Day 9 was the rest day. We had some errands to run, including visiting the brand new MEC Calgary South. I had a job interview too, but aside from that the day was spent relaxing and getting ready for the next block.
Today didn’t look too bad on paper, but it sure turned into a tough one. The first 15km were spent navigating Calgary’s (beautiful) bike paths. That certainly wasn’t quick, but it was cool to explore more of the city.
Once we got through the bike paths the day really began. We were straight into a long headwind drag up the east side of the city. We had some respite as we turned onto one of the city’s “Trails” (their names for highways, but they’re capped at 80kph, a little strange). After flying along nicely we turned into the hardest part of the day. We had a 50km stretch north to get to the same latitude as Drumheller. By this point the wind had really picked up into a 40kph south-easterly wind. We spent the next 50km going slower than on the mountain passes as we grinded our way north to Beiseker.
At least with mountain passes you can see what slowing you down, but with the headwind it just pushes you about, screams past your ears, and your morale is slowly ground down, despite the perfectly flat or downhill roads. This crazy wind also meant that it was too sketchy to take pictures while riding 😦
We kept trudging on, stayed out of the red, and eventually made it to a local saloon for lunch in Beiseker. From there we were able to harness a bit of this wind energy – though the crosswind was still strong – and set sail for Drumheller.
We made great time over the first 40km, until I realized I couldn’t shift gears properly anymore. A roadside stop confirmed by rear shifter cable was fraying and jamming. We got the cassette into a middle gear and set off for Drumheller again, though I didn’t have high enough gears for the tailwindy parts or low enough gears for the headwindy parts.We eventually rolled into Drumheller, tired and hungry. The silver lining to the tough day is that we found a sweet spot to camp up on the cliffs surrounding the city.
As I write this though, I was unable to fix my shifter cable with the tools we have so we’ll need to remedy that in the morning. Then hopefully we can harness some more wind power!
Unlike the prairie roads, today was a bit of a rollercoaster. The shifter cable I found at Canadian Tire were too short for my bike so I was stuck with a two-speed bike today, though we really showed off our expert mechanic skills by successfully internally routing the too-short cable. If we followed the route we had planned through the back roads east of Drumheller, we wouldn’t reach a bike shop until three days later in Swift Current. Instead, with a good wind forecast, we decided to push for Medicine Hat. If things went smoothly enough it would be a full day ride, but only 270km of two-speed riding instead of 500km.
I stuck the derailleur into 46-13 (hardly a good gear for most riding, but I was feeling ambitious with the stiff tailwind) and we rolled out. The first hour flew by as winded our ways through the Hoodoos. Again it was a little chilly so the jacket was on and few pictures were being taken.As we hit the climb out of the river valley, I ground to a halt two thirds of the way up the long 10% slope. Allegedly part of the climb was walked, but there’s no photo evidence so I can’t say for sure 😏
We pushed on and ended up covering 100km in 2 hours and 47min, certainly an outdoor record for me.When we turned south to head for the Trans Canada (still 100km away), we pulled over for a lunch picnic nestled out of the wind in someone’s driveway. Luckily, most of the Albertans we’ve met have been very friendly and so was this farmer. I also jammed a rock into my derailleur to drop my gear down into 46-14 – a welcome change from the grinding to my aching quads.
Another 56km down the road we ran into the first gas station we’d seen all day. A pop and a chocolate bar later we rounded off our second century for the day in a little over 2 hours and 50min. We tried to thread the needle through some storm clouds but they caught up to us as we rolled paste the Suffield military base (the largest military training base in the Commonwealth, apparently).
After warming up with some hot chocolate, we made the final push to Medicine Hat, rounding off both of our largest days outdoors for a total of 267km in 7:40 at 35kph. The next two days we get to take somewhat easy since this detour has shortened our route by a decent amount.
Oh and we celebrated the extra-long day with a motel and pizzas.
Cheers and Ride On!