In real-time, as I type this, we are driving HOME! We will be showering in our own shower, sleeping in our own bed, and snuggling with our kitty in approximately 6 hrs time. All I can say is – eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
It has been an amazing ride, and part of me is sad that the adventure is ending, but I am also so full of glee right now.
But before I can step foot in our house, I must get you caught up in all things we saw along the way up to this point!
We mostly stuck to the Trans-Canada Highway and there wasn’t a whole lot to see, especially through the prairies…except that I hate to say that because the prairies get such a bad rap for being boring, when really I loved driving along the long stretches of rolling farmer’s fields, chasing trains and marveling at all the bright yellow canola.
Because there aren’t that many major cities or major sights (feel free to set me straight!), a lot of the small towns along the Trans-Canada highway have tried to get tourists’ attention by having unusual attractions. I stumbled across a website devoted to the strange and unusual sights across North America and found all the ones I could along our route. We visited most of the ones on my list.
First there was the World’s Largest Teepee in Medicine Hat, Alberta. It is 215 feet tall and 160 feet wide and was donated to Medicine Hat after the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
Then before we could see anything else, Amelia pooped out on us – on a Friday evening when all the auto shops had closed for the weekend (she has impeccable timing, our Amelia). Luckily we figured out she probably just needed some fresh oil and coolant. A nice and very rural gentleman at the Walmart auto service centre helped us out (everywhere else was closed or too busy!). We chatted him up and exclaimed our surprise at how green it was in the prairies and that we had imagined it being more brown and dry. He explained that they’d had a lot more rain this summer than usual, and that was why.
We made it as far as we could after that and looked for a place to stay when we started to get tired. It was getting dark when we pulled into an rv park in a random tiny town in Saskatchewan called Maple Creek. The thing about driving along the Trans-Canada Highway, it travels the same route the train does – that’s where all the development (what little there is in the middle of Canada!) lies. I don’t know how the people in these little towns along the train tracks sleep at night! We hadn’t noticed, but the rv park was literally right next to a train track and because the trains have to blow their horns when they come through a town, we were woken up throughout the night, pretty much on the hour every hour, by trains passing through. After that, we always checked how close the train tracks were to where we would camp for the night. A few times we still got caught next to the trains, but it was never as bad as in Maple Creek, where it felt like the train was coming right at us every time one passed through.
Back on the road the next day, we came across some fields of – snow?
That’s what it looked like to us anyway. But we knew it couldn’t be. The welcome sign for the nearby town gave us a clue. You know how towns and cities often have a tag line on their sign? This one said “salt of the earth.”
Then we came across my town, which I didn’t even know existed:
I had my own access too:
Somewhere in Saskatchewan, they have a McDonalds’ with their very own silos:
Our next major stop was Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, home to the World’s Largest Moose, Mac. We searched and searched for the darn thing, as it was not where all the sources of info told us it would be. You wouldn’t think something so big would be hard to find in a small town, but it wasn’t until we had given up and were leaving Moose Jaw that we saw Mac, just off the highway.
They also had a retired Canadian Snowbird plane behind him. Moose Jaw is the snowbirds’ home base and where they do their training. So Steve got to gawk at the plane while I gawked at the giant Moose.
Moose Jaw has some interesting history involving Al Capone and Chinese immigrants. I don’t believe the two are related.
We gathered that Al Capone spent some time there smuggling alcohol during the prohibition years, but it was the Chinese immigrants that we heard all about on a tour of the Tunnels of Moose Jaw.
I wasn’t allowed to take pictures on the tour – boo. Everyone knows about the U.S.’s sordid history with slavery, but Canada wasn’t so great back in the day either. The Chinese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries worked under abominable conditions for very little money, and were treated horribly by society in general. A lot of them lived and worked in the tunnels that we toured – dark, dingy, cramped tunnels under the thriving town above. It was really interesting to learn about, and the tour we did was different than any I’d been on. The tour guide was a young aspiring actress and she would switch between being the friendly tour guide, and her character, an angry matron who yelled at us and called us “coolies” (a racist term) as if we were the new Chinese arrivals who came to work for her boss.
Next we went to see the big Indian head in, no surprise here, Indian Head, Saskatchewan.
I had no idea, but this is the setting of the Canadian TV show Little Mosque on the Prairie. When we arrived in Indian Head we were starving. But being a little town, everything had closed down, even the restaurant right on the highway. Finally, we found a Mom-n-Pop-type restaurant still open, filled with locals who all knew each other. They were all discussing the Saskatchewan Rough Rider football game, which was on the radio in the background.
Ever since we got into the prairies, we had been trying to catch the sun setting over the farmer’s fields and finally we did, in Indian Head. We parked Amelia on the side of the road and watched the sun light up the bright yellow canola with warm golden hues that turned orange and red as the sun met the horizon.
I love when the sun casts a golden glow over everything. It is my favourite time for taking photos.
I have no idea what was so funny.
Steve snuck a video while I was taking photos. I always forget to share the videos with you, but I was determined to remember them this time!
The moon was out and reminded us that we still needed to find a place to lay our heads, so we continued on.
We spent the night in an rv park in the middle of nowhere near Indian Head. The host came to greet us, even though it was late, and informed us that they were going to be doing some fireworks in an hour. I asked what they were celebrating and she replied, “nothing! We just like to do a fireworks show once and awhile.” We sat in the front seats of Amelia like we were at a drive-in movie theatre and watched the display.
All the towns along the Trans-Canada highway have grain elevators and all of them have the town’s name on them. I think if I hadn’t already been collecting crossing signs on this trip, I would have collected grain elevators. I’ll save that for the next time we drive across North America 😉
Soon after passing through Moosomin, we entered Manitoba. I searched all over the internet for things to do in Manitoba and all I found were things to do in Winnipeg, and the Provincial Parks (like State Parks in the U.S.). If my travel partner didn’t have his sights focused on home, and home alone, we likely would have veered off the beaten track of the Trans-Canada highway and gone to the Provincial Parks. But again, I’ll save that for the next time we drive across our beautiful country 😉 And as for Winnipeg, we felt we’d seen enough cities and were quite enjoying the rural life. So, we had to get a little creative with the sight-seeing over the next little while and the best we could come up with was this:
The World’s Longest Historic Swinging Suspension Bridge, in Souris, Manitoba. It didn’t seem all that long, but I guess it’s the “historic swinging” part that allows them to claim that title. It’s the swinging part that landed us on the ground.
No, don’t worry, we didn’t fall. But our lens cap did. And then it hunkered down in the tall grass and refused to reveal itself.
I was just relieved it wasn’t our brand new camera itself! We stopped in the bustling larger town of Brandon, Manitoba, in order to buy a replacement lens.
After Souris, I convinced Steve that we just HAD to go to the town of Boissevain and see the giant turtle, in honour of my aunt who loves turtles. Again, for something so huge, Tommy the Turtle was hard to find!
And because it was right there, we checked out the sod house, or “soddy.” Apparently early settlers used to build and live in these because they stayed warm in the Winter months and cool in the Summer months.
We thought we were roughing it in Amelia!
Then because we were already off the beaten track, we decided to keep traveling the just as fast but further south highways and ended up spotting a bunch of wind turbines off in the distance. Both of us were excited to check them out, so we winded our way towards them and ended up in St Leon, Manitoba, the Wind Capital of Manitoba and home of Manitoba’s first wind farm!
Some interesting facts about the turbines:
* Each turbine is 80 metres high and has 41 metre long blades.
* When the blades are at the highest point in the rotation, the whole turbine is approximately 34 storeys tall.
* On average, the turbines generate electricity about 90% of the time.
Steve took a video. They were amazing to see! Definitely worth checking out if you’re driving through Manitoba.
That night, we camped in St Malo, Manitoba. It started to rain soon after we set up. We’re pretty fortunate and have only had to set-up/take-down in the rain once on the whole trip. After dinner, it started to pour. We’ve weathered a few storms in Amelia and, as you know, have had to deal with some leaks here and there. But storms don’t really bother us otherwise. So it didn’t really seem like a big deal to us until Steve came back from the bathroom and informed me that he had heard there was a tornado watch in effect in that area. Having no experience or real knowledge of tornadoes, I was terrified. Worst case scenarios were flashing through my mind. By Midnight I was exhausted from all my worrying. Steve convinced me that a “watch” is far better than a “warning” and that we had nothing to worry about yet. I have no idea if that’s really true or if he made that up on the spot, but finally I just decided “to hell with it” and went to sleep, thinking I’d either wake up or not, but my worrying wasn’t helping anything. We did wake up to sunny bright blue skies and no sign of the storm from the night before. The ground was so dry there that it had soaked up all that rain and dried out again by morning!
I know I said I would get you all caught up to the present, but it is now 2am and I am all cozied up in my own bed and dreaming of sleep. I will save the last of our journey – Ontario – for a separate post. In a way, this is better. I am not ready to retire this blog, and if I can drag the last part out a little more, I am happy to!
Goodnight, from Ottawa!