Jay Does Fort Macleod And Fort Walsh.
Looking For Jerry Potts - From September 9 - 14, 2021.
Day Three Of Ride For Jay Is Medicine Hat To Fort Walsh Returning To Medicine Hat.
Date: Saturday Sept. 11th
Looking for Jerry Potts - Part Two.
Up early next morning, I fortify myself with two cups of hotel room coffee then dressed for wet travel. Adding the layers of clothing and motorcycle gear is like a ritual. I say to myself as I look in the mirror “Are you ready for this”. My game face looks back.
It is pouring. There is this moment when you go from “hotel dry” out into the environment and that moment is a solid irreversible commitment. The hotel room door clicks shut… I am now locked out. The key is inside. It is final… there is no going back in. You know that feeling.
I instantly climb on the bike, I’m pushing it backwards with my feet to free myself from the parking stall. Ever so gently the bike goes over. No plunk or thud, it just touches the ground. Too many clothes. I am already sweating. Too hot. This is a heavy bike. I have two bad knees and a walking cane.
Three doors down is a fellow motorcycle enthusiast. We chatted the evening before. His mode of travel is as such; his partner/wife travels in a slick white F150 for her comfort and enjoyment while he rides his slick white full dressed Harley. He can talk to her through the mic on his bike helmet just as if she was on the back of his bike. When it rains he throws his bike in the back of her truck and they continue with their holiday. Both happy. She drives the truck with no exception. His tough luck if it is raining. Good to have rules.
I knock on their door and ask for help. He is big man 6’4” and we easily bring the bike back to vertical. Thank you very much. No time to linger. I am now really sweating. Motorcycle clothes work well when you are screaming down the highway. Must to cool off. Must ride now.
I am now on my way to Fort Walsh Saskatchewan. As I putt down the highway, I am passed by many bikes. All going higher speed than me in the rain. Groups of bikes went flying by. Most of them were two up. All different types of bikes. I’m thinking these are a hardy bunch of folks these “Hatters” out in this downpour. There’s a bike rally from Medicine Hat to the small town of Irvine. I guess the collective thinking is if you “pin it to win it” the sooner you arrive in Irvine the sooner you can dry out and get lunch. Sadly this is not for me as I pass the Irvine oasis.
This day I would call upon all my super powers to make it to Fort Walsh. The highway is straight and the raining subsides somewhat after Irvine. I do dry out a bit from sheer speed induced wind blast. I fuel up in Maple Creek and snack for power; but it is starting to rain again. It pours buckets from Maple Creek to Fort Walsh.
The wind picked up considerably. It was a tiresome chore dealing with expected and unpredictable wind gusts. I had to lean the bike into the cross wind. Saw a road sign. One of those graphic highway signs depicting a semitrailer being tilted over by high winds. This sign was not a comfort to me.
I was getting cold; but I was not really yet uncomfortably cold. Definitely, I was soaking wet. Now it had really turned miserable. A constant downpour with low moving clouds and strong gusty winds; it was looking pretty rough.
Maybe next… a twister will descend from the clouds, swoop me and the bike up high off the ground; then discarding us out onto the prairie in a state of total disorder. They should concoct a graphic highway sign for that. A motorcycle being sucked up into a filthy swirling vortex with a little stick person flung helplessly through the air. A sign like that would have turned me around. Sadly… no twister to put an end to this wet blanket odyssey.
I resolve myself… “If Jerry Potts can lead lost frozen Mounties from Fort Macleod to Fort Walsh in the dead of winter on horseback; I can ride a Harley Street Glide on paved roads in the first week of September”. Suck it up buttercup. That being said; if I were to add cold to the wet, well that circumstance is a game changer. That would create the correct moment to scurry off and find the nearest hotel.
I arrive at Fort Walsh just dripping. The Parks staff at Fort Walsh are awesome. The National Parks site is winding down for the season and had limited staff. Limited tourist. They were gracious in helping me spread my assorted wet riding gear onto chairs and over heating vents. I took my time touring the museum that is located at the top of a hill overlooking the Fort. When I was finally at the point of just being damp; they got the Parks Van and drove me down to the Fort. This is a handi-cap service they provide and upon seeing me with my walking cane they offered me the lift.
I met Clay at the Fort. He was greeting people at the entrance pointing out things, sending them off and instructing where to go etc. So I hung out and started chatting. He is the “Parks Interpreter” and has worked at the Fort for 25 years. Seasonally he comes back to this job to support his ranch and lifestyle. He does the talking tours; but today they are not happening because as mentioned; the season is winding down.
As I chatted with Clay, I asked questions about Sitting Bull and his time in Canada. How the Fort dealt with this enormous refugee problem; Clay started to talk. I asked more question about Jerry Potts, the Massacre and The Great March etc. Clay stopped at one point and said… “You really care” to which I replied “yes I do”. Clay went into full tour mode and I was put silent. At one point I interrupted his dialogue to interject a thought and he stopped me and said “please just let me speak” He took me through the entire fort. It was more than I expected and for me was a highlight.
How does Parks Canada replace and person like Clay. Clay is nearing the end of his time with Fort Walsh and over the years has compiled detailed research that revealed clues, insights, and reasoning that is often lost to time. He has routed out and cross referenced missing details that would have been swept into the bin of common history. He showed me the watered down “Interpreter Training Binder” that is sanction by the Parks Service for his future replacement versus the multiple binders and correspondence he has amassed over his tenure.
I gave Clay a list of some of my readings and he said it was not unreasonable but some books were suspect. After all his time of researching, when he reads a written account; if he find two mistakes the book is tossed. He gave me a list of recommended books that I will list at the end of the story.
Clay was clear about how this period of history is told and presented.
The print media back in the day focused on certain people that were
accessible. These people are then moved forward through history. Others
who are clearly worthy of recognition never get a mention or make it
into print. Clays comment “Guys like Jerry Potts were all over the
place, just is they never made it into the newspapers like Jerry did”.
Burst my bubble. You mean my “Jerry” My hero was not one of a kind.
Oh my goodness, I am still wet. It rained the whole time I toured Fort Walsh. Thanks to Clay and everyone at Fort Walsh, I had a great visit.
I knew I was at the half way point of my adventure. I am now heading for the barn. I must cross over the Rocky Mountains to Kamloops B.C. where my Street Glide will be stored for the winter. There is comfort in knowing the goal has been achieved and heading home is starting this instant. Rain all you want “it’s all easy pezy from here”.
I turn-tail and head back to Medicine Hat. Rain plus high winds pestered me to Maple Creek with reduced intensity after that. You have to love the flat prairie as you can see your weather off in the distance. The sky to the west is lighter and could mean possibly an end to the rain and wind. The rain subsided at the small town of Irvine, this made the balance of the trip to Medicine Hat pleasingly pleasant as I dry out.
I return back to the same hotel. Back to the same room number. Back to the same restaurant. Back to the same plate of nourishing mild curry with rice. Back to the same bed. What a day. Step back in time... this trip would have taken Jerry Potts two weeks in Jerry’s time. I went there and back in one day. I am so spoiled rotten.
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