Such a nice campsite, would love to stay, but I'm itching to move.
I gave the bike some tlc by filling the dry bag with soapy water and cleaning it up. I messed it up good getting up the hill, and there's sand and gravel in every nook and cranny. With my shiny new machine I hit the road and promptly hit 5km of muddy gravel under construction at Kenora. But then it's 5km of perfect new tarmac. I guess you have to pay to play. Itís a beautiful morning. The bike is now filthy. I guess it's supposed to be like that.
The Trans-Canada is totally ripped up at the Manitoba border. Deep deep grooves make for funky riding, so I get on to the 44 almost right away after stopping for a quick break. I see the Cyclebetes entourage again, a bunch of spandex-clad cyclists on a ride for juvenile diabetes. They seem well funded with their fancy chase vehicles and logo wear.
All these people, running, cycle touring, etc, across the nation make me feel like not much of a bada$$ anymore. That little pain in my back? Pshaw.
Hwy 44 is a hoot for the first 45 minutes. Bad surface keeps things honest, but itís a nice narrow windy road through some scrubby backcountry. Little do I realize this is probably the best riding in southern Manitoba. And then, it's over. The route is now ruler straight, itís getting hot, wide open, and a wild cross-wind has me swearing and canted over the whole way to Winnipeg. Thankfully I will be staying at a friend's place tonight, which will be easy to find, hopefully a no-fuss destination. I think my friend wanted to whoop it up a little, and she put a big effort to show me around the town, white-knuckled though I was in the passenger seat of her car, the closest following vehicle I have ever been in before or since. But despite the terror I was ready to sleep from the afternoonís heat and wind, completely beat. I don't think fairings would do much for me in that kind of wind.
I have some small missions here. The first: snap a few pics of one of Mrs. Shaweetz's childhood homes in the burbs. The next is to do a yoga drop-in class to try and straighten out my screaming back; it seems I don't have the ergos quite down yet. I will spare the readership the photos of those exciting things.
On the way out of town, I managed to visit Wildwood Motorsports, who has had the Triumph brand here for less than a year. They've got a nice collection of old Ducati scramblers from the 60′s here, some restored, some original. It was a nice visit and I chatted briefly with one of the salespeople, but I was disabused of the idea that I was going to get feted at the dealerships just because I happened to be from out of town. I'm not sure where I got that idea from.
Speaking of wet, it rained rained rained until Portage la Prairie. Even better, deep tire ruts on the Trans Canada were beautiful troughs of standing water. The center is dry, of course because itís the oil line... But visibility's good and I'm still managing to enjoy myself despite the excitement. Manitoba smellsÖ earthy. Then manurey. Then sweet. All within a few minutes. My Triumph-branded touring boots have decided they are no longer waterproof. At least they are warm.
But the thing is, only the rarest of weather patterns lasts forever. After Portage it breaks, and itís a perfect riding day, smooth air and smooth blacktop, from there on out. For the first time, I feel the space as the land opens up around me. In some places I swear you can see the earthís curvature (you canít, of course). The space floods in when I stop off the 10 to take pictures of some exciting hay:
I could walk out there forever, and just be. There is no stress here.
This kind of space stands in stark contrast to the usual lack; the physical kind, but more importantly, space in the mind that is always there, if we ever cared to notice, or stop cramming it with the mostly totally banal details of day to day living. People who ride motorcycles seem to know about this space. Sometimes they talk about it, if theyíre that kind of person.
And suddenly, unexpectedly, a small town, a pretty tree-lined boulevard:
Neepawa. Home of Manitoba Person Of Note Margaret Laurence. I roll on.
After Neepawa, low rolling hills, perfect weather, perfect sightlines, and the most perfect road, anywhere. You could land a jet on it. At this moment in time, in this world, there is only one right thing to do, in fact, is requested to be done, from where I know not. And that is to roll it on.
120Ö 130Ö 140Ö 150Ö 150. She will not do the ton with all of this un-aerodynamic heavy crap lashed on, tuck or no. And that is ok; I empathize. She did her best and it was good enough for me. Relenting, I drop it back off to something more reasonable. For the next hour, the bike runs better, happier, and so do I.
Going 160 on this bike is a special event, and itís not normally something I really care about; nor are there many truly safe places to do it, at least where I live. For this moment, every condition endorsed it. And then, back to what she does best, driving at the usual speeds and posing for photos in front of quirky barns:
I get a kick out of the many ways the small towns try to make themselves stand out:
Riding Mountain National Park is nice enough, but $35 camping fees are really getting to be a drag. The place is kind of like a camping theme park, with events and shows and park staff that whiz around on electric scooters. But I found a nice site with no neighbours. They have covered cook areas, in case itís miserable, with nice woodstoves:
I hadn't realized that this, and many other National Parks in North America, were built up as huge depression-era make-work projects.
At night I awaken to loud, deep snoring
. The thing is, there are are no occupied sites within 300ft of my tent, and this is maybe 30ft away, tops. Not human. Three loud grunts and huffs at intervals of 28 seconds. When my adrenaline goes away, itís replaced by curiosity, but the tentís zipped up tight and the iphone is not accessible for recording right now. So I drift off, together with whatever monster it was. The huffing goes on for perhaps an hour, maybe more. In the morning I walked around the site in increasing circles and found no sign of anything.