<- Read the previous post: Let the Ninth Day be a Day of Rest….and it will be Good
Hi Folks, posting my daily blog is turning out to be quite the challenge. This is more of a weekly synopsis. So , make a sandwich and get comfortable because we have a lot of ground to cover (pun intended). Or, you may want to read it over a few days…….
Day 10 May 17 Friday
Refreshed and rested from our day off, we cycled from Cranbrook to Sparwood, shuttling back to Fernie to stay the night. We practiced drafting for the first time as a whole team. It is so much easier when you have some flat areas to practice on.
Highlights of the day were actually when we returned to Fernie for the night. We stayed at Snow Valley Motel and RV, greeted by Janice the manager, who was uber friendly and helpful, and best of all invited us to use the hot tub – Hooray! As introductions were being made, Bill caught whiff of something tantalizing. Janice explained that Friday nights were Rib Night at the local meat shop, already cooked and ready to eat. Guess what dinner was that night? When we finally unwrapped them, we realized they were more suitable for 5 families, rather than 5 individuals. The butcher obviously thought we were very hungry cyclists. These ribs looked like they came from a T-Rex, or at the very least a mutant giant pig. Needless to say we had leftovers. However, we did leave room for ice cream, of course. We had the best of the trip so far from the Happy Cow (they also make good buttertarts). We had a good conversation with owner Dan, originally from Shediac so he and Bill had the east coast in common. As well, we chatted with new residents who had moved from St. Albert just recently. Everyone we meet gets Hillary’s Ride bookmarks to spread the word and start the conversation.
Day 11 May 18 Saturday
Today it was Sparwood to Ft. Macleod. We conquered Crowsnest Pass, the last pass of our BC route, and it didn’t disappoint. We crossed our first provincial border into Alberta, which was recognized with a ceremonial BC flag decal presentation, to put on our helmets. The mountains ended abruptly after the border – the scenery change was night and day.
It was also hometown visit week. We met some of our running club friends at the A&W at Frank Slide. They were down for the long weekend for a bike trip and visit. I was so happy to see them! They joined us cycling for part of the morning, until Pincher Creek where they were staying. In fact, a reporter from the Pincher Creek Voice followed us for a while taking pictures, and then did an article on the ride.
We also got an amazing welcome from Bill’s family, who were waiting for us by the Fort MacLeod A&W (I’m starting to see an A&W trend here). Bill spent the night with them , as the rest of us went on to the Bridgeview RV Park in Lethbridge, our home for the next 2 days.
Day 12 May 19 Sunday
Today we cycled from Fort Macleod with our Edmonton friends, as well as Bill’s 2 son-in-laws, Peter and Jason. Bill’s clan stayed with us until Taber, which was Jason’s first 100 km ride ever, and then they shuttled back with Katie and Betty jo picking them up. It was so good to ride as a big group – lots of people to chat with, and always someone going your pace. Road construction shook the bejeebies out of us, especially our hands. All three of us have varying degrees of hand numbness and /or weakness that seems to be lingering. It is mostly a problem for Bill, as he needs to use those fingers for playing his guitar – the C and F chords have been a real challenge, so he’s been carefully choosing songs that don’t require them.
We got rain, very short but heavy, just as we were arriving at the RV to make lunch. We were going to eat outside, but instead it turned into “How many soggy cyclists can you fit in an RV? All of them!” It was cozy with 13 of us, and it was the first time we had had guests for lunch, but no one seemed to mind.
We added to our flat tire count today with Laurel having a flat just before the RV park, and Patrick having to put on a whole new tire after carrying it on bike trips for over 25 years. My little boy scout – always be prepared! To me it looked like whitewalls on a Cadillac.
And not to be morbid, but have I mentioned how much road kill we have seen? A coyote, a pheasant, a porcupine, numerous ground squirrels and birds. I hope this is only because they are all running around delirious with spring fever and that the carnage will soon end. I know I’m being naïve.
The evening was topped off by a fundraiser concert at The Slice, hosted by John Wort Hannam, with guests Dave McCann and Leeroy Stagger. Another stellar night, with representation from Woods Homes, the local charity. Leeroy told a story of how Woods Homes helped him when he was doing some volunteer work with the local Boys and Girls club. One of the youth was contemplating suicide, and the crisis line he called was closed. Leeroy contacted Woods Homes and they knew just what to do to help. What a great example illustrating the importance of resources being in place at a crucial moment. We weren’t sure what the turnout would be on a long weekend, and we were pleasantly surprised that it was standing room only by the end of the night. The Slice is famous for it’s great pizza. Because of the crowd it took a long time to get it as there was one very busy cook, but we knew it was prepared and baked fresh. Yum!
That was a first of our double header concert run. The next one is in Medicine Hat tomorrow. This means a few late nights in a row…
Day 13 May 20 Monday
We left Lethbridge and shuttled to just past Taber where we ended the previous day. It was a day of goodbyes and contemplating the importance of family and friends in our lives. Bill’s family was heading back to Edmonton and Calgary, as well Patrick and his support van was leaving us. It was so nice to have 2 support vehicles, especially for running errands. But, it’s just the 4 of us now. My friends left early that morning also, goodbyes were the night before.
I’ve been learning a lot about agriculture in our great province. Did you know that southern Alberta has a thriving bean/legume industry? Terry told us this, but it was reinforced by Pinto MacBean, mascot of Bow Island. This gave us new respect for our turkey chili, some of which was in the freezer. We got a great welcome by a resident who we learned lost her grandson to suicide. She and Bill shared a hug of understanding and remembrance. She recommended Jimmy’s drive in for a mushroom burger, but we decided to be “good” and opted for an RV sandwich instead.
A wind started materializing in the afternoon, and our host for the evening, Piet, came and met us to escort us to his home. This turned out to be on the outskirts of Medicine Hat. We got in just in time for the huge (and I mean huge) potluck, and then was treated to a night of amazing musicians, all local, from seasoned pros to relative newbies. This included Rob Hudec, Ron Mason, Ali Sellin, Miriam Hak, Taking August, Lisa Challinor and Annette ten Cate. The room itself was a delight – “Ye Olde Jar Bar” as they call their garage, is a smorg for the eyes. There is not a square inch of wall or ceiling space that went unused. All visitors sign the overhead door before they leave. Piet and Ina regularly put on house concerts here, in fact they had one the night before – what busy, energetic people! The highlight of the night was that Ali wrote and performed a song for Bill and Hillary, a very beautiful and heartfelt gift.
A BIG thank you to Darla from the Medicine Hat Folk club for organizing, and the charities including the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society. Another successful awareness raiser, and each is so different from the others. Support comes in many forms, all of them welcome.
Day 14 May 21 Tuesday
Our early morning started with yummy breakfast courtesy of Ina and Piet, our gracious hosts. Piet escorted us to Hwy 1, the TransCanada. Up to this point, we have been travelling the CrowsNest, so I wondered how the traffic would be. It was amazingly quiet for the Tuesday after a long weekend. We thought that the prairies would be a treat after the mountains of BC, but we are being greeted by every cyclist’s nemesis – the dreaded headwind. A 30 km wind was in our faces all day. We crossed the border of Saskatchewan midday, which means we covered Alberta in 72 hours. Wow! We applied our Alberta stickers to our helmets – 2 down, 8 to go. Although the traffic was good, there is lots of big equipment being transported. Cyclists will often call out what is coming up behind them to warn cyclists ahead who may not see them. These are usually cars, other bikes, rollerbladers, etc. I must admit this is the only time I’ve ever had to yell “House!” to a cyclist ahead of me. Also “Space Shuttle!” – okay, that’s not what it was, but that’s what it looked like to me.
On the road we met Kilderic, originally from France, who is doing a solo ride across Canada. See his website for more on his Biking2BeTheChange initiative. I admire his strength – he is cycling fully loaded, including camping gear on a mountain bike. Best wishes to Deric – I wish I was that strong and young again. He drafted with us for a while, but was doing extra miles that day beyond Maple Creek, so he headed forward.
Piet had called ahead to friends who run Ghostown Blues B&B, where we stayed in Maple Creek and we had all to ourselves. Very cool – the accommodations were made of old cook houses and covered wagons converted to rooms which were beautifully decorated with remnants of the ranching past. The main building was an old church. It was the perfect blend of modern facilities with a rustic pioneer appeal. I highly recommend a visit. Make sure you say hi to Molly, the border collie who will introduce you to her own version of Fetch.
We ate at the Star Café, delicious and a great atmosphere, and had ice cream at the local shop. We had a great visit with Arlene and Herb, the parents of Bill’s daughter-in-law, who had just moved from the farm into town in April. Arlene presented us with a cheque from the Claydon Ladies Social club as a donation. It is a pleasure to meet such friendly and warm people along the way. We enjoyed the evening with them touring the grounds, then it was off to bed for a very early start.
Day 15 May 22 Wednesday
Donna, our host, put out breakfast for our early departure. From Maple Creek to Swift Current, the news of the day was wind. A lot of it. Right in our faces. At 47 km/hr, gusting to 70 km/hr. I would like to dispel some myths about Saskatchewan. First, the winds aren’t always from the west, as you might think. They are the prevailing winds, but common sense with weather doesn’t always prevail. Secondly, the roads are not flat, nor are they straight. In our case, this was a welcomed surprise, as the winds sometimes died down a little on the uphills. Believe me, I never thought I would look forward to an uphill, but they are gentle and rolling, so it is worth the trade off. And winding roads – maybe that’s a bit misleading – we looked forward to any little shift in direction to get the wind to let up head on. What saved the day was teamwork – it was absolutely essential to perfect some drafting techniques, so that we could alternate between pulling hard and getting a bit of a break. With each 3 of us taking turns, we were all able to go further at a better pace, which at times seemed like backwards. We also kept our spirits up by making jokes and singing songs. Terry has a song line for EVERY topic you can think of. Our favorite was “the answer is blowing in the wind”. Don’t ask me what the question was.
As the day progressed, the winds got stronger and gustier. There were a few times when we were almost blown off our bikes, and even once when Terry was standing still. By 3:00 pm, we had reached Gull Lake, which was only 75 kms from our start. We realized we couldn’t make it to Swift Current before 8:00 pm if we were lucky, and would be totally exhausted for the next day, which is also a very long day, and no change to the wind forecast. We were also getting worried about safety, for instance getting blown into (or under) a passing truck, so we decided to pack it in for today and cut our losses. We have joked that our goal was EFI (Every $&%#@? Inch), but sometimes you have to adjust your plans when life (or Mother Nature) throws you a curve ball. The key is accepting what is, and doing it with a smile in your heart. In this respect, we were all happy with our decision.
The early day gave us a chance to cook a spaghetti and meatball dinner, do some blogging and some laundry. Clean laundry is essential to RV air quality. And, I’m hoping, a good night’s rest at the Pondarosa RV Park (thanks Bobi!). Did I mention that almost all the RV sites we are staying at were donated to us free of charge to support the ride? Canada is full of generous campground managers. If you would like to know details of where we stayed, we would be happy to let you know the wonderful places that support their community.
Read the next update: When life gives you lemons… ->