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Pushing Limits, the Trans-Canada Highway, and Relentless Mosquitos: Kindersley, SK to Elkhorn, MB (677km/1189m)

Most people who witnessed the planning stage of my trip encouraged me to take my time and enjoy it. Their idea of enjoyment was likely resting their bodies and minds. I wanted to challenge myself mentally and physically on my trip, though. 

675 kilometers separated me, in Kindersley, from Scott, a family friend who I’d be staying with in Elkhorn, Manitoba. After an easy first day, being blasted east by a strong tailwind, I decided to see if I could complete the next stage of my trip in four days. To do it, I would have to ride a century, which for those who don’t know is 100 miles or 161 kilometers, every day regardless of what I encountered. 

Day 29: Kindersley, SK to Broderick, SK (177km/400m)

Friday 11 June 2021

An early alarm woke me up on my last morning at the AirBnB I’d been staying at in Kindersley. I wanted to get on the road quickly, so I climbed out of bed eager to pack up the rest of my belongings.

The night before, I’d reached out to a few of my bike mechanic friends to see if anyone knew how I could alleviate the clicking I’d discovered in my front disk brake. The consensus was that the caliper was moving beyond its range of motion to clamp the disk, so I spent a few minutes releasing the cable, re-adjusting the resting position of the pads, and getting the right tension in the cable again.

Before leaving, I decided to reach out to Larry at Supreme Source to Sports one more time to see if the guys would give me a discount on a bike computer we looked at the previous day.  Larry called me back within a half-hour saying Joel would be happy to, as a way to support my bike tour and training when I return to Vancouver Island. Very grateful for the generosity, I stopped by the shop on my way out of town with a coffee for Joel and bought the discounted Garmin Edge 530.

The wind was at my back for the rest of the day, and I glided effortlessly all the way to Outlook on the South Saskatoon River, where I planned to spend the night. At times the wind was violent, though. When it bounced off of on-coming semi-trucks at the right angle, I was hit with a surprisingly strong shockwave of pressure and road dust that threw me off balance.

When I arrived, I discovered that it would be quite expensive to spend the night at the regional park in Outlook, so I decided to carry on another 10 kilometers to Broderick where I hoped to find a by-donation municipal campground. There wasn’t one there. 

Combing the streets, I came across an older fellow mowing his lawn and asked him if there was somewhere in town that I could camp. He told me about a spot where I would be able to set up my tent for the night for free. It was a piece of land donated to the community in 1989 by Larry Beaton, a local farmer. I followed the directions I’d received and rode out along a gravel dike road that traced the edge of a beautiful irrigation reservoir. When I reached the end, I found myself at the well-kept, mowed, and treed park on the south edge of the reservoir.

Content with the scenery but annoyed by the mosquitos that had all of the sudden become a reality since crossing the river in Outlook, I set up camp for the evening. It had been a good day. I had completed the longest day on my bike since starting my trip with relative ease and experienced, once again, the immense generosity of people I interacted with on the road. 

As I settled into my tent ready for a night of restful sleep, I heard a truck pull up into a section of the park separated by a thin wall of trees. I listened intently for a hint, in their conversation, about who it was and why they’d come. It was just a few local teenagers who wanted to hit some golf balls into the reservoir. They were loud but left around 11:00. I was relieved and fell asleep soon after. 

Day 30: Broderick, SK to Bethune, SK (173km/246m)

Saturday 12 June 2021

I woke up at 7:00 motivated by the momentum I’d built the previous day. A car I’d seen on the other side of the reservoir the night before was still there. The driver must have had a similar ich to spend the night outside. 

With my gear loaded, I backtracked along the elevated dirt road I’d arrived on the night before, through Broderick, and back onto Highway 15. I turned right and pedaled towards Kenaston where I planned on stopping to publish my next blog post and switch over to Highway 11, which I’d follow south into Regina. When I arrived, the town’s cafe was open, and the owner was helpful in getting me everything I needed. 

As I sat down and pulled out my laptop I acknowledged the fact that the rest of the day would be more difficult than what I’d experienced the day before. It was hotter, and the eastward wind wouldn’t be as conducive to my new south-eastward trajectory. I rested my legs and re-fueled while I wrote and sent an email to the followers of the blog.

I was disappointed to see that sections of Highway 11’s shoulder were only 25 centimeters wide in places, especially considering that it was the busiest highway in Saskatchewan. On these sections, my fate depended on my ability to identify the cautiousness of cars passing me through the small rear-view mirror mounted to my helmet. Sections of wider shouldered road were littered with roadkill. 

I persisted and made a resolution to myself to ride a century every day for the next three days, which would get me to Elkhorn, four days after leaving Kindersley. It was important to enjoy myself on this trip, but I also wanted to see where my physical limits were. What better way to do that than push long days while the landscape was still flat?

The first town I arrived in after reaching my 161-kilometer mark for the day was Bethune. I pulled off of Highway 11 to scope it out. A couple out for their evening jog, who I met on the side of the road, pointed me in the direction of the town’s recreational fields for a free spot to camp. I was a little apprehensive to camp in a city park, but the sun was setting, and seeking other options became less and less feasible. So, I pitched my tent in a corner where I suspected I wouldn’t be disturbing anyone and climbed in to seek shelter from the relentless mosquitos that swarmed me. I fell asleep quickly.

Day 31: Bethune, SK to Wolseley, SK (166km/397m)

Sunday 13 June 2021

Half an hour after my 7:00 alarm, I heard the lawnmower start and was prompted to expedite my packing.

When I turned out of town, my route along Highway 11 continued. I had to decide whether to take the ring road around Region or whether to cycle through the city. Some diversity felt necessary after days of peddling through flat farmland and past small rural towns. Everything was starting to blend together. So, I decided to go through the city and use it as an opportunity to run a few errands. 

On my way out of Regina, I stopped at Tim Hortons to have some food and think about whether I wanted to rely on the Trans Canada Highway to get me into Manitoba or if I wanted to switch to a rural, less-busy alternative. The decision was made easy when I missed the turnoff for Highway 48, which would have been my best bet to get off of Highway 1. Staying on the busier, more direct route seemed appropriate for the four-day objective of pedaling large distances that I’d set for myself, though.

For the third day in a row, I rode late into the evening and crossed the 161-kilometer marker as the sun was setting. This time, I pulled off into Wolseley and consulted the man in the gas station regarding a spot to pitch my tent. Following his directions, I rode through town and around the lake. I found a relatively secluded part of the city beach and pitched my tent only to discover that it was directly under a street lamp a few minutes later. I didn’t care. With my head shaded beneath my sleeping bag, I fell asleep without issue.

Day 32: Wolseley, SK to Elkhorn, MB (161km/146m)

Monday 14 June 2021

I woke up at 7:00 and left camp at 8:30 in search of coffee. No one had bothered me throughout the night or during my pack up in the morning and I was pleased about the seamlessness of my questionable new stealth camping habit. The cafe in town was closed, but I grabbed a coffee at the gas station I’d stopped at the night before turning back onto Highway 1. 

I had another century to complete on my way to Elkhorn, just past the Manitoba border. Not only was the wind no longer helping me, it was counterproductively blowing north-west. Trying not to pay the added resistance too much attention, I proceeded the way I had the previous days—leapfrogging from town to town to incremental the grand goal of 161 kilometers. 

It was effective, and Scott sent me a message around noon that he would ride his bike out to meet me. I don’t think he realized how slowly I was moving and that I’d be stopping for lunch in Whitewood because we were 60 kilometers from Elkhorn by the time we crossed paths. 

We both moved slowly in the afternoon heat and complained in unison about sore butts. Ice Cream in Moosomin fueled us through the remaining 30 kilometers. We didn’t reach the border until 8:30 pm in the evening, and Scott’s house until 9:00 pm, as the sun was setting. 

I was happy to at last be done with my four-century ride rampage as I pulled into the driveway. Scott’s house was beautiful. He’d first told me about his plans to build a passive solar house almost a decade earlier, and I hadn’t had an opportunity to see the real thing since he finished construction about three years ago. The house is open concept with an 80 foot-long wall of 7 foot-tall windows to heat the concrete floors with energy from the sun during the day and circulate stagnant air through the rest of the building in the evening. Not only is it’s design practice, it also fits in archiatectrialy with the prairie landscape around it. 

That evening we caught up over a delicious and much-anticipated dinner prepared by Scott’s wife, Angela.

Day 33: Rest Day in Elkhorn, MB

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Since I hadn’t seen Scott in a few years and his house marked the halfway point of my trip almost exactly, I decided to spend the remainder of the week with him instead of the one- or two- day rest periods I’d had earlier in the trip. 

I woke up at 9:00 in the guest bedroom confused by the different times displayed on my watch and alarm clock. Then I realized that I must have crossed my second time zone boundary the day before. A sleep-in was welcome after four long days on the bike and getting to bed late the night before.

Scott went to work and Angela offered me breakfast. After stretching out my muscles, I spent the rest of my morning at the desk in the guest room trying to get focused on drafting this blog post. It was difficult without a one- or two-day deadline, and I got distracted answering messages and emails. 

Scott returned in the late afternoon and took me on a tour of the rest of his property. He showed me the arching row of trees he and Angela had planted behind the house, and the pool he was building in the backyard. It all seemed like quite the accomplishment, especially considering it had all started by moving two sheds onto the property and getting wired into the Manitoba power grid. 

Afterward, we sat in the hot tub he’d acquired the previous winter in an attempt to shed some of the soreness from the long day of cycling we’d both had the day before.

Day 34: Blog Writing Catch-Up Day in Elkhorn, MB

Wednesday 16 June 2021

I unsuccessfully attempted to wake up early again on my second day in Elkhorn. In the mid-morning, we all sat down for brunch together. Angela had prepared delicious french toast and breakfast sausage meal for brunch. 

The rest of my day progressed similarly to the previous day. I sat down at my desk and dug deep for motivation to get a draft of this post written. Shortly after lunch, Scott and I broke up our workdays by going for a quick jog. I didn’t get much done in the afternoon either before we all sat down again for a pizza dinner. 

I decided to embrace my restful attitude after dinner and joined Scott and Conor for a round of Monopoly. That carried us late into the evening. Disappointingly, I lost. 

Scott and I planned to take the canoe out the following day and went to bed early in preparation. 

Day 35: Paddling the Little Saskatchewan River

Thursday 17 June 2021

At 8:00, Scott and I woke up for our Small Saskatchewan river canoe trip. We’d have to drive about an hour to get to the river. Before we left, we made coffee, french toast, eggs, and bacon swiftly, with the plan to load up the boat and get on the road by 9:30. We were successful and turned east toward Brandon on Highway 1 when we pulled off the rural dirt road where he lived. 

Gary, a friend of Scott’s, who would be paddling solo with us in his own boat, met us near the turn-off for the river. The extra vehicle would be used to shuttle up the river from the let-out point to the let-in point. 

We spent two and a half hours on the river, and Scott taught me some of the basics about reading and maneuvering in the river. It was nice to have a change in scenery and the type of exercise I was doing. Periodic splashes from the river were cooling in the hot afternoon sun, and use of the upper body instead of my legs was an unfamiliar but welcome change. 

I found Scott’s stories of his own epic adventure when he was my age fascinating. He’d decided to canoe from Edmonton to Winnipeg as a contrasting activity from sitting in the classroom to finish his degree. A passion for being in white water has followed him ever since.

After the paddle, we stopped in Brandon, the next big town on the Trans-Canada Highway east of where he lived. We had dinner there and slowly made our way back to his homestead outside Elkhorn.

Day 36: Blog-Writing Catchup Day in Elkhorn, MB

Friday 18 June 2021

On my last day in Elkhorn, I made a final effort to finish the work I had left on my agenda for the rest period: finishing a draft, revising a draft, processing images, and formatting. With a looming deadline, I was successful. In the afternoon, I sat down, added a few finishing details to my blog post about Stage 3: Fruitvale, BC to Canmore, AB, and shared it with the readers.

In the evening, Scott and I enjoyed a last dinner together while Angela finished a nursing shift at the hospital. Then I went to bed early to prepare myself for getting back on the road the following day.

The fifth was a stage of stark contrast. I went from challenging myself physically to the longest period of rest I’d had in five weeks. 

The transition was jarring but welcome. During the first half of the stage, I fought wind by day and avoided pestering mosquitos by night. Then, during the second half of the stage, I enjoyed a comfortable guest bed in Scott and Angela’s beautiful home. 

It was difficult to find the motivation to complete everything I had on my task list with the sudden change in routine, but I was able to enjoy the break. I finished the first half of my tour strong, with four century rides, and that was reason enough to take an extended period of rest. 

Gratitudes

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

  • Joel, Larry, and Kenny at Supreme Source for Sports in Kindersley for not only helping me get replacement parts but also for supporting my bike tour and training with a great deal on a Garmin Edge 530 bike computer,
  • Kaileen for co-hosting me during my stay in Naramata and for the very generous $100 donation supporting this blog and my cycle tour,
  • Benjamin for the $25 donation doing the same,
  • Barefoot Ted and Luna Sandals for sharing my story and blog on their Instagram page, and,
  • of course, all my friends and family for their sustained support.

Statistics

  • Total Distance: 2790km
  • Total Elevation: 16415m
  • Wild Animals: Black Bear (×1), Brown Bear (×1), Deer Tick (×1), Elk (× many), BigHorn Sheep (× many), Coyote (× many), Bison (× many)
  • Warm Showers: 8

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