Prairies and Berries, Bones and Groans

It’s been a week since we left Calgary, but it feels more like several weeks. Travelling like this, you really lose track of the time – as of today we’ve been away from Victoria for exactly a month, but that seems like such an impossibly short amount of time to have fit in all the places we’ve been to.

After leaving Calgary, we drove a couple of hours northeast to Drumheller, aka dinosaur central. Since we’re a couple of freeloaders and had saved so much money on accommodations in Calgary, we decided to splurge a little and stayed at a charming if slightly unorganized inn. We stayed in the upper part of a turret, which pleased me greatly. We made a hobo dinner of crackers and cheese, enjoyed the jetted tub (although I accidentally poured in so many bubbles that they almost overflowed. Now it seems obvious to me that bubbles + jets = disaster) and called it an early night.

The next morning, we made it to the Royal Tyrell Museum, a place that neither of us had visited since we were very young. It’s a really good museum and mostly made me want to watch “Jurassic Park”, if only it was a better movie.

We were going to go on a small hike, but it was so hot that those plans were scrapped pretty quickly. We decided instead to heads toward Saskatchewan, and drove for an hour or so until we reached the small town of Oyen, just before the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. We stayed in a hotel again, mostly because there was nowhere else to go.

On Monday, we finally made it to Saskatchewan. This strangely excited both of us, not only because we had never been there before, but also because this was the first real uncharted territory of the trip. So…it’s flat. It is really, really flat. But the sky is so immense, and the canola and flax fields are beautiful, and the thunder! Oh, the thunder. It did get boring pretty fast, though.

Our first stop in “the land of living skies” was Saskatoon. We found a relatively cheap and well-located B&B, and wandered into town in search of food and drink. I was very concerned about making sure we were back early enough to do some laundry (a washing machine is a very precious commodity right now) so we didn’t do any crazy partying like we normally would have — no staying out until 10 p.m. or anything like that.

Saskatoon is a pretty little city, with the Saskatchewan River winding through downtown. It also features beautiful murals like this:

On our second day there, we met up with Mark’s aunt Marybelle for lunch. She was a fabulous hostess and took us on a guided tour of Saskatchewan, and then out to The Berry Barn for lunch. I got a little carried away there and took approximately 300 photos of flowers:

After lunch, we set out for the small resort town of Manitou Beach. This place was really cool, because there’s a lake there with similar mineral properties to the Dead Sea, which makes you unsinkable. We stayed at the main hotel and spa there, with a pool that is fed by the lake. It really was an incredible feeling to be that buoyant. The next day we pampered ourselves with massages and pedicures, and visited the pool again. It was a good thing we had that day of relaxation, because the next day was a total gong show.

I’m not going to bore you with the finer details, but basically, getting the NEXUS passes we had applied and interviewed for EIGHT WEEKS AGO turned out to be a horrible ordeal involving multiple phone calls to U.S. Customs, the postal strike, incorrectly delivered mail, a frantic call to our friend Chris to ask him to mail them to us, terrible miscommunication with the hotel we were staying at (who only check their mail once a week, WHY?) and a frantic dash to three separate post offices in Saskatoon. It ended with the sweetest Canada Post employee ever (sorry, Paul – you’re disqualified on the basis of nepotism) who went above and beyond to dig the cards out of the bottom of some random mail bin. I was so relieved and grateful that I offered him our (mine and Mark’s, not mine and the employee’s) first-born child, which he politely refused. When we went to pick up the cards, we brought him a 40-pack of Timbits, mostly because Mark thought it would be weird if I bought him flowers.

With that dreadful debacle resolved, we drove for about an hour and camped in a very small town called Davidson. We had some whiskey to celebrate, watched a documentary about my very favourite movie, and slept for a good eight hours, so grateful that we finally had our NEXUS cards, which would surely make our next border crossing easier (spoiler alert: They did not).

Moose Jaw was up next, where we spent a whopping six or so hours. We ate lunch, went on an underground tunnel tour about Al Capone’s (alleged) presence in the city, and then decided to head for the border. After driving through a dangerously flooded road (we were literally driving through a few inches of water), we reached the border at around 9 pm. Since it was a Friday night and the border was super quiet, and of course we had our hard-won NEXUS passes, we thought it would be a breeze. Instead, we were held there for almost an hour while they questioned us separately and then tore the van apart looking for…whatever they were looking for. They also inexplicably ripped off a piece of trim on the top of the van, so now it’s flapping around until we can find some Krazy Glue. It was not a pleasant experience, and while I know they’re just doing their jobs, it really made us question why we went through all the trouble of getting the NEXUS pass. When the border guard asked me what was in Chicago (where we’re heading) I said, “Um…hotdogs?” He did not find that amusing.

Anyway, after we finally made it across, we stopped at the first town we could and crashed at a cheap hotel. We’re now making our way through North Dakota, and it is almost as flat as Saskatchewan. My mother-in-law once told me that she was literally in tears from boredom while driving through this state, and I can understand that very well. After this long prairie stretch, though, it’s big cities! Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal. I am so, so excited for heading east.

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0 Responses to Prairies and Berries, Bones and Groans

  1. Corinna Cochrane says:

    I bet the border guards were looking for pie and Troll 2….they could sense it about you!!!

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