Going the Distance: Days 20 to 27 (Medicine Hat to Winnipeg)

“Back in my day, I had to bike three days to get a decent latte.” This is something I will tell my kids should I ever grow old, get married and have kids, lol. This coming from a guy who will use his TTC Metropass to go three stops to the nearest Starbucks or Second Cup (I’m an equal opportunity latte drinker).

It’s amazing. Just about a week ago I was saying “Hello Saskatchewan!” Now I will be saying “Hello Ontario!” in less than two days.

Saskatchewan, Naturally

Saskatchewan, Naturally

May 30, 2010: Medicine Hat to Swift Current. All the stories about Saskatchewan being flat are false. There are rolling hills that match the rolling landscape. It doesn’t take any imagination to see that the Prairies is an oversized golf course.  It was a good day for a bike ride. The wind was to my back and the sky was clear so I had to maximize my distance with this ideal weather. Oddly enough, it is usually my brain telling my legs to pedal. However, today I was in a zombie-like trance with my legs just automatically pedaling on their own.  Along the way you see the usual road-side debris expected of highway traveling. Assorted pop and beer cans and bottles, coffee cups and chunks of truck tires from blown wheels. Then something caught my eye. I instantly knew what it was as I was thinking of purchasing it for my trip. A portable solar power charger. I stopped immediately and backed my bike up to where it was, even running over it with my back wheel (oops). Some unfortunate traveler dropped the Solo charger from his/her kit. It has a carabiner clip that must have been unhooked from the person’s bike. This charger retails for $80. A quick test of the device gave the “green light” indicating that it works. Problem is, you need the USB attachments for it to charge cell/pda’s and the like.  Stowing with the rest of my gear I didn’t stop much for breaks from then on. After the day was done I biked 210 km. Outstanding!

Welcome to Swift Current

Welcome to Swift Current

May 31, 2010: Swift Current to Moose Jaw. I am on a roll, ha! Another great day. The winds continued to be at my back and off I went to Moose Jaw, 175 km away. Some days I use my MP3 player to listen to music in my right ear keeping my left ear open to traffic. On these last two days I did not. Each song represents only a specific distance covered based on my speed. I would rather just bike and not be conscious of the time or distance with every passing minute. That is hard to do because with all the biking in the past month I can now determine my speed based on my gear setting and how quickly I am cranking my pedals, not even looking at my speedometre. Combine it with my own sense of time and I can estimate how far I traveled at any given moment. It takes away some of the unpredictability of the ride. 😦

Welcome to Moose Jaw

Welcome to Moose Jaw

June 1, 2010: Moose Jaw to Indian Head. Before I passed through Regina I saw one of those truck weigh stations. I went and humoured myself by riding onto the scale platform. My bike and I weigh 110 kg. The bike with my gear weighs 40 kg. It looked like the scale is not entirely accurate and will round up or down to the nearest 10.

Originally, I had the notion of staying in Regina. Perhaps I could catch a movie later? Instead I opted to move on to Indian Head for a total ride of 150 km.

Indian Head, home of Little Mosque on the Prairie

Indian Head, home of Little Mosque on the Prairie

It is at Indian Head where they shoot the outdoor scenes to Little Mosque on the Prairie. I stayed at the local campground where I met other cross country travelers. Roger and Diane are from Hull, Quebec and are traveling in an RV to visit friends in Alaska. Diane even brought an espresso machine which she put to good use. 🙂 We chatted for a bit and I discovered they have a son who wants to do an extended bike tour. Bonne Chance!

June 2, 2010: Indian Head to Whitewood. Given the easy riding so far I have not been getting up as early as I should. I used to leave at 7 am (still not as early as other more regimented cyclists). With the passing days, the constant check of the weather forecast and my increased sense of how much distance I can cover, some days I leave at 8:30 am and others at 10 am. Given that I am no longer in BC and have much flatter roads I get upset with myself if my average speed drops below 20 km/hr. Yet, back in BC I would be lucky if I managed 15 km/hr. I also think my legs are not getting enough of a workout with the lack of hills. Maybe I should bike back to BC? Not a chance! I know Ontario roads will have their ups and downs.

Jamie (top) and Vic (bottom) wait and relax until their spare tire arrives

Jamie (top) and Vic (bottom) wait and relax until their spare tire arrives

On the way to Whitewood I noticed an 18-wheeler pulled over on the side of the road. Its hazard lights on and safety pylons placed around the truck. Hmm, what is going on here? As I rode closer I noticed some guy sun tanning and another playing a guitar. Huh?! I was thinking that these guys must have recently watched the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s” and did not feel like working today. It looked pretty funny. But turns out they blew a tire and were waiting for a replacement. They made the best of a bad situation. Jamie the guitar player hailed from Collingwood, ON and his sun tanning co-driver Vic was from Guelph, ON. These guys had originally driven from Mexico and because they take turns at the wheel they can cover longer distances in shorter time.

Whitewood, SK

Whitewood, SK

June 3, 2010: Whitewood to Moosomin. Good weather cannot stay with me forever. The day was cold, raining heavily and a strong headwind slowed me down physically and mentally. Not a good day to ride. With the amount of distance I covered in the three days prior I decided to call it a short day, a 50 km ride. I was at a restaurant in town when I overheard a senior say to her friend ‘That man is wearing leotards!’ ‘No’, I said smiling and correcting her observations, “They are moisture wicking long johns under my bike shorts.’ I then checked into a motel and stayed warm until the next day.

June 4, 2010: Moosomin, SK to Brandon, MB. Wow, I got through the Prairies relatively unscathed without any consistent headwind. Woohoo! Just before entering Manitoba I was going to sing one of the extended versions of my favourite song. ‘Extended version’ really means the first verse or two and chorus over and over again until by chance I remember the rest of the song. Before I was to begin someone behind me says ‘Hey there’. A touring cyclist rode up behind me. Pavel lives in Oakville and is riding home from Vancouver. To do this trip he carried over and maxed out his vacation days getting a month off work. He left on May 17th and is going at least 160 km/day. Kudos to you, Pavel. I rode with him for an hour or two, posed for some photos, then he got a flat tire. He told me to go ahead and I was sure he would catch up given the pressure he has to complete his trip.

Pavel and Martin at Manitoba border

Pavel and Martin at Manitoba border

When I reached Virden, MB I pulled into a gas station where I saw another touring cyclist getting air for his tires. Turns out Chris is from Sault Ste Marie and is biking west to Vancouver. We exchanged pointers on what to expect on the roads ahead. Unfortunately, he has to bike with headwind. During this conversation, Pavel had biked by the gas station. I was unsuccessful in getting his attention.

The roads are really bad in Manitoba. A few times I could not even ride on the shoulder. The bike would just vibrate apart . . . or my own joints would get a thrashing.

I did enjoy camping in Brandon. It’s good to pick a spot where the morning sun greets you and dries out the tent so it does not pack wet and heavy.

Portage la Prairie

Portage la Prairie

June 5, 2010: Brandon to Portage la Prairie. I actually biked through Portage la Prairie and stayed at a campground 10 km east of the town. The original plan was to stay at a motel in town, bike only 65 km the next day to Winnipeg and then take the subsequent day off on the 7th. My desire to negotiate (haggle) the price is fun but sometimes unsuccessful. Why pay for a room with your credit card when you can pay a lesser rate in cash. I approached one motel proprietor and asked what the room rate was. He said it was $75. I countered “How about if I give you $60 cash?” He left the front office to go check. A few moments later he came back and said there are not any more rooms left. Too funny.

June 6, 2010: Portage la Prairie to Winnipeg. A short 55 km bike ride give me the luxury of sleeping in and taking my time getting ready in the morning. I maintained a good pace despite some slight headwind and choppy roads. I was looking forward to my day off and thinking of ways to enjoy it.

Welcome to Winnipeg

Welcome to Winnipeg

June 7, 2010: Winnipeg. It is a weird feeling biking around the city without the accustomed weight of my panniers. I usually pull hard on my handlebars when riding from town to town. Now with all the weight off it I feel like I can almost lose control of the bike. Activities on this day include bike maintenance, laundry and stocking up on food and supplies for my next few days travel. But more importantly, drinking a frappuccino, eating sushi, cheesecake and drinking a Smirnoff Ice. Yes, I am another year older.

More Photos from Days 20 to 27

12 Responses

  1. Hey Martin!
    Happy Belated Birthday!! Your doing an outstanding job!

    To those who have not yet supported Martin’s Going the Distance for Mental Health its not too late! See the top of Martin’s web page for ways you can donate. Mental illness touches 1 in every 5 Canadians. That means you or someone you know will experience a mental illness in your lifetime.

    Keep up the great work Martin and stay safe 🙂

  2. keep going ontario is merely a day away,once your in ontario should be smooth sailing.Good luck and stay safe.

  3. Happy Birthday Martin!

  4. Oh Ya Happy Birthday

  5. Happy Birthday Martin.. Hope you had a blast!

  6. Hi Martin. Hope you had a good ride on your bithday and did celebrate. Happy Belated Birthday. I was in Montreal the last week for GBC but have been watching your success. You are amazing and I am sure you will have some stories to tell Thanks again for your support to Griffin Centre. Be Safe Bill

  7. Hope you had a great Birthday Martin.
    Congratulations on the ride. You’re doing a great job.

  8. Holy smokes, I can’t believe how quickly you’re zipping across the country. Impressed is too mild of a word! Every week I look forward (with a certain amount of envy) to your weekly updates.

    I’m looking forward to meeting up with you during your pass-through of Ottawa. I’m not sure how long you’re planning on staying, but our place is available for as long as you need it. I’m also hoping to be able to bike a few kilometers with you on your way out of the city. (By “few” I mean 15-20, not to Montreal! You’re idea of what a few kilometres means is probably getting a bit skewed, so I thought I should clarify! lol!)

    • Thanks, Keith. I do have the urge of going a bit further each day in order to build up spare time to use for a day off.

      As for Ottawa, how about you ride 15-20 km out of the city on my bike and I follow you in your car? lol.

  9. Hi, welcome to Ontario, your home province 🙂

  10. Hello Martin, i have been following your adventure from the start and it is very imresive. You are faster than a wind.Enjoy and stay safe.

  11. Welcome back into Ontario! Don’t stay here long though- off to Quebec.
    Starbucks calls. P.S- where is the ASL video?

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