I’d been through a time zone last night so I woke up early. I nearly cut my hair off I was so pissed off with it, but it has lived to see at least one more day. After breakfast, I hit the road heading into Winnipeg. Bike shop was first on the agenda and I soon found out it didn’t open until 10am so I had about an hour to kill. I was kinda happy at that prospect, it meant I would get to have a look around the big city. I drove into the centre of town and parked at “The Forks”, which, weirdly is a national park.
I paid $2 for an hour’s parking and commenced wandering around the green space. The Canadian National Museum of Immigration stood as centrepiece to the area and is apparently world renowned for its architecture. The place was abuzz with people setting up for the Canadian Summer Games that were kicking off in Winnipeg tomorrow. It meant a lot of free events to go along with the sporting spectacle but I wasn’t going to stick around so I settled for just seeing the empty canopies and gardeners working furiously to make sure everything looked tip top.
I found a cool bit of Where’s Wally graffiti subtly tucked away as I walked around the big museum to complete a loop of the place. I wasn’t all that impressed, but it was nice to just people watch as commuters navigated the roads on foot, car and bicycle to get to work.
Cutting through the train station, I crossed the main road into Ford Garry park. There was absolutely nothing left of the fort now, just a park commemorating its existence. It was empty of course, so I strolled around in it a while before circling back by some tall apartment buildings and back to my car. I’d managed to kill forty minutes in Winnipeg.
As I was faffing around at my car, a man approached me and asked in broken English if I could help him with the parking machine. I did my good deed for the day, taking his money and getting a ticket for him. He was very grateful.
Scepticism best describes my mood as I drove over to the bike shop. I was concerned that they wouldn’t have what I needed since I had a bit of a list, but only one way to find out. I’d found plenty of bike shops in town and I chose this one because it appealed to me for no reason at all. I walked into the near empty shop and was happy to find it was huge. I spoke to a young guy at the service desk and got into my list. I first asked him if they could bleed my rear brakes. They could, but their soonest availability was Thursday next week. Scratch that one off the list then. Thankfully, they had absolutely everything else I needed which was a chain whip, cassette locker, brake pads, some spare spokes and a spoke nipple tool. $80 later, I walked out, feeling much better about the whole situation, especially since the guy had forgotten to charge me for the brake pads! I’ll consider that good karma thanks to helping out with the parking situation earlier.
Bike back on the roof, I was off. More driving today, but this time I had something along the way to see in Riding Mountain National Park. I was excited that I might be able to do some riding after getting my back wheel sorted. Slowly I left behind the forests and lakes to see them replaced by endless fields of bright yellow canola flowers. How pretty, it would only have been made better if there were some rolling hills in the picture, instead of just a flat expanse.
I got off Highway 1 as soon as I could at Portage la Prairie so I could get off the dual highway and I was happy to do so, it was much better being out on the back highways. For some reason, as I neared the turn off to the highway going north, I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to book my flight to take me from Malaysia to Perth and so, when I stopped in Minnedosa (which looks and sounds an awful lot like Minnesota) for petrol, I got straight onto it. I was astounded to find I only had to pay $200 for the privilege and that included paying extra for checked bags. Better than that, I managed to get the second to last seat available on Dad’s flight so we’d be returning to Aus together!
Feeling quite excited about my future prospects, I cheerily continued up the road and half an hour later, came to the entrance of Riding Mountain. Alarmingly, I hadn’t seen any mountain as I approached so I was surprised when I reached the signs. Hmmm. I was even more surprised to see a town, called Wasagaming, was located inside the park. It immediately became obvious that this was a very busy place so I took my first opportunity to park.
I made myself a salad at the back of the car and carried it with me, eating and walking, to see what this was all about. There was a beautiful beach that bordered Clear Lake that was absolutely swamped with people. Everyone was on holiday apparently because as far as I was concerned it was a Thursday! A great opportunity to people watch, I sat on the grass under the shade of a tree and watched. Kids were splashing around in the water, teenagers were sitting body-consciously in circles and I saw a zombie Dad who was standing by his under-2 year old as he played, looking off into the far distance hardly aware of his surroundings. I wonder if he was happy. The best bit was when a family came up right near me and the wife asked if husband could take a photo. Drama ensued when he didn’t know how to operate the fancy camera and I swear this was my entertainment for the next fifteen minutes. At one point, both parents and their two young boys were crowding around the camera, arguing about how to get the settings they wanted. Ha ha, I did my best to keep my smiles to myself.
I walked through the park until I reached the visitor’s centre to find out what this place was all about. At the last visitor’s centre, I’d been told there was riding here but I saw a significant lack of mountain bikes. I spoke to a very enthusiastic chap in the centre who pointed everything out to me on a map. He seemed keener for me to go riding than I did, but I was completely turned off when I managed to get out of him that all the trails were on fire roads. Not! Mountain! Biking! He told me about the camps I could stay at and at the price of $15, I considered an early afternoon camp which would give me the opportunity to work on my bike.
I drove for an hour down a dirt road to Lake Audy, the best campsite according to visitor centre man. I drove through a bison enclosure to get there, one of the park’s main attractions, but saw absolutely no bison. I was discouraged to see the camp completely deserted apart from the camphosts and not a single shady site. That put an end to that idea, I wasn’t going to pay to sit outside in the sun where there wasn’t a breath of wind for relief and I was sure to be eaten alive. I used their bathroom then went back the way I came, happy with the prospect of covering some more ground. I must get to BC!
I exited the park, nearly stopping for a swim in the lake until I drove past the turn off, so I let it slip by. I’d found out that the next National Park on my way, Prince Albert, was much like Riding Mountain, so I decided I would bypass it. Since my new Atlas doesn’t highlight scenic routes (maybe because all are considered scenic in Canada) and so I struggled to decide on my path west across the provinces. I pulled over in Dauphin to do some research and without surprise, I found that there weren’t any free camps on offer. Another challenge then! I resolved to carry on another hour until about 6pm, then start looking. I listened to some Startalk radio as the fields rolled by and I thought that maybe a free camp would be a challenge since the farmland just didn’t seem to end.
As I approached the border between Manitoba and Saskatchewan, I saw an opportunity in a dirt road leading down by the river. I passed a few houses and went all the way to the end where there was a small turn around area. This would have done excpect there was someone parked there already. I could see them fishing down on the river and there wasn’t room for two, so I went back. There was another access point down to the river and this was much bigger and nicer. There was a car here too, but he was off kayaking and it was such a big space, so I was happy. It took me a while to get level and park the car so that I could hang out in its shade, but eventually I was set up. What a beautiful spot. Who says there are no free camps in Canada? Just have to know where to look. I did see a sign for an official campground on the other side of the highway. I wonder how much they’re all paying.
The sun was hot so I was keen for swim, but after donning my bikini and walking down to the river, I found it wasn’t swim-worthy with green bits all through the water that didn’t look too inviting. Instead, since I was hungry, I got straight onto dinner having bangers and mash again since I’d enjoyed it so much last night. With that out of the way, I was ready to do some work on the bike. Having the sun stay up so late is absolutely brilliant, I have no idea how I travelled in the winter when the sun disappeared around 4pm. Excited to get out my new tools, I successfully got my cassette off and proceeded to replace my broken spoke. It was all pretty simple and since I was on a roll, I replaced another spoke nipple that was already cracked and ready to break. Whiling away the evening truing a bike wheel while listening to love songs is a beautiful way to pass the time. For me anyway.
I finished before the sun went down and packed it all up after riding my newly repaired ride around camp for a bit, marvelling at the view before me. Having learnt my lesson from last night, I got into the van just as the sun disappeared over the horizon, not even giving the bugs a chance to get settled.