of the road about 30km away and we'll wake up super early tomorrow (and hope the winds have either died or changed to a tail wind!!). So, bed at 8pm!

Day 44

This morning we woke up in Drumheller at 8am (actually just past). Michael really wanted to sleep in, so we did. Unfortunately that meant we only hit the road at around 11am. As we got on the road, my chain started skipping. Not cool! Especially since I paid (way too much) to get a new chain and a new cassette! That is just not supposed to happen! Fortunately, after the first few hundred meters it stopped and didn't skip again, but it really makes me feel like “Ridley cycle” ripped me off! Our stuff was drenched, but the weather was looking nice enough so we weren't too bothered. We did, however, have a headwind. It wasn't as bad as yesterdays though, which is good! It was kinda funny how right when we got out of the badland valley of Drumheller, it was as if it never was. The scenery went right back to the prairie-look as before. It's almost like we imagined it! Our first goal of the day was to get into Hanna for some Alberta beef! (on the map it looked like the biggest town to the border so figured it was our best shot!). As we planned on (hopefully) hitting the border tonight, we didn't want to leave Alberta without a proper steak! We stopped off at the Esso station to ask where the best place in town for a steak was. We went and ate at a little restaurant in front of the Super 8 motel. The steak was not that great at all. We were a little disappointed, but we were nice and full! So after a supermarket top-up of chocolate milk and peanut butter, we hit the road again. The sun was nice and warm, even though the headwind wasn't so wonderful. As we cycled, Michael ended up breaking a spoke. Because it was warping his wheel, we decided to get it fixed the first chance we got! Unfortunately, we were essentially in the middle of nowhere so there really didn't seem to be any options! Finally we found somewhere (Michael didn't have to cycle too long with a warped wheel rubbing against his brakes, making it difficult!). It was a little hamlet located between Hanna and Youngtown. We cycled up and asked if we could use an adjustable wrench (the only tool we were missing that we needed to change the spoke!). A woman with two kids went and asked for us and we were ushered back into the yard. Two men who were doing work on the houses came to meet us and give us the tool. They were very friendly. It turns out that one of the guys, Bruce, and his wife, Lyanne, bought the hamlet and planned on turning it into a restaurant, petting farm (there were tons of animals!), ponny rides, ice cream store, and campground. It was still under construction (they ran out of money for the project and are desperately looking for help/investors! They went on Dragon's Den and will be aired in the fall sometime. On the show, he has a parrot on his shoulder). As Michael was fixing his spoke, Bruce asked if we wanted to stay the night. He said he would cook us dinner, we could use the hot tub and pool if we like, we can do laundry, whatever. It was so nice! He said that's what he's about. Just good (Albertan) hospitality! He's not after people's money, just looking to make a living. But he was so amazing! Then Lyanne showed us some of the animals and gave us a tour. Then Kim (the first woman we met with the two kids) showed us where we would be sleeping (we laid out our matts in the unfinished restaurant), and showed us how to use the laundry machine. We did all the essentials first (bike repair, showers, laundry) then offered Bruce and Jason (Kim's husband) a hand, and Bruce said to just relax and enjoy. So we went into the hot tub. It was amazing! It was SO big and had so many jets and functions! (It even had a tv with a dvd player as a feature!). It was so nice after a day of cycling! Then they made us dinner, and talked about their plans with the place. It really sounds amazing, and I really hope they can get the funding they need! It's in the middle of nowhere, on a busy enough highway that I'm sure they would do really well! And if tonight was any indication of how people can expect to be treated, they are in good hands! I would definitely go back there again (and hopefully I will when it's all finished....eventually.... middle of nowhere Alberta is REALLY far from Toronto!). But if anyone is cycling/driving through Hwy 9 between Drumheller and Saskatchewan, I highly recommend stopping by! And if anyone wants to donate/invest/find out more, their info is:
“The Cute and Cuddly Corner”
Bruce & Lyanne Hembrough
Box 147 Youngstown., AB

Michael and I had a wonderful dinner, and stayed up until around midnight, talking and enjoying their company! Bruce then told us to help ourselves to breakfast tomorrow morning (and added seriously, not to think we're imposing! This is the kind of vibe he wants the place to have. Good hospitality, where things like the petting zoo would be free, and if people like us, cycling across Canada, were to stop by, he wouldn't even charge for camping. Just because he's such a nice guy. I think I would be hard pressed to find someone like that in Toronto...). We were so impressed by their kindness and generosity and we really hope they find the funding to finish it!

Day 43

This morning we woke up at 7 to get a nice jump on the day. We didn't finish packing last night because it was so late we couldn't be bothered! We got everything packed up and Mrs. O'Farrell made us the best, biggest sandwich for lunch. Both Mr. and Mrs. O'Farrell were so lovely and fun to be around! Staying with them was a really nice way to finish this chapter of the trip (ie. The chapter involving Travis, mountains, and the west). Travis woke up to see us off, which was nice, and sad to say goodbye. Then we hit the road. It took a little while to get out of Calgary. We went the way Travis recommended and once we were out, we had light rolling hills all the way through to Drumheller. Because of the killer northerly headwind (we were travelling north or east, so either we had a brutal straight-on headwind, or a brutal cross-wind) we didn't know how long it would actually take us to get to the Tyrell museum. The good news is that at least it was sunny (mix of sun and cloud, turning into mostly sun by the time we got into Drumheller). It was open until 9pm, so we knew we would make it there, but we hoped we would make it with enough time to see the museum tonight! Turns out, we (painstakingly slowly) got there at 5pm (after leaving Calgary at around 9:30am, about 140(give or take)km ago!). We went straight to the Tyrell museum (obviously!). There weren't tons of cars, and so there was an entire back parking lot without any cars, and out of the way. We decided to tie up our bikes there because, from the main lot and the museum itself, our bikes would be hidden behind some trees. Right as we finished locking everything up and left the lot, we noticed a car going into that lot. That seemed really weird to us because there was NO reason for anyone to park so far away from the museum. There was nothing there other than the museum, and there were TONS of spots closer (and let's be realistic, people are intrinsically lazy!). So Michael kept watch while I went inside the museum to ask if we could put our panniers anywhere inside (although we can lock up our bikes, there is no security for any of our gear in our panniers. We always take out our valuables (ie money, cards, electronics, etc), but we would still be screwed if our “non-valuables” were taken. They were super nice and let us use this one hallway, only for staff, so everything would fit! Then we locked our bikes up outside. Maybe we were just being paranoid (and we might have been.... even after we moved our bikes, the car was still there, so who knows what they were up to, and they may have still been opportunists and taken our stuff if we didn't move it, but maybe not. We just couldn't take the chance!). But after Travis scared us by hiding our bikes, I NEVER want that same feeling of panic again, ESPECIALLY not on this trip! Then we paid the (only!) $10 admittance into the coolest museum ever! I mean, people only go to museums for the dinosaurs anyways, right? So why not JUST make the museum about dinosaurs?! (I'm only partially kidding). But it was really cool! And it was nice to do something different! We haven't yet been to a museum on this trip, so it was really cool! The badlands themselves were really cool too because it went from stereotypically prairie scenery (only, slight rolling hills, not SUPER flat (still very flat though)), to all of a sudden, down into a valley with sand-dune looking humps of rock and shrubs everywhere. Unfortunately we couldn't see the Hoodoos because it would have been about a 50km detour, and that was just too far to justify (and we have to draw the line somewhere on this trip or we'll never get across!). After we left the museum (and re-packed all our gear onto our bikes), we cycled out of the parking lot, and even before we hit the road, we were BLINDED by a flash of light (I've never seen lightning so bright and blinding before in my life!). We decided to just get to the first campground we can find (instead of the original plan of trying to get some distance out of Drumheller. We thought it would just be too dangerous to cycle in a storm!). We unfortunately had to cycle a good 6km before we hit anywhere, and in that time got SOAKED! We pitched our tent as fast as we could (it was the first time we actually had to pitch a tent WHILE it was raining!). We just ate bars for dinner in the tent and passed out! We were originally thinking of getting a hotel room to dry out, but decided to opt for the cheaper route (especially after spending an arm and a leg on my bike!). We were glad we did because we were really comfortable and dry in the tent!

Day 42

We heard Mr. and Mrs. O'Farrell upstairs, as they went to drop off their friends at the airport and then they came back and left again to play golf. Because the basement was so dark, we didn't realize what time it was and had a nice sleep in until about 9-10am. We didn't want to sleep in too late because we were having such a short stay in Calgary, we wanted to make the most of it and get all our errands done! Michael and Travis drove to Costco and Future shop (Future shop to get me a bigger memory card for my camera, and to get two radios with a transmitter so we can safely listen to music while we cycle (without earplugs because it's too dangerous!)) while I stayed back and worked on the budget (entering in all our spendatures to see who owed who before we parted ways). Then I went over to the bicycle store to pick up my bike. They told me I needed a new wheel because the axle broke (something about the hub (or whatever term they used) was rotating when it should be fixed). They told me I didn't really have an option BUT to replace it. So I did. They said they talked to their manager and he gave me a discount, which was very nice. They said it was really rare for that to happen, and they don't know how it happened or when (could have been really recent or been like that for a while). So I emptied my bank account, so -$400 and something later (and a six pack of beer later), I had my bike (hopefully in perfect condition now!). I then met up with Michael and Travis at MEC, got my ripped pannier (just a small tear) sewn up, and bought stuff Michael and I would need for the next leg of the journey! Then we quickly went back to Travis', got gear rafting gear and set out for the Bow River. According to Travis, this was a must-do in Calgary. We didn't have much time because dinner was supposed to be ready in like an hour (we definitely took like 2 hrs to do this though), but the three of us tightly got onto Travis' three man inflatable raft! It was quite a process where we dropped the bike off at the supermarket on 10th St, bought some watermelon and other fruit, then drove to 32nd? Or something like that, and then rafted down stream with our fruit and beer. It was so nice and relaxing! And it was SUCH a nice day for it! The sun was shining, and although it was really hot earlier, it was cooling down, so it was really comfortable! When we were done, Michael and I packed everything up while Travis went to bike down and get the car. We then had dinner with Travis' parents. They made a DELICIOUS meal of salmon, salad and rice! It was unreal! Then we got our things together, started packing, and I uploaded all of Michael and Travis's receipts and we paid each other what was owed. We ended up staying up until past 2:30, just packing (and Travis faxing stuff for his job that starts on Thursday). Then we went to bed! Unfortunately, I couldn't see Julie today because we were so busy with all the errands (and emptying my bank account, and sorting out bills). I was really disappointed. And I didn't get to meet up with Wade or Kaylee either (not having internet from Jasper to Calgary didn't allow me to give ANY warning so neither of them got my fb messages in time).

Day 41

This morning we woke up at 7am, and started packing! Dave left the house earlier than we did, so we said our goodbyes and thank yous (we were so grateful!). Then we hit the road just after 9am. We had a wicked tail wind, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky (later, we noticed there was one very small one that ruined our cloud-free day!). But we made amazing time into Canmore, where we decided to stop off for some fudge! Since the store closed before we could get any in Banff, we thought we should try our luck today. It was so good! And it was a nice little stop! Then we hit the road again, straight to Calgary. We were going stupid fast! When we were drafting, we reached up to 45km/hr. Gotta love the tail winds! Then, unfortunately, the winds changed and we had a headwind coming into calgary for the last 50+kms. It was SO hot out! Summer has finally arrived! Michael informed us he broke a spoke, but he would be fine until Calgary. I then broke my chain (it just snapped in half. Don't know how or why, just happened). And, as our bad bike luck happens in threes it seems, Travis inevitably got a flat. These slight delays caused us to only get to Travis's house around 4pm. We had to hurry to get our errands done so we could just enjoy the day tomorrow. Unfortunately, we couldn't get them all done, so we will have to do some tomorrow. But I did go to the bike store. When I went to get a new chain they convinced me to get a new cassette as well (because they said mine was worn etc). I know mine was still fine for a bit longer, but it may not be fine all the way to Winnipeg, so out of peace-of-mind, and because we were in a rush (both in Calgary, and in a rush to get to Montreal), I didn't want to take the chance. I also got a new rack (or rather, the attachment piece. I still had to buy the entire rack though and just gave it to Travis in the end so I didn't have to bother with the shipping etc). My make-shift duct tape and tie wire job was working quite well, but just to be safe (and to avoid future delays) I figured it would be best to do it right. They also convinced me to do a full clean (ie take apart and clean all the bearings and joints and gears). I really wanted that done since we had a LOT of rain/snow/shitty weather through Alberta that I thought it was a good idea before hitting long hauls of nothingness through the prairies. It was stupid expensive, but again, we were on a tight time-line so I didn't want ANY problems while we needed to gun it! Because they were all booked up, they told me they could get someone to look at my bike if they were bribed (ie if I bought them beer), and then it could be ready for tomorrow. I didn't really have an option, so I said alright. After I was done (and after Michael bought some spare spokes) we didn't have time to hit up MEC so we went back to Travis'. We showered, and met two of Mrs. O'Farrell's friends who were visiting from Toronto. They were lovely, and we had such a nice dinner (they made the most delicious pizza!). It was so much fun! Then Julie came over and we watched Jurassic Park. Me, being predictably lame, fell asleep almost immediately after the movie started. It was so nice to see Julie! I hope to meet up with her again tomorrow before I leave Calgary! (But unfortunately I might be lame company with errands :().