Uh, remember that epic road trip I said the Tailor and I were taking—last summer? Yeah. I owe you some posts, don’t I?
With over 7,000 photos to sift through, not to mention a bunch of unfinished sketches, putting together some sort of cohesive narrative was a little daunting. So I’ve decided to organize this exactly the way my daily sketchbook goes: in order, one day at a time. A few posts will cover more than one day, but I’m going to do my bestest to post something every day until we get to the end of the trip. Our trip was something of a whirlwind, and I want to try to reflect that feeling here. (Get ready for a little visual whiplash.)
So: thirty-six days across Canada and the U.S. Starting … now.
Day One: Tacoma to Cranbrook
The first three days of the trip are a blur in my mind.
We had such grand plans. We were going to take back roads through the Cascades, then wind our way through the Okanagan and the mountains of British Columbia. But we had so many last-minute phone calls to make and things to pack and fires to put out that we didn’t get out of the house until 3 pm. The fifteen hours we’d allotted for squiggly two-lane travel evaporated to nothing. So the Interstate it had to be, all the way to the Idaho border, and then up through the panhandle by U.S. highway. It was still midnight by the time we reached the Canadian border.
As a matter of chance, this was the evening of the Stanley Cup Final (which was why we had planned to enter Canada east of the Cascades, rather than deal with post-game traffic in Vancouver). Despite being a genetic Bruins fan, I was actually hoping Vancouver would win—being the underdogs and all. We couldn’t get anything on the radio at midnight in northern Idaho, let alone hockey in a decidedly un-hockey part of the U.S. By the time we reached the checkpoint, I was dying to ask the friendly border guard what the final score was.
Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t, because this is what was on the CBC when we pulled into our motel room in Cranbrook:
Yeah — “So! Who won the Stanley Cup?” wouldn’t have been a great question to ask a border patrol officer in the middle of the night.
But suddenly, this was my local news, even if only for the duration of my stay in Canada. When I used to go on road trips as a kid, my dad used watch the Weather Channel in every motel room. It made us feel just a little less like tourists to know what was going on locally. So on this trip, instead of the weather, the CBC was our evening companion.
Day Two: Cranbrook to Regina
We picked up the Trans-Canada Highway the next morning. I have zero photographs of British Columbia or Alberta. None. Good planning, I know.
It’s too bad, too, because we traveled through some gorgeous country. I wish I had more to show you of this leg of the trip—especially of the Frank Slide, which was one of the most astounding things we glimpsed on the whole trip (they really should teach Canadian history in American schools). But we had a staggering number of miles kilometers (this is Canada!) to cover, and for whatever reason I ended up doing most of the driving those first few days. Note to self: road trip back to Alberta, and soon!
I did manage a couple of photos of Saskatchewan, which was beautiful, and almost entirely empty until we reached the capital.
Which is a long, long, long, long way from Cranbrook. Especially when you only stop when you absolutely have to.
Luckily for me, the ten-meter moose in Moose Jaw counted as a necessary stop.
Day Three: Regina to Winnipeg
I’m sorry to tell you that I also have zero photos of Regina (my excuse this time is a torrential rainstorm), but I did manage to sketch our hostess. We spent our stay in Regina at the home of the lovely Mrs. Wakeling, our friend Chrissy’s grandmother. She has a wing named after her in the (excellent) MacKenzie Art Gallery, and proudly showed it off to us—along with the rest of her home city.
Regina is charming (and curiously, entirely lacking in suburban sprawl)—my only complaint is that it isn’t still named Pile-O-Bones. The city is a shining example of what urban planning can do. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to take my word for it, as I have no visual proof. Last summer, Regina (along with most of the Canadian Midwest and the Dakotas) was battered by storms and devastated by flooding. The day we were there, it was raining so hard you could barely see across the street. By the time we bid a nervous farewell to Mrs. Wakeling at noon, most of the underpasses were flooded (a major problem in perfectly flat towns), effectively cutting off the city from the outlying areas. We got lucky and rejoined Highway 1 via slightly higher ground, but we didn’t dare stop for lunch until the rain tapered off.
By the time that happened, we were starving, and nowhere near a bevy of restaurant choices.
We crossed our fingers and pulled into historically-up-and-coming but now-tiny village of Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, and quickly found the only restaurant in town. Used to being a form of entertainment as an out-of-towner, I expected to receive what my mother calls the “Turn-Around Alice” when we walked in.
Oh, some people turned around and stared. But when the folks in the back of the room stand up to get a better look at you, you know you’re really in for a treat.
The big lesson of the day was that in Canada, a buffet is called a “smorg.” (Short for smörgåsbord.) If you are American, and you’ve never heard that term abbreviated as such, despite having a Canadian mother and sibling, smorg suddenly rates high on the list of Funniest Words You’ve Ever Heard. So I guess they kind of got a Turn-Around Alice from us, too.
After Qu’Appelle, it was a long, rainy slog to Winnipeg, Manitoba. By the time we reached Winnipeg, we’d be back on my mental map (briefly; I’d been there once before, when I lived in North Dakota). I was looking forward to exploring the heart of what I remembered as a lovely city, and taking pictures all evening. But the luck that held while evading the flood ran out on us when we got to the Peg: it turned out to be the night before the annual, super-big-deal, Manitoba Marathon. It was 10:30 by the time we found a hotel room.
So instead, all I have to show you of Manitoba is a photo of a giant Coke can.
The best laid plans of mice and men… sigh. Until tomorrow, when the visual aides will increase. I promise.
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