Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Joys and Frustrations of Wind

On the Prairies of Canada there is a prevailing wind. And that prevailing wind is a north westerly and it is the reason that most cycle tours head from Vancouver, over the Rockies and strike for Winnipeg. For months we have been told about these west winds that will blow us across the prairies in record time. When we woke up and got ready for our trip out of Medicine Hat the wind was blowing out of the west and it was fairly strong. We were excited to experience this awesome tail wind, but felt for the other Korean cyclists that had stayed with us as they were heading into the wind to Calgary.  Not wanting to miss out we packed up and left early. Sophie was talking about getting to Swift Current that was about 135 miles away, I thought that if the going was good we should try for Morse, a mad 185 mile day. If things went wrong we had looked up camp sites all along the road so we had other options too.

The morning went great, we sailed along and arrived at our first stop, the Tourist Information Centre in Walsh, before the centre had opened. So we pushed on to the border with Saskatchewan for the obligatory border crossing photo. Next we flew to another, but this time open, Tourist Info Centre to pick up a provincial road map. This one had all the towns on, a fairly standard thing, but with the addition of labeling the towns with campgrounds. This was gold for us, finding a place to camp can sometimes be a tricky thing. With our bottles full of cold water and the new map we hopped on the wind train once again and headed to Piapot to check out a saloon that had been suggested by a fellow cycle tourist, Peter (the chap we met in Port Angeles and then Victoria).

We arrived in Piapot at about 12:15, we had set off from Medicine Hat at 7:40 and in that time we had been pushed about 75 miles, it had been a brilliant morning. Unfortunately the saloon we had aimed for in Piapot was closed but we found some shade and ate our lunch. If the afternoon carried on the same way then the outlandish idea of getting to Morse might be possible. However, the unrelenting spitefulness of Mother Nature kicked in and that beautiful, helpful tail wind became a nasty, savage head wind. And there is a lesson here, one we've heard a few times but never really thought about; if there is a tail wind then do not stop, ride it until it turns on you. If we had ridden the tailwind for the 45 minutes we ate lunch we would have covered over 12 miles, unfortunately that same distance took us more than twice as long and they were much harder miles. We threw in the towel at Gull Lake after a 105 mile day, it had taken us the same time to cover the 30 miles after lunch as the 75 before. We felt dejected and despondent after the failed attempt, but we really shouldn't have, out of the 155 days on the road this was the 3rd furthest day we have done, it's a massive achievement.

The campground at Gull Lake was great. It was cheap, it had hot showers and a friendly camp host. We also shared a beer with a couple that had just bought a huge RV, one of those with hydraulic compartments that pull out to make it bigger inside. They were upset as one of the compartments didn't work but Sophie and I hardly noticed, it was still huge inside. We enjoyed the company and swapped stories but we were all pretty tired so we went our separate ways and headed to bed. The next morning we woke at the fair ungodly time of 5:30 as we had decided to try a new plan for the day. While we were at Jasper our warm showers host, Greg, had told us that generally in the morning there was next to no wind so he would get up early, ride a good distance then have breakfast. Then if the wind was good he would keep riding until he had ridden as far as he wanted or if the wind was not so good after breakfast he could either battle on or call it a day, but a least he had some miles under his belt. So breaking camp and being on the road by 6:30 we headed off to Swift Current for our morning feed. The riding was good but we underestimated the distance and ended up doing close to 35 miles on a couple of granola bars. But before not too long we found ourselves eating excellent breakfasts and drinking cups upon cups of coffee at the inaccurately named Modern Family Diner.

The rest of the ride to Morse was fairly standard, it was very hot but generally just a normal ride. We rolled into Morse in the early afternoon and headed to the  grocery store to pick up a bottle of ice cold chocolate milk (physio's tell me it's the best after sports recovery drink). While we chug down the cocoa infused cow juice a guy asks us about our tyres. He asks us in a North Eastern accent (as in THE North East in England). This is interesting because A) Morse is a very small town in rural Canada and B) he hasn't spotted mine. We chat for a bit and he invites us round to his house for tea (the meal not the in-a-cup kind) of egg and chips; a northern classic.  The three of us have a good evening setting the world to rights, enjoying home cooked chips and watching The Rock.  With our destination set for Moose Jaw we rise early and enjoy the great hospitality of Richard once again with a fantastic omelette for breakfast and cups of tea.


  1. You are having much too nice a time! And I love the cover photo with all those lovely mountains! xxMummy

  2. Another great effort......MrP