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A Change of Scenery and Pace: Canmore, AB to Kindersley, SK (577km/2156m)

Leaving Canmore, I rode out of the towering rocky mountains and descended into rolling foothills that mark the transition region between Canada’s western mountains and prairies. 

While I was in Canmore, I noticed that some of my gear was starting to wear out more than I had expected. Being less than a third of the way through my trip, I knew I’d have to figure out a solution to avoid catastrophic failure. When I arrived in Calgary, I reached out to vendors to get replacement parts. Joel at the Supreme Source for Sports in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, allowed me to mail the parts to him so that I could pick them up en route. Waiting for mail meant that I’d have to slow my roll slightly to make sure my arrival and the arrival of the mail I was expecting coincided. 

The change of scenery and change of pace during this stage of my journey, completely altered my outlook on and the experience of my cycle touring adventure as well. 

Day 20: Canmore, AB to Calgary, AB (124km/736m)

Wednesday 2 June 2021

I left on Wednesday morning after a beautiful two days in Banff and Canmore. Having only ever driven past Banff, it was nice to explore the iconic Canadian town. The young adults that congregated from across the country to work summer jobs at hotels and in the parks injected life into the historic city. Canmore was frequently talked about when I was climbing with a team in Nelson. And, my expectations of the city were met by the people who walked up and down the main street and in and out of gear shops. Almost all of them looked athletic, and like they were built for climbing. 

After leaving the house, I made my way towards Highway 1A—the Bow Valley Parkway. On my way out the door, Kevin warned me about the route I’d chosen. A few people I spoke to said that the section of the highway that goes through the first nation’s reserve would be risky. I never got one definite reason about why I should be concerned from anyone I talked to. Some people said they’d almost been robbed on that section of road, others said people die regularly in car accidents there. 

Before I got out of Canmore and onto Highway 1A, I stopped for coffee and updated Xavie and her parents on my progress. Xavie, a friend from U-Vic’s triathlon club, who lives in Calgary, had generously organized a spot for me to camp in her parents’ back yard and was planning on riding into the city with me. I looked forward to another day of no cycling so that I could escape the heat, give my legs another day to recuperate, and get caught up on my blog. 

Throughout the day, the hills got progressively smaller. I didn’t notice any of the abnormalities riding Highway 1A that I’d been forewarned about, other than the absence of a shoulder on parts of the road. I wondered why there would be a reputation of crime there if it appeared that members of the first nations community were running campgrounds and lodges.

When I arrived in Cochrane, 40 kilometers out of Calgary, I called Xavie. We agreed on a route and that we’d meet when we crossed paths going opposite directions. 

Shortly after my climb out of Cochrane, which caught me by surprise with its magnitude, we crossed and Xavie came to my side of the highway to escort me to her parents’ home. We quickly reached the city boundary and transitioned to Calgary’s surprisingly expansive infrastructure of bicycle paths. On our way into the metropolitan center, we stopped at BowCycles, Western Canada’s largest bike and bike-related equipment retailer, where I stocked up on spare tires. 

Throughout the afternoon, it got hotter, and we passed rafters and bathers enjoying the cool Bow River which paralleled long sections of the cycle paths we rode on.

We arrived at Xavie’s parents’ around 5:30 and I set up my tent before they got home from the clinic where they worked. When they arrived, Nancy and Mark greeted me warmly with access to their home, beers, a delicious meal for dinner, and excitement about my stories from the road.

Day 21: Blog Writing Catch-up Day in Calgary, AB

Thursday 3 June 2021

I was glad to have hosted for another day so that I could get caught up on writing and revising drafts, processing images, and formatting posts for my blog. When I heard about the heat warning for temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, I was even happier to be spending the day off the bike, inside, away from the sun.

I started my day touching base with Mark and Nancy before they left for their clinic and a coffee from Sierra Cafe which had recently opened across the street. When the sun rose high enough in the sky, I moved into the kitchen to continue writing. 

In the afternoon, I went to the grocery store to restock on snacks for the road. Afterward, I reached out to vendors to get replacement parts for my bike. In Canmore, I’d noticed that my Old Man Mountain rear Sherpa Rack was warping under the load of my panniers and fatiguing vibrations from dirt roads and gravel trails. It was getting so bad that it was actually bending the eyelets on my bike frame that the rack was mounted to. So, I ordered hardware for a different, supposedly stronger mounting method. My NiteRider Solas 100 rear light had also not been working since I left Victoria, so I decided it was time to have it warrantied in case I had to shift my cycling schedule in the prairies to avoid the sun. The warranty process with them was seamless. 

I’d have to get my spare and replacement parts sent to me somewhere I’d be passing through. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with the manager of a sports store in Kindersley, Saskatchewan who would let me have the parts shipped to him for pickup instead of a post office. 

In the evening I was treated to another wonderful, home-cooked meal. Nancy, Mark, and I spoke about life and work. I was always curious to hear how people’s careers unfolded considering I’ll be jumping into mine in a little over a year. Nancy and Mark have an interesting story about getting Mark out of a work situation he didn’t enjoy and starting a successful family business. Both of them are avid cyclists as well, so the talking points were uninterrupted throughout the evening.

Day 22: Calgary, AB to Horseshoe Canyon, AB (131km/436m)

Friday 4 June 2021

Nancy and Mark sent me off with pancakes and espresso to fuel my ride out of the city and into the badlands of Alberta. I left them with a big thank-you for their generosity and hospitality. 

On my way through the city, I stopped at Mountain Equipment Co-Op to restock on the bear spray I’d lost somewhere between Canmore and Calgary, and at Best-Buy to pick up a cable that would allow me to charge the power bank in my handlebar bag from the solar panel slung over my rear panniers. I wouldn’t need bear spray again until I reached Ontario, but it was reassuring having it and knowing I wouldn’t have to search for it when I crossed into bear territory again. The cable I bought completed my mobile charging set-up. I could now charge my devices on the road with my solar panel constantly topping up my power bank, and my power bank topping up my phone, watch, and headphones.

My route out of Calgary followed winding suburban bike paths, crossed sidewalks, and periodically spit me out onto roads. Slowly the density of houses and residents diminished. When I reached the edge of the city, I was confronted with a headwind, not the tailwind I was told to expect. I became apprehensive to stop on the side of the road to pee as I had done in British Columbia, knowing traffic from either side would have a full profile view of me. Roads got straighter and ninety-degree turns became less frequent as I neared Drumheller. 

I decided to spend the evening at Horseshoe Canyon, a few kilometers before Drumheller. Camping at the campground there was $35 per night. Not only did I think that price was outrageous; I also felt attached to my streak of not spending any money on camping or lodging over the first 1500 kilometers of my trip.

Wild camping all of the sudden seemed more difficult due to the lack of trees and secluded nooks and crannies. Eventually, I found a spot, and as usual, it felt unsettling—not quite hidden enough from passers-by. No one passed by while I was there, though. 

Day 23: Horseshoe Canyon, AB to Delia, AB (66km/380m)

Saturday 5 June 2021

The evening before I’d set my alarm clock to 6:00 AM so I could clear my wild camping spot as quickly as possible. I was unsuccessful in doing this. Instead, I hit the snooze button again and again until 7:00, my usual wake-up time. When I got packed up I backtracked quickly past the campground where I’d refused to pay $35 to pitch my tent. “Ahhh! A tailwind” I thought to myself as I turned left onto Highway 9.

It was Saturday. Three weeks after my actual departure from Victoria on May 15th I’d promised the people following my ride that I’d finally publish my blog post about Stage 1: Victoria to Naramata. I stopped at a cafe in Drumheller and followed through on my promise. While I was working there, it started to hail, and I sought refuge inside while marble-sided ice balls rained down from the heavens in alarming amounts. It was by far the biggest and most hail I’d ever seen before. I was glad that I hadn’t gotten caught in it without cover and made note to proceed cautiously since this was a relatively common occurrence in the prairies. 

When the weather cleared back up, I returned to the road. I followed the route I’d planned out, and to my disappointment, it led me back to the gravely terrain I’d come to despise. My front tire sunk into the gravel and was pulled left and right—everywhere except where I wanted it to go. Loose round rocks rolled under my back tire while I crept forward at a snail’s pace. I periodically checked the weather radar to see when the storm would pass over me, carried by the same wind that aided me in my eastward roll. My rearview mirror worked well as a way to verify the forecast. 

When someone in an oncoming truck told me I’d probably get rained on, I cycled into a campground in Michichi and I pulled into a picnic shelter just as it started to rain.

Half an hour later, it had blown over, and I pushed on along the gravel roads to Deliah, just off of Highway 9. I decided to spend the night at the municipal campground there and return to the pavement the following day. 

I did the math, trying to time my arrival in Kindersley with the arrival of my spare parts. Since I’d cycled through a weekend, I would have to slow my pace even more, and decided to use my time in Kindersley to take a break and catch up on writing. I booked an Airbnb for the coming Tuesday and Wednesday and verified that I’d only have to cover eighty kilometers per day to arrive in Kindersley on time. 

Day 24: Delia, AB to Youngstown, AB (90km/169m)

Sunday 6 June 2021

I woke up in Delia, packed up camp, and took the quickest route back to the pavement. Half a kilometer later, I turned right, back onto Highway 9, and was relieved to be, once again, on smooth terrain with a tailwind pulling me along.

As I rode, the pavement under my wheels streamed past me almost effortlessly. I reflected back to my days climbing and descending through the mountains of British Columbia. Back then I’d thought about how comforting it would be to enter the wide-open prairies. To be able to see everything from miles around. To go to bed and know that there isn’t a wild animal hiding in the trees only a few meters from where I set up camp, or around a corner a few hundred meters away. To know that there are many other people in the space where I was. They may have been miles away, there weren’t mountains between us. It was predictable but comforting to be in the prairies. 

Leaving Delia, I knew that I’d be passing through Youngstown. I wanted to stop there and visit the Vipassana meditation center I’d heard about. When I saw the sign for the town, I turned left onto the main street, then took a right through town, and turned left again to ride just beyond. The meditation center was there, but it was closed. 

I thought about continuing on since it was only the early afternoon, but I knew I’d covered enough ground for the day. There had been a sign for a picnic bench in town, so I decided to backtrack and sit for a while to think about it. When I tracked the picnic bench associated with the sign down, I found it in a field, dedicated to camping. It made my decision easy. I’d spend the night there, where I had access to potable water, a washroom, and a picnic shelter. 

The apparent lack of wild camping spots in Drumheller had me concerned. I’d recognized a pattern since then though. Most small towns off the main highway seemed to have by-donation campgrounds. I took note and found comfort in having a sustainable plan to track down places to sleep as I crossed the rest of the barren land that lay in front of me.

Day 25: Youngstown, AB to Alsask, SK (100km/193m)

Monday 7 June 2021

Right before falling asleep at the campground in Youngstown, I heard the rumble of thunder and decided to move my tent into the picnic shelter. I woke up pleasantly surprised by the amount of blue in the sky. Stepping outside of the shelter to use the washroom I noticed water that had pooled overnight on the picnic bench where I’d made dinner. It had been a good decision to move inside to avoid having to deal with a wet tent.  

After packing up camp, I answered a few emails and didn’t get on the road until 9:30. It was okay though. I only needed to cover 80 kilometers that day. Riding with a tailwind again was easy. I crossed the Alberta/Saskatchewan border four hours after leaving Youngstown. 

When I pulled over at the gas station in Alsask, where I planned to spend the night, I met Marcel who was returning to Saskatoon after a motorcycle trip. He told me that Alsask was an old Canadian Military base and that I’d be able to see some historic buildings if I cycled through town. The Canadian Royal Airforce had a radar dome set up near the base during the cold war, and it was being restored for tours. 

I cycled past the campground on the other side of the highway and into Alsask, determined to do my own self-guided historical tour. The town’s original school building was still there but not much else. I looped up to the radar dome to see if it was open too. It was not, so I returned to the campground where I planned to spend the night, set up my tent, and climbed inside where I was shaded from the sun.

My sleep was not solid. It was broken by the sound of semi-trucks passing in the night. At 3:00 am I woke up to the sound of howling coyotes. They’d decided to locate prospective mates in the early hours of the morning by being very vocal. Noises coming from all directions and distances were unsettling, but I knew it was not me they were interested in.

Day 26: Alsask, SK to Kindersley, SK (66km/242m)

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Only 65 kilometers remained between me and Kindersley. I got up in the morning and prepared for the headwinds I’d read about in the forecast the night before. When I searched for coffee nearby, I was disappointed to discover that the closest was 40 kilometers behind me or 60 in front of me. I was not used to pedaling through the majority of my mileage for the day without coffee. 

It was difficult pushing into the wind, but I continued, knowing there would be a warm meal and something to drink when I got to Kindersley. I arrived shortly after noon and stopped for a burger and coffee before settling into my Airbnb for the night. 

When 3:00 rolled around and I could check-in, I did so happily, with a full stomach, and spent most of the rest of the afternoon unwinding. A few hours later, I left the house briefly to wash my bike and see if my spare parts had arrived at Supreme Source for Sports. They had, so I brought them back and decided I’d tackle the bike repairs the following day.

Day 27: Rest Day in Kindersley, SK

Wednesday 9 June 2021

I woke up at my usual time of 7:00 determined to get a full blog post draft written. Before I sat down at my desk, I went by Tim Hortons to fuel up. 

I spent the morning writing and got about halfway through. Then, shortly before noon, I decided to refocus my attention on repairing my Old Man Mountain Sherpa rear rack. The rack was sitting skewed on the back of my bike. I’d have to remove it from the rear-dropout eyelets on my bike frame, bend them back into shape, bend my rack into shape, install the new rack-mountable through axle, and hope everything lined up when I put it all back together. After taking the rack off and installing the new through axle, I decided to head back to Supreme Source for Sports where I was told the bike mechanic would be working. I expected that he would have more tools and expertise to help me than I did at my AirBnB. 

The mechanic’s name was Kenny. He’d lived in Kindersley all his life and told me he had been working in ‘Kenny’s Corner’ for 30 years. Kenny welcomed me into his shop. I explained what I was hoping to do and he lent tools to me to bend my rack back into shape. When we both agreed that it looked good, we mounted it up and were pleased that everything lined up straight. The 70-pound rating of the through-axle mounting point would be more appropriate for the load I was carrying than the 45-pound rating on the eyelets I had it mounted to before. 

When I returned to my Airbnb, I picked up where I’d left off with my writing. I continued on into the evening until I had dinner and shifted my attention, once again, to resting and re-cooperating.

Day 28: Blog Writing Catch Up Day in Kindersley, SK

Wednesday 9 June 2021

A rainy forecast and a few unfinished tasks related to my blog suggested I spend another night in Kindersley. Two days was proving to be more restful than just one every week like I’d planned for. I extended my reservation at the Airbnb I was staying at. 

On my second morning in town, I woke up to cloudy skies and went out to pick up a coffee and breakfast before the rain started. Back in my room, I spent most of the rest of my day in front of the computer, finishing off drafts, revising, processing images, and formatting. 

In the evening, I stopped by Supreme Source for Sports again to tell the owner, Joel, that I’d been in touch with NiteRider and that they’d used the wrong courier. Kenny and Larry from the day before were there and everyone wished me well on the rest of my journey. Afterward, I restocked on groceries, went back to the Airbnb to pack up my things, and get an early night of rest. 

The change of scenery and pace, entering the prairies, gave me more space to embrace the experience of my cycle tour. It all felt simpler and less crowded. On difficult days, I pushed through consistent struggle; on easy days, I pushed through consistent effortlessness. Everything was more manageable because I could see what I was getting myself into miles before I got there. The ebb and flow of intense emotions and physical exertion had become more gradual. 

The added space, predictability, and subtlety of my experience allowed me to enjoy my cycle tour in a different way than I had crossing the mountains of British Columbia. I felt settled and calm in my experience, and overwhelming joy and gratitude for what I was doing and the support I was receiving to do it flooded my consciousness.

Thank you everyone for following along on my journey 🙏

Gratitudes

I’d like to express my thanks, during the fourth stage of my trip, to

  • Xavie Schneider for organizing a spot for me to camp in her parents’ backyard and riding into Calgary with me.
  • Nancy and Mark Schneider, Xavie’s parents who allowed me to camp in their backyard and graciously hosted me with access to their home, a safe spot to store my bike, and delicious meals
  • Joel at Source for Sports Kindersley, for allowing me to have spare parts sent to his store,
  • Nigel MacNeill who donated $25 to support my blog and cycle tour,
  • Hannah Mehanin who donated $25 to support my blog and cycle tour,
  • Jan Brown, who donated $28.50 to support my blog and cycle tour
  • Dwayne Carter, who sent me a nice email reflecting on my blog and donated $50 to support my blog and cycle tour
  • Joel, Kenny, and Larry at Supreme Source for Sports in Kindersley for allowing me to send spare parts to them and use the tools in their bike shop to repair my rear rack,
  • Kaileen McCulloch, for very generously donating $100 to support my blog and cycle tour,
  • and, of course, all my friends and family for their sustained support.

Statistics

  • Total Distance: 2113km
  • Total Elevation: 15679m
  • Wild Animals: Black Bear (×1), Brown Bear (×1), Deer Tick (×1), Elk (× many), BigHorn Sheep (× many),  Coyote (× many)
  • Warm Showers: 7

3 Comments

  • Geoege and Babi says:

    Simon, you are fantastic. We are with you every day in our minds. This is a real adventure. You are brave.

    Babi and George

  • Hans says:

    Hi Simon,

    I read your blog. You are an interesting man. Glad to have met you.
    Best wishes for the last leg of your journey.

    Gruss,

    Hansjoerg Schwendener

  • kris says:

    Hey, Simon. My friends and I met you around the North Shore of Lake Huron and we rode together for a while. I am sure you recall the in-depth discussions on nuclear science and physics. Great to see you are getting your blog put together!

    Take care!

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