Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 12th, 2007. Distance: 156, Odometer: 2303
Regina - Broadview, SK

I'm learning that leaving the city early in the morning is key. City riding is the worst what with the lack of shoulders and people confused about the rules of the road and how they apply to cyclists with 110lbs bikes. The worst is that a lot of people in Regina cycle on the sidewalks, which is a big no no. It gives drivers the wrong impression. Anyway, getting out of the city today was stress free and my time at the hostel left me well rested, well fed and well ... just well! I pushed hard today and had lots of energy. There was a little wind which was nice. I didn't even listen to music at all today - my thoughts alone carried the day away. I thought about Ghana and my buddy Michel out in Halifax, and what a time I'm going to have when I get there. These are the sorts of things I think about. Like how I want to volunteer in a hospital in Ghana while I'm there to check things out or when and how I'm going to teach myself to speak French, an important goal of mine. You know, things like that. Today was a day that made it easy for my thoughts to roam around the pastures that are my brain, and I liked it.

The best thing happened to me today. At around 5 pm I was stopped on the highway by a guy who pulled over on the shoulder. He had honked at me a few hundred meters before, but I thought he was honking 'hello' to someone else. Turns out this guy's name is Perry and he's a fellow cyclist and when he saw me cycle past his motel he want me to stay at his place as a guest. Motels are out of my budget but I'm completely open to philanthropy. He and I chatted about his family and previous cycling experiences and he put me up in his "Sweet Dreams Motel" in Broadview. It's a great little spot and with the money I saved on lodging for the night, I treated myself to a restaurant meal next door which was tasty. Meeting Perry made me feel great and made me want to be in the position to help out people like he has. Thanks a lot Perry and thanks for the post cards!

June 11th, 2007. Nothing.
Regina, SK

Slept in and hit the town. Read and relax. GOT THE JOB IN GHANA! Will leave for Accra September 15th. Can't wait. Doing research on health care worker migration. Anyway, it's a great day and I'm really loving Regina. I'm not sure why I didn't have high hopes of this place, but, as I've said, I'm pleasantly surprised. The hostel is still pretty much empty but I met a girl passing through from Japan. It was nice speaking to her about her country because I really want to go there some day, maybe to teach English but I'm apprehensive to go for a number of reasons and we spoke of them. One day I'll go there. I promise, Ayumi!

June 10th, 2007. Distance: 82 km, Odometer: 2137
Moose Jaw - Regina, SK

Today was probably the most difficult day yet. I thought difficult days were left in BC, but it turns out that the wind is a formidible opponent. It was head-on today at 25km/hr which made my average speed the worst of any day (15km/hr), even when climbing mountains. The deal with cycling into the wind is that it's relentless. This may seem obvious, but for every up hill, there is a down hill which provides a temporary break from cycling hard. There are no breaks with a head-on wind, and what's worse, the faster you ride, the stronger the force is against you. It's very psychologically difficult - demoralizing, really. Usually in situations like these, I'll listen to music to keep my brain busy, but as if in an attempt to add insult to injury, the sound of wind in my ears made the music inaudible. Dealing with this while chugging along at 15 km/hr on a bike acting more like a sail than anything else, all while the site of Regina is sloooooooooowly creeping up to meet me. It was neat to see Regina's buildings and trees from miles and miles away, but having to look at it for hours without reaching it is another story.

I'm surprised by Regina. Saskachewan is relatively empty until you reach this city, filled with people and tall buildings, parks and trees everywhere. It really seems like it would be a fun place to live at least for a while. I'm staying at a Hostel International (HI), which is a network of hostels throughout Canada and the world, of which I'm now a member. They're fairly cheap ($20-$30/night) and allow me to cook meals in a kitchen and be in the middle of the city. Just as with all the campsites I've been to, the hostel is completely empty and even the staff leave the house at 10pm, which left the entire place to me. I figured out that I've ridden 800 km in the past 7 days without a day off so I'll spend another night here to get some blogging done and check out the city.

June 9th, 2007. Distance: 179 km, Odometer: 2055 km
Swift Current - Moose Jaw, SK

The scenery is pretty much the same as the past couple of days: flat, tree-less, lots of grass and few turns in the highway. A turn in the highway is more like a point of interest around here. But, unlike the warning of many people I've encountered, I wasn't any more bored than on previous rides. People driving through are always saying these parts are boring, but they're just sitting there, barely moving the steering wheel. I'm actually doing something which makes a difference I think. And I'm realising that I don't get bored easily. My thoughts can amuse me to no end. For example, I was thinking about what it would be like to raise children in this part of the country - the part where there are only flat, grasslands everywhere you look, and I came up with this dialogue between a father and his young daughter from Saskachewan:

"What's a tree like, Daddy?"
"It's like grass but taller and with bark."
"Like a dog?"
"No, not like a dog. Like wood. Now it's bedtime, go to bed."
"... Daddy? What's a hill like?"
"It's just ground that slopes up and down. Now go to bed."
"... Daddy? Do hills grow on trees? Or is it the other way around?"
"Go to bed!!"

When I thought of this, I laughed to myself for a good half hour. Probably longer, but I won't admit it since it seems strange enough as it is. I really mean it when I say I can amuse myself to no end. Between listening to music, singing to myself and coming up with crazy stuff like the dialogue above, my day gets pretty busy. Sometimes I even have to schedule lunch so I don't miss it. Just kidding.

The crazy distance I did today was the result of my goal of reaching Moose Jaw. I left at 9am and 8 hous of riding later I completed that goal and am now staying in a cool campsite that has free internet. One of the nicest things about riding solo is that my pace and how long I ride for is completely up to me, which may not sound like a big deal, but when all I do is ride, day in, day out, it's a big deal. Like today I knew if I pushed it I could make Moose Jaw. If my partner was less optimistic or fit, we wouldn't have made it. On this trek, it's like everyday there's a goal to complete, a campsite to reach or a distance to cover and since it's only me, I set the terms to reach that goal. There are no compromises that need to be made. And no let downs if I don't make the goal, because it's only my fault. I really like that. I like knowing that every step of the way is completely my responsibility and my doing. And I'm totally free to push as much or as little as I like. And lately, I feel like pushing a lot. So I will. And I am.

June 8th, 2007. Distance: 136 km, Odometer: 1877 km
Maple Creek - Swift Current, SK

I had a great day today which started off with me kicking ass on my Ghanian telephone interview which I took while at the campsite. I had to explain to the gentlemen that the sounds of birds and wind were from me being in a campsite, which lead me to explain my circumstance. They were impressed which started the conversation on the right foot. My Dad's going to kill me though, since he's been picking up the tab on the cell phone bills and incoming calls from Ghana I'm sure aren't cheap. I'll get it reimburced, I'm sure. The best part about the contract is that I can leave whenever, giving me the time to complete the tour in a way that isn't rushed or amputated. The ride today was great as well. The roads are straight and flat and there are only farms everywhere the eye can see. There was a sexy tail wind that had me finish riding in 5 hours with a distance of 136km. I figured I'd pick my daily distance up a notch since I've been inspired by Marcelle and I feel great. I also met a physics student from Dalhousie named Messkie. We rode for a while together but his faster pace had him shooting for Moose Jaw today. He said he heard about me in Medicine Hat - a guy with yellow panniers... That's me. I guess I'm getting famous. Now I'm at a campsite, showered and in clean clothes and ravenous for supper.

June 7th, 2007. Distance: 97 km, Odometer: 1741
Medicine Hat, AB - Maple Creek, SK

I had the perfect day today. I got up early despite having slept poorly (rude motel neighbours) and cycled to the grocery store - $70 and several kilograms later, I returned with a ton of food and headed out for the library to work on the blog and doing to urgent emailing. I applied for an internship with the UN and had an interview in Calgary for it, but today I found out I didn't get the position, which is fine because I also found out that I have another interview for another internship in Ghana. The ride from Medicine Hat was amazing. There was an awesome tail-wind which gave me a great average speed for the day - about 100 km in under 4 hours. When I got to a campground, I wasn't nearly tired but stopped to enjoy the day. The Eagle Valley Campground is by far the nicest I've been to, with nice washrooms, a lagune-type pool and even a tiki-bar playing salsa music - too bad it's empty which as been par for the course lately - only me and a few retired folks. Great times. Tonight I met my first trans-Canada cyclist. His name is Marcelle, a french guy from Gatineau, QC. He's recently retired at the age of 64 and is doing the same ride I am, solo, but at a blistering pace - something like 200 km a day. I felt lazy when he went through his travel diary with me. He's riding really light too. So light that I felt like a glutonous slob with my 110+lb bike, two-man tent and enough food to last me a week. He had a one-man tent and was eating the only food he had - a can of stew that he picked up today. Anyway, I'm glad to have met Marcelle. He's done a bunch of amazing things in his life (like walked 160 km without stop or cycled 1000km in 48 hours) and I'd love to be doing something similar what he's doing when I'm his age. I think anyone old and crazy inspires me.

June 6th, 2007. Distance: 100 km, Odometer: 1644 km
Brooks - Medicine Hat, AB

Soggy would be an understatement. The entire day was me cycling through rain that didn't let up and a side wind strong enough to push me off the highway. It was so bad that when trucks flew by, a wave of water would push me down the highway a couple km/hr faster. A few times I thought about pulling over and pitching my tent for the night but I sucked it up and made it into the city. My waterproof gloves met their match and by the time I stopped riding for the day my hands were very wrinkled and a new colour (purplish, whitish, dead-skinnish colour) I'd never seen in them before. Yum. I just wanted to get the ride over with so I barely had lunch also. It was rough. I was wet, hungry, cold and miserable but what got me through was the idea that when I got into Medicine Hat, I'd get a motel room (since the thought of putting up my tent in a storm all cold and wet disgusted me) and order in supper. I chose The Rancho Motel since it seemed to fit my budget. The room looked and smelted like the 50s. I enjoyed it though. I used a stand-up fan to dry all my stuff and the weather network is calling for a great day tomorrow, so I'm stoked for another day of riding. I'm beginning to realise how important it is for me to treat myself after I go through something like what I did today. YOu know, like take a rest or whatever. There's no point in being overly uncomfortable and in return, tomorrow I can ride like champion again. I'm also realising my appetite is getting out of hand. I polished off an entire medium pizza and side order of breadsticks tonight. Crazy.

June 5th, 2007. Distance: 105 km, Odometer: 1544
Gleichen - Brooks, AB

I find riding a lot more enjoyable when I'm clean and the clothes I'm wearing are clean. Today I was dirty and felt that way since last night I stayed in a free campsite without showers. I felt better after visiting a gas station and freshening up. There's dis-ease starting out a day without a shower because there's always a chance that I won't be able to find a campsite with showers again tonight, then I'll really be in the stink. I ate lunch today in a farmer's field so big that after a few minutes walk I couldn't see anything else in every direction. Just field and sky. Tonight I'm staying in Tillebrook Provincial Park and enjoying it's emptiness. The trees in the park are filled with birds and it seems like everyone of them is on a caffine high - talking a mile a minute. I can hear owls hooting too. Oops, correction: a few bird-watching ladies told me they're summer doves, and they are coo-ing, not hoot-ing. I appologized to them for my ignorance... I don't speak bird. But I'd like to get into bird-watching though, some day. Oh, and there are gophers everywhere here. They got into my bag of trailmix so I'm going to have to tie my food in a tree. They're cute though. But deadly.

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