Monday, June 15, 2015
Michael predicted and hoped that today was not going to be as windy. Do you think he was right?
“Last night I dreamed of my wife and I woke up strangely. Sann and I decide to have something to eat first before we shower. When we walk into the dining room there is an older man who appears to be a cyclist. And indeed, he is cycling from Vancouver to Montréal. He is very enthusiastic about the prairies. He has had the advantage of the strong winds in his back for the last couple of days. This makes a huge difference...
A little later a young man named William comes into the dining room; he is 26 years old and from British Columbia. He is more or less cycling with this older gentleman. However, the older gentleman leaves first while William takes a break to have something to eat. One can have a good breakfast here for six dollars!
I understand from William that this older man is 85 years old. Unbelievable, I think. “I can't keep up with him he just keeps on going and bikes in the traffic lane.” William tells us. “What?” I say, “That is suicide!” William shrugs and says that the man has a mind of his own and does what he wants. A little later William also leaves.
Sann and I get changed. When we pack up our gear and are ready to leave when we notice that the break on Sam's bike is not working well. We check it out first before we head back onto the road.
It is hard to explain the difference between yesterday and today. Where yesterday it took us two and a half exhausting hours to cover just 20 kms, today we ride the same distance easily in an hour!
We almost fly over the road. It is indeed very beautiful here. The prairie here is not completely flat but a little hilly and obviously we are going uphill somewhat. There is hardly any wind and so we make good progress. About 20 kms before we reach Chaplin, Sann needs to make a stop and we take a break to have some lunch.
At around 1:30 we enter the town of Chaplin and look for a particular restaurant. This appears to be closed. It is a very small community with just a couple of hundred inhabitants in the region and the town itself might have less than a hundred people in it. The Main Street reminds me of something you might see in a Wild West movie. With a little imagination you could picture cowboys and herds coming through here...
In the centre of town we stop by the post office for some stamps for Sann. It's great. There is a building that looks like an old jailhouse, but it appears to be the local bank. The post office is probably the most modern building in this town.
Chaplin is known for its salt production. Chaplin Lake is a saline lake with large deposits of salt at the bottom which are remnants from an ancient ocean. By pumping the water into the lake in the summer, the salt is extracted from the bottom. It is then separated from the water, processed and used in detergents, paper etc. It is not used for road salt or for consumption.
There is a Nature Centre where the salt mining process is explained. The saline lake water has a lot of shrimp in it which attract many different species of shorebirds which you would normally find by the ocean. We decide to have a look at the Bird Sanctuary before we continue our trip to Morse. We won’t able to reach Swift Current today because it is still another 60 km away.
At the Nature Centre we meet a cyclist who is also biking from west to east Canada. He claims to be cycling around 200 km a day. He doesn't have much luggage and has been biking all his life. He asks me what a bike like mine costs. He really wants to buy it from me after I finish my tour; he's very impressed with it. I tell him that I am taking it back to Holland with me but that if I change my mind I will contact him. We enter the Nature Centre where a young lady gives us a tour of about half an hour.
When we finish, we get back on the road for the last 30 km to Morse. There's a little more wind now but nothing compared to yesterday.
At 5:15 PM we arrive at Morse but have to wait for a very long freight train before we can cross the tracks to enter the town. When the train has passed, I spot a hotel which at closer inspection it looks very run-down. But it appears to still be in use!
We look for the Morse café because we’ve heard that the food is good there. We bike through the main street but we can't find it. On the way back I suddenly spot it. We go inside and order the meal of the day. The man who helps us is hard to understand because he mumbles a bit. But he is very friendly and so is his wife. When I ask for some extra chicken because I am very hungry, they are happy to oblige. After I finish my salad, I catch in their conversation that they are moving back to Ontario close to Ottawa. I ask them where exactly.
What happens next is another very special moment. The man, whose name is David Fairfield, appears to have lived in both Kemptville and Merrickville which is where my family lives. As our conversation continues, it appears that David and my cousin Mike were in the same grade and that he used to help my uncle Anton as a hockey coach. He also played hockey with Mike. He knows my aunt Paula and my cousin Ann! He comes up with all kinds of stories and when I tell him that I remember the restaurant in Kemptville from when I was there in 1980 he is just amazed!
What are the odds that in the middle of Canada in a little town with less than 100 people you go out to have dinner and the owners of the restaurant happen to your family and later, when you're on the campground, they come by to show you a picture of the whole hockey team including my uncle Anton?
In the meantime we have pitched our tent in a barn, so that if it really starts raining we will stay dry. What a special day it has been today. Tomorrow we hope that there's not going to be much wind when we try to get to Swift Current which is only 60 km. Not far, as long as there is not much wind..."
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen