Today three big things happened: 1) I entered my fourth province, Manitoba; 2) I set my watch 1 hour ahead; and, 3) I’m officially over half way (in distance) through my journey.
I got an early start and was on the road by 7:30. I reached the border of Manitoba by about 9:30am and promptly fell over on my bike, again. This time is was mechanical problems, sort of. The clip on the sole of my shoe had come loose and I couldn’t get my shoe unclipped from the pedal. I should have known something was amiss though and checked the tightness of the screws. Another thing to add to my bicycling safety list. In any case, I’m getting use to falling over and it hardly hurt, at least compared to the last time.
Welcome to Manitoba!
I haven’t seen this sign in a very long time – going down into the Assiniboine Valley
My planned breakfast in Russell became lunch, given it had to set my watch ahead an hour. I ate at the Chicken Chef which has a chain of restaurants all over Manitoba, plus a few in Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario.
I’m wonder what “hard flavoured” chicken taste like?
Incidentally, up to now at least, I’d say that A&W and Subway has a “stranglehold” on the fast food restaurant business – there are very few MacDonalds or even Tim Hortons to be found, and almost all the family style restaurants are Chinese/Canadian food.
Russell is where Jon Montgomery comes from. If you recall from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games Jon won a gold medal in the skeleton. Jon is truly Canadian and my proudest moment (I’m serious) was seeing Jon walking down the streets of Whistler, with a crowd of fans in tow singing the national anthem, guzzling a pitcher of beer. He seems to reflect the Canadian spirit the best: he’s proud of his country, he works hard, he plays to win, and he has a good time going about it.
Soon after Russell I faced my worst stretch of road yet. There’s a section where the Yellowhead Highway 16 and provincial highway 83 share the same stretch of highway. It’s potholed, there’s a soft shoulder and the edges of the pavement are crumbling, so much so that there are signs telling motorists to slow down. Think of what that’s like for a cyclist.
It was extremely nerve racking as I had to pull off the road anytime a vehicle approached from behind. When a truck approached from the other direction the blast of wind was so intense in almost brought me to a stop. Even after the 16 and 83 part ways there is still only a soft gravel shoulder up until Shoal Lake.
You don’t want to fall off the edge
When I was researching this trip a number of blogs mentioned that cycling the Yellowhead Highway through Saskatoon and Manitoba was challenging. One cyclist wrote that the wind was so strong he witnessed a 2×4 smash through a windshield. Another pair of cyclists admitted that the rain and cold was so intense that they gave up and hitched a ride to Winnipeg. When I read that I thought “you cheaters!” Now I can see that after a few days of rain, headwind and crappy roads one could easily be convinced to hitch a ride.
Manitoba potholes eat cyclists whole
By the time I arrived at Shoal Lake it was already 6pm. There was very, very little in terms of food or anything else on the stretch between Russell and Shoal Lake. I decided I should stop here for the night.
Dinner at the local Shoal Lake restaurant:
Combo 1 – Sweet and sour chicken balls, sweet and sour ribs, mixed vegies, fried rice, egg roll
Combo 2 – Sweet and sour chicken balls, sweet and sour shrimp, mixed vegies, fried rice, egg roll
Combo 3 – Sweet and sour chicken balls, sweet and sour pork balls, mixed vegies, fried rice, egg roll
Combo 4 – Double sweet and sour chicken balls, mixed vegies, fried rice, egg roll
I guess you better like chicken balls. Not surprisingly most of the unfortunate soles in the restaurant, like me, were picking combo 2. The next time I’m going to stick with the all day breakfast.
While I was in the restaurant I started to write this post. I recorded my statistics for the day. Only 124kms traveled. It was within my target, just barely, but I also checked to see that I still had over 190kms to Portage.
As I drafted my post for the day I noticed I was being very negative. Something in my head snapped. I was so disgusted with my progress, and my meal, and I did not want to spend another night in a grubby hotel. I decided to keep moving. It was pure anger and frustration that kept me going. Anger at the wind, anger at the cold, anger at the rain, anger at the lousy road.
The lady in the restaurant said Minnedosa is the place to go, so Minnedosa it is. She said it was only a half an hour away. I kept trying to tell her I was on a bike. I don’t think she got it, because she kept saying it’s only 30 mins. In hindsight I think she thought I was on a motorcycle. Who the heck wears a bicycle helmet in a motorcycle? It kind of explained the “we don’t take kindly to your kind in here” stares I received when I entered the restaurant. I think it’s my helmet cover that’s causing the misunderstanding. But I digress.
I was ready to declare this as style as the modern grain elevator until I saw the one below…
I officially declare this the modern grain elevator (it even says “grain” on it)
I pounded down the highway giving it my all. Thankfully, the paved shoulder returned. Vicki called me to see how I was doing. It was her encouragement that kept me going. She too looked on Google maps and reinforced my intention to reach Minnedosa, “the prettiest town in Manitoba”.
Minnedosa was 62kms away but I reached it in epic time, less then 3 hours of non-stop cycling and against heavy winds. The last 5km stretch was in the dark and I had my headlight on full intensity. I actually had two deer cross the road in front of me and I screamed at them to get off the road.
I rolled down a long hill into Minnedosa. I didn’t find the luxurious hotel that I had envisioned but at least the one I picked had a non-smoking room, a big step up, and it’s a short walk to the coffee shop in the morning. I planned to sleep in, take my time getting up, blog, read, shower, a big breakfast, and slowly get on my way in the morning.
Vicki told me I am only 260kms from Winnipeg now, an easy 2-day ride, so I know I’ll be in Winnipeg Thursday for a rest day and a chance to visit the office.
It was a frustrating day, but I recovered it from the ashes, and now I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.
Distance traveled today – 124kms
Moving avg – 17.1kms/hour
Moving time – 7 hours and 15 mins
Elevation – 539m
I’m very happy to delete the above record and replace it with…
Distance traveled today – 186kms
Moving avg – 17.6kms/hour
Moving time – 10 hours and 32 mins
Elevation – 300m
PS – I writing this post from a local coffee shop with free wifi and drinking a double cafe latte that cost me $2.50. I think I’m going to like Minnedosa!