August 14

August 17th, 2007

Looking at the map, I could see that early today I would be facing my longest straight-away since entering the Prairies. People always warn you about the long, straight, flat roads. Well, the map was showing a stretch of road near 60 km long without a bend. This should be interesting…or possibly boring.


After beginning at the North side of Innisfail, I had to take my first break in Bowen. Although not overly strong today, the breeze in my face was enough to suck the energy out of my body. The rest came at a good time, though, because it gave CTV a chance to catch up to me for an interview. It was immediately after Bowen that I would be staring down the 60 km straight away. Here goes nothing.


It wasn’t the straightness that got to me. The rolling hills seemed to provide enough variance to make it not seem all that monotonous. But the wind continued to tickle my face as it danced it’s way North. Oddly enough, the weather network was predicting winds to be FROM the North all day… Not TO the North. But how often is the weather accurate or reliable?


When I reached the top of a small hill, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw something I’ve been waiting over 3 months to see. The Rocky Mountains. It was my first glimpse at the mountains since leaving Vancouver in April. I know I have a long, hard journey ahead of me to get through them, but just seeing them makes me feel like I’m almost home. It’s hard to believe that they are over 100 km away from where I am skating right now!


I’ve been lucky to have not hit much major construction up until now. I had some great pavement for most of today, but we did come up to a short section of repairs. Traffic was reduced to one lane, but I was able to sneak through the orange cones and pass most of the slow moving vehicles. By doing this, I managed to get ahead of the RV by about 12 cars. When I reached the point where I couldn’t continue, I either had to wait for the RV to catch up, or take a risk. You know me. I’m a risk-taker. Cars were moving very slow and the construction was only about 20 meters. I made eye contact with a truck coming up behind me and signaled to him that I wanted to go in front of him. He understood and obliged my request. So there I was on a major highway receiving an pseudo-escort by a complete stranger with my Dad and the RV no where in sight! It was a short but unique experience.


I never would have expected that my roll into Calgary would result in a close encounter with some of Alberta’s most ferocious wildlife… the Prairie Dog. Don’t let the name fool you. They don’t look anything like a dog, and they’re fearless. I was concentrating pretty hard on my stride to avoid the hail storm of debris along the side of the highway when a small brown blur came streaking out from the grass beside the road. I had a brief flashback to New Brunswick and the deadly attack rabbit. This was even closer! The little rodent came roaring towards my skates as I instinctively shrieked like a school girl. Fortunately I’ve had a lot of practice dodging obstacles on the Alberta Highways and I was able to execute a perfect spinning windmill move. I was literally airborne over top of the Prairie Dog but managed to land securely on the asphalt. I turned to watch the animal’s next move as it zig zagged in between the tires of the RV and waltz safely back to the confines of the roadside grass. Just when I thought the ordeal was over, another Prairie Dog appeared to my right. Then another. And another! They were everywhere! They seemed to be coming at me in waves. As if the stones and cracks in the pavement weren’t enough, now I had to contend with animals playing chicken with me. But just as fast as they appeared, they were gone. It lasted about 1 kilometer, but the fury was intense.


Calgary. I’m finally in Calgary. With the mountains smiling at me from the horizon, I can almost see Vancouver’s distinct skyline. I only skated to the edge of the city today since I will have an escort take me through town in morning. When I reached the Airport, we turned back to the town of Balzac where Whispering Pines Campground donated a campsite for us. I’m looking forward to my appearance on City TV tomorrow morning and heading towards BC the morning after.

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