Day 5 - July 5th Wednesday
Distance travelled for the day - 412 km
Total distance for trip - 3270 km
Route - Moose Jaw - Medicine Hat
I had been making good time and decided that Wednesday would be a short day. I slept in until 9 am following the hour long soak in the mineral salts pool the night before. I found a cool coffee shop downtown Moose Jaw and decided to spend the morning catching up on correspondence.
I quite like the town of Moose Jaw. It's walkable with a variety of little shops and restaurants. The atmosphere and people are friendly. They even have a newspaper in town which I found surprising given that most local papers have struggled to compete with digital news. The police also had a nice looking building.
Did I mention that Western Canada is currently experiencing a heat wave? When I left Moose Jaw at 12:30 the temperature sat at 34C (93F). I ride a 2014 Triumph Bonneville T-100 Black. I wear a Triumph black leather jacket and pants with built in armour, black leather Frye boots and yellow deerskin gloves along with a yellow HJC helmet and aviator sunglasses. My 'Bonnie' is air cooled which means it is designed for the airflow to cool the engine. This means as I am riding there is hot air from the engine constantly blowing at me.
I had clear blue skies which is incredible but there is no shade on the prairie. Imagine sitting directly in the sun, in 34C heat, beside a space heater for 4-8 hours. It's not a stretch to say that staying hydrated is key.
The prairie fields are a sea of brilliant yellow flowers in the summer. These are fields of canola plants in bloom. Canola is a cool-season crop and grows particularly well on the prairies, where cool night temperatures allow it to recover from hot days and limited amounts of rainfall.
What is Canola used for? Canola oil is renowned for its nutritional and culinary qualities and is used in 80% of the salad oil market, 56% of the shortening market and 42% of the margarine market in Canada. Canola oil is also used in deep frying, baking, sandwich spreads, coffee whiteners and creamers.
Canola oil is also used in cosmetics, printing inks, suntan oils, oiled fabrics, plasticizers, plastic wraps, pesticides and industrial lubricants. Research is underway to discover other uses such as diesel fuel and industrial oils. (http://www.canolacouncil.org/)
While the scent in the air in Ontario is of pine, the scent of the prairies is Canola flowers. It's a pleasant subtle scent wafting in the breeze. One of the best things about riding a motorcycle is that you are able to experience all the senses of your surrounding environment. It's immersive.
Approximately 85 km west of Moosejaw is the town of Chaplin, on the north shore of Chaplin Lake. The lake encompasses nearly 20 square miles (52 km2) and is the second largest saline water body in Canada. Chaplin Lake was designated a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site in May 1997.
Shorebird surveys conducted by the Saskatchewan Wetlands Conservation Corporation and Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service revealed that over 30 species, with a peak count of 67,000 birds in a day, use the lake. More than 50,000 sanderlings, or about 25-50% of their hemispheric population, were counted in a single day in and around Chaplin Lake. This area is also one of the top four breeding areas in Saskatchewan for the piping plover, an endangered species whose principal breeding area is in Saskatchewan. (Wikipedia)
As well as being the home for shorebirds, the lake provides sodium sulfate deposits which are mined and used for making laundry detergent. Salt of the earth. There is an interpretive centre with tons of information and taxidermy about the birds in the area. I signed their guestbook.
Another 350 km riding west I was at the Alberta border. I pulled off the highway to take a photo and turned off my bike. After a quick stretch I got back on my bike for the last leg to Medicine Hat. I turned the ignition hit the start button and nothing. My bike wouldn't start. Hmmmm.
My bike had started to show signs that something was wrong when I left Moose Jaw. It took a couple attempts to start and I thought it might have something to do with the heat. Unfortunately there was a more serious problem.
I pushed my bike into the only shade available. As I sat on my bike under the Alberta sign contemplating my next move a man named Warren drove up beside me on a Harley.
"How's it going?" he asked.
"My bike won't start," I replied.
"Well let's take a look," he said.
We inspected the bike and determined it must be the battery. The starter was clicking but didn't have enough power to fire. Warren checked his saddle bags and bike trailer but didn't have jumper cables. He had gas and other items, 'just in case'.
We asked another vehicle that stopped by but no luck. Then we asked a truck driver. He didn't have cables but offered to help push if I needed a jump start. About 10 minutes later a couple from Manitoba drove in and thankfully had cables.
In order to get to my battery I had to take off my bag as well at the seat of my Bonnie. This required some special tools stored in the side panel in order to remove two bolts at the back of the seat. With the seat removed we connected the cables to the battery and Warren started his Harley. I pushed my electric start button and success!!! The bike started. YAY!
Now what? I could get to Medicine Hat but what then? I hadn't made any hotel reservations yet and Warren said he lived near The Lodge. If I stayed there he would be happy to drop off a charger for the battery for me to use overnight. This sounded good to me and he even offered to guide me to the hotel.
By the time I was all checked in Warren was back with the charger. I parked my bike beside the front entrance and Warren got the charger hooked up. It attached via the leads that I had installed for my heated vest. He offered to come back in the morning to check on things and gave me his card. Warren is a plumber and a Good Samaritan and an all around fine human being. I offered to buy him a beer or dinner as a thank you but he said he had to go to a hockey game. I was very grateful to him for his help. Had he not come along I might still be sitting on the side of the highway.
With my Bonnie parked safely I went back into the hotel, had a shower and went to the bar for a cold beer. It had been a hot and challenging day. In the morning I would call around to the local bike shops to see if I could get a service and find out what the problem was. Unfortunately the closest Triumph dealer was in Calgary 300 km away.
It was not a great night. I was worried about my bike and if I would be able to continue the trip. I started imagining different scenarios including pushing my bike into the back of a UHaul truck and driving to Calgary.
I would have to wait until morning to find out.