Wednesday 26th July – The Hitch Hiker’s Guide

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The sun wouldn’t let me go to sleep and now it woke me up! By 8am, it was warm inside the van thanks to the early rising ball of fire. I took the hint and got myself up. I drove out of my secret camp and joined the highway along with everyone else, feeling quite smug. I was planning to make a lot of ground towards B.C. today and I started out well. I’d downloaded “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” yesterday so I was keen to get started on it. I listened and drove for a couple of hours until I reached the town of Ignace. I was in much need of a break so I stopped in at the Information Centre which doubled as a rest area and library.

Inside, I asked if there was anything I could stop off and see on my way to the next province of Manitoba and the lady I spoke to did a terrible job of convincing me there was anything of note. She was just confirming what I already knew so that didn’t matter. I extended my break by sitting outside the library and using their Wifi to download some new podcasts and upload a few blogs. I ate morning tea as I carried on my way.

It didn’t last long. Just over an hour later, I was getting sleepy, so much so that I pulled over at a rest area by a lake, parked the car, turned the engine off, put my seat back and dozed right there. Where did this lethargy come from? I have absolutely no stamina for long distance driving when I know there won’t be much to entertain me along the way, or an exciting prospect at the end of it. I think I snoozed on and off for about an hour before I stirred. I’m sure I’d had my mouth open the whole time. Still feeling groggy, I got out of the car and walked down to the water, thinking I should probably jump into it. It wasn’t swim-worthy and was a bit too cold anyway, so I got myself a coke out of the fridge to give me a buzz and carried on driving.

My next stop was in Dryden. I knew there was a Walmart here so I wanted to stop for a quick shop. I got petrol too and for the second time of asking for a place to fill up my water containers, I was denied. What the hell Canada? For the first time in my travels, I actually bought water at Walmart for an incredible 25c per liter, feeling quite stupid. On the way out of town, I did notice another servo had a tap and hose out the front so I’d just have to be more picky of my servos in future.

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide was my only entertainment for the rest of the drive and I ended up finishing it since I was listening to it non-stop. I crossed into Manitoba and stopped at the information centre for the bathroom and to look through a few brochures, but I wasn’t enthused by much. I looked up a bike shop in Winnipeg, knowing I’d have to stop there to get a spoke nipple tool and see about getting my rear brakes bled. It was nearly 6pm by the time I approached the big city and I decided to save the bike shop for tomorrow and find camp.

I did my usual hunt on Google Satellite, but I gave it away pretty soon and just looked out my window for potential dirt roads that lead off the highway. After being annoyed at myself for not turning down what looked like good roads and not having the opportunity to do a u-turn, I turned off down a dirt road that had mostly houses all along it. It didn’t look too promising, but I did see one road that was slightly overgrown that looked ok. I turned around and after a quick look, started driving down it. I scraped both the front and the back of the car going through a ditch and instantly had a horrible feeling about this road. I soon became stuck in that situation of keep going to find a turn around point, or start reversing out. I was too far in to want to reverse out so I hoped for a spot to turn. After a few more bumps and wobbles, I found a spot and, after getting out to inspect the ground for softness, was able to turn around. I didn’t have any trouble getting back through the ditch and onto the road, but I considered that a fair warning. I turned to get back on the highway and try again further west.

Before I got to the main road, I saw a road next to a gas pipeline enclosure. There was a road leading into the forest a bit so I took that, but it soon became too rutted so I reversed back out. What to do now? When I returned to the road by the fenced off government property, I thought that this would actually do. I was in sight of the dirt road, but far enough away from the highway. I was sick of hunting anyway, I felt confident I wouldn’t be bothered.

Knowing there was the potential to mountain bike tomorrow in Riding Mountain National Park, I got the bike off the roof to see if I could do anything about those two broken spoke nipples. Using my vice grips and a shifter, I managed to replace the first nipple, getting pissed off when I was truing the wheel because of how fiddly it was to use a shifter instead of the actual nipple tool which I didn’t own. By the time I was tightening the second nipple, I’d figured out a much better system that let me use a screwdriver for most of the tightening. When truing the wheel a second time, it all went to shit when I snapped the end of the spoke off. Bugger. I wasn’t happy, but in the end I concluded that it was better I break it now, close to a bike shop, then out on a trail.

I packed everything away, feeling as if the universe was telling me to stop travelling and go home. Dan put things right though, telling me no bitching allowed, especially when an easy fix was available. He was right. It might mean spending money in a bike shop, but it was far from the end of the world. Feeling dirty and pissed off at my long hair, I had a shower, after which I felt renewed. It was like a new day had started. I enjoyed cooking my dinner of bangers and mash and sat outside to eat it, getting on to blogging in my outdoor chair as the sun went down.

I learnt a valuable lesson that I really should have caught on to before today that is: get inside the van before sunset. I had to stop blogging and hurriedly to the dishes because the mozzies came out something fierce. I danced and jumped around like a crazy person trying to keep them off me as I dried. Wholly shit, they were bad! I jumped inside the van, closing all the doors and windows and I spent the next ten minutes sitting on my bed killing as many of the buggers as I could. I went to war with these little shits. I must have smashed at least forty before wet wiping my hands and settling down for the night. Of course, stragglers kept appearing and I worked on them until I finally went to bed.

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