Now, where was I? Ah yes, just west of Red Rock, slightly annoyed with Rogers and driving through lots of New.
Well, I didn't think you could get much prettier than what we'd seen east of Red Rock, but I was, apparently, as woefully mistaken as the Rogers coverage map. Yes, as our friend Wendell Ferguson sings, it's a lot of "rocks and trees, trees and rocks", but... they're really pretty rocks and trees and trees and rocks and sparkling lakes.
And a whole lot of construction. Our Ontario tax dollars at work.
So we arrived in Thunder Bay a little later than anticipated, but found our friend John Stadtlander's house just fine, complete with John sitting on the front porch, in case we got lost! We first met John when the Heather Dale Band did a house concert at our place, and he was drumming for them. He also played with them on our November double-bill "Tourette", where we'd had a chance to get to know him a little better -- he's also helped set up one of the house concerts on our tour (Lloydminster, AB, September 24).
This was shaping up to be the tour of the big, golden dog, as John's big retriever bounded out to give us the customary "goose" greeting. Inside, John's wife, Sharon -- who we hadn't met before -- gave us a less PG-13 but equally enthusiastic welcome. They are a super-sweet and generous couple (kinda makes you wonder how they survive Ben -- just kidding!)
After a bit of settling in and chatting away, we sat down on the patio for a feast that makes me wonder how on earth I could ever claim to be a "starving artist" again. Stuffed to the gills, and rather wine-satiated, we were then forced to heat homemade apple crumble and ice cream -- we suffer greatly! The bugs were coming out, so Sharon filled up the citronella torches (and a bit of the lawn -- oops, good thing we had a wine-soaked retired firefighter in the group!) and we chatted away and attempted to digest -- although, geeks that we are, the laptops had to make an appearance while we were in a house with wireless!
Once we discovered that no, the world had not exploded in our day without internet access (oh, the humility!), we settled down in the living room for a bit more chatting and a nightcap to aid with digestion. :-) John and Don decided they would get up at 5:00 the next day and head out for coffee while letting Sharon and I sleep in a bit.
Yeah, I didn't believe them, either.
After a gloriously sound sleep (how is it we sleep better on the road than anywhere else?), there was a mildly concerned tap on the bedroom door, telling us it was already 8:10. Perhaps that nightcap had been a bit over the top, as even John the uber-morning-person had just woken up! We were still in good time, though, so had a bit of breakfast, bid our good-byes, packed up the car and headed out.
First stop was just a block or so away, to buy the all-important deodorant (Don forgot) and day's supply of wine gums (a necessity for driving). Much to Don's delight, the Safeway also had a Starbucks kiosk (last one 'til Dryden), so we also stocked up on Venti bolds (maybe we should have stuck to the grande, but whattheheck).
Much to our delight, we were able to keep CBC reception the whole trip -- apparently they have something to teach our beloved cell phone company. (OK, that's it, I promise.) The northern Ontario feed has some great shows -- always fun to hear a different perspective. Of course, we were also hearing of all the crazy weather back in the southeast -- hope everyone is OK, and the weather has calmed down!
We stopped in Dryden for a late lunch and to send some stuff out at the Post Office. Lots of very friendly people in that town! Then back on the road and towards Manitoba.
I will confess, I had a very mistaken view of Manitoba. I had somehow assumed that the eastern part of the province would be pretty much like Ontario, landscape-wise, and then gradually work its way into the Prairie image one has of Saskatchewan (of course, I may soon be proven wrong about that assumption, too!). But almost as soon as you cross the Ontario-Manitoba border, the landscape becomes very, very flat. Still lots of trees (without the rocks), but not even a little hill, at least along the highway. So yes, I learned something new yesterday. Yay me. Still lots of sparkly lakes, but the land seems... softer, in a way, without all those jagged rocks surrounding the roads. Added bonus, not too many places to hide a speed trap -- er, not that we'd ever drive faster than the posted speed limit, of course.
Construction had slowed us down a bit on this leg of the journey as well -- which was probably a good thing, as we made it into Winnipeg after the worst of the rush hour. Mapquest had given us a rather convoluted route to Sam Baardman & Susan Israel's house, but we would have been OK with it, had Winnipeg drivers been closer to Orillians than Torontonians. At the last zig-zag turn, not a soul would let me in (even with my Torontonian upbringing), so we were forced to continue down that road and find a place to turn. which would have also been alright, but for the construction which prevented us from turning anywhere. However, we got a lovely tour of downtown Winnipeg, including an up-close-and-personal view of the Opera House, whose driveway we used to finally turn ourselves around and get back to Sam and Susan's. We only bickered a bit. Right, sweetie? Pookey?
Sam and Susan have a beautiful house, with a yard that backs onto the river. Paradise! Don announced within the first five minutes that he was moving in. Didn't mention me... could it have been the bickering? :-)
Once again, we were forced to eat an inordinate amount of terrible food, and put some winemakers' kids through college. Barbecued chicken, salmon, grilled veggies, potatoes, salad, fresh, juicy watermelon... we tried to be polite. ;-)
After dinner, we sat back to discuss ideas for today's photo session -- you see, as well as being a musician, Sam is an incredible photographer. Damned over-achiever. And he's going to take some promo photos for us -- we're quite excited, despite hating to get our picture taken.
It's very nice to not be in a car today. Don's out getting his nails done (yes, the boys were talking manicure last night, while Susan, a fiddle player, and I rolled our eyes), I'm typing away, and when he gets back, we'll actually put a rehearsal in, before Sam comes home from work and we have to try and look presentable. Of course, there's always PhotoShop! :-)
Alright, folks, my work is cut out for me now -- better go!