Tuesday, 17 July 2012

On what I might do after John's wedding

Margo and Chris' son John will be getting hitched in Victoria in August. I will be there, as will Leonardo. Well, actually Leonardo will be there for the ride. Actually, for me to ride, as I see little point in going all the way out to Victoria without getting in some biking.

My plan is, after the wedding, to take the ferry to Port Angeles and go visit Seattle. Among the target destinations are no less than 3 aviation museums (Messrs William Boeing and Paul Allen being "notoriously" aviation minded Seattle residents).

Anyway, I was poking around GoogleMaps about how to get from Port Angeles to Seattle when I noticed the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, a little North of Sequim. This triggered a memory from my first bike tour with Margo and Chris. We had thought about paying it a visit but as it was pouring with rain that day, we passed over it in favour of making the ferry to Victoria. However, why not give it a looksee this time around? It would make a relaxed day. Leave the hotel in Sidney, catch the 10:30 ferry to Port Angeles, have lunch and see the Dungeness spit and wildlife refuge in the afternoon. Then spend the night in Sequim or thereabouts.

Of course, this assumes the weather won't be foul with rain.

Friday, 6 July 2012

On impressing myself

After getting into Manitoba, I accidentally reset my bike computer's odometer to zero. Fortunately, I had noted its data prior to this event so nothing was lost. This did mean that figuring out just how far I rode between Calgary and Winnipeg was something I wasn't willing to bother trying to figure out. I did the math a few minutes ago. I managed to impress myself. The total distance covered in the 2 weeks and 1 day I was between the two cities was 1751.4 km. This is considerably more than the 500 kms a week that I use as a rule of thumb when planning these jaunts. I do believe I have impressed myself.

On getting Leonardo into a Ford Focus

The nice big box that MEC provided was too big to fit into the trunk of the Ford Focus that the rental company provided me with at Trudeau Airport. I had asked for a Dodge Caliber hatchback, but they didn't have one. Thinking laterally, I took Leonardo out of the box, collapsed the box and put it the trunk (with the rear seats down) and then put the disassembled Leonardo on top of it.

I was the only guest in my dorm room yesterday evening. I fell asleep only to be woken by someone arriving quite late. I said "Hi." and turned over to go back to sleep as he settled in and took a shower. A certain time later, I had the impression of being shaken awake and consequently awoke with a start and a yelp. In fact, it was my roommate who was simply climbing into his upper bunk of the slightly wobbly bunk bed. He was startled by my yelp.

Two more people arrived in my dorm room in the wee hours which tended to interrupt my sleep. I guess I might have got the last laugh, as I got up at my planned time of 7 AM and proceeded to pack my remaining bits of gear and leave. That will disturb others no matter how had you try.

By some fluke, I had a row to myself on my WestJet flight, which I exploited by lying down on the three seats available to me. Then something unusual happened: I fell asleep! It was a pity the flight was only 2 hours long!

Oh, yeah. I have noticed that the paragraphing of my blog entries hasn't been working. I will deal with it anon.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

On my last day in Winnipeg

So here I am on my last evening in Winnipeg, with little to do.

I met Raymond for breakfast. He seems to have taken more time than I did getting to Winnipeg. However, he's off for Ontario. At least, I hope he is. If he gets as far as chez moi in Montreal, I'll crack open a bottle of bubbly in his honour.

Afterwards, I biked to Assiniboine Park. I sort of thought I'd go to the zoo in order to see bison, but as I could see bunch through the fence including some cream (white) ones, I figured I'd skip it. I then went on a bit of a goose chase trying to find two attractions that weren't what I thought they'd be. I ended up settling for the Winnipeg rail museum where I also saw an East-bound Canadian stopping before its 36-hour run to Toronto, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery (or WAG).

Coming back from the latter, I cut through the Bay store. It seemed less vibrant than the Montreal one.

Back at the hostel, I packed Leonardo. I had trouble with getting the pedals off. Note to self: be sure to grease them thoroughly when get home. He's also got some glitches with the derailleur that needs looking into.

I then sorted my clobber into needed on flight and not needed on flight categories. The latter was stuffed into my duffle bag.

In the former category, I have included a Playmobil spandex cyclist and road racer bike. The comes complete with helmet and biking sunglasses. I picked him up at a toy store yesterday. Possibly because of the Olympics, Playmobil has a line of summer sports figurines. A disconcerting set was women's beach volley ball, itself a disconcerting Olympic event.

Anyway, I am checked in with WestJet. I have also avoided a snag with my car rental at Trudeau, so am I pretty much ready for tomorrow. It's been a decent ride with good days (230 km) and bad days (losing my sandals).

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

On where next year's trip will be and other musings

After visiting the childhood home of Gabrielle Roy and the Royal Canadian Mint (where I acquired some of the last Canadian pennies ever made barring severe deflation) I took in "Brave", this year's Pixar offering. As usual in medieval based movies, there aren't enough peasants and farms in the background to support the aristocrats. However, the Scottish-oid landscape and wild Celtic music have firmly cemented where my next major bike trip will be: Scotland!

In other thoughts, this morning I was walking back from MEC with a large bike box through the rain when a woman asked in good humour if I had a ghost in the box! I did a double take before noticing that the box was from a Ghost bicycle, a German brand that MEC is selling these days!

In further musings, yesterday, I had a weird feeling of being very far removed from the guy who set out from Calgary. Or possibly being very far removed from Calgary.

Winnipeg is quite a different place than Calgary. Much more liberal, ethnically diverse and poorer. A side effect of this is a more visible police presence. As well, the police seems to give off a vibe of a force facing a serious challenge in law enforcement. Police cars are only black and white and uniforms are black.

Makes me glad I handed the license plate into the RCMP! Actually, they first said it should have gone to the local cops until I pointed out that I had found it outside of city limits. As well the window I was directed to was marked "Major Crimes", something I made clear that my query did not particularly represent!

Anyway, tomorrow I will having breakfast with Raymond so best get some shut-eye.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

On fields of yellow and blue

Leaving Treherne behind, I came across the renewed line of hopper cars in waiting. It "only" lasted for a little under 6 kms including a couple of significant gaps. I used the iPhone to make a note of some of the owners markings. Once I get home I will make a fuller report.

The land in that part of Saskatchewan is flatter which has the effect of making the horizons seem that much closer, especially in areas with trees. It also makes the sky a bit smaller. My mental contrast is with the highway between Calgary and Medicine Hat where I could see a CPR train reduced to insignificance by the landscape. However, the openness of the Manitoba landscape is highlighted by the fact that a couple of times I could see the grain elevator of not only the next town but also that of the one beyond it at not inconsiderable distances.

Shortly before I arrived in the village of Starbuck, I saw and picked up a license plate by the side of the road. It was bent but readable so I tucked under the bunt securing the red bag of camping gear. It was near a sign for the Starlite Colony, a Hutterite community. It was also near the Starbuck glider port.

I have passed a number of canola fields in the last few days. Their bright yellow flowers make a pleasant sight especially on overcast days like yesterday. At around the same place as I found the license plate, I was greeted by the pleasing contrast of my first flax field in full blue bloom next to a canola field.

The downside of canola is that it makes me less visible in my yellow biking shirts. I was a little bit put off when a driver rolled down his window yesterday to say I was particularly visible to him. For the record, I was wearing my 25 Tour de l'Ile biking shirt in yellow and black.

I pulled into the town of Starbuck hoping for a convenience store where I could get a nice iced tea for my elevenses. I started at a convenience store (c-store in the local short hand) which was closed as it was also a post office and yesterday was the substitute day for the Canada Day legal holiday. The other obvious businesses were also closed. I was walking back to Leonardo when a man I'd seen cleaning the windows an insurance office called out the offer of refreshments. He and his wife and daughter were taking advantage of the day off to spruce up their offices. After providing H2O and relief, the man asked me my opinion of the student protests in Quebec (I'd mentioned I was from Montreal). He accepted my opinion (they're self-serving idiots) as it was pretty much the impression he'd got from the media.

I reached the Winnipeg perimeter highway around 1. After lunch at Timmy's, I made my way towards Winnipeg on what was a relative back entrance. I passed some signs for the Manitoba Star Attraction of the Fort Whyte Experience which gave no idea about what it was. Well, I had an idea it involved bison, but that was it. Consequently, I simply headed straight into Winnipeg.

After a certain amount of cross-checked navigation involving two differently scaled maps and three separate iPhone functions, I found my hostel.

As mentioned before, the AC is mostly on the fritz and the place gives off a weird vibe. There is poster from when the place was renovated about five years about. However, either the renos weren't very good or the place has been allowed to run to seed. Certainly, the front desk don't impress me as one of them gave me poor directions when was looking for supper last night.

Not that I am immune from poor planning. For some reason I hadn't realized there is a MEC in Winnipeg! This been a double boon. First of all, it allowed me to get new Chaco sandals to replace the ones I left behind. (The cheap sneakers from Moose Jaw have gone to Goodwill.) Secondly, as it sells bikes (not all MEC stores do) it will provide me with a bike box within an easy walking, distance of my hostel. When I asked this morning, they didn't have any big ones available. However, the bike guy said that he had some new, big bikes he had to assemble this afternoon and he would put aside a box for me.

I dropped the license plate off at the RCMP. Alas, the plate wasn't valid which meant no one was looking for it. Also, I wasn't allowed to keep it as a souvenir. This afternoon, I visited the Manitoba Museum. Between the reproduction of the Nonsuch and the references to the Hudson's Bay Lowlands, the paternal unit must pay it a visit if he ever comes here.

Monday, 2 July 2012

On the weather in Winnipeg

I made reasonable time today, but unfortunately the weather will hot and humid for the next few days and the air conditioner at the hostel is on the fritz. They say they will be getting someone to look at it tomorrow.

I have more to say but I am tired, and it can wait.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

On where CPR stores hopper cars

I left the B&B I had been sharing with a family from Denmark I understand at a reasonable hour this morning. The day was hot and sunny. Lovely for 1st of July parties but less desirable for biking. I went through a lot of fluids today.

I also had some tension to deal with as I couldn't seem to get my iPhone to call the motel in Treherne I had my eye on in order to confirm a bed for the night. Cellphone coverage is a bit spotty in these parts.

This only added insult to injury as the coverage in Saskatchewan caused me some headaches. Saskatchewan is technically in the Central Time zone, the same as Manitoba. However, they don't have daylight savings time there, so for most of the year they have the same time as Alberta. This arrange apparently confuses cellphones as when I crossed into Saskatchewan my iPhone jumped ahead an hour despite the fact it shouldn't have. It later corrected itself but the thing bore double checking. Still later as I neared the Manitoba border it began to prematurely set itself ahead by an hour. Finally, when I was in Souris, it set itself back an hour! Currently, it is behaving itself.

In the town Holland, the last one before Treherne, I finally made contact with the Motel who indeed had a room available. This was just as well as I later found out that my backup place in Holland was closed for holiday.

Leaving Holland for the last 14 kms to Treherne, I saw the end of a what I thought was a long grain train stationary on the the CPR branch line that ran beside the highway. In order to pass the time, I decided I would measure the length of the train using my bike computer. Except it was exactly a train. It was instead where CPR is storing currently unneeded hopper cars. How do I know this? First of all, the line of cars extended nearly 10 kms, which I believe is longer than the longest train ever. Second, there were no locomotives around. Thirdly, the line of cars was broken in about a half dozen places to allow road traffic through. To top it off, crossing the track in Treherne, I am pretty sure I saw more of the same on the other of the town!

The cars themselves make an interesting study as they bore a wide range of makings from their owners. There were cars from CPR, the governments of Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan (but oddly not Manitoba) as well as the Soo Line, the Canadian Wheat Board and Pilsbury. As in the Pilsbury Dough Boy. Even amongst the cars of a single owner, there were cars in liveries of several eras in corporate branding. I counted at least 4 from CPR alone, 2 of them using the name CP Rail.

As I walked from my motel to find some supper at the Ho Wah Gardens restaurant and lounge, I was diverted to Treherne's main tourist attraction, namely a set of buildings made of bottles. There was a house, church, a working outhouse with a flush toilet and a wishing well. A volunteer who happened to be painting a door gave me the tour. They had been built in the early 1980s by a local farmer. They were given to and moved into town around 2006. Rather neat really.

Tomorrow, I am going to try to get up early to beat the heat and make my way into Winnipeg. I will be at least a day ahead of schedule thanks to the wind on Wednesday. Forecast is for hot and muggy with a chance of a thunderstorm.