Day 12 / July 13, 2017 – Bow Island, AB to Maple Creek, SK

Today I decided to play the wind game a bit differently. The pair from Nova Scotia hit the road as I was doing my final packing. They were going south, but I was concerned that google street view was taking them to gravel roads. They didn’t seem too concerned. I planned to connect to Highway 1 around Medicine Hat. I kept refreshing the weather update waiting for the winds to flip from nasty headwind to easy tailwind. I maintained my resistance at the Rolling Bakery and Cafe, a highlight in this otherwise quiet town of Bow Island. I ordered the 3-egg breakfast to be given a plate that was literally covered in meat and potatoes. There was a mound of hash browns, an inch thick slice of ham, half-a-dozen strips of bacon, a pair of sausages, four slices of buttered toast, oh, and three over-easy eggs buried in there. Despite my constant hunger, I struggled to finish everything. Don’t worry – of course, I did.

Fully fuelled (maybe more so…), I was ready to hit the road. I wasn’t sure if I could make the Saskatchewan border because it would mean another 150km ride. After 2 days of almost constant headwinds, I finally understood why tailwinds are so great. You can coast along like you’re barely doing any work. Everything was going so smoothly that I hardly noticed that I had gone 25 km. I made a quick stop in Seven Persons at their Sausage shop, evidently the only place that sells food in town. I refilled my water and almost ate an entire bag of wine gums. I also ran into a German tourist. I didn’t ask his name so let’s call him Hans. Hans was cycling from Toronto to Vancouver over 2 months. I felt somewhat overdressed in spandex as he was rolling away in baggy basketball shorts and a cotton shirt.

Pictures can’t capture the vibrant fields of gold.

I continued on the road and found a turnoff for Dunmore and, on Hans’ advice, bypassed Medicine Hat. There was a smooth and much quieter side road making a straight line for Dunmore. I coasted along with the wind and missed the turnoff to the town to refill my water. The road curved around and dropped me off on Highway 1. There weren’t too many further stops before the border. I continued cruising with the tailwind to the city of Irvine. It was a strange place, but I may have felt that way because every road in the city was being torn up and repaved. Every one. I popped into a tiny bistro and market and double fisted Gatorade and chocolate milk. The owner offered to refill my water and warned me about staying safe on Highway 1. What? Like it’s dangerous?

Moving on to province #3. Token Saskatchewan border shot.

I decided to carry on with the plan to make it to Maple Creek on the Saskatchewan side. The only other town was Walsh, a few kilometres west of the border. Since google maps was showing a church as the main attraction, I wasn’t optimistic that I would find much more of interest. There was, however, another Alberta welcome centre that has a sign in book for cyclists and handed out a Cliff bar! Apparently there were already 4 cyclists ahead of me on the same day. I wasn’t feeling original after discovering that!

The final stretch. I crossed the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and rolled up the prairie hills. If it hadn’t been so hot and sunny, I would have been able to enjoy the scenery even more. Even though there was an artificial border, the landscape looked different. Alberta seemed to have more farmland whereas Saskatchewan appeared to have more rolling golden hills. We’ll see what evolves over the next 600 km of prairie land… Maple Creek is about 10km south of Highway 1. Google directed me a range road that would cut off 6km and off the highway. With only 20km to go, I was getting excited to hide from the sun and have a proper shower. Sadly, the road that google promised doesn’t exist. I walked the gravel side road searching for Range Road 120 to find no perpendicular connection. Back on the highway, I passed Eagle RV campground. It looked like a very inviting option, but I was feeling fancy and planned to have my once weekly hotel stay. I pressed on and fought the wind on the rolling hills into Maple Creek.

I don’t know why there are so many salty lakes in Saskatchewan. They look better than they smell…

Typical rolling hills when entering south-western Saskatchewan en route to Maple Creek.

Over 160km later, I made it! These small Saskatchewan towns have a consistent lay out – grain elevator, train tracks with trains running q20 minutes, cute and somewhat rundown downtown area, and at least one Chinese-Canadian restaurant. I slowly progressed through the tree-lined streets (how I’ve missed the trees and shade) to the Cobble Creek Hotel, now open. I found out that it opened in 2014, but the sign remains 3 years later. Nevertheless, the place was an oasis. Air conditioning. Lemon-flavoured ice water. A mattress. High standards, remember? After de-sweating/sunscreening, I made my way into this tiny town. I was told to check out the Star Cafe or the Rockin Horse. I liked the look of the Star Cafe since it was set up in a building from the late 1800s. I was HUNGRY so I had the perfect trifecta of appetizer, main, and dessert with a local beer from Swift Current (tomorrow’s destination). The rest of the night is a blur… I stumbled home and fell into a deep sleep.

STATS:

Start time: 09:46

Finish time: 18:24

Riding time: 6 hours, 07 minutes

Distance: 158.31 km

Total distance: 1511.92 km

Elevation gain: 535 meters

Total elevation: 11497 meters

Average speed: 25.9 km per hour

Number of calories in my breakfast: enough to feed 4 people

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