On August 26th we crossed from Ontario into “Friendly Manitoba”. It was strange riding from thick forest, smelling of pine and cedar, to flat grassland, filled with the aroma of hay and manure. It was a nice change of scenery, but strange because it was so immediate upon crossing the Ontario-Manitoba border. We rode into Winnipeg, set up camp in Assiniboine Park, and, the following day, we rode out of Manitoba and into Saskatchewan.
“Naturally Saskatchewan” looks a lot like Manitoba with many acres of farm land, checkered in all shades of green and gold. We found a great place in Wascana Park to set up the tent and spent the night in Regina, the provinces capital. Saskatchewan is very pretty and, as we rode away the following day, the land began to show it’s beautiful curves.
When we got to Medicine Hat, Alberta. We stopped to meet Piet and Ina, a couple we met on the website .
Unsure of what to expect because the experience was our first, we were comforted by a warm, kind welcome and invited to join them and other guests for dinner. They prepared a feast and introduced us to their son Josh, his beautiful wife Amy and a pair of musicians who were also staying over. Piet and Ina enjoy having concerts at their home and had planned to have one the following night. Romi Mayes and Jason Nowicki would be performing and we were invited to stay another night. With a full belly, a comfortable bed, a few drinks and great company, how could we possibly say no¡ In the morning, we decided to explore Medicine Hat and it’s sloping valleys, by evening we were ready to party. The concert was amazing! Romi and Jason are great people and performers. At midnight, the group of them serenaded me with happy birthday and passed around some cake, it was a perfect way to turn thirty two. To say the least, Piet and Ina are incredible beings. Even with such an amazing trip ahead, we were sad to part from our new friends.
Our final night in Ontario was spent camped out next to the highway. We parked and set up next to a truck stop restaurant and hotel at the side of the gravel shoulder on a nice patch of tall grass. It seemed, at the time, like a logical place to pitch a tent.
Passing into Manitoba the next day, there was an abrupt change of landscape. The long, straight stretches of highway of Manitoba were a welcome change.
Not having had a proper shower for several days, we decided to give CouchSurfing a try instead of tenting out another night. CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travellers and the local communities they visit. It is a social network of people who offer travellers a couch or spare bedroom for a night or two. We were contacted by a guy in Winnipeg and were offered a spare room for the night. As we got closer to the city later in the day, we received a text message from him explaining that he had to cancel. This left us having to find a place to stealth camp for the night. We pulled onto the University of Winnipeg campus in the hopes of finding some sort of locker room shower in the campus rec center and a place to pitch our tent, but we were disappointed. We weren’t able to find accessible showers, and all the security cameras on campus didn’t make it a viable option for hiding out over night.
Slightly more hungry than we were tired, we decided to grab a bite to eat and weigh our options. Looking on the GPS, we found a large park in the middle of Winnipeg. This seemed to be a safe bet. We drove over to Assiniboine Park to find hundreds of people gathered with their kids for, what we later learned to be, Friday movie night in the park. We set up our tent in an inconspicuous location, unpacked the bike and settled in the the night. We even managed to snag an unsecured WiFi connection!
The next day was a pretty steady and uneventful day of riding, though finding premium fuel proved to be a bit difficult. Gas stations were few and far between, and many of the ones we stopped at didn’t have anything higher than an 87 octane.
We spent that evening camped out in the central park in Regina, Saskatchewan, pulling in at dusk, setting up the tent, and riding off early the next morning.
Still in need of a shower and not yet brave enough to jump into rivers or lakes to bathe, we decided to give CouchSurfing another try. Paula contacted an older couple in Medicine Hat, Alberta who said that they would be able to host us. We pulled into town just after 5pm and were greeted by Piet and Ina. They offered us their shower and laundry room, and we graciously and anxiously accepted. After washing up, we were treated to wine and cheese, followed by a delicious supper where we were joined by Romi Mayes and Jason Nowicki, a Canadian music duo who would be performing the following evening in Piet and Ina’s garage. Piet and Ina suggested that we stay an extra night to watch the performance, and, without giving it a second though, we accepted.
We spent part of the next day exploring the town and working on trying to get a blog post ready. Evening came and it was time for the show to begin. The opening act went on and, about an hour later, Romi and Jason took the stage only to find out that neither of Romi’s guitars were functioning properly. While everyone waited for a replacement guitar to arrive, I tried re-soldering the wires in the guitar to see if the issue was due to a failed electrical connection. This didn’t solve the problem. The replacement guitar arrived, and soon Romi and Jason were rocking’ out. They put on a great show.
Morning came, we packed our belongings onto the bike, and said our good-byes to our new friends, Piet and Ina. We said our good-byes to Romi and Jason the night before. Rock stars don’t wake up before noon.
We pulled out of Medicine Hat and headed for Calgary.
Entering into the province of Manitoba
Stopped at the side of the road somewhere in Saskatchewan
Paula on a bail of hay in a farmer's field in Saskatchewan
Paula somewhere in Saskatchewan
At the welcome center entering Alberta
Romi Mayes & Jason Nowicki performing at Piet & Ina's
Romi Mayes & Jason Nowicki rockin' out
Piet & Ina's garage music venue
Romi Mayes and Jason Nowicki after the show
Paula and our first www.couchsurfing.org
hosts, Piet & Ina