The windy day last week put me in mind of a story that happened a few years ago.
There used to be a nice little restaurant in a village west of Brandon called Alexander. I had pre-planned a weekend bicycle ride with a buddy of mine so we headed out along the shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway.
It was immediately apparent that the 30 kilometres riding west to Alexander was going to be heavenly. We had a nice east breeze at our backs so we arrived at the restaurant in Alexander in under an hour.
Since we had once taken a break from riding to enjoy coffee and pie together in a restaurant in Keystone, S.D., we decided that was a prudent course of action that morning as well. Besides, we were going to be fighting a cheeky little wind on the way home.
It pains me to remember that the restaurant is now gone because the slab of pie was both tasty and large, two excellent traits in dessert. Since the restaurant was quiet, the coffee pot visited our table a few times. Apparently spandex-clad cyclists were something of a curiosity.
After a leisurely break, we headed back outside to ride the 30 kms home.
A nice surprise was waiting.
During our hour in the restaurant, the wind had done a complete 180 and was now blowing from the west.
Even with bellies full of pie, we were back in Brandon in less than hour. The wind had helped us both ways.
I got home from the ride and told my wife that it was the greatest day of my life.
She asked me if I actually meant to say our wedding day. Since one of my many character failings is that I’m unable to resist a good line, I was quick to respond.
“Are you kidding? Something like this will only happen once.”
That’s the day I realized my wife didn’t entirely share my sense of humour.
• • •
Back to pie and cycling, two of my favourite things.
If you’ve never been down to the Black Hills or Badlands National Park in South Dakota, you’re missing a beautiful spot that’s within a day’s drive.
(Google map tells me that it’s 1,238 km from Prince Albert to Mount Rushmore.)
My former triathlon club, the Westman Triumphs, used to hold training camps down there. We would get a condo in or near Hill City, and then run, ride and swim for a glorious week while eating through a grocery store or two. Hill City is about 20 kilometres from Mount Rushmore and 45 km from the pool and restaurants in Rapid City.
For us flatlanders, the riding was an absolute revelation.
Painful -- very, very painful -- but amazing.
The ride from the bottom of the hill in Keystone up to the monument is five kilometres at a 10 per cent grade. You work pretty hard to get up that hill.
Another amazing spot that is unknown is the Needles Highway, which follows switchback after switchback up eight and nine per cent grades to the top of The Needles.
The ride starts at 5,400 feet, drops a bit and then climbs to more than 6,400 feet.
I mention it because we drove it one day after riding it. I was sitting in the front passenger seat when I caught a flash of brown coming from my right side.
In that instant I thought I would be seeing a big deer. Instead, I saw a massive mountain lion sprint across the road.
An animal like that is beautiful in the zoo. In the wild, in its own element, it’s something else. There’s a real primal majesty to seeing an animal that’s well above you on the food chain in a fair fight.
Depending on how much pie I ate that day, I likely wouldn’t have run far before he got me.
We also rode in Custer State Park, a wildlife reserve that has more than 1,500 roaming bison along with mountain goats, deer and pronghorns. We saw them more than once.
On one particular instance, a group of us on bikes were at the top of a hill staring down at a dozen bison on the road.
If you think the strategy is apparent, you’d be wrong. We sat up there looking down at the bison for a while planning our course of action.
When we sent a couple of scouts -- the faster guys -- down to see what would happen, the bison scattered. But each time we came saw a bison on the road, we would stop again.
Two of us were riding together at one point when we saw a massive bull standing at the side of the road using the urinal.
With the wind at our back we chose a brave course of action, peddling as quickly as we could by the giant animal.
As we flew by him, he glanced over at us with might be described as a look of utter derision. He didn’t even stop peeing.
It’s good to be big.
Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org