July 1, 2008

7/1/08 Portage la Prairie, MB

112.3km/2568km

Ah, what a wonderful night of sleep. I don't know if it was the sound of the spillway that lulled me to sleep, or the wings of a million mosquitos beating there wings trying to get through the nylon of my tent.

Maybe the rain clouds made Mike nervous because he woke me up just before 6am. It was a bit of struggle to eat and pack up with all the mosquitos. But when it started to sprinkle, we moved a bit faster.

And with the change in the weather, we also got a change in wind direction, unfortunately not in our favor. But with rain clouds looming overhead, you don't have much to do bu dip your head and get on down the road.

We pushed hard for a couple of hours and the gods looked down and smiled on our efforts by moving the clouds on and giving us a very sunny morning.

Took a quick break outside of Gladstone where one of the older customers recognized us. He had been in the restaurant in Minnidoza yesterday. He and his buddies had picked this gas bar for their morning coffee where they could have a chance to tell a tall tale or two.

One thing I try to do every day is to wave at all the truckers and those on motorcycles. I figure along with touring cyclists, we're all part of a brotherhood (and sisterhood) of the road. We all are intimately aware of the roads and the weather. The road is our home. So, even though a lot might not acknowledge my wave, I still think it's important to reach out anyway.

The trouble with a bike tour is that once you get into camp, get set up, cleaned up, and eat, there's not much time for anything else. Even with the journal writing I forget all the little things that make each day special. For example, I didn't mention yesterday that we came to a truck weigh station and rode with our bikes on it. I came in at 120kg(265lbs) while Mike was a whopping 140kgs(310lbs). Even with that extra 45lbs, he's still faster than me.

Today we also lost most of our paved shoulder. We had about three feet of patched asphalt then the rest of the shoulder was loose gravel. Unless we absolutely had to, we kept our line on the paved part of the road. I'd think the loose gravel would be unsafe even for cars. It seemed like most of the truck traffic was going the other way which was good for us.

I love yellow

The day got brighter when we stopped at the gas bar in Westbourne. It was run by three generations of First Nations people. Mom and her small boys had set out a grill selling hamburgers and hotdogs which seemed appropriate for this Canada Day holiday. She asked questions about the trip while the boys sheepishly looked at the bikes. It was a good burger too.

Our nightmare began where Hwy-16 joined with Hwy-1 for about five kilometers outside of Portage la Prairie. We had no shoulder at all on this divided highway. (If you're from the midwest) Imagine riding a bicycle in the right hand lane of I-70. That's what it felt like. Mike and I were too scared to be shocked. I couldn't believe anyone could bike on this highway across western Canada. I mean our nerves were shot after only five kilometers. With relief, we pulled off to go into town.

On the way through we met Morgan, a Frenchman traveling alone from Gaspe to Vancouver. He started around the first of May. I think he's the first bike touring Frenchman I've ever met on tour.

We had to get back onto Hwy-1 to reach the campground but it now had a new, very wide, paved shoulder.

Miller's Camping Resort (www.millerscampground.com) has almost 170 sites, many of which are seasonal. It is almost a town unto itself. Patty, whose family owns the place, and I had a long chat while I sat in the office/store writing in my journal. She's done a bit of traveling herself all over the world, including a stay in Romania almost 20 years ago to adopt a daughter (who now much older, joined the conversation for a bit).

While this is a very nice campground which includes a pool, Mike and I would argue it's most notable feature today was the hordes of mosquitos. They literally covered any patch of unprotected skin. Even while I write this, the outside of my tent is covered with more than I can count (no doubt waiting for me to come outside). Mike laughed as I tried to catch a few who had gotten inside so I could release them outside. Patty said there were none here a week ago but with the recent storms, they've had a bumper crop. She said with hotter dry temperatures in July and August, they should be all gone soon.

Today is Canada Day, which was known as Dominion Day until 1982. Like our Fourth of July, it commemorates the creation of Canada in 1867. A few people seemed surprised when I wished them a Happy Canada Day, even those few people who I thanked for working on a holiday. Plus even though you see Canadian flags here and there, it just isn't as overwhelming as you see in the States. So, here at the campground, we'll miss all the parades, barbecues and concerts that most of the Canadians are having in the towns. Patty said that we should be able to see Portage la Prairie's fireworks display from the entrance to the resort but since it doesn't start till 10:30 I just might skip it and go to bed.