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‘Crankin ‘Cross Canada ~ It All Seemed So Surreal . . . . . . Today We’re Heading Home

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed by. In a few weeks our bike ride across Canada May 2014 will have begun . . . . last mid-May. I think it is time to finish up my last entry in my blog.

We started the day up early as usual only savouring every moment, knowing at the end of the day we would be home. Coffee was brewing on the cook-stove, we were rolling our ensolite pads, stuffing our sleeping bags in their stuff sacks, Doug disassembled the wheels off of the trailers to prepare them for the airport as luggage and I ran extra food down the hill to the young cyclists who were still on a mission. As we packed our gear and clothing in the trailers, Caroline and Michel wandered over to bid us farewell, have a lesson in tarp hanging and share some morning java. They were preparing to continue their journey as well.

It had been misty fog and raining last night and we wanted to be sure the boxes would remain dry. We arranged to have the park staff meet us this morning, at the shed where we had stored our boxed up bikes for the night.The taxi van picked us up shortly after that, we filled the van with our gear and off we went to the airport in St. John’s. It all seemed so surreal ~ we were going home, our trip was over. We had been gone for three and a half months. Two weeks visiting family in Calgary and three months crossing over 6,000 km to Newfoundland.

It was decided days ago. We had been debating for a week how we would get home from the airport, ride home with trailers in tow to finish our travels or having someone pick us up. On the flights home, Doug started. “Do you have the route home yet from the airport? It won’t take me long to take the bikes out of the boxes in Hamilton, reassemble them, reassemble the trailers and get us on the road to ride home. We should be arriving home just before dark. It’s only 50 km or so from the airport to home, that’s nothing! We’ll have that done in no time. We’ll be home in close to 3 hours.” I tried to ignore him, all along I wasn’t too keen on this plan. Being so close to home once we finally landed, I just wanted to get home, not unpack, reassemble, and repack . . . . then bike home. It was all I could do to hold back the tears, I could hardly look at him when he mentioned it. He blurted little quips about this plan all the way flying home. I was still not convinced it was the best idea. I just wanted to get home.

Suppertime we landed. It was such a great feeling to know we were so close to home, I was smiling ear to ear. But there was still much to be done, before I’d arrive home. As we waited for our packages and bike boxes, Doug reassured me he would take no time at all and we would be on the road. He told me, just watch for the trailers as he ran to the washroom. Within minutes they appeared. As I was taking them off the turnabout, I heard from behind me, “Patti-jo, do you need a ride home?” I turned around and . . . . . Roberto was standing there, with his dark sunglasses on. I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy to be rescued from having to ride home. I hugged him and began to cry! We all laughed about Doug teasing me all day and for the last few days.

As we were walking out to Roberto’s car, Doug told us that he had emailed everyone (he thought I would ask) to let them know if I had reached out and asked them to come pick us up . . . . . that they were to let me know it was impossible due to other commitments they had. He told them he had arranged a ride for us, so not to worry or feel bad about me begging for a pick up. We all laughed when Roberto said he felt a little tear in his eye build up behind his sunglasses, seeing how happy I was.

It was so great to be close to home! The drive was perfect ~ the sun was shining, it was warm, and the garden and grass colours in the evening sun were stunning. As we drove down our road, I was anticipating seeing our house. There it was, waiting for us to return! I looked to the right side of the car, tacked to the wood pile was a 10 – 12′ long Welcome Home sign on our wood pile . . . . . I began to cry, again. Bernadette made this sign for us. It was so great to be home!! I hugged the house, the bushes in my garden, the trees on the lawn, and ran around to the back yard. It all looked so good to me. I cried again.

What a great surprise, Roberto’s Lu Lu had made us some dinner for the evening knowing we had travelled all day. As we said our goodbyes to Roberto and went into the house, there was another enormous Welcome Home sign awaiting, it filled the entire living room wall. This one was my Dad’s handiwork. On the kitchen counter awaiting was a note from Mom, “Pasta-fazool was in the fridge.” Noodles were on the counter along with a bottle of Dad’s wine and fresh Italian bread. Mmmmm!

What a great home-coming this had been!

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Day 13 ~ He’s Here, He’s Here!

Distance ~ 88 km.     Winds ~  southeast head wind 20 km. 
Temperature ~ 17 – 24C    Overcast threatening skies    
Monday, May 26, 2014

We were up early to get packed . . . . my packing was done last night, Doug was practicing packing up under the fly again. Funny, by the time he was finished it did start to rain. We rode to McDonalds in the rain and by the time we left to go meet Ryan, it stopped raining for the entire day.

Ryan’s bus arrived early, he rode the bus for 10 hours through the night to get to Regina. He just finished his 10 day cycle up at the oil sands yesterday, packed his bike and gear to join us and caught the bus at midnight in Calgary. He was feeling a bit worn out, but was happy to be off the bus and see us. Doug quickly opened up the box and began to reassemble Ryan’s bike. Ryan thoroughly enjoyed the coffee that slowly brought him back to life.

We retrieved our trailers back at the campground, we left them behind to go to the bus station. Ryan’s pack was lashed down to my trailer. I felt bad about him towing my trailer, now it was even heavier, but he said it was good training for his 6 day bike race in Colorado.

In the distance a dark, nasty, ominous, deep blue sky lingered south of us and followed us down the highway during the entire ride today. We covered 80 km and set up camp in Indian Head. Did you know “Little Mosque On The Prairie” was filmed here? The town got it’s name from the Assiniboine Indians who were desimated from a small pox epidemic introduced by new settlers. They would go off to the highest point in the land to die, some were buried others were not.
Their skeletons and skulls remained there for many years, because of this, the hills were later called Indian Head Hills, and the town Indian Head.

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Doug packing up under the fly again.

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We are geared up for the rain. Going to meet Ryan.

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The coffee hasn't taken effect yet.

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Ok, let's go!

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See the exit? It goes to a dirt road.

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Rest stop!

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The sky is finally clearing.

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The town of Indian Head

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Little Mosque On The Prairie was filmed here.

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Yeah, today is done!

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Setting up camp, Ryan was happy to be done too.

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Day 12 ~ Waiting For Ryan To Arrive Tomorrow So We Checked Out Regina

Distance ~ 27 km.     Winds ~  from the west 10 km. 
Temperature ~ 22 – 30C    Sunny skies      Sunday, May 25, 2014

Well, I don’t understand it!  If Doug is in a hurry,  if he is preoccuppied or what. But off he went with his coffee and a book to the washroom. That alone I don’t get . . . . . and shortly after he returned.

I thought he would have been gone a good 20 minutes, but he came back grinning and said, “You won’t belive what happened to me. I did it again! I ended up in the women’s bathroom.” I asked, “How did you know?” He replied, “Well, I kept hearing people come in and pee in the toilets and leave. Men usually use the urinals and no one was staying to use the toilets. So when I figured out what happened, I had to sneak out when I thought the coast was clear.” This is how our day off started.

After breakfast and laundry we decided to bike into town to check out where we would be meeting Ryan at the bus terminal tomorrow, it’s only 8 km away. He gets on the bus at midnight tonight in Calgary and arrives with his bike and gear at 11 a.m., here in Regina. He plans to ride with us to Winnipeg over the next 8 days, and fly back home July 2. We are so looking forward to having him join us!

We rolled through the heart of the city (the capital of Saskatchewan) and then to their beautiful Wascana Park. It is the largest urban park in North America. It covers 2300 acres and 300 of the acres are Wascana Lake and creek. There is a paved pathway with gardens all around the lake.  A marina for canoes and kayaks for rent, the Provincial Legislative Building of Saskatchewan overlooks it, two universities are located here, a college, museum, Cultural Arts centre and several other important buildings are located close to this central parkland. There were so many people out enjoying their day off, walking, running, biking, feeding the geese and picnicing. Like a perfect summer day!

Thank goodness we had this day to rest, the weather tomorrow is not looking the best for heading east. The wind is supposed to be head on from the east ~ building from 25 km in the morning to 35 / 50 in the afternoon, with heavy rain. We will have to see how it is once Doug and Ryan get Ryan’s bike put back together from the bus ride. I’m pretty sure any wind over 30 in my face will be pushing me backwards. We might need to head inside if it is storming out too badly.

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Laundry time!

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Down town

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In the heart of Regina

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Wascana Park

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Mmmmmm, beer!

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Day 9 ~ A Short Jaunt Down the Road, Turn Right At The Moose

Distance ~ 58 km.     Winds ~ crosswind from the south 20 -25 km. 
Temperature ~ 18 – 28C    Sunny skies      Thursday, May 22, 2014

When we first rode out to the highway from camp, the flags of Besant Campground were fully extended out from the west wind. We rejoiced in our good fortune and snapped the tell tale photo, believing the Weather Network had made a mistake . . . . . it was not a brutal crosswind as predicted.  In fact it was a stiff tailwind that would blow us all the way down the highway through Moose Jaw to Regina. Our excitement lasted only a short 10 km ~

Our day was cut short, thinking we could enjoy a full days rest on Friday, explore the town of Moose Jaw from the central campground in River Park located in the Wakamow Valley, and be on our way Saturday to Regina with fresh legs.

An afternoon of reading, a dinner out at Cornerstones, and a walk up and down Main street completed our day. It is like a summer evening here, people in shorts, sandals, cars with their tops down and stereos loud. It felt so good to walk and stretch our legs out. We are looking forward to a day of rejuvenation tomorrow!

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The Moose of Moose Jaw

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Coffee is Darlene's treat today! Thanks, D!

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Back along the boardwalk to camp.

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“I Was Thinking Why Don’t We Buy A One Way Ticket to Calgary to Visit Ryan and Marie, Then Bike Home?”

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Really, are you serious? I’ll need a map of Canada first, to think about it.” I hesitated for a short time, then . . . . our planning began.

Reading and researching bike blogs and checking out the Biking Across Canada web site, which is full of invaluable information, was a nightly activity through March. I requested maps of all the provinces we’d be riding through from Alberta to Newfoundland (~ thanks, Amanda and Janet!) We began making lists and lists of camping equipment and clothing needed. We made appointments to update our wills, have our yearly dentist and doctor check ups, have blood work done and listed the numerous jobs to done at home ~  to close up the house until we return. Where ever we went we talked about the trek and added more to the lists. Then we figured out what we had and what we needed to purchase ~ that meant making more lists.

The month of April was spent slowly checking off our lists . . . .what needed to be done, what needed to be purchased or what needed to be packed. May 1st, John drove us to the airport and we boarded the plane with the one way tickets, our bikes packed in boxes and our trailers dismantled and packed with our biking and camping gear. Ready for the “BIG RIDE!” But first, two weeks of visiting with our boys and Marie!

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Day 10 ~ A Killer Last Day ~ The Day With All the Breakdowns . . . . One Of The Longest Days Ever!!!!

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Chain Lakes Provincial Park ~ Calgary ~ 117 km, 6 hour 15 minutes (supposedly)

Shortly after riding on to the Cowboy Trail towards home, Ryan yelled ahead to Doug. “My back wheel is rubbing.” We all dismounted our bikes to take a look. One of only eighteen spokes was broken and we had 120 kms ahead of us. The wheel was jammed against the frame making it impossible to proceed.

Doug jumped into millwright “McGuyver Mode.” They cut out most of the broken spoke, leaving just enough on each end to twist into loops. Before the final solution was found, a few other strategies were attempted.  After searching the shoulder of the road in both directions, he found piece of wire suitable for the job.

As the sun was blistering down on us, Doug laced the wire between the two loops and then tensioned it by twisting it with an Allen Key. I was hiding in the long grass trying to cool down behind the shadow of a fence post. VOILÀ, after a couple of hours we were back on the road!

Ryan was fairly tentative to ride on his new fangled spoke.  A few hills later, as we approached Longview, more trouble surfaced. h
He couldn’t shift into a higher gear to climb the next hill. Another maintenance stop revealed a broken rear shifter cable. There was no solution to fixing this problem . . . . . he only had two gears he could use ~ fifth and tenth. The rest of the Doug pulled out his bunge-cord tow rope to assist in towing Ryan up the hills. Several stops were made to hook up and unhook the towing rope. The day seemed to drag on as the sun began to lower toward the horizon.

As we crested one of the last hills, we could see skyline of Calgary off in the distance. We celebrated that we only 30 km left to pedal, we had so many mechanical problems today, we thought we were home free!

Not so! Ryan had . . . . . not one, not two, but three flat tires. Argh! It seemed we didn’t have enough trouble yet! We were so ready for this ride to be done. What should have been an easier 6 hour ride, was stretching out to be one of our longest rides going on 11 hours.

As we approached the last two kilometers to Ryan’s house, Doug’s chain broke  . . . . . not once, not twice, but three times. Ryan and I patiently waited while Doug fixed it.  We were so anxious to be finished our ride and couldn’t believe we had so much trouble, all in the same day.  Thankfully this didn’t happen throughout our entire ride!

We turned up the last road with a bit of an incline, about 1k left to go. We heard a crack ~ Doug’s back derailler snapped off and was hanging down, only held up by his chain. It was unbelievable!  We all stopped and looked at each other and laughed so hard. The best part wad the tow rope came out one last time to finish our ride. Marie was waiting for us at the gate to welcome us home. Our adventure was over.

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Day 9 ~ Leaving Blairmore, Past Frank Slide to The Foothills . . . . Oh, The Foothills!

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Blairmore to Chain Lakes Provincial Park ~ 95 km., 5 hours

We were excited to be nearing the highway that would take us toward Calgary, leaving the last few mountain ranges and officially entering the foothills.

As we approached the area of the slide, the road cut through enormous rocks and boulders. Boulders the size of houses were jumbled and strewn off into the distance. We stopped to witness the devastation of the historic Frank Slide, where the side of Turtle Mountain broke away early in the morning, burrying the small town alive. The rubble was 150 metres deep and covered an expanse of 1 kilometre wide. It was overwhelming to see, we rode for miles in silence afterward, processing what that horrible morning was like. (Click on the link below for incredible information about the slide.)

Frank Slide Info

We turned on to highway #22 ~ Cowboy Trail. When thinking about leaving the mountains and riding through the foothills, it seemed like the hardest part of the ride was over. What a ridiculous thought! The foothills are not little hills, they are long sweeping rollers that drop down to river beds then rise endlessly into the distance. From afar the road looked flat, but as our wheels edged closer to Calgary  . . . . . we knew these next two days were going to be challenging!

The air was extremely hot and dry, dry as a bone.  There was no wind to cool us, no gas stations to refill our camel backs, no shade to be found anywhere and biting flies chasing us as we pedaled up the hills. In contrast, there were amazing beautiful fields of yellow safflower in bloom stretching to the horizon and miles and miles of pasture for livestock and fence lines, as far as the eye could see.

Fortunately as we emptied out our last few gulps of water we approached a clean, cold, crisp fast flowing stream where other people had stopped to enjoy the view and refreshing waters. We lingered here for a chilling swim and purified some water to finish off our ride for the day. Our aim was to camp at Chain Lakes Provincial Park. Our site had a panoramic view of the Chain Lakes Reservoir with the Rockies in the distance. There was thunder exploding in the distance, coupled with an entrancing heat lightning light show that completed our evening sitting by the campfire, pondering that our momentous trip was coming to an end.