Day 52 Reston to Souris, Manitoba: Summertime and the Biking is Easy (or not) - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 21, 2011

Day 52 Reston to Souris, Manitoba: Summertime and the Biking is Easy (or not)

When we planned our trip, Saskatchewan was a question mark. Could we find services spaced closely enough, could we carry enough water to survive the day, could we rig sun shelter in the treeless wilderness, could our bikes withstand stretches of gravel road, etc.

Now that we are through it, we see that we found services, had enough water, got by without special sun shelter, etc. Plus, we found Eastend, with its wonderful cafes and museums, Ponteix with its church, Pangman with its active group refurbishing the community centre, etc. etc.

And then we entered Manitoba. By virtue of being closer to the east (closer to Toronto) we assumed there would be more: more supplies, more drinking water, better roads, etc. NOT! Manitoba started by ripping up the road (already ranted about). The towns we have visited so far have seemed very poor - lacking in services and spirit, the drivers have been slightly crazed, and the scenery nice, but mundane.

Setting out from Reston, there was a chance for a second look at our motel. Yes, the new unit we had stayed in across the street was nice, but the original motel was, to be generous, very scuzzy. Similarly, we did not look in town for breakfast, the cafes just seemed too sketchy.

Reston motel with one unit visible.
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The East wind confronted us as soon as we hit the highway, and it was clear that the day would be a struggle. With only a bit of toast for breakfast, the struggle could be an unequal battle. Down the road a few km, though, was Pipestone. Pipestone was on our earlier research list as having both camping and a grocery, which qualifies it as Mecca in our book! Surely Mecca could supply the carbs and protein needed to carry us to Souris.

The camping turned out to be true, in the sense that it was there and not even flooded. However we spotted no washrooms. The grocery really gave us pause. Yes, there were some canned goods and stuff, but the bakery 'department' other than some white bread could only offer four or so packages of very stale donut like items. We told the proprietor that we had been hoping to find a café, and he shook his head sadly. He said he could try to fix us something, but he had nothing. Look at the photo of the veggie storage. If that had been taken in the third world, we would be calling in CIDA to do something about it!

Pipestone downtown
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Bakery department in Pipestone
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Produce department in Pipestone
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Pipestone main street scene
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So we set off again, knowing that we had in our pack a flat of stale date squares from the similarly lame grocery in Reston. We carried on, fighting the headwind all the time. The Flying Dutchman caught us quite quickly, and we wished him luck and goodbye, in case he made a bid for Wawanesa instead of settling for Souris.

Pretty much nothing happened after that, except for six hours or more of relentless cranking into the wind. There was a lot of heavy truck traffic and although they pulled over (no shoulder on this Manitoba road) they were not about to slow down. Flooding was was in evidence on all sides, too. Although the vista was by no means closed in, popular trees sometimes distant and sometimes near eliminated the feel of the open prairie.

"Heavy" road traffic
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Nice try but no hope
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Cows practice to be water buffalo
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Sort of boring western Manitoba landscape
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Poplar trees block view but somehow not wind.
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Flooded road to a farm.
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Typical field.
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Under construction!
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Oh, oh, road closed.
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Artistic flood shot.
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The road deteriorated, with patches of gravel on the main roadway. This did slow the trucks a wee bit, but now they threw up clouds of dust.

As usual, I had painted a picture to encourage ourselves, of steak dinners (or now that it was Manitoba, fried perogies with onions) with salad and all the trimmings, waiting just ahead in Souris.

Ducks are struggling to keep nests above water.
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The first part of Souris to present itself was the lovely Victoria Park, by the Souris River. 'Was' is a sort of appropriate term, because large parts of the park were flooded. We later found that way more had been flooded just a few days ago, but in any event all of it was closed. A nice lady stopped and told us that we could camp at the fairgrounds, and gave us directions. More people over the next hour apologized about the park and expressed concern about where the town could put us visitors.

Pleasant approach to Victoria Park, Souris
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Nice house in Souris.
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Lots of geese in Victoria Park, but pea fowl have fled the bird sanctuary and are walking around the town.
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No park for us!
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Downtown Souris.
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Neat cafe sign but out of business.
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Peacock likes Chinese food.
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The bakery, unfortunately, was utterly basic.
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Can't cross Souris River this way!
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Historic looking house near river.
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Nice sandbagging job on riverside home.
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As we headed into town and old a frail man crossed the street in front of us. Naturally Dodie struck up a bit of a conversation. Old/young frail or not the subject is always the same - the flooding. It was this man who first described the extent to which the park had recently been underwater. He also explained that his grandmother (who he didn't like) had moved to Vancouver - Granville St. Did we know Granville Street? Anyway, she's dead now. Also, he had been to Vancouver, in 1940. His nephew lives in Vancouver. If we see him, we are to say hello from his Uncle. (Small town approach - we like it).

I accosted two women on the street and asked what was the best restaurant in town and where was the motel. The answer was simple because, they said, the motel had the best restaurant. So off we went to the end of the three block downtown to the motel. We had to go into the restaurant to find someone who knew about the motel, and got the key to the cleanest 'least smoked in' room they could suggest. We checked it out and found it to be small and though partly renovated, scuzzy. With worried looks to the cloudy sky, we scouted the fairground and selected a covered horse stall (or something) as a superior option to the Souris Motor Inn.

We returned to town and crossed the street from the motel to the Chicken Chef. Though not as 'recommended' it did look a bit cleaner. The menu said the Chicken Chef specialized in chicken, so when I ordered the chicken I was surprised to be told it would take a while since they would have to run and thaw some out.

Back in Virginia?
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Perogies Virginia style.
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Muffin, only dessert offering at Chicken Chef
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Real perogies are
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Dodie, maybe suckered by my promise earlier, ordered the perogies and chicken. We also had a choice of sides: cole slaw, mashed potatoes, fries, or pork and beans.

When our orders came I felt for all the world that we were back in the Blue Ridge Restaurant in Virgina. The perogies were deep fried, Dodie's chicken was deep fried, the dinner rolls were made of cotton, and the cole slaw came in little white paper cups. My chicken breast was a totally plain lump of white protein. Of course we ate this all up - six hours into a head wind will do that to you!

Now sitting with a sweater draped over my head to ward off the mosquitoes, I am debating cycling back to town to steal a wifi signal (curse you Rogers - no signal anywhere in Saskatchewan, or here). If you are reading this any time soon, I must have done it. However, if you are not reading this, clearly I have just gone to bed!

Our horse stall sanctuary in Souris
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Today's ride: 73 km (45 miles)
Total: 2,972 km (1,846 miles)

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