Every year since the beginning of time my wife’s family has been renting a cabin in Wasagaming. It’s the one week each year when the lot of us get away and just relax.
Since I made my exit from the world of skateparks and BMX and into the world of cycling (sometime in 2009), I’ve had it in my head that I wanted to ride from Winkler to the cabin at Clear Lake. This spring I decided that 2015 would be the summer of cycling. First the Summer Challenge (see earlier report), and then my solo ride out to the cabin. When the summer challenge didn’t go as planned I was even more motivated to complete my second ride. I was also quite thankful that I had planned them so far apart!
I’ll admit that looking at the forecast for the Friday/Saturday I was a bit hesitant. 35C/feels like over 40C is a bit warm. I decided that I might as well give it a shot since my family was following following me out a day later.
Because of the intense heat coming on Friday I set out at midnight on Thursday. It was gorgeous out, calm, cool and quiet. The cycling community as a whole is all to familiar with being chased by farm dogs. I will add that being chased by farm dogs when you can’t see them adds a whole new level of suck. It seemed that every yard I passed for the first few hours of my ride had at least one dog who didn’t take kindly to being woken up in the middle of the night. Saw quite a few eerie eyes staring me down from the bush, most likely dear. Stopped to take a pic of a sweet church in the dark, the stillness of the night was just so incredible. At about 3am I had set up camp at a place called Mount Nebo. It’s the most random “mountain” on the edge of the escarpment, must have been a quarry or something in a past life. I should mention that the first half of my route for this trip followed in reverse what would have been day #3 of my summer challenge route.
6am came pretty quick. I tossed and turned quite a bit but got at least an hour of sleep. I packed up and set out after taking a moment to look out over the prairies under a gorgeous sunrise. After passing half a millions wind turbines I found myself in Altamont. Found the community center and hoped to fill my bottles, instead I was greeted with a boil water advisory sign. A change of route was made and off to Somerset I went. Along this trip I’ve discovered a unique trait that only exists in small town life. While sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Somerset Food Bar, which kindly gave me all the water I needed, I observe this strange behavior for the first time. Person after person would go from shop to shop on the Main Street, but instead of parking in the middle and walking from store to store (we are talking about 4-6 stores that are all side by side), they would drive to each one. I’m talking back out of a spot and move three spots over and park. Blew my mind.
The roads between Somerset and Holland were gorgeous! More rolling hills that you could shake a stick at. Passed numerous school sites, cemeteries and old bridges. One such bridge was an ornate concrete bridge placed on a two lane dirt road. I always wonder how the landscaped looked when these bridges and schools etc were in use. Was this dirt road a main road? Why such a nice bridge? Who knows.
I didn’t enter Holland, rather I just skirted the eastern edge so as to use the most amount of gravel possible. After slogging my way up the north side of the valley it was a short stretch of pavement before I connected up with a gravel road that would take me to Austin. Austin brought some coke and some ice cream, so good. It was now 2pm and I had already made it to my destination for day one. I decided to carry on and try making Nepawa instead, but not before I rested and observe more of this driving to every shop non sense. Seriously people!
After Austin was when my day really went downhill. For four miles my back roads map led me through what was not even close to a road for two miles and then across a road made of sand for another two. The sun was really getting warm and the winds had died down. My stops were becoming more and more frequent as I sought whatever shade I could find. About 25 miles southeast of Nepawa I decided to make a B line for a paved road as I was trapped on the loosest gravel I’ve come across. Heading west through this nature reserve I soon discovered I was in some trouble. The sun was right above me, and I was so surrounded by thick dense Forrest. The heat was just insane! I found some shade and sat down hoping someone would come by…preferably in a truck lol. As luck would have it Owen from MB hydro drove up and inquired if I was ok. He offered to give me a lift and I wasn’t about to turn him down. He drove me about 6-7 miles west until we were out of the bush. Turns out the heat had done me in and I only lasted another hour. 6pm and I found the first shade I could find. The east side on a huge Quonset beside the highway. There I lay on a slab of concrete in the shade. It was heaven lol. Two hours later I set up camp on some grass near the edge of the building and caught some shut eye. 213kms already in the books.
I slept, soundly. 9 hours to be exact. Saturday greeted me with a cool dewy morning and 8 miles of empty highway as I entered Nepawa. Tim Hortons breakfast has never tasted so good. As I ate my BELT’s and charged up my phone, I watched the storm clouds get closer and closer. The sky’s opened and I took shelter in a nearby car wash. The humans of earth continued to amaze me as during the two hour downpour/thunderstorm 6 people decided it would be a good idea to wash their cars. Sometime around 10:30 I made a break for it during a lull in the rain. Radar looked good if I were to hit up my planned route for the day. I ripped 5 miles north to connect with the Trans Canada Trail only to find knee high grass covering the entire trail. Plan B. More Gravel. Really not to sad about that to be honest, I was not looking to add any extra miles to the trip.
For the next few hours I rode just north of the storm as it just hung around to the south. The drizzle was keeping me nice and cool and the clouds were a welcome blanket keeping the hot sun off of my back. If you’ve never ridden this part of the province you should! It’s remarkable. Rolling twisting roads, double track, Forrest, endless fields, random lakes and cool stuff all around. Saturday went by pretty quickly. I had my head down for a while when I was nice and cool and when the sun came out I had only about 30 miles to go. My knee had stared to act up and so I was milking it as much as possible. I could feel I was getting close. Almost to Onanole! I stumbled across the Scandinavia Cemetery and decided that being buried there would be quite nice, such a peaceful place. The last stretch of road to Onanole was terrible. Soft water logged gravel highway. Slog slog slog. I’ve never been more excited in my life to see Poor Michaels book store! Chocolate milk and an Oreo ice cream sandwich greeted me at the grocery store along with the funny looks we’ve all grown to love. I hope that people look at me and are inspired in some way to explore. Maybe not by bike but just to explore something, somehow.
I had hoped to arrive at the cabin around the same time as the rest of my family and hit the nail pretty much bang on the head. After a short tour of the townsite to check out the changes from the previous year I sat in front of the friendly facade that is our rental cabin. 30 minutes later the family arrived. It was a welcome site to see my wife and kids after such a long hot ride.
This trip was fantastic. It’s my first completed bike packing trip and I hope there will be more to come. Just maybe not in plus 40C temps.