Posted by: Silver | June 13, 2011

Valleyview to Grande Prairie

Distance: 112 km
Ascent: 643 m
Cycling time: 7 hours, 33 minutes

An unexpectedly tough day on the road this time. I mean, it’s not like the distance and ascent were especially excessive, and it’s not like I wasn’t prepared for the head winds, given the direction I was going; even the late afternoon rain wasn’t particularly heavy or unpleasant. For whatever reason, though, my ride to Grande Prairie did feel a lot like hard work: maybe my subconscious was just somehow reacting to the fact that this was the day that finally took my total distance over the 5,000 km mark…

On the plus side, however, I did get a higher than normal number of people honking and waving their support as I cycled past them this time, especially while I was going through the territory of the Sturgeon Lake Indian Band. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I have encountered a lot of negative attitudes towards the First Nations on my journey so far, and have even been warned to be particularly careful when passing through the reserves; as a newcomer to this country, who is almost completely ignorant of the complicated history of relations between the original inhabitants of the land and the ‘white’ settlers, I am entirely prepared to accept that my impressions may be naive and ill-informed, but all I can say is that, at this point in my journey as a Canadian, my experiences with the natives (as people generally seem to call them here) have all been very positive, and if I might risk possibly the most patronizingly clichéd sentence I will ever write in this blog, ‘the natives seem friendly’…

Speaking of the ‘white’ settlers, though, those in northern Alberta have a reputation for being excessively busy, hard-working people, and this is a reputation that most of the people I’ve met up here have seemed very happy to perpetuate. I was told this is the place people come to in order to get rich quick by working all hours in the oil patch, and if the number of heavy trucks on the road is anything to go by, that’s a fairly accurate representation. Thus, I was studiously warned not to mention the fact that I actually spent a whole afternoon with a bunch of them, sitting round a campfire by the Simonette River, doing absolutely nothing, in case it ruined their reputation… But it was such a pleasant experience – and so precisely what I needed the day after slogging into a headwind for seven hours – that I’m hoping I can get away with it, as long as I don’t mention any names, of course… 😉

The scenery definitely became more open and agricultural as I headed towards Grande Prairie - the most northerly outpost of the great American plains, and one of the first areas in Alberta to be settled and farmed

Thankfully, my route was all on paved roads, but it's so much nicer to turn off the main highway when it's time to eat: this was my lunchtime view

Judging by the number of these trucks that have been passing me ever since Spruce Grove, there's a mighty big pipeline going in somewhere...

The Simonette River really was a very nice place to do nothing

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