Cycle Day 23 Shaunavon to Pontiex – 80 kms 420 vertical meters
Cycle Day 24. Ponteix to Assiniboia 117 kms 423 vertical meters
No cycle day!!! Radville SK
The last couple of days were spent trying to get to Radville, Saskatchewan, our next bike campaign event. We are now off gravel and on the pavement of Hwy 13, which stretches all the way to Manitoba (even we can navigate that!). The road is flanked by beautiful prairie scenery (no, really) and more deer, antelope, cows, coyotes and friendly horses than people.
With continuing head winds at 27 kph gusting to 45 kph we worked hard to get an 80 km day from Shaunavon to Ponteix and another 115 km from Ponteix to Assiniboia. Tracey at the local GMC dealer in Assiniboia rented (more of a service than a business) us a vehicle to drive to Radville today to make our event.
And what an event it was. Nothing could have prepared us for the Michael Show! Michael took charge right from the start, touring us around the cheery town of Radville on his new bike!
He proudly promoted his own newspaper to us, The Radville Comet. We received a copy free, but the normal charge is 5 cents. The paper has been around “for a couple of days”, and Michael will deliver if you live locally. An e-paper is in the works and I’m sure you can get a discount if you subscribe for a year! First edition is attached here for free with Michael’s permission.
CTV Regina even showed up thanks to Steve and was captivated by Michael. Articulate, focused and not at all camera shy, Michael gave his newspaper sales pitch to CTV! Check out the piece here:
(Or if the link doesn’t work, go to CTV Regina and look for Radville Boy’s Dreams come true.)
This was a humbling, heartwarming and fantastic day. Thank you Michael. Thank Town of Radville. Thank you CTV. Thanks also to the Cafe across the street that treated us to the most awesome butter tarts. Like Michael, tomorrow we ride.
Cycle day 20 Foremost to Elkwater- 111kms 787 Vertical meters
Tough Day! First 50 kms flew by on lovely fresh ashphalt. Will stop at the Etzikom Museum next time (apparently they have pie!) but we were on such a wonderful roll.
And then it ended. On loose gravel roads for most of the next too many kilometers. That wouldn’t have been too bad, except for the elevation. This is supposed to be Cypress HILLS not mountains. Kept finding ourselves over 1200 meters in elevation, and yes I read that the glaciers left this elevation untouched meaning that it is original prairie grasslands, but honestly, they could have taken it down a notch.
Probably should have taken the (longer) route south into Elkwater, but the grater driver that passed us (!) assured us that the road should be fine ahead. And honestly, some parts were – just not many.
Crawled into our room and would have gone straight to bed, if it weren’t for the “need to feed”. Usually we walk as little as possible in the evening, like we limit our trips to the bathroom, but tonight we walked an entire 1.5 kilometers to the Camp Cookhouse. Owned by Canada’s Top Chef competitor Becky, it was worth the walk. Everyone in Calgary should walk here. Becky also happens to be Patrick and Sherry’s daughter, friends of Steve’s who had alerted Patrick and Sherry about our arrival!!
Cycle Day 21 Elkwater to Cypress Hills 80 kms 1013 vertical meters
The first most important meal of the day was enjoyed at Patrick and Sherry’s ranch – “just 6 kilometers down the road” was what we heard. Actually was just 6 kilometers down the road after you climb your ass out of Elkwater. We were late. So late in fact, that Patrick came to see if we got lost, and because we had passed our turnoff for our easterly ride, we jumped in his truck.
Their wonderful ranch is their hidden oasis with adorably named dogs, cats, chickens, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys and a ponkey – all of them living the Life of Riley. Learned a bit about the history of the area, and that we need to read more. Patrick and Sherry have more energy and passion than most, and we loved our short time with them.
Got on our route before lunch and with some effort, managed to keep the freed mouse from the ranch out of our snacks. Our first 20 kms were on a paved, beautiful road along Reeser Lake.
Then we found ourselves on a dirt road, but with a lot of zigging and zagging, it was bike friendly and amazingly beautiful. Fortunately, we had reams of time to look at it as we repeatedly climbed grades of 13.8%.
We were about 5 kms from our destination when a thought went through my head (first of the day) – we managed to travel dirt roads that had not been grated all day. BIG mistake. Turned the corner, and for the last 2 (felt like 22) kms we had almost unrideable, granade like rocks and loose dirt.
I believe there is one hotel in Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan, and they had told me earlier there were no rooms available for tonight, but we showed up anyways, trying to look desperate (left Jay outside as we didn’t want to look scarey desperate) and they had 1 room.…. Another Camping Close Call adverted. Woohoo!
Our intellectual conversation tonight went something like this: “What a beautiful room” “My butt loves this king size bed” “Does this water taste especially good?” “I’m ordering the special” “Do you want another beer?” “We should get one of these raised toilets” “This is the ONLY way to do this trip” “Good night”
PS I know you want to know – miniature horse and a miniature donkey gets you a ponkey- who apparently has LOTS of attitude.
Left Alberta and entered our third province with 1843kms todate – about 22% – give or take a lot.
Cycle Day 22. Cypress Hills to Shaunavon 105 kms 637 vertical meters
Chased by a thunderstorm all day, we felt but a few drops. So grateful for that as wet gravel roads are never good on bikes or wives. Doesn’t look like it in the elevation profile, but it was a day rolling up and down in the coulees.
We were admittedly VERY happy to see some pavement for the last part of the trek into Shaunavon and had what would turn out to be a brief moment of westerlies blowing. But how can you say no to Ken at the Eastend Hamlet Historical Tour? We got Ken’s private tour (surprisingly not busy for a Saturday afternoon) of a huge collection of stuff. Some related to the history of the area, some not. Ken, however, was definitely from the area, and would have a lot of stories to share if you didn’t have 30 more kms to cycle. We left our donation in a seldom used, unnecessarily large jar.
Ken proudly threw out his sales pitch as we left: “Come back next year. We’ll have more stuff.”
Cycle Day #17 Coleman to Lethbridge – 147 kms 678 vertical meters
Waited in line for breakfast at Chris’ Restaurant in Coleman. We have been through Coleman MANY times, but actually never into town, and definitely never to Chris’. Think Alice’s Restaurant – you know the song right? Of course you don’t. But Terry put it on a cassette for me years ago and I used to run to this ludicrous song by Arlo Guthrie and it still plays in my psyche. I think this is the reason I don’t run anymore.
Changed our route from heading south as weather forecast showed one day of strong westerlies, then strong east or northeast winds until well, forever!!!! We enjoyed the push, almost felt like a Road Biker, averaging 35kmph, until mid morning when the NE winds started earlier than promised. Our speed was cut in half – visualize those car ads where the car hits a wall at high speed, but the air bag saves the people. That was us without the airbag. With forecasts of 20 – 30 mm of rain and steady east winds with up to 50kmph gusts and daytime highs of 5 degrees, we agonized about where to wait this out for a day or 7. In the end, not wanting to make our epic ride more epic-er and preferring not to ride on a long weekend, we returned to Fernie for a few days. DON’T BE CRAZY, I don’t backtrack 40 meters for a meal! We rented a truck and got home in time for a hot tub and dinner.
We have friends that did this ride across Canada in jean shorts. We know people that camped the whole way across Canada. We read about people that cycled across Canada in just over 200 cycling hours. Indomitable? Stalwart? Dauntless? Whatever those people are, we are none of them. We are determined to enjoy this very long adventure, and in this case, it meant retreating home for a bit.
Cycle Day #18. Lethbridge to Taber. – 54 kms 40 vertical meters
After 4 days in Fernie, we returned to Lethbridge, dropped off the rental truck, put on our long underwear and headed east, determined not to let the cold, rain or head winds discourage us. Steve K’s iconic adage “Sure is cold and windy. But at least it’s raining.” was funny when he said it, not so much coming from Jay, four times today. I grimaced and wiped off the mud and gravel his wheel was spitting at my face. Apparently we did not hunker down in Fernie long enough.
Came to rest in the corn capital of Taber, Alberta – unfortunately several months ahead of harvest time. A lot of our ride destinations are currently being dictated by available accommodations. And by that I don’t mean “acceptable” accommodations. I mean something with a roof and a furnace.
Cycle Day #19 Taber to Foremost. – 88 kms 213 vertical meters
Plan made, plan amended. We were to continue on the same side (paved) road that brought us into Taber, but it turns out that on the east side of Taber it is a freshly grated gravel road – think deep, back tire sliding, stupid gravel.
Continue on this road for 40 kms then head directly into 28kmph north headwind to end up in Bow Island – chosen for the sole reason that it has a motel of sorts.
Head straight north to highway 3 and travel along this busy highway and land in Bow Island – see above.
Head south, enjoy the tail wind, and camp in Foremost Alberta. Yes I said CAMP!!!!
A betting person probably would not have guessed number 3, but that’s what we decided. Desperate times…
The ride was fantastic! The gravel roads were better than the first road we were on, and we enjoyed some pavement AND a tail wind for a while. But the highlight of the day was Hugh, who stopped his semi and wanted to know if we were lost. Hugh said he hadn’t seen a bike rider out here for years. “And he was lost”. After a short but entertaining conversation about our ride, our preferred routes and his life, he pushed money into our hands, insisting on supporting either our ride with dinner or our special needs bikes. His will be our first donation! (We are still finalizing the logistics, and will let you know!!!)
Not to take away from Hugh being our highlight today, but after careening down a coulee into Foremost reaching 70 kmph (oh, and digging our butts out the other side) there IS a motel in Foremost – AND it had a roof and a furnace. And even if we did want to camp (which we didn’t) the campground is full of workers who are building 500 windmills (Trudeau would be proud) this summer between Foremost and Bow Island! I love Foremost.
I loved the endless exactness of the newly planted fields. Lines almost as straight as my brother’s lawn.
Harvesting the wind – a west wind would harvest marvellously as well. Just sayin’.
If a smoke detector is expired, what are the odds of it starting it’s annoying chirping on the morning you plan an early departure? On the bright side, Jessie joined us to start our next leg at a time much more appealing to her.
Cycle Day #16. Fernie to Coleman 76 kms 1100 vertical meters
Underestimated today with 1100 meters climbing to our highest elevation of over 5500 feet! (more impressive than 1693 meters) over the Continental Divide. Wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t gotten bogged down in a short bit of impressively effective concrete gunk. Fortunately, the knee deep snow that followed cleaned off the tires enough to allow them to roll again.
The creek chased us for most of the day and we loved its raucous spring run and seeing the direction of flow change after we crossed the Divide. Now I know people who live in glass houses (or wood in this case) shouldn’t throw stones, but the devastation left by recent and older logging along this entire road is disheartening and frankly quite appalling. Glad we did Coal Creek Road to Corbin Road, but we won’t repeat it any time soon.
How lucky we are to live in a place we love so much. The people, the scenery, the activities make our home of Fernie a refuge for tired minds, bodies and butts. We enjoyed splendid dinners and walks with friends and family, and Mother’s Day with my Jessie.
During our break we had the privilege of meeting a marvelous group of inspiring women running Cerebral Palsy Kids and Families in Calgary. Their charity is dedicated to supporting children and families affected by cerebral palsy. Their work includes guest speakers, summer camps, social work and especially dear to us – an adaptive bike program. Their staff adapt bikes to suit the individual and seek funding for individuals who need especially adapted bikes. It works like a library – when you are done or it no longer fits, you bring it back and get a new one – all for a nominal annual fee. Brilliant.
Braxton is the most adorable boy and was in need of a very specialized bike, one that Freedom Concepts designed for him. The bike is adjustable, so it will hopefully last Braxton 5 years, then it will come back to the bike exchange program, and someone else will get to ride it. Braxton is almost 6 and was thrilled to be able to have his own bike so he can ride with his two younger siblings. This bike will let him get out to his favourite spots to listen to the frogs. His mother Tara is certain their first family bike adventure will happen soon with the spring weather finally upon Calgary.
In the homestretch for a Fernie break. Missed the Balfour Ferry by the time it takes to go into grocery store and buy M&M’s. Made for a late day, arriving into Creston at 5:30 pm. This ride held many memories for us, as we used to do some road riding with friends out here, MANY years ago. Maxy will recall this well.
Today was a stunning warm day and we loved riding along Kootenay Lake. This road has a narrow shoulder, but there was minimal traffic today, so we enjoyed the rolling, winding pavement – until the last 10 kms when an attitude testing hill was thrown in there.
Cycle Day 14 110 kms 905 vertical meters
Knew we were going to be on busy part of Highway 3 today and we were right. All day. We did have a fantastic lunch spot at the Yahk campground.
Cycle Day 15 106 kms 862 vertical meters
338 kms in 3 days is a lot on gravel bikes with gear on mainly off road terrain and we rolled into to Fernie at about 1/2 past dead. But today’s ride was a surprisingly lovely ride and although in our neighbourhood, we have never done the Chief Isador Trail out of Cranbrook. It is outstanding – flat, well gravelled, and off the busy highway!
At Wardner we ducked onto Rosicky Road to Shelbourne Rd – didn’t even know these roads were here, and found a great circle cycling route (for another summer). Enjoyed lunch in a beautiful valley, then stopped just a few kms later for a second lunch at First Perk – “not right” to pass by!
Just after a serendipitous pee break, we were nearly run over by good friends Deborah, Lana and Dean! What a great pick me up (considered it literally for a moment…) as we headed into our last few hours home!!!
Sooooo happy to see the FAR sign at the bottom of the hill, and the climb itself was not as bad as anticipated, still bad. But at the top, there was a crew of friends cheering us on, our home decorated, cards left, and cold beer. What a sweet, and much appreciated gesture, especially the beer. Leg 1 done – we will be doing a lot of nothing for a few days – maybe a hot mustard bath as recommended????
Gear reflections from Gear Guy
We certainly chose the right bikes for our chosen route. The Kona Libre gravel bike is light, durable and great fun on all types of terrain. Tire and rim selection were also right. We were on 650 rims and 50 mm (2 inch) tires. This gave us a good, comfortable and confident ride on mixed terrain while not compromising too much on speed. Our bikes weigh less than 20 lbs and we have about 30 lbs of kit including food and water. We also carry back packs but mainly for hydration.
We did not take out the tent on this leg but it was an essential part of the gear because it gave us confidence to take off road routes. On at least one occasion we were certain we would be staying in the tent at above 3,500 feet and in snow covered terrain. It was cold. And we would have had to tent had the trail not been cleared by trail crews just 3 days before we were on it. “Marital” narrowly avoided.
Another item of essential gear is the InReach Garmin Mini which our friends Jave, Roger and Mike implored that I get. I’m glad I relented as it was a huge confidence item to have on back road routes. And surprisingly simple to operate (for a Garmin). There is a safety switch on the “SOS” button so that Search and Rescue isn’t inadvertently activated. On the one day of riding in which we had heavy, no, a heinous amount of rain, Deb started to ask a few too many questions on how the SOS button worked.
We used the MSR stove a couple of times for soup and tea. Also essential gear. I used the sleeping bag twice. But it was in a hotel. Deb was having hot flashes and insisted on keeping the windows open in below zero temps. Yep, good to have that -10c rated sleeping bag for those emergencies.
Cycled Phoenix Road out of Greenwood this morning instead of Kettle Valley due to the sand we experienced in the area yesterday. Just turn left and go up the hill the local suggested. She did NOT mention that the hill climbed up for 15 kms and 1200 meters or 3 hours on a bike. This was a steep slog. Probably 10 to 11% grade in parts. We did explore an old cemetery along the way with many Europeans immigrants, born in the late 1800’s and died in the now ghost town of Phoenix between 1911 and 1916. The harshness of their life was revealed in the ages on the tombstones – the oldest we found was 37, the youngest was 2 years old. “Once called the “highest city in Canada” by its citizens (1,412 metres / 4,633 feet above sea level) it was a booming copper mining community from the late 1890s until 1919. In its heyday it was home to 1,000 citizens and had an opera house, twenty hotels, a brewery and its own city hall.” (Wikipedia). Wish I had GTS’d that prior to departure ey Marianne?
When we finally reached the summit, a grater had come up the other direction in the last hour and the road down was rutted and sandy so it was a careful ride down. We did get to enjoy the next 15kms down to Grand Forks on the highway which was gratifying!!!
We jumped on the TCT after Grand Forks to enjoy a paved or packed gravel trail all the way to Christina Lake. Beautiful ride into the only open hotel in town.
Heading to Castlegar and had to decide between the TCT route which was less vertical but more kms and the highway. We thought we could choose when the path crossed the highway.
This is what we found there.
As light as our bikes are, scaling the cliff was not a great option, so the decision was made for us, we were doing 87 kms on the TCT. It was noon and we had completed 25 uphill kms at a plodding pace of 3.2 kms/hour. We started independently thinking, but not talking, about taking the tent out of the plastic wrap and enjoying the delicious looking bag of dried beef stew and two carrots we have been carrying. Fortunately, we found an elevation map on the trail that revealed it was all down hill after 35 kms. In hindsight, probably the best bike packing ride EVER! I almost forget the first 35 kms. Right! Four tunnels, bridge trestles, lakes, huge trees, historical town sites, not one car, evidence of this winter’s avalanches AND we managed to out cycle some nasty looking weather. Thank you to whomever maintains this route and plowed the snow along the summit plateau, where we would have had to otherwise lug our bikes for several excruciating kilometers. So glad we couldn’t get off the trail and got to enjoy this piece of heaven.
Cycle day 12
Short day into Nelson to visit good friend Bruce. Toured his beautiful heritage home and had special time getting to know his children.
Jay’s Navigation update – We’ve started to sort out our navigation instruments. Garmin we use almost exclusively for tracking our rides. IPhones we use for navigation. The Gaia App has been the most useful for identifying off road routes like the TCT and allows us to download maps. So we tend to use Gaia almost exclusively now for navigation on routes. For cities and towns we switch to Google Maps to identify restaurants, grocery stores, bike shops, hotels, campgrounds, psychiatrist offices, marriage councillors…. That sort of thing.