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Ride to the Rockies, Day Ten

I woke up to daylight, no thanks to my phone's alarm clock, which had run dead in the night. Still, it had to be pretty early and I estimated it to be about 7:30. By eight I was gone and heading more or less east again on the Trans Canada Highway. The wind was wickedly strong, blowing out of the west-southwest. The route made an abrupt jog south for several miles as I fought the gusts, then turned back east again. After the turn east, past Gleichen, I left my view of the mountains behind me, by then just a pale blue outline in my mirrors. I would not see anymore mountains until I crossed my old friends, the Appalachians, after leaving the VJMC rally in southern Indiana and heading home.

Again the road turned southeast around Bassano heading for the town of Medicine Hat, on the eastern edge of Alberta. The wind was shrieking and blowing the bike hard over my right shoulder. That stretch lasted maybe a hundred miles, but when I turned due east, the world went silent, with only the engine sound in my ears and no perception of wind for most of the rest of the day, with the exceptions when the road veered slightly off eastward for short periods.

On Canada 1, before I was about to turn south to get on some smaller back roads, I had looked in vain for gas stations as my mileage added up and the reserve light glowed yellow at me. Finally, the bike started to stutter. I knew it was coming so I flipped the kill switch to keep from damaging the fuel pump by running it dry. I could see a station about a mile up the hill I had stalled on, of course. I took one of the liter MSR bottles from my pillion foot peg strut and poured its contents in the Bonnie's tank, then rode to the top of the hill to fill the tank.

On the run between Strathmore and Medicine Hat, numerous oil wells appeared, then disappeared in Saskatchewan until somewhere below Gull Lake on SA 13 and on to Stoughton. From Medicine Hat into Saskatchewan until my turn south at Gull Lake onto SA 37 to catch on SA 13 for the continuing run east, I rode through an area full of low green buttes, and off to the south was the outline far away of a low line of mountains. The map put Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in that area, and I saw a sign that indicated that in that direction lay the “Canadian Badlands.”

Montana is a huge state. Across Alberta and even into Saskatchewan I had been following the Montana line, just south of me. It was not until twenty or thirty miles before I stopped to camp that evening in eastern Saskatchewan that the border to the south changed to North Dakota.

I rode SA 13 most of the way across the province through ground swells of grasses in every direction, except when broken by a line of a tree break. Among the rolling hills the green was peppered with busy oil wells perpetually bowing to the earth, then raising their heads.

It was so empty and far between villages, which often had no gas anyway, that eventually my tank wetn dry again. I was not too far from Weyburn, so I just poured the other liter from the other MSR bottle in and kept going. Twelve miles passed, and I was still not at Weyburn. I stopped at the side of the road again, unloaded the tailbag, and got out my one gallon Rotopax that tucked neatly under the tailbag's footprint. I knew that would get me the rest of the way. Although at first the gas mileage had dropped at those lower elevations the fifty mile per hour tailwind started to improve it again. Of course, only a coupole miles farther on was Weyburn and a gas station. I took the time to refill, not only the tank but the MSRs and Rotopax as I knew that in a day or two I would be in the northern Minnesota north woods wilderness and would breathe easier having the backup supply on board.

The day had warmed considerably and by the time I had run out of gas the third time I was sweltering in all my layers of clothing. The sky was cloudless all day except for a narrow strip of high clouds at first off to the south, but which eventually moved overhead and then to the north and out of sight as the day had progressed, leaving he prairie skies solid blue.

I was ready to stop for the night. I calculated I had done over 500 miles and had a good start for tomorrow. I decided to turn in at the first camping sign I saw. Canadian highways have convenient blue signs for services and accommodations at intersections on even their minor routes, and soon I saw a blue camping sign at Stoughton and turned left. I saw another pointing left so I turned again onto a gravel road. Soon that became diminutive, so I turned around, thinking the sign must have meant the next paved road. A girl was walking her dog on the gravel road where it met the paved highway abd I stopped to ask her about the camping. She said I could follow the gravel road to get there, but if I took the next paved road and turned left to it. She said it was next to a huge building, that apparently was for fairs and events, and I could see it when she pointed it out. I thanked her and rode on to the city park and campground.

Every little prairie town had one of these which you could see for miles.

There were three or four trailers parked there with accompanying vehicles, but no one was around. I picked site number seven, a couple away from the nearest neighbor and set up the tent. Soon a lady drove up in a pickup and registered me and told me it was ten dollars Canadian. I only had US currency so I gave her a twenty and said ten dollars Canadian would be fine for change as she had no US bills and that they could use the extra money for the park in whatever way they chose, so I ended up paying about twelve dollars US, which was still very cheap.

Apparently it is very common in the little towns on the prairie to have a city park with sports fields and other facilities that also offered the traveler camping space. Would have been good to know the night before and for anyone traveling across Canada on the cheap. Just look for a grain elevator and you will find a town and usually one of those campgrounds. And eight dollars Canadian is cheap camping. The one I was at had bathroom and shower, and I was able to pitch my tent in the shade on soft grassnext to my own picnic table, too.

After a bit the dog walker I had encountered walked by through the park and I thanked her for the directions. The sun was setting and a little chill set in, but not enough to warrant sleeping fully clothed again.

I fired up the stove for the first time that night, which I was starting to think would have been better left at home. I made a couple packets of oatmeal with raisins, dates, and walnuts and a cup of coffee. Early that day I had stopped for a cheap egg on muffin and coffee for breakfast so, other than the leftover grapes I had eaten on the side of the road midday that was all I ate all day.

I felt a sore throat coming on and hoped it would not escalate into something more serious, but the hot coffee soothed it for now. While waiting for bedtime I checked my phone just in case I had a signal. I thought even if it costs me a bit I would try to call Andrea but with the No Signal icon on the phone it would have to wait until I was back in the States.

I have some kind of nerve damage on my right foot's toes that I think I incurred a few years ago while repairing a floor at my brother's house that had been damaged by termites. I had crouched all day and my two right toes began to burn. This pain returns from time to time, with no apparent cause, but when it does it is excruciating and feels like someone is holding a match to my toes. Usually this condition will last all day and then disappear until the next the next time it returns to torment me, in a week or in a couple months. Because of that, my wife had given me some of her pain pills, both controlled substances, just in case I would have a flare up on the trip. I thoughtlessly dumped the pills in one of her old prescription bottles and threw it in my bag just in case. I had not had the need to use them at all so far, but I would be returning to the US the next day and now the idea of crossing back across the US border with two drugs not prescribed to me and mixed in one bottle seemed likely to cause trouble, much trouble if a border guard decided to do a thorough search. The thought of being delayed, or worse, thrown in a holding cell, convinced me it was not worth trying to carry them with me any more so I flushed them and hoped my toes would not flare up again on the rest of the trip. I hit the sack relieved I would not have anything to worry about when I reentered the US.

Miles so far 4,615.3

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