(written evening of Friday, October 24th)
First, happy birthday Mom!
We crossed the border uneventfully and quickly this morning, only three vehicles in line when we arrived.
We’re staying the night in Brandon, Manitoba at a motel called Barney’s. Given the current owner’s apparent Chinese or perhaps Korean ancestry, we guessed correctly he is not named Barney, but the previous owner was indeed ‘the’ Barney. Too bad, we would like to have met Barney because he appears to have an interesting sense of humor. Along with several colorfully worded advisories in our room, the motel owners also thoughtfully provided a comments sheet. One section is titled “When you checked into your room, was it clean?” The multiple choice answers include “A blind person could do a better job,” “It’s cleaner than the inside of my arteries,” and “This is so clean I’d like my spleen operation here.”
Earlier today we spent a couple hours in Winnipeg, just cruising around and then bravely (or so it felt for us middle-aged white people) venturing into a “mixed” neighborhood in search of ethnic food. We not so bravely settled on Asian and got two fabulous authentic dishes prepared and served by authentic Asians. I'd thought that Winnipeg might be different, but it seems to me every Canadian city I’ve visited, including now Winnipeg, is more diverse than every American city I’ve visited. In the Canadian cities that I’ve seen firsthand it’s tough to guess, based on an appearance-only, unscientific tally of folks on downtown sidewalks for example, just who is the majority “group.” I’d hope and expect that when everyone’s a minority, tolerance is endemic, but I don’t have enough experience here to know if that’s the case.
Modern day “Barney” has equipped our room with a microwave, so I believe we’ll be having leftovers for dinner, then checking out downtown Brandon. There’s something called a ‘stampede’ going on in Brandon this weekend; don’t know exactly what that is but I’ve cautioned Laurie to beware of swift-moving cows and the ‘pies’ left behind.
For a while yesterday I suspected that extreme eastern North Dakota must be the world’s leading source of landscape rock. For many, many miles about every third vehicle on I-29 was a truck hauling what looked like softball-sized and shaped stones. After noting some processing facilities surrounded by unbelievably humongous piles of “stones,” I at last remembered what northwest Minnesota (and hence northeast North Dakota) is known for besides hockey: sugar beets. Harvest evidently is in full swing.
Saturday, October 25th
We’re staying the night in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Though the weather’s fine, the wind is whipping about 50-60 mph I’d say and has been most of the day. The locals assure us this is extraordinary. Good driving so far on the TransCanada highway. It’s four-lane with a 110 kph (about 68 mph) speed limit in Saskatchewan, up from 100 kph in Manitoba. Unlike the stellar U.S. interstate system, the TransCanada highway is not limited access, so there can be major at-grade crossroads and towns to pass through. These might be issues if there were any of either. Well, there are a few, but very few. The population density is almost imperceptibly above zero (right where I like it), and the vista here in what Canadians call The Prairies is beautiful: flat or gently rolling post-harvest wheat (or canola?) fields, round hay bales awaiting collection sprinkled evenly across vast meadows to the horizon, and of course lots of cattle. To Calgary tomorrow.