Disclaimer: the following is a long post. No one is forcing you to read it. You know who you are. :-)
I am presently in nowheresville, Manitoba, somewhere between Winnipeg and Brandon (closer to the latter), taking a much needed break. It has been a long, long journey from Nipigon to here. Now, it's time to slow down and spend a couple of days at various strategic locations.
So, last you heard from me, I was about a 100 klicks shy of Thunder Bay. There isn't really anything of note between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, so I decided to do a short haul to Thunder Bay to recharge my batteries, then undertake the very long haul to the Winnipeg area, from where I could slow down.
Since I was in no hurry on Tuesday, I decided to follow the signs promising Canada's longest suspended bridge. The road there was a bit scary in a motorhome, but the signs said that there were RV sites at the end of the road, so I took a chance taking Miranda down there and it turned out fine. I wound up on the bottom of gorgeous Eagle Canyon where a path took me up to the first of two suspension bridges.
I couldn't cross them. I have a touch of acrophobia and these bridges were too much for me. I made it a quarter of the way across the shorter bridge before I started to see red. I don't let my fear of heights stop me from living and I challenge it regularly, so I go easy on myself at times like these. I took some pictures, then followed the path down to the river at the bottom of the canyon, enjoying a brisk hike around a lake before returning to Miranda. It was a fantastic forty minute detour and well worth the 18$ access fee that is easily explained by the impeccable installation.
In Thunder Bay, I picked up two items that would make my life easier. The first is a coffee press. I can't believe it's taken me this long to discover these fantastic devices. I don't think I could go back to drip coffee!
The second item is a speaker dock for my iPod. This enables me to now have music or podcasts on the road. Radio stations have been far between and satellite radio is as huge a monthly expense as would be satellite internet! I can also listen to music in the evening without having to start up the iMac or use headphones. I went into FutureShop not really knowing what it was I was looking for and the clerk figured it out in two seconds flat. Ah, it's so lovely to be able to have something to listen to other than the cats meowing. :-)
I slept amazingly well in Thunder Bay, waking up refreshed and relaxed. It was cold in the rig (13 degrees) and it was great to get up around 6 to use the bathroom and be able to turn on the generator to get the furnace going, crawl back under the blankets, and just doze with the kitties for a half hour until the temperature inside rose to a comfortable 16.5 degrees!
Speaking of cold mornings, the temperature fell to zero the night I was in Nipigon. According to Environment Canada, that's the worst sort of night I can expect in the Okanagan Valley. If that's the case, I have nothing to fear this winter.
So, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed in Thunder Bay and decided to head back east for a minute to the Terry Fox memorial, which I'd skipped the day before.
Sunrise over Lake Gitchigoomie (Superior):
Terry Fox memorial:
One of the reasons I felt I could do an almost 800km day, as I was 'gaining' an hour:
Tabitha spends our driving time in the overcab bunk, staring out the window. Neelix, however, likes to be right in the midst of the action (he is SO CUTE!):
Just outside of Kenora, I stopped at the Dixie Lake rest area:
I stood in this spot three years ago almost to the day, overcome with emotion. I had left Winnipeg about two hours before, knowing that from that moment on, my life was about to take a very different path. These first steps back onto the Canadian Shield cemented my decision for me. The next time I would go through that way would be heading west, hauling all my possessions and aiming for a new life in Winnipeg. I gave myself a deadline: March 2009. And then I went to work making this dream a reality. That dream died the first week of this past May, leaving room for an dream so much grander that I couldn't have even fathomed it that September day in 2005. But, I did accomplish part of that initial plan, and six months early to boot. I felt almost like a traitor to Winnipeg today when I drove by her without stopping, hauling all my worldly possessions and zooming west, as though I was thumbing my nose at her and being ungrateful for all that she gave me these past three years. But I visited her in April and I remain convinced that she will one day be home to me. So, goodbye, but not farewell. I'll be back this way again.
At any rate, the rest of yesterday leaves me with mixed feelings. After ten years of driving Ontario's roads, I was pulled over by the O(ntario) P(rovincial) P(olice) for the first time, an hour from the Manitoban border, for going all of seven kilometres over the speed limit. Soon as the cop told me that, I relaxed, realising that he just wanted an excuse to pull over the young chick in the big ass RV. He spent about 10 minutes asking me questions about my rig, where I was from, and where I was going, and then he sent me on my way. Looking back, it was actually pretty funny. I need to get Miranda's odometre checked, though. According to it, I was doing 94 in a 90 zone, not 97. Okay, speeding is speeding, but who the frell gets pulled over for doing 97 in a 90 zone? LOL!!!
I hit Manitoba soon thereafter and that's where the day went to hell. I stopped at the tourist information kiosk to get directions to a dump station since I was planning on doing the Walmart thing again and was (am) still having issues with the black tank. I followed the woman's instructions to the letter. They were wrong. I took the turn she told me to take, on a paved road, and promptly came to a dead end. No way to turn around without making major damage to both the car and Miranda. No way to unhook the car. No cell phone service to call for help. No help to be had on foot for ten kilometres. Result: one crunched RV back bumper (merely cosmetic damage), one crunched front car fender that is causing a noise that makes me suspect I'll need to take it in for proper fixing, and one very disheartened and exhausted driver who isn't exactly sure yet how much of that was her fault and isn't convinced that she made the best decision.
Let's just say I was in a foul mood (depressed and tired, not angry) when I got to the Walmart in Selkirk. This store was out of my way compared to, say, the one in St-Vital in Winnipeg south, but I was trying to avoid Winnipeg. :-) They had never had an RVer stay overnight before! The manager was quick to give me permission.
Back in Nipigon, I had met some semi-timers who RV 6 months of the year, who said that they gave up on doing the Walmart thing because they feel they have to spend at each one, and end up spending more than they would have had they gone to a campground. What I've been doing is making a list of the things I actually need and picking things up bit by bit at each store. This way, I have a bag of merchandise to hold up when I ask for permission to stay, but I'm not spending money I wouldn't have needed to spend. Yesterday, I finally picked up a water pressure regulator, so tonight I'm hooked up to water for the first time (and to sewer also).
So, this morning, I took off in pea soup fog:
and stopped off at the first RV park advertising wi-fi (not free) and full service 30AMP sites. It's a nice spot in the middle of nowhere (60 klicks to the nearest grocery store) and motivation to stay home tomorrow and get some things done around the coach.
I got settled in quickly (backing up is so not an issue!), then took off towards Brandon to visit the reptile zoo I'd been hankering to see. The map to get there sucked and the GPS was no help, so I'm really glad I went in the toad. When I arrived, I didn't know what to think. The outside of the place looked like a dump! But it was open, so I went in, and paid the very reasonable fee of 5$.
The zoo turned out to be amazing and WELL worth the detour!!! I saw pythons and boas and anacondas, Nile crocodiles (the only ones in Canada, apparently), all manners of toads and frogs and turtles, big ass roaches, tarantulas, scorpions, geckos, and lizards, oh my! The owners need to do some major professionalizing of the place (especially when it comes to signage), but I can tell that the animals are very well cared for and that the owners are working on making the place look less amateurish.
Then, I made it to Brandon, where I got gas and groceries, then I headed home feeling absolutely exhausted. I immediately revised my plans for the next few days. I'm staying home tomorrow and will visit Brandon on Saturday (overnighting at the Walmart if I get permission).
Next, I'll be moving on to the Regina area. I'd like to find a location somewhere between it and Moosejaw to hunker down for four or five nights so I can do day trips with the toad.
I'm a week into my journey and have but three left to go. It's time to start pacing myself!
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."