Day 3 - July 3rd Monday
Distance travelled for the day- 707 km
Total distance for trip - 2155 km
Route - Thunder Bay - Winnipeg
The Days Inn Thunder Bay offers a free breakfast. It's a modest mostly do it yourself affair with cereal, toast and coffee with the exception of a waffle maker! And I did not let this opportunity pass by. I made the 'perfect' waffle and ate it with maple syrup and butter. #canada150
The staff were very helpful and provided window cleaner and rags to clean my bug splattered windshield. Cleaning completed, bags loaded and I was off to the TransCanda Hwy #1. Today I would be entering the prairies. The leg of the trip I was looking forward to most. I've been to the east coast, the west coast and all through Ontario but I've never been to the prairies..
I remember the geography of the prairies from grade school. There's the Canadian Shield which is essentially a lot of rock = Northern Ontario. And then huge glaciers moved slowly south from the arctic through the prairies and pushed away the rock leaving fertile soil behind, millions of years ago. I like to imagine the first explorers to Canada as they trekked through the forests and hills battling dangerous wildlife to discover wide open spaces, endless big sky and thousands of acres of fertile land to grow food. What a find!
I'm deathly allergic to horses. Something my parents and I found out at the age of 3 when they plopped me on my cousin's horse and I had a severe allergic reaction within minutes. So when my brother and cousins were out on the farm riding horses and playing with the animals I was sat inside on the sofa, loaded up with Sudafed, holding a box of tissue watching old John Wayne movies. I loved westerns. I loved cowboys. I just couldn't get near a horse. Now (to borrow a lyric from Bon Jovi) I have a steel horse and I am riding across my country and loving every minute.
I left Thunder Bay and about 400km later I crossed the time zone to central time and gained an hour. It's amazing that "we" can all agree that this 'line in the sand' represents a time change. It seems so arbitrary.
Along the way I stopped off in Kenora, ON for a coffee and a break. Kenora is a quaint town on a beautiful lake with million dollar cottages and an organic local brewery. There I met a character named Bruce who was a retired hippy from Miami with long grey hair and a surfer style. He told me about the 1967 Triumph he used to ride and the other bikes he used to race. He extolled the virtues of Kenora, where he visited for 3 days and stayed for 20 years, as the best keep secret going and that I would do well to get off the TransCanada Hwy and see the river valley in the prairies. I was happy to meet him and hear his stories and enthusiasm for life. We should all be so lucky.
About 150 km later I crossed the Manitoba border. It's not like crossing into the USA where all the rules are different but there are subtle differences and these seem to communicate a different way of doing things, a different way of life. In my opinion it reflects that Ontarians can be a bit uptight and the rest of the world is a little more pragmatic.
For example the speed limit is 110 km and there aren't police cruisers lurking around every corner to give you a ticket. One difference that takes some getting used to is that a vehicle can enter or exit the highway from the left side. As a result it's not necessary to build the intricate and confusing on and off ramps like eastern Canada. You get on and off the highway where you need to and people respect this and drive with respect to other travellers. At least in my experience so far.
Manitoba has endless big sky and the view extends to the horizon. Imagine saying to someone, "See that red barn 3 miles away? That's where Vincent lives."
About 30 km before Winnipeg I crossed the longitudinal centre of Canada. This is very cool to be literally in the centre of our great country.
I short ride into Manitoba and I arrived in Winnipeg. I was very fortunate to get a room at the renowned Fort Garry Hotel, a designated national historic site. It was built in 1913 and has defined the Winnipeg skyline for more than a 100 years. It has more than a passing similarity to The Plaza in Manhattan and is located steps away from the Via Rail station. Many famous guests have stayed at the Fort Garry including Harry Belafonte, Lawrence Olivier, Liberace, Louis Armstrong, Queen Elizabeth, Diane Keaton, and Isabella Rossilini along with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez.
A nice touch is that they will deliver a fresh pot of coffee or tea to your room (included at no extra cost) between 6 am and 11 am and you can text to order. I loved it! This is relevant to our times, elegant history combined with modern technology to create the ultimate experience.
I started with breakfast so it makes sense to end with breakfast. At The Fort Garry Hotel they make omlettes to order and it was delicious.
Made to order omelette with peameal bacon and home fries. Don't forget the hot sauce.
The day as it happened...