Epic trip ~ memories flood in upon the return to Manitoba

I had taken all this for granted when I lived there but clearly I had absorbed this landscape into my psyche

This week we are staying with family in Port Hardy, North Vancouver Island. The guys were accompanied by over sixty Orcas on their return into Hardy Bay after a moderately successful fishing day Tuesday. I have been relaxing and remembering…

Last week I ended my tale with leaving Saskatchewan and entering Manitoba, the province where I spent my formative years and then some. We had pulled off the main highway the night before and cozied up to several large grain elevators and the usual railway tracks in the border town of Reston, Manitoba. The next morning, as we walked to a little cafe for morning coffee, the smell of caragana nearly bowled me over with its associated childhood memories. I didn’t have to look far to find those ubiquitous hedges surrounding the nineteen-fifties style prairie ranch houses. The sky was streaked with those high thin clouds that spoke of scorching days, kids running through backyard hoses, popsicles and Koolaid. Later, there might be a spectacular thunder and lightening storm that would clear as quickly as it came, leaving cleansed air and great puddles to play in.

The restaurant was full and the breakfast was enormous. We had learned to share a meal when on the prairies. Farmers and ranchers eat considerably more than senior travelers! I began listening for the subtle changes in pronunciation, the different expressions. Later, as we continued east on the Trans Canada Highway, I found myself marveling at the enormous fields of sunflowers, canola, wheat and other cereal crops.

And the sky! The violet-blue of that enormous dome just knocked me out! I had taken all this for granted when I lived there but clearly I had absorbed this landscape into my psyche. Why else would I have done so many horizontal paintings in those days? How come I needed so much elbow room and an inordinate amount of time to myself? Are prairie folks really that different?

Because we especially wanted to spend time in Quebec and Newfoundland, we drove that entire day to the Ontario border and on through to Dryden. The weather was great, the dear old van was very comfortable, and a good thing too, because northwestern Ontario is not noted for the quality of this section of the Number 1 Highway. After an uneventful night in the Dryden Walmart, we continued through the land of the Group of Seven for three of four more days with short stops in Sault St. Marie, North Bay and Mattawa. We meant no disrespect but time was being gobbled up by the miles. Getting to the North Sydney, Nova Scotia ferry before hurricane season was a goal of mine. I’m a decent sailor but the Atlantic is not to be trifled with and I may be impulsive but I’m not usually an idiot. Besides, we were planning on a lengthier stay in Ontario on the return portion of our journey.

As we drew closer to the Ontario/Quebec border, I began cramming for the big test. Rats! Why hadn’t I worked harder on my feeble French before this? What was I thinking? I tried to run over a few phrases but when I began to recite my grade nine Parisian French, I noticed Paul looking puzzled, It seemed my ability to communicate in our second official language was seriously flawed. I panicked. Then I remembered Paul had grown up in Northern Quebec and began to pray fervently for his complete recall. We had heard the horror stories of people in Quebec refusing to speak English and there are just some things one can’t do without, especially for seniors, if you get my drift. I decided my line of defense was to carry a French/English dictionary tucked under my arm. A good decision as I will explain next week when I tell you about the truly beautiful province. Au revoir and till then…