Day 24 – Assiniboia to Weyburn. About two or three years ago I was thinking about this trip and how to approach it: tenting vs motels, heavy panniers vs credit card, doing it vs not doing it. So to get a feel for a typical day I just dropped a finger down at random on the map in the middle of the Prairies, and it landed on a place called Ogema (pronounced O-gama). I looked up the town’s website, did a google map search for cafes, motels, campsites etc, and generally got to know it better than most places I was planning to pass en route. Today I actually had lunch in Ogema.
- Today’s Distance (miles/km): 106 / 171
- Time in saddle: 6h 12
- Max/min temp (°c): 33°/13°
- Climb/descend (feet) : 1,398 / 2, 092
- Calories used: 5,947
- Cafe time: 3h 34
Since I new I had a long day ahead, and the wind direction was far from settled, I left by 7.30am, stopping outside a bar (!) where I had the wifi code to check weather, emails, and get in touch with my host in Winnipeg, John Silver, a cousin my wife’s Aunt Mayta in Toronto. It’s been hard for me to pin down an arrival day since I’m so at the mercy of the prairie wind but he’s been very relaxed and understanding about my approximate-ness. So off I went, and straight away it was clear that the wind gods had given me the all-clear for the day and would do whatever was needed to make life a little easier.
Wind is noisy, or should be, and when you cycle with the wind coming from anything but right behind you, you hear it the same as normal. But once it’s truly a tail wind, you’ll see every tree bending in it, every field of grass flowing with it, every bird battling it, but you won’t hear or feel a thing. You travel in a special bubble of silence and stillness. Except for the sensation, or suspicion rather, that someone is putting a very kind and welcome hand in the small of your back and giving you a free ride. “This one’s on me” is the message, and after days of battle it feels good to be immune. Today I reinstated my Tacking Game when the wind drifted from due west, but on a huge scale. Since the highway was all but empty as far as the eye could see this morning, I utilised the entire width of the road for my nautical manoeuvres.
On the subject of manoeuvres, there’s been a very interesting development in the straight vs zig-zag debate, a debate I thought to be dead and buried with myself as the comprehensive loser. But no. This just in from our Sam (“your wife” being his mum):
“…I’d just like to point out that your method of minimising zigzags is in fact the sensible option according to Newtonian dynamics. Though your wife is correct that it makes no difference in terms of distance, every time you change direction at a corner, you accelerate (might seem counter-intuitive, but acceleration is a vector, so has both magnitude and direction). Force = mass x acceleration, so you’re exerting more force (and therefore expending more energy) overall when you zigzag…”
I thought so, funny it’s only just occurred to me too, just now. One really should trust one’s instincts when it comes to Newtonian dynamics. However, in a controversial counter-argument, FOTB John Mills proposes the following:
“…What did Newton know anyway? Bet he couldn’t explain why giant chocolate buttons taste so good so what good is he…?”
I missed off the “or something” as a finishing oratorical flourish from the original to spare his blushes.. Oops, I’ve mentioned it. Sorry. Since Sam first got seriously into science he has been sending in answers to questions posted a the back of The New Scientist and getting many of them published. He just puts “Sam Buckton, Hertfordshire” and they never asked his age. The income from this will probably cover 4 or 5 days of his university education.
As I sped towards destiny (my lunch stop in Ogema) I was brought up short when a big coyote suddenly hurtled across the road, pursued by a flock of mobbing ravens. He was checking the traffic (none), checking out me, dodging raven beaks, but still managed to look composed and assured. Once off the asphalt he turned on the speed and shook of the bird attack whilst still making sure I was no threat (or potential lunch). Then he resumed a loloppping (sp?) pace across the field over on the right. I got a picture of his near-disappearance, as usual, and honestly it’s not worth posting.
One last event before lunch was the sight of huge elevator trucks conveying sand up a long conveyor belt, and then watching it all blow away again in the wind before ever joining the huge piles underneath. I got my cowboy mask on well ahead of this, thankfully. It was very sketchy cycling through it in the wind.
And so to Ogema, where the dream was born. It’s another lovely, quiet, tidy Saskatchewan town with a high street that could be a film set and a few relics of the past, including this old gas station:
Just as I took this a voice called out “Where you headed?”, the classic opener I’ve found. We got chatting and I asked about where to get lunch. He said “Follow me, let’s get a coffee” and led me straight to The Little Amego Inn. “See, it’s Ogema, backwards. A-m-e-g-o. Best place in town. I go there for breakfast and then coffee later every day”. Let’s say his name was Bill, as after talking to him for a hour or so I got the clear message that he’d rather not be named.
Inside it was almost pitch dark after hours on the road, the Venetian blinds sensibly turned flat against the heat of the midday sun. My host sat me down, got the coffee pot and two cups, poured the coffee then went round the tables pouring everyone else’s, all of whom knew him. That’s Bill on the left.
I had a pretty serious second-breakfast appetite by now after 50 miles in the sun, and inspected the menu. The “Hungry Man’s Breakfast Plate” leapt out at me, but it was served until 11am, and it was 11.07. I asked at the till and the waitress called out “Can he have the Hungry Man? It’s gone 11?” The owner wandered out, very laid back in apron and hairnet. “Sure, he can have breakfast. Serve the man”
So Bill was from “Merseyside” originally, came out to Canada with his Dad, got sent home again “for puttin a boy in a coma”, came back after his dad sorted things out, spent an unbelievable amount of time getting in fights, being stabbed, shot, arrested, put on trial, pardoned, you name it. He’d had two wives, a son and daughter, but lived alone in town. He was the friendliest guy, but I just believed every word, the way often in these situations you find you don’t. After my huge breakfast and countless cups of coffee he said “I only live around the corner, come and see my place. Stay 5 minutes then you’re on your way”. I paid and followed him to his place, where we were greeted by two overweight dogs that clearly hated the sight of me, or my bike helmet. After a quick guided tour, he said “If you change your mind about biking, I’ll get some strip steaks and beers and we’ll sit out and cook ’em up”. I declined and thanked him for all his time and set off east again. After 10 miles I was overtaken by a black station wagon, that pulled in and out got Bill. “Is that charity for kids? Here you go, that’s for the kids” and gave me a generous donation.
The other day I recommended a film to Gill and Stewart in Canmore – Spirited Away by Miyazaki. Our Sam is also a huge Studio Ghibli fan, and he would have liked the train track I saw running over the water by the road, a reference to very famous moment in the film.
The final home straight to Weyburn was a long straight road, perhaps the most unvarying of my trip so far, and was being resurfaced with useless patches loose gravel that made every mile a pain and meant my cowboy mask was back on to keep out the huge clouds of dust from the trucks. I was very glad to arrive, shop for food, and get set up here at the lovely Riverside Campground, in the town park. Full of happy kids and nice places to sit and write this. An English couple arrived as I went to shower, Pauline & Paul, and said they’d follow the blog, so welcome!