Sunday, 23 August 2015

Friends From Decades Past

Location: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
On our way out of Moose Jaw we called by Mac the Moose, the town mascot, and then headed on to Regina. It was easy riding and we made it to the Provincial Capital by lunch time. We'd arranged to meet up with Joel and his family in town. I met Joel and his sister, Jericho, 14 years ago in Byron Bay and though he now lives in New Zealand with his lady and their twin boys they happened to be visiting his family in Regina so we took the opportunity for a long overdue catch up. We were lucky enough to catch a little of the Regina Folk Festival, wandering the busy park with its many stages and side streets bustling with food trucks.

Late afternoon we said our goodbyes and cycled the short distance to our Warm Showers host's. We were treated to the most incredible meal of the trip. Ron is an exceptional cook and had marinated and seasoned six different meats (chicken, beef, lamb, squid, liver and tripe) which we cooked ourselves on a Korean table-top barbecue and ate with carrots, rice and a selection of sauces. It was a lot of fun and utterly delicious. He then helped Tom adjust our eccentric bottom brackets on our bikes to tension the chains, an easy job, but made all the more doable with the right tools and the confidence that comes with attempting something like that with an experienced bike mechanic. 

From Regina to Winnipeg is just shy of 600km and we wanted to do it in four days, which was a fair push but with the favourable prairie conditions we thought achievable. The days were pretty long, but the stretch east of Regina is where it starts to get really flat and though we didn't have much of a tailwind the winds weren't against us. The first night we stayed in a little rest area, which was free, outside the town of Broadview and watched the sun disappear into a sky the colour of Turkish delight.

The next day we went through the excellently named Moosomin where we got some awesome second breakfast at a diner and then crossed into Manitoba. That night we camped at a fancy campground near Oak Lake which had a swimming pool we took advantage of to cool down. Our third day took us to Brandon, Manitoba's second city, where we had an excellent second breakfast of yogurt, fruit and half price peach and blueberry pie. We made it to the little town of MacGregor that evening, our third 150km day in row, and pitched up in the very affordable campground, took much needed showers and went in search of cold beer. The tent was swelteringly hot even with the flysheet off   but we ended up having to eat in there as the site was really mosquito infested.

In an attempt to beat the heat we were up at dawn the next day for our final push to Winnipeg. By the time we got to Portage La Prairie, about 25 miles, there were some dark and foreboding looking storm clouds gathering and we could see lightning off to the north. We decided to stop at the Tim Horton's and see what the weather had in store. All the friendly locals warned us that we were in for a big electrical storm with the possibility of 'damaging hail' so we decided to wait it out in Timmy's since being pelted with hail or hit by lightning are not high on our to do list. We ended up waiting for nearly 4 hours and though we didn't see any hail the rain was torrential, the wind howled and there was quite a light show so we were glad to have been inside. Just outside the town a car pulled into the shoulder in front of us and out hopped a bearded man wearing a black hat, great shirt and black trousers held up with braces. He flagged us down and asked us about our journey. We'd had the same thing happen that morning by a guy running 'an outreach program for cyclists' who'd then ignored me and proceeded to tell Tom only Jesus could save us and gave him a little leaflet. This time though the gentleman was a chatty Hutterite and we enjoyed a brief roadside conversation before he wished us well and we all went on our ways.

Unfortunately the wind had switched to a headwind, not ideal, and then made worse by a 15 mile stretch of roadwork leaving us a tiny, bad quality shoulder with fairly heavy traffic within very close proximity. We had to actually pull off the road for an oversized truck which actually couldn't get past us and on another occasion we were almost ran off the road by an RV whose driver was just useless. As hard as it was we were very glad to have done it after the storm passed not amidst a downpour.

We soon reached the outskirts of Winnipeg and raced through the miles of out-of-town shopping centres and strip malls, our first big city since Grande Prairie, and then into lush tree-lined residential streets that reminded us of Missoula, and found Claire and Richard's house without any trouble. Claire is the niece of my secondary school maths teacher and we'd last seen each other when I was 7 and she'd come to spend a year at The Small School, but when I contacted her to say we'd be in Winnipeg, her home town, she invited us to stay with them. They have a gorgeous house and despite us all being not far from strangers it felt like visiting old friends. It was so wonderful in fact that we decided to spend an extra day, a chance to rest the tendinitis in my Achilles I'd given myself by raising my seat too high, to check the city out a little and spend more time with our new old friends.

1 comment:

  1. Ah eccentric bottom brackets...sounds like another world...hope they are fixed....Mr P x