Friday, 17 July 2015

Injury, Coincidence and A Tree Planters Camp

Location: Grande Cache, AB, Canada
We left Grande Prairie with the aim of getting to Musreau Lake Provincial Park for the night, it wasn't far at about 50 miles, though the last bit was on gravel, and it left us with about 70 miles to do to get to Grande Cache the next day.  The only road south, Highway 40, was a pretty busy highway with a varying shoulder; sometimes wide enough for us to ride side-by-side sometimes totally filled with gravel so we were pretty much in the main lane.  A couple of hours in we had a crash.  Tom had ended up coming off the shoulder on to the steep gravel bank that fell away from the highway then veered back onto the shoulder to correct himself, but as I was travelling close behind him I couldn't do anything to avoid hitting into him.  We both veered into the lane of the highway and then over corrected ourselves to get out of the way of possible oncoming traffic.  Tom managed to ride down the gravel bank and come to a dignified stop.  Me, I hit the gravel and my bike slid out from under me and I hit the deck with my left side.  A truck slowed to check we were ok, I sat up and gave him a thumbs up so we didn't cause any further issues.  I felt a bit winded and the ribs on my left side were pretty painful.

Those of you who have known me since uni or before might remember I injured my right ribs in my last year of university and it was agony for months and actually didn't fully heal for about two years.  Feeling a very similar pain again I was really fearful of having done the same kind of thing again.  I was tearful and irrational and helpfully had a go at Tom for nothing in particular.  After standing around for a bit, I'd stopped shaking and we got on our way.  We stopped at a little roadside vendor for a can of pop and a granola bar.  The pain hadn't gone away and though I was trying to be positive I was really concerned I'd knackered my ribs again and I didn't know what that would mean for the trip.  We continued on and turned onto the gravel road to the campground, the sign said 6km.  Moving onto the bumpy track changed the occasional sharp pains into almost constant stabbing agony.  Normally I deal with pain by breathing, the trouble with rib pain is breathing adds to the hurt.  But we made it to the campground, found a site and as we set up the tent the skies opened.  

We hid in the tent as thunder and lightening rang out and the rain hammered down.  Tom had gone to self-register when we first arrived but there was no pen at the kiosk and when the rain started we'd decided the priority was staying dry not paying the whopping $27 in the rain.  Sadly a warden came round and we coughed up the dough.  The rain had eased by then and we decided to eat the other dehydrated meal Marilyn had given us as all we'd have to do was boil some water.  The warden had said we should be fine just stashing our food away from the tent and we shouldn't have bear trouble, so we ate our beef stew in our tent listening to the Serial podcast.  It was drier in the morning and after breakfast we got going only to be stopped by a different warden who warned us there was a lot of bear activity in the area and that a man had been attacked the year before riding his bike in the area.  So we sang and whistled and chatted all the way back to the highway.

The route to Grande Cache was surprisingly hilly and tough going with a sore rib.  We'd contacted a Warm Showers host there but had no reply so weren't sure where we'd be staying and didn't want to pay for more camping after being stung at the provincial park.  Arriving into Grande Cache after a real killer hill we headed to the store for chocolate milk and a snack.  While waiting outside a lady and her two daughters came by and asked about the trip.  I couldn't believe it when it turned out the two girls were called Maya and Sophie (for those of you who don't know my actual name is Maya Sophie).  We followed them to a cafe they recommended and while wandering around in there I came across photos from Dorset and the village my Mum lives in.  Natalina, Maya and Sophie invited us to stay with them, they worked at a tree planters camp in the forest and after loading the bikes into their pick up we drove into the woods.

There had been a massive hail storm at the camp which had trashed a bunch of their tents and canopies.  I've never seen bigger hail stones, the biggest were bigger than a Malteser!  I was so relieved we'd not been caught in it on the bikes.  We had fun with the girls, Natalina fed us delicious leftovers and we slept in the kitchen trailer.  After chatting with the tree planters the next morning (these guys are so hardcore!) and being fed loads of perogies for breakfast we set off with Maya on her bike determined to come with us.  Finally she turned back and we pushed the bikes down the verge to the highway and were on our way.  Our next stop was Hinton, where we had a Warm Showers hosts to stay at.  The road was hilly again and some of the worst quality road we'd ridden on.  Giant potholes, huge sections of frost heave, hardly any shoulder, long snaking cracks - it wasn't much fun and our host Sue on arrival was wide-eyed that we'd come on the 'death road'.  Still we'd made it safely to Hinton and to a welcoming, beautiful home.

As an aside, before we were offered a place to stay with Natalina at the tree planters camp we were asking the girl working in the cafe about possible camp spots.  She answered, I kid you not, 'well if you can cycle another 100km there's this nice spot...'  We explained 100km is about a whole days cycling, it was now nearly 7pm. 'Oh ok, well then there's a good place about 40km away.'  Er well that would take at best 2 hours and quite possibly 3 so also not really an option.  This is indicative of the kind of advice we're given by so many people we ask about possible places to stay.  There's just no grasp of how far somewhere is and what is possible on a bike, especially at the end of a long day.  So often when we ask how far something is we're answered with 'oh about 10 minutes' or 'not far maybe 30-40 minutes, you could probably cycle it in an hour to an hour and a half' and we're left trying to gauge what that is in distance because we're pretty sure we don't travel at half the speed of a car.


  1. More gourmet treats and new friends....Mr P

  2. I am very sorry to hear abut your rib injury. You definitely do not want to go through all that again. I really hope it begins to get better very soon. You are being very brave! Mummy. PS just had a nice long talk to Reanna. xx

  3. Wow what an adventure! How are your ribs doing Sophie? Xx