Leigh & Toma: Cross-Canada Bicycle Tour 2005 travel blog

Fun fishin', eh? Pakkasmokes!

Dam, what a shot!

We rose - slowly - at around 7am. Mom and Auntie Alice had prepared a massive breakfast of omelets, toast, cinnamon buns, cereal, fruit and I forget what else. Goodbyes and some last-minute photos, and suddenly, along rides Newfie Bob! As it turns out, my relatives' house was en route to the cemetery holding the famous stone angel that titled local author Margaret Laurence's book the same. We hopped on the road back to the highway in the company of Doctor Bob.

Again...fabulous tailwinds. We charged southeast at over 30 km/h to our first rest stop, a gas station near Gladwin. We spent the better part of an hour there...although a relatively short ride today, we were a bit spent from yesterday's century. Dave, Jesse, Jim and Sean stopped in and we continued together for another 30km to Westbourne. This was to be a rest stop, however, the only service the tiny town had was a gas station - which was closed for summer holidays. Oh well...eat our own sandwiches and suck what water was left in our bottles on the leeward side of the boarded up building.

Time for a final charge into Portage. Some of us briefly considered pushing into Winnipeg a night early (we'll be swinging through tomorrow), but agreed it would make for too long a day. Anyway, we had the wind right in our backs at times for about 15km. Glorious. The roadside reeds and brush swayed in the direction of the gusts like rolling green waves. Surf was up and Ontario was beginning to creep into the backs of our minds.

We turned off Trans Canada onto a tertiary highway numbered 240. The little town of MacDonald offered us our first definitive glimpse of the mess the recent flooding had made of the region. Telephone poles in low spots were still more than 5 feet underwater, with rings on them displaying high watermarks of at least another foot or two.

The going was rough and very dangerous on 240. Although posted as a provincial highway, this was essentially a gravel country road. The rock and sand sometimes ran several inches deep, making for some nail-biting, tire-plowing moments. Our average speed plummeted by half as we negotiated the cobbles and sand-traps, all the while gingerly pedaling to the road's edge to make way for charging dump-trucks and farm equipment. By far, in my personal opinion, the trip's most treacherous 14km yet.

Eventually we egg-shelled onto pavement and pushed the final 15 minutes into Portage La Prairie city limits. This place is surprisingly big. There is a Dairy Queen! We put back some milk products and continued to tonight's camping spot, the town's exhibition grounds. The tents went up, shave and shower, and my favourite dinner entrée - chili con carne. Life couldn't be better...assuming I don't talk about the mosquitoes.

I have heard, and can now confirm, that Manitoba has some of the nastiest "mozzies" in the country. These little bastards are predatory, intelligent and ravenous. I have witnessed them, firsthand, landing sucker-first. There are tons of them. In the shower stall. In the shade. Near bird baths. Biting me right now - through the mesh of my lawn chair AND track pants, regardless of DEET lotion - on the ass.

I bought a container of "After Bite." This is a nifty white little tube of liquid that's administered by dabbing the bite with a felt-like wick on the container's end. Unimpressed by its actual effectiveness, I examined the ingredients. There is one: Ammonia. Think I'll buy a few vats of the stuff in Winnipeg tomorrow so I can just front-crawl through it, never mind dabbing. Goodnight.

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