Starting after the morning rain had eased, we thought we escaped it for the day. We were certainly wrong! Not too far down the road clouds darkened around us. Then the thunder began. And the lightening. We still hadn’t looked up what to do in a lightning storm and didn’t feel like trying to be the shortest object in a field so we just kept going.
The rain persisted all day. In the only two moments of the day when it eased we took a break and quickly ate what food we had. Rosetown seemed less industrial than Kindersley, but being a Sunday and a long weekend it was very quiet. An Indian dinner however hit the spot – at one of the two restaurants open this night.
The morning was warm when we awoke so it was easy to get up and get going. We made a hearty breakfast of quinoa with instant oatmeal for flavour (a trick learned from Yvon) before we set off.
Bright blue skies and full sun, it looked like it would be a good day. However then we noticed the wind – strong headwinds. It seemed to take a very long time to ride the 35km to the border, but crossing into Saskatchewan was a highlight and reaching a new state or province always feels like an accomplishment.
We did find a roadside stop with a gas station and a restaurant, so we ordered Chinese food and were given huge portions. It was also a nice change from the typical food on offer in these roadside stops. Not many kilometers later but quite a while later we made another stop at the next town, Flaxcomb. After relaxing on the grass we went to check out the convenience store/general store/restaurant/gas station/post office. It was too hot for the slushies to be frozen so we settled on Gatorade.
Up the hill (Saskatchewan is not flat) and onward to Kindersley – a town it seemed to take forever to reach. Pressing hard into the wind we eventually arrived to the dusty industrial town.
Today lacked yesterday’s big left turn, as we went straight for the whole day. Though there were a few turns in the road and small hills. We stopped at every rest stop we saw that was right on the highway. One was quite the hot spot of activity for seeming not to even be near any towns at all.
At our second rest stop in Youngstown we were given free slushies. We learned that the Tour du Canada had just passed through yesterday, and that they stay in town at the hall and use the schools showers, and the town prepares their evening meal for them. A nice treat for the group! We doubt we’ll catch up with them since they probably go farther in a day then we’re able to. Though we were told another group will be passing through next Friday, so maybe we’ll see them when they pass us.
Oyen seemed like a far stretch but eventually we made it. We chose not to ride the 5km into town but stayed at the campground on the highway. Another RV campground but at least they accept tenters and do have nice showers.
With panniers full of great homemade food, we set off for Hanna. Full sun and blue skies, we had a warm sunny day ahead. Aside from some road construction and one left turn, the ride was relatively uneventful. Being the first clear day in the prairies, it was still astounding to look out and see the fast green fields and the sky leading on forever.
We descended into the valley and the badlands, getting a chance to ride through the really neat landscape that we viewed in Drumheller. At the bottom was a rest stop where we were able to get out of the sun for a bit, and where I received a high five from someone who asked about our trip.
In Hanna we got a few additional items from the grocery store to go with our dinner that we were sent off with this morning. Then we went to Fox Lake campground, a nice park for the town and campground on a lake. It was filled with RVs, and seemed like as many vehicles as possible squeezed onto every small site. But the campground host still found a spot for us. We were set next to a field of cows, and the cows quickly took interest in us, coming over to the fence just a few feet from our tent, staring at us and grunting for most of the evening and until we went to sleep.
After a filling breakfast we started our ride to Three Hills. We had found a simple route to go, avoiding the larger highways out of town. The road was fine initially, a small highway with decent shoulders and very little traffic. However quickly it turned into a dirt road, and with all the rain it was a mud road. We were greatly slowed down but given encouragement by a passing milk truck and military vehicles.
Eventually making it back to a main road, we continued on, only passing one gas station on the route. We skipped it not being sure of how welcoming it would be but quickly realized we should have stopped there.
As we got closer to Three Hills the skies opened up into an incredible thunder storm, full of hail, loud rumbles of thunder and lightening. Aside from not knowing any safety protocols in this type of storm, I found it fun to ride through since we knew it wouldn’t last too long. However as it persisted we became more thoroughly soaked. A large truck pulled over and asked if we wanted a lift, we quickly agreed. They took us into Three Hills where it was bright and sunny at this time, and were happy to have done their good deed of the day.
In Three Hills my Aunt and Uncle were waiting. We quickly found their home and were warmly welcomed in, later having a huge feast with my cousins as well.
After dinner my cousins offered to drive us to Drumheller, since we had mentioned that was our goal for the next day, and would take us to see the Hoodoos in the evening light. The hoodoos and the surrounding area were amazing to see and would have been a rewarding bike ride, but it’s nice too to be able to cut out the detour and take a more direct route.
We had plans to be in Three Hills for Tuesday to visit my family there, but otherwise we weren’t sure of the best way to get there or what roads to take. For the first time this whole trip we have multiple routes we can take and no information as to which is the best for a cyclist.
We decided to go to Innisfail, stopping in Sylvan Lake on the way. This put us back on the busy highway for most of the ride to Sylvan Lake. It started as a nice sunny morning and in Sylvan lake we stopped for drinks and to eat our muffins purchased earlier at Tim Hortons. Jesse also had a huge piece of chocolate suicide cake – promising the staff he would be able to finish it all. Sylvan Lake seemed like the vacation town for Red Deer and all surrounding areas. On our way out of town we passed a barber shop, and Jesse had been hoping to get his hair cut for a few days now, so we stopped in for his $12 buzz cut.
We were told it was tricky ahead to get on the highway we want, and as we were getting close we could see we couldn’t ride straight across the busy highway to get to the smaller highway, so we took the alternate route but the road leading to Innisfail from there was closed. In this moment we decided instead to go to Red Deer. Then the heavy rain began as we kept close to the far right of the shoulder on the busy highway. Once clearing all the highway on and off ramps we made it into town. As we got closer to the city center we could see there was some effort for bike lanes so we followed them. Another Tim Hortons stop to find a place for the night (the campground was closed due to the flooding) and a $10 walk-in special pizza from Pizza Pizza and we were set for the night.