Intended Destination: Spruce Woods Provincial Park (Manitoba)
Actual Destination: wal-mart parking lot, Brandon (Manitoba)
We woke up in the overflow field in Grasslands to the tents absolutely convulsing. As soon as the sun came, the wind started tearing through. I swear, my sister’s tent was completely lifted off the ground trying to take flight except for the lump of her body keeping it pinned to the ground. She was trying to sleep through it (seriously…) but I was worried about the tents. We had to get up, move the tents closer to the car for a windbreak, remove the flies so there’d be some airflow, and then peg in. That was a joke – trying to peg my smaller tent without me in it was hilarious. Even my stuff wasn’t heavy enough to keep it grounded. I fell back asleep for about 30 minutes after that, amazingly, but that was it. I’d promised Christine a sleep-in that day, so I read my kindle as the sun rose and the tents just rocked and rolled.
After we started our day and packed up our tents – and Christine took a video of me flying one of the tents like a kite – we drove around and did a couple lookouts. Grasslands is so beautiful and so different than anything else we’d seen (which of course is a recurring theme; each province is so unique and glorious). I thought it would be hot like a dessert because it was so sunny with no trees for shade, but it was cool due to the wind, which was so strong! We had to put more clothes on to deal with it, and even lighting our stove for breakfast wouldn’t happen; we ate dry cereal for breakfast instead.
We did a short trail around a prairie dog compound, which Christine absolutely loved. I think she took 700 photos. They were really cute and they had so much character and such interesting body language. And there were just thousands of them all along the road on either side, popping out of their little mounds and chittering to each other.
Such a completely unique ecosystem, the grasslands. I learned that farmers are really good neighbours for parks because they grow one crop that won’t generally be invasive to grasslands, whereas urbanization brings in tonnes of ornamental, non-native plants that can take over because there is not a lot of competition to grow in the grasslands. It was a really interesting consideration that I hadn’t made before, and I really appreciated learning about it. The park had lots of short trails with interpretive signs, so we learned everything we could this way because we never saw a park staff the entire time we were there.
On our way out of the park, we had to stop and fix the car. There was something underneath that had been secured with zip ties, and between bottoming out the day before, the rough gravel road, and the wind, it had broken loose. I lay out the tarp and Christine scurried underneath the car. There’s not a lot of space beneath a Honda Fit, so it was a struggle – and did I mention all the bugs decorating the car? Not a good time. A woman stopped to ask if we were okay, and we said we were. Christine got it sorted and we got back on the road.
We drove until we ran out of gas and stopped at a gas station. We took some time to clear the windshield, then used the bathroom and grabbed slushies.
We drove again until we had to stop to pee. Christine took over driving and we kept on until Brandon, Manitoba. I think we thought we’d make it through the prairie provinces no problem so we had set our sights on Spruce Woods, but it was a bit of a jaunt and we’d be arriving too late to enjoy it. Because it’s a provincial park, we assumed it would be more expensive than national parks (like in Ontario) so we wanted to make the most of it. And we were doing well in terms of our schedule so we didn’t feel the need to push through.
All our mapping had been done in google maps, meticulously, and many times over, in the planning of our route. However, that doesn’t factor in traffic, construction, road closures, stops we decide to make along the way, etc. So what may look like a short day when we plotted it from home 3 weeks ago, can become an entirely new beast when confronted in reality. Flexibility was really important.
It was also an easy decision to stop in Brandon because they had all-you-can-eat sushi, and we were desperate. We are both huge sushi lovers, and at home we eat it fairly often, Christine moreso because she has a sushi restaurant in her town while I have to drive an hour. We had been careful not to eat too often in restaurants, and because we’d be saving money by staying in a parking lot that night, we decided we could fit it into the budget. It ended up being really delicious and we were so full and so happy – it was an expensive treat but sometimes you need that.
It was around this area that we knew we were approaching home. Ontario was only a couple days away. Our west side of the journey was nearing an end. We had a lot to celebrate! After dinner, we headed to the wal-mart parking lot and were relieved to see lots of trailers and RVs. We went into the wal-mart and bought window markers because we wanted to draw on the car with our social media handles and our ‘sistersXcanada’ slogan.
We also brushed our teeth. Other wal-mart shoppers don’t generally like that much. I don’t know what I would have thought if I’d seen someone brushing their teeth in a wal-mart. Probably I would have been glad I had my own private bathroom to do that in. It’s not fun for anyone.
We rearranged the car bins into the front seats so we could sleep in the back. Christine did a great job writing with the markers, figuring out which colours worked best. She took that on for the rest of the trip, which needed lots of touch-ups and rewriting. It was cool – people definitely interacted with us because of it!
Another night in the car. By now, we’re really good at it! We know where to set up – generally directly under a streetlight, somewhat close to grass in case I have to pee in the night which is almost every night, with our window screens on so we can have the windows cracked. We have a special place for the keys so we can lock ourselves in, and everything is placed strategically for access. Yay for systems!
The next day is a short drive to Spruce Woods. We have big plans to make the most of the day in beautiful weather and take care of some chores like laundry, and enjoy the day.