Kelly’s write up of pedalling the Prairies during our cycle tour across Canada in the summer of 2016. Click here to read Michael’s write up about cycling in the Prairies.
Pedalling the Prairies of Saskatchewan
While pedalling the Prairies we discovered friendly people, good campsites and great cafes. We also discovered that the Prairies went on and on, and on. from Swift Current we got on the Trans-Canada highway 1. It felt like a dream after spending a week cycling through the bumpy roads of the forgotten Prairie lands. The section of highway between Swift Current and Moose Jaw had a wide, smooth hard shoulder. It even felt like we were on a slight descent, though I’m sure we probably weren’t. We were smashing out the kilometres! It felt great! On top of this there were plenty of cute towns to stop at. All of them had a museum, coffee shop and free wifi. We were in cyclist heaven!
We spent an enjoyable couple of days cycling to Moose Jaw. Spending too much time at the various towns and cafes along the way.
One thing I noticed about Saskatchewan is the interesting town names. We visited Kyle and Herbert, and seen signs for Elbow, Eyebrow and Cereal. Moose Jaw and Antler also got a visit from us. I can’t help but be intrigued to how a town got a name like Eyebrow – at least it gives you something to ponder while on the bike.
Warmshowers’ and Prairie Hospitality
Once in Moose Jaw we were greeted with the lovely Glenda, a legendary warmshowers’ host. This was followed by a few nights stay in Regina with Ron, another legendary warmshowers’ host. And then yet another warmshowers’ host in Sedley and an offer in Arcola.
People tend to give Saskatchewan and the Prairies (in general) a hard time! We were told numerous times to skip the Prairies; that they were boring and had nothing worth seeing. Well, what I have to say to those people: if you want to see boring head to Western Australia and drive 5 hours east – red sandy desert for days. You’ll be lucky if you even pass a gas station or see another person!
The Prairies on the other hand are fully of extremely friendly people, all whom have an interesting story to share. We met ranchers, famers, Mennonites and Hutterites, Germans, British, Ukrainian people, plenty of cyclists and people enthusiastic about cycling, and just a whole bunch of awesome people. In fact, I don’t remember one person that I met in the Prairies that wasn’t amazing in one way or another. For me, a large part of travelling and cycle touring is the people you meet, and we met some amazing people in the Prairies.
Rest Days in Regina
We decided to have a few rest days in Regina. There were a couple of reasons for that, firstly for Ron’s amazing cooking, secondly to get a few bike things sorted, and thirdly to sort out my eye! 6 weeks (since the day we arrived in Canada) and I still had an infection on my eyelid. Obviously, at this point I was a little concerned about it and decided it was a good chance to get it checked out. I was told some good and bad news. The good news was it didn’t look like a virus so it shouldn’t spread to my eye and affect my eyesight. The bad news, it will still take some more time to heal and potentially I could have a bump on my eye for the rest of my life. At least I didn’t have too much to worry about!
After Regina we planned to get off the highway and head onto some quieter roads through some smaller towns. Usually the roads weren’t as good, but they were quieter. We also got the opportunity to pass through less travelled areas, which we always preferred.
Cycling through Canada’s Tornado Alley
One thing we hadn’t considered to be an issue or concern while pedalling the Prairies, were tornados! To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know Canada got tornados, so when I received an email from Brad (another warmshowers’ connection) about a tornado warning in the town we had planned to camp in that night, we were a bit concerned. The day had already been struggle, with 60kph+ headwinds we were at times barely cycling 8kph.
We pulled into Fillmore at 1pm for lunch and pretty much passed out from exhaustion and defeat. After lunch we headed to the town hall. This is when we discovered the tornado warning! The lovely people of Fillmore came to the rescue. Before we knew it we had a basement to sleep in and was being shown around the local towns. The random kindness of strangers never fails to amaze. It really does restore your faith in humanity.
After a goodnight sleep, out of the danger of any potential tornado or hailstorm, we were back on the way. And, for once, the wind was at our backs! We were practically flying down the road towards the next province, Manitoba.
Making Cycle Touring Friends
We had just passed Stoughton (where we were supposed to camp and where apparently a tornado did touch down the night before), when we heard some strange noises behind us. As it turned out, a German, cyclist couple, Luisa and Jacque had been following us for a few days. They finally managed to catch up with us. They were the first couple we had ever cycled with, so it made a nice change to cycling just the two of us. So all four of us continued pedalling the Prairies together.
We spent the rest of the day, cycling with an unbelievable tailwind and made it 137km to Redvers, right near the Saskatchewan/ Manitoba border. Redver’s had an awesome (and cheap) campsite, so we decided to camp there for the night and celebrate with a few beers.
After 2 weeks pedalling the Prairies of Saskatchewan we finally got to cross into the next province, Manitoba.
Though Manitoba would be a new province, we still had a few hundred kilometres of cycling through the Prairies before we would be out of the pastures and meadows and into the lakelands of Ontario.
Planning your own cycle trip? Don’t forget to buy insurance! Check out this article to find out why it’s important to get sufficient cover on your trip.