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…..