Day 27 – Treherne to Winnipeg. The rain is coming down steadily, the wind is picking up, there’s a chill in the air, and guess what? I’m still in the deserted Tallboys Bar/Grill/Motel, Treherne eating toast and drinking coffee. I’m packed and ready to go. I just haven’t actually managed to go yet.
- Today’s Distance (miles/km): 75
- Time in saddle: too long
- Max/min temp (°c): 20°/9°
- Climb/descend (feet) : 112 / 460
- Calories used: 3,150
- Cafe time: not enough
It’s proved hard to estimate my arrival in Winnipeg, where I will sadly just miss my wife’s relative John Silver, but have been promised an excellent stand-in, his son Lucas. I’ve had excellent internet signal here which has told me many things I wanted to hear (well done Sam!!) and a few I didn’t (bad job, Easterly wind and rain next week).
As predicted, a great response to the Ironic Cycling Songs. First, these from John Mills:
Climb Every Mountain in a hideous mash-up with The Heat Is On
(Sorry, you’ll have to find your own The Heat Is On – I have low tolerance)
And from FOTB Amyn Merchant, a cornucopia:
(I used to have a very low Sedaka-threshold too, but then we saw him live, for free, at a Toronto Summer Festival and I admit it, he was great! He’s a really funny and off-hand storyteller too)
My personal favourite, Mull of Kintyre (inspired choice, Amyn)
I could go on (Magical Mystery Tour, Fixing a Hole, Carry That Weight, great list) but you know how YouTube works so go and enjoy them all if the mood takes you! Thanks John and Amyn.
Anyway, enough of that – back to Crossing Canada! I only got about 15 miles down the road before I arrived at one of the very few possible stops today, St. Claude. It was actually the sister place of my stopover last night, another Tallboys. I should pick up a loyalty card. Stopping for coffe and a bun was not a difficult decision as the wind howled and the rain llashed down.
Yaaay – a booth! (I wish you could smell the warm cinnamon buns, but then I’d have to fight you for them)
I realised as I cycled here that I haven’t talked much about the Manitoba terrain. I just met Ray, and local tractor service manager and keen cyclist, and we discussed the amazing similarity between here and Northern France. I try and do a big end-of-season ride there every year in September, work permitting, called la Ronde Picarde starting in Abbeville. I’ve gone twice with FOTB Doug Coleman, and once together with another FOTB, Rob Yeomans. The stop at the hypermarche on the way home for wine, cheese, bread and assorted Frenchness is just as important as doing the ride., but it’s a wide-open rural ride with locals out on the street waving merrily as you trundle through their villages and farmyards, followed by a big pasta-party, food included in the cost of the ride. Ray said he’s longed to travel to France and I suggested he look in to la Ronde Picarde. Ray, if you decide to do it one year, get in touch and we’ll try and team up. I’ve been kind of considering it this year, but I’m not sure how close to a bike I’ll want to get by September…
I hadn’t realised how much I’d acclimatised to Saskatchewan, so when trees suddenly came back in to my life they gave me a bit of a shock. It felt so familiar, also echoing another area I know pretty well, Norfolk. The difference, as ever in Canada, is the scale. Even Northern France is modest by comparison. The contrast made me appreciate how much I’ve had to adapt to an environment I’m completely unfamiliar with, for all its beauty, so I’ve sort of eased into Manitoba.
A few miles down the road out of St Claude I stopped over on the left to take a picture of this fine display of civic pride:
As I slowly got back up to road speed again, a young fox suddenly shot out in front of me at breakneck speed and careered up the road a little, before dipping onto the Manitoba “hard shoulda” (a useless, deep gravel beach that fringes the highways for miles, of no use to anyone, esp cyclists). A frantic barking from the left told me that the fox was not alone. Running full tilt across the beautiful farmhouse lawn were two hideous looking guard dogs, hell bent on destruction. As they hit the highway, however, they had lost the chance of ever catching the fox (who had now slipped into the long grass and was halfway across the field). It was my misfortune that they transferred their murderous intent straight to me, for want of anything better. They howled and gnashed and headed straight for me, so I put on the best burst of speed I could manage in the wind and pulled away a little, but couldn’t keep it up. Within a few moments the dogs had come alongside me, one on either side of the bike, ears flat and curling their lips and snarling in that ugly way that tells you you’re in trouble. I’m right-footed, so I unclipped my right foot from the pedal, thinking that if I was going to have to swing a boot, I’d better make sure I made a nice clean contact with it’s head. I really wasn’t keen on trying this since I knew it would probably flip my bike at the same time, and then what? What if I miss and flip the bike? So as a last resort I took a deep breath and let out the most bloodcurdling howl of my own that I could muster, which I would probably spell as “Howoorahrahrahrahrahrah!”. To my happy amazement, the bigger dog to my right instantly lifted its head, ears up, changed its bark and slowed down, and was followed a worrying moment or two later by the other one. They both peeled off, job done, and headed home with the odd woof, leaving me with a sore throat.
I released my stress and andrenaline in the time-honoured English way, through irony. As I caught up with fox sitting happily in the field, I thanked him in some detail for leaving me to take the heat for his misdemeanours, and wished him all the best against the two dogs in the future. I also congratulated the dogs’ owner for his great work in keeping the vicious brutes under control. When I thought about the two guard-dogs my irony failed me, and I was just glad it had worked out the way it did. I thought about Groundhog Day again, where the same day happens over and over in the same way. If I had this day again, I could have one more cup of coffee in St Claude, the dogs would chase the fox, fail to catch him, go home and go back to sleep. Cue the English bloke on the bicycle passing uneventfully out of town.
Several fairly unpleasant hours of cycling later (Manitoba, I’m begging you to tarmac those shoulders) I found myself finally in downtown Winnipeg, having stopped off at my kind hosts place before heading out to get supper. A good house red goes a long way. Tomorrow is – wait for it- a FREE DAY! Please expect a lull in blog activity, and a few others as well.