Manitoba, Winnipeg (again), Portage La Prairie, August 22-23, 2008

9 03 2011

Just Outside of Winnipeg

Like I said before, this is the most boring part of the Trans-Canada highway to drive. It’s not because it’s flat and rural, but more because billboards are allowed along the sides so your eyes are constantly being assaulted with images of fast food restaurants, chewing gum, insurance, and other generic corporate annoyances.

The Forks Market

Because we hadn’t really spent time in Winnipeg on the way out, we decided to just spend a few hours hanging out there, even though we were in kind of a rush to get to Calgary in time to pick up Linda. We don’t know much about Winnipeg, so we just went to the Forks, which is where the Red River and the Assiniboine River meet. There is a giant park and public market. We ate some food fair fare and were happy to notice Tall Grass Prairie Bakery had a kiosk. Months before this trip we had heard the story of Tall Grass Bakery on Stuart McLeans’ radio program “Vinyl Cafe” (CBC, what else?). Basically, some food activisty folks decided to make breads from freshly milled, local organic whole grains, and then sell it for about 400% of the going rate. Banks and investors laughed at them. They opened a bakery anyway, and on opening day, baked 30 loaves of bread, only to find when they opened the doors, about 200 people waiting to buy their bread! That’s just a condensed version but you can read the whole inspiring story on their website. Of course we bought some bread and it was good.

Salisbury House on the Esplanade Riel

In the park next door there was a kind of water skidoo race and show off on the Assiniboine River, which we watched for a while. There is all kinds of stuff in that area, such as a kickass skateboard park, and a pedestrian bridge with a restaurant on it! I think Winnipeg would have had a lot to offer us if we could only get to spend some time there.

Skate Park at The Forks

On our way out we stopped at a roadside farmers’ market and bought some fruit and vegetables.

Now was the time to put the pedal to the metal and really put some road behind us. We put our seriously driving hats on and hit the road. It was a lovely, bright, if windy afternoon on Highway 1. We made it about 80 kilometres before we had to admit we couldn’t safely drive in the winds. The Boogie Bus is really tall and most of its weight is low to the ground, and we were having to wrestle to keep the bus on the road. For safety, we pulled in to Portage la Prairie to stay until the wind calmed down.

We needed a new marine battery for the back of the van anyway, so we went to Canadian Tire and got one and Step installed it himself. It’s the battery that powers our interior lights and it recharges as we drive. Then we hung out in Canadian Tire until they closed at 9pm. I found some great LED Christmas lights on sale which I purchased for a song.

The Shame of It All

At closing time the wind was still going strong and we were at a loss as to what to do. There was no way we could drive and we didn’t know of a campground or a place to park overnight. Yes, after months of traveling all over Canada and often having nowhere to camp and never, ever once staying in the Wal-Mart parking lot, it turned out the Manitoba prairie wind was our Waterloo. There was a Wal-Mart across the street from Canadian Tire, and we pulled on in.

At first we were just going to make dinner but eventually it got late and was still windy so we went to bed. In the morning it was STILL WINDY! We started to get worried at this point. How long would we be in this Wal-Mart parking lot, trapped by the wind? The answer was until about midmorning. Then we were on the road again.

On the Road Again





Manitoba and Ontario, Trans-Canada Highway to Thunder Bay, June 16-17

21 07 2008
Step in Tropical Manitoba

Step in Tropical Manitoba

We only made it about half an hour down the road before we decided we should stop for the night. Again, we got let in at the last possible minute at another RV campsite called Lilac Resort. Oh boy, I thought the other place was sort of fancy but Lilac Resort was over the top. It had about 150 sites and the vast majority of them were permanently occupied to the extent that the RV owners had built wooden wings onto their mo-hoes! There were all sorts of gardens and fences, and many amenities, including paddle boats, an outdoor movie stage, 2 arcades and a Tiki Lounge (which we never saw). But the centerpiece was 3 pools in a cluster all done up in Tiki mode with fake palm trees and grass umbrellaed tables all ‘round. All the pools had spitting wildlife statues and there were slides and stuff like that. The next morning we put on our MuuMuus and made use of that facility, which got us back into vacation mode, more of less.

The Good Life

The Good Life

So this was news to me, this whole mo-hoe culture I had been completely oblivious to until Manitoba. This made the sum total of my first-hand Manitoba experiences be about half mo-hoe resorts, which could, at some point in my cognitive life, morph into me thinking Manitoba is a cultural mecca of RV living. Which wouldn’t be a terrible legacy, I guess, especially if it’s confined only to my mind.

Not Scenic

Not Scenic

Yes, the highway from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay was the least interesting we had seen. It’s not that it’s flat, (which can actually be really interesting and beautiful) but that it’s congested with wires and billboards and roadside corporate fast food joints. Our brief stop in Kenora was singularly uneventful, except that I enjoyed that we could actually see the Canadian Shield (for some reason I had always thought of it to be subterranean, which it isn’t at all. Not only that, but it’s lush. I don’t know how so many trees can be growing out of what is basically solid rock. It’s a National Miracle!) About half way there it got to be more pretty sights.

Step in front of the Canadian Shield

Upsala warns visitors about mosquitoes
Upsala Warns Visitors

We stopped in a place called Upsala (Ontario) to try and make a phone call and photograph an interesting amateur sculpture of an enormous mosquito making dinner of a man. Only maybe it was meant more as a warning rather than art, because in the 5 minutes I was out of the car I got anklets of mosquito bites on both legs. I also didn’t kill a fruitfly and it bit me and it was my first (and so far only) blackfly bite. I thought blackflies were big like houseflies, but they are actually wee and bite a relatively big chunk of flesh out of you. The next day the bite was swollen like half a grape.

We arrived at our hosts’, Don and Melissa, quite late, and Don had a drink with us, introduced us to their dog Nelson (they also have a son named Fergus) and we all went to bed.

The Danger of Black Flies
The Danger of Black Flies





Manitoba, Winnipeg, June 14 and 16, 2008

20 07 2008

Step in the Wild Grassland Park of Winnipeg

Step in the Wild Grassland Park of Winnipeg

Yes, it turned out this part of Highway 1, the Trans-Canada highway across Manitoba, is a boring as had been reported. Sadly, there is a little bottle neck area where cross-Canada adventurers like ourselves can’t avoid it.

Ah, Winnipeg and Manitoba, we gave you short shrift. It’s not that we aren’t interested in Winnipeg, but we got there only in time to park at the airport and grab our flight to Vancouver. This weekend of home ground grieving caused us to lose our rhythm of travel, and when we returned we were so tired and lost we couldn’t think of anything to do but keep on truckin’, so we were only in Winnipeg long enough to grab a meal in the Osbourne district before we headed back onto the highway. In between parking and the Tex-Mex restaurant (Carlos and Murpheys) we also passed an inner city park that at first glance seemed totally neglected, but turned out to be a natural grassland park, which I thought was sort of cool.

However, in spite of this we weren’t totally bereft of Winnipeg experiences, albeit 2nd hand ones. I had purchased a copy of “Summer of My Amazing Luck” by Miriam Toews on the ferry to Victoria, which is the story of a young single mom living on welfare in Winnipeg. (I really loved one of her other books, “A Complicated Kindness”). Notably, in the book it rains for weeks and they are literally (or literarily) plagued by mosquitoes, until her friend emotionally blackmails her father for money and they escape for a few days on a wild goose chase of love to Denver. It was a good read.

Also, both of us watched Guy Maddin’s “My Winnipeg” on the plane (yes, amazing, especially since it was Air Canada, but it was one of those things where you choose your own movie). Bravo, it’s a cinematic triumph! The film is a very personal and somewhat Dada-esque account of Guy Maddin’s childhood memories of Winnipeg, all in black and white of course, and seasoned with his own obtuse but trenchant humour. In the film, Guy Maddin decides to work on his issues with his mother by subletting the apartment he grew up in and moving his real mother as well as actors to represent his brother and sister into it. The woman who sublets him the apartment decides at the last minute not to leave and is sitting in the corner the whole month, and his mother wants to have his father exhumed and put in the apartment but Guy Maddin thinks that’s too extreme, so instead puts a lump under the living room carpet to represent his father.There were many highlights to the film, but I will recount only that once long ago a squirrel chewed through a wire and the barn housing the racetrack horses caught on fire.

Scene from My Winnipeg

Scene from My Winnipeg

The horses panicked and ran into the river, which was beginning to freeze for winter. At the fork the horses got stuck and all winter there were a bunch of frozen horse heads coming out of the river! People would “meet at the horseheads” have winter picnics there, or stroll around them for dates. We thought Guy Maddin was making that up but we got reports really happened, so who knows? You’d think there would be more hoopla about such an event, but we can turn up no record of it.

So, even though we didn’t really have a 3-D visit of Winnipeg of today, that was Our Winnipeg. If we have time we will pop in on the return route and visit the Costume Museum of Canada.





Manitoba, Yellowhead Highway and Inglis, June 13, 2008

20 07 2008
The Boogie Bus Hanging out on the Yellowhead Highway

The Boogie Bus Hanging out on the Yellowhead Highway

The Jewel of Manitoba

Robin in Roblin

We detoured and entered Manitoba near Roblin, because it sounded like Robin. Roblin is unique in that it has it’s own flag (blue with a golden diamond on it) and that is has a giant rotating metal diamond with a “time capsule” in it. The “time capsule” was created in 2000, and will be opened in 2013 so the people of Roblin can marvel at the quaint, retro-artifacts of yore.

The highways of Manitoba were as beautiful as those in Saskatchewan, but more hilly and full of ponds and other water features. We stopped to take a picture of a rainbow and when we turned off the engine of the Boogie Bus discovered the prairie was loud with animal noises: crickets, frogs, and bird calls. I got Step to record some. (From this time until we reached Quebec we had many rainbows ahead of us, which we took as a sign we were on the right track).

Loud Manitoba

Noisy Manitoba

Inglis

Inglis

Inglis has the only remaining row of multiple old-fashioned grain elevators like the one Bill Buk, my cousin 5 times removed worked at. Since we are late starters we got there after the insides were closed but we still enjoyed walking around outside of it and reading signs about how the farmers would go there, sell their wheat, and then hang around to gossip and play cards.

We got as far as Highway 1 and Portage la Prairie before pulling into Miller’s Camping Resort a little after they were closed. We were lucky the fellow closing up had mercy on us and opened the gate. I was surprised by the RVs there that had little wooden porches, gazebos and gardens with water features. Some of them had little wooden signs announcing “The Smiths” and such. There was also a small in-ground pool with a fence around it that was already closed. I was astounded by this spectacle of commitment to RV camping and got Step to promise we would stop in again on our way back for swimming. Little did I know that this was but a modest example of the RV “resort” campsites popular in Central Canada.

Step in Inglis

Step in Inglis