My week on the CANDISC 2010 tour is done and Jim has suggested that I post a report. Overall it was a fun week filled with good rides and even a couple of great rides (in my opinion and limited experience). The terrain was fairly consistent for the week and reminded me of western Manitoba areas like Brandon hills, Killarney, Boissevain, Pembina Valley, etc. Rolling countryside with the occasional steep descent and challenging climbs. It was a real treat to get off of the pancake flats of Steinbach & area for a change. To be sure, this was no ride in the Rockies, but it was a lot of fun ascending and descending those rolling hills for most of each day. I clocked top speeds of over 50kph every day, even though I was often coasting down the descents to recover for the steep and/or long ascent that was sure to follow. It was a rush that only a cyclist can appreciate (and any of you would have felt the same, I’m sure).
The tour through all the small ND townships was a kind of Garrison Kiellor-ish experience (after all, we began and ended in “Garrison”, ND) or perhaps, in Canadian terms, Stephen Leacock-ish experience. We were over 350 riders plus about 20 people involved in various kinds of sag support. It was fascinating to observe how towns with populations of less than 150 people rallied to host us with camping, meals, shower facilities, tours, entertainment, etc. In Bowbells, ND we were treated to a 1:30AM “streaking” through our campground by the bored group of local teens looking for some mid-summer action! In the evening I walked along the dusty main street, tumble weeds drifted along the sidewalk, two dirty boys played in a vacant lot popping wheelies on their bikes. There was boarded up buildings that used to house the supermarket, the hardware store, the hair stylist, the auto repair, the insurance company, the movie theatre. All that remained in operation was a bank, a gas station, the bar (unexpectedly, two bars actually) and a clinic. The high school graduating class was 6 last year. One of the boys perked up when he saw a ‘72 Ford Galaxie sedan leaving the service station and he yelled out “Frank! Burn rubber!” Frank mumbled something to the boy and cruised off. Thus ended the opportunity for a wild night in Bowbells. I walked over to the bar for a beer and waited 15 minutes while the barmaid ignored me. Finally, when she had practically changed the diapers of the half dozen local seniors sitting bleary eyed on their stools, all the while trying to avoid me, she finally ran out of options and gave me a gruff “what can I git ‘ya deary?” I asked what she had in a dark beer and she gave me a disgusted look and another gruff “ain’t got none ‘o that here”. A Miller pale will be just fine, thanks.
Some people rode most of the day, but many were also done earlier. To occupy the faster riders, there were many things organized by the host towns. Most days, I was done by noon or earlier and looking for something to do by early afternoon. We had industrial tours (farms, manufacturing), pioneer villages, local entertainment (singers, musicians, choirs, trained ponies), duck races, swimming pools, massage therapists, Mayor’s receptions (garden party), vampire movie, museum scavenger hunt, craft shows. I was almost convinced to invest in a very cool tire re-cycling operation running out of machine shed in Berthold, ND. They are actually producing oil and raw carbon pellets from recycled tires. Anyways, this was a small town Americana experience all the way. I was also needing recovery time and spent a fair bit of time reading, relaxing, playing a bit of Frisbee (a last minute thought to throw it in my backpack turned out to be a good idea) and shooting the bull with people (we were usually all camped to together in a large group) – this was when I most wished that some you guys were with me.
For the “numbers guys” here’s some stats:
752 total KM’s
166 KM longest day
62 KM shortest day
32 kph fastest day
24 kph slowest day
2 days with headwind
3 days with tailwind
1 day with crosswind
1 day with no wind
30 minutes of rain while riding
5 hours 50 minutes longest riding day (a century ride)
2 hours 28 minutes shortest riding day (the last day, when I skipped all the rest stops and just hammered)
3,600 feet most climbing in a day (the century ride)
73 KM’s most climbing in a day (the century ride)
Riders were all ages and all calibre’s from 9 year old beginners to grizzled 78 year old hard core roadies. Participants were from all over the USA and also from MB, ON, SK and Australia. I’d say the majority were from MN. I found that I was amongst the stronger and faster of the riders, but this really isn’t a factor. The rest areas (they were frequent, about every 30 KM) and the sag support stayed open until the last riders were into camp. If people had enough, they just gave the sag wagon the thumbs down and got picked-up (which about 2/3 did on the day of the Century ride). You rode as hard or as easy as you were inclined to on any given day. The average age of the group was 48. I always felt safe and there was no even one time that I can think of during the entire week where I had even a close call. The CANDISC staff were very worried about the oil trucks on the roads (much of the area is kind of like Virden, MB with a lot of wells) and warned us a lot about them. I found that this was no problem. They weren’t as frequent as the hog haulers are around here and the highway shoulders were often wide enough to ride two or even three abreast. They don’t know from bad roads in ND!
My main regret (if I could call it that) about the ride is going alone. I didn’t enjoy having to attach myself to other groups all week long. Everyone was really friendly and this was more my problem than theirs, but that doesn’t change the fact. I’d certainly consider doing the ride again (most of the people I met had done it many times), but not without a buddy. One other regret is not taking my air mattress. I opted to save space in my luggage and take a compression mat – which I found too uncomfortable at night. Well, I’ll save the rest of my comments for the next ride. My pictures are all pretty lame and we’ve all seen enough of cyclists backsides on prairie roads, so I won’t bore you with them.