Hello Blog Followers, this is Lucy here.
I sit writing this in Regina watching the sun melt the snow outside and listening to the locals exclaiming at this extraordinarily warm weather for December in Saskatchewan. Extraordinarily warm has meant highs of plus 9 these last few days and lows of minus 10. Tropical!
It seems hard to believe that it has been two weeks since we set out together. My first two weeks of bike touring have been fantastic, but a steep learning curve too. My first days on the road were pretty exteme. It was a constant mission to cover up any skin that might be exposed to the elements (deep into the minus temperatures) and really tiring staying on top of everything to stay safe and unfrozen. We are tentatively enjoying this weather break, though are slightly nervous for when the weather turns again.
Exhausted at first by the constant unpacking and packing of the tent, (I call it ‘tent faff’) and putting on seeminly every available item of clothing to cycle in seemed to take forever and I was questioning if we would ever make it into Saskatchewan with such short hours of cycling. Emotion got the better of me a couple of times in the first week, heightened by the extreme temperatures, but now my quads scream less at the end of the day which tells me my cycling legs are establishing themselves and we have our tent routine down to a fine art, so life feels less stressful and the miles each day less daunting.
Sarah has been amazingly patient and a great teacher, showing me what to do (and not to do) and little tricks here and there to help make life easier and more comfortable. Everything is so fun with her and if I make a mistake her line is usually, ‘Ah, I wouldn’t worry about it. Worse things happen at sea.’ Only she would know this… A few times Sarah has looked at my panniers and pulled everything out, squashing everything down to within inches of its life to make double the amount of room. I am constantly amazed at what she manages to fit in hers – they seem like magical bottomless treasure chests, normally with a Mars bars hiding at the bottom (always a fab find in the dark and cold).
Last week we took a few days cycling on the back roads which were stunningly beautiful and quiet. One day we only came across 2 cars and the road was our own. We were stopped a couple of times by drivers asking if we were lost and ‘Why are you going to X? You do know there’s nothing there.’ They would explain that no one ever cycles on the back roads, not even in good weather, instead favouring the major highways. We found it hard to understand why not. Rolling hills, herds of antelope crossing the roads infront of us, cows mooing and being chased by enthusiastic dogs, melting snow for water and camping with beautiful sunsets – it felt like our own world. Perhaps the funniest encounter was one lady who told us we would be going to altitude that evening on the road ahead. We both looked at each other with politely raised eyebrows, accepted her kind offerings of water and giggled as we pedalled away. The Rocky Prairies – here we come! Even at home we have bigger hills than the Prairies.
About 150 km from Regina, Sarah and I decided to have a go on each other’s bikes for half an hour or so. Just as I got off Hercules Sarah shushed me and we both listened to the hissing of a tyre going down. At the same moment we noticed that the phlange of the Rohloff hub (the centre barrell of the wheel which houses the gearing mechanism) had cracked in two places and would be causing bigger issues in time. Over the next few hours we stopped 4 times to take Herc’s back wheel off and figure out what was causing the flats. A ruined ‘bead’ (the rim of the tyre) and a cheeky length of wire poking out was irreparable, despite our bodge efforts so we hitched to Regina to meet local bike whizz Darrell Kaczynski who had previously arranged to help us. While Darrell has been working on rebuilding Hercules Sarah borrowed his bike and we had a ride back down the road in the wee hours of yesterday morning to make up the miles to the city. We were blessed with 8 degrees of warm weather and useful winds – it was lovely.
We set off to Winnipeg in the morning, crossing everything for another warm snap. For now it’s back to washing and kit sorting.
P.S Thanks to everyone who has helped us this week including the McNary family, Walter Hancock, Marty Hansen, Jacqui from down the road, Anita of the Cupcakes, Western Cycle and Bert the Driver, Italian Star Deli for the yummy food and the ever persistent and focussed Darrell Kaczynski for all his bike and hosting efforts.
P.P.S After many hours of work by Darrell and lots of input from various people around town, Hercules is doing well and his rear wheel should last until we reach Winnipeg and meet up with the replacement Rohloff hub, kindly provided by Santos bikes in the Netherlands.