Published on July 22nd, 2015 | by Guest Contributor
Cycling Across Canada: Nearing Alberta
In my first update, I spent a little more than two weeks making my way northwest through Ontario, since then I have crossed not one but two provincial borders and I’m now getting close to Alberta. The first province took three weeks, and the next two took only a week each – it was definitely a nice feeling to finally reach that first border.
My last day in Ontario was very wet, but at least there was a somewhat favourable wind escorting me out of the province. After spending some time drying out for a bit at the Manitoba Welcome Centre, I returned to the road where I was promptly greeted with three very distinct hills – how could this be? I’m in the prairies, there aren’t supposed to be hills here!
Undaunted, I traversed those three hills and they did flatten out – and it was beautiful – as if someone flipped a switch and the hills were gone. So were the winding roads and the paved shoulders; the latter wasn’t such a pleasant surprise but one which I would have to face.
As noted in my previous update, the winds are the most notable challenge when cycling westbound across Canada – until you reach the Rockies anyway. And, despite hearing many reports of cyclists experiencing easterly winds across the prairies, I have yet to experience such pleasures. On the upside, there have been a few days of crosswinds. Which are not ideal, but certainly better than a headwind – you quickly learn to appreciate the little things on journeys like this.
So far, the most unexpected element in crossing the prairies showed up on my way to Regina: smoke, and a lot of it. I heard of the forest fires in northern Saskatchewan but it was only when the winds shifted and started to come from the north that I experienced my first taste or – more accurately – smell of those fires.
At first it was almost pleasant, it reminded me of a mild campfire smell – I almost wished I had some marshmallows, or perhaps a S’more! However, as the day passed, the smoke got thicker and what was once a clear horizon started to get hazy, and then it disappeared completely. I found this remarkable since the forest fires in question are more than 400 kilometres away – then again, the smoke has to go somewhere. I have since talked to people who have reported smoke as far south as Omaha and Kentucky!
Since that ride into Regina, the smoke has been an on-and-off occurrence – it hasn’t disappeared completely but it also hasn’t been quite as thick as that first day.
As I near Alberta and leave the smoke and fires of Saskatchewan behind, I know I’ll have new challenges to face. I’ve pedalled over 3,000 kilometres so far – over halfway, but still a long way left to go, especially with the Rockies getting closer every day.
For more daily updates on this journey, visit www.MarksMidlifeCrisis.com.
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