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Published: June 19th 2018
We're early risers and like to drive in the morning, but the sunsets are getting later and later as we travel north in June.
OK, kids – go get a map of Canada. When we completed our drive along the north shore of Lake Superior and left Thunder Bay in western Ontario, we traveled west (mostly) on the Trans-Canada Highway, leaving the eastern and relatively populated region and headed into the prairies.
Canada is the second largest country in the world, a little larger than the US, even including Alaska, though much smaller than Russia. However, there are few people living in “the frozen north” (Nunavit and the NW Territory) and even in the southern provinces, the population is spread very thin. I did my Google homework: Manitoba has 250,116 square miles with 1.272 million people. That’s 6 people per square mile. Tennessee has 42,143 square miles and 6.716 million people or 153 people per square mile. I’d always thought of Tennessee as relatively rural – it’s nothing like Manitoba.
We left the Trans-Canada and began to head north toward the Alaska Highway, trying to travel about 150 miles a day. There are virtually no interstate-type roads, and even the 4-lane roads are not limited access as we have in the US, except around big cities. Trucks are polite, but bigger and heavier
I remembered these sad-looking trees from our last trip. I think (THINK) they are spruce, but that's what trees look like when they're fighting to survive in the north.
than trucks in the US – max tire number I saw: 32 – on one freight truck. Winds are strong.
We were advised to stay on the Trans-Canada to Calgary and then go north to Edmonton, but we chose to take the diagonal route: highway 16. It was slower, but prettier, so I was happy. Conclusion: if you want to make time, don’t head for Alaska by driving through Canada, as we did. Go to the US Rocky Mountains and head north through the Canadian Rockies and Banff. We met a man in Sault Ste. Marie who planned to make a one-day 500 mile drive. Absolutely, totally, bonkers crazy. Maybe it’s because we’re getting old, but after the day we drove 250 miles, we were exhausted.
Our new Phoenix Cruiser is driving very well, and the small motorcycle has given us needed flexibility to reach stores, museums, and hiking trails.
Manitoba. Before heading toward Alaska, we decided we should stop in Winnipeg, where there are two Costcos. Nope. We decided instead to stay in a small town outside Winnipeg (Ile de Chene) and skipped the big city. Tonight we stayed in an excellent campground run by the
Not as flat as people say -- it was beautiful.
Lions Club in Neepawa (western Manitoba) and rode the motorcycle to tour the town (and stock up on beer and wine). (See the innovative recycled fire pit that the Lions Club provided.)
Each province has different laws on where you can buy liquor. In Manitoba, you can go to a “Liquor Mart”, linked to the government, or to a “vendor”, which must be a hotel. In Ontario, we had to go to an “LCBO” (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), much like in Pennsylvania. Kind of makes you feel like you’re going into a methadone clinic to get your fix, and totally controlled by “big beer”. There are many craft breweries, but they can’t sell in the LCBOs, so you have it sent to your house. By the way, we learned that getting alcohol shipped to your house in Tennessee is virtually impossible. Some things never change.
Saskatchewan. We heard our first joke about how flat this province is when we were in Alberta in 2007. Two fellow campers were sitting at our fire and one (from Alberta) joked that his friend was from Saskatchewan, “where it’s so flat that you can watch your dog run away from you
These remind me of Europe -- you know a town is near because of the church steeple. This is the prairie equivalent.
for half a day.” We’re traveling on Route 16, and found that Saskatchewan isn’t as flat as Manitoba. We’ve learned a good deal about the immigrant heritage of this part of Canada. In Yorkton, Saskatchewan, we visited a “Western Development” museum, a polite way of describing the European influx and its effect on the native nations. Immigrants from Britain, Iceland, Germany and Ukraine dominated the 19th
century and early 20th
century waves, though the immigrant inflow continues. So far, I’ve met families from the Philippines, Nigeria and Korea.
The museum’s highlight for both of us was the huge collection of antique farm implements. There were steam tractors half the size of our house. Most are in deteriorated condition, but they’re still impressive. Also at the museum, we saw beautiful “pysankas” – Ukrainian Easter eggs – in the gift shop. I asked if they were locally made, and the woman running the place said that they’d been made by her sister and niece. She told me that she also made them, and had been taught by her mother. Just then, her mother walked in and described the very tedious process used to decorate the eggs. She, in turn, had been
The Canadian prairies must have reminded east Europeans of home, because Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta have many Ukrainian communities.
taught by her grandmother. They are real eggs, blown, painted using wax overlays, and varnished. I bought three.
“So how’s Maggie doing?” I hear you ask. She has now figured out what we’re doing and the fact that though her bed under the table stays the same, the outside is different every evening. We bought her a red bed, and she knows that it’s another “HOUSE”. She also had her first taste of walking on tundra, which is a springy combination of moss and small plants. It can be about a foot deep, and as we started across a patch, she stopped, then picked her feet up high as she continued across the unfamiliar turf. She has also convinced her dad that marshmallows are required any time there’s a campfire.
Measures: One of the great things about traveling in Canada is that we US citizens can practice living like the rest of the world: distances in kilometers, weights in kilograms, temperatures in Celsius, and different currency that makes much more sense to me. Some cool things about Canadian money:
· -- No pennies. In 2013, the government stopped issuing them, and you just round.
Ukrainian Easter eggs (real), bought in Yorkton MB, at the Western Development Museum
and two dollar coins. The one-dollar coin has an impression of a loon (bird!) and is therefore usually called a “looney”. The two-dollar coin is (of course) a “tooney”.
· --Plastic money. Bills are now like those in many other countries: plastic with holograms and a transparent picture in the middle.
Weather: we left the heat of Tennessee for the cool of the Canadian prairies – wait! The car thermometer says 86 degrees F and the forecast for Friday in Dawson Creek (Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway) is 90 degrees F. Good grief.
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