Tonight we are in Reston, Manitoba, a sleepy western town that all but closes on Mondays. Fortunately, the grocery store is open so we can cook a meal ourselves tonight. Both of the village’s restaraunts are closed today. The pharmacy was open though, and in its tiny liquor sales area we did find a can of Strongbow cider. J likes Manitoba already.
Our plans for this week are not as ambitious as last week. We covered just about 790 km last week and had a rest day in Moose Jaw. Even with the rest day we surpassed our goal of averaging 100 km/day. For the entire trip we are just a little under that goal with 3304 km on the bike odometer in the 36 days since we started out from Maple Ridge, BC. This week, as it is planned right now, most of our days will be under 100km. It’s likely a good thing too. We seem to be just a little more tired every day.
We are not sorry to be leaving Saskatchewan. We have encountered the most friendly people over the past days, but, they were severely counterbalanced by less than ideal roads, unrelenting wind (in the wrong direction most of the time) and mind numbingly boring scenery. Maybe we weren’t in the right places.
We did learn things though. I had no idea how extensive the oil industry was in Saskatchewan. As we came into the western end of the province, we cycled through miles of birdlike oil pumps raising and lowerering their heads. We were passed by hundreds of tanker trucks, likely the most polite trucks we’ve encountered, hauling the oil from the fields. Initially, it seemed these fields might be an extension of what is happening in Alberta, but now, in the southern part of the province, we’ve come to it again with long rows of bobbing birds lining the concession roads, these ones even bigger and more sophisticated, feeding pipelines rather than holding tanks.
We also learned that community is really important in Saskatchewan. Communities are far apart and not very big. Just running into Walmart or the SuperStore is not an option. People depend on each other and share lives together. Almost everyone we met in BC and Alberta had come from somewhere else. The people we met in rural Saskatchewan were, for the most part, the ones who had not left. They had history in the place where they were and while all of them didn’t say it was the best place in the world (one guy told us it was next to the worst) they are not about leave.
Of course, we need to remind ourselves we only experience a very narrow slice of each province we visit. Manitoba will get even more short changed as we drop into North Dakota on Thursday.