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Into the USA

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My route: Winnipeg to Duluth

It took eight days to reach Duluth from Winnipeg and I arrived totally exhausted. They were hard days cycling in driving rain trying to avoid the severe storms (it rained all but one of them), but the biggest struggle was the winds. I thought going West to East was supposed to take advantage of following winds, so where were they?  It was pretty demoralising.

In a recent radio interview I told my interviewer (with tongue firmly in cheek) “the cycling is the easy part” as I tried to make light of this aspect of my journey. But is it really?  While I may try and make light of it, my bluster hides the reality and this was brought home to me very recently when a friend from Winnipeg rode out to the city limits with me. I was embarrassed at just how slow John had to ride to stay with me (not because of our different loads either) and I know he is far too kind to say anything, but he must have been concerned at my initial struggle to bring my breathing under control.
It’s getting much harder and not because I’m still trying to do what I could easily do six months ago, but because I’m spending much, much longer doing the daily mileage and this is wearing me down a lot sooner.

OK moan over (for now), this update will be more than a little bit disjointed as it’s out of order, I’m simply writing it as it enters my head and taking the opportunity to publicly thank those who have helped me, although I’ve used my Facebook page to post pictures and do this too.

Karlstad and the unrelenting rain.

Despite the difficulties, I have no intention of quitting and in this blog I hope I can go some way to explaining why.

As I was approaching the outskirts of Karlstad in the pouring rain, a car draws up alongside me and slows to match my pace. The window comes down and the passenger is obviously reading the sign on the side of my pannier before he asks “where are you going?” to which I reply ‘the next town’ and put my head back on the crossbar to avoid the driving rain. After a discussion with the driver, he calls to me “will you pull over for a minute?” and the car pulls ahead and then stops on the shoulder. As I wearily pull up by the car, the passenger and driver get out and tell me there is a motel in Karlstad, the next town and I should get out of the rain. I tell them that Motels are beyond my budget and I’ll be camping, but the passenger hands me $60 and says “that should cover it” but just in case, the driver gives me another $20. They are both soaked through and as they climb back into their car I ask the passenger through the still open window ‘what are your names, (for my blog)?’ he replies “just call us the good Samaritans” and the car disappears up the road.

Free meals are not something I expected, but there have been a few including the people who have come and chatted with me, told their own stories and bought me lunch. Goodwill is all around and I seem to be attracting it like a magnet. I met a lovely lady called Eve who opened up about her own depression – not something you expect from a total stranger.

It was a real pleasure to meet Eve

Going back to my arrival in Karlstad, the Motel owner was at an event, so I sat in the local fuel station drinking coffee to warm up and across to my table came a border guard to check my passport. On learning about my trip he gave me a free meal ticket (value $20) so I could get a hot meal – I bought a lovely huge pizza and ate it for breakfast too!  Then the motel gave me a $10 discount, so thank you all if you are reading this.

Let’s rewind a bit to my arrival in Winnipeg, where I stopped with Brian and Pat’s friend Margaret and her lovely dog, Mr Thompson. It ended up being a longer stay than planned, but on reflection I think I needed the extra rest. What I never expected was to be asked to give a couple of radio interviews, one with Dahlia from CJOB, a local station in Winnipeg and another from CBC Radio-Canada.

CJOB Interview – 23 minutes  < Click Here

Dahlia from CJOB had an excellent interviewing style.

CBC Interview – 7 minutes  < Click Here

I also had to pick up other bits and pieces in Winnipeg, including a set of new tires and some more business cards (these are used to give my blog and Facebook page details) as well as see something of the city. Thanks to Margaret I got it all done and special thanks have to go to Bikes & Beyond, who not only got the tires in for me, but gave me a huge 30% discount.
The business cards were printed by Kellett Copy, who only charged me a small nominal fee to cover costs and I was able to thank Mr Kellett himself.

L to R – Mr Thompson, Me and Margaret

It was really nice spending time with Margaret and she proved to be an excellent guide, showing me around some of the Winnipeg highlights and making my stay very restful, which is exactly what I needed. Here’s a few of the images we captured:

Legislative Building, Manitoba Plaza

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Me and The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Park close to The Forks

Park close to The Forks

Confluence of the Red River and Assiniboine River

Skyline view from The Forks, Winnipeg

View from The Forks, Winnipeg

One of the many parks in Winnipeg

Leaving Winnipeg I had decided to head South, as it seemed most people were warning me off taking the Northern shore of Lake Superior. There were a few reasons for this, but it was a clear decision when I heard about the dangerous road just outside of Kenora which had no shoulder but lot’s of traffic. An elderly couple cycling it were killed last year and another reason to avoid it was the long distances between services – if I ran into difficulty I could easily have serious problems.

Here is my proposed route: Winnipeg to Sault Ste. Marie

I have been very lucky in my camping, with just about every park giving me a warm welcome and usually not charging me. That is until St. Malo Provincial Campground, where I camped close to the washrooms out of the way in a quiet grassy area. I just about managed to get the tent up before the thunderstorms started, then tried to get some sleep. At 11:00 pm I was woken by the campground ranger, who told me he had read my sign but it made no difference, he could not make an exception for me and I would have to move to a designated area. On checking there were none free, so I was chucked off the campground in the thunderstorm and camped just 100 yards outside the park by a river. I never expect special treatment, but common decency seems to have escaped this guy.

The road South

Scenery wise it wasn’t the best as the roads were pretty similar to the flat prairie roads I had been cycling for weeks and the following day after the storms was the only dry one of the whole ride to Duluth. In the evening I camped in a lovely spot near a roadside rest area (and lake) after asking permission, which turned out to be the best of my seven nights of wild camping.

Oak Lake rest area.

The American border was a breeze once I’d filled out the forms, with a very pleasant official helping me with the procedure. I explained I would be returning to Canada at Sault Ste. Marie and asked about getting extra days to cross America on my return, which I discovered would not be a problem.

Welcome to the USA

I had arranged a stopover with hosts in Bemidji, but because of the storms and horrendous head winds I was behind schedule and my hosts were going away, so I had no option but to continue on to Duluth where I had also arranged hosting with a Warmshowers couple.

So that just about brings me back up to date as I’ll be stopping here a few days to recover and relax. More soon…

Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Lynn, this journey has truly been a healing process and my time in Winnipeg enabled me to take another step towards coming to terms with my loss. I’m sorry to hear about your husband. It is good to know I am helping others though and that I’m in your prayers. God bless, Derek

John Hoffman
Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Derek, It was an honor for me to ride with you out of town. There is no need for embarrassment. I would have walked my bike out of town to be able to spend that much more time with such an inspiring man. Too bad about the park ranger. Puts a blemish on the “Friendly Manitoba” moniker on our lisence plates! I’ll keep a watch on your travels, and see where/when we can hook up for a beer, stateside. Travel safe my friend.

    Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks John, I’ve just posted a pic of you on my Facebook page! Stay in touch…

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