Day 12: The great gopher massacre

Day 12: The great gopher massacre

My bed was too comfy. I was out cold around 10, and slept until almost 7, a record. I couldn’t get out of bed though, until around 8:30 when I finally found the will to get breakfast. There, it was apparent that someone had read my tweets / blog last night because everything was wrapped in plastic, and they used disposable cutlery and individual packets of salt and pepper! This was in the restaurant where I ate last night and I could see the stacks of real dishes and utensils. The breakfast was tasty, however, and I filled up for a long day.

Bagels, toast, and muffins on a display and individually wrapped in plastic
So much plastic
A large metal teepee in white, red, and blue
World’s largest teepee, Medicine Hat, AB

This was the only scar on an otherwise lovely hotel stay. It was clean, well-appointed for the price, and quiet. I set off at about 10, followed google’s directions through a park with steep hills to end up at the world’s largest teepee, then was off to the races. For 5km. Then I got a flat.

I like to think of myself as a tire repair wizard. I have fixed a few over the years and could always patch the flat and get the bike on the road again quickly. I practice the Dutch method of flat repair which is very lazy (and the only option when you have an internal hub and chain guard like my usual bike does). For some reason, the bead on my touring bike tires refuses to separate from the rim. This was a problem with the last tires too. So, it took 20 minutes to fight the tire off, and 10 more to get the bike rolling again. Not a record.

Finally I was truly underway, pedalling happily for a while. Since just before Medicine Hat I have been seeing lots of gophers in the ditch and a few crushed on the road. Today though they were out in force. Constantly darting in front of me. Constantly playing chicken with my bike. Constantly mourning their recently-departed friends. Finally, one couldn’t go fast enough and I couldn’t brake suddenly enough and my touring sins evolved from plastic abuse to wildlife abuse.

I mourned the gopher until I spotted a sign for the Alberta tourist information centre. I swung in for the clean toilets and free wifi but was draw in to a conversation with one of the staff. She handed me a cyclist care pack consisting of a Clif Bar, fruit strip, and a card to thank them on Trip Advisor. What a nice gesture. I took some coffee and downed the snacks in their comfy wifi lounge. It was a nice bribe but I still dislike the Trans Mountain Expansion.


Ben and his bike in front of the Saskatchewan border sign, which reads “Saskatchewan: Naturally”
My 10th province

My next stop was the Saskatchewan border. Finally, I can say I have been to all ten provinces. Yukon and technically Nunavut remain on my to-see list. The Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park was full of beautiful rolling hills that reminded me of PEI’s dunes but without the beach.

After stopping for a photo it was a steady cruise to Maple Creek where I had a tasty club sandwich at a quirky roadside diner that hadn’t been renovated since Joe Clark was contemplating entering federal politics. Now it was time for the final stretch, rolling in to a lovely campground in Gull Lake just before 8pm, where two students were camping during their east-west trip, and a man from Vancouver was lounging after a day of eastbound cycling.

So, an eventful day. If all goes well I’ll be in Regina on Wednesday where I can tell Scott Moe about the poor state of the shoulders on the province’s roads, and in a week I’ll be able to update Brian Pallister on Manitoba’s roads if I catch him while he’s in Winnipeg.

Today’s lesson: there’s more to life than plastic wrap

Today’s distance: 172.4 km

Cumulative distance: 1,588.1 km

Today’s climb: 645 m