Friday, 19 July 2013


If you happen to be looking at the world map, then this region of Canada may seem more like the North West (but it is obviously the South West of Canada, where I have been cycling for the past couple of weeks.
Yes, this region is fairly flat (but not a snooker table). The roadside scenery consists mainly of prairy cattle fields and cultivated grain crops, and it is not too difficult for cycling. As I've mentioned in my previous post, the wind can help me, or it may be a serious hazard - depending on the direction. When I last did an update of this blog, I was at the home of Bonnie and Doug in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Subsequently they took me on a tour of the town (that's how I get to know more about these places), and the morning I left there with a full stomach and plenty of food for the road. For the next day or two the breeze was mostly in my favour, and I therefore made good time. Within three days I was at the home of the next Warmshowers host, Glenda, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
At the provincial border line Saskatchewan was labelled "naturally", so I took it seriously and camped up on a bird-watching platform that night. In the early hours the storm would have made me fly with the birds, but there was a solid railing to which I had tied the tent (luckily!). The road in this region seems to follow the busy Canadian Pacific Railway, and I've included a number of pics showing the railway, the fields, or both!
Due to some nice tail breezes, I arrived at Warmshowers host Glenda, in Moose Jaw town, a day early. There were 6 other (3 unrelated groups) cyclists and a support driver already there, but Glenda was not bothered by that. Ironically, the organization which had brought us all there is called "Wamshowers", and Glenda's water heater had just broken. Unphased, she marched us 1 by 1 down the road to her friends Joan and Pat, where we all had a warm shower (and a good chat). Incidently, their last name is "Murphy" - now I wonder if that had nothing to do with the broken geyser? In the 2 days that I stayed there, Glenda piled on the good food, some of it learned from her Mennonite heritage. Her husband Larry is an African American from the "Deep South", and Glenda jokes that she married him because she could be certain they weren't related! Although it was hard to leave there, I got back on the road with a flask of soup, home baked muffins, and a pack of lentils (which I have already used for a stew). In any case, a reporter from the local newspaper came out to interview me, and the next day I was on THE PAGES.
Heading East from Saskatchewan into Monitoba province, I found myself pedaling hard into the wind, and one day I decided by 1pm (50 km) that I'd had enough, and camped in a farmer's barn close to the roadside. My decision to call it a day had been hastened by the storm which I could clearly see heading my way, straight ahead. Well, luckily, by the time the storm broke I already had my camp set up in the mouth of the barn, but the way these storms go with the swirling gusts, it still managed to get some things wet! Earlier in the day I'd stopped at the visitor centre of Indian Head village to get some water and use the toilet (and the ladies looking after the place took my pic, I may also have made their local paper)! The following day the breeze was mostly up my ass, and late in the afternoon I decided that 230 km had been enough for one day, so I pulled into the small country town of Oak Lake to see what I could see. Suddenly I was hauled in by another cyclist, who traveling in the opposite direction and had obviously seen me pass. At first I assumed that he may be from East Asia, but as it turned out he was from Toronto. He pulled up alongside me, put his arm across my shoulders, and with his "smartphone" he snapped a pic of him and me - his new best friend. In a flash he was off in search of formal accommodation (without divulging his name or asking mine). I turned around and noticed retired farmers Marie and Bill Barron laboring in their impressive veg garden. I enquired about the usual (water and camp site), but before long my tent was pitched on their lawn, my clothes were in the washer, and I was under the shower. It got better from there, as I found myself propped up at the table with a cold beer in hand, and hearty farm food was presented. The following night it looked like rain again, I asked at a farm and Janet said OK I could camp on her horse's hay under a barn roof (yes it did rain, and hard!). John in particular was an armchair traveler dreaming of getting to faraway places, and I told him stories while I was happily chugging down his beer (quite aptly, his last name is Mc Entee - rather close to the famed Mc Ginty Irish pubs).
Well, it didn't take me all that long to get to Winnipeg (half way between Vancouver and Toronto), where I am staying tonight with Warmshowers hosts Art and Sue. They have stuffed me full of pizza, which was great as I haven't had that Western "delicacy" for some time now. I'm also using their internet to post this update.
Daily distances cycled since my last update from Medicine Hat have been:- Gull Lake 189 km; Morse 120 km; Moose Jaw 135 km; Indian Head 146 km; Wolseley 52 km; Oak Lake 230 km; Carberry 99 km; Oakville 124 km; and Winnipeg 60 km. The total distance cycled so far in one month in Canada is 2 683 km, and the total distance cycled so far on this trip is 112 483 km.

Monday, 8 July 2013


Actually, to start off with, the Kicking Horse Pass across the Rockies from BC to Alberta province was not all that I had feared, and I floated across on a good highway, surrounded by spectacular mountains, to the touristy Lake Louise "village" in the famed Banff National Park. It was the Monday of the "Canada Day" long weekend, and there was plenty of traffic in the area.
I found a good secluded riverside campsite, and as I was bathing in the rushing creek I noticed a huge paw-print (a bear?) in the gravel embankment, and in the morning there was a smaller fresh print (pic) a few metres from my tent!
All turned out fine, and on the following couple of nights only Elk, Deer, Marmots, Gophers, and giant mosquito's came to visit me. Talking about mozzies, around this Prairy region of Canada these creatures are fearless! (and probably more ferocious than people imagine a bear to be).
In the past I've been accused of "Lending out my Ears" - and here again, people have assured me that once I get East of the Rockies I'll hit Prairy which is so flat that if I stood on a tuna can and looked East I'd see the back of my own head. The West wind would be pushing me so fast that I'd be using my brakes out of fear for the speed, and at this time of year the weather would be nice and dry. The countryside would also be as flat as a snooker table (yes, now and then, but what about the rolling hills in-between?).
It seems that somebody forgot to consider the "thunderstorm factor", a feature of the prairy in summer. The wind is not always West, and the weather may seem OK, but that is no assurance that it will stay that way. The other evening a spectacular storm picked up, blasting cross-winds over the highway in my direction. The truck slipstream "tail" was then hanging my way as those trucks passed in my direction, dragging me off the road - this happens from time to time, and I usually adapt to the circumstances. However, on one occasion as I left the pavement, my front wheel dug into the gravel slope, and now - a few days later - I've still not managed to rid myself of the knee/elbow/back-bruises sustained. That evening I stumbled into the yard of Malcolm Smith's smallholding looking for water and some shelter behind a barn for camping. "Mac" was hosting some old friends, and I was immediately invited to join (and they insisted that I have a nice hot shower - I'm not sure if the shower was for my benefit or theirs!).
Like California in the USA, Alberta has underground oil reserves which are being tapped all over the prairy. They seem to be keeping the whole industry relatively neat and tidy here, with cattle grazing, and crop fields surrounding the occasional long-necked nodding heads of the oil dericks.
Oh yes, here's a bit of a story! I beat my own distance record a few days ago - big deal! For most of the day the wind was up my rear, with just the occasional otherwise gusts to remind me against complacency. At a "nowhereland" village I met a girl in a shop who's mother was South African, and she paid for the cooldrink I intended to buy. By the end of that day, as dark storm clouds cut out the setting sun and I searched for a campsite, I had cycled 207 km. I thought all was fine, got water at a house and camped in a field among discarded agricultural irrigation equipment. As I wound down and ate something, I watched the heavy weather and lightning in the distance, judging that it would side-step my location.
I was rudely awakened in the night, water pouring into the tent (driven by large hailstones), and there was not much I could do other than to pack the sleeping bag away in a dry place, dress in my rain gear, ignore the waterfall inside the tent, and try to get some sleep. At least in the morning the sky cleared, and the scrap irrigation pipes could serve as hanging space for my things to dry out a bit.
Things improved even further when I was able to stay at the house of Bonnie and Doug in the town of Medicine Hat, where I am now. They have been Warmshowers hosts for years, have done various cycle tours, and have just returned from a 10-week cycle tour of Spain. When I leave here I will be heading further East along the Canadian Prairy towards my next Warmshowers hosts in Moose Jaw. (It feels as though I may be playing a game like Monopoly, with pieces named "Medicine Hat" and "Moose Jaw".). Daily distances cycled since my last report from Tacoma in the USA have been:- Lynden (USA) 75 km; Bridal Falls 97 km (Canada); Hope 42 km; Meritt 126 km; Hedley 119 km; Penticton 96 km; Kelowna 57 km; Armstrong 91 km; Malakwa 69 km; Revelstoke 78 km; Quartz Creek 101 km; Beaver Foot 69 km; Lake Louise (Alberta Province) 68 km; Canmore 92 km; Calgary 125 km; Gleishen 88 km; Redcliff 207 km; and Medicine Hat 19 km. The total distance which I have cycled in the USA between the Mexican- an Canada borders is 5 174 km (3 234 miles), and the total distance cycled so far since entering Canada is 1 519 km (949 miles). The total distance which I've cycled to date on this journey is 111 319 km (69 574 miles).

Monday, 1 July 2013


I thought there were only three mountain ranges towards the East? Perhaps, but as I was cruising through rain and low cloud much of the time, I imagined there may have been more! This is summer in Canada (luckily, otherwise I would have been up to my neck in snow), but even Canadians recognize the change in weather patterns.
The slogan all over the place proclaims the Canadian province of British Columbia to be "Beautiful BC", and I cannot argue with that except that most of the time I couldn't see the beauty due to the rain in my eyes.
So, let me grind out my morbid song (as though I haven't done this before). I had been staying with Gene and Elizabeth in Tacoma, USA, so Gene dropped me off in Burlington, a point to the North of Seattle city which I had previously reached on my bike. Well, that was the last dry day and night which I had for some time to come! That first night I had a comfortable stay at Warmshowers hosts Sherri & Steve, just South of the border. The following morning it started raining soon after I started cycling again, and I crossed into Canada in the rain. (At the border they confiscated my little canister of self-defense spray which I have carted along with me for this entire journey - if it had been labelled "Bear Spray" it would have been ok, and now I'm permitted to purchase a "fire-extinguisher-sized" cylinder of Bear Spray, and that's just fine).
Anyway, I found myself in the town of Hope outside the grocery store, munching on an expensive chocolate and dressed in my soaking filthy rain-gear and shivering like a leaf, when Barry Mansfield approached me to enquire about my circumstances. He subsequently invited me to his nearby house, I discovered that he was a retired schoolteacher, and I was given food, a hot shower, space to do some work on my bike and dry out equipment, and accommodation in the tree-house in his garden (my first tree-house sleep-over, and it included a zip-line to the house in case of emergency toilet needs!). I was inspired by Barry, because, even although he is often in distress due to Altzheimers, he brightens up the lives of other people with his out-going personality, wit and humour. Barry also builds some crazy contraptions, take a look at THIS
Gene (from Tacoma where I had been staying) warned me not to "Go Beyond Hope", but I did. That day the weather was not too bad, although I did have to do some grinding up the Coquihalla Pass to get over the Cascades again. I arrived in Meritt late that afternoon, picked up some water, and was about to head out of town when Stuart recognized the South African flag on my bike and came charging over. An ex-South African, he insisted that I come over to his (and Jason's) apartment, where we had a good chat over a few beers - (I had wheeled my bike into his dining-room, where I also made up my bed on the floor that night, thanks Stewart).
From there on it was again through the hills of Beautiful BC (mostly in the rain), past Princeton and Penticton, into the lake district of Okanagan through the towns of Kelowna and Vernon along the beautiful lakes in the valleys towards the next row of mountains. One of the towns there, Sicamous, boasts that it is Canada's "House-boat-capital", where they rent out all types of boats - some are even fitted with hot-tubs and 3-deck-high water slides!
Anyway, being permanently wet is not all that much fun (sleeping in wet pyjamas, in a wet sleeping bag, on a wet mattrass, in a wet tent, mostly with rain still pouring in, and having pitched camp in the rain, and having to pack up in the rain!). Whenever I could I camped under shelter (thanks Bill in Armstrong for your Gazebo), and I even camped inside an abandoned sawmill, and an empty ministry of transport salt-shed. There are places along the way where the Canadian Pacific Railway has overcome the steep increase in altitude by building spiral tunnels, and the head of the long trains can sometimes see their own rear (I couldn't see it from the bike - the rear of the train, I mean!).
Then it was over the Rogers Pass (I thought I was already into the Rocky's, but as it turned out this was another range, the Selkirk Mountains?). There, at the top of the pass in miserable weather I met a local cyclist moving West - I thought he was a poor man, but he insisted on giving me some money (how bad do I look? - but I was grateful, as for me the basic cost of living here in Canada is extremely high).
Up and over the Canadian Rockies at Kicking Horse Pass (I wonder if the "P" should be there?) - the highest point on the Trans Canada Highway 1. It was "Canada Day", the Monday of a long weekend, and the traffic was fairly heavy (half of BC seemed to be going to Alberta Province, and half of Alberta seemed to be going back to BC).
(Please see the following post re Alberta province for distances cycled).