Wallace, Canada - Polarsteps
So, to recap:
-Arrived in Whitewood on a long day grinding into headwinds on the highway.
-Lingered a while, questioning why anyone cycles across Canada.
And then our third and last night there, another mega-storm rolled in late at night, with thunder and lightning and heavy wind and rain that violently shook the tent. We stayed in the tent to wait it out, worried that it might sail away if we weren't anchoring it down, and then just before midnight an emergency tornado warning came through on our phones. We moved all of our gear from the vestibules into the tent, hoping it might be enough to keep it in place, and bailed across the now-flooded campground to the little concrete shower and bathroom building, where we sat in a shower stall for the next two hours and waited for the storm to pass.
We didn't quite get a tornado, and somehow our tent was still standing when we got back to it-- despite being set up right next to a bog, our area of the campground didn't flood. In the morning, though, we could see the storm's damage: there were tree branches down, the power grid was out all the way to Brandon MB, and the three other tents in the campground were wrecked (we'll almost never be shouting out gear, but jeez, the Big Agnes Blacktail 3 was the right choice for us and it's passing every test to its limits that we're putting it through).
Half a night short on sleep, we dragged ourselves through laying our wet things out to dry and slowly packing up, muttering "fuck this shit" throughout.
Getting on the road immediately felt a lot better; the cycling was hot but easy, the wind was fine, and we finished with the win of crossing the Manitoba border. We stopped at a really nice visitor centre just past the border in Kirkella, where people park their RVs and trucks out back to sleep for the night, figuring we could pitch a tent there without issue (we did). Making dinner at a picnic table, I found my first-ever tick with its head buried at the base of my leg. We've been carrying tick tweezers and doing checks at the end of the day, knowing this would probably eventually happen. Kini nailed the extraction and we burned the offender with a lighter until it was ash.
The high point of the day was at the end, meeting Rossanne the truck driver; she and her big, sweet beefcake of a dog, Max, came over to say hi as we were setting up the tent. She came back and sat with us in the morning; we made her instant coffee at the picnic table, and then she made us breakfast in the cab of her big rig and we sat and talked for most of the morning. We got answers to our many questions about long-haul trucking, and she shared stories from her travels in Europe and southest Asia. We've been keeping in touch, and in all the time it's going to take us to head east we're pretty likely to cross paths again.
Whitewood, like a few other places on this trip, didn't seem to want us to leave. We stayed an extra night here to try and get all of our affairs in order after having such a unexpected, but great, social day with Bill. The storm that rolled in this last night here just felt ridicuous, especially after having a 100km day with headwinds to arrive here. Things were feeling hard and we were questioning how worth it Canada felt? I mean, we could just catch a flight to anywhere else in the world and spend money/time seeing new things and experiencing new cultures. This also feels like a very small dose of how hard things will at some point feel on this journey. I also find it really interesting the different things that can scare us; I grew up in tornado land so I wasn't going to start panicking until things were off the ground, spinning in the air. However, if there is something outside the tent at night I completely wig out and have a hard time sticking my head out to check out the situation with a flashlight. Even though I know that unless there is something fragrant in the tent to make a hungry animal come through the side you are almost certainly safe. Only hyenas have a reputation for busting through a tent to get at you, all other critters don't even clock the tent let alone figure out there are humans inside a fabric structure.
The storm passed after a couple of hours; we sat in the shower stall and watched funny videos on youtube to ease the tension of the situation. We weren't sure if our stuff was gonna still be there, or be in one piece, when the storm was over. I have seen tents straight up get lifted into the air and carried away when I was a treeplanter. I could easily see out tent landing in the bog next to our campsite or caught up in some bushes. Luckily our panniers, especially the one filled with tools and components, were super heavy and acted as great anchors. Once we were settled into the bathroom I thought about how we had stuck out the storm in the tent too long because we didn't want to lose our things. It is true that the tent, air mattress, etc is all we have right now but jeeeeezzz, it is just stuff whereas if we get swallowed up by a tornado it's game over. So again , like getting rid of stuff for the trip this was a small lesson in letting go and what actually matters. It is funny how our monkey brains work, hey?
We had a slow morning drying everything out, kindly enough a family in a camper with Illionis plates offered to make us coffee. This helped with the frustrating morning . Once we got back on the road things were feeling in flow again. Moving forward is all it takes to feel better. We made it to the Manitoba border; these small landmarks give a boost. We camped no problem at the information center in Kirkella, it is a beauty of a spot for travellers and truckers to stay for the night. The good deal of grass is cut so people can walk their pets, there is lots of space for trucks to park and the bathrooms are very nice and left open 24 hours. I wish there were more stops like this along the way, we would never have to think twice about where we were going to sleep that night.
We also made a great new friend, Rossanne. She is a trucker and has been doing so for 28 years; I was hoping to meet a female trucker on this trip even though it seems like unless you know people it would have been like finding a unicorn. We even got to have breakfast in the cab of her big rig. Between getting to travel and see so much of North America , the homey feeling of the truck with a bed in the back and the setup of the various buttons/ switches coupled with being so high off the ground I undertand the appeal of this line of work. That, mixed with all the things you would see and people you would meet would be astounding. There isn't anything pretentious about it either; you wear what you want and get to just be yourself. I was reading up on the rise of queers taking up this line of work for that reason; especially trans women (even with safety concerns that arise). All this aside it is such a hard line of work and one needs to be into the lifestyle that comes with it. I really hope we come across Rossanne again! She has told her boyfriend (also a truck driver) about us and where we are on the road and, after chatting with Rossanne, I am pretty sure that he drove past us the other day, giving a friendly honk.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲