Wednesday, May 21, 2008



SATURDAY, MAY 10, 2008

Manitoba runs on Central Standard Time. It was time once again to change my watch and lose an hour.

As I continued along Highway 13 (now Highway 2 in Manitoba), I couldn’t help but notice more oil rigs in this southwestern region. It makes me wonder why Canadians are paying so much for gas (even more than Americans) when Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba produce a great deal of oil. I know, it is mostly exported, and the provinces impose a gas tax on top of all the other taxes, but I truly feel that we deserve a break. I really don’t understand the commodities system and why the gas at the pump today costs more than the same gas at the station yesterday.

Today the sky is clear of clouds and the weather is mild. Now this is more like it!

There are many more trees here than in Saskatchewan and the fields of grain are much smaller.


There don’t appear to be any rest stops on this highway, but eventually I found a sign leading me to a picturesque picnic area near the town of Deleau. As with most of the places I’ve stopped at, there was no one parked in the mowed field surrounded by trees with a baseball diamond, playground, picnic tables and a cairn commemorating this as the site of an old school. Off to one side was a small cabin with benches and a guest register inside, an interesting document to read who had been there previously and their comments. I noticed addresses from Alaska to Florida.

I indulged in another salmon sandwich, enjoying every mouthful. Ripley and I walked around afterwards and encountered flies – the first I’ve seen this year.

It was tempting to stay here overnight, but it was still quite early and I hadn’t traveled very far today, so in the end I moved on. And besides, the temperature tonight is predicted to be -8 degrees C – a little on the cold side with no electricity to provide heat.


Souris is a medium-sized town that has some tourist attractions, including the longest suspension bridge in Canada. Built in 1904 by Squire Sowden, the bridge measures 582’ across the Souris River. Ripley and I bravely walked across the swaying bridge (I should say that Ripley bravely walked across while I clung to the sides).

I noticed a rock shop on the way in and couldn’t resist having a look. There is an agate pit nearby where for the fee of $10 people can go and collect up to 20 kg. daily. I decided instead to buy some of the polished stones in the shop, all with the idea of turning them into jewelry once I have settled in Ontario again.

As I drove down the main street, I spied a bakery and naturally stopped to buy a yummy homemade cinnamon bun and some butterscotch chip cookies, as well as a loaf of all-grain bread – perfect for sandwiches and toast.

Like many of these smaller municipalities, there is a campground here and I was pleased to see that the water was operational, although the pipeline to the washroom and showers was still frozen. The campground is located on the banks of the Souris River in Victoria Park and is a haven for Canada geese. Ripley kept them at bay around our site.

The bases of all the trees had wire around them, presumably to prevent beavers from cutting them down, although personally I did not see any of these interesting mammals.

After checking out the campground, I returned to the main street to fill up with gas and to use the laundromat located behind the gas station. The gas price here was $1.29.9/litre. Ripley and I whiled away the time waiting for the laundry to be done, before returning to the campground and setting up.

There are trails around the park, one leading to a fenced-in bird sanctuary which seemed to house mostly Canada geese, but also a pair of mute swans who gracefully swam over to where Ripley and I were standing on the bridge. She was quite fascinated to see these two very large white birds, and I suppose the swans were hoping for a hand-out as they stretched their necks towards us. Peacocks wandered around here as well, and apparently are a great tourist attraction, freely making their way along the town’s streets.

We continued on the 2 km. long trail, leading us up the other bank of the Souris River to a 500-year old elm tree, and a lookout point. After being on the open prairie for several days, it was pleasant to wander around through tall trees once again.

By this time I was pooped, as well as Ripley (who slept for several hours afterwards), but I had enough energy to prepare a slow cooker casserole, my dinner for tomorrow. This little appliance is a great way to make a meal that cooks itself. This time I used pork, potatoes, green beans, onions, carrots, stewed tomatoes, adding a dash of barbecue sauce for flavour.


Since I’m not a mother (other than to animals and they can’t send me flowers) and my own mother is deceased, today is just like any other day for me. But I think it is a nice gesture to acknowledge the contribution and sacrifice that mothers make.

Yesterday afternoon I ran into an elderly woman who brings her fifth wheel to the campground, but lives in town the rest of the year. She said that she enjoyed the change and that she was off to watch her grandson play baseball. There are a few rigs parked in the campground but no people around, and I assume that these two are people who are preparing for the nicer weather. Next weekend is the big long weekend which is traditionally the start of the camping season for most people.

But for the time being there are just this elderly woman, another family and myself sharing the campground.

I have decided that today will be a rest day. The constant driving is very exhausting for me, and I despair that I no longer have the energy I once had. It is something that I have had to come to terms with on this trip and try not to expect too much from myself.

Later, Ripley and I took a walk up to the main street. Since it is Sunday, most of the stores were closed, but the restaurants were open, featuring a Mother’s Day special.

Souris boasts its own newspaper called the Souris Plaindealer, and here are some excerpts:

Kirkup Agencies are celebrating fifty years of being in business
High school students get back in saddle and compete at the Triple H Rodeo weekend
A Hunter Safety participant is watched by Jack Barrows during target practice at the Hartney Hunting Range
A conservation agreement with The Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation will protect the many sloughs and potholes on the 340 acre farm of Greg and Judy Esplin
Sabres’ rugby season begins

And just with my rabbit ears I was able to pick up two TV stations and caught Game 2 of the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia game. Pittsburgh won. Sidney Crosby truly is wonderful to watch.

MONDAY, MAY 12, 2008

I had been told that someone would show up to collect the camping fees, but I never did see anyone, so I have had two free nights!

Today it is grey, raining and cold, with a high of 6 degrees C, as I headed up Highway 250 north towards Brandon listening to new cassette Operetta Highlights, Part Two. I passed two dead deer on the side of the road, casualties of collisions with automobiles, I assume.

At Portage la Prairie I detoured into the two to find a CIBC bank branch to get cash, and weakened to buy a three-piece combo at the KFC. Of course I shared it with Ripley! Taking her out in the pouring rain for a pit stop afterwards, however, was not very pleasant.

As we passed through Carman, I was reminded that goalie Ed Belfour was born there, and I believe still runs a custom car operation there.

The Trans Canada Highway is a major road that spans the entire country of Canada from west to east, and yet there are still stop lights on it! The wind has picked up considerably in this area where I found the only Flying J Truck Stop in Manitoba, in Headingly, just west of Winnipeg. Instead of heading into the city, I turned north to Warren, to the Rubber Ducky Resort and Campground. It is fairly new and is situated on what was the farm of owner’s parents. He and his wife have done a nice job of turning it into an attractive destination, including a duck pond (hence, the name), mini-golf, outdoor pool, hot tub, rain shelter, indoor children’s play area, wi fi, satellite TV, walking trails and beach volleyball court. The rec hall/office/shower area used to be a barn, as was the owner’s house and they have done a nice job of converting them. One feature that I have not seen anywhere else is that you can rent a hot tub to be installed at your site. Some rigs were parked, but I believe that I was the only camper there at that time.

I watched Dancing With the Stars on the rec room’s TV.

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2008

Since Rubber Ducky offers a breakfast, I decided to take advantage of this perk and ordered bacon and egger sandwich with coffee. It has stopped raining, but is still overcast, cold and windy.


The reason that I came to this area was to visit Oak Hammock Marsh, an award-winning interpretive centre that boasts 30 kilometers of walking trails in and around several wetlands where as many as 299 bird species, hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects can be found, depending on the time of year. Originally a much larger bog that had been dredged over, Ducks Unlimited and the Province of Manitoba set out to create a 3600 hectare restored wetland comprising man-made lakes, dikes and lure crop areas.

I started out by visiting the Interpretive Centre gift shop where I bought a very lightweight pair of binoculars with a stronger field of vision than my old ones, which had been giving me some trouble. I think that the lenses are a big fogged, after all the abuse I’ve given them, and it certainly is a lot easier to focus in on birds with my new pair, which only cost $20!).

I wandered around the building which has exhibits on various aspects of wetlands and the animals found there, with nice views over the marshlands, and made my way upstairs to the outdoor viewing area where crocuses were blooming – a welcome sight. Then I headed down one flight to the cafeteria to have soup and a huge salad at a table overlooking the marsh. Binoculars are thoughtfully provided for each table, but I used my own new ones.

Before heading outside, I decided to take in the slide show which features the various birds to be seen in the marsh. As it happened, I was an audience of one; the presenter was a young man named Tagger. He was working at Oak Hammock as part of the Katimavik program for young people, which provides employment for short terms in various provinces. He had already worked in Quebec and Ontario under this program, and was finishing up his assignment in Manitoba before heading home to a small town two hours north of Edmonton. When I explained my trip, he was fascinated to hear more, so instead of seeing the slide show (which was full of identification errors anyway), we chatted about his future plans. The half hour was quickly up, and he had to move on to another presentation. From what he said, I think that he would do well aiming towards a career with Parks Canada, and I wish him well.

Ripley was allowed to accompany me as we set off on one of the shorter trails around the marsh (if I read the map correctly, it actually was a total of 9 km). We came across lots of Canada geese, of course, but in addition I was able to identify Mallards, Blue-Winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Surf Scoter, Ruddy Duck, American White Pelican, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Tree Swallow and Red-winged Blackbird. Not bad for one day! Of course, there were other birds that I wasn’t able to identify too.


My legs were a bit rubbery after the walk and I expect that Ripley might have been feeling the effort as well. We both had a brief rest, but by then it was closing time. Rather than trying to find a new campground to travel to, I simply headed back to the Rubber Ducky, about 20 km. away.

I have begun sneezing and my eyes are itchy. I wonder if there is a tree pollen to which I’m allergic.

I enjoyed a relaxing evening in front of the large TV in the rec hall and caught Dancing With the Stars and American Idol. I think it’s Syesha’s turn to go, although she’s very talented.


I have many relatives in the Winnipeg area, something that I discovered only a few short years ago. I knew that my father was one of twelve and that many of his nephews lived in Manitoba where he was born, but I had not actually met any of them until contacted my cousin Tom a few years ago. He had arranged for me to meet many of my cousins, their children and even some grandchildren, and we have kept in touch since then.

I had mentioned meeting my cousin Jerry and his wife Diane in Arizona, and I was happy to once again make contact with Tom and his wife Pat. Jerry is the oldest of the twelve children born to my father’s brother Pete (now deceased), and Tom is somewhere in the middle. Tom and Pat live on a farm east of Winnipeg and had invited me to visit.

The weather is much more promising today and the ground is drying up nicely, as I drove towards the town of Stonewall. I stopped there to get groceries, use the internet at the library and mail some postcards. But I’m still sneezing.

In order to skirt around Winnipeg itself, I caught the bypass Highway 101 but was surprised at how poor the road condition was. It certainly needs work and my rig took a beating on the bumpy surface.

Dugald was further out than I had anticipated, but eventually I arrived at the farm where Tom, who is retired, greeted me. He has 37 acres on which there are two geese (known as the Terrorists), chickens, a pony, two calves and two dogs. Sky, the female, is very aggressive towards other dogs, so it was necessary to keep Ripley separated either in the RV or carried into the house.


While we waited for Pat to come home from work, we caught up on our lives. Tom retired early because of a on the job injury and now passes time by making furniture (he showed me a beautifully crafted cradle for his newest grandson), and tends the farm. Tom showed me his greenhouse where he has lots of seeds started, and then the new addition to their house. It has been in the works for a few years now and unfortunately, the roof gave way last winter. It has taken all this time to sort out the insurance and get contractors out to re-build, so it is still very much a work in progress. Meanwhile, Tom and Pat have started to accumulated things to go into the new addition (which includes a huge two-storey Great Room and a master bedroom suite upstairs, and there are boxes stored everywhere.

Pat soon arrived home from her job at Revenue Canada along with her friend Nadine, and we sat down for supper. Tom had prepared a pork roast with potatoes and carrots, in my honour.

THURSDAY, MAY 15, 2008

After Tom returned from driving Pat to work, I asked him if he would help fix a few minor things on my RV. He kindly replaced the latch handle on the screen door, as well as the latch on one of the side compartments. He had a look at my generator but wasn’t really able to figure out the problem.

Tom left for a dental appointment, and then to pick up his grandson Blair from school and take him to karate. So I had the house to myself.

The problem was luring Sky away so that I could take Ripley outside, and finally I noticed that she was sleeping in her straw-filled den. So I sneaked Ripley out and we went into the back field for a walk. It is mostly tall grass and bush and when we returned, I discovered that we had brought back some ticks with us. I hate these loathsome creatures and was disturbed to find three crawling on my neck, as well as some on Ripley. Fortunately she has been getting treatment for fleas and ticks through Sergeant’s monthly treatment, but I quickly ran into the shower in order to get over the feeling that they were still on me.

I had some leftover roast pork with vegetables for supper and settled down to watch some TV.

Eventually Tom and Pat returned with Blair, who is leaving with them tomorrow to visit Pat’s mother for the Long Weekend.

Ripley, Blair, Tom, Pat

FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2008

This being the first long weekend of the spring, it is traditional for most people to travel, either to relatives or to go camping, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. As it happens, Tom and Pat have plans, so I will be on my way this morning. Nadine and Wayne had a large trailer parked on the farm, and they are traveling together to Pat’s mother. Once they had packed up, we said our farewells and went our separate ways.

It was great to spend some time once again with my Winnipeg relatives, and I am now heading towards the cottage of Jerry and Diane, in Kenora, Ontario, to spend the long weekend with them.


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