Day 89: Hanna to Oyen

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.

Jesse found some shade
Jesse found some shade
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.

Day 88: Three Hills to Hanna

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.

Day 86: Red Deer to Three Hills

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.

Day 85: Rocky Mountain House to Red Deer

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.

Day 84: Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House

We had an early breakfast at the restaurant in town and counted the number of RVs driving in with the server. They were expected more people coming through with the road being closed.

On the way to Rocky Mountain House there wasn’t any road services, so we also ordered bagged lunch sandwiches from the restaurant to eat on the way.

The route was still hilly as we left the mountains, it was also very busy with traffic. Our stop for lunch was quite quick because of the mosquitoes who were also hungry, so we weren’t able to escape the roar of traffic for too long.

The national historic site of Rocky Mountain House was 7km off route and after briefly checking what it was all about we decided it would be okay to skip it. We continued into town, riding along the well marked bike route, and found the cheapest motel and then listened to the thunder and as the rain poured down for the rest of the evening.

Day 83: Saskatchewan Crossing to Nordegg

With the road still closed and the news only getting worse about the flooding in Calgary and area, we knew we had no choice but to turn east towards Red Deer and leave the mountains earlier than planned. At least we were not farther along and stuck somewhere ahead.

We had a hilly ride leaving the mountains. Though we did skip Bow pass, we seemed to have a lot of steady climbing and then descending to do today. While riding the American group of Chris, Tom and their sons passed us on the road and pulled over. We chatted with them a bit, finding out they also stayed at The Crossing last night. They had to rush off to catch their flight, still flying out of Calgary.

Having cooked our breakfast on our little balcony this morning, we had decided to stop at Thompson Resort en route for lunch – also since we don’t have much food with us. We were still paying tourist prices but it was better than the Icefields center. We had ice cream for desert and received another huge portion – definitely we could survive on ice cream alone!

We made it to Nordegg and had both expected a larger town, but there was a motel with a restaurant so we stopped there for dinner and to get ourselves sorted for our new route.