July 17: Tornado warning

Bingo word: Caught in a storm

Coco and I met up again in Prawda, MB. He’s a much stronger rider than me, so we don’t ride together…but we always plan where to meet for the night.

On Monday we only managed 25km because of a wild thunderstorm. We were able to get to Rushing River Provincial Park and camped there. We can handle rain. Neither of us are willing to risk lightning.

Rushing River

Yesterday we had a good day of cycling and got in about 110km. We decided to wild camp last night and found an old logging road that led to a nice sandy area where we could pitch our tents. No bears and no raccoons visited us. I was surprised by that…but not disappointed.

Wild camping!

Today was a wild weather day again. It poured all afternoon, but we fought the rain and headwind and got to Fort Francis. Looking at the forecast, we decided to book into a motel. There was more wild weather coming our way.

As we were eating dinner in a restaurant, everyone’s phone starting beeping wildly. We were all getting a tornado warning. There was a little bit of a collective freak out. Some people went over to the window to see what was happening. Others were asking the servers where they should hide. It was a thing!

Nothing happened right away so—wisely or unwisely—Coco and I decided to make a dash for the Safeway two blocks over. As we were getting supplies for the next few days, the heavens unleashed its fury. The wind was fierce. There was a deluge of rain. And the lightning was ferocious. We had 2km to cycle to get to our motel. A kind stranger told us to throw our bikes in the back of his work van and he gave us a ride instead. But we still got soaked!

I am so happy we didn’t stay in a campground tonight. We both have really good tents…but I’m pretty sure we would have either floated away or be blown away.

Tomorrow will be my first century ride on a loaded touring bike!

July 15: Slowed by storms

Bingo word: Northern Ontario

It has been two days of intense and scary storms. And I’m exhausted. So here are just some pictures.

Met up with Coco again in Prawda, MB

Zoom in and you’ll see Jupiter!
Hiding from rain in Prawda

At first I thought this is all the welcome I was going to get!
A proper welcome!
I’m still on fire!

Just baby deer in a front yard in Kenora
These clouds had me pedalling hard
Rushing River
Old man Andres

July 13: Horsefly apocalypse

Bingo word: Blackflies

As I was cycling out of the prairies today, I was reminded of a little known doctrinal dispute in the early church. The dispute centred around an ambiguity in the book of Revelations. Basically the debate was this. What would the horsemen of the apocalypse be riding? Would they be riding on flying horses, or on horseflies? The Greek is truly ambiguous here, and some early scholars thought that the Apostle John was just enjoying some wordplay at the expense of his readers. Other scholars took it to be a matter of serious doctrinal importance.

Those who supported the horsefly-reading of the Greek had a simple argument: we have never seen a flying horse, but we have seen a horsefly. Those opposed to this view were incredulous…and accused their opponents of a ridiculous equivocation.

As with any scholarly debate, petty politics quickly entered into the mix. Things got so fractious that the early church leaders called a council…the lesser known Council of the Stables.

I don’t want to bore you with the details of the Council, but a spectacular three-part documentary was made about how the flying-horses-reading of the Greek took priority in forming church doctrine. It is definitely worth the watch. Though the documentary itself is not without controversy. The creators of the documentary decided to refer to the flying horsemen as the Nazgûl. An odd choice, for sure, since there is no textual support for that name at all. But for the most part, it’s a good documentary.

For the longest time I was convinced by the documentary. Surely the horsemen would be riding flying horses. That was until today, when I caught a glimpse of what a horsefly apocalypse would look like. Seriously…there were so many of them…and they were huge! I even saw one fly away with a horse. An actual, for real horse! Perhaps if the Council of the Stables had taken place in eastern Manitoba, the debate would still be raging on.

TL;DR – Lots of horseflies. Huge, angry, flesh-eating horseflies. And they swarmed around me as I frantically pedalled east.

One of these things is not like the others!

July 12: Glorious rest

Bingo word: Whining

Yesterday was a terrible day. The interesting thing, though, is that if you asked me what was terrible about it, I wouldn’t be able to name one thing. So when things are going well, but I think everything is terrible, it is a sign I need a day off. So a day off I took.

Most of the cyclists I’ve met like going on adventures on their days off. Not me! I have me a good sit. I have me a good nap (or naps). And I eat a lot of food. And right now I’m feeling like a million bucks. So I’m back on the road again tomorrow.

I’m going to change my route through northern Ontario. I was going to take the #17 from Kenora to Thunder Bay, but a cyclist I met back in Revelstoke just messaged me and said the #11 is the better choice. It is flatter and straighter by his account. He is from northern Ontario, so this is his neck of the woods.

Also! Coco texted me today. He’s in Winnipeg. We’re going to meet up tomorrow and make our way eastward. He said will take the #11 as well!

It’s amazing what a day of rest can do for the mental game.

The heavens were lit yesterday evening!

July 10: Happy things

Bingo word: Someone stopped to give food/drink

Four happy things happened today.

First, I avoided hitting (and likely killing) a baby skunk. Two, a huge one-ton truck pulling a massive 5th wheel trailer avoided hitting (and likely killing) me. And yes, the two events are causally related. Sometimes things happen so fast that you’re just left there blinking stupidly and wondering how it is you’re still alive.

The third event is much happier and involves cookies. I needed a break off the saddle, so I pulled onto a grid road and leaned my bike up against the stop sign. I was getting some serious pleasure out of the apple I was eating when I noticed a minivan pull to the side of the road. A woman got out and walked over carrying a couple bottles of water. As she handed them to me she asked if I liked Pepsi. I said that I do indeed like Pepsi. So back to her vehicle she went and returned with a couple more bottles of water and two cans of Pepsi. As she handed them to me she asked if I liked cookies. I said that I do indeed like cookies. So back to her vehicle she went and returned with a Tupperware container that had over a dozen homemade cookies in it. She insisted that I take all of them. I guess she had passed me a couple days ago as she was driving her son to northern Ontario. When she saw me again today she was moved to give me food and drink. Thank you kind and generous stranger!

Fourth, the campground manager where my stuff was stolen called me today. They recovered my things and will post them to me. Woot!

And as I was typing this a squirrel climbed up my back. It then ran up a power pole when I went to take a picture of it. Coward.

July 9: Taking it easy

Bingo word: Cat

As I was packing up camp this morning, this critter came through my site on the prowl for food.

I did not get very far today. When I checked yesterday evening, the forecast for today was predicting strong headwinds and wild storms. The weather today did not disappoint.

I needed to make some progress today, so I did a short ride from Minnedosa to Neepawa. It was a downhill ride the whole way. But with a gusty headwind in excess of 35kph, all I could manage was an average of 15kph. And that was with hard pedalling.

Supposedly the local campground does not have water service, so I booked into one of them roadside motels. (The toilet works and there are locks on the doors, so I’m good!) I’m not sure I would like being in a campground today anyways. The thunderstorms have been intense. You know that sound when the thunder starts with a low rumble and then makes a loud crack that reverberates across the sky? Ya…it was doing that today. Luckily I watched the storms pass from the safety of my motel room.

Tomorrow looks promising weather wise.

July 8 Grumpy Pants

Bingo word: 100th meridian

I had a grumpy morning. Some of my stuff was stolen from the campground last night. And some punk messed with my bike during the night. They clearly know nothing about bikes. But that didn’t stop them from loosening my back pannier rack. Luckily they were thwarted by their own incompetence.

And the headwinds! So many days fighting headwinds. And the forecast does not look promising. And the #16 in Manitoba is awful! How is it possible that the 16 in Saskatchewan is better than in Manitoba?!

Ugh. So grumpy. I even missed passing the 100th meridian, that’s how grumpy I was. And I was seriously looking forward to taking a selfie there and listening to some Hip.

But enough of that. Here are some non-grumpy things.

1. I pulled into the campground in Russell, MB a few days ago. There are no showers there and no working toilets. So I noped out of there. But there was a really big bike rusting away there. I guess at one point it was a contender for the world’s largest bike. There was a big plaque next to the bike…but it left me with wayyyy more questions than answers.

2. There is incredible beauty in prairie coulees. And they can be a lot of work to climb out of.

3. Canola! I’m loving cycling past fields and fields of Canola. I’ve missed that smell.

4. Roadside motels in small town, prairies. Have you driven by one and thought, “That looks dodgy”? Well I’ve had the opportunity to stay in three so far. They are as dodgy as you imagined. One had hollow core doors instead of fire-rated doors. Another had a door in the room that accessed an inner hallway, but there were no locks on the door! Also, the hallway had no lights in it. It was totally dark. And the toilet in the third didn’t work. The tank would not fill with water, so I had to use a milk carton to transfer water from the tub into the tank. No other rooms were available…even though I was the only one in the motel. And I didn’t even see an employee there. I just gave my credit card info to someone over the phone and they told me to take room 3…and that the door was unlocked. The phone number was from Calgary. I was nowhere near Calgary. Good times!

July 7: Musings about meaning

Bingo word: Kindness of strangers

This happened yesterday a few kilometres from the Manitoba border. I was pedalling along enjoying the nice shoulders and smooth pavement. I was doing my usual thing scanning the road in front of me and listening for vehicles coming up behind me. I saw a car and pickup truck approaching in the oncoming lane. Nothing strange about that. Then I heard a vehicle behind me slow down rapidly. I shoulder checked and saw a SUV behind me, but keeping pace with me. I figured it was just a nervous driver and so I pulled over as far right as I could go. There was a good 10 feet between me and the white line at this point. The SUV didn’t move to pass me. Whatever. I just kept pedalling. The oncoming traffic passed, but the SUV just stayed tailing me. And then it pulled up along side me. I looked over to see the passenger window roll down:

Driver: Are you cycling across Canada?

Me: Yes, that is the plan.

Driver: Have you had all of your needs met today?

Me: *Immediately uncomfortable with the question.*

Me: …uh…yes…thanks.

Driver: Well praise the lord! Now have a blessed and safe trip!

Driver: *Speeds off into the distance.*

Me: *Bursts out laughing.*

Now you might be saying to yourself, Andres, that says more about you than anything else. I’ve been thinking about that, and I wish to disagree. Consider the following two scenarios.

Scenario 1. I’m in a bar on a Saturday night enjoying a pint and watching highlights from the Tour de France on a big screen. A person walks up to me, leans on the table, and asks, “Have you had all of your needs met today?” In this context I would be quite confident in concluding that they are not asking after my spiritual well-being, or whether I am sufficiently fed and hydrated. They are clearly asking after something entirely different.

Scenario 2. I pick up camp and load my bike up on a Sunday morning and start cycling east. I pull into a small town around noon. I stop at the side of the road to google where the nearest restaurant is. Now it just so happens that I stopped in front of a church. The parishioners are making their way outside for their summertime Sunday sidewalk fellowship. A parishioner approaches me and asks, “Have you had all your needs met today?” Clearly here they are asking after my spiritual well-being and possibly even whether I am fed and hydrated.

Now let’s go back to the context I found myself in yesterday. Usually in a motorist-cyclist interaction, the motorist is screaming profanities at me. You know, for me existing. So that the driver wasn’t screaming profanities at me took me by complete surprise. And then when they asked whether all my needs had been met…I had no contextual clues to give priority to one interpretation of the question over another. But this was no fault of mine or the driver. The interaction had to be short. The questions needed to simple enough to elicit a simple yes or no. Too much information could be lost to the environment if the questions or answers were any longer or more complex.

I grew up under a rock in small town Saskatchewan, so I can appreciate the innocence of the question. And to be quite honest, I found it touching that a complete stranger would take 30 seconds out of their day just to see if I was doing okay. I will take an ambiguous question over profanities any day. It’s good to know there are good people in the world.

But enough of that. All you Arrested Development fans will no doubt be thinking about this scene. Enjoy.

https://youtu.be/NFHZzxga8oI

July 5

Bingo word: Co-op gas station

I’m in the saddle 6, 7…sometimes 8 hours a day. When I tell people this, they respond in one of two ways. They ask me if I get bored, or they say, “that’s a lot of time to think!”

I don’t get bored, and to be honest, there isn’t a lot of daydreaming or abstract thinking going on. All of my cognitive energy goes into monitoring my body, scanning the road ahead of me, and listening for traffic coming up behind me. Even off the bike I’m consumed with weather reports, looking at road maps, and making sure I’m eating enough of the right kinds of food.

I kinda like this way of being. It is a welcome change from a typical semester of teaching. Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely love my job teaching philosophy. It’s just that I’m really enjoying my time cycling day in and day out.

Here are my top three animal pleasures I’ve come to embrace on this trip:

  1. Eating a handful of jellybeans while on the bike.
  2. Getting out of my cycling kit at the end of a long day and showering!
  3. Putting on clean cycling kit. And I’m not just talking about the clothes I quickly washed in the shower and hung out to dry overnight. I’m talking about kit that has been properly laundered in like a washing machine and dryer! With soap.

Scroll in on the photo…this train was long!

July 4: Flat and straight with tailwinds!

Bingo word: Iconic local landmark

Cycling on the Yellowhead has been amazing. The shoulders are so wide, and though there are rough spots, the pavement is really nice overall. And the the tailwinds! So much happiness! Unfortunately the tailwinds will end this weekend as they start blowing from the south. I guess it can’t all be sunshine and lollipops.

Today I was in need of a sugary drink. I was lured off the highway at Sheho, SK with the promise of a general store. I pulled into the village, only to find that the store was closed and the building for sale. Luckily the bar was open.

As I was enjoying my Pepsi I noticed a huge statue of a prairie chicken down the street. And I wondered why that was so. There was a plaque…so I off I went to investigate. When I was younger I used to roll my eyes at my dad when he would stop to read plaques. I have changed my views as I have aged.

This particular plaque gave a brief story of the village. The village’s football team won the provincial championships in the early 1900s. Did not know that was even a thing. But more interestingly, the word ‘sheho’ is the Cree word for prairie chicken. Now there’s a nice little bit of local knowledge!

Leaf cutter bees on a field of alfalfa