Day 41 Havre, Montana to Consul, Saskatchewan: Oh, Canada - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 10, 2011

Day 41 Havre, Montana to Consul, Saskatchewan: Oh, Canada

We seem to start a lot of days climbing out of river valleys, and so it was as we left Havre behind, One last look at the town nestled in the Milk River valley, and we were off to Canada.

This guy says send him $1000 and God will not only increase the value of your real estate but the devil will repay sevenfold all that has been taken from you. I wonder if for $500 I could negotiate a three and a half fold deal?
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Rather than negotiate further with God or the Devil, we are leaving the country!
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A last look at Havre nestled in its river valley.
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Lovely terrain on the way North
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Flat and empty road
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Colourful mailbox gives us something to look at
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Before any Canadian celebrations, however, there was the matter of 60 km of highway. No problem this time, though, because the sun was shining, the wind moderate, and the road mostly flat. One big thing, almost no cars! We could ride side by side down the centre of the road.

Still, 60 km takes time, and we kept looking out for Canada. When finally we did arrive at the border, we found a small building and two officers, one young and one (middle age) old.

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Last chance!
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Taking the plunge
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Alright!
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Compare this to Seattle!
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Don't get cocky now.
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The experience out here is different from that of crossing with thousands of others at Vancouver. We and the officers stood around and chatted pleasantly. On the other hand the content of the communication, though pleasant, actually sucked.

The first thing we were somewhat gleefully informed of was that the road from the ghost town of Gavenlock to our destination at Consul, marked in red on our Saskatchewan tourist map, had been torn up and was now gravel. That is, 30 km of loose gravel!

Next we asked to fill a water bottle. 'Nope, there is no potable water here'. 'Yikes, what do you drink?' 'We have to bring our own'. So our government agent sent us off into an unmarked, and from our point of view possibly impassable desert, without so much as a drink of water.

Next up, the cougar. One had come down from Cypress Hills. We should watch out for it.

In his defence, the officer did say we were the first bicycles he had seen through here in his 15 years on this spot. This was our entrée to mention what we had been thinking - what crime in the border service do you have to do to get posted out here to Siberia?

On the contrary, he said, only the best can come here because there is no backup. Yeah, right.

The road on the Canadian side was an embarrassment, even before it turned to gravel. Also there were only three houses in the next 60 km. The customs man knew each, and again a little gleefully had described just how far it was from one to another.

After a while a truck did come along. This was a big event, for the driver and for us. He naturally stopped in the middle of the road to chat. We knew we had an hour or two before someone else would be along! The man was on his way to Havre. Although he had Sask plates he said he had a house and family there. He said he had been depressed and planned to get drunk. I guess liquor is cheaper there.

Talking about the lack of farm houses and people, he told us that a typical farm here is 6 miles by 12 miles. Sizes, he said ranged upward to 80,000 acres with 30 combines!

We carried on. Unlike in other spots where I anxiously scanned ahead to see where the next gas station source of a chocolate bar might be, I was more at ease, knowing that there would be nothing, NOTHING, for a long, long, time.

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Hey, a sign. That's a big thing to anticipate when you see it in the distance.
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These guys all came over to say hi
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...but did not ask the UQs
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Govenlock is toast
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We finally did arrive at something, sort of. The town of Gavenlock. At least it used to be. It was now reduced to a plaque and a picnic table. We considered stopping at this table, particularly because there was also an equipment storage building nearby that seemed to have power and an external plug (our favourite!). There were some mailboxes there too. One had a recent expensive looking advertising flyer for the current government. It said that due to their enlightened policies people could now stay in Saskatchewan. Yeah, right!

Anyway, it still seemed too light, so on we went.

We were now in the gravel portion, and it was loose. Mostly impossible to cycle on. But we picked our way through bare-ish tracks left by passing cars. We ranged all over the road picking up the most passable bits. Left side/right side made no difference. This is not to say there was no traffic on this thoroughfare. But any vehicle signalled its arrival with a plume of dust, visible miles in advance. Here is where the strong crosswind (did we mention the crosswind?) helped. The dust would be immediately blown away from us.

We had made good progress to this point, but the gravel put a lock on that. We spotted some good camping spots, like the site of a school, now abandoned. For some reason something drove us onward. It wasn't even the vision of a chocolate bar at Consul. We didn't expect anything to be open when, or if, we got there.

The sun set, giving us a prairie sunset to shoot, and we did get to Consul with a little light left. There was no time to scout the town, so we fetched up at a small rodeo ring just at the West end. The ground was mostly soggy, but buoyed up by old horse poop. We found a good spot, threw up the tent and crawled in.

Grave marker
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We could have stopped here, at Govenlock. This is the sum total of services, but any picnic table is great
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The only tourism thing we have seen - and only one so far.
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Hey, just like on PBS
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This 30 km of loose gravel was a real bug
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Gravel forced us to pedal into the lengthening shadows
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Dead school!
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No gas, no shelter!
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The day ends, but we pedal on to Consul and set up our tent in the half light.
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There is a cell tower at the West end of town, so we had visions of an evening of Facebook Fun. No luck, our internet stick seems to have never heard of SaskTel.

So 115 km from Havre, it was all over for another day, battered by gravel and sent to bed incommunicado. Welcome to Canada!

Today's ride: 115 km (71 miles)
Total: 2,269 km (1,409 miles)

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