Muddy Water Breached

Winnipeg is like a medieval town, except it isn’t. Being a prairie city there are no limits to its geographic expansion, except for a perimeter road that allows long distance traffic to bypass its innards. And, being on the flood plain of the Red River, it has been encircled on three sides by a floodway to divert the spring runoff around the suburbs and city centre. To get outside the city one must get beyond the city wall (the perimeter road) and over the moat (the floodway). This has been a personal objective.


The Mistress

I was home for two weeks (marrying off my son) and away from my new bike. A workmate calls her my mistress so, for lack of a better name, she is now Mistress. Mary has not yet met her and is a bit jealous. Not because I have a Mistress but because she does not have one. In time, in time.

This week I set off to breach the city’s defences. To do so I rode to Assiniboine Park in the middle of the city and used it as a jump-off point for exploration. It was a bit like being a rat working its way through a maze of neighbourhoods heavily scented with the sweet smell of lilacs.

At one point I actually got within three kilometers of the perimeter, but a distant bend in the road hid the view and I turned around. The next night I was certain I had reached it, only to ride up to a T-junction at an inner thoroughfare.

Vanishing Point

Vanishing points

Riding the fixed gear bike has required some adjustment. Stopping is of course the greatest challenge. As my confidence has grown my speed has increased, and at times I have to stand “backwards” on the pedals to slow down soon enough. The old knees are definitely engaged.

Another challenge is road quality. Winnipeg must have been enamoured of concrete at some point, because stretches of every road seems to be built of it. Concrete is fabulous when newly poured, but decades of frost heave, fractures, pot holes, and untended expansion seams are brutal to ride over.

On Wednesday evening I took a different, busier route and rode directly south on St. Mary’s Road. I achieved my objectives. I made it beyond the perimeter road, and then to the floodway where I stopped for a few photos in the evening light.

Prairie evening

Prairie evening

You can see from these the flatness of the Canadian prairie. It is a land of vanishing points. To the west, there is not a hill for 1,000 kilometers. From above it looks like a quilt of rectangles in greens, golds and browns that spreads to the edge of the horizon. Any trees have probably been planted. And the winds can be formidable.

It was a successful evening. I rode home with flashing lights. Now this rat needs to poke into different corners of the maze to find new routes beyond the city gates. Mixed-metaphorically speaking of course.

20130606 Prairie Pan

The earth really is round

(With many thanks to Patrick for technical assistance.)

3 comments on “Muddy Water Breached”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    With the nearest hill 1,000 kilometres away I can see why gears are superfluous, except perhaps in headwinds. That's a nice looking Mistress. Is that a cycle lane in the 'Vanishing points' photo? I just looked up Winnipeg on Google Earth and the chequerboard layout of roads on the prairie is amazing – hundreds of miles of identical squares on a north-south axis. I see what you mean about quilt. A GPS seems essential.

    Congratulations in marrying off your son 😀

  2. Kern wrote:

    The 'vanishing Point' photo is actually a mixed-use recreational path that I stumbled upon when I got lost. It runs straight as an arrow through the north-east section of the city and right out to the perimeter road.

    The grid-like layout of the prairie roads is a byproduct of its settlement. In the late 1800's land grants were given in return for clearing, planting, building, etc. The Dominion Land Survey divided the province into sections, each of which was (and is) a square mile.

    The north-south roads do not run in straight lines. As they tend north, a slight jog is built in to realign them with the meridian.

    A GPS may well be essential. My mother, born and raised in this area, decries the vanishing landmarks whenever she returns. She used to navigate by the old barns and grain elevators, but they are disappearing.

  3. Patrick wrote:

    Kern wrote: The north-south roads do not run in straight lines. As they tend north, a slight jog is built in to realign them with the meridian.

    That's even more amazing. As you say, the earth really is round. Most people, I think (non-Canadians anyway), would imagine the prairie as unbroken grassland with vast fields measured in tens of miles or more, certainly not divided into single square miles.

    [Added] Google Earth seems to indicate the north-south chequerboard pattern stretches much of the way down the USA as well, interrupted only by hills and mountains.

Leave a comment

Add a Smiley Smiley »