Day 25 – Minnedosa to Portage la Prairie – Total distance traveled 2500kms

As planned I slept in and woke up slowly this morning. I wandered over to one of the local coffee shops that had wifi and had a latte. The man at the table next to me commented on why there were still picketers when the government had ordered the CP strikers back to work. I must admit that I’ve been so out of touch with current events I didn’t even know CP was on strike. But that does explain why I hadn’t seen any trains running on the CP line over the past several days.

I enjoyed Minnedosa. Nice scenery, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops and a music festival in the summer. There’s also a nice lake near by with camping. Oh yah, camping, I did bring a tent didn’t I?

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Panel 1 – Recreation

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Panel 2 – Business

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Panel 3 – Apparently blown out by the wind, or “this page left intentionally blank”

The next stop was Neepawa which is a nice tree-lined village and was home to the authour Margaret Lawrence. I was drawn to the Tim Hortons like a magnet. The first one I’ve seen since Saskatoon. While I was there a gentleman who had ridden his motorcycle across Canada spoke to me about my trip and commented on the bugs I can expect to encounter in Northern Ontario. At this point, with the cold weather and the bugs to look forward to, I’m thinking about altering my course to route via Florida.

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Neepawa has a much larger selection of hotels and restaurants than Minnedossa

At a rest stop near Ardin a sign explains the geography of the area known as the Ardin ridge which is part of a larger feature called the Manitoba Escarpment. 12,000 years ago all the land east of Ardin was submerged under a lake. So essentially I was standing in an ancient beach. It’s literally downhill from here all the way into Winnipeg.

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The Manitoba Escarpment

For the last 700kms I’ve been following the Yellowhead highway. The Yellowhead runs all the way from the Pacific coast of BC, through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The name Yellowhead can be traced back to an Iroquois trapper Pierre Bostonaise who’s trace of European blood left a light blond tinge in his hair. The Yellowhead is a great alternative to the Trans-Canada and is said to be more scenic.

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The Yellowhead Highway – an alternative to the Trans-Canada

At Gladstone I saw a billboard boasting about a bakery which served hot soup, fresh baked bread, and the best coffee in the area, which sounded like just the ticket. Unfortunately, it didn’t say how to find it. It certainly wasn’t off the highway and when you’re on a bike you don’t have the flexibility of wandering around town looking for things. Often though you’ll see signs for restaurants that have been out of business for a long time. However, I did stumble across Happy Rock.

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Why is this rock so happy?

Incidentally, I have a theory about why the shoulders are not generally paved in Manitoba. I think it’s to accommodate the Mennonite horse and buggies which drive along the side of the road (I passed one near Gladstone). If someone from Manitoba could confirm this it would be appreciated.

So far the ride today has been, dare I say it, easy. For one 10km stretch heading south I had the wind at my back, smooth road, paved shoulders, light traffic and sunshine. It was glorious. I could actually hear the sound of my tires on the pavement instead of wind whistling past my ears.

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Coming close to Portage – rich, fertile soil as far as the eye can see

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I declare this grain elevator model C

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I declare this grain elevator model D

At the end of that stretch however, the Yellowhead joins the Trans-Canada where it becomes a divided highway with no paved shoulder. It was absolutely treacherous. Off the the right I noticed a dirt service road which I quickly diverted to. It was slow but safe. I managed to find service roads until the highway split into the 1A which led me to downtown Portage la Prairie.

I skipped most of the first hotels I passed because I wanted to be closer to downtown so I could look around. However, the selection for hotels downtown is very minimal so here I am again staying at a cheap, but adequate, motel.

I did reinforce my theory about people thinking I’m on a motorbike. That’s what the lady at the receptionist thought and I had to repeat myself several times that I’m on a bicycle. Anyway, the good thing about these motels is that I can take my bike in the room which saves a lot of packing/unpacking.

For my rest day in Winnipeg I’ve booked the Fairmont. No fooling around this time. I need a couple of nights of luxury before my next stretch to Thunder Bay and the bugs of Northern Ontario. Yah, I know I’m soft, but I’m not a kid anymore either.

Tomorrow I plan a more scenic route. I’m not overly impressed with the Trans-Canada highway so far and not having to watch for trucks in my rearview mirror would be nice.

Most of the drivers on the highways across Canada have been very accommodating leaving lots of room for cyclists as they pass. But every now and then you get drivers, let’s just call them “idiots” for now, that really don’t appreciate cyclists on “their” road. Even as a pedestrian it can be tricky in some of these small towns. But you have to take the bad with the good now and then and fortunately it’s in the 0.1%.

In general I’m really impressed with the courtesy of most drivers, especially truckers who seem to appreciate more than any of the drivers, the inherent dangers on the roads.

Stats
Distance traveled today – 131kms
Moving avg – 21.2kms/hour
Moving time – 6 hours and 10 mins
Elevation – 270m

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