Day 13 – June 20th – Walsh, AB to Swift Current, SK – 180 kms
A good day in the saddle with a nice breeze from behind. I was at Gull Lake at around 1:00 p.m. and thought that seeing how the wind and weather were cooperating, I’d carry on and do the other 60 klicks.
I was expecting a time change at the Saskatchewan border, but Saskatchewan is on Alberta time! In reality, Saskatchewan does not partake in Daylight Savings Time and keeps the clocks stable throughout the year. I guess that the change will be at the Manitoba border?
Not much to report road wise, except that contrary to popular belief, not all prairie roads are flat. Today’s road undulated constantly, albeit at low grades. But I guess that if you have your arse parked in a car’s seat and you’re cruising along at 100 kms/hr, it probably does seem fairly flat! Anyhow, the rolling grasslands reminded me a bit of the Yorkshire (my birthplace) moors in Britain, but on a much larger scale.
I ventured upon a couple of young Korean ladies (one from Vancouver and the other from Calgary – their names I would not dare to butcher here!) who also have a planned destination of the east coast. They were at the side of the road fixing a flat when I came across them. I showed them how to release the brake cable easily so they could remove the wheel and fix the flat. They had been trying to pull the tube out with the wheel still on the bike and were in the process of starting to remove the brake shoes until I showed them the easy way! They had started out from Calgary on June 4th and seem very determined. (I hope they make it to the coast, but the bikes they were riding may prove to be their downfall, but people have ridden further on less, so I hope they have good luck.) I wished them well and kind of expected to see them here in Swift Current, as this is the only campground stop after I saw them. They may show up yet though!
I had a quick ride through downtown Swift Current to get some groceries and other necessities (a cold beer!). What a hell hole of one way streets and crappy drivers! I was not amused! The campground isn’t bad though, the ground’s still a little soggy, but bearable. I was planning on having a rest day soon, and was thinking maybe here in Swift Current, but I’m not impressed so I’ll journey on tomorrow.
Today’s prime find, at Tompkins, SK – The best ice cream stop yet. Just a shack off the highway but a multitude of flavours and run by a couple of elderly ladies. They even had a guest book for me to sign. I had the double scoop waffle cone with Rolo ice cream – Yumeee!
9 dead black rubber bungies,
54 live prairie gophers!
Needless to say, I have a lot of time on my hands!
I hope that the weather holds – As they say in this neck of the woods… When it’s clear like this on the prairies, one can almost see tomorrow!
Day 14 – June 21st – Swift Current to (almost) Caron – 145 kms
Another slab of roller-coaster prairie road under the wheels. The TC, up to now, has been a divided highway, all but about 60 kms yesterday before Gull Lake. But east of Swift Current it’s in poor shape and the condition really deteriorates from the town of Morse all the way to Parkbeg. The shoulder changes continuously, from rough to smooth to potholes to non-existent or un-rideable in many places; in some areas there was a five inch drop from the roadway to the rough gravel of the shoulder! A lot of today was spent on the main roadway, and even that left a lot to be desired! There wasn’t much traffic though, so most drivers moved way over into the other lane when passing me. Truckers do this most the time when possible, real gentlemen – most of them anyway!
The wind was more from the south today, so not as beneficial as hoped; if it stays the same it will be even worse for me tomorrow as I’ll be heading south east to Weyburn from Moose Jaw.
I stopped in Herbert for my second breakfast – great coffee shop, full of farmers, all sat around one huge table, chewing the fat. Anyway, as I was leaving, I met another young lady cycle tourist, also heading east. What is it with all these women on the road? We chatted for quite a while and I discovered that Jennifer was from Campbell River (on Vancouver Island). She started her trip in late May travelling almost the same route that I had taken up until Castlegar, where she headed north to Revelstoke, then east to Drumheller and then turned south to pick up the TC. She stayed in the motel at Herbert last night, “spoiling herself,” she said. Funnily enough the restaurateur had just finished telling me that there was a lady cyclist at the restaurant the previous night, just as Jennifer arrived for breakfast this morning! We chatted and said that we may meet up in Caron later in the day, but I decided to stop short, as I found this beautiful park where I am. I saw the sign on the highway for Besant Park, which is about 5 kms west of Caron, so I rode in and checked it out. It’s a private park and very quiet. It’s the first place that I’ve not been able to hear the traffic noise of the highway, but the trains are close by – as everywhere it seems!
As I mentioned, I’ll be heading south east tomorrow on Highway 39 and then east on 13. I hope that the condition of the TC is not an indication of how bad the lesser highways will be; but it will be nice to get off the TC regardless.
It was another hot day today, around 30°C; I’d prefer it cooler, but it’s way better than rain! I drank tons of fluids today trying to stay hydrated, plus ice cream and popsicles. At least there are periodic convenience stores at truck stops where I can devour something ice cold.
26 dead black rubber bungies and only…
17 live prairie gophers!
I keep seeing the “Watch for Deer” signs, but the only deer that I have seen in Saskatchewan have been two dead ones. Lots of different marsh birds though, especially in the areas travelled today.
Phew, I’m still hot after a cool shower – I think that I’ll head up to the campground store for something else cold!…
Just got back to the campsite, no sign of Jennifer, but two ladies have set up camp across from my spot, one of them is waving a cold beer at me – got to go!
Day 15 – June 22nd – Caron to Milestone – 138 kms
A tough struggle today, headwinds all day, mild at first then gradually increasing to about 40 kms/hr this afternoon. I spent a couple of hours poking around Moose Jaw and lived to regret it later as the winds got worse!
I did have my second breakfast in Moose Jaw though and then committed myself into making it to Milestone as there are no other decent facilities before then. However, it turned out to be a bit further than I thought, and of course the headwinds made it seem twice as far! I’d rather ride hills and mountains than struggle into headwinds all day – at least after an uphill there’s always that nice easy ride downhill. With headwinds you are constantly on the pedals, non-stop, if you do stop you almost go backwards!
I left the TC just after Moose Jaw and rode Highway 39 southeast. Highway 39 is also known as the Can-Am Highway. The road was quite good, not overly busy and with a reasonable shoulder – just that damn headwind, I hope that the winds abate overnight!
Anyhow, I got to this little village of Milestone much later than I figured, so I’m eating out tonight at the local diner. Also the campground is a disgrace – all overgrown with weeds and long grass plus teeming with mozzies. I got bit about twenty times while just in the process of putting up my tent. There’s no picnic tables and the water smells like it comes from the sewer. I bought a gallon jug of water at the local store – $5.00! But I didn’t want to chance even filtering and treating the local goo. There was a shower, of sorts, as the campground is next to the local community swimming pool, so at least I could clean up – with that same smelly water! Oh well, I’ll turn in early to keep out of the mozzies’ way and start out early for Weyburn in the morning. There must be a better site there! It’s a relatively short ride to Weyburn, about 60 kms, so I’ll call that my rest day, unless it’s so nice there that I’ll linger an extra day – we’ll see?
Back to last night… The kind lady who offered me a beer was camping with her friend, and are both residents of Regina, but one of the ladies, Judy, is originally from New Zealand – another place that I hope to cycle-tour. So I peppered her with all kinds of questions while I sipped my beer, quite enjoyable, I must say!
I gave up on the bungee and gopher thing, it was getting too confusing between counting and hurling insults to the wind!
The roller coaster road became much flatter today. Even on the TC before Moose Jaw it was evident that the landscape was much flatter. I can literally (to quote the “Who”) see for miles and miles! My new game now is to guess how far it is to the next grain elevator, I’m not very good at it yet, but I’ve got lots of time (and road) to get it perfected!
Day 16 – June 23rd – Milestone to Weyburn – 65 kms
Well, me and the mozzies woke up almost to the same conditions as yesterday evening. I donned my raingear to protect me from the hordes and packed up speedily – whilst swatting diligently! I found a picnic table in a nearby park to cook up my oatmeal etc., and even managed not to make myself known to the mozzies while I ate.
Once on the road, the easterly wind was still blowing at 30 kms/hr and the sky was ominously overcast. Regardless I pressed on, then after 15 kms the rain started, but stopped after about a half-hour. I found a restaurant open at Yellow Grass and pulled in for the regulation second breakfast. Whilst I was vacuuming in my food, the skies really opened up! I hung around, chatted with the farmers (who were glad to see the rain after the drought conditions that the area had suffered recently), until the rain petered out a bit, then set off bucking the headwind again. That wind is really wearing; every time a large truck passed in the opposite direction, I’d almost get stopped by the truck’s backdraught. The rain basically held off until I was about 10 kms from Weyburn, then it poured down again for about the final 8 kms!
So wisely I decided to call it a draw at Weyburn and treat myself to a bug free room in a motel. I picked a Motel 6 because it had a guest laundry and a lot of my stuff is due for reacquainting with cleanliness! The motel is very pleasant and at only $45.00, quite a bargain compared to some of the fleabags that I’ve stayed in. I arrived in Weyburn at 12:30 p.m., so I had plenty of time to clean up, tour the town, do the local museum and then enjoy my room with TV etc. Weyburn is a nice place, a small to medium sized town with quite a few amenities, definitely one of the better places that I’ve stopped in. The weather channel (I hope they’re right) is predicting thunderstorms for this evening and (Yeah!) westerly winds tomorrow for this region.
Road-wise, not much to report, the shoulder wasn’t too bad for the most part and traffic was light on 39. I’ll pick up Highway 13 tomorrow, the Red Coat Trail, to as far as I can handle!