Great Wide Open and the lifeblood unveiled

I left Havre two hours into the afternoon with a full belly and an earful of telephone conversations in the shade. I filled a bottle with water and left US 2 for the first time in many hundred miles– since Grand Rapids, MN. A few miles out of town I realized one 40 oz bottle of water would require a little moderation; difficult in this drying prairie wind. No services for 45 miles, I planned to get some water at the border. After the usual questions about employment and residence (none, and nowhere I respectfully answered), I delved into the long story to satisfy customs that I was not entering Canada to gain employment or injure myself on their dollar. I was informed that not many cyclists pass this rural checkpoint, Wildhorse. With no potable water onsite, a few bottled waters were offered, and I was again on my way. The first sign read, “No gas or services next 80 km”. I sighed; I would again have to ride another fifty miles for the promise of water. This is not a true desert, but it was hot and dry. I did not see a single structure for 45 miles; just the most beautifully paved road and shoulder with an average of one vehicle an hour. This was the wild version of what Montana had promised. These vast grasslands were peppered with grazing cattle, antelope, deer, moose, and two beady eyes from the roadside that frightened me– a beer can reflecting my headlight.

A moose reared, and turned in one muscular display against a twilit horizon. It was not, after closer inspection and a near heart attack, a horse. It was a very athletic moose.

I am scared of a lot of critters. Sometimes I am scared of crunching leaves.

The last, furious miles into Elkwater passed through the Cypress Hills, “an elevated island in the vast prairie that captures cool, moist air and sustains a localized pine forest”. And thus, a long, fast descent after dark on a deserted road– in the midst of vastness, an island– past a ski resort and ending at a lake. A break from beautiful, Albertan monotony.

The morning brought an early rise and a classic display of bike trip resoucefulness. Coffee and a warm concoction of yams, raisins, and Grape Nuts by the waterside. A swim– the first since Minnesota– and an outdoor shower. A full drivetrain cleaning, and some lube. Public restrooms and electronics charged. And free wifi in the lobby of an upscale lodge (I dressed my best).

Fully revived from the desperation of yesterday’s riding, today brought favorable winds and uncharacteristically fresh legs after a late-night surge (or purge). Submersion–swimming– is the lifeblood of this metal cowboy. And a liter of chocolate milk.

post script: Lost my maps and debit card in MT, somewhere. Moms are real helpful sometime. Mine is getting more frequent phone calls, for a little while at least. ACA is most helpful as well. That’s what they do: help people ride bikes.







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