Distance = 643 km Gas = $23.17 ($1.23/L in Regina, SK) and $29.76 ($1.29/L in Brandon, MB)
If you’re woken up by a loud bang in the middle of the night, it’s never a good thing. Unless, of course, the loud bang is a clap of thunder and you’re somewhere on the prairies. Then it’s just awesome. Last night I went from a deep coma to a painful flood of adrenaline coursing through my body after what sounded like a nuclear bomb detonated directly above the house. The lightning was bright enough to light up my whole bedroom, even with the blinds closed, and then the rain started like a tap being turned on. It was insane. I wish we had storms like that on the West Coast.
After what turned out to then be a very good sleep, I left Moose Jaw this morning, saying goodbye to my Couchsurfing host, Andrew, and his german shepherd Caine, and went into town to check out the tunnels, because my understanding is that besides the local Java Express, this is the only tourist attraction in Moose Jaw. Unfortunately, (or, perhaps fortunately) the tunnels don’t open to the public till 10 a.m. and I was there at 8:30 a.m. … so I have no idea what the tunnels actually are (old train tracks? Natural caves?), though I’m sure they’re fascinating.
A 40 minute drive down Highway 1, I was then in Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan. After seeing Swift Current and Moose Jaw, Regina was a big city, at pop. 200,000. It took me about 10 minutes to see all of it by car, and I checked out the RCMP academy and museum as well (though I didn’t do a tour, which would have been $10 and taken time I didn’t have).
The rest of the drive out to Winnipeg took about seven hours (including several stops to pee and get photos), and I’ve realized I have a love/hate relationship with the prairies. If New York City is the place to write a novel, the Canadian prairies is definitely the place for poetry. It’s a very volatile kind of landscape – one minute sunny, dry and calm, and the next a dramatic scene of storms or who knows what else in other seasons. At one point I got out of my car at the side of the highway and just stood there for a minute while there were no other trucks or cars passing and listened to the crickets and vast nothingness of the space all around me. I can imagine living in Saskatchewan, but I would only want to live on a farm way out in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t particularly like any of the prairie towns I saw along the highway, though the landscape between them was pretty breathtaking at times.
Driving Moose Jaw to Winnipeg in one day felt interminable, especially the part east of Brandon, Manitoba. In Manitoba the trees suddenly reappear, though they’re not the tall, thick evergreens of B.C. and the rockies. For hours, there’s not much to see except the trees, a railway, and telephone poles. The road can become pretty hypnotic after a while, which can be dangerous if you’re at all tired or too relaxed.
Travel tip: If you get sleepy or lose focus, the obvious choice would be to pull over and take a nap, or have a coffee or three. If neither of these is an option, I recommend the following, in no particular order: sip any kind of drink, turn up your music, sing (as loudly as possible), slap your face, or lean over the steering wheel so your face is close to the windshield. (The proximity of the road will make you more aware of the inherent danger of driving 120 km/hour and help keep you focused.)
Today I drove through half of Saskatchewan and half of Manitoba, a total distance of 643 km. If I’d been driving through Europe, I probably would have crossed through something like 27 countries. Canada is massive. I’m on day 10 and I’m not even halfway across. So far, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve experienced. (Except for the radio station in Regina and the amount of road kill I’ve had the displeasure of seeing. An entire deer, two foxes, a skunk, and several other small dark brown furry things that were unidentifiable in their varying stages of decomposition in the summer sun.)
Tonight, I’m staying with my friends Shannon and John and I’m going to take tomorrow to explore Winnipeg.
NEXT POST: Winnipeg