Poutines, dance performance and ditch naps – a 300 mile gravel challenge in Canada

Five weeks after my crash an epic ride was more than overdue. I also have been given the privilege to ride for Foundry, a Minnesotan bike company with the mission to work hard and ride harder. I was excited to test my new Auger in its natural habitat on gravel roads.
The Muerto Operacion, traversing the Canadian Province of Manitoba, seemed to be great challenge to satisfy my need for adventure – at least 500km through an unknown area on unknown routes with unknown stops.
So basically we had no clue what we would get ourselves into. Lucky us, there was a supporting Manitoban bike community that didnt think it was a good idea to have a German and American cycling aimlessly in their back yard. So they gave us maps and possible water refill stops.

 

Thanks to Ian Hall for the maps
Without them, we would have ended up in a ditch– wait– I ended up in a ditch!
Never mind.
It all started that Lindsay and Ian gave us a ride from Falcon Lake to Virden.
We learned that Tom Horton had bad coffee, that we definitely should try Poutines and that most of the time the wind comes from the west. Most of the times!
When we got up the next day for this 300mi+ adventure, we learned quickly that this day would be one of the seldom days where the wind comes from the East.
300mi of headwind! Drafting was not allowed.
Not even 300 yards into the ride and we had to ask for directions.
But, we had 70 degrees sunny weather with clear deep blue skies that made up for our yelling back and forth so we could understand each other.

The first 80 miles were on flat, nice smooth gravel. Did i mention flat?

Flat!
Kansas seems mountainous compared to Manitoba.
Neither of us had a cyclo computer so we didnt have mileage, compass and speed.
We just rode.
Since we were so far north, it was hard to tell what time it was from the position of the sun. We could have looked at the phone but we let ourselves surprise when we stopped the first time. It was 12:30 pm when we entered Wawanesa. 6.5 hours of riding. We were hungry and thirsty. We entered the only restaurant in town, owned by a British, ate our fish and chips and off we went towards Holland.
Fish and Chips in Wawanesa.
On our way of town I almost got us disqualified when I wanted to ride the nicely paved road out of town when Corey stopped me and pointed to his cue sheets.
Ah, right, cue sheets. I forgot already about those.
I went naturally on the nicely paved roads when Corey pointed out we had to look for a gravel road. We asked for directions.
Four hours later we entered Holland and enjoyed salami rolled chocolate chip cookies on the curb outside the grocery store. While I searched for more fat and sugar in the store Corey got invited to a wedding nearby.
Salami rolled chocolate chip cookies hit the spot
When we got back on the bike, we felt the 130miles in our legs. The next 50 miles would be the most challenging, at least mentally.
It was one road, one direction. Nothing else. Keeping ourselves entertained was key.
Keeping ourselves entertained.
Corey, is this a cheap version of hide and seek?
Professor Monika studying maps.
New company.
We looked behind us. The sun was setting, slowly but visibly. It got colder.
The sun didnt set until 10:30 pm.
 We wanted to reach the bar in Brunkild by sunset. And we did. Barely. We both were physically and mentally exhausted. We needed some entertainment. To our surprise we got more than the expected entertainment.
When we entered the bar, I walked right into a striptease performance.
I turned around 180 degrees ready to leave.
Have we entered the wrong door? Nope. The bar is right behind the naked woman.

Once having reached the bar safely we ordered burgers, sandwiches and the notorious Poutines, a combination of fries, cheese curds in gravy. Everything tasted great.

Poutines, chicken burger, cheese burger and melted cheese.
They tried to convince us that the next 200mi might be easier with one Jaegerbomb or 10 – Corey believed it.
The stripper told me we are now the new attraction in town. Two drunk kids came in and ordered jagerbombs for everyone. I played party pooper. Corey played along.
We were thinking of the cold night outside. I was prepared.
Corey not so much.
His new wardrobe included an XL bar T-shirt, 20 newspapers and knee socks cut into thigh and forearm warmers. I say ghetto, he says MacGyver. (In any case, we chose not to take a picture. He might get ostracized by his local community.)
When we left it was in the low 50s. It was 11:30pm. In the next town we were greeted by a barn with full blasting music coming out. It was full house. Half Manitoba was dancing.
We had to stop here because of my need for a nature break. While I was in the woods, a car was charging towards Corey and stopped shortly before him.
Then the car left.
Then the police came up to Corey.
Then it left.
What the heck was I missing?
The car was asking if we needed help. The police was asking what the car was asking.
Interesting investigation!
Leaving town we entered the first terrain challenge, mud! I recited my repertoire of German curse words. Despite the shortness of the section I was reminded of this little monster of mud and clay section for the remainder of the ride – I couldnt clip in anymore.
Mud everywhere!
However, it woke me up. It put Corey to sleep. Or maybe it was the jagerbomb which made him sleepy but all of a sudden he became very quiet.
At 3am we came to an intersection where we had a choice of going north following the route or going 2 miles south into the town of Steinbach trying to find food and drinks. His MacGyver dress was not holding up to its expectations. He was freezing.
We chose right and looked for food.
Mc Donalds was closed.
Walmart was closed.
What would be open at 3 am on a Sunday? It was Tim Horton. The irony made its circle. The bad coffee tasted wonderful and the Boston creme donuts just delicious. I had two more just for verification purposes.
Only option at 3am on a Sunday. I couldnt ask for a better meal.
Looking back, this stop was essential because the next section was brutal. Besides that was my turn to get tired. I was swerving, seeing elks in the woods and turbines as houses. At some point Corey asked to stop to put some lotions on some body regions.
When he took care of some business I found the grass to look very comfortable and soft- almost like a pillow.
I had to test it.
I softly hit the ground and was out for the next 5 minutes.
My bike and I needed a nap. Right here, right now!
After my little nap I was ready for more adventure. The adventure included new terrain and it didnt get easier: deep sand and creek crossings. The 20miles to the next gas station felt like 60.
Keep on moving otherwise we became breakfast for the mosquitoes.
The fact that I wasnt able to clip into my shoes didnt make it easier. We ran out of food and water. When we stopped, we became breakfast for the 100 mosquitoes.
We also learned that horse can fly comfortably 25 mph and still can bite you.
In crawling pace we made it to our last stop before the finish line – a gas station. I realized too late that the tap water was undrinkable. With all the mud I ate, that little bit of water contamination wouldnt make any difference. After refueling and some small talk with a Russian we entered the last section of the ride and finished in 31 hours with 300+ mi of headwind.

This was the second part of our route:

The course, the people and the weather was exceptional! What a great adventure!
Now I got seriously addicted. I am already thinking about the next challenge.
  • Thanks to Hal for creating this great challenge.
  • Thanks to Lindsay and Ian for giving us a ride to Virden plus the maps and the recommendations! What a great Manitoban cycling community!
  • Thanks to Foundry, especially Matt, for a giving me the privilege to ride such a great bike! The bike is made for this kind of adventure. Very comfortable and no mechanicals!
  • Thanks to HED Cycling for sweet gravel specific wheels! With 25 mm light rims that made the ride very comfortable. The wider rim fulfilled its promise for fewer flats. I had none!
  • Both the bike and the wheels cushioned the impact of the gravel. My back felt great, which is usually the first affected area from rough terrain.
  • Thanks to Corey for joining me for this adventure and for taking these great pictures and listening to all my stories, at least nodding at the appropriate moments.
  • Thanks to Thomas from Angry Catfish for getting my bike ready and for his patience with all my bike adjustments.

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