Day 31 Biggar to Humboldt SK
Saskatchewan Countryside 50 miles west of Saskatoon
Saskatchewan Countryside 50 miles east of Saskatoon
It was a long ride today, 132 miles, but it took less than seven and a half hours of pedaling. Remember the bad headwinds I had a few days ago? Today I had almost as strong a tailwind for much of the day. My average speed for the day, which includes some slower riding in Saskatoon and fifty miles or so of hilly, bumpy, roads with bad shoulders and too much traffic, was 18.2 mph. If you only look at the 'good road out in the country' part, my average speed was over 20 mph. My touring bike is setup so I can cruise, in my highest gear, at 25 mph and spin to above 30 mph. I did a lot of riding in that gear today!
Leaving Biggar at 9 AM
I had a great, well served, and reasonably priced breakfast this morning at the Westwind Motel in Biggar. That is the best motel value I've found in Canada. By comparison, the room I'm writing this in in Humbolt is twice as expensive and not much nicer. So, Biggar is better, at least for motels! When I left the motel this morning, I knew I was going to have a good riding day. Something about that strong tailwind really moved me on down the road!
Hwy 14 with tarstrip, patch, and bumpy shoulder
Biggar is in the middle of a five kilometer long stretch of freshly paved road; nice and smooth with a great shoulder. Then SK 14 goes back to tarstrips, patches, and bumpy shoulders that sometimes have potholes. This meant that I usually rode in the lane and moved over when I needed to because of traffic conditions. Since I was cruising at 20 to 25 mph, the shoulder was unpleasant and even sometimes dangerous to ride. I only had one problem on that stretch of 14: a jerk thought he could bully me or scare me by coming close to me and blowing his horn. Thanks to my mirror, he didn't accomplish either purpose, but he did get me to call him a vulgar name and make a rude hand gesture. Most Canadian drivers are super polite, but the few jerks here are really jerky. It reminds me little of riding in Tennessee - the general population is quite polite, but the red necks are real yahoos.
I did have to get off the road once today, but that was for a house that was being moved. It was more than two lanes wide, and, as it approached me, there was oncoming traffic. I pulled into a little pull-off area and waved to the driver as he passed. Like almost everyone I wave at in Saskatchewan, he smiled and waved back.
After 20 miles or so, the road gets great shoulders - that is a house up there!
Coming in closer to Saskatoon, the road quality goes down and the traffic increases
Coming into Saskatoon
I stopped once for a snack, and still reached Saskatoon by noon. I had covered over 50 miles in three hours, including the time for my snack stop. Riding into Saskatoon was less fun than riding into Edmonton. I had to ride through construction in both cases and in fairly high density traffic. In Edmonton, I had no problems, in Saskatoon, I almost hit a van that turned left in front of me: I don't think he realized that I was doing 25 mph. After that I rode more carefully and also more aggressively. Even then, when I got downtown at noon, I decided it was safer to be a pedestrian for a few block.
I stopped - walked - to a downtown hotel and asked the concierge for some help and the use of a telephone book. He was very helpful. I found the numbers I wanted, called 'em, and arranged to meet Darrell, a tourist who lives in Saskatchewan, for lunch. Darrell rode over to guide me through the downtown and across the river to a restaurant. We had a nice visit ad a good lunch and then I rode out of Saskatoon. I had no good reason to stay in Saskatoon and a good reason, the wind, to keep on riding east.
Darrell and I talked routing. Darrell, via email, had helped me a great deal with my routing in BC and agreed that AB 5 was good way to go east from Saskatoon. Humboldt is 105 km from Saskatoon and, since I was feeling cocky with my 20 mph average speed, I figured it was no big deal. Darrell did say there was bad shoulder for 20 km or so before it intersected SK 2 and that it was hilly in that part.
Heading out by the University
There was some pretty urban riding getting out of town, but then SK 5 got hilly, very bumpy, and lost its shoulder. That section lasted for about 60 km (!), and wasn't much fun. The countryside was quite beautiful, but there was too much traffic - thankfully very few trucks! - and too little shoulder for enjoyable riding. Moreover, my fanny was getting too much of a pounding from the bumpy pavement and shoulder for me to have enjoyed the ride, even if I had not had to worry about the traffic. The only potentially serious situation I had was when a semi overtook me in a section with an unusable shoulder and an oncoming RV. The RV driver drove with one set of wheels off the road and the semi slowed down until I could get over safely and he could pass. These Canadians are a considerate bunch!
An above average section of SK 5 - I couldn't photograph the bad parts
After I realized that I was going to be riding the bad shoulder part of SK 5 for hours, I stopped where there was an access exit for St Denis - a beautiful church and surrounding building some 2 miles north - and rolled my bike down, through the weeds to the St Denis sign. The I sat between the sign posts and rested and snacked. The wind was so strong that the metal sign groaned and the post I leaned against moved a little, but it was pretty and very peaceful sitting amongst the wild flowers.
SK 2/ SK 5 with tilt due to a bad crosswind
15 miles later, I reached the point where SK 2 and SK 5 go north together. There is a service station/restaurant there so I stopped to fortify myself for the ride north. I hadn't thought about how nasty it was going to be riding with a 20 mph - with gust to 30 mph - crosswind coming across a narrow road with fair to bad shoulders and a moderate amount of traffic. I only had to ride four miles of that and then I'd get to go east again on SK 5 with good shoulders, but I was scared by those four miles!
I had 'the special' at the restaurant, which wasn't great, but did what I needed and the folks at the restaurant were very nice. I visited with the driver of a double semi grain truck that pulled in while I was eating. I wanted to know what he was hauling - wheat - and why there was so much wheat being transported well before the wheat harvest. He told me that the Canadian system has him hauling wheat all year long, and that the last wheat from last years harvest would be hauled at about the same time as the first wheat from this years harvest.
After supper, I braved the crosswinds and rode, slowly, north on the combined SK 2 and SK 5. When the wind gusted, I had to fight to keep my bike on the narrow shoulder. When trucks passed - fortunately no double grain trucks passed me - I had to deal with the wind blast from the truck. On one section, the shoulder became unrideable so I had to ride in the lane. The low point of the 25 minutes it took me to cover that four miles, was the jerk who passed into me as I struggled to keep on the shoulder. There was absolutely no reason for him to do what he did since the traffic was light and he would only of had to wait a few seconds before passing. For some folks, waiting a few seconds, to avoid being rude or even to avoid putting someone else in danger, is too much to ask.
The shoulder on SK 5 after SK 2
It was great to get headed east again, but the shoulder wasn't good and the road was still in bad shape for another 17 km, or almost 12 miles. Finally, east of where the access road goes up to Bruno, the road was newly paved and very nice. The remaining 18 miles were much more pleasant riding. The terrain and the vegetation were beautiful in the light of the sun which was getting low behind me.
Coming into Humboldt from the west
I rode into Humboldt about seven PM, hoping to find a B+B with a internet connection, but found only two motels: the good one and the 'other' one according to the clerk at a 7-11. I opted for the good one, although it is the most expensive motel I've stayed in in Canada. This is a tourist town with emphasis on its German heritage. It is cute, if a little tacky, and more than a little overpriced <grin>. I just hope I can find someway to post my last four ride report / web pages tomorrow.
A morning note: my hands and upper body are sore from yesterday's bad roads. With my Softride stem, I rarely have that problem, and I hate to think what I would feel like if I had ridden it without the suspension stem. Some of Saskatchewan's roads are better suited to a mountain bike! As I was riding yesterday, I was wishing for a fully suspended bike...