Declare your attempt to do a Challenge here.
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 very fun. 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 has 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.
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 while riding.
Up top I wore very thin merino wool t-shirts, which I could feel cooling my body by way of evaporative cooling. It was great. Not once did I wish I had worn my typical kit. I could sweat for hours and within a couple minutes of stopping I’d be dry and my clothes didn’t stink.
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. 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, no lone bison, no 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. 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. OH. MAN. 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 it 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 29r 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 it’d soak it right up.
- 2×10 setup. My lowest gearing was a 30×36. I used it. A lot.
- 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 box-style rando bag.
- 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
It has been a while since the last post, my apologies. Was away doing a little bike race in Colorado and then my old computer started to give up the ghost… Have a new computer now and some time so I am going to bring this blog back up to date.
In the new news category Dallas is trying the Lite Run this weekend. He will be the first runner to try the 2013 Summer Challenge – good luck Dallas!
In the old news category we have had a bunch of others complete the full bike challenge in the last month a half. Monica and Corey from Minneapolis and Nebraska finished in mid-July, Tim Runtz finished, and Ian, Dallas, Dave, and Pete finished in early August. Congratulations all, I will be collecting their stories and posting soon.
Thinking of doing the 2013 Summer Challenge? Dan picked an awesome route, you can find his cue sheets here
The next two challengers have declared, Paul Krahn and Franklin Remple get started this Saturday – good luck guys!
Dan Lockery and Hal Loewen are attempting the Summer Challenge. Start date: Saturday, June 15.
So, some of us have been trying some of the possible bike routes and roads these pass couple of weekends and, well, this is not going to be as straightforward as it might seem; there are some challenges out there girls and boys.
A road on Google maps and some road maps might labeled roads on those sources, they are only be that in the most general sense of the word. And a road may be fine when it is dry, but if it rains during your attempt you better get used to walking or riding the ditch or be willing to back track 10 miles like we did this last weekend.
A couple of noteworthy items
- Old Dawson Road can be used East of 40 Road (just west of Richer) it is an old asphalt road with no painted centre lines
- The declaration form opens next week
- The story board will open shortly after that
We’re getting close.