Monthly Archives: September 2015

Day 6 – Further into Saskatchewan

With a desire to see beyond the Saskatchewan plains we head northeast of Regina. Harvesting and haying is evident in all directions. It appears they’ve enjoyed a productive summer.


Saskatchewan Harvest

Qu'Appella River


We zip by a sign pointing to a scenic byway, after brief discussion we decide to turn around and explore that byway. After all the whole point of the day is to see more of the province. The route takes us to the lakes, ravines and scenic valley carved by the winding Qu’Appelle River. Echo Valley Provincial Park straddles both sides of the road along the shores of Pasqua and Echo Lakes. We don’t stop at the park but the scenery and facilities look to be well worth a visit. We turn eastward along the north shore of Echo Lake, an area lined with vacation homes. We can imagine how popular this area and its water activities are during the summer.


Fort Qu'Appelle

A park sponsored by the local Rotary Club commemorates the original Hudson Bay Company trading post at Fort Qu’Appelle.

We follow highway 10 to Melville and Yorkton, the largest city in the area with a population of 16,000. We stop for lunch  and a couple of successful shopping needs.


Our lodging reservations are at a rural bed & breakfast outside of Canora, a tidy town whose name is derived from the first two letters of  the CAnadian NOrthern RAilway. Via Rail serves the local station along the route between Winnipeg and Churchill, Manitoba.


Welcome to CanoraWe seek out the Ukrainian churches (Catholic and Orthodox) with their distinctive domes. (See separate post.)


When we made our reservations the B&B hosts warned us that they were hosting their bridge club for an annual dinner tonight. Upon arrival they insist we join them for dinner. This turns out to be a real treat as well as a tasty Italian dinner. The nearly 30 guests are very welcoming and engaged in interesting conversation – everything from area travel recommendations to Donald Trump.


Many of our dinner companions are most interested in our views on the presidential candidates. Canadians are in the midst of a prime minister election and I must say they know a lot more about our issues and candidates than we do about theres. My favorite quote of the evening, “We hope Donald Trump stays in the race for a long time, he’s the best comedy on television.”


The day proves successful in getting further into Saskatchewan, both geographically and the human element.


Royal Saskatchewan Museum – Regina

Version 2Surprises abound during our visit to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Surprise #1 is easy free parking. Surprise #2 is the FREE admission, is that great or not? There is a suggested per person donation which we willingly give. After seeing the quality and depth of the galleries we drop in an additional amount in support of the museum. A staff member offers a warm welcome and brief orientation.


Near the beginning of the Life Sciences Gallery is a large table-top map of Saskatchewan with eco-zones outlined. Buttons corresponding with outlines on the map activate an audio description of each zone from early formation to native lifeforms.


Moose - RSM

When planning our visit I found it difficult to find more than rudimentary information on the province. Surprise #4 – This was exactly what I had wanted for better understanding of what we would find in our travels. Surprise #5 – The geography of Saskatchewan is much more diverse than appears on road maps or in travel literature.



As we proceed through the gallery exhibits, dioramas, audio, video and informative signs display significant flora, fauna and landforms of each eco-zone – all extremely well done. We come eye to eye with moose found in the Taiga Shield, Barren-ground caribou wintering in the Boreal Shield, and a porcupine clinging to a tree trunk as found in the Aspen Parklands. As much as I would love to see these in their natural habitat I would never want to be this close and certainly wouldn’t be able to study them so closely.


Caribou - RSM

Interactive learning centers includes topics such as Avoiding Being Eaten, outlining defensive weapons various species possess, and Songs of Love where we can hear the sounds used to attract mates from cougars to Northern Leopard Frogs. I like the informative exhibit about the differences between El Nino, La Nina and a normal year. Is there ever a “normal” year?


Red-Headed Bird - RSM

Surprise #6 – The more than 350 species of birds and waterfowls found in Saskatchewan. I’m fascinated with the migration patterns of those who come north to breed. The route down the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains into Central and South America  is familiar. However, I never realized another route beginning in northernmost Saskatchewan that takes flight to the Maritime Provinces in Eastern Canada then thousands of miles south above the Atlantic Ocean and down the Brazilian coast. What a journey these amazing creatures undertake twice a year.


Goose - RSM

Costa Rico Rainforest - RSM

Surprise #7 – A large diorama depicting a wildlife refuge in Costa Rica. The scene shows the upper canopy of a rainforest in February with a “mixed flock” of tropical birds and songbirds that will fly north to spend a few summer months in the Saskatchewan forests.


Surprise #8 – We’ve spent nearly two hours and could spend more in this Life Sciences Gallery; there are still two others plus a temporary exhibit to survey. After a brief break we go to the lower level to the Earth Sciences and First Nation Galleries.


When it comes to the age of the dinosaurs I admit to having a shorter attention span than a typical four-year-old. The Earth Sciences Gallery tells the formation of Saskatchewan, ancient history and creatures that roamed this area more than a billion years ago. There’s much I could learn of extinct giant reptiles, mosasaurs, and dinosaurs but we make a fairly quick walk-through although this area deserves more attention.


Prehistoric Green Monster - RSM

First Nations Gallery traces the history of Aboriginal societies that lived in Saskatchewan. Artwork and artifacts recall cultural traditions. Again,  we don’t give this area as much attention as we should. On a future visit we might opt to start here to fully experience the history of Saskatchewan’s First Nations.


Traders - RSM

The Museum also features a theatre and the popular Megamunch, a ½-scale robotic T-rex named by the province’s schoolchildren.


Surprise #9 (and, only disappointment) – The gift shop has a very small book selection about Saskatchewan and nothing similar to the information in the Life Sciences Gallery.


Surprise #10 is the hard maple, leaf-shaped candy Bob finds. At three for $1.00 Bob adds three to my purchases. The volunteer clerk comments, “That won’t be enough.” Bob goes back for six more. When we get to the car we’re ready for a treat. Later in the afternoon we’re back at the museum making a $10 purchase of maple candy.


Day 5 – September Saturday in Regina, Saskatchewan

I don’t know how one could ask for a more perfect September Saturday. Since I’ve never master the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion I can’t cite the temperature. However, the morning chill quickly warmed to comfortable shirt-sleeve weather.


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The day’s activities center around Regina’s Lake Wascana. The lake is surrounded by parkland and a combination of recreational, cultural, governmental and educational facilities. First stop this Saturday morning is the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. With extensive Life Sciences, Earth Sciences and First Nation galleries we easily spend more than three hours learning about the eco-zone, wildlife, historical and cultural diversities found in Saskatchewan.


Royal Saskatchewan Museum


Center of First Nation University


Needing time off our feet we decide to drive around Lake Wascana locating the Legislative Building, Science Center, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Wascana Center, gardens, walking trails and numerous lakeside viewpoints. South of the lake is the University of Regina campus; we stop to take pictures of the modern yet symbolic architecture of the First Nation University.


First Nation University - Horizonal

An ice cream cone sounds like an ideal afternoon refreshment when we spot a food truck. What a great location! Down a long walkway and surrounding gardens stands the Legislative Building; the top of the building is wrapped for current restoration work. We join a group observing a man piloting remote-controlled boats. One of his vessels is a replica fire boat complete with water hose expelling an arcing water stream. Children dare him to aim for them, then jump back with giggling glee.


Legislative Building - Regina


Boy & Fire Boat - Regina

Having skipped lunch we head for an early dinner. On our way into town two days ago Bob spotted a Tony Roma’s restaurant. All the Tony Roma’s in Colorado closed several years ago and we’re eager to once again order their St. Louis style ribs. We leave fully satisfied with dinner and service.


The evening is much too pleasant to return to our hotel room so we go back to Lake Wascana for a short walk and a park bench from which we watch families enjoying the park and the setting sun. Our only regret is that we didn’t have time to explore many of the other facilities – next time we’ll plan more days around Lake Wascana.


Lake Wascana at Dusk

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The end of a perfect September Saturday in Regina.

Day 4 – Royal Day in Regina, Saskatchewan – September 11, 2015

Bob with Mountie Moose


We head off to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Center for our first activity of the day. All RCMP cadets are trained at the adjoining Regina Depot. The first thing we want to do is sign up to attend the afternoon Sergeant Major’s Parade – an event that requires an escort onto the Depot grounds.


Viewing a 20-minute film, Courage in Red, we’re introduced to the life of cadets during their initial six-month training to become Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Before attending the parade we visit several of the six galleries in the museum.

  • Creating a Mounted Police

  • Maintaining Law and Order in the West

  • Protecting the North

  • Serving All of Canada

  • Answering Duty’s Call

  • Cracking the Case

We’re fortunate to receive a tram ride to the parade square with a guide filling in many details of training activities, tour of the Depot grounds and history of the RMCP. The rat-a-tat of snare drums alert visitors to the beginning of the parade led by a band and followed, in order of seniority, by the current training troops.


Mountie Parade

At the end of the parade we’re welcomed into the chapel, dating from the 1800s it’s the oldest building at the Depot. We admire the colorful stained-glass windows, especially the two on either side of the altar. One is a red-coated Mountie in a pose of reverent remembrance of fallen officers. The other is a Mountie with bugle calling the troops to duty.


Version 2

On our ride back to the Heritage Center we learn of roles from support staff. The training center has a 12-person tailoring department, as one of the ladies in the film says, “We’re not just hemming pants we’re dressing Mounties.” There is also a leather shop where the distinctive, tall, brown boots are custom fitted to each cadet.


Upon arrival back at the Heritage Center we finish visiting the exhibits; and, of course, puruse the gift shop. We’ve spent more than four hours immersed into RCMP life and history. Our first activity of the day has become our only activity; but, an interesting and entertaining day.

The Bakken Oil Fields of Northwestern North Dakota

Oli PumpLast year on our first visit to North Dakota we found the impact of the Bakken oil fields utterly amazing. Although we’ve heard and read that exploration and production are down this year due to oil prices it’s hard to believe from what we see today. Every few miles there is evidence of new drilling and pumps are pumping away – sometimes one or two but sometimes as many as a dozen in a tightly-spaced row.


Traffic in the area is horrendous. Roads engineered and built to link rural towns, often narrow without paved shoulders, now serve thousands of drilling and well sites. The vast majority of vehicles are large commercial trucks hauling water, sand, pipes, heavy machinery and oil – in a hurry and hugging the center line.


Williston is a hub city for much of the activity. Driving through town we realize how many types of services are needed to support this industry. Everyone has tales of how the town has grown and changed. We hear of rents as high as $3,000/month for a two-bedroom apartment. Last year when Bob wanted an oil change in the car we were told that we’d need an appointment – first available slot was three months out. And, the same was true for a haircut.


Hay & Drilling

Ranch land and oil fields exist side by side.

Day 3 – Canada or Bust

North Dakota Landscape


Another day of drive, drive, drive to reach our goal of Regina, Saskatchewan. Before my first visit to North Dakota I imagined an endless, non-descript landscape. The Badlands in the western portion of the state doesn’t fit that image, making the drive much more interesting.


Lake Sakakawea Bridge

We follow ND22 north from Dickinson to New Town. Frustration sets in when we join a long line of traffic following an incredibly wide load – creeping uphill of course. There is plenty of time to admire the Badlands view.


We cross Lake Sakakawea (formed by the damming of the Missouri River) at New Town to catch ND1804, a 70-mile stretch of hills and  curves to Williston. This the heart of the Bakken oil fields and it seems everyone is on the move – mostly in very large truck in a hurry. We can hardly wait to get further north.


The border crossing was uneventful until I gave a flippant answer to, “Do you have more than $10,000. in cash?” Without a pause, “I wish,” jumps out of my mouth. We had to repeat that question with a no nonsense, “No.”


Oil exploration declines in southern Saskatchewan. We note the frequent small bodies of water – I would call them ponds but later learn here they are called sloughs. By whatever name they attract a large variety of waterfowl.


We make a mid-afternoon stop at McDonalds in Weyland. Bob’s interested in the large number of local seniors gathered for coffee and chit-chat, males on one side, females on another.


With grateful relief we arrive at our Regina Holiday Inn Express, home for the next three nights.

Good Night!

Good Night Kiss

In our room at the Dickinson, North Dakota Holiday Inn Express we found this treat on the nightstand.


“We are sorry that you are away from home tonight,

 so we would like to make things better if we might.

 Before you jump into bed and turn out the lights,

 please enjoy this kiss goodnight!”


A sweet extra touch.

BrickHouse Grille – Dickinson, North Dakota

BrickHouse Grille was recommended at our hotel as the best restaurant in Dickinson, North Dakota. I don’t doubt that this may well be true as the choices are few when you get beyond the level of sports bars, pizza joints or Applebee’s.


We enjoyed a pleasant, enthusiastic waiter, although my observation of other wait staff made me believe he was above the norm. The waiter at the table next to us was repeatedly trying to up-sell every drink and course.


My husband ordered a cup of the daily soup special, loaded baked potato. He reported it was very, very good. And, I must say even it’s aroma across the table was very, very pleasant. I admit to being a bit jealous of his choice.


I found the salad disappointing – one slim tomato wedge on a damp assortment of greens, some browned and wilted. I prefer crisp greens to wimpy, limpy field greens and find three inches of spinach stem particularly annoying and difficult to gracefully get into the mouth.


BrikHouse GrilleMy oven-roasted chicken breast proved to be the best dish I tried, the crispy skin added flavor without drying out the white meat. I would have preferred another treatment for the horseradish mashed potatoes, finding the horseradish a bit strong with chicken (I’ll take mine with a piece of prime rib) and the texture reminded me of those made with potato flakes and too much liquid.


Bob found his beef and mushroom penne pasta dish in dire need of seasoning. I guess we should have stuck with the soup and friendly discourse with the waiter.

Thanks Wyoming

Wyoming Rest Stop

In eastern-most Wyoming US85 nearly parallels the historic Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Route. At Mule Creek Junction we find a roadside rest stop miles from other facilities. It’s time to flex the legs so we pull into the rest area.


Rest Stop SignWe discover a modern, well-maintained facility – not only with restrooms but landscaped grounds, a designated pet area, picnic tables and children’s playground. Although this is the crossroads for two US highways, traffic is far less than one finds along Interstates where one would expect such facilities. We’re surprised of the quality we find here.


While not a manned information center the building is well supplied with state maps and travel literature. We spend 20 minutes ambling around the area and reading the exterior signs relating stories of Wyoming wildlife, Native Americans, agriculture and that famed Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Route.


Thanks Wyoming!

Day 2 – Wide Open Spaces

Open Rod

The goal for today was a 400+-mile drive north from Torrington, Wyoming to Dickinson, North Dakota – mostly miles and miles of wide open spaces. Heading north from Torrington, Wyoming on US85 I couldn’t help but remember that there was a time when I would have traveled through this country complaining that it was desolate and boring.


Perhaps it is living in the West for more than 50 years, keener observation skills or enhanced appreciation but today I find something of interest or intrigue in every mile traveled. The Southeastern Wyoming landscape is dotted with tiny clusters of ranch buildings – some active, some weathered with only wind-blown memories. What hardships did the first settlers endure? Or even earlier, how did the land appear when tall, native grasses waved across the prairie disturbed only by thundering herds of buffalo.


Sunflowers wave from the shoulder of the highway as we pass. We crossed the dry bed of Raw Hide Creek more than half-a-dozen times. Our eyes follow it’s course marked by tall aged cottonwoods and edged in flowing, narrow ribbons of green grasses along its banks. At some crossings we note evidence of previous flash floods. Today, I love driving through the land where the deer and the antelope play.


Bridal Veil Falls - Spearfish CanyonNorth of Newcastle the route winds into the western edge of the Black Hills. We see signs for Calamity Gulch, Devil’s Bathtub, Cleopatra Place – what’s the history behind these names? Not long after crossing into South Dakota we enter scenic Spearfish Canyon, a narrow split in the rocky walls bordering Spearfish Creek. The pullout at Bridal Veil Falls is probably the most popular stop along the Scenic Byway.


We leave US85 at Belle Fource to spend the afternoon following state highways to Dickinson. Although sparsely populated there are always signs of man’s habitation: a rusted windmill, a rutted dirt lane, fenced pasture land, a complex of ranch buildings on yonder hill. Except for a slim strip of Custer National Forest, trees are almost non-existant. We wonder how far ranch children have to travel to a school. What must the early settlers have thought of these wide open plains?


Take Turns 3When the road narrows for bridge repair we’re amused that instead of a flagman or temporary light signal there’s simply a sign saying, “Take Turns.” Rarely an issue in these wide open spaces.