By Heather Pardon
The past week and a half has had me travelling from the rugged north of Ontario across into the flatter expanse of the prairies. During a stopover in Winnipeg last weekend, I participated in the Muddy Waters 100 which is a great local event organized by Habitat for Humanity to raise funds for new builds in Winnipeg. (There is a full ride report available on my personal blog at http://wilddaisy.ca/Blog/?p=190)
I will confess that I am one of those riders who enjoys hills, I will sometimes even seek them out just for the sake of climbing them. So cycling in the prairies where it is relatively flat and seemingly always windy was a different experience for me.
As I got further west of Winnipeg, I ventured to Riding Mountain National Park which offers a quiet ride on Highway 10 with a few rolling hills. Once you venture further west, the landscape flattens a bit more and asphalt options become a bit more limited. There are a few paved secondary side highways and the TransCanada, on which I saw several cyclists, fully loaded for the long haul.
A recent stopover brought me to the town of Swift Current, Saskatchewan which is roughly 250 kms west of Regina. I decided to wake up early in the morning to get a ride in before hitting the road for Calgary so set my alarm and then headed out on Highway 4, heading north out of town, on an out and back route.
For asphalt in the area, your options are either the Trans Canada or Highway 4, both of which have a decent paved shoulder in this area. The town of Swift Current parallels the Trans Canada so once you head north out of town you are immediately out of town and into the rolling hills of the prairies. Riding here presented a nice change to the reality of being an urban cycling dweller where the ride out of town typically takes a bit longer.
The ride began with a nice climb which was augmented by a stiff headwind. One way or another in this area, you will find yourself cycling either with or against the wind much of the time. The landscape does not offer much in the way of wind barriers.
Instead, you will be blessed with panoramic views of the lush landscape of the prairies, surrounding farmland, the open sky and minimal traffic as well as some visitors from the animal world. I stopped along the route to watch a few hawks preying for their morning meal and to visit with a prairie dog that poked its head out of its hole to say hello. On the way back into town I was treated to the benefits of a nice tailwind and a beautiful view of Swift Current as I descended back into town.
For any cyclist, a change of scenery and landscape injects a fresh perspective on the possibilities that cycling offers. I must say that I enjoyed my rides in the prairies, particularly my morning outing in Swift Current. You can sit back in your saddle, savour a 360 degree, panoramic view of the horizon and admire the expansive wonder of it all. Even as a self-professed hill-lover, you can’t beat the feel of a prairie ride.
Heather’s Cross-Canada Cycling Adventure
Join Ottawa author, personal trainer and life coach Heather Pardon who recently sold and packed up her home, downsized her life, bought an RV and is taking her belongings and bicycle for an adventure across Canada this summer. Each week, Heather will be sharing photos and stories from her cycling adventures en route. You may also visit her personal blog at http://wilddaisy.ca/Blog/ for more frequent updates from the road.