Back roads took us into the friendly town of Dauphin where we are staying with warmshowers host Brian Neill. He has done a world bike tour and now runs a kayak touring business on the big lakes of Manitoba. We are taking a couple rest days here to tune-up the bikes and update this blog. Toby Keith is playing at the Dauphin Countryfest here this weekend.
Archive for June, 2011
Today’s 144 km ride was no problem with a slight tailwind and 18 hours of daylight. Though we got in late we still had time to eat in the Stetson Cafe before setting the tent up in the community park behind the school for free. I had perogies (12/6.75) and beer (4.25) while Julie had the chicken dinner (9.95). Ethelbert has both a Ukrainian Catholic and a Ukrainian Orthodox church.
We waited until after dinner to pitch our tent in the picnic area next to the Birch River. I was hoisting the bear bag up over a tree branch when Officer Mellon of the RCMP strode into our camp. We were not in a designated campsite. Loud music blared from a friendly multi-family group camping taking up several sites in the small Primrose provincial park and we thought that maybe no one would mind as we headed 100m away across the newly-mown grass to a picnic table next to a babbling stream. We delayed setting up the tent until after swimming, doing laundry, hanging it on the line, and eating dinner; just in case a ranger came to insist that we move to a designated site. We can wild camp just about anywhere in Manitoba, but in a provincial park camping is allowed only in designated sites. A park ranger had come through the park earlier but said nothing to us. Apparently she called the Mounties to say that a couple of motorcyclists had set up camp by the river. I’m sure it happens often as it is by far the best site here. Officer Mellon must have taken pity on us and did not make us move. He asked where we were from and I told him about our Great Adventure. He left saying he received a call about motorcycles and that obviously wasn’t us.
The highway follows along the top of the Pas Moraine leaving The Pas. It marks the western and southern edge of the last retreating glacier. After seeing a woodland caribou walking down the road we dropped down south of the moraine and soon crossing the 53rd parallel entering farmland for the first time, near Mafeking. The bugs decrease dramatically as we exit the boreal forest and enter the prairie. We have both been tired all day from lack of sleep due to the short nights. Ken and Carolyn, who run the campground here, let us camp for free. The Overflowing River is overflowing at the boat launch, due to high water in Lake Winnepegosis.
We got a 25% discount at the Kikiwak Inn, a native-run business, and also a gift of sling-type packs. The Pas was an important stop on the Voyageur’s highway, through which passed most of the beaver pelts bound for Europe via either Hudson Bay or through the Boundary Waters and Grand Portage, Minnesota on to Montreal.
After first encountering thick mosquitoes, a plague of gnats then bothered us. Now bulldogs are out, the local term for deer flies. Whereas mosquitoes and gnats do not bother us while the bikes are moving; bulldogs orbit around us at 33rpm no matter how fast we pedal. Surprisingly, though, they rarely bite. Do the same flies stay with us all day as we travel 100 kilometers? Do they ever return home? Do flies even have a home? Here’s a riddle I remember from my youth, that makes no sense without the proper punctuation: “time flies how can you they fly too fast” (Insert question marks after the 2nd and 5th words, end with an exclamation point). We are staying at the lake home of Tom Gallagher and Ruth Bachman, a retired judge and a retired prosecutor from northern Wisconsin.
We have trouble getting enough sleep when there’s only six hours between sunset and sunrise around the summer solstice, which is today. I have an eye mask that I wear in the tent, as twilight lasts until after eleven at night. We are in one of the campgrounds in the large Grass River provincial park, where Paul, custodian, did not charge us to camp. Dale and Tom from Cold Spring, Minnesota kindly gave us some leftover pasta after reheating the cast-iron pot over a fire.
Ravens are the most common creature seen in the woods up here. Next come beavers who build dams in roadside ditches, some seen as close as ten meters away. We also see Sandill Cranes, Hawks, Osprey, Pileated Woodpeckers and often hear the breezy, flute-like call of the Swainson’s Thrush. We expected to make this a short day and stay in the motel at Ponton Junction. It had just started to rain when we arrived and has Wi-Fi; but all the rooms are filled by construction crews. The sun came out as we rode on, and are camped in the tent-only side of the falls in a provincial park, next to a couple of guys from Eau Claire. One of them is the ex-father-in -law of a friend of my brother’s. We met Agnes and Lutz on the way here, who invited us to stop for a drink at their cabin. Since we arrived late we had coffee with them in the morning. They are US citizens, immigrants from Hungary, who have retired to Canada. They love the national health care here.
There’s a smooth paved shoulder heading south from Thompson for 34k as far as Paint Lake provincial park. Groups of Venture Scouts were out on this Father’s Day planting trees near the highway to raise money for a trip to the World Jamboree in Sweden this July. At Pesew Falls we met a couple from Cable, Wisconsin who invited us to stay at their cabin near the Pas, a three days’ bike ride away. We planned to stay in the Silver Leaf hotel we’d seen from the train window, but it is closed. After eating a reasonably-priced meal in the Ice Cream Parlour we headed for the Setting Lake campground outside of town; and passed the fresh grave of a 14-year-old girl who was murdered here this past week. The killer is still at large.
A wolverine crossed the road on our five-hundredth and first day of travel. Lots of people stop to talk to us, and someone said he expected to see us in the paper, So we stopped at the Thompson Citizen and Nickel Belt News to have our picture taken. I don’t know if we’ll get the same media attention as I received when I returned home around Christmas of 1977. We are back on paved roads now, and this weekend is Nickel Days in Thompson.