Sunday, June 1
Gillam, MB to Thompson, MB
It was cool and overcast when we began the ride back down Route 280 to Gillam. Occasional scattered light showers kept the roadbed damp and dust free. Here are the same loose rocks we encountered on the way up.
The northern part of Route 280 traverses an area where the boreal forest begins to give way to arctic tundra, creating a boggy landscape with short scrubby trees, unlike anything in the Continental U.S.
The road gradually improved as we neared Split Lake, halfway to Thompson. All in all, we were very pleased with how the bikes handled the gravel roads on this trip. The tall, compliant suspensions soaked up the bumps and ruts, and the large wheels and neutral handling of the bikes helped us negotiate the uneven and loose surface of the road.
Every so often we passed the turnoff for a winter road – this one crossed Split Lake to York Landing.
South of Split Lake the road turned to fresh loose gravel again. The coverage was so complete and consistent and that there was no alternative to riding on it the rest of the way to Thompson. After five hours on Route 280 and two nights in the sleeper car on the Churchill Express, we were ready to call it a day.
This video gives a little better feel for how it was riding the loose gravel. It also shows how the terrain changed from tundra back to boreal forest as we neared Thompson.
Monday, June 2
Thompson, MB to Ashern, MB
Since we were back-tracking today, this was going to just be a mile-eating day. To break it up we stopped at Wabowden again, and Dan immediately struck up a conversation with Mr. Wabman who we had met on the way up.
We stopped for gas at Ponton Junction and on the way out of the parking lot I noticed Dan’s rear tire seemed low. Sure enough, it was going flat. The consultant/manager of the gas station/motel/restaurant gave us some soapy water to locate the puncture. I had some plugs along that we used to make a repair which, fortunately, held up until Dan made it the rest of the way home to Lebanon, OH.
Manitoba Highway 6 is a lot of straight, flat riding – several hundred miles of it – with very little traffic.
Another rest stop. It was comfortably cool today, but we needed to get off the bikes every hour or two just to keep the circulation going and to have a snack.
As we got closer to Ashern the road widened, the traffic picked up a bit and the power lines were a constant companion. The road was still straight and flat, however.
On one of our rest stops I followed a dual track several hundred yards off the main highway and found this grove Aspens with their bright white trunks and fresh green leaves resplendent against the clear blue northern sky.