Monday, July 6, 2015

Cruising the Canadian Prairies and Back - Part 2

Old Dance Hall
I left Fernie early Sunday morning I’m sure long before my roommates awoke.  The hostel does provide a free breakfast but not till eight o’clock.  It was a little before sunup and cool as I was going up the Crowsnest Pass into Alberta.  I stopped far a cache which was behind an old dance hall.  It was a large and totally run down deserted old structure on the shore of a little lake. It was easy to imagine the good times that were had there many years ago.  I stopped for gas and breakfast at an A&W in Pincher Creek, Alberta.  It was full of customers and like most Canadians they were very friendly.

I kept on the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) to Medicine Hat, Alberta, where I got on the Trans Canada Highway, their equivalent to our Interstate.  When I got to Gull Lake I dropped down to Highway 13 which is called the Red Coat Trail because it’s the route the Mounties used to bring law and order to that part of the country.  I stayed on that route all the way to Morris, Manitoba, where I turned south toward Hallock, MN, Monday. The highways were generally good.  Some parts of the Red Coat Trail were a little rough and broken but mostly it was smooth sailing with a good tail wind all across the provinces.  The speed limit was 100 mostly and some 110 on the Trans Canada (what do you mean kilometers?).  I saw only one law enforcement car the whole time in Canada.  I usually rode about 10% over the limit and felt safe doing that as I wasn’t the only one.
Old Sod House

I found four more caches in Alberta but my favorite for the day and probably the whole trip was “The Sod House” in the tiny town of Cyprus, Saskatchewan.  There was a sod house in a fenced enclosure appointed just as if someone was living there down to the detail of clothes hanging on the line.  The actual cache was hidden in a big village bell there.

Inside house
I stayed in Assiniboia, SK, Sunday night.  The motel looked a little dumpy but it was first class inside.  Assiniboia reminded so much of a typical small Montana town that I kept thinking that’s where I was.  After checking in I picked up a few caches in town.  I had been dodging rain storms all day and one finally hit just as I was getting ready to have dinner across the street at the Subway.  I was really glad I wasn’t on the road because it was a real frog strangler.  It didn’t last too long and I saw a beautiful rainbow.

Assiniboia rainbow
I had pictured in my mind this country being rather stark and desolate but it wasn’t at all.  It was green with a gently rolling landscape. The farther east I got into Saskatchewan the more trees I saw.  There would be patches of woods scattered about. The predominate crop appeared to be hay rather than a consumable crop.  Of course, this meant there were cattle as well but not as many as I would have expected given the amount of grass.  As stated the patches of woods increased as I traveled eastward but the main crop in eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba was oil wells.  I have never seen such a thick density of wells in my life.  Naturally this precipitated a lot of truck traffic.  At a gas stop in Manitoba a 60 year old gentleman said he had been a motorcyclist but had given it up because of all the oil activity.  I guess he wasn’t keen on continually being slammed into a 100 km/hour wall of wind whenever he met a truck.  He said he was moving to Moose Jaw.

I reached Hallock, MN, Monday afternoon having had a very pleasant journey through Canada.  As usual I made stops all along the way picking up geocaches.  Geocaching appears to be every bit as popular in Canada as the US if not more so.   

Hallock is a small farming town not even big enough to have a fast food place.  So when I made reservations at the Budget Host Caribou Inn I expected a less than pristine, Spartan at best, little motel.  I don’t require fancy accommodations.  To my surprise this was one of the nicest motels I have ever visited – totally out of place with the town.  It was large, new, spotlessly clean and everything worked the way it was supposed to work.  They even had a lobby computer allowing me to upload the 41 caches I had so far visited from my GPS to the Geocaching website.  And as with all the motels I try to book they provided a breakfast.

Not withstanding Hallock’s size there were about a half dozen caches in town.  After checking in I went searching.  The first one was in a little wooded park less than 100 yards from the motel parking lot.  As I entered this little patch of woods I was quickly introduced to the infamous Minnesota mosquitoes.  For the other three or four caches I attempted I didn’t take my motorcycle helmet off. This was a new state to add to ones where I have found Geocaches.

After the 6 a.m. breakfast I was on the road and soon in North Dakota.  Having benefited from the tailwind all across Canada I was expecting the opposite for the westward part of my journey.  However, it was a beautiful calm morning as I crossed the pleasant farm country of ND.

I stopped for 13 caches traveling across ND but couldn’t find 3.  One I found was at a museum located at the geographic center of North America.  As the day progressed I hit some road construction and some headwind but it wasn’t too bad.  I arrived at Williston, ND, mid afternoon where I had reservations at the Mobile Motel.  It was located near one of those big Love Truck Centers and was obviously designed for truckers with a big truck wash next to it.  It seemed fairly new and was a good place to stay.

Williston is kind of an oil boom town.  Population increased from around 15,000 in 2010 to almost 21,000 in 2013.  It had the heaviest traffic of any place I visited with the exception on Missoula.  The only place I found caches without having to fight traffic was a couple located at Love’s. I did venture out to a Walmart to pick up some granola bars and ate dinner at the Subway located there.  I stopped at a nice park (Spring Lake) on the way back and searched for three caches but didn’t finding any.  I saw my only pheasant of the trip at the park. [To be continued] M/W


Chris said...

Your comment about the motel in MN didn't surprise me. When my brother lived back there, I was always amazed at how clean and tidy every place was. All those Scandinavians I guess. :-)

Mike said...

Well, I don't think these were Scandinavians. These days it's a rarity to see motels run by American born folks.

Kathy said...

Yes, but you know the Scandinavian heritage set the standard for MN hospitality -- St. Olaf and all that. We should all be so lucky.