Browsing "Manitoba"
Dec 4, 2009 -

Travels Without Miranda, #6: Watching a Light Show in Manitoba

I can thank hurricane Katrina for my road trip around the Great Lakes in 2005. I had scheduled a tour of the southern US, including Savannah, Pensacola, and New Orleans, but two days before I was slated to depart, Katrina swept in and my plans for my first vacation in four years went down the toilet. Needless to say, I didn’t take it personally, but I could have acted like a petulant child and cancelled my vacation.

Instead, I took the few days I had to come up with another interesting road trip idea and off I went on a fantastic adventure that might not have been the one I’d planned and looked forward to, but which was special in its own way. I even managed to see in Minneapolis one thing that I had looked forward to seeing while I toured the south, the Mississippi River.

My tour around the Great Lakes was to be broken up with a several day stay in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba. It was a city I had always wanted to visit, so ending up there instead of New Orleans wasn’t a huge disappointment even if some people proclaimed Winnipeg to be plan Q. I guess that I have a soft spot for the places that get a bum rap. 🙂

To stretch my budget, I decided to camp at Bird’s Hill provincial park, just north of the city and within easy commuting distance. When I arrived there, I had had quite a full day, waking up in Melrose, Minnesota, speeding through my first glimpse of the prairies in North Dakota, and then crossing over into Manitoba for the first time, bringing me further west in Canada than I had ever been.

sunrise at Birds Hill Provincial Park (photo by the government of Manitoba)

sunrise at Birds Hill Provincial Park (photo by the government of Manitoba)

My trip was winding down and even if I hadn’t seen anything as spectacular as Savannah’s historic district or New Orlean’s French Quarter, I was racking up a lot of memories and I was satisfied even if I hadn’t seen anything that particularly stuck out in my mind.

After dinner that night, I went for a walk on the prairie to wind down a bit and watch the sunset, then went to bed. I couldn’t sleep, so after some tossing and turning I got up and went back to the walking trail to watch the stars. Those plans changed when I found that the sky was alive with dancing green lights. It was the aurora borealis, the northern lights! I had never seen it before and it was even more beautiful than I would ever have imagined. Acid green swirled against ebony, shimmering and popping, and I could swear I heard all that energy crackling. The prairie sky is open and endless, so the dance seemed to stretch on forever, as far as I could see.

stock photo of the northern lights that quite accurate represents what I saw that night

stock photo of the northern lights that quite accurately represents what I saw that night

Had I gone south that fall, I would have missed this spectacular natural phenomenon. I believe that things happen, and plans change, for a reason. I’m not afraid of taking the unbeaten path or doing something that at first glance seems illogical. Sometimes being flexible in your travel plans pays off in big ways. This is what was going through my mind last summer when I decided on a whim to push on to Dawson City instead of settling in Whitehorse.

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Canada, Manitoba, Travel, USA, Yukon    No Comments
Sep 24, 2008 -

Where I’ve Stayed

I haven’t given too many details on the campgrounds in which I’ve stayed because I don’t think it’s wise to give too much information on exactly where I am at the time of posting, so consider this a bit of a catch up edition. 🙂

So, my first campground was the Ottawa Municipal Campground in Ottawa, Ontario.

I maintain that the OMC is Ottawa’s best kept secret. The park feels like it’s deep in nature, but it’s just minutes from the Queensway and from shopping centres in Nepean and Kanata while being about ten minutes from downtown (as long as it’s not rush hour!). Staff is friendly, rules are lax, there’s wi-fi at the laundromat, and the electricity and water are good.

I found this campground using Google.

My second campground was Stillwater RV Park in Nipigon, Ontario.

For the night that I stayed, this place was fantastic. It had 30A pull-thrus, good water, a cheap laundromat, and wi-fi. Even though it’s located right on the highway, the sites are removed enough from it to be quiet. But I’d hate to stay here in the high season as the sites are packed very closely together. Thankfully, the place was practically empty when I stayed.

I found this campground in an old Trailer Life directory the POs left me.

My third campground was Shady Oaks RV Resort & Campground in Sidney, Manitoba.

This was a really nice campground, if you like being in the middle of nowhere (60km to the nearest grocery store!). I had a beautiful spot overlooking the Manitoba prairie and shaded by oak trees that rained acorns the whole time I was there! Water quality wasn’t very good here (too much iron), but I wasn’t drinking it, so I didn’t mind. The staff was very friendly. There was wi-fi, but it wasn’t free, and this new service needed a lot of tweaking.

I found this campground by driving down the Transcanada highway and following the signs advertising a park offering full 30A hookups and wi-fi.

Then, I moved on to the Dyer Straits Campground and Cabins (great name!) in Whitecity, Saskatchewan.

I adored this campground. Even though it’s right on the Transcanada and just twelve kilometres from all the shops and services, it feels like you’re in a natural setting. It’s quiet and the owners are friendly and laid back. The water here had the same problem as that at Shady Oaks, but, otherwise, the services were good. Wi-fi isn’t available at all the sites, but the owners are okay with laptop owners coming up to their house after dinner and stretching out on their lawn chairs.

I knew that I wanted to stay in the Whitecity area and was looking at another campground found in my Saskatchewan Official Campgrounds Guide, but Dyer Straits was cheaper.

Next, I stayed at the Gordon Howe Campground in Saskatoon.

This campground is very well located. It feels private and rustic, but is close to downtown and several Saskatoon attractions. I found that there were a lot of rules and I was disappointed to learn that you can only dump during the week! That said, staff was friendly, laundry was cheap (and change for it was given with a smile), and the wi-fi was free (even though they had a service interruption most of the time I was there!). Water pressure at this park is very high, so you need a regulator. They warn you about this several times.

I had planned to stay at another campground right on highway 16 west of Saskatoon, but didn’t have specific directions to get there. So, upon arriving in Saskatoon, I followed little brown signs showing a trailer until I got to what looked like a dead end as I wound up at a sports arena parking lot. Just before deciding to cut my losses and try again to find the other park, I saw rigs off in the distance behind trees and realised that the road forked out to the left to the campground entrance. I’m glad things worked out this way as this campground was a much better choice for my purposes than would have been one several kilometres out of town.

Which brings me to here, the Rainbow Campground in Edmonton.

Meh. This campground was obviously my best choice for Edmonton, but it’s ludicrously expensive for 15A service with no water! And you have to pay 10.50$ per day for internet access! The gates close at 11PM sharp, so this isn’t the place to stay if you want to experience Edmonton’s nightlife. That said, it’s fairly conveniently located and fairly quiet. I’m right at the entrance and in front of the men’s washrooms, positioned here because I have a toad. They only allow one motorized vehicle per site, so I have to park my toad somewhere else. This is the only site where there is a ‘somewhere else’ close by: right across the way in front of the men’s washrooms. 🙂 I do find that getting here is a bit of a pain. My GPS is of absolutely no use and being ‘off Whitemud Drive’ is of only limited use. Depending on where you enter and exit Whitemud Drive, it runs north/south or east/west! So, I always have a hard time figuring out which direction to go to get home.

I found this campground in the Official Alberta Campgrounds guide, and decided on it with a bit of research done in Lloydminster on a limited internet connection.

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Alberta, Campgrounds, Canada, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Travel    2 Comments
Sep 14, 2008 -

Little RV On the Prairie

I’m presently just east of Regina, Saskatchewan, within very easy commuting distance, and will be here till Thursday.

The last few days have been quite the adventure.

I thought I would be rested and ready to go when I left the campground on Saturday with Brandon as my destination, but something felt off. The feeling got worse as I got closer to Brandon. The drive there didn’t help as big wind gusts made it difficult not to sway. But there was something else.

Since Thunder Bay, I’d had one of my bad feelings about my left rear tire. No reason for it; pressure was good, tire was in impeccable condition, it was a Michelin. So, when it blew just as I got into Brandon, I felt immense relief as that feeling of being ‘off’ dissipated almost immediately.

I was able to limp into a big empty parking lot to assess the damage. Tire was definitely a goner. Okay, fine, need a new tire. I knew I was lucky. I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere and chances were I’d be able to hunker down in this parking lot until I could get going again. I hadn’t needed to use one of my precious ‘free’ roadside assistance calls and I didn’t have to try to put on the spare myself. I was home. And didn’t tire places offer a mobile service? As crummy things go, this was pretty non-crummy.

So, the first thing I did was hike across the tarmac to the grocery store there, get a few things, then politely ask if I could spend the day in their parking lot. Indeed. I was even welcome to stay through to Monday morning!

Okay, so I now had a place to securely leave Miranda while I went for help. I asked Majel for directions to the nearest tire place. It was closed, so I moved on to the next. Kal Tire. Go there if you ever blow a tire in Brandon!

I told the service tech what happened and where I was. He looked very apologetic and informed me that he couldn’t possibly get someone out to see me for at least four or five hours and it would cost 60$ to do so. I told him that was fantastic and that I was thrilled that I’d be able to get service that day. I gave him my cell number (another thing to be grateful for), told him I was going exploring in my toad, and to give me a shout whenever his tech was ready to head my way.

So, Saturday I was able to do what I’d planned to do in the first place: explore Brandon. There was absolutely nothing to see. Really. It was too cold and rainy to walk along the river and all the interesting exhibits and shops were closed tight till Monday. I drove around a bit to orient myself, found a movie theatre, and then returned home to comb through all my literature on Saskatchewan to plan my next move.

The tech guy arrived around 5, as promised, and made quick work of getting the new tire put on, even though he had to return to the shop to pick up a tool he hadn’t thought to bring. They didn’t have a the exact kind of tire I have, but something equivalent… that was almost double the cost. To compensate me for that (!) I just had to pay for the tire, the service call, and the taxes. They actually waived the hourly work fee! The total bill wasn’t pleasant, but it was fully half what I had thought a blow out would cost me.

By this time, it was going on seven. I’d had dinner between the tech’s two visits (he told me I could be in the rig while it was on the jack) so I went to the movies then came home and had an early night.

Which brings us to this morning. I was a bit disoriented when I woke up. I’d slept 9 hours straight through. That is absolutely unheard of for me.

I had a pleasant and absolutely uneventful 450km journey to just outside Regina. The park I’d spotted in a campground guide turned out to be perfectly located (and cheap!). Walmart and any other store I could possibly need is just 10 minutes down the highway.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll explore Regina while Tuesday I’m taking a field trip to Moose Jaw.

If the adage that bad things happen in threes, then I should be good for a while. 🙂 At any rate, I’m on the prairie where it’s warm and sunny, the aspen are giggling outside my door, and the beer is cold. All is right once again and I can’t believe I’m almost halfway through this first portion of my great big adventure.

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Canada, Maintenance & Repair, Manitoba, Nice Folks, Saskatchewan, Social, Technical, Travel    4 Comments