Canada Day 31 Riding Maple Creek to Shaunavon
Today’s ride was very unpleasant, the Google Maps route estimated 106km, most of which was along a gravel road, so I had to backtrack 13km and take an alternative route, adding up to 150km. The noise on Highway 1 and the unrelenting headwind wore me down and by the time I reached Gull Lake, I was looking for a way out.
I stopped at an 80’s themed diner and finished a giant strawberry milkshake before asking the owner if she knew anyone who could give me a lift for the last 50km. She said that hitchhiking would be my best bet, so I headed to the highway, picked a shady spot and tried to get a ride.
I didn’t have much luck and it was disheartening to see so many pick up trucks, SUVs and utes pass me by. But I was such a hot day and I really didn’t want to ride into the headwind and climb over the two big ridges on the horizon. A farmer stopped and gave me a lift, taking me past the climbing parts and I was so grateful for his help. The last part really tested me, I was so angry to take on another pile of headwind and I found myself just yelling in frustration. I hated every minute of that ride, all 110 minutes of it, I hated touring, cycling, the whole lot.
Shaunavon finally arrived and I checked into a really cute, bear themed motel, run by a lovely couple. I had half an hour until the supermarket closed and I was desperate for some fresh vegetables and wholesome food. I spent $40 on groceries, double my usual amount and had treats like sushi, cashews, grapes and cereal. My accommodation was spotless and it felt safe to take a bath, so I soaked for a while and had dinner in bed while watching the huge flatscreen TV and enjoying some Netflix on my tablet too. I checked the wind forecast before bedtime and saw that there was going to be a strong tailwind the next day, it was such a relief and I fell asleep with a smile on my face.
Canada Day 32 Riding Shaunavon to Lafleche
I was absolutely flying today! I had a smile on my face the whole time and laughed at the strange sensation of gaining so much speed even when I was riding uphill. Although the area is mostly flat, there are tiny ridges which keeps things interesting and gives you a nice boost as you descend. I made sure I enjoyed every moment of it, since it can be so easy to remember headwinds and not appreciate when the wind is on your side.
At the midpoint, I stopped at a petrol station for some snacks and Powerade and kept on going, often not needing to pedal, as the wind pushed me beyond 30km/hr at some points. The ride was even better because I was on Highway 13 instead, which was significantly more quiet, with a car going by every half hour or so. There was a short section with some construction and loose stones, but it was nothing compared to the piles of gravel you can find in the road shoulders elsewhere.
Arriving in Lafleche was quite pleasant and the clouds and meadows reminded me of the classic Windows desktop theme. I settled into my motel, which kinda smelt funny, but I was distracted by the abundance of cable TV channels and the luck of catching up with one of my friends on Skype. With a 16 hour time difference it can be tricky to organise calls, but it was great to talk to a close friend and chat like we normally do back home.
Canada Day 33 Riding Lafleche to Ogema
Another day of delightful tailwinds, there were some huge clouds lingering too, so every once in a while they would pass by and offer some temporary shade. There was only one notable climb and few hills here and there to keep me on my toes.
I was speeding along for the first half, but I slowed down a little bit for the second half, partially because the wind dropped off, but also because my legs were pretty tired. In the last section a passenger train came past, it was the Southern Prairie train which is a historical journey that operates on weekends only. The passengers waved at me and as I waved back I realised that it was the largest group of people I’ve seen in the past week.
Arriving in Ogema was pleasant enough, the train station is the main attraction and with a population just over 400 people, there wasn’t much happening on a Sunday afternoon. My motel room was really tiny and not very comfortable, but it was only temporary and I had some Couchsurfing and Warmshowers (Couchsurfing for cycle tourers) stays coming up, so that would help lift my mood a lot.