Saturday, June 7, 2008

June 4, 5, 6: Making our way to Winnipeg

June 4 - 100 km to Cypress River
This morning we were awakened early by the incessant honking of Canada geese and other wildfowl - we had unfortunately camped across the fence from the wildfowl reserve in the park in Souris. Mike and I checked out the view tower over town after breakfast and then we hit the road, after cycling on the Souris suspension bridge (longest in Canada?). Coming out of Souris the road was paralleled, first on the north side and then the south, by endless lines of grain hoppers on the railway line, all seemingly parked. The day was mostly overcast and rain was evident to the northeast most of the day, but a patch of clear sky seemed to follow us most of the day and we did not get a sprinkle - and the winds were thankfully mild and from the north. Perhaps we will miss the worst of this latest weather system, or we'll be in Winnipeg by the time it hits (we have decided to go through Winnipeg to check it out and run some errands, like shop at MEC, and then leave to go through Whiteshell to the north of the trans-canada highway). I saw a good flock of pelicans in a slough, and the others saw a nice muskrat in one of the numerous wetlands we passsed all day. This area has lots of wetlands and we have seen lots of weird birds we cannot identify. We had lunch at Wawanesa, a beautiful little town situated in a horseshoe bend of the Souris river, and I picnicked on the main street and kibbitzed with some locals while the others checked out a cafe. In the afternoon we went through Glenboro, south of the Spruce Woods provincial park, and on the southern and eastern horizon the Pembina Hills started to be visible. Charlie spotted a coyote quite close to the road, and we got good views of him before he trotted off across the fields. We decided to press on from Glenboro and we are camping at Cypress River, where there is a new picnic area that also seems to be a camp spot associated with the Trans Canada Trail, right next to some lovely marshlands on the Cypress River. We are all camped under the picnic shelter. Tomorrow it is about 150km to Winnipeg, so we will probably be close to the city tomorrow night, and then cycle in to the city on Friday and stay there Friday night.

Thur June 5, 2008: Headwinds toward Winnipeg Cypress River to Starbuck, 117 km, Highway #2, Manitoba. 7:43 on the bike 15.1 km / hr (the last few hours were around 13 km/hr)
The Cypress River "campsite" was excellent. We're not sure if it was a true campsite or just a picnic spot, but it was lovely. We got a fine prairie sunset, owls at night, purple martins (the birds that look like really big swallows), least bitterns (they have an amazing call -- kind of like a slowly rotating helicopter blade), and, of course, red winged blackbirds. As Mark noted, we were right beside a wetland (marsh and cattails).We later learned that, per hectare, these wetlands are the most productive habitat in the world -- more food produced for more species than even a rainforest.

Our travels today were on a very flat road. We were in the Assiniboine river valley, which was formed as a huge outwash plain in the last continental glaciation about 10,000 years ago. I was very happy to be on the flat, because the head winds were fierce today. We spent a lot of time in a pace line drafting after one another.

We hit a great spot for late breakfast -- I recommend the highway diner at the Mohawk Station in Holland. Highway #2 doesn't have shoulder, so we were keeping to the right quite a bit. However, there were a few times that we had to pull off the pavement because of hay wagons coming a bit close. Hay wagons are the Manitoba equivalent of logging trucks loaded with huge cedar logs. These wagons are 18 wheeler flat bed truck with huge roles of hay strapped on. They fly down the road leaving a whirlwind of straw and chaff in their wake.

As the day continued the wind got stronger and stronger until we were doing an average of about 13 km/hr -- and these were HARD kilometres I can tell you. As well, we heard from a passing cyclist that the next day would be difficult, with 20 mm of rain and 50 km/hr eastern winds forecast. We decided to try and get as close to Winnipeg as possible, so we pushed on to the town of Starbuck (not a coffeeshop to be found!). While looking for camping Mark ended up speaking to a fellow who was cutting the grass outside a heritage home: long story short -- Don (the owner of the home) invited us in to spend the night. Don was selling the house so had three huge empty rooms on the second floor. These rooms used to be the very first Credit Union in Manitoba. We got settled in, had dinner and a great chat with Don (and his friendly dog Shania), and went to bed. As a working biologist Don was able to give us some insights into prairie ecosystems. He was also able to tell us how to manage ticks. This is the season for them and all of us have had many of the little buggers climb around on us; most disconcerting I can tell you.

When we woke up the next morning we were so VERY HAPPY to have a roof over our head. The gale and rain had indeed materialized as forecast. We were so thankful to Don for opening his house to us. He really is the epitome of Friendly Manitoba! I resolve to be more like Don in the future.


Fri June 6, 2008: The Winnipeg Push Starbuck to Winnipeg, 42 km.

The rain and wind abated somewhat around 10:30 am so we decided to start off for the 'Peg. This were a bit grim for the first hour, but eased up as we crossed the ring road around Winnipeg and took a back road into town.Charlie was off to stay with friends in a southern section of town. Mark, Mike, and I were headed for Galbraith Bed and Breakfast in the Cresentwood district. So we parted ways, with the intention of joining up again around Nepean.

Our B&B was really deluxe, and our hosts, Lynne and Lindsay, are keen cyclists. Lindsay used to own bike shops, so good storage and a hose-off for the dirty bikes was most welcome. We moved in and then decided to give the walking muscles some exercise as we did a tour of the downtown and the legislature buildings.

Once again, we were happy to have a roof over our heads as it was a very wet afternoon. But, we were warm, dry, and cozy with a cup of tea before bed. All in all, a good visit to the windy city on the plain.



Anonymous said...

Hi Mary - so Falcon Lake is where I grew up. The little red school house only had one room when I was there, but other than that not much has changed. Enjoy! Audrey

Unknown said...

Mark LUVS geese.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! At Winnipeg you are close to the geographical centre of Canada. Sorry, not half way by cycle. Glad to hear of your progress.

Rick Searle said...

Hey Mary,

How could you guys just blow by Spruce Woods PP without stopping in??? This is the place of Manitoba's desert! Hognose snakes, cacti, etc. It is also my old stompin' grounds. Back in the early 80's, I managed the visitor services and interpretive programs here. In fact, some of the interpretive exhibits may have been written and designed by me!

Ah well, say hello to Winnipeg for me.