While I’m not generally a big believer in fate or pre-destiny, it sure felt like the universe stepped in again today. But everything in its proper order, so I will begin at the beginning and trust you will recognize the nudge from the universe when it comes.
Looking forward to a visit with Fred and Gerty at Tobin Lake (not to mention a home-cooked breakfast), I got up early and headed out to arrive at Uncle Jim’s Cabin about 9:00 a.m. A steady, but light rain followed us out. Being on the right road this time, it was paved all the way until the turn-off to the cabin. Though it was a bit soft from the rain, it was passable.
Some of Gerty’s family was over and we had a great visit. Having missed supper the night before, a breakfast of bacon and eggs, fried potatoes and coffee was heaven. The table also seemed the right place to be since the rain picked up its tempo and continued to hammer down the whole time. Wondering if I would be able to get out of the 2 short dirt streets I came in on, there was nothing to do but wait it out. About 11:20, the rain eased to a mist and I geared up to see what was up. We rode out of the first street no problem, but upon turning onto the street access to the paved road, we were confronted with a small lake the entire width of the road and several meters long. I stopped and looked at it for a minute, having no idea of the conditions that lay beneath. Then thought “Well, help is close to hand if it doesn’t go well”, and headed in. The water was deep and sloshed up over my floorboards and boots, but despite some ruts beneath, Fury stayed true and brought us out the other side.
I had decided that morning not to take Hwy 106 north to Flin Flon. The rain was going to dog me all day in that direction, guaranteed fuel stops out of range without digging out my spare fuel, and the fire map showed 3 fires burning in the region that were classified as “out-of-control”. The alternative route of going south > east > north promised regular fuel, less rain and better roads. Conversation and map-checking over breakfast revealed that I could short-cut to Hudson Bay by going to Carrot River and picking up the Crooked River connection to Hwy 3. Stopped at the Carrot River Esso to top up with fuel and had a fun chat with the people there before heading out again.
Observing the typical Alyson patterns of behaviour, I missed the turn that would take me to the connection to Hwy 3. Some ways past it, I had a sneaky suspicion I had missed it and knew for sure when I saw the junction signs for Tisdale. Then I roll up to the stop sign of the junction and the full impact of where I have arrived hits me. I am at the crash site that took so many young lives of the Humboldt hockey team, so shortly after the accident that killed Tracey. I know this for the memorial across the road – a tall cross with “Humboldt Strong” painted on it, standing above many small crosses memorializing those killed. There is no question that this is the Saskatchewan location I have been seeking to leave some of Tracey’s ashes. While absorbing the scene and tributes with tears overflowing, a truck pulls in and I notice the woman in it bury her face in her hands. Letting some time go by, I went over and asked if she had lost a child in the accident. No, but her partner, the assistant coach, had been killed. I offered what little sympathy a stranger could, but I’m not likely to forget that pretty, grief-stricken face and will tuck it away in a corner of my heart and wish for her healing. I left some ashes at the site and turned back to pick up my route.
For a time, the rain stopped and the sun peeked out, giving me 40 minutes or so of pleasant riding. Then the temperature dropped and the rain began again in earnest to make the last hour into Hudson Bay a misery Cold and needing a break, I stopped to top up the gas, knowing there was still 250+ kms to The Pas, and 400 to Flin Flon. Pulled my neck warmer out of my bag and started out again. Darn near took the wrong road again by following a sign that said “The Pas” instead of the one I saw up ahead that said “Swan River”. When I saw the distance of 166 kms after turning onto it, I knew it wasn't the one I wanted. It was tempting to take it, being almost 100 kms shorter, but the time was the same and the road unpredictable due to a long stretch of construction I had seen on the highway report, so I turned back to take Hwy 3 to 77 and then take Hwy 10 north.
In the end, it was probably 6 of one and half a dozen of the other because we fought that damn road 2/3 of the way. It’s a good thing the road was mostly deserted, because we were all over it, dodging potholes and gearing down for gravel for most of the 150 kms. At an average speed of 70 kms/hr, cold and annoyed, I was never so grateful as when we turned onto the smooth beauty of Hwy 10 south of The Pas, even with a long ways still to go. The scenery changed as we travelled along the shore of Lake Winnipegosis, and I was reminded of just how pretty the area is. It has been more than 20 years since I’ve travelled that road and it seemed all new.
Feeling tired, the knowledge of another hour and a half to Flin Flon felt a little overwhelming, so when I stopped for gas at The Pas, I took a good long break too. Drank a protein drink and a water and had a little stretch. Didn’t even occur to me that 8 hours had passed since breakfast. Somewhat refreshed, I gave Fury a pat and headed out again.
About halfway along, the loveliness of the Flin Flon area began to unfold and the stress melted away. It was new and familiar all at once, and I felt a sense of wonder at the beauty. It really is one of Manitoba’s best kept secrets (or was, up until now). The names of the rivers and creeks and lakes triggered my memory and brought nostalgia with them.
Some ways further, I saw three shapes emerge from the ditch ahead. Slowing Fury to a stop a good distance back, I watched as a momma bear and two cubs began to cross the road. Then she stopped and looked back. Sure enough, a third cub popped out of the ditch and scampered across to catch up. So cute. When they were well clear of the road, I rode by and she watched me to make sure I kept on going!
Soaking up the scenery and letting the peace soak into me, I thoroughly enjoyed the last hour of my journey. Sometime around 8 p.m., I arrived in Flin Flon – birthplace of the indomitable Bronwyn and home to many memories and friends. Had to stop for a picture with Flintabattey Flonatin and also take one of the city flag. Peter won the design contest for the flag more than 25 years ago and it still flies as the official city flag!
While most of those friends have moved on since we were here, Bert and Gord remain and it was to their home I headed. They are due back tomorrow and I promised not to trash the place before they get here. 😊 Time for rest and recuperation now. More reminiscing to follow…..
Well, it didn’t start as a Murphy day, but it kind of ended that way. Today’s objective was to visit Prince Albert National Park and Candle Lake and then continue on to Flin Flon. Two out of three ain’t bad? We made progress, but not much.
Knowing it was a long ride today, I left Prince Albert shortly after 8:00 a.m. It was a drizzly, cold kind of day, but the rain wasn’t bad and the traffic was all headed in the other direction – out of the park. I enjoyed this, because it allowed me to pull over here and there and take pictures of the pretty flowers in the ditch. 😊 We cruised into the little town of Waskesiu in PA National Park without incident. It was very reminiscent of Wasagaming in Manitoba with its log buildings, little streets with shops and the waterfront close by.
Spying a yellow awning with red patio umbrellas, I thought that had to be a restaurant and turned towards it for breakfast. Aptly named the Patio Café, it supplied me with good coffee and delicious French toast, over which I had a nice conversation with the only other person in the place at that time of day. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask his name, but he saw the riding gear and was a rider himself, so we struck up a conversation. He has a place up at Waskesiu that he enjoys with his family and goes to Sturgis once in awhile with his son. Friendly gentleman, as I have found everyone in Saskatchewan to be.
After breakfast, I toured around the town a bit, parking the bike and strolling around the Visitor Centre and lake front. I really liked the little story boards at the visitor centre that had snippets of history.
Grey Owl, the naturalist and conservationist, is a big deal around these parts as he had a cabin up in PA National Park. He lived, died and is buried at the location. It is a 20 km hike into it after getting there by canoe or something, so wasn’t on my agenda to see in person. I did find some pictures on the internet though, so I could pretend I was there. There is a Grey Owl Centre in Waskesiu but it was not open when I wandered by. The park was busy with families and holiday folks in spite of the cool, wet weather.
While visiting over breakfast, I confirmed that the road to Candle Lake between the Park and PA was 53 kms of gravel. So I left the park and headed back towards Prince Albert, to take the highway over to the Candle Lake junction. The clouds were building to the east and we arrived at the junction to Candle Lake to leaden skies. I said to Night Fury “What do you think?” My iron dragon just growled “We’ve been caught in worse than that is going to deliver”. So, giving them a nod of respect, we turned our heads into the ever-darkening skies. As it turned out, aside from a couple of little showers, Mother Nature returned our nod and did not rain on us hardly at all. The fly in our ointment was the driver of a pick-up truck a few kms out of Prince Albert who considered it his civic duty to keep all traffic 10-20 kms under the speed limit. With all of the oncoming traffic returning to PA, there was no chance of getting by him. In spite of numerous opportunities to do so, he would not pull over and let the ever-growing string of vehicles behind him pass. Nothing to do but sit back and hope that the cars that let their impatience get the better of them didn’t cause an accident. Much to my dismay, he also took the turn-off to Candle Lake and continued this infuriating behaviour for another hour. The bloom was entirely off Candle Lake by the time I arrived there – at least an hour behind schedule. I filled up with gas, took a quick run around, saw the lake and skedaddled. Sign number 1.
Back at the Candle Lake intersection, I turned left at the sign indicating Flin Flon to the left – 350 kms. With still plenty of day left, we would make Flin Flon by 6-ish. After about 20 minutes, the road ended abruptly in …… slime. Wet, sucking, slippery mud. Saw it coming in time to bring my speed down and be able to turn around ever so carefully to go back from whence we came! Sign number 2.
Pulling over to chillax for a minute after that little adrenaline punch, I checked my phone to see where I had gone wrong. I needed Hwy 106, not 120. My cousins Fred and Gerty had posted a comment on my blog site that they were in Tobin Lake. Sign number 3.
Checking google maps, I discovered just how close I was to Tobin Lake and thought maybe I’d just call it a day there if I could reach them. By the time I got back to the Hwy 55, the headache that began when following Mr. Wanker to Candle Lake was becoming a bit more persistent. As I approached the turn-off for Hwy 106 to Flin Flon (the road I should have been on), I decided unequivocally that I did not have another 4.5 hours in me to get there and headed for Nipawin. Stopped briefly to message Mom and ask her if she had some phone numbers for me. About 10 kms out of Nipawin, I saw a Tobin Lake sign, but knew I should go into town first for gas.
Topped up with gas and found a place to park and drink my Gatorade and eat my protein bar. Mom had found numbers for me so I called Fred’s cell, but didn’t reach them. Thought I might just head out there and see what I could find. Asked a couple of people about getting there but got conflicting directions and google maps wasn’t telling. But I figured since I saw the sign a few kms back, how wrong could I go? Well, let me tell you how wrong. Up the opposite side of the lake wrong. The road wasn’t in great shape, but it was paved and with some care and attention I had no trouble getting the first 20 kms in. Then, once again, it ended abruptly - this time in soupy gravel. I thought it actually didn’t look too bad and since I was within 7-8 kms, maybe I should try it. Ummm……no. Managed not to drop Fury, but after 2 close calls, again managed to turn her around and get the heck outta there.
Headache meaning business now, I crossed the mighty Saskatchewan River once again - back to Nipawin - and checked into the Northern Greens Resort. Ian at the front desk very kindly got me set up in a very comfortable room and I unloaded Fury and started the hot bath. Called Fred and Gerty again and was successful this time. Which is how I found out I was on the wrong road! Now that I know where to go and how to get there, I will try to be up and out in good time tomorrow to go have breakfast with them before heading back towards Flin Flon.
All in all, the kind of day that is a comedy of errors that’s only funny when you’re on the other end of it! Off to bed early tonight after some stretching and some time spent with the torture massage ball. Here’s to more satisfying adventure tomorrow!
Oh, Canada! What better way to spend Canada Day than riding across it on a mission to see as much of it as possible. 😊
My first stop for the night was Meadow Lake, SK, where I stayed last night. This is apparently Saskatchewan’s newest “city”, so I assume it must be growing! Certainly, there are signs of that in the larger chain stores and restaurants that show up along the main road.
I stayed at the Woodland Inn last night and really liked it. Rates are reasonable, rooms are nice, spacious and clean, and the staff friendly. Rates include a breakfast with choices of hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, toast, juice, coffee, etc. I would recommend it without hesitation.
I got up in good time and it was already spitting rain. Loaded up the bike anyway and had a bit of breakfast. By the time I was ready to go, the rain had pretty much stopped and I headed out to take advantage of that for as long as it would last. Planning to just hit the road, the little voices were telling me that I should just take a little ride around the town. I toodled up a road for several blocks and then picked a random street and turned onto it. There was a big statue of a cowboy erected in 1970 to honour the pioneers of the area. A little the worse for wear, I still thought it was a pretty cool choice and said something about the personality of Meadow Lake.
Then the universe really threw its toe into the day! Continuing up the road, I see a prominent store called Madill’s Drugs! Thinking of my friend Elaine, who was a Madill before she married, I took a photo and texted it to her with the caption “Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan”. Now, Elaine has always been near and dear to my heart. We discovered we were kindred spirits on a frightening level right from the start. Turns out that I had discovered a link to a few branches in her family tree they had not been able to connect. I told her that maybe she should shake that family tree a little harder and see if a Derry pops out. Maybe we share a genetic memory. Of course, if that were true, Brian, who is already a little spooked by this connection we have, might head for the hills! There’s only so much magic a guy can take!
Hwy 55 is an excellent road and, being Canada Day, was practically deserted. It rained off and on, but not heavily and the ride was lovely. I shouted (I don’t think you could call it “sang”) Oh Canada at the top of my lungs a couple of times and sat back to enjoy the smell of green and the prettiness of the countryside. Some of the canola is beginning to ripen already, giving that bright yellow contrast to all the surrounding green. Still being quite a ways north, there is a lot of the muskeg landscape and the crops have large patches of boggy ground. It must be a challenge to farm. I kept expecting a moose to step out of it, but then I would see a field of cattle.
I passed through Green Lake on my way, which is a tidy, very pretty little community. I don’t think I saw the lake, but the river running through was so picturesque, I had to stop and take a few photos, rain notwithstanding.
The next little surprise was the Cowan Dam, which was full of pelicans! There’s a fetching little campground there, so I cruised through it and then stopped to watch the pelicans for awhile before carrying on.
Looking for a bit of a break, I stopped at Big River and topped up with fuel and stopped for a bite to eat at the Esso station restaurant. It was a busy place, which is always a good sign when you are looking for a place to eat. The food was decent and people were friendly. After ordering, I looked up and saw an amazing waffle sundae menu on the wall! If only I had known, I wouldn’t have bothered with lunch! Big River is a sizeable town and again, very well kept and appears to be prospering. It was nice to see these small places along the road doing well, and I hope it continues.
The original plan was to head for Prince Albert National Park, but I didn’t book ahead and with the long weekend, nothing was available. I headed for Prince Albert instead, arriving in the early afternoon. I booked into the Twilite Motel, which is set back from the road a bit and a better rate than some of the surrounding big ones. The room is clean, the bed is good and the staff are lovely and personable. Happily recommend it. Since I don’t have a tiara glued to my helmet, these places are perfectly fine for me! I also prefer motels when I’m riding because I can park my bike outside the door and it makes it so much easier to load and unload Night Fury.
Once unloaded, I went for a tour about Prince Albert. It is one of the oldest settlements in Saskatchewan and was settled by Reverend James Nisbet in 1866. Timber and good farmland initially attracted settlers to the area. A couple of decades later, the rail line came through and Prince Albert became a hive of activity as a hub for steamboats and rail traffic. Twentieth century discoveries of gold, uranium and now diamonds, have continued to contribute to the economy of northern Saskatchewan.
I paid a visit to the local museum and it is clear that Prince Albert has an active historical society. The museum has some really wonderful displays from PA’s history: settlement stories, Metis displays, fire trucks, war memorabilia, lifestyle displays of rooms with period furniture and clothing, memorabilia from notable people who lived and visited. I was surprised and delighted to see a little display about Lucy Maude Montgomery, who lived here for a very short time. If I had ever known that, I had forgotten. It was in Prince Albert that she made her first intimate girl friend that may have provided the basis for her friendship between Anne and Diana in her Anne of Green Gables novels. The whole museum is quite delightful. Upstairs, they also have a tea room with a balcony so you can sit and enjoy tea with a view of the river.
I took a ride around Prince Albert before looping back to the hotel and found it to be a nice little city. Within an hour of PA National Park, I expect there is a fair bit of tourist traffic through as well.
Time to wrap up my prattling and think about an early bedtime. Hope everyone had a Happy Canada Day. Be grateful for the where and when you were born!
P.S. Don't forget to click on the Trivia Bits button at the top of the page for your short history lesson on Saskatchewan!