Pedalling the Prairies: Swift Current to Manitoba

pedalling the Prairies

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.

regina, cycling the prairies
With our amazing host in Regina!

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.

Saskatchewan, pedalling the prairies
Friendly hosts in Saskatchewan!

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.

pedalling the prairies
Jacque, Luisa, Me and Michael having lunch somewhere in the Prairies!

Cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies of Canada

Cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies

Kelly’s write up about cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies during our coast to coast cycle trip. Click here to read Michael’s blog post about cycling the Prairies.

Hello Saskatchewan!

Cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies.

As soon as we crossed into Saskatchewan there was an instant change in road quality. No more wide hard shoulder and lots of potholes. The only things that stayed the same were the swarms of mosquitos and the scenery. We had heard mixed things about the Prairies, and now we had the chance to learn for ourselves what cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies is really like!

We still had another 90km to go to get to the closest town, Eatonia. Originally, we didn’t plan on cycling the whole way to Eatonia, but we were keen for some comfort food, some cold drinks and to escape the swarms of mosquitos that were chasing us. It didn’t matter how fast we cycled, the bloody mosquitos managed to catch us!

Mining Towns: Eatonia & Eston

The ride to Eatonia actually turned out to be the longest cycle day on the trip so far, 119km. Even more reason to celebrate! So, when we arrived into Eatonia we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite – yep, we know how to treat ourselves to luxury! And then we headed to the store to buy some treats and find some beer.

Eatonia was not a tourist town, but there were a few services, including a tavern and a cheap store with coffee and cakes. The lady working at the campsite warned us of another storm; so even let us camp in the shelter. What more do you need? We were pretty stoked!

All the people staying in the campsite were there for work, which I thought was a bit odd. I wonder what would happen if company’s in Australia started booking campsites instead of hotels when they sent their workers to rural towns to work.

We considered spending a rest day at Eatonia, but decided to head onto Eston the following day (only a short cycle – 55km away). In Eston we camped at another official campground. It was actually booked out when we arrived, but they luckily had some overflow campsites, which we were able to camp in. Everyone staying in the campsite was there for seasonal mine work. People literally moved into the campsite for 3-5 months to work.

cycle tourist
Cycling… on and on and on…

More Prairie land

After leaving Eston we decided to head down the very quiet, 342. Just like the road we took into Saskatchewan, there weren’t many services along the way, but the road was dead quiet, and instead of 300km, we only had about 100km to cycle.

We were able to cycle side by side for the most part, and only seen 1 car every 15-30 minutes. It was great! Trucks were also not allowed on the road, so we didn’t have to worry about gushes of wind as they zoomed passed.

A guy in Eston told us about a hotel in a small town called White Bear. Apparently they served awesome food! All we really cared about was getting a cold drink and filling up our water bottles. It was a hot day and there wasn’t much shade along the route – another downside to cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies. Our focus was on getting to White Bear and that kept us motivated to keep cycling on.

White Bear

We eventually pulled into the small community of White Bear. It was tiny! I suddenly had my doubts that such a small place would have a hotel. Either way, we decided to find out. To our amazement the hotel did exist. We cycled over in excitement, just to find out the hotel was closed on Mondays – and of course, it was a Monday.

Feeling a bit defeated we hid in the shade of the hotel and started munching on some peanut butter and nutella. We sat there for close to 2 hours – we completely lost all motivation to cycle on.

Around 4.30pm, a ute drove passed us and stopped, curious to know what two bums were doing hanging around outside the hotel. We told the driver we needed water and hoped to get some from the hotel, but it was closed. With no other questions, he invited us back to his house to fill up our water bottles.

SASKATCHEWAN ON TWO WHEELS, Cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies
The small Prairie town, White Bear

Friendly people

Russ (the ute driver) had been living in the town his entire life. It was interesting hearing all the stories about how the town had changed over time. The town used to have grocery stores, repair shops, elevators and a school. All that remained now was the hotel and a few houses. The population of the town was once about 300 people. It was now 13 people.

After chatting to Russ for a bit he invited us to stay in his spare house – yes, he had a spare house, right nextdoor. Even though we had a relatively short cycle day, how could we pass up staying in an old farmhouse.

It turned out that every Monday, the owner of the hotel put on a BBQ for the community. Provoss (the hotel owner) kindly invited us along. We even visited the hotel to pick up some beer. Though the hotel was closed, we somehow managed to still visit it and eat the food we had been told about – mission accomplished!

At the BBQ we met about 90% of the community. Everyone was super lovely and even tried to help us with our route planning. Lyn and Darrell invited us back to their house for a bit, then dropped us back off at Russ’s. I can honestly say, I don’t know many places that have such a community spirit.

Cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies, SASKATCHEWAN ON TWO WHEELS
Making friends with the locals!

Kyle

The morning we left White Bear we were continuously attacked my mosquitos – honestly, I have never been attacked so bad. It was crushing our souls and making it very hard to enjoy the cycle. It also looked like it was going to storm (again). Great start to the day! We definitely found the most challenging thing about cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies to be the mosquitos.

The town of Kyle was only about 15km away, so we decided to head there and have a second breakfast. At Kyle we decided to book a hotel in Swift Current to chill out rest for a couple of days! The first hotel of the trip, but we needed it!

From Kyle we were back on a main road. This meant we could no longer ride side by side. After being on quiet roads for so long, the traffic (especially the trucks) took a little bit of getting used to.

It was only a 90km cycle day, but it dragged! We both felt exhausted and beaten down by the bad weather, but most of all the mozzies. Finally, we cycled over a hill and could see Swift Current in the valley. Yes! 10km downhill to the hotel! I was ecstatic. Swift Current, though only a small town, was the biggest place we had been to since we left Calgary.

I love the country, but sometimes it’s nice having access to things we usually take for granted. Like, food, cold water, beer, a comfy bed, not being eaten by mosquitos… the list goes on. Cycle touring definitely makes you appreciate the little things.

A bit of luxury in Swift Current

At Swift Current we checked into the Comfort Inn. Though a budget hotel, it felt like pure luxury. Comfy beds, breakfast buffet, free tea and coffee. We were living the dream!

We chilled here for 2 nights  taking a rest from cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies. Happy to be away from the mosquitos and amping ourselves up for the cycle down highway 1 to Moose Jaw.

So, we got a taste of what it’s liking cycling in the Saskatchewan Prairies, but this was still the beginning. We still have a few hundred kilometres until we reached the next province, Manitoba.

If you’re planning a cycle trip, you might want to check out what made our first cycle trip different, to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes as we did during our first cycle tour.