Day 22 – Swift Current to Ponteix (Notukeu Regional Park). Ponteix is a very quiet town. So quiet in fact that when I stopped at the only open restaurant in town for my lunch, I scared the waitress half to death when I suddenly moved across the room to refill my coffee.
- Today’s Distance (miles/km): 56
- Time in saddle: 3h 56
- Max/min temp (°c): 32°/24°
- Climb/descend (feet) : 1,243 / 1,236
- Calories used:
- Cafe time: 2h 30
As I packed to leave Swift Current this morning (where I’ve had such a pleasant couple of days) I spoke with an elderly lady called Sylvia who was putting out her rubbish. “Do I hear an English accent?” she asked, after I’d called out a good morning. She was brought up in Dartford, England, and moved here with her husband 63 years ago. He had heard that land was cheap and wanted to become a farmer, but that never actually happened and he ended up in the grain trading business, which was like a stock market out here at that time (maybe still is). Then he died 11 years ago and she decided to stay on in the Trailer Court / Campground where they’d lived for many years (and where I’ve been staying). “I like my home and I have my little garden”. She told me how hard it’s been without him, but she’s a very bright and lively soul. A few years ago thieves broke into her trailer and took $26 and her treasured collection of cassettes, mostly old Gracie Fields recordings that she’s owned and loved for many years. She knows that they were just taking the beautiful box she had them stored in, and she says no doubt the tapes were all thrown in a ditch, but it still bothers her now. I used to play concerts quite often at the Gracie Fields Theatre in Rochdale (with stellar FOTB Gill from Tswassen!), and my friends Jane Fenton and George Salter came home from one gig with a Golden Labrador puppy, which they named, of course, Gracie. I’m going to try and get in touch with a Gracie Fields fan club or somesuch, to see if we can’t send a bit of music Sylvia’s way. Any suggestions welcome. Maybe a kind Canadian who could Amazon her a cd? I can pass on the details, but I can’t post stuff here from my UK account. It turned out that she really likes Smitty’s where I had breakfast yesterday, but is living on a small pension, so my $10 gift voucher found a very happy home.
My plan today was to head south (for the first time since Lake Louise in the Rockies) for about 40 miles or so, then pick up the famous Red Coat Trail (more on that in a later blog), Highway 13, and head east with the long-term goal of Winnipeg, but today just as far as Ponteix. I was powered mainly by the huge meal I ate last night at Boston Pizza in Swift Current, where I FaceTimed my big brother Oliver and his wife Laurice, at their lovely home in Delray Beach, Florida. I really enjoyed talking to them, especially without too much of a time difference for once after all these years of them living in the US. I find I always think of Ol when I’m in a Sports Bar drinking beer watching, er, sport. Hmmm, odd, eh? (That’s enough “eh?”s, eh? Ed)
I’m limited on my travel plans mainly by available campgrounds, let alone motels, so the distances now are just getting from one spot to the next. The road south was brand new unmarked asphalt for nearly 10 miles, and the wind blew me along, past some interesting old abandoned buildings:
The change in cycling after the Trans-Canada Highway was immense. Hardly any traffic, let alone trucks, and so much more wildlife. (Message to the Calgary Three – I strongly recommend getting off the 1 sooner than you planned!) There is often a moment when you’re sitting in the middle of a huge symphony orchestra counting a big chunk of rests, listening to the sweet sound of other people working hard, when a passage of music suddenly really catches your ear for its beauty, or spirit, or whatever, and you might just gently point the tip of your violin bow at the place in the music and say a quiet “Mmmmm”, to see if your desk partner shares the feeling. Some people might even pencil in a little smiley face, just to say “I like this bit”. It’s such a simple moment of shared pleasure that I always enjoy, and this morning as I rode along the sunny and deserted Highway 4 listening to a myriad assortment of birdsong, crickets and the gentle wind in the trees, I pointed a metaphorical violin bow at the map and said “Mmmmm”.
I have a spatial awareness blind spot. I can’t get my head around it being the same distance to go down a long way, across a long way, as it is to zig-zag. Zig-zagging feels like you’re cutting every corner, but as my wife Susie has patiently pointed out to me as we walk all around Toronto, the distance covered remains the same (unless you start walking diagonally across busy streets, across the apex of each corner). So I do get it, honestly Susie, I know you’re right, but it just doesn’t feel that way. Today was a case in point: I wanted to do lots of zig-zags, but made myself stay on the nice smooth highway, all the way to Cadillac, before a big left-hander to go east again. I’m so glad I did – what an unusual town, for me at least. Nothing open today unfortunately, but well worth the detour to have a brief look around:
I also picked up the Red Coat Trail east from here:
Another 10 or so miles of lovely cycling and I was at my destination for the day, Ponteix, where I was heading for the Notukeu Regional Park, promising camping and swimming, which I’m definitely in the market for today. First I stopped for lunch at a Mennonite-owned restaurant. No wifi, the young waitress told me, to make sure people talk to each other, which we did. I met Alan, travelling by motorbike, and we shared the differing problems of our two-wheeled choices. He’s a retired teacher and translator from Montreal, heading for Tofino on Vancouver Island, enjoying the freedom of a tapered free-lance-style retirement. One thing we absolutely share is the problem of turning our heavily-laden vehicles around slowly in a strong wind – his busted wing mirror told his tale, and my permanently greased-up and grazed right calf tells mine!
I also came across a possible Normal for Canada, but need some help from all you lovely Canadian friends-of-the-blog. Gravy with chips or burger I get (although this burger was on a big slice of bread) – I’ve tried it a few times in Ontario and loved it (remember the people making maple syrup the old way, with hot stones and a maple dugout, Jerry and Mayta? That was a good poutine day as I recall…), but orange jelly? Really? Canadians everywhere, tell me if this is NFC, NFSaskatchewan, or just normal for Ponteix. Hold the front page!! The waitress just told me it’s dessert! “It’s sort of our signature dish. Everybody loves it!” She brought me a new spoon so I could eat it as it was intended, without fries. So, NFP I guess.
Now I’m off to explore the Regional Park to see if it will be a real swimming spot or a buggy swamp…..ok, at the Park now, and it’s deserted and very nice indeed, although swimming’s off. I just met Hector mowing the grass who’s coming back at some point to get some cash off me, and he said they only filled the pool yesterday, and I’d scream at the cold if I went in. “Saturday we’re open. Water’s off tho’ – back on at 5pm today. Ok?” Thre’s a river where locals obviously swim so maybe I’ll find a way around the 9-hole golf course and dip a toe.
Signs that are funny
Not funny at all. If this is true, we should all move here as soon as possible.
A reference to a favourite Howard Moon (The Mighty Boosh) quote about his self-imagined cool lifestyle: “Crazy nights, lazy days”
And just one more – look Susie, another lime-green polo shirt! This is Towson, who agreed to having his picture taken when I explained the issue, and is living the lime-green dream. Susie has requested that I come back without my favourite lime-green polo shirt, and I’m building the case for a death-row reprieve. Ol, I know you’re with me on this, because you gave me another one, also from Florida. Key Lime Pies all round!
SPECIAL FEATURE!: Although I haven’t asked their permission. I’m including in the blog today three profoundly moving stanzas, created, as I understand it, on the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra tour bus (by FOTB friends in the band) as it wound its way through the night from their Aldeburgh Festival gig with the wonderful Mirga back to sunny brummy-on-the-wolds. High art truly needn’t be inaccessible, after all. Thanks to Helen Edgar for curating the collection, and also to all of the poets, for keeping these odes so clean as to be quite useable on the blog. I bet there were others, I can read your minds (please email them asap). And just FYI, for a little literary irony, Mahler 10 is the only one of the symphonies that I haven’t played!
There once was a fiddler called Ben
Who couldn’t face more Mahler Ten.
He built a fine bike
Said, “What’s not to like?”
And rode off to Saskatchewen
Ben’s burning a shed load of calories
He’s keeping those waiters in salaries
Wolfing pancakes and cream
He’ll speed like a dream
Let’s hope he has no nasty allergies
That Ben, he is oh such a groover.
His ride started on the isle of Vancouver
He’s asking for dosh
For the poor from the posh
But he sure does some shocking Manoeuvres.