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May 28th, Beaverlodge to Valleyview, 96 miles

Overcast skies and a hint of rain when I left. Just enough for me to wear my rainjacket for 20 miles. Relatively speaking, terrain today was flat. Somehow people's comments about hills seemed inversely proportional to the terrain. For example, the desk clerk's response was, "oh yes, lots of hills. There is a big one at the Smokey River". He was talking about a hill in the road fifty miles away! In contrast, several times people in BC had told me "one or two hills". After counting five or six, I would wonder exactly which ones they meant.

A friendly dog decided to run along with me for six miles or so. Hopefully he found his way home. First stretch continued as an open agricultural land. Fairly quickly I was at Grande Prairie, probably the biggest town I've seen since Fairbanks. While billing itself as having Canada's Forest City and region, Grande Prairie was clearly talking about quality and not quantity.

After a quick curve north, the route headed due east at 30 miles. I stopped briefly at a historical sign about the Kleskun Hills, an eroded river delta with fossil remains. There were several small towns along the way and I stopped in Bezanson, where someone again told me about the Smokey River hill ahead.

Descended to the Smokey River and climbed back out. There I found a nice cute country Anglican Church besides the highway. Six miles further, had lunch at the Blue Apple Cafe in the small town of Debolt. Debolt had seen some better times. However, the cafe was alive with people. There was a town beautification project and also large recycling bins in town.

After lunch, the sun came out! First time in several days. The region became more forested, and true to the local's claims it became a little more hilly. Still nothing that required the climbing gears though. Mile 77 had another historical marker about Alberta Territory (formed out of part of the Northwest Territories). Around mile 85, there were several turnoffs to Sturgeon Lake. Apparently this region was governed by a local tribal council. At 96 miles I pulled in to Valleyview after a long but not particularly difficult day.

May 29th, Valleyview to Whitecourt, 107 miles

Out of the Peace River valley today and further towards Edmonton. Valleyview bills itself as "Portal to the Peace". I left that portal and spent much of the day bicycling across rolling hills through the forest. There were only two points of civilization once I left Valleyview: Little Smokey and Fox River. Little Smokey consisted of a new motel and a combination gas station/store. There wasn't a cafe or anything else. Fox River, population 2529, was more substantial.

Heavy fog when I left Valleyview. Saw several mule deer on my way out of town. Mostly flat terrain, some farms and some ranchland. Stopped at the store at Little Smokey for a break.

After Little Smokey, the hills started. Rolling hills, but not particularly severe. Saw signs of logging (caution logging trucks) and also gas/oil exploration. Apparently logging trucks are mostly on the roads during the winter when the ground is solid. There was still enough mud spread on the road to be obnoxious.

Mile 55 was Fox River, population 2529. Just in time for lunch. Also, just in time for seven miles of repaving. All traffic was pushed over to a single lane as I cycled out of town. Luckily, cars/trucks gave me plenty of room. After the construction, plenty of forests, wetlands and also hills as I cycled the remaining fifty miles to Whitecourt. The last twenty miles had moderate headwinds, so I was pretty tired as I ended the day.

May 30th, Whitecourt to Edmonton, 113 miles

A good day of cycling, longer mileage but not particularly tough. Today was the second day of the trip I could cycle with only a T-shirt. Light tailwinds for much of the afternoon.

Left Whitecourt early again. A large subtle hill about five miles south of town. I thought my brakes were rubbing or something. Once I reached the downhill, I realized how much I'd climbed. With all the weight, the grades made a big difference. At the top of the hill was a large microwave tower. I've been encountering towers all the trip, but in Alberta the hills are getting smaller and the towers are getting larger.

At mile 39, the town of Sangudo was just off the road. Outside the town was an old pioneer cabin. There was also a huge sundial constructed of a tower and large rocks. A nice description of local solar time (varies between 1:20 and 1:55 from MDT depending on the elliptic orbit of the earth, etc). The town itself consisted mostly of one main street, two cafes and some shops. I picked the busier cafe for a snack.

Light tailwinds and smooth road. Bicycle handled great as I cruised down the road. This is what cycling is meant to be! Outside Gunn the road became divided highway, two lanes each direction. Already getting busier for Edmonton. I had lunch in Gunn and then decided I'd try taking 37 to bypass the heaviest traffic.

Route 37 was a wonderful country road. Cute farmhouses, occasional bends and hills. A sign that said "important intersection ahead". The tailwinds continued as I cycled 21 miles to route #2. Here I stopped at the gas station for further directions about the best way into town. Recommendation was to just take #2. Route #2 was a controlled access highway with an on-ramp. Looked a lot like our interstates, but it had a wide shoulder and I was reassured to not be the only cyclist on the highway.

Edmonton! Four days of cycling from Fort St. John and I reached the city limits! Edmonton was a big city, but luckily, it wasn't too difficult to take the major roads in through town. I figure the population of greater Edmonton is 20x the population of the entire Yukon Territory.

A tour of western bike shops? I decided to seek out "Western Cycle". They had yellow pages ads advertising themselves as "Alberta's biggest bike store". While my back wheel had been ok, I still wasn't 100% satisfied with it, so I cycled several miles south to Western Cycle. Unfortunately, they didn't have the desired 36 spoke rim. They did give me a good lead for Velo Sports which sounded promising for the next day. The motel I stayed at was right across from a large mall. A bit of a change from the wilds and the bears.

May 31st, Edmonton to Vegreville, 67 miles

Today I picked up enough wheels to build a tricycle. I picked up the extra wheel at Velo City Sports in east Edmonton. I cycled through the city and waited at the store for them to open. Velo City had a 36-spoke, double wall rim. Excellent! Randy helped me out right away to rebuild a wheel on that sturdy rim. He also helped true my other wheel. I strapped this on behind as a spare. I was ready to go shortly after 11am.

Another cyclist passed me on my way out. We rode together for about five miles. She was from Edmonton and cycling out east. Having another cyclist helped increase my pace a bit as I rode out of town. At Mile 12 I turned north and then onto the Yellowhead highway.

The Yellowhead was a two lane divided highway. It reminded me a little of US Interstate highways with two lanes each way and a wide 8ft shoulder. However, the road wasn't limited access. Occasional small farm roads intersected the road.

At mile 32 was the Elk Island National Park. This park had started out as a private fenced preserve with elk. They had since also introduced bison to the park. Several were right along the road. At the visitor center they explained about the park and also about the local Ukrainian settlers from this area.

The road continued mostly flat past ranch lands and also farmlands. Apparently the wheat belt starts not too far from here. Several of the fields had natural wetlands. At mile 62 I encountered the turnoff for Vegreville (next services 29km). Decided to stop for the day.

Among Vegreville's claims to fame is a large 26ft by 18ft easter egg. It was built in 1974 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RCMP. The egg is decorated in bronze, silver and gold in a pattern that is similar to Ukrainian Pysanka eggs.

The May total was 1937 miles cycled or ~65 miles/day for 30 days on the road. Less than my informal target of 2000 miles, but pretty close, particularly considering the six rest days.

June 1st, Vegreville to Maidstone, 129 miles

Prairie winds! Today I had nice tailwinds blowing along all day long. If not for a slightly late start and a little rain, distances could have been even more.

Awoke at 1:00 am to find my rear tire going flat. A loud hiss. Sigh. On investigation in the morning, I found that the rim strip had broken. Hence the inner tube sprang a leak pressing against the spoke holes. Sigh. Patched things up, using the last of my electrical tape and also the rim strip from my other wheel. Both were slightly too thin, but hopefully will hold until I can find replacements.

Light rain and low clouds quickly moving across the sky. Tailwinds! Route #16 continued as a divided highway paralleling the CN Railroad lines. Saw three trains go by in the stretch before breakfast. There were small towns every eight miles. They were positioned along the railroad tracks and thus usually a half mile from the main road.

After breakfast at Innisfree, winds and light rain continued in the next stretch. Suddenly around mile 48 the rain increased. It started pouring. I was getting soaked! It took me until mile 56 to reach Vermillion and get out of the rain. I squished into the visitor center and spent forty-five minutes talking with the volunteers about the town of Vermillion. The area attractions included a firefighter training school, a salt mine, a junior college, many cattle ranches, oil exploration and a military base.

After an early lunch, the hardest rain had stopped. Go wind go! I cycled in high gear to the Saskatchewan border. Reached Lloydminister about 2:30pm. A unique attribute of the town Signs say "Canada's only border city". This main street includes several 100ft tall red towers marking the border. While I'd done 94 miles, I decided to add another 35 miles to take advantage of the winds.

Roads in Saskatchewan were worse than Alberta. (From what I've seen, I would recommend Alberta as having excellent roads for cycling: wide paved shoulders, good road surfaces,...). The paved shoulder was replaced with gravel for a while. Later the divided highway was replaced with a single lane each way. After 129 miles at Maidstone, I decided I'd had enough for the day.

continue to Saskatchewan
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