Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roaming over the prairies

The time difference still has me a bit messed up, so I was awake at 7am, and up by 7:30. The dogs were happy to get outside for few minutes to smell the Alberta air, and then it was time for coffee and blog writing. Once Carm was up and coffee'd we put on our walking shoes and headed down the path.


We planned to go farther today and did. After a long climb, we crested to where we could see one end of Echo Dale, the park where the family reunion will be held. It was off in the distance and below us - according to another dog walker that we passed, a mere 5 to 7 more km to get to the bottom where the park is. I guess we won't be walking there! We will try walking from the park up to the spot where I took the photos in this post, but I doubt we'll actually make it that far. Distances are deceiving here!

We saw some cactus on our walk! Another reason to keep the dogs on their leashes and on the path. There is also a lot of sage along the path - I thought taking a few snips and tucking them into our pillows would make for sweet dreams.

After we got back and cooled down, Carm and I went off for some shopping. As soon as I turned the music on in the bedroom the dogs went up and lay on their beds. They know the drill for when we leave them. They are good dogs :-)

Costco was just as it was in Ottawa, with perhaps different prices, and even some different items. I saw a package of roasted seaweed that I've never seen back home. It also wasn't packed. After that we drove to the Info centre to pickup some maps and other travel information. Then off to the shopping district hoping to find a grocery store. There is a super store, but we passed a Safeway first so popped in there for the few things that we needed. Prices are a bit higher than back home, but not drastically so. Space is bigger here, even the grocery store aisles go for the prairie feeling of openness!

Then it was time for BLING! I remembered where the store where I bought my necklace last summer was - I was tempted by belts, purses and boots, but didn't buy anything. My goodness we were almost blinded by all the rhinestones ;-)

We drove through downtown, then thought we'd look for my Uncle's place. I didn't have the address, but I had a vague idea where it was and sure enough we found it. No one home though.

Back to the camp for laundry, a drop in visit with my dad and Rolf, showers, and now sitting outside enjoying the day. Life is good!

I felt only as a man can feel who is roaming over the prairies of the far West, well armed, and mounted on a fleet and gallant steed.

Buffalo Bill

Overview Map of Home to Hat

We’ve come a long way!


savouring it for its beauty



I thought I’d do a few posts about our trip to Medicine Hat yesterday, mainly because I took so many photos,but decided to jam them all into one.


It was a wonderful day in so many ways. We drove through some incredibly beautiful land - I couldn't stop taking pictures, trying to capture the essence, but of course it is impossible. You have to actually be part of the landscape to feel the immenseness - a photo is just a snapshot of a tiny part of the horizon – the rest is up to your imagination.


At one point we passed a tractor mowing the verge. The smell was more than just cut grass, it was... well, I just can't think of words to describe the fragrance. Something about it touched a deep, familiar memory. If only I could capture it in a bottle...


At some point along the way from Moose Jaw to Medicine Hat, the odometer rolled over to 2000 miles! Wow, what a trip!






As we drove from Saskatchewan into Alberta I had Eric Clapton's song "Alberta" cued up. I'm nothing if not an idiot for making myself all choked up! From the border it was a short drive and then suddenly, just around a curve and over a hill, was Medicine Hat. We made it safely to the campground, got out of the truck to register - I just may have teared a little bit at that point.


We are here. It seems surreal. Anyway, it wasn't long before we were set up, including the satellite (which Carm was able to get through a tiny hole between trees!). It is the perfect site. Satellite, spacious, dog walk area just across and down a bit. Place to go for long walks. And right at the edge of the Hat.


Almost right away we took the dogs for a long walk. We all needed to stretch our legs. There is a walking path, that is actually an off-leash dog area, just outside the campground. Luckily we didn’t see any other dogs… The paved path goes for miles in both directions. We took the direction away from civilization, marvelling at the views at each step. The dogs were pretty excited (ON leash of course), and we tried to keep them on the path, away from potential rattlesnakes. Up and down and up some more, we had a good walk - the dogs were dragging their feet by the time we got back to a cold drink of water.

We were enjoying the view from our campsite when a flash of red caught my eye. Sure enough, it was my dad coming for a visit. He and my mom made the trip from Ottawa as well. It wasn't long before my mom followed in another car. We got caught up, then they left us to get showered and cleaned up for supper at my cousin Myna's house. We had a nice visit with her family, getting to know her daughters Courtney and her husband, and Tanis.

We got back to the trailer in time to take the dogs out for a last little outing – where we got to enjoy the sunset over the open prairie. OMG - I can't believe we are here!

I was merely looking at the prairie as a human being, savouring it for its beauty which engaged all the senses and brought with it a feeling of well-being, contentment and often even joy.
Sharon Butala - The Perfection of the Morning

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We are THERE!!!

Spike here - I could tell that something was up as Laura was getting excited. When we stopped at the lights I looked over Carms shoulder, but it all looked the same as everywhere else to me.


Finally we stopped at this nice place with other trailers. When Laura and Carm got out of the truck they were hugging and Laura was crying a bit so I figured we were somewhere important.


After they did all their stuff to the trailer, they finally took us for a walk, and sure enough, it seems that we are there! It is pretty darn nice. Laura and Carm keep talking about how far they can see and how nice everything smells.

- Spike

p.s. Laura says she’ll write more later – they are leaving us to go to Myna’s place for supper – we’ll stay back at the trailer and take care of things. And maybe sleep a bit.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Moose Jaw

I’m so full that I can barely sit at the table to write this. In fact I may have to go change into pants with an elastic waistband.


We just got back from supper out at a place called Deja Vu Cafe. It was featured on “Gotta Eat Here” a while back and now has a reputation as the place to go for wings and shakes. So wing and shake we did. And deep-fried pickle. And french fries. The wings were great, and with over 40 different sauces to chose from it was hard to keep it to just 4 choices. I think there were an equal number of milkshake flavours to chose from as well. I had chocolate peanut butter banana (oh my gosh I so full just saying it makes me want to heave!). It was great. Carm had French vanilla. I was only able to eat 1/2 my wings and just barely touched the fries. Carm didn’t make it through his meal either – so we have supper for tomorrow night!


Back to the beginning of the day… we were up early of course, with our systems still set to Ontario time (+2hr). After a leisurely breakfast and a walk for the dogs, Carm and I piled into the truck for downtown Moose Jaw and the Capone tunnels. We signed on for the next tour of the tunnels as they were used for bootlegging. It was a fun tour, with actors playing parts as we saw some of the underground world. I would have liked to see more of the tunnels, and maybe less acting, but then again, with claustrophobia it was good not to spend too long underground in the maze!


After the tunnels we drove out to the Air Force base where we saw the Snowbird planes parked on the runway (Moose Jaw is the home of the Snowbirds). We found a place to park and watched some trainers come and go. I was hoping for some big jets, but no such luck.




We stopped for gas, checked out the liquor store and then came back to the site and the dogs. They eventually convinced us that they needed to go for another walk – this time we ventured farther afield. Through a prairie dog town of course!


And after a bit of time reading it was time for supper and here we are now. Full. Too full.


It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

Laura Ingalls Wilder


DSCN2294Ahhhh… finally no motion (only for a day Spike and then we are on the road again)

Prairie (DOG) Oasis

It was bound to happen sooner or later... yes, we got out the prong collars. The deer we could handle, but these new little creatures that dart everywhere are more than a dog can take. I have never seen Bella more wound up. We had taken them for a walk, looking or a good place to take them for their business, when suddenly we were in the middle of a prairie dog town. So that's not a good business spot...

We got back to our site to see that there were some on our site as well. Oh boy.

Our site is really pretty, but the walking opportunities are limited. The campground is surrounded by big roads and prairie dog towns. Oy. While this is a nicer site in some respects, having the lovely walking areas that we had yesterday more than made up for it.

We were talking at dinner about what our favorite part of the trip is so far. Carm had no trouble answering. He was impressed and moved by the Terry Fox Memorial Park. He didn't say much, but perhaps that was the "tell". I could see in his eyes that he was moved.

My fav part so far is driving through Manitoba on Saturday. Re-visiting so many memories of childhood was fun. But it was more than that - as we drove through the countryside there were areas that reminded me so much of riding my bike out into the country. I can close my eyes and remember the sights, sounds and smells. Saturday those memories were brought to life for me as there was something so familiar. At times it was almost like I was that little girl again. I am having trouble putting into words just what I felt, but suffice it to say, it was a special day.

I realize too, how lucky I was to live in a time and place where a child could have those sorts of freedoms.

Tuesday is going to be a big day too. We'll be hitting areas of prairie grasslands. And getting to Medicine Hat.

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.
Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 7–Brandon to Moose Jaw

I’m writing this under the shade of one of the huge poplars that are on our site. The sun is shining, goodness knows what time it is with all the time zones, and lack of daylight savings time.


We started out our day a little later than usual, we knew we had a shorter day of driving ahead of us so set the alarm clock for 6:45. As it was we , were pretty quick getting ready and were on the road by 7:30. It’s a good thing too as before we even hit the trans Canada we came across a detour that led us afoul. One place you don’t want to be when you have 37’ of trailer behind you is a dead end road….  luckily for us there was a good laneway to pull into. On our way back to the main road we asked a couple of pedestrians about the detour – apparently it was for a local road and not the “highway” at all. Oh well, all was not lost – we saw some countryside we wouldn’t have seen, and met some friendly Manitobans to boot.

Once we got to the main highway, the road was fairly straight and reasonably smooth (okay, not really all that smooth). It was still a divided highway though which is nice.

The landscape that we passed first out of Brandon was mixed small hills, some trees, and farmland.

On our way out of Manitoba we passed signs for Rivers, Souris and Hartney, both places from my youth.

We used to stop in Souris on our way to Hartney to visit my Great grandparents. One of the attractions was the longest swinging bridge – unfortunately it isn’t open. The other stop was for fresh honey. Sometimes we’d even get the honeycomb and Kirsten & I would chew on it during the drive. We also used to stop at this rock collecting place – probably the reason that I remember it is that they had two huge Great Danes that were orange brindle – when I first saw them I thought they were tigers!

My Great grandparents lived in Hartney, in a little yellow house. When we first started going there they had no indoor “facilities” and we had to use the outhouse. They had a lovely lot, and my gg had a huge garden that he kept up until he was into his 90s. My ggmother always had so many stories to tell about when she was young and when they came to Canada. I wish now that I had paid better attention.

So long ago…

It wasn’t long before we entered Saskatchewan. Even still the mixed landscape continued. Then… we hit areas so vast and flat it could hardly be believed. Some of the areas were a  patchwork of brilliant yellow, soft blue and lush green. It someone had painted it you’d think they were crazy! Anyone that thinks these are boring roads to drive over lack imagination.


We made a few quick stops at little pull-offs along the road. Nothing really spectacular. At the one where we ate our lunch (in the truck), the wind was blowing and it was cold!


Before we knew it Regina was on the horizon – we could see the tall buildings from downtown so far away. That’s where I got good internet again and could post yesterday’s blogs. That’s also where we could see rain all around us. Was this going to be another day of setting up in the rain?


My gps started giving weird directions as we came into Moose Jaw – MAYBE we could have gotten to the campground that way, but since there was no road other than a dirt track we decided to take another route.

We did make it to the River Campground, but too late – all the sites were taken. It looked like a nice park with paths down by the river. I think it was a municipal park.

They pointed us over to Prairie Oasis, which is where I sit now. It isn’t a great walking park – we’ll have to drive somewhere for that (maybe park near River Campground), but our site is nice. It is the first site that we’ve had that is lovely and grassy, and the first where both the weather and the site are inviting enough to sit outside. It is very spacious. Just below us is a bit of the river, and beyond that is the Trans Canada – our old friend. There is some traffic noise, as well as the roar of the occasional train, but those don’t bother us.


The dogs seem happy to be on firm ground and are stretched out in the sun!

We are here for two nights. Tomorrow we plan on touring the underground city. We’ll also drive around a bit to explore the area.


Then it is a short days drive to MEDICINE HAT! Wowzers!

Oh – did I mention that there are no bugs? Nor were there any at the last campground. I think they are all congregating at Echo Dale, the location of the reunion :-/



DSCN2234Are we there yet?

Day 6–Kenora to Brandon part 2

Back on the road, next stop (and final for the day), Turtle Crossing campground in Brandon. We got here just after 2pm, and after some kerfuffle got settled and out for a walk with the dogs. The campground had been flooded in 2011 – in fact it was under 8 feet of water. They are still rebuilding, but it is clear it was a lovely spot. We walked down some over grown roads lined with cottonwood trees. Very pretty and peaceful. It was humming with dragonflies.


Carm finally succumbed to his TV withdrawal and set up the satellite dish. I think he just wanted to putter around doing something.

After the satellite was all set up and we’d had our adult beverage we harnessed up the dogs and went for a proper walk. Oh, it was lovely.

The park is practically deserted due to the construction and flood damage, but so much of the park is wild space with views off into the Manitoba countryside, or shaded by large cottonwoods. At the back of the park we found the river that winds its way through Manitoba.



There was even an area that we could let the dogs run for a minute.

After supper (butternut squash risotto w. roasted green beans), we drove into Brandon for an ice cream. The bit of town that we did see was clean and well kept.

We are thinking of stopping here on the way back for a few nights so that we can explore the area. The swinging bridge in Souris, where I used to live in Rivers, are all things that I’d like to see again.

I feel good!

DSCN2188_thumb1 Are we there yet?

Day 6–Kenora to Brandon part 1

I usually do some of my blog writing as we are driving down the road, but the Manitoba highways are not that smooth. In fact they are down right rough.


We got another early start – on the road by 7:30 – and made our way out of Kenora, dodging deer as we drove. There were some beautiful lakes as we left the area. It wasn’t long before the terrain started to change. It slowly got flatter with less rock and smaller trees. We were getting close to Manitoba!


As we drove away from Lake of the Woods I reminisced about childhood memories of spending time with the Crowsons at their cottage. Ski-dooing, skiing, boating.

The landscape really started changing, and the weather – I could tell we were getting close to the open sky of the prairies, and started getting choked up in anticipation. And then… there it was. The trees just stopped and there was wide open land and huge blue sky. Although (or maybe because) I was tearing, I felt a lift of my spirit, as if it were suddenly set free. I love those open views.


Just after, we pulled off the road into Ste. Anne, a little town just off the highway, to fill up our empty tank. I had to laugh as in the gas station bathroom was one of those old fashioned rolling towel hand driers. Gross, but quaint. I haven’t seen one of those for years and years. It was the cheapest diesel in a long time – 120.9

Cue the 70s music.

I looked at my map and sure enough, just to the south and west of us was the little town of Gruthal. That’s where I used to ride all those years ago (I know I’ve gone on and on about Rainbow Ridge in earlier posts so I won’t again.)

From there is was a short drive to the perimeter highway of Winnipeg. I entertained bored Carm with all the memories of my youth that came flooding back. All my grade school years were spent in Manitoba. I was about 6 when we moved to Rivers (just 30 min north of where we are now). After two years we moved to Portage la Prairie, actually Southport was where the base was (we passed just a few miles north). That was for grade 3 and 4. Next stop was Winnipeg until I finished grade 8 (except for part of 6 when we lived in England). We passed just a few miles from our Winnipeg house when we merged off the perimeter highway back onto the Trans Canada.

So there were lots of memories. Lots. Some were just snapshots in my head. Passing over the bridge of the Assiniboine River, the bee place that we always stopped at on our way to Hartney where my Great grandparents lived. walking to school in Winnipeg, the swimming pool in Rivers,

Some were more feelings, like the feeling of freedom I had as I rode around rural Manitoba on my bike. That feeling of summer (strangely I don’t recall the winters very strongly).

Some were sound memories – like the time I was walking up the road towards Portage Avenue with my transistor radio and Wings Uncle Albert was playing. I can see the tall trees that lined the road and feel the heat of the summer day. Or the music of Pilot playing Magic as I read in the tent set up in the backyard. I can smell the hot canvas.

All these memories swirled in my head as we drove along.


After we got through Winnipeg it was smooth rough sailing until we found a turnoff for a picnic area just around Portage. There weren’t any facilities, but that didn’t matter as we travel with our own. I finally got to use the picnic blanket that I brought back from NZ.


At one of the stop lights, a car came along side us and rolled down his window. He shouted up to us that we have a nice rig and that he’s enjoyed driving along behind for many miles. Friendly. Oh yea, the licence plate is “Friendly Manitoba” – I guess they are right! He was on his way to Alberta too.


see part 2 for rest of day…

Day 6–Kenora to Brandon Map


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 6 - Kenora to Brandon - short

We are safe and sound in Brandon, MB, after having a GREAT day. I have a huge post with tons of photos but the internet isn't fast enough to post it. Or I'm going to have to break it into multiple posts. Since it is already 9:20 MB time I'll leave it until tomorrow!

Happy Tails!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Weather in Kenora

Just in case you didn't believe me when I said how cold it is!

A Day in Kenora

We had a good long sleep last night but are happy to be staying (mostly) still today. We did have to move sites in the morning, but that was no big deal. (well, it would have been better not to, and better if the people who vacated the spot didn’t wait until the last possible minute to leave… it kept us waiting around until noon).


The dogs and I took our early morning walk down a road with cottages on one side and a narrow mowed verge on the other. It was nice to be away from campsites to stretch our legs. As we rounded a curve in the road there stood a big deer. Oh dear! The dogs were wearing straight buckle collars, no prongs and no harness. They caught sight of it but I quickly backed us out of sight before it ran off and my arms got yanked off! At the same time I remembered the bear warning I read in the campground pages… I was glad it was a deer!

Once we had our breakfast we went for a walk around the park. It is a pretty setting.





Dorothy asked how far our trip is (2022 miles) and how much driving time (36 hours according to Streets). I’m not sure about the driving time as we are making stops, and I’m not tracking how long we stop for. Yesterday we drove 360 miles, starting at 7:15 and arriving at 4:20 – that’s 9 hours on the road, including stops. It was a long day, and felt that way.

Cathey asked us what we do during all those long hours in the truck. Well, we talk; we watch the scenery go by (I can look out the window for hours); we listen to music, sometimes singing along :-o  And Carm drives, keeping us safely on the road and in our lane.

I have to fess up… remember the problem we were having with the truck? Well… after I moved the gps dongle to try for better reception… we haven’t had the problem. It seems I must have had it slightly over the sensor for when to dim the lights (day vs night). It didn’t strike me until yesterday when Carm mentioned something about the sensor, then I realized what had happened! DOOH! Thank GOODNESS we didn’t delay our trip!!!!

After moving, we packed up the dogs into the truck and went for a drive – oh yeah. We drove around Kenora, but the cold winds kept us in the truck. It might have been nice to walk along the harbour, but with temps only 14C (or less), it just wasn’t appealing.


A little diner off the road caught my eye – East Side Diner – bannock burgers our speciality – so we pulled in there for lunch (a benefit of cold weather is that the dogs are safe in the truck). We each had a burger, Carm the East Side special, topped with chili. Of course I had the bannock burger. Oh my, they were the best burgers we’ve had in a very long time. The owner said the meat comes from her brother-in-laws farm and is all natural. The fries were fresh cut and dark brown – yum. I couldn’t even come close to finishing mine, even though I was starving to start.

Also on the menu was a breakfast with perogies and garlic sausage. Hummm…. maybe we’ll have to leave later than planned tomorrow!

It is only 4pm, but this post has already gotten so long…


In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous.



DSCN2179Are we there yet?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 4–Nipigon to Kenora


We got a good early start this morning – up at 6:15 and on the road by 7:15. I don’t think we can pare the morning time down much, by the time I get up, dressed, and get back in from a quick walking of the dogs, Carm has their breakfast ready, and coffee brewed. As I’m eating my breakfast and drinking my coffee I start puttering around at getting ready for the road.


Today we got a glimpse of Lake Superior, so of course I had to play the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. It is a sombre song, which set the mood well for our next stop – the Terry Fox Memorial. It is a lovely setting with parkland all around. The statue itself overlooks Lake Superior.


While in the parking lot we met people from Cornwall.

We got on the road again with gas on our mind. Gas stations are few and far between, and when you guzzle gas like this beast does we stop at every chance! There is an Esso Kakabeka Falls so we filled up there, and got coffees for the road. On the way back I may stop for some wild rice.

9:50am – 1000 MILES! We are 1/2 way there!

The highway is in good shape here, but hilly. Bits have been quite curvy as well. Spike seems to be settling in better – either the Rescue Remedy is working or he’s just exhausted.

10:13 am (central time) – saw our first bear. It was far from the road, on the banks of the English River.

As the miles have rolled by I am awed by the challenges our first explorers had to overcome. The forests go on forever – what incredible spirits of adventure these men must have had. We’ve been driving for 4 days and are still a good days drive from the open plains. I will rejoice at the openness and celebrate the great open sky!

We’ve seen quite a few cyclists on highway 17 – I don’t know how they keep their nerve. The night before we stayed at Birchwood (last night’s camp), two cyclists were killed right in front of the campground. Tragic.

We stopped for lunch at a little lakeside park (no photo), and just as soon as we finished the rain started. And kept up on and off until we reached Kenora. We expected the Ontario part of the trip to be long (it was) and boring (it wasn’t). The landscape changes constantly, and is often quite beautiful.

I am exhausted and will appreciate the extra day of rest we have scheduled in Kenora.


MS Streets & Trips has been great, and would be even  better if there was decent satellite coverage for the gps…

4:20 we finally arrived at Ancinabe Park in Kenora (no photos yet). We got checked in (after making sure they were giving us a site long enough for our rig) and got settled in for the night. Unfortunately we have to change sites tomorrow, but it will still be a rest. The park is very pretty with a walking trail that has a pretty river view.

Carm has been handling his TV news withdrawal well. He hasn’t had any TV since North Bay – I thought he’d turn into a 3 headed monster by now, but he hasn’t ;-)

I haven’t mentioned yet, but at the end of the day having our own place to chill out in is wonderful! We are somewhere new, but home at the same time – perfect for two homebodies!


They might in the future more than ever before engage in hunting beavers.

Samuel de Champlain


DSCN2156Are we there yet?