Day 29 – Winnipeg to Kenora (Black Sturgeon Lake)

Day 29 – Winnipeg to Black Sturgeon Lake. Today started as the first day of my second month on the road in Canada, and ended as one of the most eventful days so far. The blog will be slightly longer today!

  • Today’s Distance: 143
  • Time in saddle: 9h 22
  • Max/min temp: 35°/12°
  • Climb/descend: 2090/1706
  • Calories used: 7,221
  • Cafe time: 2h 16

Heading out of Winnipeg this morning I’d been warned by the Calgary (now) Two to expect a lot of construction work on Highway 1 East (they traveled this way a couple of days ago) with hard shoulders unusable. As it turned out they had been busy on the roads since, and I flew along mint condition asphalt for many miles with another lane shut for good measure. 

A few miles further on I heard a bike bell behind me and met Trevor, the first cyclist I’ve linked up with actually on the road since starting my trip. He was heading for his uncle’s house beyond Kenora and within a few minutes he’d invited me along if I wanted to crash there. He was formerly a criminal lawyer in Winnipeg who had ditched it in favour of retraining to move into medicine, so was in the middle of science studies. We had a great time chatting about all of that and enjythe unusually peaceful trans-Canada ride. I had just stopped for a bacon sandwich and coffee before we met but after a while we pulled up at gas station for lunch for Trevor and more coffee and a cinnamon bun for us both. As if to order, the place had great wooden booths, and I suddenly realised that he had a lime green shirt! I welcomed Trevor to the blog with honorary status. 

After each making two gigantic toasted cinnamon buns disappear (the cafe is famous for them)

 we got back on the road. Kenora was the furthest I’d planned to go today but the fine weather and Trevor’s local knowledge made me accept his offer and join him for the extra miles. 

We made great speed, eventually getting to the Manitoba/Ontario border and crossing into my fifth Canadian province. 

We’d been following a huge line of stopped traffic, ringing our bells for motorists taking a walkabout, and finally reaching the scene of an accident. This, combined with the construction, had created a summer car nightmare of a day, where for once the bike was king. Even motorbikes weren’t able to jump the stuck cars. 

As we passed the scene we started getting questions shouted about the snarl-up. For about 15km we just kept saying “About 2km to go!” to keep it simple! It was so striking that after being so much in minority on the bike we suddenly had everyone’s full attention as we sailed along. At around 110 miles into the ride I stopped to buy water, where a kind lady drinking coffee offered to buy it for me, seeing my charity shirt. The owner piped up “Hell, he can have it on the house!”

As predicted by Jerry and Mayta (Susie’s uncle and aunt) on the phone yesterday, the countryside became incredibly beautiful as we progressed into Ontario, lakes and trees and gigantic cuttings through rock for the curvaceous highway. We arrived at Trevor’s uncle Wayne’s stunning house by the lake in late afternoon, tired and thirsty, and were made very welcome with cold beers on the deck. 

After a shower and a change of clothing, Wayne suggested showing us the lake in his pontoon boat, and we gladly accepted. 

Lying peacefully on the bench you will see that I brought my uke along at Wayne’s request, a decision that turned out to be more important than you might imagine. 

The lake is pretty spectacular, not too huge but so varied, with islands, loons, impressive properties, and, wait for it, many reefs. The sun went down and we were making our way slowly back to the dock:

…when suddenly there was an almighty lurch and the boat felt like a car hitting a speed hump. The engine cut out, never to restart, and we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Scouring the boat it transpired that there were no paddles, and despite calling every number imaginable we couldn’t find anyone who could come out and give us a tow, it being late at night but early in the season. The local golf club on the lake, who at least answered the phone, just laughed and refused to help. Wayne has vowed to have words with his buddy, the owner, when he’s back at the club. Time stretched, the sun set and the options shrank. Wayne tried everything to restart the motor and used bait boxes to paddle, a spare battery was tied to a rope and used to try and anchor- drag us toward shore but nothing really worked. At this point I looked long and hard at my uke and thought “You’re starting to look a lot like a paddle”. 

This is the only photographic record of what we did next. The uke proved perfect for the job, with handgrasp (the head) a neck and a decent paddle (the body) with the only problem of it regularly filling up with water! We realised, as we all started padddling with anything that came to hand, that the shore lights were coming closer and with enough effort we were going to make it back. By 1.30am a very long day indeed reached a welcome end, and after huge glasses of water and some home-smoked trout we began seeing many more funny aspects of the evening than we had previously. 

Exhausted, I fell asleep in seconds, thinking about mustering the energy in the morning for another day CrossingCanada2017. 

(One waterlogged uke recovering on shore)

25 thoughts on “Day 29 – Winnipeg to Kenora (Black Sturgeon Lake)

  1. What an amazing day!! And let’s hear it for your Uke and ingenuity! Solo trip becomes Duet, biking on paved roads, through (later) tragic snarls, to crossing into another Provence , with cinnamon buns, to resting in Kenora, to boating, hitting reefs … and padding musically back to shore … WOW! What a day – and sooo delightful to read about it from my warm condo (which welcomes you later in July!) in Toronto! I love your blog, Ben❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, Ben! Words do not express how much I’ve been enjoying following your adventures, and this just may be my favourite day yet! Cannot wait to see you (and Susie) in Toronto, and actually hopefully get to spend some time hanging out. We’ve all been reading your blog, and it’s fair to say that you’ve got a Swedish fan club. All the best to you on your Ontario travels; see you in a few weeks in the Six! (Drake reference, I’m such a hip mother of teens….) Lots of love from us all in Sthlm ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Even the uke is having its own adventures. WHAT a day, and what distances. Is it slower of faster when you’re with another cyclist?xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ben, this is all just amazing! The pontoon is very familiar as it is more or less identical to the one Moira and Lee had on the river outside their condo in Napa, in which we had many adventures, including Lee falling in on one occasion. At least you didn’t do that. But it must have been quite scary all the same. Another thought; there’s much talk here now about the 150th anniversary, and it occurred to me that your grandfather Percy Buckton was born the year after the birth of Canada, 1868, and that when i was there in 53 it was only 86. At that time there were still frequent fond references to “the old country”. I wonder if that’s still the case? I guess probably not so much now.

    I hope you recover (you and the uke) and sleep well and are up for the next bit. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Not sure whether I am more astounded by your amazingly swift progress across Canada or your ingenious use of a uke – congrats on both! It must have very concerning for a while, drifting out there without power. Very glad there was a happy end to your adventure.

    Hope you get a chance to rest up. Keep the blog posts coming – wonderful!


    Liked by 1 person

  6. no mo playa ukaleyla in saskatch you wanna piddle the paddle back home no mo moto in the boto take a note o uwan terrio engine country now soon see a loon a stick a paddle see you soon ends june on thy big bike a loon ukulele play a tune and see you soon.

    sea and hear:

    On 27 June 2017 at 08:59, Cycling Solo Across Canada Summer 2017 wrote:

    > Ben Buckton – Crossing Canada 2017 posted: “Day 29 – Winnipeg to Black > Sturgeon Lake. Today started as the first day of my second month on the > road in Canada, and ended as one of the most eventful days so far. The blog > will be slightly longer today! Today’s Distance: 143 Time in saddle: 9h 22 > M” >


  7. Uke as a paddle – must be a first! As a teacher I am always trying to get pupils to look after their instruments … so I feel like this should be all wrong…. but I can’t stop laughing! Thank goodness you had the uke with you and you thought of using it! I must tell the children in assembly tomorrow! 🚴🎶xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Ben,

    Woke up to this and had a good laugh – but I really have to stop reading your blogs over breakfast as I’m developing an overwhelming urge to eat cinnamon buns!

    I guess you’ll have to change your “Riding my bicycle home” lyrics to:

    Paddlin’ my uk-a-le-le
    A watery strum
    But havin’ some fun
    Paddlin my uk- a-le-le.

    Shared your blog with my dad today – who was very concerned about the state of your ukelele. I assured him it wasn’t like it was a Stradivarius, but we would all like to hear what it sounds like when and if it drys out.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your version! Record it yourselves! And did you say cinnamon buns, Enid? Mmmm, I could just eat one now. Whipped butter on the side, the warm air rising from the…..STOP. going to bed now. More calories in the morning (probable DQ stop with all the trimmings. The high life) Bx


  9. There needs to be a song about this epic day! Imagine if you’d brought your fiddle instead of the ukelele!! Oh boy! Keep it going Ben, your story just gets better every instalment :))

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ben,

    I can’t believe its taken me this long to finally comment on this post. Thanks again for letting me be a part of your journey. You’re truly an inspiring guy, and I will always remember that day as one of my favourites of all time. Your retelling of the story is likely something that will be passed on to many generations.

    Glad to read you’re safely back at home, though I’m sure the safety of home isn’t always what’s desired. I know I certainly feel that way. You’re a hell of a cyclist and a hell of a human being.

    Your friend,

    P.S. I bought a paddle of my own, just in case I get stranded with Uncle Wayne again (maybe I’ll learn a tune or two in the meantime).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s