Apologies for the super-late post! The weather, bike troubles, and the need to sleep have all conspired together to make it hard to find time to get these updates done. We’ll try to be better in the future!
We’re officially one full month in to our Journey! And what better way to celebrate that — not to mention Canada Day! — than to ride into Saskatchewan’s biggest city, Saskatoon, to the promise of a rest day??
This week, we finished off our exploration of Alberta with some wet and windy days. But, despite those downs, we saw some amazing places, met some great people, and kept our optimism shining! And with that attitude, we crossed into Saskatchewan — that’s two provinces down, eight more to go.
With another province behind us, it seems like a good time to revisit some stats that we put up here after we crossed into Alberta. So, without further adieu…
- Distance covered: 2,741.06 km
- Vertical distance climbed: 24,295 m
- Number of flats: 6 (2 for Jon, 2 for Glen, and 2 for BOB the trailer)
- Number of broken spokes: 4 (3 for Glen, 1 for Jon)
- Number of wheels replaced: 2 (1 for Glen, 1 for Jon)
- Number of tires replaced: 1 (Glen)
- Jars of peanut butter consumed: 2
- Bottles of sunscreen used up: 2
- Days with snow: 2
- Pairs of singed gloves (don’t ask…): 3
- Number of mosquito bites: 342,598,327,405,827,345
Day 21: Rest Day in Edmonton, AB (Route)
What better way to rest in Edmonton than to hop on a bus and head to West Edmonton Mall?
For both Jon and I, the West Edmonton Mall has had probably 25 years of hype built up. So, we entered the mall with perhaps slightly unrealistic expectations. And I’m sad to say that we left pretty disappointed 😦
Upon entering, we were greeted by tons of shops… and an amusement park! Sadly, contrary to what we heard, the amusement park had no adult-oriented rollercoasters; just smaller, kid-friendly rides were to be found. It is weird, though — we should be impressed by an entire amusement park contained within a mall! And yet… that 25 years of hype combined with the fact that we are no longer wide-eyed 5-year olds seems to have diminished the magic.
While we weren’t blown away by the mall, it wasn’t a bad experience! For one, we got free samples of Cinnabon – yum! And we actually wished we had brought bathing suits so as to try out the water park (yeah, it’s a mall, but we weren’t about to buy another one!). And, in the end, we played some mini-golf and had a good time at that.
Day 22: Edmonton, AB to Ponoka, AB (Route)
Sadly, due to more bike issues, we didn’t leave Edmonton until around 4pm. In retrospect, it probably would have made more sense to just stay the night and get a fresh start in the morning, but we are stubborn and determined people! Besides, big cities are by far the most expensive places, so we have to limit our time in them.
With our 4pm departure and our lack of familiarity with Edmonton, it took us nearly 2 hours to get to the city limit; it seemed to stretch on forever! Even worse, we didn’t arrive in Ponoka until around 1am. We were set to stay with Andrew, a fellow runner that Jon had met at a race during the summer, so we felt extremely bad about our late arrival. Luckily, Andrew has the patience of a saint and waited up for us — and even fed us! — so that we would have a place to sleep.
Day 22: Ponoka, AB to Innisfail, AB (Route)
After an amazing send off from Andrew and his family, Andrew accompanied us on the first 15km of our journey south towards Innisfail. It was nice to take a route off the highway and to see the old Calgary and Edmonton Trail.
Along the route to Innisfail, we passed through Red Deer, AB. For me, it was one of those places you know the name of, but nothing else. So, I was looking forward to seeing what it was all about. Unfortunately, soon after we entered the city, I had some gear issues. And then it started pouring. So, in the end, we just rushed through it, stopping only once to pick up some groceries.
However, Red Deer is memorable for us because as we left, we somehow ended up on Highway 2, the main vehicle route between Edmonton and Calgary. To give you some context, from Jasper onwards, people had consistently told us to avoid this highway, as it is wide, fast (speed limit of 110km/h), and has big trucks, pulling three trailers; apparently it is even nicknamed the death highway. So, we had been taking highway 2a, the old highway, which is much more scenic and a lot calmer.
Fast forward to our exit from Red Deer — we were on the 2a, and it suddenly (okay, probably not too suddenly, but just with poor signage) turned into highway 2. Ack! It was wet, loud, dirty, and just stressful! Unfortunately, we had to stay on until the next exit, probably amounting to 8 or 10km (20-30 minutes). So, lesson learned: if you are a cyclist, avoid highway 2!
Day 23: Innisfail, AB to Calgary, AB (Route)
After packing up and paying for our camp site — we got charged for an RV site, even though we were camping in two tents and using no electricity, thanks to a perfectly unreasonable camp manager — we set off in the drizzle and wind.
Unfortunately, the highway we had been taking, highway 2a, fizzled out after Innisfail. So, we took to google maps and looked up a route. Long story short, google maps routed us through so-called Range Roads, most of which are not paved, so we spent the first 30km of the day slowly working our way over loose gravel roads.
When we eventually worked our way out of the unpaved range road maze and found a town, we stopped for lunch. That is when we discovered that our waterproof panniers are not, in fact, waterproof; the outside pocket, which is where we keep commonly accessed things (wallets, phones, energy bars), had collected 2 inches of water. And in that water? My phone 😦
I removed the battery and dried my phone out as well as I could before eating, but I didn’t have high hopes for its survival.
As the day continued, we drew closer and closer to Calgary. And then we had reached it! Yes!! Unfortunately, Calgary is a huge, sprawling city, so while we were in Calgary, we still had another 40km to go before we got to our destination for the night.
And so, after navigating the city, getting lost, circling around, and traversing the entire city, we finally arrived, calorie-depleted, after midnight. Sigh…
Day 24: Calgary, AB to Beiseker, AB (Route)
Before leaving Calgary, I needed yet more bike work done. This time, I needed a derailleur hanger replaced, as mine was bent. So, we set off to Bow Cycle in the morning. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the part needed, but called up another shop to see if they did. That already put them in my awesome books, but then they went above and beyond! Since the shop was 10km away, and we were in a rush (and liable to get lost in Calgary, yet again!), the bike mechanic at Bow Cycle, Darryl, actually gave us a ride there in his truck. I couldn’t believe it!
So, after having my bike fixed up (new derailleur hanger, new rear tire, new chain), we finally left Calgary at 5:30pm. Oh boy.
Originally, we had been planning on heading to Drumheller in one go, but as the night stretched on, it became clear we weren’t going to make it. So, we stopped for dinner in Irricana, a tiny town that somehow had a restaurant open at 11pm! And then we made our way to Beiseker to camp.
Day 25: Beiseker, AB to Drumheller, AB (Route)
The ride to Drumheller was quite short — around 65km — but it seemed to take forever because we were looking forward to seeing the badlands and the dinosaurs!
About halfway to Drumheller, the endless farm land and fields finally broke to reveal our first taste of the badlands at Horseshoe Canyon. It was a great treat to pull over, take in the beautiful landscapes, all while enjoying a cold drink.
Just looking at the eroded sandstone formations really fires the imagination! Even though I know that the land looked very different during the actual reign of the dinosaurs, for some reason the badlands really make it easy to envision the dinosaurs in the present landscape.
Before long, we finally made it to Drumheller! After a long descent into the town, we were suddenly immersed in dinosaurs; there are dinosaur statues on street corners, on park benches, and even the world’s biggest dinosaur right outside the visitor information centre.
After finding lodging for the night, we immediately set off for the Royal Tyrrell Museum. For me, this was a very nostalgia-filled day, as my family had come here before, right when I was in the height of my dinosaur obsession. So, through those rose-tinted lenses, I couldn’t wait to see what the museum had in store!
Even after all this time, I still thoroughly enjoyed the museum. The skeletons are impressive, and I could feel my inner-child squirm with delight as we went through the exhibits.
If you want to see more pictures from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, click here!
I whole-heartedly recommend the Royal Tyrrell Museum to anyone who is or ever was interested/obsessed with dinosaurs. And to everyone, I recommend checking out the badlands! My biggest regret in Drumheller was not having more time to do some hikes in the amazing sandstone landscape.
Day 26: Drumheller, AB to Hanna, AB (Route)
Upon leaving Drumheller, we experienced something we hadn’t really seen in a while — hills! It was an unexpected surprise that my legs enjoyed (I think…).
Our route, rather than taking the larger highway 9, took smaller highways that turned out to be way more scenic, and way more exposed! Oh the wind!
It was with great relief that we finally arrived in Hanna. Right at the turn off into the city, there was a giant map that listed all the services and businesses available. So, guided by that, we went to the closest campground we could find. As we leaned our bikes against a picnic table, we looked around and got this foreboding sense that the campground was abandoned, despite the RVs present. When we couldn’t even find the office to pay, we decided to go with our gut and leave.
The next campground we found really made us glad that we kept looking. We arrived at Fox Lake Campground, which was a couple of kilometres outside the city, after grabbing some groceries. While it was full, the campground manager was a very reasonable man and he didn’t hesitate to let us set up. In fact, he even went a step further and suggested we set up in the food shelter, so as to stay dry if it rained!
Day 27: Hanna, AB to Alsask, SK (Route)
The food shelter we camped in turned out to be a godsend! Soon after we went to bed, it started to pour, and pour it was still doing after we got up. It’s a nice feeling packing up your dry tent, while all around you there is nothing but wet misery.
After getting all packed up, I noticed that we were sharing the food shelter with a bird’s nest! I felt bad because the babies were crying for food, but the parents were too skittish to feed them while we were in there.
Then, just before we were to take off, Jon moved my bike to the wall beneath the nest to lube up the chain. And just as he finished, I noticed a flash of white drop from the nest and hit my helmet… the baby birds had pooped right in my helmet 😦
After a quick bathroom trip to clean my helmet, we finally set off into the roaring rain and wind. We expected the worst, but in the end, we got our first tail wind! What a nice treat!!
Throughout the day, we were damp. But when you’re flying along at 30-35km/h, you really don’t mind! In fact, it was so great, we wanted to push further than our original destination of Alsask. Unfortunately, no other town nearby had a campground, so it was not meant to be.
Day 28: Alsask, SK to Rosetown, SK (Route)
As great as the tail wind was the day before, we started our ride in Alsask with a strong headwind and crosswind. So, frustratingly, we crawled along for the first couple of hours at 12-14km/h. For the non-cyclists reading, our normal cruising speed is 22-28km/h, so this was a huge knock!
After enduring the wind for much of the day, we arrived in Kindersley and stopped for lunch. Then, just as we hopped on our bikes to continue onwards, the most spectacular downpour started; it was like the sky just opened up and poured down a solid sheet of water.
Lucky for us, we were still in the town, so we sprinted for the nearest cover — a gas station — and ran inside. Even though we had only been exposed to the rain for a minute or two, we were thoroughly drenched, so we elected to wait for it to calm down before leaving our shelter.
Day 29: Rosetown, SK to Saskatoon, SK (Route)
After an exhausting week full of rain and wind, our ride from Rosetown to Saskatoon felt long and tiring. Our wrists were sore from gripping the handlebars against the wind, and our butts were sore from cycling while damp.
However, it was Canada Day! And with the promise of a rest day the next day, we pedalled on.
After four weeks on the road, we’re still going strong. Even with the test of wind and rain this past week, we are still in high spirits and are still looking forward to seeing more of what Canada has in store for us (even if we do hope for slightly less rain!). In this coming week, we’ll be exploring more of Saskatchewan, and we’ll be on the lookout for those famous “living skies”!
How do you deal with bad weather when you don’t have any way to avoid it? Are there any times when you dreaded going out in the bad weather, but still had a great time after you got going? Let us know in the comments below!