Another wordy one, but too many great interactions not to share. Who woulda thought the prairie days would be so eventful!
The more I’ve gotten further away from home and into these rural prairie villages, the more curious people seem to get, and as a result the more they tend to want to strike up conversation.
That’s one of the parts that I really like. People are clearly not rushed, and not just with me, but you can see that human simple human interaction is very much still present everywhere.
Such a nice sight to see and experience!
For example, as I was filling up my water bottles outside of the campground on my way out, a truck rolled past me, and we waved at each other. From the corner of my eye, I see the same truck back up right up to me, and the window rolled down.
The old man driving asked me “What are you doing here??” with a great big smile. His name was Ken. We just chatted, with him still in the middle of the road, and I filled him in on the trip and my goals to get to Newfoundland. “So you’re going out to see the whole country hey?” he asked, still with that pure grin of his. He wished me all the best, and I just loved the simplicity of the interaction. This wasn’t even the first of the day and I hadn’t even gotten going yet!
Country Breakfast at V’s
Ken had also told me about the one and only restaurant in town, “V’s Place”, where I excitedly made my way to get breakfast.
The place was packed, all locals, some wearing cowboy hats, and old country songs playing on the radio. This was as authentic as it could get.
Everyone knew everyone, and were catching up on their weeks, how their chicken were, etc…
Knowing I had a heavy mileage day ahead, I ordered a massive breakfast (well, two “normal” breakfasts.) Once the tasty food arrived, one lady came up to me and asked “How do you stay skinny??”
A very valid question, considering the carb-loaded feast I had in front of me.
Biking. A lot of biking.
Highway Safety Concerns
Pat, one of the guys sitting at the back of the restaurant, later gave me a really good safety reminder that you cannot trust these drivers in the prairies. A few years back, he had met somebody doing a similar cycling trip, who sadly did not make it back.
A combination of sun getting in drivers eyes, and extremely straight repetitive road can take away from their focus.
Even though I’ve already been doing everything in my power to ensure I’m safe, just hearing that certainly reminded me of the risk of doing this trip. He wasn’t even the first person in Saskatchewan to warn me.
Here are some things that reassure me, and might reassure you too. The first being that since I’m riding from West to East, usually in the afternoon and evening, the sun blinding people isn’t a factor. Another point, is that there seems to be way less traffic on these highways during the pandemic. Lastly, I’ve been taking the very far right side of the shoulder whenever possible, to distance myself from incoming vehicles and give them plenty of reaction time.
I’ve noticed that the quality of highway shoulder maintenance dropped drastically ever since entering Saskatchewan.
It’s riddled with potholes, rocks, and other debris.
You have to constantly be in max focus mode, which can be draining in itself.
Flat Tire #1
After making it through the worst of the rough shoulders, I had just started thinking about how my tires had been absolute tanks for me so far.
Well, surely enough, later that day and about 100km into my ride, the back tire was flat. It had caught a tiny nail on the side of the road.
As silly as this sounds, this is something that had always given me a bit of anxiety going into this trip. I’ve never actually had a flat tire in my brief cycling “career”, and the idea of not being able to sort it out and being left stranded somewhere on the side of the highway wasn’t particularly enticing.
Well, I didn’t even feel stress in that moment. I just knew this was my opportunity to figure it out, and get it done.
Roadside Moral Support
Of course, it was a bit of an adventure, and a girl driving home from work, who probably felt bad watching my struggles, pulled over to see if I needed anything. She had some bike department connections from her job that she was willing to text right away! Yet another example of a random act of kindness, ahh! I was pretty determined to give it a try myself first. Emily was her name. After meeting her, we exchanged contacts. And she carried on back on her way home.
Also, one of the first things she had said was “I think I’m following you on TikTok!” It’s funny because another guy, who happened to be doing this same trip as me from Vancouver (who started a few days before I did) has been making headlines on TikTok, and I had a few friends send me his videos right away. So random! I had thought about creating a TikTok series, but also I knew video editing would destroy my precious battery life. Props to him though!
Anyways, back to the task at hand, it took me a while, but I figured out how to take off the tire, replace the tube, and put it back on, and before sunset I was ready to get back on the road and finish off the day.
Also, the bugs were absolutely AWFUL. I had never seen that many mosquitoes on me at one time. Probably had about 20 at the highest.
Calling It a Day
While I hadn’t hit my destination goal for the day, it was clearly time to pack it in and rest up for the night.
As I rode a couple more KMs down the highway, I passed the “Waldeck” sign, and remembered Emily mentioning it. I texted her right away to see if I could eventually crash in her backyard.
While she wasn’t actually staying there for the night, she instead kindly met up and walked me to a nearby “abandoned” field where I could set up camp. It was also cool to hear about her ambitions to work in wildlife conservation.
She also gave me this timely farewell gift; a nice upgrade to the tiny spray bottle of “Off!” that I had.
After parting ways, and 5 mins into arriving at this field, the owner pulled up in her car, and asked me “What are you doing??”
Right away, I walked over, and explained my situation. And she was totally accommodating. Her only concern was that I didn’t make a fire, because the soil was so dry (which I wasn’t intending to.)
- Route: Tompkins, SK —> Waldeck, SK
- Distance: 100km
- Elevation Gain: 387m