Following highway 1 east of Portage La Prairie – where the shoulders are wonderfully wide and smooth – we see huge dark clouds to the south of us that appear to be following us as we ride east. Occasionally, we see a flash of lightening but are not close enough to hear any thunder. We pull into Millers Campground and ask the lady at reception if they have any cooking shelters, as there is a storm threatening to come our way. Her reply is “That wasn’t in the forecast” and she quickly looks up the weather radar to confirm our observations. Someone new walks in the store and we mention the pending storm. Her reply is “they said nothing about that on the radio”. Again, there is a disbelief that said storm could actually exist. Finally, a gentleman that appears to be the partner of the reception enters the store. The storm is mentioned and he says “They didn’t say anything about a storm in the forecast”.
Our conclusion is that this must be the ONLY place in Canada where weather forecasts are mostly accurate, as everyone seems to be in disbelief that a storm could occur if it wasn’t in the forecast. Fortunately, the weather held until we finished setting up the tent and making dinner. As we were showering and cleaning up the rain started and with it thunder and lightning that continued throughout the night and into the morning. Our days ride was only a short haul into Winnipeg, so we waited until the rain stopped and sun came out to dry off our tent before packing up and hitting the road.
We chose to ride Highway 1 into Winnipeg because it was shorter and the wind forecast was favourable; unfortunately, forecast and actual turned out to disagree and all day we had a head wind instead of a tailwind. Outside of Brandon, Highway 1 is 4-lanes, but does not have any shoulders. For the most part, we were able to take a lane and cars and trucks passed us in the left lane. Once or twice when we saw that both lanes were occupied, we hopped onto the shoulder which involved a small drop and some loose gravel – the shoulder was definitely not ride-able for any sustained amount of time. The 50 km mostly parallel road through Carberry (provincial road 351) gave us a chance to get off the Trans-Canada and find a nice bakery for lunch. The folks there were really friendly and amused by our funny looking bikes.
Scott inspecting our first sighting of Hemp on highway 351.
Once provincial road 351 re-joined the Trans-Canada, we were delighted to find wide shoulders that lasted until the Yellowhead Highway joined the Trans Canada just outside of Portage La Prairie. Unfortunately, the shoulder ended at a terrible spot – too far out of Portage La Prairie such that there were no alternate routes, but close enough to experience a significant increase in traffic. Fortunately, these conditions only lasted for 10 km. We had expected to find a campground West of Portage La Prairie, but unfortunately there weren’t any. We were also not able to find a campground in Portage (we didn’t look that hard), so we were tired by the time we approached Millers campground, 10 km East of Portage La Prairie.
Millers campground was a nice treed campground with a swimming pool ($18.50 for an unserviced site). We were surprised that they had a pool but showers were $1 – certainly encouraging people to use the pool to get rinsed off rather than the shower. The drinking water was also very heavily chlorinated, such that it smelled like swimming pool water!
The next morning dawned wet, so we turned over and went back to sleep. By 9 am the rain finally stopped and the sun came out, such that we could eat breakfast whilst setting the tent out to dry. The ride into Winnipeg was on beautiful newly paved shoulders, right up until highway 1 turns into Portage Avenue, which is also OK for cycling. Our biggest challenge when entering a city is keeping our attention on the road, as there are so many things to distract us after so long on small roads and in small towns.
Coming into Winnipeg we saw something that was even funnier looking than us – someone riding a large unicycle. He must have been riding at least 25 km/hr as it took us quite awhile to catch up to him and pass him. Unfortunately, he was riding on a service road on the other side of the highway, so we didn’t get a chance to meet.
When we arrived at Katrina’s parent’s house (We met Kat and Mike – in Malaysia and then again in Bangkok), we were welcomed by her parents Donna and Tony. Thursday night was family dinner night, where many members of the extended family came for supper – a great opportunity to meet many of the clan. It was so neat to meet Kat’s family, and they have been so wonderful to us, welcoming us into their home as if we were family ourselves.
Shilo to Millers Campground – 10 E of Portage La Prairie – 136 km, 7h 15 min
Millers Campground to Winnipeg – 73 km, 3h 15 min