I knew it, I knew God would break out the smiting stick as soon as I said cycling in Alberta was easy.
From the moment I left Sylvan Lake, my bike was tilted at a 45-degree angle into a south wind howled across the parched prairie. It kicked dust and salt across the road from dried, cracked ponds, and by the time I stopped in Castor, my eyes were blazing red slits.
There I met a Lebanese guy named Salam who owned the local gas station and had a million and one questions about my trip.
“You camp, and the gear, it all goes in those little bags?”
“And your food, where is that?”
“Mostly here,” I said, shoving a thumb at my stomach.
He laughed and pointed out a place in town where I could camp for free. Before I set off he also turned me on to a back-road shortcut to Saskatoon that I never would have thought of on my own. Not bad for a town where I only wanted to fill my water bottles.
The shortcut covered a pile of rolling hills and the wind was fierce, so the next day I was only able to get to Provost, not far from the Saskatchewan border. Still, for all the time I spent panting in the shade of the ditch, I wasn’t all that disappointed with myself.
There was no doubt I was chomping at the bit to get going the next morning, and for once the timing was perfect. The wind tapped me on the shoulder and kicked my butt down the highway for 189 km, all the way to Biggar, Saskatchewan.
As I was calling my folks from a payphone, I had my bike inspected by three kids with nothing better to do than hang out at Chester Fried Chicken on a Friday night. One of them, a freckled short-round with a swelled chest, seemed to have sticky fingers around my gear, but I gave him a pretty heavy hint that I had no qualms about busting a 12-year-old’s head.
We came to an understanding, and in the end the trio marched me to the campground in the dark. Along the way I heard about their exploits in drinking Vex and tipping over ballpark outhouses. Part of me wanted to weep for the human race, but the fact is none of us were angels when we were kids. They’ll come around.
The coyotes yelped all night, but the camping spot was a good one and I slept like a baby. The trip to Saskatoon was hassle free and apart from a two-hour tiptoe through a ceiling-stack bookstore in Perdue, I made good time into the city.
I met up with my friend Carrie and her boyfriend Kent, whose family was in town to check out the Labour Day weekend fireworks. The house was insane, a crazy circus of people coming and going in every direction, but I enjoyed every second.
And the fireworks were amazing! Thousands of people crowded the parks and bridges by the river, oohing and ahhing as the sky lit up. It was a bit of a sensory overload for me – traffic signals are “big lights” these days – but I had a blast.
Now I’m off. Two more days and I’ll be in Regina. Crazy.