Coalhurst to Moose Jaw Saskatchewan Aug 6, 2014

Bob & Molly

Bob & Molly

Despite weeks of planning and organizing I didn’t get to bed until after midnight and asked for a 6 a.m. wake up call. Most of the packing was done and in the car.  I had room in my suitcase and we even had a little bit of room in the trunk of the car. I hope I remembered everything!  Just as we were set to leave I checked my email only to find the deposit we paid for our January Panama rental is in question.  The owner said he did not receive the money from PayPal but my account shows it was paid.  I spent a few minutes trying to sort this out before we left, and as of tonight…still no word from him.  We have paid for our flights so I hope we aren’t now going to have issues with our Panama rental. So much for good planning!

Our sweet little dog Molly is not in good health and is responding only so so to treatment, and as a result I found it very hard to say farewell ( for now) to her this morning. She is a bright little thing and knew something was up. I hope she will forgive us for leaving for two months.  It was also hard to say good bye to our friend Bob as he takes over running the house and caring for Molly.  These trips would not be possible without his assistance.

I had hoped to leave home no later than 0900 this morning but we left in good time…just before 8 a.m. Anyone will tell you this is a rare occurrence for me.  I always have last minute things to attend to.  As the trunk still had room, I did toss in our portable printer. The morning was warm and the skies sunny. I’m a prairie girl at heart and I enjoy looking at the fields of corn, potatoes and grain. We even saw a field of sunflowers in bloom.

Cypress Hills in the distance

Cypress Hills in the distance

As we approached Medicine Hat the scenery gave way to barren hills and ranch land. From the Highway we could see the Cypress Hills off in a distance. On the Saskatchewan side of the hills is a high hill called Bald Butte. When you are standing on it, you are at the same elevation as the town site of Banff Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies. This outcropping was left behind during the last ice age and is a sight to behold….a forest in the middle of the prairies where you can find elk, bear and streams of trout. 

We arrived in Swift Current ( my birth place) at noon hour.  My husband suggested Wong’s Kitchen which is located on the highway.  This used to be a great place to eat when I lived here so we opted to give it a go. What is the saying “You can’t go back” well that surely applies to my home town.  The restaurant looks like it hasn’t had an update since it was built and while outside you could smell food, on the inside, you got the overwhelming smell of mold. I’m afraid my Trip Advisor review is not flattering, yet it was filled with locals.

As we were driving along I tried to remember all the surrounding towns and my have things changed.  I really miss the old grain elevators,

Prairie Icon crumbling - near Gull Lake Saskatchewan

Prairie Icon crumbling – near Gull Lake Saskatchewan

for one thing you could see them miles away and they broke up the landscape.  We saw remnants old these prairie fortresses and the new replacements simply do not have the charm and appeal of the old grain elevators.

We arrived at our evening destination of Moose Jaw a couple of hours early and checked into our hotel ( which will not get a good review). We had booked to tour the “Tunnels of Moose Jaw” at 5 pm but they were able to move up our tour time. Between the mineral springs and the tunnels, Moose Jaw has become a bit of a tourist destination although the city isn’t trying hard to put on a pretty face.  The Tunnel Tours

Al "Scarface" Capone wasn't here

Al “Scarface” Capone wasn’t here

offer two tours, one telling of the Chinese immigration to the area and the other is the “Al Capone” connection.  We opted for the Al Capone tour and while entertaining, it didn’t tell you anything about the tunnels.  They want you to think Al Capone stayed in Moose Jaw while doing some rum running business, but in reality, he never stepped foot in the place.  It was obvious the tunnels were rebuilt in places and after doing some digging I found out the truth about the tunnels.  They were not for Al to hide his cache and hide from the law, instead the neighbouring building steam engineers, developed the tunnels so they could move goods around in the winter without having to endure the bitter prairie cold.  They were used during prohibition era, as booze was moved through Moose Jaw to Chicago on the Soo rain line.  They fell into disrepair after and have been redone and restored and turned into a tourist attraction.

After a disappointing meal at the local Bonanza, we took a ride around the city. Tomorrow we have a journey of 553 km ( ten less than today) as we travel to Portage La Prairie. We expect to continue to enjoy the prairie scenery for one more day.

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Portage La Prairie Manitoba August 7 2014

Crescent Lake, Portage la Prairie, manitoba

Crescent Lake, Portage la Prairie, manitoba

After a good night sleep, we were up and ready for another day. We have learned a few tricks from our last long road trip and know to bring into the hotel, only those things we need.  We bring in a change of clothes instead of a full suitcase and share a small bag with toiletries, medications etc. So one suitcase and the computer bag come in each night. Periodically we bring in the big suitcases to re-arrange stuff or when we do laundry.  Prior to this trip I checked the internet for packing tips for road trips and they suggested a roll of paper towel, so I tossed one in.  This morning our back window was filthy with dust and overnight dew, so was in need of cleaning and that roll of paper towel came in very handy.

I did all the driving today while Brian played tourist/passenger. The roads in Saskatchewan ( #1 Highway) were not in great condition as opposed to Alberta, but Manitoba was even worse. Maybe that is why Manitoba has a speed limit of 100 on the four lane Highway 1. East of Brandon we crossed over the Assiniboine River and the river is still high and you could see the surrounding areas filled with debris and fields remain under water. When we left Alberta we noticed the crops were maturing fast and the canola is finished blooming and in one case has been swathed.  The further east we drive, the crops are further behind with places in Manitoba – the canola is just starting to bloom. The prairies are unusually green for this time of the year.

We stopped in Moosomin for lunch at the Red Barn. The place is new, spotless and while busy the service and food were good. When we left Moose Jaw this morning

Thunder storm over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Thunder storm over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

they were starting to get hit by a severe thunderstorm but we were able to run out of it, but it looked pretty ominous in the rear view mirror. We no sooner left the storm when we hit fog at Regina.  We had cloud cover until after lunch today which actually made the driving quite pleasant.  I am surprised at how light the traffic is. The other thing we have noticed is the lack of gophers( Richardson ground squirrels).  Since we left home we have seen 1 road kill but nary any others. I thought they had over run the prairies, so not sure why they seem to have disappeared.

We arrived in Portage La Prairie early but then found out we lost an hour…so not as early as we thought.  It’s a windy but sunny day so we opted to check out the little town. It has a population of around 13,000 folks but serves a business area of 50,000.  It is a main hub for trains as 72 trains pass through daily. The land around the town is very fertile ( likely from repeated flooding) and grows potatoes, beans, strawberries and grain crops.  The potato plants grown here supply McDonald’s and Wendy’s food chains.  Too bad we weren’t here this weekend.  The are having the potato fest this weekend.

Portage has a lovely large park called Crescent Park which we opted to check out. I loved to see the

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

floating water lilies – in bloom and they have a Dutch style windmill, but can find no reason for it. The lake reminds me of Wascana lake in Regina, especially with the number of geese.  You have to watch your step in the grass!

Tomorrow we are off for Winnipeg to visit a good friend then carry on to Kenora.  Not sure what is going in Kenora, but it was a challenge to book a room, and that was over a month ago! 

Windmill - Crescent Lake Portage la Prairie Manitoba

Windmill – Crescent Lake Portage la Prairie Manitoba