Brandon, Canada - Polarsteps
We woke up late in Virden-- we jumped time zones coming into Manitoba and haven't gotten the hang of it yet-- and took a while making sure the bikes were in good shape and getting our gear packed up. We were pretty short on camping options before Brandon, and needed to cover the 79km there. We swung by the grocery store in Virden to grab a few things and ended up getting conversation-trapped outside by Joan, 75, who pretty much wouldn't let us leave and was at one point clinging onto Kini's arm and asking questions about every single thing on the bikes. We tried so many times to politely leave, but it was past 1pm when we were finally biking away on the highway out of Virden.
It turned out to be another brutal headwind day; I think we were moving at around 10 exhausting km/h. The landscape was starting to subtly change, though-- just in the form of a few more trees and a little more water, but it's exciting after such a long stretch of unchanging prairie. Towards the end of the day we crossed the Assiniboine River and climbed our first big hill in a very long time. We went to a campground a little west of Brandon that ended up being closed, debated sneaking in and staying anyway, and in the end chose the 11km ride in the last of the daylight to Meadowlark Campground/RV Park, right next to the highway at the north edge of Brandon.
More thunder and lightning in the night, close enough to shake the ground under us, and another middle-of-the-night emergency warning coming through on our phones about severe thunderstorms. We slept on and off through it, too tired to worry too much this time.
When we woke up the forecast was for thunderstorms all day, increasing in severity eastward towards Portage la Prairie. The sky was blue and clear when we got up, and we deliberated on what to do; after the extra time in Whitewood and the clipped-short day to Virden, we were really itching to cover some ground and head towards Winnipeg.
In the end we stayed an extra night in Brandon; between the regret of waiting out storms that might not come, and the regret of getting caught in severe thunderstorms on the open road, we chose the first one. As it turned out, the forecasted storms did miss us completely and we could have had a full cycling day. On the plus side, we were really body-tired from the headwind ride the day before and got to basically spend the day horizontal, and then had a weak moment where we ordered Domino's delivery to our campsite for dinner-- all of which fueled us for what we didn't know was about to happen the next day.
A note on the weather: In case this wasn't already sounding like a lot, in the span of a few days all of these have happened here:
-Thunderstorms most nights
-Severe thunderstorm warnings/severe thunderstorms with high winds, heavy rain, hail, trees down, power outages
-Emergency tornado warning
-Extreme heat warnings
-Extreme flood warnings
-Wildfires in the north of the province that have evacuated entire communities; there were evacuees staying a couple of sites down from us in the campground in Brandon.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲