Cycling Across Canada

Prairie Wind.

The ride from Portage La Prairie to Winnipeg is reasonable – about eighty kilometers along the Trans-Canada. I embarked on this day’s journey with a relaxed mind, buoyed by an evening spent catching up with a childhood friend in an unfamiliarly adult world. He’d become an RCMP officer and settled roots in Portage; for a night, we reminisced of our small town in southwestern Ontario, both happy to have moved on in our own ways.

I was anticipating an arrival in Manitoba’s capital by the early afternoon. Compared to most days since the Rockies, this seemed a short, easy time on the bike. Four hours of pedaling, give or take a sample size. Indeed, the telltale signs of a great day were lining up. Spirits were sky-high as I prepared to ride toward Winnipeg and the centre of Canada. Unofficially, I was approaching a mid-point of sorts on this still-mysterious journey.

I hopped on Sonja and turned east to leave Portage La Prairie. My positive energy was jolted. Immediately, I was confronted by a wicked headwind. The strongest gusts to date, and they were unrelenting.

For the next six-plus hours, I proceeded to endure my most frustrating biking day yet, battling direct headwinds blowing at sustained speeds exceeding fifty kilometers per hour, with frequent gusts even more punishing.

That wind, man. No control aside from the choice to concede the day, an option I refused to entertain. The Prairie winds had turned cruel, and there was no way I was going to wait out the fury of this invisible beast. I pushed on, ever-slowly.

I exerted far more energy and achieved less progress on the road than any other day on the plains. As the day wore on, my patience and overall mental state deteriorated. Every fiber of my physical being, along with my mental and spiritual self, I suppose, fixated on the wind’s unceasing draws.

Initial mutterings of frustration gradually escalated into outbursts of animalistic screams at no one or nothing. Only the unseen enemy constantly pushing against every pedal. This marked the most nourished root of my uncontrolled anger; I couldn’t see my nemesis. With no physical thing to direct my negativity, I resorted to cursing the skies and the empty space all around. A crazed maniac on a bike along the shoulder of the Trans-Canada.

And, yet, the blue skies prevailed. The unseasonable springtime warmth had persisted for another day. But, I’d been fooled into straining my vocal cords rather than enjoy the sunshine. Every moment turned profane. In hindsight, I sunk to a low-point, no doubt.

Only after I struggled beyond Winnipeg’s city limits did my composure reemerge. Urban obstructions were my saviors on this day, as houses and higher structures and rows of planted trees obscured the wind’s ferocity. In the distance, along the road’s left side, I found a much-needed dose of familiar.

I spotted golden arches.

As Sonja rested against the windows outside, I stretched my bones on a booth seat in the air-conditioned and wind-proof embrace of McDonald’s. My escape. I didn’t buy anything. I just sat quiet, alone in the noise of orders and conversations. Content, to be honest.

Before the memory fades, I stare through the massive windows and summon a solitary laugh; the kind that no one else notices. I’d finally looked out and above with calm intent, realizing I’d been riding under clear skies all day. This marked the second and final day of my journey in which I failed to snap a single picture.

Man, that wind.

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