Checking the ditches travel blog

Riding out of the valley

Another dip in the landscape

agricultural archeology

heading north for Delia

a prairie scene to savour

the alternate sleeping option

Jayne checking out Byron's duds

Day Sixteen – July 6 Youngstown 118k

I got up at 6am. The clouds were gone. It seemed to be the start of a nice day.

I had breakfast of porridge, a large pancake, an orange and a cup of Starbucks Via instant coffee. I used to hate instant coffee. This is not a product endorsement but the Via does make for a good cup of coffee. Better than the camp coffee.

Old Bob O was itching to get going now that he had his new saddle post. He circled around the campground a few times waiting for me to get ready. Just to add to his wait I did a few stretches, checked my water bottles and then rode out to stop his circling. One other rider was ready to head off with us. It was Cor who is from the Netherlands.

Our route was a secondary highway leading straight east from Drumheller. There is the obligatory climb out of the Red Deer River Valley. It was nice riding weather, cool, sunny, no wind, scenic, little traffic. This was good cycling.

Cor and I were constantly stopping for photos. Obo wasn’t taking any photos on this trip. All the scenes and memories are locked in his head. I can do that too but I have a problem getting them out. Anyways despite what we were up too it was a great day for a ride. Cor listens to an MP3 as he cycles along and there were occasions when I passed him and he was singing along to his music.

The road east stopped and we had to go north through the Hand Hills to get access to Highway 9. Obo was waiting at the corner. I had a sandwich at the change. In the meantime Cor showed up. And a few minutes later Bob Q, Phil and Jayne also showed up. After a few moments of chatting we set off together north for the village of Delia.

Again there was little traffic on the road and the lot of them would ride two abreast chatting. I would stop for a photo and then race to catch up. And just when I got to them another photo called and I had to stop. But for about the last five k into Delia I played catch up as if it was a race. In the distance the riders were going at pace. I chased them down. I felt like I was in a bike race. The Tour du France! A little more effort than what was in front of me and slowly the gap closed. Keep the pace. And I caught them just before Delia. Then like a bike gang we swarmed the town.

There was a Chinese café that was already under siege by some of the riders who had been ahead of us. We all moved in, got coffee or water or sandwich, and generally brought excitement to the town. The owner had had the same experience in previous years so he was undaunted by the swarming. It was a good stop and Delia surprised me for being a vibrant community in an area in decline.

Highway 9 was only a short distance from Delia, and then we were heading east again. There was traffic on this route but the shoulder was large and clean. It would do. The Highway would take us past Hanna. Most riders took the turn in to Hanna and stopped at the Subway on the route in to town. Again there was a swarming.

I stayed at the Subway for about thirty minutes and then headed back onto Highway 9 heading for Youngstown. The shoulder stayed good until the junction of Highway 36 then it got bad. The wide shoulder was now a narrow shoulder with a third of the space taken up with a rumble strip. I call them bike bouncers or pimple punchers but rumble and tumble is adequate.

The focus is now on the asphalt in front of you to avoid the broken sections and jump the cracks. It is not a pleasant way of riding, especially after the nice hours we had in the morning. There was one stretch of Highway 9 that had new asphalt. It was bliss but short lived. After fifteen k of good road we were back to the narrow, rumble stripped, broken down shoulder. We limped into Youngstown.

One of the things that the Tour de Canada has done is establish relationships with campgrounds and communities along the route. Youngstown is one of the communities. Apparently on one of the early rides, the tour group arrived in Youngstown to some pretty growly weather. The town opened up their rec center for the riders to spend the night. And the next year the community provided the same with the bonus of a potluck supper cooked up by the townspeople.

I wasn’t about to set me tent up in the rec centre. There is only so much bonding one can do at a time. They don’t need to know how many times in the night I get up or what I say in my sleep etc. Obo and I pitched our tents outside. We would be joined by a few others. Though it was hot in the tents when we went to bed, it cooled off during the night. The opposite of what happened in the rec centre. I digress.

The big thing was the feast provided by the townspeople. It was pot luck. The offerings ranged from chicken wings to pasta to sausage to salads to deserts and ice cream. It was supreme.

In the midst of the meal, a cheer went up from some of the riders. I looked over and in came Byron. He was wearing his pajamas. He is the youngest rider on the crew and a late riser. Had he gotten up so late that he couldn’t change out of his pjs? No. Someone had bet him five dollars that he would not ride the entire day in his pajamas. He won. Hmmmmm? What would he do for ten dollars?

There was lots of food for us. As good guests we consumed what was in front of us. There were a few buns left over. They were donated to us. The riders staying inside milled around the tables drinking beer or water waiting for the others to start to go to bed. Obo and I headed out to our tents, crawled into the warm cocoons and drifted off to sleep.

It had been a good day of riding.

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