Sunday, August 28, 2011

Driving Through the Prairies

After the obligatory Starbucks visit, we left the city of Winnipeg and headed out on the longest drive of this tour -- aiming for Medicine Hat, Alberta.  After taking three days just to get the heck out of Ontario, driving in three provinces on the same day seemed a little bizarre -- yes, we're used to it in the Maritimes, of course, but still...

I have to say that anyone who has ever described driving through the Prairies as being an endless stretch of boredom SERIOUSLY NEEDS TO GET THEIR EYES CHECKED!  Yes, the road is straight and level (which makes for a much more relaxed drive, when you aren't worried about moose bolting out from nowhere), but the landscape is freaking spectacular!!!  Such a collage of colours and textures, with rugged beauty undulating as far as the eye can see.

The sides of the highway are littered with ponds where happy ducks shake their tailfeathers -- a gaggle of geese seemed to be working out the choreography to West Side Story in one of them.  A herd of horsed frolicking in the field, then racing each other to the other side -- which was, indeed, a long way away, so they were able to get full steam going.  Butterflies were everywhere -- including, sadly, directly in the path of the car.  Yes, we swerved for butterflies, but weren't always successful.

And I don't understand how anyone in Saskatchewan could ever be even slightly grumpy, when the sides of the highway are inundated with such cheery flowers -- they looked just like miniature sunflowers, not the right shape for black-eyed susans, just "honey, I shrunk the sunflowers". I was grinning ear-to-ear the whole time.

All this beauty was soon contrasted with the soundtrack of Jack Layton's funeral on CBC One.  Thank you, CBC, for broadcasting that -- although boo to your hosts who talked all the way through the final song with Julie Michaels.  We were both sobbing and sniffling as we travelled the TransCanada -- passing and being passed by cars with equally teary passengers.

After the three-hour broadcast, and some time to dry our faces, we stopped for lunch in Regina at a family-style restaurant, where I discovered the perils of being a vegetarian in cattle country.  Fortunately, one of their appetizers was a cheese quesadilla, which I was able to have with a salad, as soon as I was able to explain to the befuddled waiter that I didn't want the bacon bits. k.d., I feel your pain. :-)

Don was ready for a reprieve, so I took over as the landscape got even more craggy and wondrous.  And the sky -- oh my, the sky!  We were driving through sunny patches, but there was a rainstorm off to the south, and to the north -- oh my, the sky!!!  Black and nasty thunderstorm happening over there (yes, I had the radio on, to make sure there weren't any tornado warnings!).  Lightning zapped all over the plains, and the cloud formations looked like something out of the DreamWorks studio.  For much of it, there was a swirl of clouds that looked like a spiral galaxy, and then right in the middle, a big bulbous gray patch that looked like a spaceship was coming down to land.  And meanwhile the lightning and strange peeks of sunlight.  Remarkable -- I've never seen anything like it (Don was asleep the whole darned time, or I'd have gotten him to take a hundred pictures).  Kind of like the Northern Lights, but on a really bad day. :-)

As the sun started working its way earthward, we came face to face with the insect carnage of the day.  We are Bad Buddhists.  Had to stop for gas and a windshield scrub / scrape.  There are still remnants of one butterfly clinging as a reminder...  :-(

The sun was still up as we pulled in to Medicine Hat -- "The Gas City".   How could we make this up?  Sadly, we weren't quick enough with the camera to catch the welcome sign, so you'll just have to take us at our word.

We checked into one of the hotels on the strip -- and quite a nice room it was.   It looked, of course, like the hotel strip in any major city, with all the same restaurants.  So after settling in, we walked across the road for dinner at Montana's, which was not quite the same without Tammy as our waiter -- in fact, as Don noted, all the waiters here were blond and ten years old.   (Tammy is our favourite waiter at the Montana's in Orillia, and is neither blonde nor ten years old -- and she wouldn't mind us telling you so, either -- but a dark-haired and ebullient Newfie who always makes us laugh, and is a Temple Dog like myself, as we share a birth year, as well as many personality traits.)  Not only did this Montana's not have Tammy, they didn't have our usual wine in stock, so we truly had to slum it. :-)

Back at the hotel, we switched on Don's laptop (mine is behaving badly -- will try to rectify that tonight) and watched the online feed of the funeral.  I think we bawled even harder watching it than listening to it.  Don't think it was just because we missed Tammy...

We'd promised ourselves an early night, but... it was 1:30 am, so we crawled into bed and slept hard in anticipation of crazy travel day #2.

Road Warrior-ly,

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