Little Drive across the Prairie
CANADA OR BUST, CHAPTER 6: IN WHICH WE FIND FLAT-OUT FRIENDLINESS
Day 7: Winnipeg, MB to Regina, SK. Ready to continue our journey westward, we set out from our hotel at 7:30 this morning, following Route 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. An hour into our trip, we stopped at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba's fourth largest city with a population of 12,996. Slightly smaller than Texas in area, the entire province of Manitoba has a population of 1.3 million, with 700,000 living in and around Winnipeg and the rest distributed over the vast remainder of the province.
After a fruitless search for a letterbox in Portage, we turned northwest onto Highway 16, which our AAA map had branded a scenic route. The flat, featureless fields along the route left us puzzled over the designation, but the road did take us to Gladstone, home of the Happy Rock, aka a glad stone. This rock-shaped visitor center certainly delighted us because it offered some very clean, well-maintained facilities.
|Happy Rock or Glad Stone?|
At the town's municipal Riverside Cemetery, we found a letterbox honoring Margaret Laurence, a beloved Canadian author and Neepawa native. Placed in 2010, the box had been visited only three other times in this remote town. Like us, the previous visitor was more than 1,700 miles from home. Georgia Candy Girl, also from the Atlanta area, had recorded her visit to the box three months ago.
Still on the bottom fold of the Manitoba map, as we moseyed on westward toward Saskatchewan, we became curious about a crop we could not identify. And with cellular data turned off to avoid heavy international roaming charges, we were unable to ask Siri or Google. A few miles past Neepawa, near the tiny crossroads of Franklin, we turned north on a quiet secondary road to get a closer look.
As we were sitting in the car pondering, an approaching southbound pickup truck slowed and, stopped in response to Ken's arm outside the window flagging. It was Don, a retired grain elevator supervisor from Franklin, and his wife Evelyn. They promptly identified the mystery crop as canola. In an interesting coincidence, canola was originally developed through cross-breeding from rapeseed at the University of Manitoba in the early 1970s. Unlike natural rapeseed, canola is deemed safe for human consumption because it contains much less acid than rapeseed. The name canola reputedly derives from CAN(ada) + O(il) + L(ow) + A(cid).
Traffic began to pick up a bit, so we said our goodbyes and we continued across the prairie, eventually giving up on the so-called scenic route and dropping back south to the four-lane Trans-Canada at Brandon. About twenty miles after we returned to Highway 1, we turned off on a side road looking for a place to picnic. Trees in that part of Manitoba are few and far between—usually seen only where cultivated—so we were delighted when we found a row of cottonwoods along the main street of the little hamlet of Alexander. An Ontario couple pulling a travel trailer had stopped nearby for the same purpose, though we never had an opportunity to compare lunches.
|Friendly cottonwoods offer shade in Alexander|
Along TC-1 in Saskatchewan, every 20 to 30 miles, tiny towns broke up the monotony of massive fields and pastures. We were driving through Canada's breadbasket. Saskatchewan's agricultural soil is said to be among the richest in the world. The province is the main producer of wheat in Canada and one of the largest in the world.
|They're here to pump us up.|
|The day's catch of butterflies|
|Bye, Bye, Butterflies|
FRIDAY, 14 AUGUST 2015
Daily StatsMiles driven: 405
Miles walked: 2.3
Weather: 70° to 95°, sunny to cloudy to dusty
Cabbage butterflies: 31,022 per mile (average)
Yellow jackets: 1,638
Wheat fields: 45,129
Letterboxes found: 3
More Photos from Today
|Saskatchewan wheat field|
|Political incorrectness poster child: Visitor center at the town of Indian Head, Saskatchewan|