Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Days 35 & 36 - Strategy

Moose Jaw supposedly has the world's largest moose.
One of the significant factors of the trip is our status as travelers, not tourists.  We don’t have time, transportation, and energy to do the things that we would normally do: examples of which include Hopewell Rocks, the last spike in the railroad, various museums, and even downtowns of cities.  In a way, these are all missed opportunities, but as I wrote last week, the real adventures and stories are in the challenges, the journey, and the people we meet along the way. 

So on to Day 35, where we cycle a half day into Regina.  It is into an unfavourable crosswind, so it takes over three hours to do the 70kms.  Regina is a good example of a city that I would have liked to spend some time discovering, but we don’t.  Exhausted, we use the afternoon to rest, nap, do laundry, grocery shop, and update the blog.  These all take priority over the possibility of having fun on a Saturday night in the city.  Kyle and I do take in a Jays game (blowout of the Red Sox) at a sports bar near the hostel.  This is the third HI hostel of the trip, after Fredericton and Charlottetown, and we take advantage of the facilities to make tacos!

This is a good time to get back to the title of the blog and introduce some major undercurrents of these last two weeks of the trip: support, infrastructure, schedule, and wind.  In reverse order:

One last living sunset.  Overall Saskatchewan sky rating: mediocre.
Wind is especially relevant here in the Prairies.  We do 21km/hr in head/crosswind, and 30+km/hr with tailwinds.  That is a crazy variance in our day, and we will absolutely need to optimize our use of the winds.  Next is schedule: we have no more scheduled off days, and only three half days.  Our plan for Northern Ontario is the most ambitious of the entire trip, and we recognize that given the terrain, it might not be possible.  For infrastructure, the Northern Ontario stretch could be the worst of the entire trip, and we can’t count on repair-free days like we’ve had lately.  Last is support: given our experience with Monica and Elaine in BC, having on-the-road support can speed us up by incredibly large margins, and we have some upcoming support that we can use to great advantage.  These are the most important decision-making criteria for the upcoming weeks. 

Now to Day 36, which is a scheduled half-day leaving Regina, which paired with the half day entering the city, gives us a 24-hour “off” day.  We run some errands in the morning and hit the Trans Canada by noon.  And this is where some big decisions are made. 

With a 15km/hr tailwind, we simply destroy the roads.  Ultimately, we would finish the day with our highest daily average speed, at 30.1km/hr.  Insane.  But also significantly, it is a nice but not hot day, so we don’t need to take many breaks (two total).  The road is smooth and for the first time in Saskatchewan, actually noticeably flat.  We want to take advantage of the tailwind while it exists, and so all of these factors lead us to go well past our 125km goal, finishing at 177.7km in Whitewood. From a 12:00pm start, that is quite unexpected.

Before we wrap up the day, a few more “very Prairie” level Saskatchewan stories.  First, this province hates chocolate milk.  A strong word for a strong correlation.  Having been persuaded by the chocolate milk lobby, we usually buy some several times per week.  We tried to order chocolate milk at a Tim’s in Moose Jaw, and they gave us a large milk and a large hot chocolate and told me to mix it.  Too much milk for one sitting?  Probably.  We also tried at an Esso and a Shell in the eastern part of the province, which had a combined total of one carton.  Not cool, Saskatchewan. 

The second story is more of a personal anecdote.  My only relative who lived in Canada pre-WWII is my paternal grandfather, who grew up in Melville, Saskatchewan, before moving to the still German community of KW after the war.  Although it is not along the Trans Canada, I did get the photo of me with the Melville exit sign.  When you’re flirting with the 30.0km/hr average, you usually don’t take chances stopping for menial photo ops.  But I’m glad I did! 

And so we end the day camping in Whitewood, 53km ahead of schedule.  [If you're keeping score, that's 1 fantastic shower and 0 flats.  Win.]  I hope the plan is well-explained - it is a large decision-making process, and I wrote this blog as fast as I possibly could.  But the other large factor that will influence this week is in the air as we fall asleep, after having been delayed four hours by WestJet.  If you follow us on Twitter, you know what I’m talking about.  Can’t wait for tomorrow........

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