Declare your attempt to do a Challenge here.
Ride on non paved roads and trails from Neepawa to Rossburn and four waypoints in Riding Mountain Park and back to Neepawa
The way-points in the park are Deep Lake warden station.
Reeves Ravine trail
and the east gate of the Park.
Ian Dallas Me(Pete)
Ian and I planned on riding together Dallas jumped along as we left for Neepawa.
Schedules and stars aligned for August 15-17 2014
Fun, see part of Manitoba that I haven’t seen before, challenge myself.
Neepawa to Rossburn on the Trans Canada trail where passable, gravel roads to the Riding Mountain National park. Central trail through the park to Lake Audy then park roads and trail (beach) bushwack around Clear lake. Gravel road from Wasagami to the East Gate. To get to Reeves Ravine Trail we took a trail in from the bottom of the escarpment. East and south though Kelborn on dirt and gravel roads to Neepawa.
Meeting the other challengers Dan and Hal at Whitewater lake. The drop out of the Park to the East gate, who’d of thought there is a road with switchbacks in Manitoba.
Manitoba ain’t all flat we rode 380 km with a total ascent of 1304 meters.
The Birdtail valley in Riding Mountain park is beautiful even seen though the haze of way too many miles on a bike.
You can’t trust a man on a horse to know what its a good surface for a bike.
500 km on gravel roads on a recumbent bike seemed like a good way to spend a summer weekend. I have ridden most of the paved roads in southern Manitoba and it would be good to see a different side of the province.
A quick look at a map made it clear there was only one good basic route: the combination of CFB Shilo, Spruce Woods park and the Assiniboine river made a route straight east impassable. Sand would make a route around the north of Brandon unsuitable for a bent, so south out of Virden it would be. Using numbered gravel roads is a good idea but to do that adds 20 km. Why can’t we just go straight east? Sloughs that overflow the roads–that’s why, 2 km of water and goose crap on the road was the first fun part. 20 km of freshly graded road came next.
The roads after Wawanesa past Glenboro were nice. The sand I expected never showed up. The next questionable section is east of Holland, the Tiger Hills. Bents and I don’t like hills. North out of Holland on hwy 34 got us to a road east that avoided the hills and scored us an open drive in diner in Trehern.
Off the escarpment down into the flats of the Red River Valley hwy 305 was the logical choice. Some idiot had taken a plow to Crown Valley rd.
The Sandilands are the next challenge– not a whole lot of roads, sandy soil and marshes limit the choices, Dawson road out of Richer deteriorates to “trail not maintained travel not advised”, maybe I should have used my fat bike, to how long will it take to walk the next 20 km, the hardest stretch by far. The final 60 km were a Red Bull fueled rush to Falcon lake.
Thanks to Hal for offering the Challenge, Ian, Dallas, and David for putting up with me and my bike. Got to mention the road crews that do such an incredible job keeping the gravel roads in unrideable shape.
Terrible but fun. Jack’s Big Ride.
“The best layer schemes of mice and men gang aft ‘a glay and leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy.” ~Robbie Burns
I set off from Neepawa at 10am, trundling my beloved fatbike over a wet but very ridable Trans Canada Trail (TCT) that angled northwest following the trace of a long vanished rail line. Grey clouds gathered and rain poured, but my spirits were high as I settled into the saddle and let the adventure unfold before me. Aside from riding about 100km volunteering at the Spruce Woods 100miler in May, this was to be the most time my mukluk and I had ever spent together. I was eager to see how I’d fare on a multi day ride as I really hope to do The Arrowhead in 2015.
I was rolling on Nate tires, utilizing various bike bags by Revelate Designs as well as a big OR Dry bag strapped my rear rack. I was super impressed by the durably of all my bike bags; despite three days of rain everything remained dry. Revelate Designs is excellent kit. Well worth the ridiculous price.
The Nates were a poor tire choice I think. Rolling resistance was pretty high over the grassy trail that made up a good 60% of my route. (But I was riding a fatbike so wadda ya expect…….a 29er tire set is in my sights for next year!) All in all this was a great “gut check” for Arrowhead and Actif Epica.
I made good time on the TCT stopping to snap a few photos along the way. I carried plenty of food in my handle bar bag and wore a two litre hydration pack. My energy level remained high as my fat tires carried me through the remnants of once thriving prairie towns; Clanwilliam, Sandy Lake, Erickson, and Elphinstone. Under the gloomy sky and dark clouds, these towns looked like something out of“The Walking Dead” or McCarthy’s “The Road.” Apart from an old man rummaging through a recycling bin when I rolled though Elphinstone, these towns appeared devoid of human life and habitation.
The TCT was at it’s best through Sandy Lake and at it’s worst past Elphinstone. I was hesitant to deviate from the trail as many of the gravel roads on my map were little more than muddy ditches, so deciding to play it safe I stuck to the TCT and as the sun set I pushed out the remaining kilometres to Rossburn.
Arriving in Rossburn well after dark I sought out a good spot to camp in a grove of pine, behind the Alliance Church. I pitched my tent, powdered my wet feet, got into dry clothes and prepared dinner. Raman Noodles and freeze dried something or other. It had been a long day, about 13 hours on the bike, and the rain showed no signs of stopping.
My alarm went at 6am the next day and I brewed up a nice hot cup of yerba mate and ate left over raman and “freeze dried whatever” for breakfast. The rain had stopped and grateful for the repite I quickly tore down my camp and was on the road by 7am.
Heading north to Riding Mtn, the Dave Van Ronk song “Green Green Rocky Road” playing endlessly in my head. I peddled through puddles over stones in the cool morning air feeling good. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngFUyhuF31U
Riding Mountain National Park lay before me; a dark misty island rising out of the rolling green prairie, the skeletons of long abandoned homesteads like shipwrecks dashed upon a rocky shore.
I was elated to finally make the park boundary and upon reaching Deep Lake I took a long hard look at the map and decided I’d take the Tilson Creek Trail to link up to the Central Back Country Trail.
Tilson Creek was fun and fast at times but some sections where under a fair bit of water, and it was hard to get a rhythm going; at the bottom of ever hill was a ditch full of water and debris. I took it easy here, cognizant of the fact that I was alone, and an injury would be a shitty way to end this trip. I stopped to photograph some boreal fauna and before long I found my self at the Central Backcountry Trail.
Here I expected a wicked smooth ride but after several bone jarring km I renamed the Central Back Country Trail the “Central Perineum Pounder. On an fully loaded aluminum hard tail Salsa it really sucked. Maybe things would have been better if I was fresh but it seemed every few seconds I would hit a hole hidden in the grass. To make matters worse I’d raised my bike seat to try and fix my knee problems but now both my achilles tendons felt achy; doubtless because my seat was too high.
This section was the low part of the trip for me, but I put my faithful fatbike into an easy gear, put my head down and peddled east through vast fields of wild flowers as red tailed hawks wheeled and screeched above my head.
Nearing Whitewater Lake the trail morphed into an old gravel road bed and by 4pm I was at the bison paddock where pondered my next decision. Do I ride through the bison paddock? I really didn’t want to detour as it would mean heading south past Onanole and I was hoping to get to Wasagaming before dark. So with some trepidation my tires clattered over the Texas gates and I entered the paddock.
After hours of chouda chafing trail, the Lake Audy Rd felt amazing and I pushed hard for Wasagaming and for a couple km I thought I was free and clear but as I rounded the corner there they were…an entire herd of bison spread out across the road.
Shit. I waited a good half hour hoping the herd would migrate somewhere else but they stayed put. I had three options: cycle into the herd whooping like a Blackfoot warrior to stampede the herd, (insane, because I didn’t have a bow and arrows with me) bushwhack around the herd, (the bush was really wet) or turn around and detour south around Onanole. I chose to detour south.
My hopes of reaching Wasagaming before dark looked out of reach and I put my head down and cranked hard to make up the time wasted waiting around for the bison to not move. Rounding a corner I looked up to see a black bear a few metres ahead of me on the road. I swerved around the bear while un-holstering my bear spray as the equally terrified bear spun around in circles woofing like a dog before plunging into the bushes to my left. Adrenaline pumping I speed away, glancing behind me to see the bear emerge from the bush and stand on the road trying to figure out what just about hit him.
After my meet and greet with large dangerous beasts, I was eager to call it a day and headed south out of the park on the Lake Audy Rd then east on a gravel road skirting the south shore of Clear Lake. I found the Lake Shore Trail at dusk and rode the narrow winding trail in the dark dismounting at the isthmus where the trail narrows, looking forward to the swim across where I found yet another bear! The bear had his back to the water with really nowhere to go so yielded the trail I beat a hasty retreat, yelling loudly and biding Mr. Bear a Good Night.
Pizza and beer at Wasagaming were out of the question but I decided to push on in the hopes of snagging a hotel room. The rain had intensified and my left knee and achilles were pretty sore.This was a low point on the trip for me, but the dream of a hot shower and a soft bed was a strong motivating force and after detouring south I linked up with Hw 10 and was in Wasagaming around 10pm. I got hotel room (Praise Fatbiking Jesus!!!) and revealed in the euphoric bliss that only a hot shower after a long wet cold day can elicit.
I treated myself to a 9am wakeup time and rolled out of bed a bit worse for wear. My achilles were pretty inflamed and my left knee was a wee bit swollen. But this was the last day and I figured it would be an easy one…how wrong I was!
Breakfast at the bustling whitehorse cafe was incredible and I saddled up quite late around 11am and headed out of town. I had was planning to stop at the Park HQ to find a map of Reeves Ravine but due to my late departure from Wasagaming I decided to push on and I figured I’d find it easy enough. Whoops! Taking Hw 19 east I kept an eye out for the Reeves Ravine Trail head but never saw it. A long awesome decent began and before I know it I was at the Rangers Station at the East Gate. I wandered inside and asked about the elusive Reeves Ravine Trail. The Warden offered to give me a ride back up the hill to it but I declined as the OM rules state the ride must done under your own power. I really didn’t fancy riding back up the hill with my knee the way it was. So with a heavy heart I turned my fatbike south and headed home. I had failed.
I reached Kelwood and stopped in at the Legion for pizza and hot coffee. I took a look at the map and decided the most direct route back to Neepawa was Mile 84W and with spirits buoyed by hot food I headed south expecting a pleasant 40km. A rainfall warning was in effect for the area and I was eager to end this adventure.
Alas. Mile 84W turned into a quagmire and despite low pressure 4” tires, there is some terrain where even fatbikes dare not tread. Foolishly I rode until my chain and rear cogs were hopelessly caked in sticky black muck. Soon I was forced to carry my bike and grateful for all the portage training and ruck running I’d done this summer I threw my mukluk on my back, put my head down, switched off my brain and began to walk.
Vast golden fields of rain sodden grain bowed their heads against the the deluge. I counted my paces, stopping every 500m for a break to ease a mud caked bike off my aching shoulders. 84W stretched off into the distance; an endless muddy morass slicing through green and yellow fields running into a slate grey sky with no end in sight.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud.
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest.
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.
2014 marks the 100th year Anniversary of The Great War and I know that if I’d been around back then I totally would have joined up. Instead of carrying my fatbike though a muddy field I would have died in one. Things can always be worse.
This was a low point on the trip for me, but eventually I found a ditch deep enough to wash my bike in. I stood waist deep in muddy water washing the muck off my bike and with a knife blade I cleaned the thick clay out of my gears. And eventually 84W because somewhat ridable and linking up once again with the TCT I rode it back into Neepawa. My trip began as it ended, by a set of stairs leading down to the Whitemud River.
I went pretty low tech on this trip and didn’t bring a GPS or bike computer so I’m not sure exactly how far I rode. I reckon my average speed was probably somewhere around 12km/h and total time on bike was around 32 hours.
Despite failing my mission I still had a great time. My Operacion Muerto attempt was an adventure that I will fondly remember with a shiver and a wry smile in the years to come.
Many thanks to Hal Loewen, Dallas Sigurdur and any other other sadists who dreamt up this wonderful excuse to ride a bike really really far though a province that I’m ever so glad to call home.
With three kids, a wife, and a full time job, I rarely get the time to do the things that I like to do, so I have to pick and choose carefully. This year, I decided the 2014 Summer Challenge would be one of those opportunities, particularly when I found out it was routed along the Trans-Canada Trail (TCT) and through Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP).
My planning included doing the route counter-clockwise so that I could get the difficult ascent of the East Escarpment over and done with, be able to stop in Wasagaming to get the proper park passes, have the trees in the park as cover from the prevailing wind, and, ideally, have the prevailing wind and a long gradual downhill at the end. Sound strategy, or so I thought!
I stubbornly stuck to this plan despite the last-minute mystery activity of riding Reeve’s Ravine and believing that I could ride to the top and drop the bulk of my gear to better enjoy the downhill ride. It would also give me a lighter bike to ride back up the escarpment. This was my biggest mistake. I can’t describe how much I underestimated the effort required for the ascent of the East Escarpment. This mistake cost me dearly in terms of time, energy, and morale.
It took me almost two hours to make that ascent and drained me of enough energy that I really did not enjoy the Reeve’s Ravine ride. In fact, it scared me a little given that my fatigued state decreased my capability to handle the bike along some of those cliff faces. I made it to Wasagaming campground by 8:30 pm, thoroughly thrashed. I got the tent up and made some more hot food literally seconds before the rain started.
The rain didn’t let up until almost 11 the next morning, and I didn’t get leaving until almost noon. With a couple more setbacks, including an aborted attempt at the South Shore Clear Lake Trail, my mind started playing games. Thoughts of “go home” and “you’re not going to make it” started bouncing off the soft tissue of my brain, but I finally decided to wait until Lake Audy before making a decision to continue on or not.
I arrived at Lake Audy around 4pm way behind schedule. My plan should have seen me at the Deep Lake Ranger Station at about that time. Among other reasons, a new overnight forecast of 5C compelled me to call the challenge and salvage what joy I could out of the trip. I headed back to Onanole where I snagged the last motel room.
I decided to head to Erickson the next day and link up with the TCT back to Neepawa which I found, with its alternating gravel and grass double track, was actually quite enjoyable.
Though I didn’t complete the challenge, I still completed 287km and rode for three days; longer and further than I’ve ridden before! I learned more about bikepacking in terms of what works and what doesn’t, where my shortfalls are, both physically and in terms of gear and equipment, and I have a new respect for you guys who clearly rock this sport! I look forward to another attempt at this at some point, and to see what 2015 holds! I still have a long way to go…interpret that how you will!
So we started with me jumping in at the last minute, a day early and apparently unprepared. Dan had told me the week before at M.E.C that I should get a water filter and a couple dehydrated meals and being a flake I ignored him and chose to go at the challenge with minimal food and some cash.
The roads and Trans Canada trail were great right off the hop with little problems and only small changes to the pre- planned route. The weather was great and since it was a 5 pm Friday start the heat was a non-issue.
At this point the lights came out and my favorite part of the summer challenge was about to happen, the fast gravel night riding where monsters are lurking just outside of your vision. We bombed our way to Rossburn and decided to camp at the church\ campground for the night since we though Graham and Mark were staying there. The locals were just coming out of the bar and everything was closed so it was a nervous sleep for the few hours I got while the locals ripped around in their cars and were just basically drunk loud. Mark and Graham were never to be seen in town.
The morning came and we tried to eat something but I couldn’t really even though Pete offered me a bag of noodles so we headed off after hitting the local gas bar for coke.
At the Deep Lake entrance we bumped into the ranger and he said the central trail was fast and mowed . He even went so far as to say we could do about 20 km and hour likely on the mowed track. I had planned on hitting the mandatory park check points then heading out of the park to speed up the route but his recommendation made us all change our minds and hit the trail all the way through the park. We had a new plan and that moment along with the M.E.C conversation, were the nails in the coffin for me.
The Tilson Lake trail started off awesome and was a fun roller coaster ride for about 14.5 km when we hit what was the Central trail I think for about 41.5 km till the Whitewater camp ground . This section was PURE SUFFERING for me . I went through a ton of my limited water and I wasn’t eating any of my crappy food. It was just a 10 km\h slog through freshly cut grass about 4-6″ deep. The picture of me above taken by Pete sums up my ride in this section. I have never suffered that much on a bike, ever…….not even close.
Once we got to the Whitewater campground we chilled for a few minutes only to hear a loud happy group tear into the clearing and who would it be but Dan and Hal. They looked awesome and were in great spirits. They were taking the course as I had originally planned and we told them to avoid the central trail and get the heck out of the park. Of course they did because they are sensible and the rest of their rocket ride is history (or soon to be when they post). They did give us the lowdown on the rest of the trail to Wasagaming since they were going in the opposite direction of us. It was a positive conversation and even though I was feeling extremely dehydrated and out of energy ( since I packed the crappiest non tasty food possible) we were off and ready for the world.
We hit Lake Audy for a quick break and to get some water and although it seemed to me like I was the only one suffering the boys seemed to appreciate the rest. From there we rode some sweet roads with a pile of climbing and road a absolutely CRAZY trail that literally splits South Lake from Clear Lake. We were carrying our bikes in a few sections because the trail was just logs piled up keeping you out of the water. Sadly I didn’t take any pictures because at this point I was in full on survival mode.
We finally arrived in Wasagaming and I was as thrashed as could be but luckily we found a great restaurant to eat and sit. Moments later the happiest guys in Manitoba showed up and joined us for supper. Mark and Graham were just all smiles and great stories. Their positive attitude was infectious but I was in a hole and was just barely staying awake. Ian and I decided that if we could get a room it might be a little better than the ground for sleeping so we cruised town for something / anything. We ended up with a sketchy room and I pretty much passed out after a shower. Yep, that’s why I don’t get invited to parties.
Sunday started and I felt better. The coffee shop was open and things were looking up. The roads were fast and smoothish and the BEST DOWNHILL EVER was the lead up to the Reeves Ravine trail for us, life was great.
Just looking at the pictures reminds me of how fun this section was, I need to go back and ride it again.
The trails we rode were Burls and Bittersweet and a leg of Reeves ravine which are fun but an absolute poison ivy nightmare . That and the humidity was kicking my ass, it was like riding in a sauna. I left the trail a bit wore down but pumped for what I though was going to be a short ride to a close town for lunch, Man was I deluded.
Once we hit 86W heading south and a bit of breeze hit us.It was just the slighest but that was enough for the wheels to fall off and I was just in survival mode. Grinding away towards Kelwood where I though I could get a sandwich or some other pile of calories I just let my mind wander and legs grind away. We hit the town, went in the general store and grabbed a coke, banana and a V8. I sat on a bench trying to pump myself up for what seemed to be a million miles to the finish.
The last 40 km were evil. I stopped a million times to get my shit together ( just barely might i add and I have witnesses to prove it) and swore next time I’d listen to advice from wiser friends. Eventually we got within a few km of Niverville and the boys waited for me yet again so we could ride the last bit together. Those kids are pure class.
Here’s a list of roughly what I ate and drank all weekend and its pretty ugly.
1/2 a banana
3 cokes + 2 glasses
1 cup of coffee
1 cup of pasta from Pete
1 pack of tums
2 pepperoni sticks
4 Laura bars
4 granola bars
1/3rd of a Greek salad
10 liters of water
Thanks for the fun, painful weekend Pete and Ian. I hope to do it with you again next year but I promise I’ll come prepared. Although I did come prepared to suffer this year so that’s something:)
238 miles= 386 km
Total time 47.5 hours
Ride time 30 hours 36 minuites
Dan picked me up at 5am and we were headed to La Broquerie to get this challenge started. I was feeling very optimistic about the day although it was already a warm 22 Celsius out. We got to the edge of town with ease and after a few pack adjustments I said farewell to my support system and headed out on a slightly altered route than planned. Because of the heat and a nice paved road heading north to Richer being available, I chose to forgo the gravel back road zigzag alternative route and headed on the easier hwy 302.
The run on 302 was nice, easy and there were plenty of pictures taken. Sadly I’d loose my camera later so you’ll just have to trust me. Once in Richer I quickly grabbed 2 liters of Gatorade and filled my bladder and handheld. I was now confident I was ready for the dreaded Richer to Hadashville section.
I noticed my salt pills, iPhone (for pictures) and map were missing around forestry road 29 and 19’s intersection. I still had a Garmin GPS and i knew the route, so that was good. However, instead of turning around to find my stuff I decided to plug along. I had 3.5 liters of water with me when i left richer and i felt great. My confidence was high and i felt like I was making great time and I was determined to get it done.
The heat was pretty oppressive but luckily I had mostly overcast skies and a cool breeze on occasion.I passed about 10 quads who were very polite and that made me feel no so alone. Sadly i guess I was burning thru water at a much faster rate than expected and i ran out around forestry road 26 and 31. I was a bit concerned but still felt okay so I thought Id just just take the pace down and grind out the rest. About a mile or two later I made my second biggest mistake. A fellow on a quad drove up behind me asking if I was okay. I gave him the thumbs up and he drove off. From then it went downhill so fast it was like a bad movie.
My legs started cramping up bad, my hands started to tingle and the dreaded breathing echoing in my head came. When I hear my breathing echoing in my head I know I’m done and I’d usually pull out. Where I was though there was no real bail point point to safety. My GPS isn’t as detailed as the maps so as I was texting Dan to come get me I couldn’t give him a location other than Hadashville. That was about 9-10 miles away and too far for my situation. I muddled along starting to freak out a little inside when my legs were starting to get all jelly like.
I eventually dragged myself down an access road to connect with the highway (deviating from my intended fireguard road to #1 intersection) when a fellow came up behind me in a truck. I waved him down and asked for a ride to the highway or Hadashville. Oddly enough he was the fellow I heard all day shooting guns off in a gravel pit kinda freaking me out. He told me to jump in and after driving no more than a mile we hit #1. I had to ask him to pull over and I started what would be a multi hour pukefest. Dan the savior met me at the junction and before I left the driver (I can’t reminder his name i was so out of it) i offered him cash but he wasn’t interested. That kid has some good karma heading his way im sure of it.
Safely in Dan’s car with the a.c blasting we’d stop occasionally so I could throw up what little liquid I’d ingested. Ice cream wasn’t looking to be an option for me or a quick lunch for that matter. We did a slow drive down my previous route where I think I’d lost my stuff but nothing was to be found other than the maps. The iPhone and salt pills were a goner.
3.5 liters of water on hand (6.5 liters consumed total)
22 Celsius to start and 39 Celsius with humidity to finish
46.5 miles in 9.08 hours
A spot that doesn’t seem to work continuously. Maybe its due to proximity to my phone and handheld gps?
One pissed off wife (with good reason)
Well the drive out to Virden was chatty, happy go lucky and dark. Everyone was unsure about what the next day would bring and that kinda made it more exciting than a standard event. Hal really offered something special with this challenge. Once we were there we got into the room and immediately prepared for an early assault on the gravel. I was to use my alarm to wake us up at 4:30 am and well, the rest is history. I think we woke up at around 6:30 -7 and we were ready in no time only to stop at Tims a few doors down for a quick coffee. So 1/2 an hour passed and we were finally on our way. That right there pretty much set the tone for the whole adventure; casual, fun, chatty and food filled.
Over the next day we cruised thru towns, ate our faces off, judged dogs aggressiveness by there 0-60 mph when noticing us and had Pete “the jedi master” refine our route in small but positive ways. once we hit Treehern and had one final hot meal we turned on the lights and prepared to enjoy the good life. the stars were out, roads were great and aura borealis was spectacular. I also had visions of viking ships but I looked at it like a bonus and enjoyed their smooth sailing.
I’m not sure what time it was when we crashed in Brunkild. When i say crashed I mean lay out in a Vancouver island manner on the lawn of a church. 2.5 hours of comma sleep and we were quickly up and pedaling steady to a breakfast of champions in Niverville. Damn, Nivervilles Chicken Chef has an awesome breakfast and with that in mind we ate like pigs. The coffee flowed and trucker breakfast renewed our spirits and deluded us into thinking the rest of the ride was a walk in the park. At this point though the main zipper on my Ergon pack broke and with some doctoring we got it back to usability.
The next section to Richer was fast, chatty and filled with pop. Now we were at the infamous forestry road 29. The sandy , mud pit, rock infested fire road that tested the strength of cross bikes and showed us yet again that Pete is pretty freaking unstoppable on his recumbent. Yes he couldn’t ride some of the bogs but what he could ride was far beyond my bike handling skills on a bike like that. far, far beyond.
From here was fireguard road which was easier but required patience still because of its cross tire sucking sand. The vibes were at an all time high now since we were sure of a finish so we pretty much hammered the Hadashville / Prawda section and that was a great feeling after fighting the sand for the past few hours.
The last section was a short piece of gravel that led us to a huge Marmaduke dog that hit my rear wheel so hard it moved 4-6″ and had us a bit freaked out. After shaking off the encounter we hit the #308 and then #1. All I can say of the final stretch is that I’m glad our luck held out that long. It started raining fairly hard and we had a flat which is quite the ordeal on a recumbent compared to an upright. With that last repair we all cruised into the golf course to be met by the Queen of the weekend Donna who had treats, towels, a friendly smile and a ride home.
I can honestly say that although I expected it to be fun it was way more fun than I thought it could be.the riding at my slow grinding pace was the easiest I have ever done for an ultra distance ride which was amazing to me. Thanks Pete, Dave and Ian for putting up with my motormouth. I owe ya.
Operacion Muerto – 2014 Summer Challenge Ride Report
Graham and I pulled into Neepawa at around 9:30pm on Thursday, Aug 14. The sun had already set, making it clear that the dog days of summer were coming to a close. Our plan was to find somewhere to camp in town and hit the road by 9am the next morning.
This was my first summer challenge, and Graham’s second, having completed last year’s inaugural ride. From the moment I saw the route, I knew this was something I wanted to do. I declared my intention to ride almost immediately, and spent the next few months planning and testing gear, but mostly just day dreamed about how much fun it’d be to ramble through Riding Mountain National Park with some good friends and spend the nights under the stars.
The cool thing about this ride is that it can be as hard or easy as you decide to make it. Graham and I were clearly on the same page here – we’d take an extra day, ride easy but long, get a lot of sleep, and eat well. This wasn’t going to be one of those rides where you kill yourself just to prove you can do it (not that there is anything wrong with that). This was about being happy to stop 30km into the ride so we could jump in a cool stream. To kick back in the shade and pass around a bit of bourbon. To sleep in, and take longer routes if it meant seeing something cool or interesting.
On that note, lets get into it. We were the only campers in the tenting area of the campground. In the quiet hours of the evening, we toasted to a successful and fun ride over some Rouge oatmeal stouts and called it a night by midnight.
Friday, August 15: 180KM
One of the great things about sleeping in a tent is that it’s so easy to wake up early. There is something about waking up with the sun that just feels right when camping.
We were up and tearing down our camp by 8:00am. The camp warden came by to say hello and let us leave the truck at the campground for free. We wolfed down some PB and J sandwiches and hit the road by 9:02am – only 2 minutes behind schedule.
Our plan was to ride the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) all the way to Rossburn, then head due North another 10KM or so to the Deep Lake Ranger Station, and an additional 3KM to the Deep Lake campground.
The TCT was a dream. For the first 100KM or so, we were treated to well maintained, hard packed and fast-rolling double track. There were no bugs, only millions of dragon flies swarming around us, which we were both pretty happy for. I actually counted how many flies landed on me that day, and only got to two.
About 30KM in we came to the first of several old railway bridges. I asked if it was too soon to stop for a swim and some bourbon. Graham didn’t even have to answer, he was already half way down to the creek to take a dip.
The temperatures were steadily climbing all morning and were approaching the mid-30s Celcius. The creek offered a refreshing haven from the heat. Small fish swam around our feet, and I felt a few nibble at the ends of my toes. That creek set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
We continued on for several hours, passing through a dozen different brightly coloured crops, small groves of oak trees, and a few sections of wild, untamed prairie growth. I was amazed by the beauty of the landscape. We felt like tourists in our own home, stopping to take pictures every 20 or 30 minutes at times.
We made several stops in small towns along the way, like the Clanwilliam general store for blue freezies and Cokes, and Sandy Lake for our first dinner. The TCT runs directly through towns like this on a regular basis. We spotted The Barking Moose and it seemed like the natural decision, with it’s bright red painted exterior and small crowd of people out on the deck. If you’re looking for a place to eat, I’d definitely suggest this place. I had a croissant with scrambled eggs, cheese and salsa, as well as a home-made power bar, full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and some coconut. We shot the breeze with a few locals that took an interest in our ride and left feeling full and refreshed.
Shortly after Sandy Lake, we hit Elphinstone, where the TCT turned into a bit of a quagmire. We decided to jump ship and hit the gravel roads. After a few navigational errors which required some field-crossings to course-correct (riding through crops with panniers is no easy feat), we rolled into Rossburn at about 8:45pm. The annual country music festival, Duke Fest, was in full swing at the campground. Not really feeling in the mood to drown in Coors Lite, pickup trucks and Taylor Swift, we decided to make our plans for the night over some pizza and beer. The only place open was a chinese restaurant that also happened to serve pizza. Perfect.
The owner was a friendly woman who gave us fresh baking while we waited. She then regaled us with stories of how her youngest daughter, the youngest of six, had fallen off the bandwagon so to speak because she started to drink beer. How could this have happened to her? All the others turned out so well, she said. It sounded like this was quite the tragedy to her. Graham and I exchanged awkward looks across the table.
“So… do you..serve beer here?” Asked Graham hopefully and awkwardly.
Her look turned sour. Needless to say, we were out of luck.
After finishing a few slices of greasy, forgettable pizza, we decided to soldier on another 20KM to the Deep Lake ranger station, and then camp at the campground 3KM further down the road. It was pitch black outside by now, which made the undulating gravel hills impossible to see. All of a sudden we’d be climbing for five minutes straight, trying desperately not to get off and push, and a moment later be screaming down a twisty loose road, unable to see past the beam of our headlights. It was hard, exhausting, and exhilarating. We pulled into camp by midnight. The mosquitoes were out in force for the first time. Within minutes, we were passed out.
Saturday, August 16: 132KM
I guess Friday took its toll, since Graham and I didn’t wake up until 10am. By that time, Ian, Dallas and Pete had already left Rossburn and passed us as we slept. Like I said, we were take’n ‘er easy.
I took a bath of sorts in Deep Lake, which was warm and refreshing. A couple of small hand-bag dogs provided the morning entertainment over coffee as they relentlessly chased each other around our bikes. By 11am, we were back on the road.
With some pretty sore legs and taints, we hit the gravel roads heading South East. I should note, on my map I didn’t see that the trail which leads to Deep Lake actually connects to the Central Trail, which Ian and his compatriots rode. Instead, we zig-zagged South of the park toward the Baldy Lake trail entrance, hoping that the gravel roads would be quick and we’d catch up to Ian and the gang.
The ride there took us over endless rolling gravel hills. We both agreed – these were the nicest gravel roads we had ever seen, let alone ridden. I could feel the sting in my legs and ass from Friday’s long day in the saddle, but as the day wore on and we rode through beautiful valleys and over the hills I soon forgot.
I should note: neither Graham or I elected to wear traditional cycling clothing, including chamois/bib shorts. Instead, we both opted for naturally comfortable saddles (Brooks B17 Special) combined with shorts/underwear made from materials that keep you dry and comfortable. I wore merino wool underwear and synthetic, loose fitting shorts. I have nothing against bib shorts typically, but the last thing I want pressed to my skin over three hot days in the saddle is a sponge soaked in ass sweat. If you haven’t experienced the pleasure of riding a B17 Special saddle, I implore you to try it. I had no chafing, no need for chamois cream, no irritation, nothing. Sure I’m a little sore now after riding so long, but I was never in bad shape during the ride.
Up top I wore very thin merino wool t-shirts, which I could feel moderating my body temperature by way of evaporative cooling. It was great. Not once did I wish I had worn my typical kit. As an added bonus, I could sweat for hours and within a couple minutes of stopping I’d be dry and my clothes didn’t stink. Wool is just the best.
The second half of the day was spent in the park. Our goal was to hit Clear Lake by sundown. The Baldy Lake trail was a dream – super smooth and took us through prairie meadows in full bloom. At first we stopped every few minutes to soak in the purple, yellow and orange flowers that seemed to cover every open inch of land.
Ten KM later we hit the Central Trail. This trail was ok at first, but the closer we rode to the bison enclosure, the worse it got. It was full of large gopher holes which were covered by the freshly mowed grass. It was like riding through a minefield. Every 30 seconds…BANG! We both wished for full suspension bikes, or at least a suspension seat-post. Anything to take the edge off the incessant perineum pounding.
After 20KM we reached the bison enclosure entrance and looked for the trail Paul Krahn referenced in his ride report, which was supposed to skirt the enclosure as bikes are not allowed to ride through. Something about bisons being faster than bikes, or some such nonsense. We didn’t see anything that resembled a trail. We also didn’t look longer than about, well, two seconds honestly, because we both knew that we absolutely HAD to take our chances riding through. I mean common, bison! How cool is that!
We rode over the cattle grates into the bison enclosure. It felt like Jurassic Park – we nervously looked around for a herd of two-ton animals ready to trample us. But as we rode on…there was nothing. No herd, not even a lone bison, nothing. Half an hour later we rode up to the exit feeling pretty disappointed. Then, looking over my shoulder one last time, there they were! Two bison were hanging out along the fence, and were quickly joined by five more, who galloped down the road right where we had ridden not 30 seconds earlier. Bison – so cool!
Not much else to say about this day, except that we rode into Clear Lake and were totally caught off guard by what a spectacle it was. I had no clue it was so developed and popular. It was teeming with people and it was clear the campgrounds would be full. We rode down the main strip looking for somewhere to eat.
“I want a burger, french fries, chocolate milk, a beer and a side of pasta”, Graham said.
“Totally. I want a huge burrito, a plate of fries, and a beer”, I replied. Riding bikes all day makes you very, very hungry.
Moments later, we arrive at a restaurant and see a pile of bikes leaning against a tree. What are the chances. We ride 300KM and pull into the same restaurant as Ian, Dallas and Pete, who had just sat down. As a bonus, the restaurant happened to serve exactly what Graham and I were both craving earlier. We spent the next hour catching up and sharing stories of the ride, while eating, eating, eating, and eating some more.
We decided to split a hotel for the night. The only place available was a 200 square foot proverbial pile of crap. Paint was falling off the wall and all over the floor. There was a used hairbrush on the ground. But it was warm and didn’t have bed bugs (I checked, three times. It was that kind of place.). It’s amazing how small a room you can fit five guys and five bikes in when you’re tired.
Sunday, August 17: 110KM
My parents arrived in Clear Lake at 8:30am as my Dad was going to join Graham and I for the last leg of the trip. We rolled out of town by 9:00am and passed a kids triathlon as we made our way to Highway 19. People looked at us and our touring setups like we were aliens. How anyone can think a touring bike is weirder than aero helmets and sleeveless jerseys is beyond me.
Highway 19 is supposed to be predominantly downhill as you head East, but is sure didn’t feel like it. Riding to the Reeves Ravine trailhead felt like it took forever. I’m pretty sure we didn’t get above 15KM/H for most of it.
Once we hit the single track though, we were all injected with a new sense of energy and excitement. Within a few KM, we were at the top of the Bald Hill trail.
We ripped down the escarpment at full tilt, descending over 500 meters in no time. Every so often I’d stop to wait up and could hear Graham laughing through the trees as he cooked each corner.
Riding the trails with panniers and all your gear weighing you down was actually a ton of fun. We spent the next hour carving through the trees and bombing along the edge of the escarpment. There were more than a few close calls as a pannier would clip a tree, or a series of tight, banked switchbacks would catch us off guard, but it was all good fun. I will definitely be back to ride these trails in the future.
And just like that, we were spit out at the East Gate. Only 50km to Neepawa now. It was a sad feeling honestly. We were tired, but not quite ready to call it a weekend yet. For the next few hours, we slipped into our own respective paces and counted off the mile roads. The last few miles were deep, sandy dirt roads, making us really work for it in the end. All along, a thunderstorm rumbled away to the West.
We pulled into the Neepawa campground 7 hours and 45 minutes after we left. My Mom was there with fresh cinnamon buns and towels for the camp showers. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. Within about 20 minutes of arriving, the storm hit Neepawa and the rain started falling as we pulled out of the parking lot.
I remember saying to Graham at one point that regardless of what next year’s summer challenge is, I’d love to ride this route again just for the fun of it. The combination of the stunning scenery, great riding conditions, and perfect balance of demanding physical exertion and plain ol’ fun made this the best cycling experience I’ve ever had.
General stats, numbers, and facts
- Total distance ridden: 420KM
- Riding time: 23 hours, 48 minutes
- Total time: three days, two nights
- Rivendell Atlantis / touring bike
- 2.1” WTB Nano 29er tires. These were perfect in my opinion. They rolled fast on the gravel, but I’d let out some pressure on the single track and rough sections of the TCT and they’d soak it right up.
- 2×10 setup. My lowest gearing was a 30×36. I used it. A lot. A 28×36 or even 26 front ring would have been nice.
- Dynamo hub/light, with a homemade (Thanks Dad!) charging system to keep my iPhone, GPS and batteries fully charged
- Two Ortlieb Roller Plus front panniers, filled with food, air mattress, cooking supplies, tools, and clothes. I brought clean clothes for each day. I didn’t use them all, but had them in the event of rain.
- Front basket with Sackville bag. This was overkill, but I wanted to be able to access my camera and food while riding without having to stop and open a bag. It added weight, but who cares, it was useful. I plan to replace it with a Swift Industries Ozette bag shortly.
- Carradice Camper Longflap with Bagman Expedition mount. I had a tent, rain jacket, small emergency-blanket style sleeping bag (rolls up to the size of a grapefruit, weighs nothing, and kept me warm), water filtration system, and two 1L water bags.
- I brought three freeze-dried dinners from MEC to eat for dinner, and oatmeal for breakfast. I didn’t eat any of that. There is enough food available on the road, which tastes a lot better too. We had an early dinner in Sandy Lake on Friday, then pizza in Rossburn, and burritos in Clear Lake. I ate fruit and nuts for breakfast. In the end, I could have left my stove, pot, and half my food at home, cutting my total packed weight in half probably.
- I carried 4.5L of water at all times, and many times I drank it all. It was very hot. We refilled in Bethany, Rossburn, Deep Lake (filtered water from lake), Rossman campground, and Clear Lake.
- The Clanwilliam general store is great. Friendly people, lots of food to choose from.
- The Barking Moose in Sandy Lake is awesome. Stop there if you can.
So…. here it is, challenge #2.
The challenge is to complete a continuous ride or run starting and finishing in Neepawa and travelling through Riding Mountain National Park, connecting a series of waypoints using only gravel roads or trails. But it is not only a ride or run, it is also about telling your story, for your attempt to count you must also supply words and pictures of your challenge. Go to the Challenges page for more details