Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Day of the Long Drive

Today is the big day. We drive from Brandon, Manitoba all the way to Millet, Alberta. You can see our arduous journey here. First of all, let me reiterate that I think Brandon, Manitoba is a great little place. For a town of 41 000, I must say it has a leg up on another town of roughly that population with which I am now quite familiar. I mean any city laid bare on the bald-ass prairie with an Indian restaurant must have something figured out. Oh, and I also learned that the McKenzie Seeds Company, you know those guys that you buy the little packets of seeds from in the stores, is headquartered in Brandon.

Anywho, we took off from Brandon at 6:30 Alberta time after having a nice free continental breakfast at our hotel. There wasn't much but rolling prairies until we hit Regina, Saskatchewan. Oh, and even though Saskatchewan is in the same time zone as Manitoba, they are the only province in Canada that does not observe daylight savings time, so this time of year, they are on Alberta time. That was great because we gained another hour quite early in the morning.

We pretty much drove around Regina because we both have seen it before. It is quite a nice city, although I don't like it as much as the Paris of the Prairies, our next stop.

Saskatoon is a beautiful city of 200 000 sitting in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful topographic layouts in all the world: the prairie. (When I first arrived in Ontario two years ago, I thought the Canadian Shield to be new and exciting, and it is undoubtedly beautiful, but the prairie is where I feel most at home.) Saskatoon is home to the remarkable University of Saskatchewan with a truly breathtaking campus, and a string of bridges that cross the mighty South Saskatchewan River. I really wanted to stop at the Berry Barn for lunch, which is a long-time favorite of mine, but we had a long ways to go yet, so I settled on Dairy Queen!

While in Saskatoon, we rethought our previously planned route. The route would take us up to the Battlefords, then Lloydminster, and then close to Edmonton. We could bypass the city, but given that my parents' farm is a good bit south of Edmonton, I thought there must be a better way. Turns out there is. You can take highway 14 out of Saskatoon, which turns into highway 13 in Alberta, which comes upon Camrose, and then Millet, close to my folks' farm. I think this stroke of navigational genius shaved a good hour off our time.

Highway 14 is possibly the most beautiful highway I've driven on in Canada. If you don't like prairie, don't bother, but it was a feast for my prairie-loving eyes. Besides, we got to pass through a lot of cool little towns. Like Biggar, Saskatchewan, where the welcome sign says: "New York is big, but this is Biggar!" How wonderfully cheesy. It is also the home of Olympic champion curler Sandra Schmirler.

We also came across Unity, Saskatchewan, a booming little outpost that has won the Communities in Bloom competition in its category more than once. It houses the Sifto Salt Plant as beneath Unity lies loads of sodium chloride laid down when Saskatchewan was covered by seas. You can actually see the salt on the banks of sloughs throughout this area of Saskatchewan. As the sloughs dry up in summer during dry periods, white salt is left behind on their banks. Pretty cool.

When we entered Alberta, I could have cried. I now knew what it felt like to feel called back to your homeland. I don't know how people can leave their countries of birth. It must be so difficult. As far as the eye could see were rolling fields of purple flax, yellow canola, and green wheat and barley. I could almost hear the bison stampeding through the fields. It is such a magical view to behold, and I couldn't have been happier to be back. Plus, unlike my point of origin, it was sunny with not a cloud in the sky and NO RAIN!!!! Beautiful.

We went through Provost, a little town that seemed to have endless oil or natural gas tankers popping up in every field around. Shortly after that was Camrose, another city I consider to be very beautiful and worthy of living in! It has also won Communities in Bloom a few times. We looked at moving there a while back, but the offer I got in Peace River was just too much better to warrant taking the job in Camrose.

Not long after Camrose, I finally set eyes on my original home: the farm. It always warms my heart to see it. Memories flood me as I pull into the driveway.

After a great supper of barbecued steak and hamburgers and a wonderful visit with mom, dad, and my father-in-law, we settled in for a long, well-deserved rest.

By the numbers:

Total distance driven: 2900 km (today alone=1200km)
Travel time: 12 hours
Total coffees: I lost count
Average fuel consumption=53mpg

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