This post is a compilation of my daily field notes on Facebook. If you would like to see them daily, you can follow me here.
Day 64 – June 23 – Walk Across Canada
I woke up this morning slightly hung over. Mark and I got into the sauce last night, and somewhere along the way, I lost count of how many beers I had consumed. I know it was at least one.
Mark and I hadn’t seen each other in 26 years, so there was a lot of reminiscing and catching up to do. Mark adjusted the air pressure in Kitty’s tires, which was his way of saying he was exhausted from hearing me whine all the time about pushing her along difficult gravel highway shoulders. The maximum pressure is 65 psi, but Kitty’s were at 20 psi. Mark pumped them up to 60 and told me give them a bit of air every week or so. We both laughed because unless I get a flat tire, there’s no way I’m going to touch them until I’ve reached Vancouver.
Among some awesome gifts I was given, which included allots of food, Mark bought me a mirror. He mounted it on Kitty’s handle bars and we both realized it probably wouldn’t work well. So after I got a kilometer down the road and out of Mark’s sight, I removed it and put it in my bag. I can still use it for tick checks, though. And if I see a tick in a place I can’t reach, such as the middle of my back, I can use the mirror to watch it devour me. I’ll buy some popcorn for this potentially exciting entertainment event.
Mark is an excellent host. Although it pained me to do so, I forced myself to sit on the couch while he did my laundry, cooked for me, fixed my kit, and fetched the beer. It was tough to take.
Mark is a marathoner and triathlete. He gave me a few tips on nutrition to help me get through the last 37 days of this trip. I noticed that jujubes was not on his approved food list, so obviously everything else he told me about nutrition should be dismissed.
Poor guy, suffering from my dry humour. Thanks for a great night, brother Mark!
Mark made an excellent breakfast for me this morning, but after walking for a little over an hour, I came to a Husky restaurant, which Mark told me was my last refuge before heading into the Prairie abyss. So I stopped in for a second breakfast.
The terrain is flat, but there is a Wicked Wind from the West, with very nasty gusts that stand me up for a second until I can push forward again. The wind is amplified even further when some types of transport trucks whip by. The wind is actually coming from the north-west, but ‘Wicked Wind from the North-West’ would never make it in Hollywood. Today is a dream for cyclists heading east. One of them whizzed by me with a smile on his face.
This is the worst wind I’ve had to deal with so far on this walk. It was so strong that after an hour, I sought shelter behind a copse of trees, standing there for ten minutes wondering how it would be possible for me to endure another 8 1/2 hours of this.
I’ve been taking the wind in small 90-minute chunks, taking shelter where I can. I found a Timmy’s for one break and the locals at the next table were talking about the wind. I’m sure this isn’t typical. After all, I’ve been on military exercises in this area in the past, and all I remember are the mosquitoes, not the wind.
It’s the supper hour. It doesn’t feel like it, but the wind must be easing up a bit. The evidence is that the blackbirds are now able to dive-bomb me, whereas they got caught up in the wind earlier today.
The walking has not been enjoyable today because of the wind. But my morale is high. There is satisfaction in gaining progress towards a goal, after all. The positives are that it hasn’t rained on me yet today, the terrain is flat, the highway shoulders are wide and paved, and I haven’t seen a biting insect all day.
So it wasn’t a bad day, all in all; the walking just wasn’t fun.
Day 65 – June 24 – Walk Across Canada
The forecast today is for cold, wind, and rain. I woke up at 5:00 am and the rain hadn’t started, so I raced to get dressed and packed up. The wind throughout the night had kept the tent dry, and I wanted to be able to put up a dry tent tonight. Dry tents are good for morale.
I was camped at the edge of a field in the soil on the west side of some trees. If it rained, I would be standing in mud in no time. The sky was ominous, so I hurried to tear down the tent.
It was 5:30 when I made my way to the highway and just as I turned Kitty into the wind, the rain came. It might have been 8 degrees C, but the 18 km/hr wind and rain made for a very cold start to the day. My hands were freezing, so I had to go digging for the waterproof gloves I bought back in New Brunswick and never thought I’d need again on this trip. But my hands were so cold that I couldn’t get them on. So I wore my water-absorbing gloves instead.
I was walking through the town of Portage la Prairie before anything was open. It was an eerie quiet, with only the occasional car along a wide, empty main street. The rain had subsided to a drizzle when the familiar Tim Hortons sign revealed itself. So after already putting in 10 kms before 7 am, I went in for breakfast.
I was reminded of an old military slogan: “We do more before breakfast than most people do all day.” It felt good to be productive early in the day.
After breakfast, it began raining harder again, a virtual downpour. I was bundled up as much as I could be. Three layers on top and two on the bottom. The outer layer was my rain gear. I had barely left the Timmy’s parking lot when I noticed that one of Kitty’s tires was flat. Well, not exactly flat, but very, very soft.
The first place I could find that was mostly out of the rain was under an overhang at a Co-op store. There, I dug out my kit bag and grabbed my spare tube and my air pump. I thought I might just try to pump some air into the flat tire first to see if that would work. After all, I have never changed an inner tube on a wheel. Not once in my whole life. And I didn’t want my first time to be in the freezing rain.
I attempted to remove the cap from the tube, but I couldn’t unscrew it. My hands were numb with cold. I tried with both hands and had no luck. After a number of frustrating attempts, with my body shivering from the cold and the wind knocking me about, I looked up at the sky and said, “Does every little thing have to be so damned difficult? Can’t something be easy for a change?”
I removed the tire completely from Kitty and tried to get a better angle on the cap, but I still couldn’t unscrew it. Finally, I grabbed one of my waterproof gloves, wrapped one of the fingers of the glove around the cap, and then squeezing my forefinger and thumb together with both hands, I was finally able to loosen it. I pumped the tire up with air, and it’s held so far all day. Still, when I passed Canadian Tire, I bought a second inner tube, just in case.
It was a miserable morning for walking, but while my body went on auto-pilot, suffering the wind, rain, and cold, my mind was back in Guatemala, sitting in a hammock by the ocean, reading my Kindle, sipping banana smoothies, and eating slices of papaya. My body would rebel if it knew what my mind was doing.
It’s mid-afternoon now. The rain has stopped and I’m sitting in the wet grass leaning against a stop sign. The sign is jerking all over the place from the wind. Some pet dogs, minus their owners, have visited me. Cute little fellas, but shy for the camera.
If it was warmer, I’d curl up in the grass and have a nap. But it isn’t. My hands are getting so cold, even my thumbs can’t type propperrly.
At about 3 pm, the sun presented itself to Manitoba. “Ah, there you are,” I said. And immediately afterward, a van pulled over and out popped a family of four who wanted me to take their picture near an exit sign for a town in which the father’s sister once lived. What a great family. The parents are my age and they are taking their children on a cross-country road trip. What a blast they are having.
The walking for the last three hours has been ideal, exactly as I had imagined it would be walking through the Prairies. A light breeze, big fluffy clouds, sun shining, wide paved shoulders, and friendly people. I’m hoping I get more of this.
Day 66 – June 25 – Walk Across Canada
One advantage men have over women is that when we are camping and have to pee in the middle of the night, we don’t have to get fully out of our sleeping bags. We can open up the door of the tent, scooch up on our knees to the entrance with the sleeping bag still wrapped around our legs, and let nature take its course, doing our best not to dribble inside the tent.
I’m not suggesting, of course, that I would do such a thing. No, no, no. That sort of behavior is only for the unrefined man, not for the sophisticated man, such as myself. I’m merely saying that men would have that advantage “if” they chose to take it. Which, of course, I wouldn’t. Hehe.
It was only 4 degrees C this morning when I crawled out of the tent. But the sky was clear and the wind was down. The weather has been perfect all day and, although I keep expecting to be attacked by a horde of insects, it hasn’t happened yet.
This morning, I saw a couple of fawns standing in a field. One came bounding toward me in what appeared to be an enthusiastic manner, as if we were long-lost friends being reunited. I couldn’t account for the behaviour as I reached for my phone to take a photograph. Perhaps it was accustomed to getting food from humans.
But as I raised my phone to take a picture, the fawn turned a bolted away. “What strange behaviour,” I thought. And then it dawned on me. I had just passed a doe lying dead in the long grass by the side of the road. With me being silhouetted against the sun and being downwind from the fawn, he mistook me for his mama. Poor fella. I’ve never been more disappointed that I’m not a female deer.
For a little while, the two fawns followed me on a parallel course, perhaps thinking I might lead them to their mama. But when I came to a crossroad, they turned and headed back to where I found them. I hope they’re old enough now to survive on their own.
I passed a few cross-country cyclists today, but it was 68-year-old Russell from Australia who stopped to chat. He greeted me with two Oreo cookies, so, of course, he immediately became my new best friend. Russell is a bit eccentric. He rides in sandals and wears long colourful socks. He has turned his bicycle helmet into an outback hat by cutting out arcs of plastic and attaching them to his helmet with cable ties. His front and rear saddlebags are milk cartons.
He’s my kind of guy.
Russell has been semi-retired since he was 50 and has been traveling the world for 18 years on his bicycle. We talked about almost everything – road conditions, weather, routes, calories – you name it. Russell is partial to Walmart’s lemon meringue pie, although he says that by the time he eats it, it has slid to one end of the pie shell.
He also told me, just in case you thought I was exaggerating about the wind two days ago, that he rode for 185 kms that day and barely had to peddle. It’s the most distance he has cycled in one day in his entire life.
What a great guy Russell is. He really made my day. When he’s finished in Canada, he’ll be heading to Vietnam with his bike.
A lot more exciting things happened today, but I’m out of time, so I’ll bring you up to speed tomorrow. Until then….