Warren, Manitoba, Canada

This will have to be another quick post because, for now, I'm on battery power only. We'll be able to fire up the generator in a little while if I'm unable to finish, but let's just see how fast I can type, shall we?

We left Wasagaming yesterday morning and drove east across Manitoba toward Winnepeg. It was raining hard for the first couple of hours, but then the weather cleared and the day ended in beautiful afternoon sunshine. Because of our drippy windows I didn't take many pictures. In truth, there really wasn't much to see. The image below pretty much epitomizes our day's drive.

The occasional lonely tree on an otherwise flat landscape. Every so often, there were a few ripples, as below.

And it was a rather short drive to our hosts for the night, Watersong Farms, a land-based trout and chicken farm.

As we turned into their driveway and approached our space for the night, this is what we saw. It is lovely here.

As Mike was backing up and getting level, I noticed we'd picked up a passenger.

As it turns out, the sky is filled with ladybugs right now, and they were attracted to the bright white of the fifth wheel. Soon, there were thousands of them. We were careful, but still managed to let a few inside.

The owners are the most delightful people. We'll forgive them for their dog.

Smitty, on the other hand, did his best impression of Yoda.

Oh...a stupid woofie you are. Mess with me, and sorry you'll be. Claws I have. Afraid to use them, I am not.

I stood back and took this picture. We're on a lovely grassy pad with lots of tall trees.

Shortly after arriving, Mrs. Farm (I'll avoid using her name) took us on a tour of their place. They first showed us their land-based trout farm. Inside this large barn live approximately 40,000 steelhead trout and a few Arctic char.

Peer into the water, and you can see them swimming.

There is also another very large barn housing approximately 6,500 chickens. As we walked toward their farm store, I turned around and took another shot of the RV so you can see where we're parked for the night.

This is their farm store, closed today, but that is part of our obligation for staying here. This is our second host, and we have been very pleased with the terms of this deal. We can pay for a night of camping at a traditional RV park and then drive away with nothing. Or...we can camp for free and partake of whatever product is involved and drive away with some great stuff...great stuff to follow.

Okay...running low on battery. I'll finish in a bit.

Okay...I'm back. Did you miss me? Anyway...inside the farm store there were lots of funny signs. And remembering that this is a trout AND chicken farm, this one gave me a chuckle.

Recall that our obligation to our hosts is to purchase something from them, we found all of these items in the store delightful. Here, you see some chicken sausage, trout burgers, trout jerky, trout fillet, and smoked trout. All delicious.

So, we're breaking the rules a little bit by staying here two nights with our hosts' permission. They are the nicest people, and invited us to spend the evening in their gazebo with them. We took one of the bottles of wine we purchased in Montana and had a very nice evening chatting about so many things. We were particularly interested in their trout farming operation. They explained to us that a land-based fish farming operation will always receive the highest ratings for sustainable farming because the fish are never exposed to wild populations and so those risks are avoided. It's a lot to go into, and so I won't do it here, but the take away from this paragraph is that these are lovely people, and we've really enjoyed our time here so far.

Today we're driving into Winnepeg just a few miles down the road. We'd like to see a little of the city. Also, there are lots of breweries there, and we always try to pick up a t-shirt for our son. He has a birthday coming up. Also, there are four quilt shop listings in town. We won't visit all four, but for sure at least one is going to be on our agenda. It's only the third time this trip that we've stayed two nights in the same place, and so the rest and relaxation is always welcome.

Miss Sadie continues to keep us on our toes. Now that she's been out of the RV, she seems to have learned that "out" is a possibility. We're keeping an eagle eye on her to avoid having her escape out the door, but it's causing us a lot of angst. And, being human, our attention spans are limited and sometimes we forget the risk. Forgetting even for a moment, and she could be out the door in a flash.

As an example, we've been having trouble with our water heater. Yesterday Mike was outside looking at it and came to the door to ask me to pass him a couple of paper towels. We're trying to establish a habit of always asking if it's safe before opening the door. Nevertheless, he had the water heater on his mind and flung open the door without thinking. Fortunately, Ms. Houdini wasn't at the door, but had she been...she would have been out and gone.

So yesterday, I took a shot of this stop sign, and we're going to print it and tape it to the outside of the door as a reminder to use caution when opening. She's chipped, and so we feel we're doing everything we can to keep her safe and contained, but the best laid plans, you know...

Anyway...not to worry you, but we remain vigilant.

So that's all I have for you today. We're expecting nice weather most of the day, but the rain is supposed to return later this afternoon. Thus far, the weather has been fairly cooperative, raining when we're driving, sunny when we want to get out and see something.


Riding Mountain National Park

It was a quiet night here in Wasagaming (pronounced Wah-SAY-guh-ming), Manitoba, last night. We tried four times to pay for our stay here before we finally got it accomplished. This morning, we had a leisurely breakfast, and then set off to see Riding Mountain National Park. We sailed on through the entrance, feeling pretty spunky with our free parks pass.

Our first stop was the visitor center. I noticed the red Adirondack chairs out front. Inside the "nature shop" was closed, but there was a nice display of stuffed animals representative of the wildlife in the park. There were beavers, wolverines, cougars, bobcats, bears, wolves, elk, moose...Mike I imagine they're missing their guts, blood, and bone. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see them up close. There were also pelts available for petting, and that was kind of fun.

Outside, we saw a display of the O-TENT-tiks that are available for rent in the campgrounds. In Oregon we have a thing called a "yurt." Here's a picture of one:

This was much the same, only shaped more like a tent.

Here's what they look like inside.

The visitor center was located at the edge of a huge lake called Clear Lake.

It was a little chilly for swimming, but if you're so inclined, you might want to consider the following.

We walked out to the end of this walkway.

There we saw more of the red Adirondack chairs.

This particular grouping had a shared table with this notation on the top.

They were a little wet for sitting, but don't you know we'd have been all over this if they'd been dry. I might still do it, just for grins.

The park was a bit of a disappointment to us. We expected to see turn-outs and scenic viewpoints. Instead, we saw this, almost exclusively. It was pretty much like driving through a deciduous forest. Also there were plenty of swampy meadows...the kind where you might see moose and elk. We kept our eyes peeled, but saw none.

And here's a warning sign you don't see every day.

After leaving the park, we drove through more flat wide open spaces. It wasn't until we started driving south again that we recognized the unique feature of this park.

The parks tour book told us this:

"Geologically speaking, some 20,000 years ago, a high beach ridge began forming along the western edge of Lake Agassiz, a postglacial inland sea that covered much of north-central North America. In the United States, the ridge is called the Pembina Escarpment or Gorge. The portion of the ridge in Canada is called the Manitoba Escarpment. 
"Whatever this abrupt rise in the prairie landscape is named, the stretch in Manitoba is a natural island of forests, lakes, and meadows that has been sheltered as a national park since 1930." (National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of Canada, 2nd Edition)
So...okay, look at the image below, and you can see the rise off in the distance. That is the Manitoba Escarpment, and the reason for the park's existence.

We were coming back from Dauphin, a little town to the north of the park. In the image below, that's City Hall off to the right. It was a cute and tidy little town.

Along the way we saw a few Canadian barns.

And we were amused by the name of this chain of restaurants. We didn't have lunch here, although it was tempting.

Instead we had lunch at this next place. Mike had the Bacon Mikeburger. What else could he have chosen?
As we headed out of town, we noticed this crop growing on both sides of the road. We'd seen a sign in town about the Industrial Hemp Growers Association, and if I'm not mistaken, I believe it is still illegal to grow hemp in the United States, even for industrial purposes.

In any case, we were intrigued by this crop. and so we pulled off to the side of the road to get a closer look. Sure enough...industrial hemp.

Turning around from this spot, we saw this:

From there we drove back into the national park, heading south again to Wasagaming. We noticed the canopy of aspen trees.

We headed back into town. Earlier, none of the shops had been open, and I was on the hunt for a refrigerator magnet and/or a shot glass. We could find none. The only shops open were clothing stores, and frankly, my clothing shopping days are over.

Also, we noticed several of these bat houses hanging from trees. We like our friends the bats, and so we're always glad to see the welcome mat out for them when we travel.

We'll be heading out for Winnepeg and a Harvest Host site next. After speaking to the owner of the park here, we've solidified our plans to stay on the Canadian side until we get to Niagara Falls. We're told that the roads are pretty good and that the scenery is spectacular. We'll have our eyes wide open.


Hello, Canada!

We left Minot on Tuesday morning and drove due north for most of the day on our way to Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Canada. It was dark and rainy, and the weather was true to its forecast of thunder and lightning storms toward late afternoon and into the evening. For our drive, it rained steadily for most of the day. The cloud cover was low, making it very dark.

We passed a few more abandoned structures before leaving North Dakota. For some reason, I'm charmed by these old buildings, no matter how badly deteriorated they are.

Within about an hour, we approached the border between the United States and Canada. Despite being office hours, there seemed to be no one at home on the United States' side. The gate leading from Canada into the United States was closed and locked, while the one leading from the United States into Canada was open, and we were free to pass by without speaking to anyone.

Possibly this station is closed??? No idea.

Nevertheless, we drove just a few more yards to approach the Canada side of the border crossing.

There, we spoke with a nice customs agent who checked our passport cards, asked us if we were carrying alcohol (just the four bottles we purchased in Montana), tobacco (no), or firearms (no). We had a nice little chat about the purpose of our visit, how long we expected to stay, and what we could expect from the weather.

Then, he bid us a good day and waved us on. And, just like that, we were paying our first visit to Manitoba province. Hello, Manitoba!

We've visited British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, but never Manitoba. Since we didn't go to Grasslands National Park, we skipped over Saskatchewan this time...maybe next trip.

Just minutes after crossing the border, we received this text message.

Well, heck, yeah! Tell us more about that. As it turns out, we can have international calling and data for $10 per 24 hours, and we're only charged if we use it. There's no need to cancel either. If we're not using it, we're not charged. Cool! We're going to check our account tomorrow because we've been using data ever since. We want to be sure we're not accumulating charges we don't understand. If our understanding is correct, we pay a flat rate of $10 per 24 hour period when we're using data and our data charges remain the same (unlimited for us) as if we were using it domestically. So that means that as long as we have a cell signal, we have internet access.

It's useful for blogging, texting, and generally staying in touch with the rest of the word, but the ability to map our trips and calculate distances using Google maps is proving invaluable. Fingers crossed that there are no hidden charges. We'll find out tomorrow after we've been using it for a full day.

As for the rest of our travel day, it looked much the same as North Dakota...flat, flat, flat open farmland

just as far as the eye could see.

Tonight we're staying just outside the national park in an RV park in Wasagaming, Manitoba. And we love Canadians. They're so trusting and polite. The man attending the RV park told us to go drive in, pick a site, and check in with him in the morning. So easy, and so nice after such a long, wet day of driving. So, I've said this before, but I'll say it again: You rock, Canada!

The weather is forecast to clear up by 6:00 tomorrow morning, and so we're hoping for nice weather to make our scenic drive through the national park. We'll stay here one more night, and then move on down the road, making our way to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. We've mapped out the next several nights of stopovers and figured out where we'll stay. Our first stop will be at a Harvest Host site. This one happens to be a "rainbow trout and chicken farm." That should be interesting. We've already called ahead to be sure they can accommodate us.

Beyond that, we'll be staying one night in a traditional RV park, and then the following night, we'll stay free at a Wal-Mart in Thunder Bay. From there, we haven't planned any more. My friend, Cathy, suggested Grundy Lake Provincial Park just south of Sudbury, Ontario, and we are looking at that carefully. The park looks lovely, but the question is whether it can accommodate our large rig...always a concern in state-run campgrounds anywhere.

We've enjoyed every day of the trip so far, despite running into some bad weather about half the time. It's been an adjustment not to plan everything weeks in advance. The good part of that is living in the moment and making plans only one day at a time. The part we're getting used to is changing our minds on the fly and deciding to do something different. For example, we've kind of decided against spending any time in Pukaskwa National Park. After doing some reading and looking at it, we've realized it isn't really the kind of park one explores with a big RV. It's more of a hiking/canoing, kayaking experience, and so we may just stop in for a look-see and then drive on. And then that begs the question: Would we have come to Riding Mountain at all had we known it would be our one main destination in Manitoba? Maybe not, but who cares? The only authority we're answering to at this point is the weather. We just watch the weather and move along.

So...okay...all of that to say, here we are in Canada. Happy to be here. Looking forward to seeing what we see tomorrow. After that...who knows?