A Journey of 3,040 Kilometres

Whew! I made it home at 2AM this morning (Wednesday)!

I had a most excellent drive even though it was a loooooooong day. I stopped for a nice lunch in Fernie, paused in Blairmore, then had a long break in Lethbridge where I did a ton of shopping (one clever person told me the apocalypse is over, LOL). I hit up a few electronic stores for a better cell booster antenna (no luck), Walmart for dried goods, and then Canadian Tire for a few projects. I also bought a big cooler that was on special; nothing fancy but will come in handy for supply runs.

There was construction coming out of Lethbridge, so it was slow going for a bit, but Medicine Hat still came more quickly than expected. There was a lot of talk on the radio about the flooding and evacuations, but I saw no evidence of any of this. I decided that I was four hours from home, so I was going to get my grocery shopping done and finish up this trip.

When I pulled out of town, it was about 9:30, with my ETA being 2:30AM. The drive to Swift Current felt endless. I was physically tired, but not mentally since my body thought it was an hour earlier. I stopped for gas and a leg stretch, found a station playing my generation’s music, and rocked to Bryan Adams, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and New Kids on the Block all the way to Assiniboia, a stretch that felt about a 10th shorter than it actually was. It’s nice when the last stretch flies by!

I pulled into Haven at about 1:45AM, unloaded what absolutely had to be unloaded, and climbed into bed where I was asleep by quarter to 3.

I’m feeling a little groggy today and expect it will take a few days for me to fall back into my routine. I did get the truck fully unloaded and most of my stuff put away. I don’t have internet at home right now (I’m telling you, the bloody thing is sentient), so I’m up the hill waiting for Charles and Caroline to come home so I can pick up my boy.

I have several posts to write up about the weekend, but I want to say two things right now.

1) The weather in BC was mostly miserable, as it usually is, and the mountains were damp and grey, and shrouded with fog. I am so happy to be back under the sun bleached skies of my beloved prairies. If I have to live in this cursed country, there is no place I’d rather be.

2) I LOVED camping in the truck. It was the perfect compromise between car and hoteling it or taking a cumbersome gigantic rig out. I’m going to write more about that, but I really saw on this trip that my gas guzzler wasn’t a stupid buy at all. I didn’t have a lick of trouble with her and she is soooooo comfortable. My clutch leg isn’t even sore today, as it would be with half the distance traveled yesterday traveled in my Accent. It took a year to really use the truck the way I intended to use it and now that I have, I am fully at peace with the compromises I have made.

I’m off to shop online for another antenna and plan to pay big bucks for fast shipping. Wish I’d known I wouldn’t find anything in stores and had ordered earlier.

A Long Good Drive

I went to sleep around midnight to the sound of pouring rain and awoke at 5:00 this morning to the same. I managed to squeeze in another fitful hour and a half of shut eye before giving up.

The rain varied between torrential and drizzling during the half hour or so it took to finish packing and load up the truck. I pulled out just past 7:00 with an ETA of 5:00 pm.

I got fuel and coffee in Assiniboia, then headed west on high 13. Just shy of Cadillac I got my sign that I really wasn’t meant to make this journey with Miranda. A truck in the opposing lane marked oversize load approached me waving madly that I needed to pull over. There was no shoulder and I made it to a country lane as a house wider than the road bore down on me. I have no idea how I would have gotten Miranda out of that lane way without having to back her onto the highway to turn around.

The weather was still miserable when I made a pit stop in Swift Current, although I had seen a few promises of clearing.

I hit Medicine Hat at noon and was looking forward to a sushi lunch, only to discover the restaurant doesn’t open till 3:00 on Fridays. Oh, well. I’m sure I’ll have another chance for sushi on this trip.

Medicine Hat’s road planners must have been drunk as the city is a bear to get through as it has service roads and odd turns. I managed to rejoin highway one, but got off almost immediately to get gas and coffee.

Just past Brooks, a massive hail storm hit. All but one driver in a long column pulled over to let it pass. This was good hail, small enough not to be damaging, but big enough to really clean the truck!

Speaking of Moya, she hasn’t had a good leg stretch since we went to Mexico in February and she’s been cranky on our few runs to town. Not worrisomely, just showing signs of her advanced age. Once we got a few miles under our belt today, she started purring. I don’t thing I’ll ever get sick of doing long hauls with her.

The Badlands soon followed and were incredibly lush, not a word I would have associated with them!

I landed in Stettler at 5:00 and found Donna and Ken’s mansion without any trouble. Note that anything bigger than a 45′ class A motorhome with full slides counts as a mansion in my eyes now. ๐Ÿ™‚

We gabbed for a bit, then Donna and I headed out to get supper fixings. I decided to pay for and make supper myself, which meant grilling prepared garlic bread, slicing a pre-roasted chicken, opening a bottle of dressing for a prepared salad, and then doing the dishes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Donna and I gabbed till way too late and then I availed myself of the luxurious appointments of the guest bathroom.

It’s really late and we have a full day tomorrow so I’d better sign off. I’m just so glad I’m here.

At a Familiar Starbucks, or Stettler AB to Minot ND

I’m back at the Minot Starbucks where I got online last time I was here before getting my cell phone connection to work. It’s been a long couple of days and today is not over!

Going back to Stettler for a bit, there was a lot to celebrate on Tuesday night, so Donna, Ken, and I treated ourselves to dinner at Stettler’s White Goose Restaurant. The food was excellent and reasonably priced! I enjoyed their chicken souvlaki and would go back to this restaurant without hesitation.

Wednesday morning, I dropped the truck off at CR Glass at 8AM. The other glass place in town looked at me like I was an alien on Tuesday when I asked about the possibly of having my windshield replaced that day or first thing Wednesday. CR Glass said on Tuesday that they didn’t have one in stock, but that they’d have it by 8AM Wednesday and I could be on the road by 1:30ish. They were true to their word and the cost was only $262 with the tax. Thanks, CR Glass!

Goodbyes are always hard, and especially so when you know you won’t be seeing dear friends for another year. I mean, what would be the odds that I’d have to come back again to Alberta before my expected return date?! So I made sure to have everything packed up so I could leave straight from CR Glass instead of going back to Donna and Ken’s.

Donna made sure I was loaded down with electronic rejects, including a little inverter to charge my laptop and iPad when I’m driving! Croft had mentioned such a device, but I misunderstood what he meant, thinking he was talking about a 12V charger. Thanks, Donna!

Google Maps said I was looking at 10+ hours to my property, putting my ETA at about midnight, which was too late when I factored in breaks. But my GPS put the ETA at 11:00, which meant about midnight with breaks. I decided to try for it and reevaluate as I approached Swift Current.

The drive was smooth and uneventful until I got to about 30KM shy of Brooks and I discovered that my gas gauge is not properly calibrated. I went from having a quarter tank of fuel to being in the red in a matter of a couple of kilometres! I was on fumes when I pulled into the first gas station I could find and put in a full tank and then some. Talk about stressful! But my nerves were soothed when I was told, “You got plenty of gas. How about a free hot drink?” So I came out of there with a nice coffee with hazelnut creamer.

It was coming on 6:30ish or so when I hit Medicine Hat, so I took a bit of a detour to a Safeway to pick up a semblance of a picnic for dinner and breakfast.

By the time I turned onto SK highway 37 at Gull Lake, my ETA to my property was only 10:45. I was going to make it!

Next time I go to my property, I will stay on highway 1 to Swift Current and only turn to highway 13 from there. Highway 13 from Cadillac to Weyburn is beautiful, but the bit between the junction of 37 and Cadillac was pretty rough.

I was coming onto a quarter tank of fuel when I hit Cadillac (hilarious, I used to live in Pontiac, but I digress). No problem, there’s a Husky there. Except that I arrived at about 8:30 and it was closed, with the next gas station being more than 100KM away and just as likely to be closed. I just about had a heart attack! And then I noticed the note under the closed sign, that gas was still available after hours with a credit card. There was two pages worth of instructions, but I quickly ascertained that the process was just like getting fuel at AFD Petroleum in Dawson City. So I had no trouble getting my fuel.

It was just starting to get dark when I rolled into Assiniboia and there was still pink at the edges of the sky when I landed on my property at bang on 10PM! I was able to set up camp and was snug in bed by 10:30. I read till 11:00 and slept soundly till 5AM when I was awoken by the sun since my temporary window covering (garbage bag + duct tape) had come loose. That was still a good night for me and I dozed till 7AM, so I was quite well rested this morning.

It was pretty cold through the night and this morning, but my sleeping bag and blanket were sufficient even though I was just sleeping in a t-shirt and shorts. I even left the canopy door cracked open. My fleece was sufficient to ward off the morning chill. All in all, a very successful first night sleeping in Moya!

looking towards the rear of my property

looking towards the rear of my property

this whimsical addition to my radio antenna cracks me up!

this whimsical addition to my radio antenna cracks me up!

looking towards the street (kind of annoyed the for sale sign is still there, but anyway)

looking towards the street (kind of annoyed the for sale sign is still there, but anyway)

I pulled out of my lot at about 7:30. I put Duluth, MN, into my GPS, knowing that I’m not getting there tonight, but it would at least plot me on the shortest route to Quebec. I thought I would be stopping in Weyburn for coffee and internet a couple of hours later, but Moya scrapped those plans. You see, a pick up truck, even a small one, makes light of gravel roads, so I was able to take the road to Willow Bunch that I swore I would never take again in my Accent. That put me at only about a half hour from the US port of entry at Scobey, MT. It meant hours of rural driving and no internet break till Minot, but also immediate access to cheap US fuel!

I stopped just before the border in a town with a small campground and visitor centre with public washrooms (rough but clean). I had breakfast, washed up, and threw out my trash then drove the 10KM to the border.

This was the first crossing where I was asked why I had chosen that port of entry, a very sensible question considering the remoteness of the crossing and how far I was from ‘home.’ I explained that I’d spent the night at my vacation property in ____ and earned a ‘That makes sense! Have a great trip to Montreal!’ in reply.

Fuel was running low as I pulled into Plentywood, MT, around 10:00 so I stopped for gas and coffee. They were having trouble with their POS system, so I was there a bit since they would not let me go to the bank right next door to get cash. That earned me another free coffee, and a really good one at that. ๐Ÿ™‚

It poured rain most of the way to North Dakota, but has since cleared up a little.

I’m heading to a casino in Minnesota about five hours away. That will make a full day, but I can do it now that I’ve had a rest.

The truck drives like a dream. I am so happy with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Saskatchewan Education, Or Not So Humble Humboldt

This past weekend, I joined Gary and Jody on a road trip to visit some members of Gary’s family who live near the small town of Humboldt, SK, which is a little under two hours north-eastish of Saskatoon.

Gary and Jody have done this trip many times and know the Saskatchewan road quality, or lack thereof, very well. So, they decided that the less bumpy way to get there would be going through Swift Current, Moose Jaw, and skirting Regina, and we would come home by way of Saskatoon and Moose Jaw.

Mid-afternoon Friday I loaded my stuff into my car and headed to Jody’s workplace. There, I moved my gear to her car and we took off for Gary’s workplace. There, we loaded up their rig, a 20′ travel trailer and truck, and headed east. We were on the road towards Medicine Hat by about 6PM.

The drive to the Saskatchwan border was pretty uneventful. I looked forward to doing the bit between Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw on the TransCanada since that was the only section of it I haven’t done, except for whatever’s in Newfoundland. I have to say that south-east Alberta looks a lot like southwest Saskatchewan. ๐Ÿ™‚

Back to Saskatchewan!

Jody ran the deli Friday night and I was so hungry by that point that I didn’t think to photograph my dinner until I was halfway through:

the remains of my Friday dinner

It was coming onto 9PM when we hit Swift Current, and Gary was beat, so we pulled into the Walmart for the night.

Jody made up for the previous night’s late dinner with this breakfast:

breakfast Saturday!

Complemented by oranges, coffee, and yoghurt. I have been well fed since landing in Lethbridge! ๐Ÿ˜€

Gary and Jody’s rig; much shorter than mine!

We pushed on eastward through Moose Jaw, the Qu’Appelle valley, and then we skirted around Regina before heading north. The roads were so bad I thought we would be launched into orbit!

I was put on deli duty and discovered that is not easy to make a sandwich in a moving vehicle. Notice how smooshed my lunch is:

lunch Saturday (made by me!)

We passed through the town of Engelfeld, which hosts an annual pig roast to raise money for charity.

the Englefeld pig

I really enjoyed this drive; there is just something about the Prairies that awes me.

We arrived in Humboldt in late afternoon where I was introduced to my hosts and was settled into a guest bedroom. We were served a very yummy dinner and then my hosts took us out to see the sights. I think that might actually have been more for my benefit. I’m very thankful!

The first thing we saw were pelicans! I had no idea you could find pelicans this far north! Unfortunately, they were super off in the distance and even my trusty zoom wasn’t able to get a good shot of one.

pelicans!

We then went to Waldsea Lake. Saskatchewan has been very wet the last few years and there has been a lot of problems with flooding and rising waters. So, this lake, which used to have a nice day use area and lots of cottages around it, was allowed to spill out from its berm. The cottages were all moved to a temporary holding area and will be relocated. The road to the lake just… ends.

Waldsea Lake

Waldsea Lake

cottages pulled from the shores of Waldsea Lake

We then drove around Humboldt a bit so I could get a feel for the layout, seeing some of the major stores, the schools, hospitals, etc. The town is almost full-service and has a population of 6,000.

Before heading back, our hosts pulled into the drive-thru at McDonalds to treat everyone to shakes. This drive-thru has to be unique since it has an alley cutting right through it!

We ended the evening with a dice game that was very quick to learn. Beginner’s luck was not with me!

I was the first one up Sunday morning and I took the time to get some work done. I had internet through my USB modem, but it was a very sloooow connection. It seems like Dawson City has better cell coverage than does rural Saskatchewan!

Once we were all up we had a HUGE brunch. I didn’t even want to think about food until early evening!

The afternoon was a bit lazy and I caught up on my reading.

Late afternoon, friends and family showed up for a bonfire and wiener roast. What a perfect day for that; we’d hit the mid 20s, with sunshine!

Before dinner, I was taught how to play a gruesome Saskatchewanese game of Russian origin called Bunnock, or Bones. Originally played with horse hooves, this cross between bowling and curling is now often played with plastic bone replicas. I was quite good!

After that, a little boy wanted me to go with him to check out the barn cat’s hideout. There, he discovered tiny kittens no more than a couple of weeks old. They were so cute; no bigger than a mouse, with eyes still shut.

For dinner, I learned how to roast hot dogs over an open fire. Or, rather, how not to. The first one was a tad burnt. ๐Ÿ˜€ I also enjoyed some burnt marshmallows, but that was on purpose. Marshmallows just aren’t worth eating if they haven’t been set on fire first.

We ended the night chatting around a campfire. One person showed up with a mini marshmallow thrower and I got to learn how to use that. I was a natural, hitting my target (Gary) with my one and only attempt.

The evening wound up around 11. Everyone seemed intent on sleeping in Monday, so I stayed up late to finish a book. Of course, everyone else changed their mind and I was the last one up!

Our hosts live on remote lake-side acreage that is partially flooded right now. Access to the house is through a narrow causeway. When Gary awoke to rain, he was worried we’d get flooded out, so that propelled the early start to the day.

my hosts’ causeway

We were fed another ginormous brunch and then it was time to hit the road, sometime in mid-morning. We drove straight through to Gary’s workplace, stopping only to get fuel and use the bathroom. We were all stuffed from breakfast and only lightly snacked all day.

This was an awesome weekend. Thank you!

LOTS more pictures below!

driving over the edge of the world?

driving over the edge of the world?

Yup, the earth is definitely flat!

Yup, the earth is definitely flat!

Back to Saskatchewan!

Back to Saskatchewan!

the remains of my Friday dinner

the remains of my Friday dinner

Saskatchewan sunset

Saskatchewan sunset

Saskatchewan sunset

Saskatchewan sunset

breakfast Saturday!

breakfast Saturday!

Gary and Jody's rig; much shorter than mine!

Gary and Jody’s rig; much shorter than mine!

weird 5er seen in Swift Current

weird 5er seen in Swift Current

Jody made me believe that's snow. It's actually salt!

Jody made me believe that’s snow. It’s actually salt!

more salt

more salt

entering Moose Jaw

entering Moose Jaw

the Moose Jaw moose

the Moose Jaw moose

lunch Saturday (made by me!)

lunch Saturday (made by me!)

Qu'Appelle valley

Qu’Appelle valley

Qu'Appelle valley

Qu’Appelle valley

the Englefeld pig

the Englefeld pig

Englefeld

Englefeld

driving over a causeway; there wasn't always water on both sides

driving over a causeway; there wasn’t always water on both sides

driving over a causeway; there wasn't always water on both sides

driving over a causeway; there wasn’t always water on both sides

driving over a causeway; there wasn't always water on both sides

driving over a causeway; there wasn’t always water on both sides

pelicans!

pelicans!

pelicans!

pelicans!

pelicans!

pelicans!

pelicans! (just squint)

pelicans! (just squint)

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

Waldsea Lake

Waldsea Lake

Waldsea Lake

Waldsea Lake

Waldsea Lake

Waldsea Lake

cottages pulled from the shores of Waldsea Lake

cottages pulled from the shores of Waldsea Lake

cottages pulled from the shores of Waldsea Lake

cottages pulled from the shores of Waldsea Lake

cottages pulled from the shores of Waldsea Lake

cottages pulled from the shores of Waldsea Lake

caboose in Humboldt

caboose in Humboldt

Humboldt cemetery

Humboldt cemetery

Humboldt Elementary School (looks like an insane asylum)

Humboldt Elementary School (looks like an insane asylum)

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

home of the local plumber, who apparently charges $10,000 for a toilet :-)

home of the local plumber, who apparently charges $10,000 for a toilet ๐Ÿ™‚

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

dramatic sky

my hosts' causeway

my hosts’ causeway

my hosts' causeway

my hosts’ causeway

geese on the road

geese on the road

fog over water

fog over water

fog over water

fog over water

driving into the mist

driving into the mist

in the mist

in the mist

still in the mist

still in the mist

Saskatoon

Saskatoon

Toon Town Tavern

Toon Town Tavern

approaching Swift Current

approaching Swift Current

Somewhere in Saskatchewan

I am writing this post from the backseat of Gary and Jody’s truck as we head northeast to our destination outside of Saskatoon. That’s right; I am online while we’re driving across the Prairies. Isn’t technology grand?!

We spent last night at Casa Walmart in Swift Current in their 20′ trailer. It was very cozy with three adults in there!

Of course, I brought every cable on my desk except for the one for the camera so pictures of this May two-four weekend adventure will have to wait till we get back to Alberta. Wait till you see the shots of breakfast this morning.

The bit from Medicine Hat to Moose Jaw is new territory for me, but after that it’s back to the places where I made my first extended stops on my journey cross-country in 2008. This country isn’t nearly as big as we think it is if we just tackle it in 500 km or so at a time increments…