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Intrepid Journey

In April 2006 I randomly offered companionship to a fellow blogger in his dream to cycle Across Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Much to my surprise he accepted that offer and 4 weeks later I find myself on the adventure of my life cycling upwards of 100km a day and living life to the fullest. 

Friday, July 07, 2006

8:44 am - A Weird Kind of Wilderness.

First of all... Sorry Sorry Sorry.

We have been stuck in the boonies for three whole weeks. Now thankfully we are safely holed up in the roaring civilisation of Winnipeg, enjoying the hostellelry of, well, the backpackers hostel. After three weeks of a complete absense of fellow cyclists, we find ourselves here in the company of another two-man team and a solo trans-Canada-ist. Last night's after-dinner conversation consisted mainly of comparisons of routes, experiences, gear and "nutrition", though I use the last term lightly.

Our route along Highways 16 and 5 to the North of Saskatchewan left us a little lonesome in terms of other tourist company but also devoid of the kind of trucker traffic and that high prices that accompany the more direct, equally (if not more so) flat and more hyper Highway 1. We have had a relaxing time, talking to local people, getting interviewed by the local press (copy on the way to Cheshire and Devonshire allegedly), getting involved in the local charity bike ride and getting through national and provincial parks without having to buy permits, because of our bikes... though we had to argue the case with one woman who expected us to buy a permit each (until we pointed out that if we'd been a couple in a car we would've only needed one). Eventually the campground steward gave us a refund on the one vehicle permit that we'd reluctantly agreed to buy.

SK is riddled with little farm village communities in sad decline but thankfully many of them still have little back-street cafes ranging from a junk-store / living room environment with dingey washrooms to plush tea-shoppes worthy of a place on main-street Ambleside. Lunch food has been sometimes hard to come by and from time to time we have eaked a morning's existence out of a few granola bars, bananas and raisins before finally rolling into a town at 1:30 for lunch, starving and tired. I have never felt so remote and yet so close to people. To make things worse it turned out to be 2:30 as we'd crossed another time zone. Of course by the time we'd gorged ourselves on Austrian food at the restaurant in town and finished off with strudel we had energy for nothing more than setting up the tent and falling into bed to sleep it off at 4pm.

Mechanically, after a third spoke broke on my bike I resigned myself to a new wheel and then the tent began to die on us as my 10 year old poles that began fracturing two weeks ago took to breaking - one after the other. Duct tape did the job of holding things together for a couple of nights and thank god the canvas didn't rip on the broken poles - Terra Nova I love you. Three days ago my gears stopped indexing so I was stuck with a 20km ride to Portage La Prairie in a choice of approximately 4 very different gears. Fortunately we had a tail wind and I managed to stick it in the big ring and pop out 30km/hr all the way into town. The bike shop owner was at his other job so we waited for him to finish his 12 hour shift at 7pm then he happily admitted defeat with the Shimano RSX shifters and fitted me an old-school friction shift without indexing. Something I am happy to keep for the rest of the trip and might revert to full-on afterwards, since it ain't gonna break - ever.

Finally yesterday we went to Mountain Equipment Co-op in Winnipeg and splurged on three new tent poles, carefully cut to size and threaded by Bryan, proper bikin' waterproof trousers for me and to a bike shop for a new back tyre for Andrew to stop those pesky punctures we've been experiencing.

We is happy. Today we'll be doing the tourist thing for once but for now I should let someone else have a play here.


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