Bikepacking, Canada

My great trail 7ième partie

It’s all about the reward and the reward can be as stupid as a good coffee, a glass of wine or a not camping stop.

Most importantly coffee! Just knowing that a coffee shop is at the end of my ride motivates me to keep going. Just today, I had the choice of riding to waterfalls or get to the coffee shop before it closed, Coffee shop won! I got there 25min before closing and it was soooooooo…. good 🙂 I can drive to the waterfalls some other time 🙄

I shorten my ride the other day, when an Airbnb host offered me to pitch my tent on his lakeside lot for free. I wouldn’t have accepted, but he checked out and @4:30 I didn’t feel like riding 20 more km to a campground on the side of the train tracks. It was also treated to a free dinner and great company for the evening, which is a lot better then deshydrated food solo on a picnic table.

After long days on the saddle, I am not too inclined to sleep on my thermarest, so cheap motels or hotels are my reward. It’s so nice to enjoy a hot shower and a quiet evening in a comfy bed.

Type of road is a huge factor. I prefer the path less traveled, but In Ontario I find myself stuck on the highway. I can log a lot of Kilometres, but I seriously dislike it. It’s surprisingly beautiful, but very stressful to coexist with trucks and cars.

I always set a target before I go to bed. I get up early enough to have time to get to the destination, but also get lost, explore or battle a head wind.

I also like to have extra time to stop at funny diners or recommended lunch spots along the way. Nothing better then a big plate of fries to help complete a 200km day!

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Bikepacking, Canada

My great trail 6ieme partie

The wind, the sun, ouch! Now that I’ve been riding more road and more highway, I go through a lot more daily kms. But it is long and painful, especially when my audiobook ends with 100km to go. I started signing to my bad music repertoire to pass time

There is still a lot of history and things to see, as long as I stop focusing on the destination and enjoy the journey.

Detoured to a Moose mountain provincial park one night and enjoyed a lake side campsite and a break from the flat prairies.

I get so focused on the destination that I forget to eat and just push through. I can ride a day on a just good breakfast and snacks, but I pay for it the following day.

My gluten friendly McDonald’s breakfast

Arriving in Winnipeg, I decided to take a day off, day to relax, drink good coffee and erase a bit of my cyclist tan. The helmet design on my forehead is pretty impressive!

Forth Cafe

Little Sister coffee

I was so happy to meet with Vancouver friends here. Friendly faces good wine and beer made the tough day on the bike disappear. And as we all know hydration is very important 🙂

I honestly dread Ontario, worried about all the distance to cover to get through it. The lack of good coffee shops along the way is also very sad. If anyone has any recommendations for coffee along highway 17 please let me know.

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Bikepacking, Canada

Get off the highway

Did you know the prairies were flat?

Did you know they were filled with lots of history? Towns that were founded due to mining or railway, now living mostly from agriculture.

Did you know lots of nice people live there? I didn’t ask for anyone to pose for me, but I really enjoyed talking with locals.

Did you know most secondary road is not paved and almost no one drives on them? When they do cross or pass me, they stop, move to the opposite and wave. Mostly bog pickups and farm tractors, everyone has been very nice, even apologetic if they thought they drove too close or too fast.

I detoured towards Gravelbourg just because I liked the name. They have a museum, grocery store, a field without toilets you can camp on, but most importantly they have a great coffee shop 😁. The cheap motels are basic and not cheap enough, but the coffee is great and the people are super friendly.

The problem with the prairies is that there are not many places to sit and relax for lunch between towns. There are also no rest areas or water water sources. So fill up your water bottles and be ready to have lunch sitting on the side of the road.

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Bikepacking, Canada

My great trail 5ieme partie

I stopped following “the great trail” and planned my own route as soon as the trail headed north.

I know the scenery will be flatter and the exciting trails are a thing of the past, but I am hoping to discover cool areas in the prairies while also making some progress east.

Honestly it’s a lot of fun to get on the highway and use the tailwind to do some pretty high mileage. On the other hand it is great to ride through small towns and learn more about the history of our country. I am surprised to notice a few towns with a strong french heritage. It is also great to see how some towns evolved after the minings shut down, but sad to see some become ghost towns.

Getting off the highway also means avoiding Tim Horton’s and discover great coffee shops, quirky diners and chat with locals. It get lonely to ride for hours on my own, chatting with people along the way is fun, locals usually ask questions, but also love to share the knowledge of their home town.

I detoured from my eastbound direction to explore Cypress hills provincial park. Headwind asides, going there was the best ting I could have done. I never road 100km so slow (14km/h average), making my detour longer then I wanted, but it was well worth it. This park is an Oasis, just a beautiful area with lakes and hills in the middle of flatland Canada.

If you ever spend time in Southern Alberta bring your mountain bike or fat tire gravel bike and ride the trails, it’s just an amazing area.

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Bikepacking, Canada

Au revoir Colombie Britannique

Was that the last singletrack I got to ride on this adventure? Fully loaded, heading to Alberta I enjoyed that endless mountain bike trail that made me avoid the highway for 25km.

The trail is supposed to start from Fernie, but some work clearing the forest makes it unrideable and I have to backtrack to town. Maybe Fernie doesn’t want me to leave 🙂 After 15km on the highway the trail could be picked up again and I could start smiling again!

The highway seemed to be the only way to go east from Sparwood, bit it isn’t that busy, the shoulder is wide and the views are amazing.

Now that I am in Alberta it’s time to hunt for gravel and cross my fingers for great coffee shops

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Bikepacking

Mon grand sentier part 4

What am I doing? What’s with trying to go fast and get somewhere quickly? Time to take a step back and smell the roses.

Canada is a big country, how can I expect the trails to be the same throughout? In the tradition of over planning and overdoing everything, I may have planned too much time on the saddle to keep it fun.

I did my homework, looked at elevation, terrain, distances between campsites and hotels. I looked at the overall elevation gain, but not at every peak!

It’s great to log 100+ km rides, but when the terrain is more difficult, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for exploration and fun trail discovery. The last 2 days were hard, I lost track of the exploration and discovery part of my journey.

Heading to Fernie, I had to get on the highway because of trail closure and then missed the next fun off road section. I ended up pushing it to get to Fernie fast, missing out on lots of amazing off roading and beautiful scenery.

Before I ended up on the highway, I had ridden rail grade gravel, followed by fun and flowy trails. I can only imagine how much fun the trails I missed would have been. Chatted with local people, encountered deers and scared a bunch of cows, before I had to coexist with all the pick ups heading to Alberta after enjoying Canada day long weekend.

So I decided to stay an extra night in Fernie and explore some of the trails I missed and their famous mountain bike trail network.

Smiles for miles!

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Bikepacking, Canada

Routine

My life is pretty simple right now, I get up, pack the bike, climb a hill for hours, descend a hill for hours, get a coffee or hot chocolate and go to bed 🙂

There are a few variations to my days. 1 day out of 2 I camp and take more time to settle in, rehydrate food and drink my hot chocolate, then slip into my sleeping bag. When I hotel, I find a good coffee shop and relax, check-in to my room, have an amazing shower and do laundry. I then find a simple place for dinner, then use the WIFI to confirm the next ride, post pictures and write this blog. I also really like having bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of instant oatmeal 🙂

There are a few reasons why I hotel, safety, comfort, power and laundry. I do not feel safe camping everywhere, I’m a chicken and am afraid of weird dudes. My inflatable mattress is amazing, but my back deserves a real mattress after spending 100km on the bike. My solar panel is very efficient, but not as much as BC hydro. I am testing Icebreaker’s claim to merino’s properties and can wear the same top 2 to 3 times, but not my shorts. BIBS NEED TO BE CLEANED DAILY!

The other daily thing is the amazing views I get when I reach the top. I wish I could show you how magnificent it is. These views, these mountains and trees make me feel like I am so small and insignificant. I can’t transfer that feeling in a picture, you really have to get there and see for yourself.

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