Canada Day 28: Riding Calgary to Bassano
I planned to cycle from Calgary to Winnipeg in 12 days, covering nearly 1400km without any rest stops. It seemed ambitious, but with the flat terrain throughout the prairies and a typical westerly wind, it was definitely within my grasp. Although Highway 1 is the shortest route, I’m going to take a detour along Highway 13, which is much quieter and passes through smaller towns, most of which have a population under 500 people.
The first ride was mostly easy, leaving Calgary took a bit of guess work as I muddled my way through the industrial area. Once I left the city, I was surrounded by meadows, bales of hay and grazing cows, which appeared to go on forever. The wind was mostly favourable, only a 20km section had a slight headwind/crosswind, but overall it was a comfortable ride. The road shoulders were still very wide and generous, without too many cars to disrupt my zen-like cycling state.
Arriving in Bassano was a nice relief and I checked into the Silver Inn, where my room was bigger than my apartment back in Australia. I had dinner at a local diner and had a delicious lasagne, with generous amounts of meat and cheese. I had plenty of snacks for the upcoming days and slept like a log in the quiet and peaceful town.
Canada Day 29: Riding Bassano to Redcliff
I slept in today, partially due to some lingering sleep debt, but also because there were headwinds predicted until late afternoon. I didn’t want to face the wind, but reluctantly got on my bike and started pedaling. The hot and dry air was terrible for my contact lenses, so I switched to riding with glasses and a cap, put my head down and focused on my music.
The headwind stayed for about seven hours and I struggled to reach 15km/hr and sometimes got stuck riding at 9km/hr. I waited for each hour to tick over, when I could pick a snack from my handlebar bag, which consisted of a leftover meat sub, peanut butter sandwiches, mandarins and muesli bars. I felt so frustrated and tired, but I still had so much further to go and it seemed worse because I was expecting this part of the journey to be easy.
I didn’t stop to take photos, aside from the town signs for my collage, and stopping in these towns required a few extra kilometres that I didn’t want to add to my lengthy day. There were very little water stops along the way and I had just enough to reach Suffield, which had a pizza shop where I planned to fill up. Unfortunately the shop was closed, but I caught the owners of the neighbouring campsite as they pulled up and they let me fill up my water bottles. Now the wind had turned a little, so with seven hours done and dusted, I had two and a half more hours to reach Redcliff.
I felt so relieved when I saw the town sign and I slowly squeaked my way into town. My rear wheel was squeaky because one of my bike spokes broke halfway through the ride and I had to keep on going, so the wheel was pretty wonky by the time I arrive. I was Couchsurfing with Jalayna, who happened to love mountain biking and after I showered and rehydrated, she showed me to the Coulees, a surprisingly hilly area for hikers and bikers. We headed into town for dinner and I had a delightful Kahuna burger, with a thick beef patty, pineapple, bacon and a bucket of yam fries on the side. It tasted amazing after such a rough day and I loved chatting and having a laugh with Jalayna. My whole body felt wrecked, and when we got back home, I sunk into the bed and slept like a log.
Canada Day 30: Riding Redcliff to Maple Creek
Jalayna dropped me off in town on her way to work and I relaxed in a coffee shop while I waited for the bike shop to open. My rear wheel needed to have a spoke replaced and the wheel needed to be trued (adjusting the tension on the spokes so that the wheel to make it a perfect circle again). The coffee was huge and so delicious, the perfect companion to my journal, which I hadn’t written in for a while. It felt good to write out everything I was feeling and all the highs and lows associated with being away from home, met and unmet expectations along the way.
Once my bike was ready, I hit the road around midday, which wasn’t ideal, given the heat, but I was keen to get moving. The first 35km was a bit slow, as there was a slight crosswind and some elevation, but I stopped in Irvine to get some lemonade at a small stand run by some local kids and some ice cream at the cafe.
After cooling off, I hopped back on the bike and the tailwind arrived and pushed me all the way to Maple Creek. Along the way, I saw some buffalo, who stampeded up the hill as I approached and it turns out the hill was a long ridge that I had to cross later that day. The climb was pretty mild in gradient, but the heat of the day just made it harder, I just kept slowly pushing and maintained my momentum.
My motel was quite dated and small, I’m guessing it mostly catered to truck drivers, but it had an ice machine which was an absolute treat. There’s nothing better than ice cold water at the end of a long ride and I savored it before I took a much needed shower. I treated myself at dinner and ordered ribs and mashed potato, which I demolished without hesitation. Somehow eating with your hands makes your meal so much more satisfying and it was easily my highlight for the day. Riding back to the motel and seeing this lovely mural was neat and the sunset along the train tracks really did look magical too. Back at the motel I headed to bed early and looked forward to another short ride on the next day.