Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Michael had another energizing day yesterday. Again he hopes for a day without too much wind:
“We wake up a few times during the night by the deafening sound of passing freight trains blowing their horns, which they do at every railway crossing. There is only about a 15 metre space separating our tents from the railway tracks! Also, pain in my hips and my back wake me up every now and then. It was a night with many disruptions....
Still, I wake up fairly rested at 7:30 am. I get dressed and pack my things. David and Linda, the owners of the café whom we met yesterday, drop by to check on us and to find out if we slept well. After a short exchange we continue packing up. We eat some bread and the muffins that we bought from Linda yesterday, which are delicious!
When we get back on our bikes the wind feels stronger than yesterday but it's still doable. We plan to break for coffee in a small town called Herbert which appears to be just a tiny hamlet. Then again, in our experience, it is often in these small towns where we find the people to be most helpful and friendly.
We end up at a small restaurant which from the outside does not have the appearance of a restaurant at all. When we come in Sann has to laugh, because the men and the women are sitting apart. I assume that most of them are retired. We order some coffee and ask if the women and men are always seated separately. “No, usually only on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the women are here for their weekly meeting and the men sit at the long table every day”. Soon we become engaged in the men's conversation.
The coffee is very good and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. Sann and I feel we could stay here all day. Before we head out though, I take a minute to call my cousin Mike and tell him about yesterday. He is amazed that I would find a picture here of his dad who died in 2008 and whom he still misses very much. He has to think a minute to remember who David is, because he hasn't seen him for over 30 years. I also call my cousin Ann since she just became a grandmother. She doesn't answer but calls me back before we leave. I congratulate her and she is also intrigued by my story. I miss my family a lot and wished I could have stayed with them longer. Nevertheless, I am happy that they follow and support me.
When we want to pay our bill we’re not allowed to. The owner treats us to the coffee because we are biking through Canada for charity, mostly against the wind. “There aren't many who do that!”, she says.
A little later we leave the little hamlet that would not have looked bad in a western movie. Back on the road, the shoulder of the highway is suddenly reduced to about 40 cm. We have to really take care now. Thankfully the road is quiet and it's not problematic. The wind is picking up and the hills are getting a little steeper. I take the lead and warm up pretty good, while behind me a Japanese guy is whistling to the sounds on his iPod. It makes me laugh, we probably look pretty ridiculous. Sann doesn't have half the weight on his bike that I have and is being sheltered from the wind by me. I'm fine with that, it doesn't trouble me; Sann is very considerate toward me and has become a good cycling buddy.
After a couple of hours of cycling we take a break in the next village. The sign already warns us that there are no services in the village and so we find a sunny spot to eat our sandwiches. It is quite serious to see how dry it is here. I see a parched area where there should be a small lake. The soil is still damp but that is all. Eventhough there is rain in the forecast, we haven't seen it yet.
Next, Sam takes the lead and I realize how tough this is for him. After an hour he's fed up with it and thankfully the shoulder on the highway widens again. Just before we reach Swift Current, I notice a large wind vane made of a helicopter. This seems typically Canadian and it works really well with the strong winds.
Once we are in Swift Current we search for a particular Chinese restaurant which is supposed to serve a good buffet for $15. Sann, who particularly misses eating rice, even ate less today in anticipation of the buffet! Swift Current is a reasonably large town and all the stores are on either side of the highway. After a final short climb, I spot the restaurant on the opposite side of the highway.
When we go in, it appears that the buffet is served only for lunch and that we just missed it. But it’s clear that Sann wants to eat and so we take a seat. I also feel like having a good Chinese meal. We ask for a big menu because we are very hungry. Sam and I each order a large meal to share; it is enough for three people. It is absolutely delicious! I had not eaten such good Chinese food in Canada yet! We polish it off in no time and order another portion. The waitress is impressed with our appetite. I am as well; I guess we just need it since we burn a lot of fuel every day.
After our meal, Sann tells me that he wants to camp tonight. I really want to sleep in a motel because I need a good rest. Sann joins me as I check into the motel next to the restaurant. Afterwards he continues on to Tim Hortons or McDonald's to have a Wi-Fi connection and then he goes to the campground. We’ve agreed to meet back at the motel at 8:30 in the morning so Sann can have a shower and we can have breakfast together.
When I get to my room, I shower, shave, wash my clothes, fix my safety vest and write my blog. After that I enjoy doing nothing for a while and go to bed on time.”
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen