Day 42 Consul to Eastend, Saskatchewan: Neutron Bomb and Spaceship Bikes - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 11, 2011

Day 42 Consul to Eastend, Saskatchewan: Neutron Bomb and Spaceship Bikes

Government hype. This is not the place to try to float this stuff.
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We woke up feeling battered. Not sore back from the Thermarest, not sore knees from the cycling, but generally battered from the gravel. We slowly got our stuff packed and were about ready to go when we were greeted a farmer in a pickup. He would be our first 'Canadian' to talk to, other than the guy at the border and the man heading to Havre yesterday.

The farmer was coming to the nearby silos to check on how much barley he had in there. He said someone (for some reason) still wanted to seed barley, so he had made a sale! We also learned from him that everyone knows the guy at the border, and consider him a jerk. He said several times farmers had pulled him out of ditches in winter (he also has a bit of a drinking problem) but then received rough treatment as strangers next time they crossed the border.

This farmer confirmed what everyone knows, population continues to fall, due to farm consolidation. One other interesting point - I mentioned all the sprayers in the Palouse and the reason is that for weed control spraying is 3x faster than cultivating. Cultivating requires therefore more labour, and there is no one to do it at wages the farmers can afford.

This farmer had never been to Vancouver, felt claustrophobic (mountains) on a visit to Sparwood. To each his own!

The café in town appeared closed, because of the CLOSED sign outside. 'We're gonna die!' I opined. But Dodie spotted people inside. We think no one ever pays attention to the sign, or remembers it is there.

The café contained about six large men at one table and six large women opposite. The men were clearly farmers - weathered, older. I told them I was going to bust up the social order by creating a coed table for Dodie and I. They were all very good natured. In the Canadian way they asked us the UQs briefly and then left us alone.

The barley farmer finds time to talk to us
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The cafe is ahead
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It's not really closed, silly!
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The gang's all here
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And even some extras from back east, coming for a wedding
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The way to the washrooms
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The service station has a mural, but no service
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Main street (Market street)
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The church
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Grain elevator. Get used to these shots!
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The standard bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns was a little pricey at $7.95, and no pancakes were on offer. But the quality was good and the hash browns were not too greasy, unlike most US versions.

The washrooms (bathrooms) not 'restroom' as in the US, were a treat too. Upstairs in an old hotel section, down a classic 1930's style corridor.

Out on the street, the bakery (something else not seen in the States) and the grocery were closed for the weekend. No problem, we had lots of cheese sticks and Oscar Meyer crackers and turkey already stashed. So we set off again across the prairie.

The few cars and trucks that passed us slowed down, edged over, and waved. This included giant cattle trucks, farmers in pickups, oh..that's about it.

Although I had said that knowing we were coming to nothing soon kind of took the pressure off, the map did show Robsart coming. So with visions of chocolate bars dancing in my head, we glided onwards. We had to turn off the highway for 500 feet to enter Robsart. It was interesting because there was a two story abandoned house prominently visible. But it was the chocolate bar dispensing convenience store I was after.

Oh look, another abandoned house. Oh, another. There is a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk finds himself in a spooky mock up town scheduled for use in a nuclear bomb test. Well Robsart is that town after the bomb, a Neutron Bomb I guess.

It seemed like one house might be occupied. Otherwise the residents seem to have just walked off into the sunset. Spooky.

Yikes, have we gone too far East? Traitors!
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Onwe more abandoned farm
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This air drill blasts seed and fertiliser into the soil under pressure. Only 40% of fields in this area have yet been seeded.
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Robsart - no chocolate bars here
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Robsart
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Robsart
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Robsart
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Robsart town plan in the window of an abandoned shop
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Robsart
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Robsart - after the bomb
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Robsart - everything seemingly just left
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An airplane drops you into a new environment without any chance to appreciate the change from where you started or to understand where it is you have landed. Although a bicycle is much slower, it is still actually pretty fast. So one minute we were cruising along the prairie and the next we had passed some weird white embankments and then dropped into a coulee with a river and dam in it. Soon we were in a pleasant 'real' town, with real streets! Plus there was a tourism guidance sign, and town campground. The town was Eastend, just a dot on the map like so many others.

We set up out tent - showers! power! and talked to the fellow next door. Brent was erecting his satellite receiver beside his RV, to pick up tomorrow's Canuck's game. Later he said goodnight, for he works in oil drilling and was heading off to work. OK.

We set off to see the town and had just arrived, circled over to check the hours of the grocery store, when a lady exited a gallery and invited us to join a potluck. The lady was Trudy and he gallery was owned by Deb. The gallery is also a café. A small group of friends had gathered for the potluck and then to go see a movie, not sure where.

It turns out most of the people at the potluck, Deb included, were from BC. Asked why they had landed here, they cited the beauty of the area.

So here we are just off our spaceship bikes, having entered the region by the backdoor (believe me, the Willow Creek Crossing and past the ghost towns truly is the back door), and we find in the middle of what to us is a bald prairie, an art gallery and a bunch of people from the Coast who think this is heaven.

Ok, we left the potluck goers to head to the movie and went in search of wifi (curse you Rogers - no service, in the shadow of the SaskTel towers). Charlie's Lunch, we learned, has wifi. Inside, Diane the owner, said that she had wifi and coffee, but no pie. Why no pie? 'It's a COFFEE shop, not a PIE shop'. We did hit on a solution, though. Across the street is Jack's Café. Despite being called a café, they do have pie (but no wifi). So I hopped across the street and got two take out pies. Not that easy, though, because of the need to answer the UQs for people in there. One couple (sorry, forgot your names!) were interested in any tips about cycling to Vancouver. Naturally, I directed them to CGOAB!

So back to the spaceship bikes metaphor. Pamphlets in Charlie's now told the story. Eastend was the easternmost point of the original Northwest Mounted Police patrol and is now the east end of the major Cypress Hills destination area. We had never visited it by car, since as car drivers we were too brain dead to take even a slight detour off the Trans Canada.

Beautiful landscapes here
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Beautiful landscapes here
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Beautiful landscapes here
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The road descends from the Cypress Hills
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The road descends from the Cypress Hills
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Yeah, sure
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White clay deposits near Eastend. This clay can be used for pottery and pipes
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Down towards the Frenchman River
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Hooray!
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Eastend
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Our neighbour prepares for the playoffs
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Great site, near the showers. Eastend town campground.
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Eastend town
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Trudy and Deb. Thanks for supper!
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The S0N0T0 gallery - named for Eastend's postal code!
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Charlie's
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and across the street - Jack's
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Diane holds forth at Charlie's. She took over from Charlie two years ago.
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Of course, with the bikes we can not actually head back up into the area of which this is just one corner. The pamphlet describes four distinct 2-3 hour car driving tours. Yet, we will hang around one day, and enjoy the town and its immediate surroundings at least. Right now we are keeping Diane (and her wifi) company until closing time. She opens again at 5. Odds are we will not quite be here to help her open. Besides, Deb at the gallery will have fresh muffins for us!

Today's ride: 75 km (47 miles)
Total: 2,344 km (1,456 miles)

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