Just start off and then the adventure carries you away.
If I only had to sum up Challenge # 4 in 10 words or less, that is what I would say: “Just start off and then the adventure carries you away.” That is really all I needed to do. You see, the beginning of July was when I started to think about an Operacion Muerto Challenge. Many nights, after I would go to bed, I would lie awake thinking about it. The glow of my iPad would frustrate my husband as I mapped out my route. I thought about my lack of gear and what I would need. Then there were the “what ifs”, so many “what ifs” and also the reality of having to do this ride solo. I somehow worked through all of this and on the morning of Monday, August 7, 2017 it was go time.
My gear was packed sitting on the garage floor waiting for me. My kids were leaving for a week long road trip to Mount Rushmore with my parents. My kind loving husband who said there was no way in hell he was doing this bike trip, chose to go to work, instead of joining me. The plan was to leave at 9 am but instead doubt overtook me and I began talking myself out of doing it. Finally after two hours of sitting on my comfy green chair flip flopping about going or not going, Dan told me to shit or get off the pot. He told me I would regret not at least trying. He assured me that I could physically do it and that my determination, drive and stubbornness would not allow me to quit. He loaded my mountain bike into the car as I put all my gear in and off I went. Thanks Dan for giving me the push I needed.
I chose to start at Patricia Beach despite Beausejour being the official start and finish. There was no way I was going to tent it if I was by myself. I knew every sound during the night would send a panic through me and that would mean me not getting any sleep! After asking a resident of Patricia Beach if I could park my car in his yard, I got my bike ready and set off to Beausejour (the town I grew up near). These back roads were unfamiliar to me but thankfully landmarks such as the Scanterbury Reserve, Brokenhead River and 317 Hwy told me I was on the right track.
The gravel was okay but I was glad I took my mountain bike rather than my cross bike because I felt more stable on it. After I crossed the 317 Hwy I saw places where old friends grew up, places where we had “bush parties” and traveled on my old school bus route. I got to Beausejour, saw the Flags of Remembrance and headed to Tim Horton’s for some eats. Soup is what my body craved, soup and orange juice. I also grabbed a muffin to go and it was back to the bike.
The next leg I probably could have done blindfolded. “Back in the day” much of my Friday and Saturday nights were spent on these back roads partaking in a well known Beausejour tradition called “Country Drinking.” Back then it was OV, Labatt Blue and Lemon Gin (straight from the bottle). Oh, how times have changed! Only craft beer and wine nowadays. I also passed by the residence of my first husband. We got married in the Beausejour Elementary playground when we were in grade 4. We grew apart and the separation was amicable. Next, I came to Kondrachuk’s store. It no longer stands but the memories of getting a Hires root beer and Pink Elephant Popcorn (when they still had the prize in it) still remain. We would always stop there on the way back… “from the dump, from the dump, from the dump, dump, dump (a song my sister and I made up). I also stopped to see my great grandparent’s grave and the church where my dad went when he was a wee little chap.
Soon I was on Fosty Road. My maiden name is Fosty and this is the road the family farm is on. This part of my journey was a trip down memory lane. If my body ached from riding on gravel, I couldn’t tell because of the distractions.
I continued on to Lac Du Bonnet. Again, I could not complain about the condition of the gravel roads. Sure I was going at a slower pace than I normally would be going on my cross bike on paved roads but this was a different kind of ride. About 5 km from Lac Du Bonnet, I could hear the rumblings of thunder. It never turned into anything and I arrived at Drifters dry, hungry and maybe a little tired. Believe it or not, nothing was sore or achy. I showered, ate a huge plate of pasta and meat sauce, drank a cold beer and went to bed. Day 1 – 7 hours, 103 kms DONE!
I was up at 5:45 am, ordered breakfast by 6:00 am and riding by 7:00 am. I knew that it was going to be a long day. What I did not know was how hilly it was going to be. Yup, Lac Du Bonnet to Bisset is a road of ups and downs that is mainly gravel with some wash board, and with no places after Bird River to stop for supplies. I had protein bars, beef jerky, mini wheats, apple sauce, energy chews and 5 litres of water to keep me nourished and hydrated. After a couple of hours of riding I decided to put on a second pair of bike shorts. The tush was getting tender! I really did not stop for breaks during the 12 hours I rode. When I was hungry I would grab something to eat and either eat and ride or eat and walk. Traffic was light down this road. I was thankful that vehicles from Manitoba Highways and Natural Resources frequently passed me. People would slow down next to me and ask me if I was okay or if I needed a ride. I politely told them no and when they would say are you sure I would tell them yes, I am sure. I am choosing to ride my bike. When I got to Ancient Mountain, I put on my sneakers and did the hike with food in hand. When you’re on a bike trip and told that you need to do a hike and take a picture that is what you do if you are me. There is no, “Ahhh, isn’t it beautiful up here? Let’s stay and enjoy the view.” No, its “Let’s get this done and back on the bike!” It was beautiful though! There were times during the day, when I was going up another hill or over some washboard or loose gravel when I would think about Dan being with me. I could hear his him saying “This is f@#@ stupid, I don’t know why I agreed to this, biking is your thing, not mine and for crying out loud why aren’t we on pavement.” Part of me was thankful he wasn’t.
I had never been this far down the MB-314S and never on MB-304S to Bissett. When I made the turn on to MB-304S I knew I only had 39 kms left and I would be at my bed and breakfast. The hostess was going to make me supper and there was going to be a hot shower and a bed. I think maybe 8 vehicles passed me on this road. The last vehicle to pass me (about 15 km from Bissett) zoomed by me but once they got over the hill I saw their brake lights go on and then they backed up to where I was. The couple informed me that they saw a BIG bear and that I should put my bike on the back of the truck and they would give me a ride to town. I declined but they rode next to me for 1 mile to make sure I would not be mauled by the bear they saw. I did appreciate this and it was not until that moment did I really worry about seeing a bear. I made it into Bissett. A nice elderly couple invited me to join them for supper and coffee but I just wanted to get to my accommodations, shower, eat and go to sleep. I did this. I enjoyed my pea soup, yam fries and jello. It was lights out by 8:30 pm. Day 2 – 12 hours, 170 kms DONE!
“OMG!!! Has someone been murdered??? Maybe my parents were right?” were the first thoughts in my head when the sirens and flashing lights filled my room at 3 am. You see, before I left on this trip my parents were concerned about my safety. You know, a lone woman on deserted roads, not the safest thing. Then, I saw the orange glow and the water spray and knew that it was a fire. I was able to fall back asleep after an hour. In the morning, the host and hostess informed me that the only store in town burnt down. Phew, I had packed enough supplies to ensure that I would not need to restock in Bissett. The host and hostess did offer to make me a lunch. As we ate breakfast we talked about how the fire would impact their community. Oh yeah, if you stay at the Northern Wings bed and breakfast in Bissett make sure you have cash or a cheque. They do not take plastic.
I left Bissett around 8:30 am. I knew that once I passed Manigotagan MB-304S would turn to pavement. I was still wearing two pairs of bike shorts and was looking forward to the smooth pavement. The road was way less hilly and I found that there were more down hills that allowed for a faster pace. Throughout the whole trip winds were light. Physically, I felt pretty good, no fatigue but a tender tush. I was surprised when I saw the sign for Manigatogan. I thought already?! I stopped at Wood Falls and again…..when you’re on a bike trip and told that you need to do a hike and take a picture that is what you do if you are me. There is no “Ahhh, isn’t it beautiful here? Let’s stay and enjoy the view.” No, it’s “Let’s get this done and back on the bike!” It was beautiful though!
DAMN it’s the dam and it is only 2:30 pm. You see the plan was to stay the night in Powerview-Pinefalls but I knew in 45 kms I would be back at Patricia Beach. I decided to stop for some food and then continue on. I could get this done today!!! Plus, going down MB-304S, south of Pinefalls was familiar territory again. I had a really good burger and poutine at the hotel, stopped for some gum and SWEET TARTS and left around 4 pm.
It was the last leg of my journey and I was pumped. I passed fields where as a kid I picked rocks. I sent a text to my brother of me by his field and asked him if he knew where I was. I enjoyed his response, “What the F#%^ are you doing at the Creek on your bike?”
With only about 5 kms left, I stopped my bike, pulled out my phone and selected 5 songs on my phone:
- Come and Get Your Love by Redbone
- Come with me Now by KONGOS
- Rusted from the Rain by Billy Talent
- Roots of Stone by Barefoot Truth
- Three Angels by Headstones.
I rode a little harder, sang loud and some tears fell. I did it….. I started and the adventure carried me away!