When you meet a slow moving pick-up truck filled with dudes on a gravel road in the evening, you can make a pretty safe assumption that part of what they are doing involves the consumption of alcohol. For a Muerto rider, this means that you have one strong connection to these young men, a deep desire to avoid pavement at all costs. This was the situation we found ourselves in on Thursday night, trying to find gravel that would support us, without risking extra miles because of running into paved roads. We had started just after 6:00pm in Beausejour and were on our way to Lac du Bonnet for the first stop, and the rain we were chasing was making everything soupy, sloggy and stuck.
Allegra road looked paved on my backroads map and there was no real consideration of taking it. Unfortunately, as we got closer and closer to the end of the grid roads and other options, everything going north was just grass and dirt. It was in this time of need that we saw a truck slowly drifting towards us, and while they may have birded Paul (in the lead by ¼ mile) I flagged them down for a quick recon. Much to our relief, the driver boldly stated that we were “miles from any pavement,” and while his passenger tried to add that he lived around there, the driver (Walter ?) was so full of advice and wisdom that he didn’t have time to give his buddy (Donald?)space to talk. The dude in the backseat of the truck didn’t say much at all, but he did offer some mild encouragement. Relieved by our Lebowski moment, and only mildly concerned that we were taking the advice of a possibly crazed Vietnam vet, we pushed on, took Allegra road (gravel all the way), and rode on into Lac du Bonnet without further incident. It was muddy, we had to ride in the ditch at times and it was raining, but that’s all part of it I guess. We arrived in the rain and got sorted out.
Chasing the rain.
It was like that.
Friday dawned bright and sunny somewhere, but where we were it was foggy and gray. My mood matched the day and I was hoping that we’d find some tighter gravel than yesterday, and boy did things work out! I’d say that Friday was one of the best days of riding I’ve ever had. The road up the backside of Nopiming is perfect for cycling, up and down and around it goes, and we saw lakes and eagles and trees and a moose and the old abandoned mine site and got to hike around on some rocks, and the road was hard and smooth and the company was great and all in all I’d go back and ride that stretch again just for the sheer fun of it. I was glad we had decided to go light because it meant that the bike was more fun to throw into the climbs and descents, and we finished a 174km day with a hike thrown in for good measure by about 7:30pm. For me, that’s pretty epic, my only ride longer being an ill-fated attempt to do the cross Manitoba Muerto Challenge in essentially one go in 2013. For the record, it rained about half the way on Friday, but it didn’t affect the roads like it had on Thursday.
The start of something amazing.
Gravel doesn’t get any better than this.
Gearing up for the hike.
Selfie selfie on Ancient Mountains
Cell service at the top of Ancient Mountains. I did look at the view too.
Poisonous mine tailings from the 1930’s.
Old fire zone just east of Bissett. I followed Paul a lot of the time.
Saturday was going to be a rest day of sorts, just a 45km stretch of gravel followed by a 70km cruise down to Powerview/Pine Falls. The roads continued to be stellar, and we made good time until the skies opened up and we got sunk by the hardest rain of the weekend. Our wheels were rolling an inch to 2 inches deep into the gravel, and there was nothing for it but to push on. Pavement was close, and we arrived in time to say goodbye to the rain for the day. Wood Falls are spectacular and on we went. After the super fun gravel of Nopiming Park the highway was boring, but it did the job and we arrived at Pine Falls and took some time off. I’m finding I’m in for adventures but not so much for endless suffering, and stopping turned out to be great for the former. After ordering burgers I plugged $5 into a VLT and played “Smash the Pig.” 5 minutes later I was $70 dollars richer and supper and drinks were on the Gaming Commission. We met some people and learned some words and laughed a lot. Any lingering doubts about stopping early were washed away by the good times and good people we met by not keeping on going. The day was restful, and we got ready for Sunday’s last push.
Wood Falls selfie
Drying out on the tarmac.
Checking out the dam.
Free supper! Free drinks!
Sunday was another beautiful day in the saddle. We started by seeing a bear and her cubs about 20kms into our ride, which meant we had seen all three of the animals I was hoping for (bear, moose and eagle). The road opened into the flat lands close to the lake and the wind swept us along. After picking our way through the bumps and watery sections of the trail past Stead we followed the roads to Patricia Beach for a snack. Then it was off to Beausejour with just a bit of rain to remind us that it was going to be like that. By this point we were in agreement that rain was more enjoyable than headwinds, and so the rain on Sunday felt a bit like an old friend. Nearly at the end of our ride and just as the rain stopped we met another slow moving truck but this time we didn’t need to stop for directions. We simply followed their trail of empty Busch and Bud cans south into town. Considering that this was at 11:00 on Sunday morning, I guess you could say that another thing that country drinkers and Muerto riders have in common is a sense of commitment to the task. All told it was a great run on a great route, and a real high point to start the summer season.
Kind of beautiful after 350 kms of trees. A prairie boy at heart I guess.
All the way the lake for Paul. I didn’t want to get my bike or shoes all sandy so this is as far as I went. I know, right?
Great setup, great bike. 35 lbs loaded made for a fun ride. 1.8 slant six in the front and a 45 on the back. Paul’s tire are better though.
The only time I got ahead of Paul was when he did some extra exploring (aka “going the wrong way”). Not often, but worth documenting.
3 Spoilers and Pieces of Unsolicited Advice
- There is a water pump between Shoe Lake and Black Lake on the side of the road. It says it is untested (not potable?), but we drank it with no ill effects. The locals all drink it and have for 15 years is the story I heard. The next available water is in Bissett if you get there at the right time of day (85km).
- We heard Beausejour has experienced numerous vehicle break-ins lately. This could be small town fear mongering, I dunno. I called the RCMP and gave them a vehicle description and license and dates and parked in front of their office. The truck was fine when we got back.
- Bring shoes for the hike. It’s scrambly and bike shoes on slick rocks don’t work well.