Francois Cross Canada Adventure 2005 : Trip Diary

June 09, 2005 at 07:53AM
From: francois
June 9, 2005

Taber, AB to Medicine Hat, AB
KM Travelled Today: 121 KM, Total So far: 1362 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050609/

I woke up at 6:30 am this morning to find more rain. So I decided to wait as the forecast called for some warmer temperatures and for a slowdown in the rain . By 10am the rain was only a drizzle and I decided it was time to hit the road. With only two cups of coffee but no food yet in me, I headed east.

Approx 30 KM into my ride I found myself in a town called Grassy Lake which had a little restaurant and I stopped in. I ordered perogies and ham from the section of the menu that was labelled 'Mennonite Specialties'. The perogies were filled with cottage cheese and were covered in a delicious sauce. That hit the spot perfectly.

About 1 hour and 25KM later I arrived in Bow Island, which isn't an island at all, and I stopped in at a restaurant so I could get out of the rain. The waitress at this restaurant was very nice and she asked about my trip and we chatted for a bit. I ordered coffee and a berry cheesecake. The cheesecake was quite good but not nearly as good as the ones created by Marissa's cousin, Elizabeth.

Onwards I continued for an additional 35 KM when I noticed a placed called Premium Sausage on the side of the road. I was getting hungry again so I stopped in and grabbed some tasty pork jerky, beef jerky and pepperoni.

Now I only had 25 KM to go get to Medicine Hat. I decided to break that down into two sessions of 12.5 KM each. Normally I take riding breaks every hour. But after 100KM on the bike my butt, shoulders and lower back start to get tired and I like to take breaks more frequently.

I arrived at the Medicine Hat city limits at around 5:30pm and I noticed a sign that indicated that the tourist info centre was 6KM ahead. About 1 KM before the tourist info centre I ran into a hill and started climbing. Near the top of the hill I passed a cyclist and we started chatting. The cyclist's name is Doug and it turns out he's also heading across Canada on bike. We both proceeded to the tourist info centre. I inquired about motels with high speed internet and Doug inquired about campgrounds. Unfortunately Doug found out that the campgrounds are closed due to the tornado warnings and due to the flooding. I told Doug I was proceeding to the Comfort Inn and he mentioned he might end up there as well. We shook hands and I went on my way while Doug continued to chat with the tourist info centre folks.

Upon arriving at the Comfort Inn I was told that they were almost out of rooms and that they only had Jacuzzi suites left. The price was more than I was comfortable with but I was tired, hungry, and wet so I checked in. I told the lady at the front desk that another cyclist might show up and that if he does show up that I would be willing to share my room with him. About 15 minutes later I got a phone call from Doug. He was in the lobby and the lady at the front desk had conveyed by message. So we're roommates for tonight. Doug is from Nelson and started his cycling trip 3 or 4 days after I started mine. Its nice to have a fellow cyclist to chat with.

Overall today wasn't too bad. The rain was off and on the whole day but with the warmer temperatures I was reasonably comfortable. I'll be entering Saskatchewan tomorrow but not yet sure where I'll stop. The forecast is actually for sunshine tomorrow and I can't wait to see that.

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June 11, 2005 at 03:32PM
From: francois
June 10, 2005

Medicine Hat, AB to Tompkins, SK
KM Travelled Today: 141 KM, Total So far: 1503 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050610/

Woke up to glorious sunshine and managed to hit the road by 9am.

With nice warm weather and an absence of wind the ride felt almost effortless today. At 11am I crossed into Saskatchewan and by noon I had already travelled 75 KM.

Near Piapot I took an hour break at a tourist info centre. I refilled my water bottle and hydration pack and I enjoyed some pie and ice cream from the coffee stand located next to the tourist info centre. I also chatted with some nice folks from BC. One couple I met was from Nanaimo. I learned that they had moved to Nanaimo only two years ago and so I asked them lots of questions about Nanaimo since that is a place that my family and I are potentially interested in moving to. I met another couple from Agasiz who left home the same day that I started my bike trip. They are heading to Nova Scotia but on no particular schedule.

After leaving the Piapot tourist info centre I had a burst of energy likely due to the berry pie I ate and I pushed my legs hard until I reached Tompkins.

Tompkins has only one place with rooms and thats above Woody's Tavern. The rates were really affordable and so I decided to stay. As you can see from the photos the room is pretty basic but its comfortable. The bathroom and showers are shared facilities located halfway down the hallway. There's a good cafe a few doors down from the pub and I enjoyed a delicious chicken and perogy dinner there before returning to the pub for a couple of beers.

I think I will have a short day tomorrow and ride the 80KM to Swift Current. There aren't that many towns with motels along my route and so I have to plan the next few days rather carefully. If weather remains reasonable, I will be in Manitoba by Thursday.

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June 11, 2005 at 04:13PM
From: francois
June 11, 2005

Tompkins, SK to Swift Current, SK
KM Travelled Today: 83 KM, Total So far: 1586 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050611/

I had an aweful sleep last night. At around midnight the pub downstairs started playing really loud music and this lasted until about 3am. I guess I should have known better that to sleep in a room above a pub on a Friday night. Lesson learned and noted. In retrospect I should have passed Tompkins yesterday and stopped in Gull Lake instead which was only 24 KM farther along. Well, it was an adventure. If you are looking at the photos from yesterday, take notice of the TV and of the microwave (on top of fridge). They are both amazingly old. The bed was the lumpiest I'd ever slept on as well. Anyway, enough complaning. I'll just mention that the whole building should be comdemned and raised to the ground and I'll leave it at that. In all fairness to Tompkins, though, the people I saw and spoke to all seemed quite nice.

I woke up around 8:00 am this morning and immediately packed and left. I just felt I needed to get away from Tompkins for some reason. I didn't bother eating, I just left. It took about an hour to reach Gull Lake where I stopped at the restaurant in the gas station and had an outstanding breakfast. When the waitress brought over the massive pile of food, called The Truckers Special, she wished me good luck in finishing it. A few minutes later she came by, and with eyes open wide with surprise, she looked down at an empty plate. I told her that cycling make me hungry. After eating I went outside and started getting ready to ride when a nice gentleman approached me and asked where I was going. We had a nice chat for a good 10-15 minutes before I headed off.

The road before Gull Lake was rather rough and in desperate need of paving. It was bad on my butt and on my bike. The road after Gull Lake was freshly paved and that was heaven. The scenery is rather static in Saskatchewan. The rather flat fields are almost featureless except for the occasional grain elevator and passing train. One of the photos I took of the transcanada highway today highlights that point especially well. You can see the road almost dissapear into the horizon.

A couple of hours after Gull Lake I found myself only 15 KM out of Swift Current but I was feeling quite tired and I pulled off into a rest area. The rest area had plenty of picnic tables and I had a 20 minute nap on one of them. Feeling refreshed I plowed into Swift Current and checked in at the Comfort Inn which has WIFI high speed internet access.

After cleaing up I walked about 1 KM to the Bonanza restaurant only to find it had recently shut down. Plan B was Boston Pizza. I've had nice sunny skys all day today but now it seems they are dissapearing and getting replaced with dark ominous clouds.

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June 12, 2005 at 08:40PM
From: francois
June 12, 2005

Swift Current, SK to Moose Jaw, SK
KM Travelled Today:
172 KM, Total So far: 1758 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050612/

Today was a long day. Before leaving the hotel I checked my tires and realized that they needed a bit of inflating. While inflating the rear tire, the valve broke off from the tube so I had to replace the tube. Go figure - my first flat tire occurs in my hotel room.

By 9:30 I headed off on the road with the end goal of Moose Jaw, 172 KM away, on my mind. By noon I had travelled a paltry 45 KM due to a strong headwind and I decided to eat some lunch in a town called Herbert. I saw a couple of teen boys walking on the street and I inquired as to where I could eat. They were very helpful and told me of three nearby restaurants. The first place I went to was called Marnies and it was completely full so I left and went to a Chinese restaurant down the street which was also fairly busy but still had some tables available. While eating I met a local farmer, whose name is Richard, and we chatted for a bit. I mentioned to Richard that the headwind was making progress difficult and that I was now investigating possibly stopping at a motel before Moose Jaw. Richard mentioned that if I was tired of fighting the headwind I could stay at his nearby farm. This was the first time that someone had offered me a place in their home while on this trip and I was really pleased by the kind offer. I almost took Richard up on the offer to stay but in the end I decided I needed to continue making progress and so I decided I would continue to fight the headwind. Before leaving Herbert I ended up talking to one more gentlemen who asked about my trip and wished me safe travels. My impression of Herbert is that it is a wonderful town filled with kind people.

The headwind kept my speed in the range of 15-20 KM/hr, which makes progress slow. I also took short rest breaks every 15 KM which additionally slowed me down but they were necessary. On most days I think I would have just pulled into the closest motel and called it a day, but for some reason I was filled with motivation today and I decided I would make it to Moose Jaw even if it took me until 9pm (which it did).

Roughly midway between Swift Current and Moose Jaw is a town called Chaplin. You can't miss it because as you approach you find big piles of white stuff everywhere. It turns out that those piles of white stuff are salt deposits from Chaplin Lake. Seems Chaplin is also a good place to bird watch as well. If you are interested you can learn more about Chaplin at the following URL: http://www.sasktourism.com/chaplin/history.html. Before continuing on out of Chaplin I enjoyed a strawberry milkshake and spoke to a couple of the locals.

The rest of the day was rather uneventful except for the flat tire that occured about 60KM before reaching Moose Jaw. It was my front tire that had been punctured and I just patched it up and continued on.

At exactly 9pm I arrived at the Days Inn hotel in Moose Jaw. I was very tired and I concluded that today was the hardest day I've had so far on my trip. Several body parts were taking turns complaining, most notably my butt. I ordered in some food, as I was too tired to go anywhere and then I passed out on the bed.

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June 13, 2005 at 11:03AM
From: francois
June 13, 2005

Rest Day in Moose Jaw, SK
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050613

I spent a chunk of today walking around downtown Moose Jaw. Very nice place. I spent 2 hours checking out the Tunnels of Moose Jaw which was very cool and very informative. You can learn more about the tunnels at the following url:

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June 14, 2005 at 06:37PM
From: francois
June 14, 2005

Moose Jaw, SK to Regina, SK
KM Travelled Today: 85 KM, Total So far: 1843KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050614/

Today was an easy biking day. I enjoyed a bit of a tail wind as I rode the 75 KM from Moose Jaw to Regina. I stopped here in Regina because I wanted to have a chance to see the place, at least a little bit of it anyway. The approach to a big city in the prairies is interesting as you can see it for miles due to the flat terrain. I could actually see Regina at least 30 KM before I arrived.

I checked-in to my pre-booked hotel in Regina at 1pm. I mentioned that the room was pre-booked because it was actually very difficult to find an available room in this town as there is a farming convention going on. After dropping off my gear in my room I got back on my bike and cycled over to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, which was only 2 or 3 KM from my hotel, and I spent the next 2 hours there learning about the history of Saskatchewan and of the First Nations people. Very enjoyable and very informative. Afterwards I biked around various parts of downtown Regina. I managed to pass the parliament buildings, city hall, U of Regina and various other nice buildings which you can see in today's photos. The parliament building is located next to a lake which has a paved trail all around it. I cycled part of the trail and was stopped by a camera man and a lady who asked me if I was concerned with the increase in mosquitoes resulting from all the rain. I told them I had been too busy cycling to give it much thought. They asked me a few more questions and I answered and continued on my way.

After my city touring I went back to my hotel and noticed that there was an Earls restaurant across the street. Perfect. I went there for dinner and had a delicious steak. The food was just as good as the Earls restaurants in BC that I visit ever so frequently.

Tomorrow I'm going to get off of the transcanada highway. Apparently the transcanada has many sections with gravel shoulder in Manitoba and thats not a good thing. So I'll take the #48, eventually hook up with the #13 which then turns into the #2. The #2 will lead me right into Winnipeg. I don't expect these highways will have a paved shoulder either but I do expect the traffic to be lighter. The forecast for tomorrow predicts a 25 KM/hr headwind so I won't get very far.

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June 15, 2005 at 03:22PM
From: francois
June 15, 2005

Regina, SK to Regina, SK
KM Travelled Today: 20 KM, Total So far: 1863KM
Todays photos: n/a

I learned something today. Riding directly into a 44 KM/hr wind doesn't work very well. I gave it a shot though and after an hour and a half I realized it was a bad idea and I found a little motel on the outskirts of Regina. And guess who ended up being in the room right next to me? Doug did. Doug was the fellow I met back in Medicine Hat. He tried cycling through the wind and ended up abandoning the idea just like I did.

Its about 4:15 pm (Mountain Time) right now and I just finished watching a movie called Sahara in a local theatre that shows 2nd run films. Now I'm in a Java Express coffee shop and they have wifi service. The motel I'm staying in doesn't have a phone line in the room so I won't be connected this evening.

I hope that one of these days I get a 44 KM/hr wind at my back. I'll have to settle for a 10KM/hr at my back tomorrow though which is what the weather forecast is predicting.

June 16, 2005 at 05:02PM
From: francois
June 16, 2005

Regina, SK to Montmartre, SK
KM Travelled Today: 85 KM, Total So far: 1948KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050616

The weather man changed his mind during the night and decided today would be a headwind day again though fortunately not of the same magnitude as yesterdays. Doug and I rode together today and managed to chip away at the headwind and ride 85 KM to Montmartre, a nice little town, located on highway 48.

It was nice to travel with Doug today and it made the time pass much more quickly as we chatted most of the way. We made a few short rest stops along the way, and one longer stop for lunch in a town called Vibank. The lady who worked at the pub in Vibank is actually from BC and she didn't seem too pleased to be in her current location. She mentioned that she misses BC quite a bit but she also made hint that the crazy house prices there are keeping her away.

It was also nice to be off the transcanada highway today as highway 48 had a nice paved shoulder and very little traffic. Upon arriving into Montmartre I checked in at the only hotel in town which is adjacent to the pub. The room is nice and clean but has no phone line so I'm accessing the internet from the public library. The lady that works at the pub assured me that thursday nights are almost always quiet. I hope she is right.

Tomorrow the forecast predicts a headwind of 45 KM/hr and so if that turns out to be true, riding will be quite difficult. But I will likely try to reach the town of Kipling anyway.

Update: After finishing up at the library I ended up doing some laundry and stopping in at a place called Helen's Haircare because my hair was getting a little long and as a result it was making my head warm. I had a nice conversation with Helen while she was cutting my hair. She's a mother of three kids (2 boys and 1 girl) and she's been living in Montmartre most of her life. Helen did something that suprised me - she didn't charge me for the haircut. Montmartre hospitality is hard to beat :-) Now, let me back up just a little bit here. While I was getting my haircut a lady named Ingrid walked in to get haircuts for her kids. It turns out Ingrid and her family are from Burnaby. They moved to the Montmartre area only a few months back. About 3 years ago Ingrid found a house in Montmartre through the Internet and she purchased it for $7400 (thats not a misprint). For the last three Summers Ingrid and her family visited the house and they ended up liking the area so much that they decided to leave BC to move here permanently. The $7400 house wasn't really large enough for the whole family so they ended up buying a larger place along with 30 acres of land and from the sounds of it they are really enjoying it. Truly a cool story. I ended up talking to Ingrid and Helen outside for an additional 15-20 minutes after my haircut. They told me a lot about Montmartre and the way of life here. I was almost ready to buy a house here myself after hearing all the good stories.

After saying bye to Helen and Ingrid I walked down to the campground and found Doug having a little nap. I woke him up and we went to the Moonlight Cafe to have some dinner. Helen was also at the cafe with her three kids and she joined us and we talked further about Montmartre and about cycling across Canada.

I hope to visit Montmartre again someday as the folks there are some of the kindest I've met on my trip so far.

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June 17, 2005 at 09:41PM
From: francois
June 17, 2005

Montmartre, SK to Kipling, SK
KM Travelled Today: 64 KM, Total So far: 2012KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050617

I awoke this morning to a massive thunderstorm. I walked over to the campground to see Doug and we decided we would wait the storm out before hitting the road. By 10am the strong winds had blown the storm away. Unfortunately the strong winds themselves remained and after checking the most recent weather forecast Doug and I realized we would have a strong headwind all day.

We packed up and hit the road by approximaely 10:30am. It became evident that the best speed we could maintain was aroud 15 KM/hr. At many times during the day the wind actually reduced us to 10 KM/hr.

We made our usual short rest stops every hour and a longer stop for lunch in the town of Glenavon, where we enjoyed a soup, sandwich and a nice piece of pie.

We didn't reach Kipling until 6pm. The idea of riding all day and making very little distance can be somewhat depressing but I try to not let it get me down. Today I tried to focus on the scenery and on the fact that it wasn't raining, that it wasn't cold and on the fact that I was actually cycling across Canada. Thinking of these things distracted me from the depressing headwind.

Doug and I are sharing a room at the Kipling Motor Inn tonight and we're now both trying to plan our route for tomorrow. Speaking of Doug, I learned yesterday that he also stayed in Tompkins a few days ago and that he had a not-so-good experience there. Doug stayed at the campground in Tompkins which is located a block away from the pub/hotel I stayed at and he mentioned that someone tried to steal his bike during the middle of the night. At around 2am or so he was awakened by noise. That noise was someone trying to pull his bike away from the picnic table that it was chained to. Doug pulled out his flashlight and then he heard voices saying "Lets get out of here".

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June 19, 2005 at 05:40PM
From: francois
June 18, 2005

Kipling, SK to Reston, MB
KM Travelled Today:
160 KM, Total So far: 2172KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050618

I awoke at 7am this today and did a little work on the computer while Doug continued to sleep. At 8am he woke up and we went for breakfast in the hotel dining room. After breakfast we packed up and checked out and parted ways. Doug has decided that he's going to go back to the transcanada highway as there are more services there. I decided I would continue on the lower traffic route. Doug and I are going to try to hook up again sometime around or after
Winnipeg. I hope it works out as I enjoy riding with him.

The first 27 KM were a nice warmup. There was a slight wind from the South which had little impact at this point. When I reached highway #9, it was time to go South for 44 KM and that segment was a bit slower going due to the fact that I was going directly against the wind and also due to a bit of climbing through Moose Mountain Provincial Park. The Moose Mountain area was a very nice change as it was mostly forest area with several lakes, including the lovely Kenosee Lake. The road took me through White Bear Indian Reserve which has well-visited casino.

The descent out of Moose Mountain brought me to the town of Carlyle where I stopped at the tourist information centre to pick up a copy of the Manitoba Accomodation Guide. The lady working at the info centre mentioned that a few other cyclists had been there recently including the Feldmann family and she showed me the guest book to prove it. I then proceeded to enjoy some lunch at a nearby pub.

After my lunch I noticed that the winds had shifted direction and were now blowing gently from the West. This was perfect as I had now reached highway #13 and was now travelling East again. Finally, a tail wind!!! The next 70 KM seemed to go by rather quickly and I then found myself in Manitoba. There's no 'Welcome to Manitoba' sign. But if you turn around you can see the 'Welcome to Saskatchewan' sign. Also, as soon as you enter
Manitoba, the paved shoulder on the highway is replaced with a gravel shoulder. There's a photo that I took that shows this. I should also mention that I'm now in central time which is 2 hours ahead of Vancouver and 1 hour behind Toronto.

During the last 20 KM it started to rain a little but it was actually refreshing as today was hot and muggy. When I arrived in Reston I checked-into the Restin Motor Hotel which has a pub and cafe attached to it. The fellow working at the bar and front desk had never checked anyone into a room before so he had to call someone on the phone to be walked-through the process. I think I might end up regretting staying here. The TV in my room doesn't get any channels. There's a Star-Choice box hooked up to it but it doesn't work. I was later offered another room with working TV but I didn't feel like moving all my
stuff so I stayed put. There is no phone line in this room. The door to my room doesn't actually lock as it can't quite close enough for the latch to catch. When I'm in the room I can put the chain on the door, but when I leave the room I can't lock it at all. When I turn the lights on in the bathroom the fan also goes on and it sounds like a chainsaw. I hear this same chainsaw sound when someone in another room turns on their bathroom light. I'm also worried that there will be a lot of noise from the pub tonight since it is a Saturday. This is like Tompkins all over again!!!

I think I've decided that I'm going to go back to the Transcanada highway tomorrow. There is a lack of paved shoulder on it which makes it somewhat more dangerous due to heavier traffic but at least it will lead me into some larger towns, like Brandon and Portage La Prairie where I can get a reasonable room and some high speed internet access. The small towns seem to be hit and miss. Sometimes you get a nice gem like Montmartre and other times you get a total Tompkins. Its all part of the experience though and I'm actually pleased in to be getting all the flavours.

Unless storms and strong headwinds intervene I should be in Winnipeg by early afternoon on Tuesday where I will take a day of rest to do some site seeing.

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