Day 37 St Malo Manitoba to Warroad Minnesota
Neat Ukranian Orthodox Church in Sarto MB
It was another 100 mile day into a headwind - southeastern winds seem to be normal now - and this day had the added bonus of large biting flies that kept me company most of the eight hours I was riding. It started and ended well enough, but in the middle there was a time where I was riding into the wind, with half a dozen flies circling me, in smoky air that hurt my throat, with no services for 30 miles and no way to stop to rest without getting eaten by the flies. I was not a happy bicycle tourist!
St Malo's Catholic Church - there are two symmetrical steeples
My night at the St Malo Motor Lodge went well, although the motor cyclists next door did crank up their Harley's at 7:15 AM, and I had a good breakfast there before leaving about 8:30. I asked about routes and was told 'the 403 is the best way to go to Warroad.' so I headed north out of town to take MB 403 east. This morning while eating breakfast and listening to the conversations, and, a little later, while riding through town, it was very obvious that St Malo is a French town. Last night I noticed that the town's skyline was dominated by the twin steeple of a church. This morning I rode by that church and by a number of public building that would be right at home in Quebec. A pretty town!
Heading east on MB 403
Can't ride this part of MB 403!
Heading south on MB 216, better turn around!
Heading east on MB 205
I rode east - slightly uphill and into a headwind, on MB 403 till it intersected MB 216. Then MB 403 became gravel with sand that I couldn't ride. I turned back and headed south on MB 216. A mile later, looking at the map as I rode, "Wait a minute, I can go north for half a dozen miles and take MB 205 over to MB 12!". That looked like a better route, so I turned around and head north. For six miles or so, I had a tail wind! I've just added a dozen miles to my day, but that is still better than I can do heading south. Plus, it turned out that Sarto, a little town on MB 205, has a general store where I got a snack. There are very few services in the first sixty miles of this ride! That general store and a restaurant 15 miles later are the only services. While in Sarto, I also visited with several nice people and photographed an interesting Ukranian Orthodox Church.
When I finally got to MB 12, seven miles north of MB 403, it is OK riding, much better than MB 59 which was my other option. There is even a small shoulder for a while, but, after that ends, I discover that I'm better off without it.
MB 12 with a little shoulder
MB 12 after the shoulder goes away
With the shoulder, I got wind blasted - there is a head/cross wind at this point - by trucks that pass me in, or almost in, the lane. Without the shoulder, vehicles do not pass me in the lane, but go completely into the other lane, which makes life much more pleasant. Traffic was light enough that riding without a shoulder was not a problem. After about thirty miles, I come to a restaurant at Zhoda. There are only a few building in Zhoda, and it is 30 more miles to the next services at Piney, so I am delighted to find Barry's Restaurant. My ride today would have been much harder without the large fish and chips dinner I ate at Barry's! It was hard enough as it was!
A few miles after Barry's, riding along with only obnoxious flies for company, I passed two guys riding mountain bikes going in the other direction. We said hello and I wondered where these 'local' riders were riding from. Then, a few minutes later, I passed a few more riders - hmm, it must be an organized ride - and, not too much further down the road, I saw a support stop setup with maybe a dozen riders getting snacks. I pulled over to visit and found out that this was a Habitat for Humanity ride from Kansas City to Winnipeg. There were almost home on their two week ride. I ran into another Habitat ride in Pierre SD. They seem to be an effective fund raising tool for Habitat. There were a wide variety of riders and they all seemed to be having a good time. Of course THEY had a tailwind! The riders did create a bit of a traffic problem since drivers had to pass groups of four or five riders, and the groups were strung out for several miles. The slowest group was followed by two sag vehicles, one with a bike trailer carrying half a dozen bikes.
From there, my day went downhill. The big problem was those damn flies. When I tried to stop to rest and snack, they made my life very unpleasant, so I ended up taking several short breaks rather than one longer one. Those short breaks consisted stopping just long enough to drink some Coke and, in one case, dig out a cookie to eat while I rode. I didn't get off the bike until I reached Piney, a very small town some 30 miles southeast of Zhoda. About 15 miles before Piney, I started noticing smoke in the air. By Piney, it was thick and my troat was sore from breathing it.
Piney in the smoke
Piney is a mile or so off of MB 12, on a road that goes south. The smoke seemed to be blown in from the south by my headwind. When I actually got to the Piney Hotel there was a phone, a Pub, and a restaurant. Not a fancy place, but they were very nice and fixed me a good second lunch. That, and several cups of coffee, got me ready to head out into the wind, with the flies, and the smoke. Oh yeah, I asked about the smoke and was told it came from controlled burning of grassland in Minnesota.
Fires burning, now with an east wind, in MinnesotaWhen I left Piney, the south wind had died down and the air was clear! I picked up my contingent of flies as soon as I got back on MB 12 - often there would be half a dozen flies accompanying me - but without the headwind and the smoke, riding was much improved. I still had forty miles to go to Warroad, but now it would take three hours of riding instead of four. Since I was pushing myself near my limits, that was a big improvement.
Shortly after Piney
After the road parallels the US Border - the border crossing is 21 km
I was exhausted by the time I reached the border, about 7:15 PM, but the customs fellow was reasonable and I got back into the US with minimal questioning. Then I had six miles of smooth flat road with a shoulder to ride to Warroad, but I still needed to stop and drink the last of my coke as a stimulant before I rode into town. A hard day, and one that makes me wonder about my plan to ride from International Falls to Thunder Bay. I'm not sure I can handle two days of 100+ miles riding with those flies with no way to get away from them for a rest.