Friday, June 19, 2015
“It was a night with trucks coming and going and quite a bit of wind every now and then. However, when I wake up the weather is beautiful and we pack up our tents and gear. We wait until the restaurant is to open at 9 o'clock for breakfast.
A little later the landscaper comes to mow the grass and we engage in a conversation from which I pretty soon understand that we are waiting for nothing because even though that gas station is open the restaurant has not been used in years.
The landscaper who has lived in Alberta all his life tells me that the weather has changed tremendously in the last couple of years. In the past there were hardly any tornado warnings, but the last couple of years a special tornado watch system for Alberta and Saskatchewan has been set up. June and July are the months where that type of weather is most common. Good, that is some great news to start the day.
As we are about to leave a cyclist comes toward us from the village. It is a young lady who started her journey in British Columbia and is on her way to Toronto. She says that she heard that two cyclist got caught in a giant hail and thunderstorm yesterday. “That was us!” we both say. It's quiet for a minute. I'm surprised that they knew in the village that we were in a dangerous situation yesterday, but that nobody came to help us.
When we go to the restaurant there are two other cyclist who stayed in the village with the other lady. They are Oliver from Switzerland and Alexander from Canada. They are traveling from west to east. Alexander MacKay keeps up a web blog and we agree to share each other's blogs and websites. Alexander's blog is www.islanderofmanyoceans.wordpress.com We wish each other good luck.
After the coffee at the gas station, where they don't have any breakfast, we move on to Irvine 14 km down the road where we can have something to eat.
The wind has turned again, but it is still more or less in our backs. Just as we are starting to pick up some speed, we see a cyclist on the other side of the divided highway who cuts right through the berm between the lanes toward us. It's a man of 64 who doesn't look in very good shape for an extended cycling tour. He is also biking toward Toronto. After a short exchange we move on. We are really picking up speed and arrive in Irvine fairly fast.
Irvine is another picturesque town with that real cowboy feeling where everybody knows everybody else. Next to the hotel is a small restaurant/store/bank. We are received with open arms and served a delicious breakfast. We are really enjoying the experience.
After several conversations about my tour, where I started and all the interesting experiences I've had, it's time to leave again. We're having a great time but we need to get going to Medicine Hat because there is another tornado and thunderstorm warning for the afternoon. The owner of the restaurant reveals that Medicine Hat was hit by a pretty bad storm this past week and that last year Irvine was partially flooded due to bad weather.
When we are back on our bikes I am being followed by a Japanese guy who believes it's necessary to sing karaoke while cycling. The sky is blue and it's lovely warm. The time flies and so do the kilometres. I am impressed that we manage to reach Medicine Hat before 1:30 PM where we head over to the bike store to have my chain checked.
Cyclepath is a beautiful bike store where we are helped immediately. Even though they have some great heavy duty chains, they don't believe mine needs to be replaced yet. Everything looks fine! When my bike is in the store it gets a good look over. They are impressed with the bike and they can hardly believe that I have been riding with so much weight for so many kilometres. Once everything has been checked they come to the simple conclusion that my bike is in excellent condition! It is a very strong bicycle. They offer their services at no charge! I'm impressed with the customer service and the professionalism that is in the hearts and souls of these men. Afterwords the technician who checked my bike, and I take our picture in front of the store. What a beautiful store! They really have great quality stuff here!
Sann does a few more groceries and then we have lunch at a Japanese restaurant. It's sort of fast food but it tastes fine. Once inside I call Clinton to ask if it is still okay if we come over. He is very enthusiastic and we agree to arrive at his house around 5 o'clock. As we leave the restaurant, we get a nasty surprise. Suddenly there is a bad thunderstorm coming in.
Quickly we bike towards Clinton's who lives about seven and half kilometres down the road. But before we get onto the highway something happens that makes me panic. There is a big swirling cloud of sand, dust, paper, garbage and other flying materials. It thunders over us and I can hardly breathe! Is this a tornado? I hear Sann yelling that he can't breathe. I yell back at him to go for cover inside Tim Hortons. We rush inside and just as quickly the cloud disappears. Now the thunder starts and a minute later it is pouring rain but it's not so wild anymore. I call Clinton and he insists to come and get us with the pick up truck because this is too dangerous!
After an hour Clinton arrives; he is dressed in his business suit. He apologizes that it took longer than he expected.The storm is over and we load our bikes into the truck which he borrowed from a friend since his own truck is at his farm. First we drop by friends of his who wanted to meet us. We are made to feel very welcome and there's a good atmosphere. The parents of one of the men is from Holland and he even speaks a little Dutch. He just returned from a vacation in Holland last May where he walked the Eleven City Tour (Elfstedentocht), not quite successfully unfortunately due to the weather. His house where we are now has a wonderful view over the valley. The other couple of friends are really nice too. I feel very much at home here. But the time flies and soon we have to leave again. We look forward to having a shower. I understand that tonight we are being invited to visit someone else, at least if we are interested...
Clinton's house is large and beautiful in a wonderful neighbourhood. I understand that besides being a lawyer Clinton has four other companies. He seems a laid back kind of person who leads a busy life and travels all over the world. We are very happy and grateful that we are allowed to stay here. The bedrooms and the bathrooms are beautiful.
Once we're cleaned up Clinton takes us to another friend of his who used to be a police commander. Even though he lives close by, we drive there in Clinton's Mercedes CLK 550. Clinton, with a twinkle in his eye, lets me feel how fast this car is: and fast it is! When we reach our destination, his girlfriend's car is already there. She had left a little earlier.
We have a fantastic evening and enjoy a great view over part of Medicine Hat from the backyard. The house is a beautiful 100 year old historic building and we get the complete tour. When we return to Clinton's house I dive into bed and notice that it's already half an hour past midnight.
What a great day we've had and such adventures. It is amazing to find ourselves in the middle of such luxury with some very nice people who look forward to seeing us again the next time we visit to Canada."
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen