Just about every summer I come back to Saskatchewan for a week or so. This year I decided to drive. Quite the long haul, about 20 hours, but it made sense as I had a friend carpooling with me and it would save my brother, who is moving to Vancouver, the cost of a truck rental or plane ticket and extra shipping. It also meant I could easily take my bike.
I drove into my home province late Saturday afternoon and marvelled at how different the prairies west of Lloydminster seemed from those east. Maybe it’s industrial, political, wealth, etc. differences, from cows to crops, but Saskatchewan does appear to be that extra bit flatter. The sky is that extra bit larger.
While on the Pacific Coast trip, I often wondered what bike touring in Saskatchewan would be like. The things that would come to mind were: no hills and less traffic (yay) but potentially mosquitoes, bad road conditions and my nemesis, the wind. I would shudder thinking about the wind. But I was still curious and when my mother told me of the plans to visit family at our Wakaw Lake cabin, I saw a good opportunity for a bike trip.
Sunday morning I woke up at 6:30 and packed my paniers with snacks, a camera, my swimsuit, and a lot of water. I ate a big breakfast and was on the road a bit after 8. My mom’s place is on the eastern edge of Saskatoon so it was nice to be in the country within five minutes of riding. I was happy to see that the road (about 2km of highway 5 and 41 the rest of the way) was not like this:
Just kidding. It was well-paved highway with, for most of the way, an ample and relatively clean shoulder. I lost the shoulder in a few sections but highway traffic reflects the population: sparse and drivers can typically see miles ahead (provided they have not fallen asleep) so I felt comfortable making a bigger shoulder for myself.
The scenery was familiar to me and what others might expect: flat, farmland, dry, green and yellow, and lots of space. But riding my bike I was able to appreciate the landmarks that were there in a whole new way, being able to watch them slowly approach from afar…
…and seeing details like the individual plants that make up yellow blanket fields lying in the sun.
Though the bugs made it hard to stop and enjoy these things for too long. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the mosquitoes getting to me (I don’t recall a single bite), it was the wasps and horseflies. They were ever-present, sniffing me, my bike and my bags. They flew along side and across my bike and me being a wuss when it comes to wasps and horseflies, urged me to peddle faster.
I was also motivated by a disappearing blue sky. The morning had been sunny and clear with only a slight breeze cooling me down. It was perfect weather.
Then around the 65km mark I looked to the west (north-ish) and saw a dark threatening cloud oozing across the sky. It seemed to run parallel with the road and as far forward and backwards from me as I could see.
I thought I might be able to beat it but around 75km it came over me and at the very same time, the wind picked up. I cursed. I hate biking in the wind. But it was extremely cool being out there and being able to “sense” the weather as its whole physical system.
Still – curse, curse, curse. My legs were ready for a break and the last 15 kilometres were hard ones. Cycling would go slowly, and then faster in a burst of energy, and then slowly again. Finally, 90 kilometres and 4 and a half hours later I made it to the lake.
The cloud wall had passed but the wind stayed and blew sun rays off our skin. Friendlier looking clouds travelled by throughout the day.
So would I be up for more touring in Saskatchewan? I think so, yes. I had been worried that the flatness could get boring but I stayed visually stimulated. What there is to see, you can see so much of and in a way, feel connected to as well. Like you’re just a small detail that blends into the vast landscape when you squint your eyes.
The wind has the potential to make riding really hard but it can do that anywhere and it can also make it really easy. Plus I’ll have to admit that as much as I hate it, it does get rid of the bugs.