Day Seven – Kenora, ON to Riding Mountain NatIonal Park, MB

Wow, the bed was really comfortable and we’ve had a great sleep. We’re up at eight because Donalda serves breakfast until nine and she has asked us to come down and eat before the little ones get up. We head over to the table (which is set up in a sunny, many windowed room) and lo and behold…the kids are already up.

The boys are dressed in matching pyjamas (green with horizontal stripes) and I comment that they look like Oompa-Loompas. Ivor mentions that Christina has a thing about dressing the boys in identical fashions (therefore avoiding clashes) and sometimes that means you end up with some weird outfits. They do look adorable and the bright colours allow you to keep them in your sights (particularly if they’re carrying raspberry/apple drinks).

Aidan isn’t the least bit interested in me today. He has his IPad mini with him, the same exact model and case as the one I am using, and he’s using it much more efficiently than I do…and he’s three. I feel like such an electronic tard! He is watching a movie and to be honest, it looks pretty good.

Brennan, the five-year-old, takes up the conversational slack by guilting me into watching videos of seeds growing. I watch as a bean sprouts and say “Hey, I wonder if that’s the Jack In The Beanstalk bean? He gives me one of those ‘Yeah, Right’ looks and carries on to the acorn video. He is fascinated by life and I’m sure he will grow up to be a renowned botanist (Good…the world needs people who love plants)

Son number three (Connor) has spit up on the sofa and Christina is busy scrubbing it out of the upholstery. As she does, she comments that, in general, boys are “Agents of Destruction”. She gets a resounding ‘Amen’ from everyone in the room over the age of five.

Breakfast is home cooked and the coffee and conversation are mighty good. One thing about B & B’s…you get to meet and enjoy such wonderfully interesting people and, for a few short hours, share their lives. What a blast! If you are not interested in people, avoid Bed and Breakfasts…and if you are drunk or rowdy, please stay away from The Countryside Manor, they are very generous hosts and they deserve the best from their guests.

We head out after many goodbyes and we look forward to hooking up again with Christina, Ivor and the Agents of Destruction when we get to BC. And thank you Donalda and John!

Oh my gawd…there is a Starbucks in Kenora! (I told you it was a bastion of civilization). We get a mug of Joe each and head back onto Hwy 17W towards Manitoba. Kenora was fantastic.

As we enter our neighbouring province, we notice a sign that says ‘Rural Speed Area, Maximum 90km/h unless otherwise posted’. We also notice that our new road Hwy. 1 West is (like the 401) two lanes each way, with a posted speed of 100kmh. Very Nice.

Along the way Wendy e-mails and texts an old friend from her Katimavik days. Janis, lives in Winnipeg and we’re heading right through there. If possible, we will stop by for a visit. Unfortunately, any response is again prevented by another loss of cell service. We’ll motor on and hope for the best.

Seconds before we turn onto the ramp to bypass Winnipeg, service returns and we receive a reply from Janis. She has a guest in from Toronto but come on by and visit. We get an address check, plug it into the GPS and continue on into town.

(Moose in 3 years)

Janis lives in a quiet, older neighbourhood that reminds both Wendy and I of Cabbagetown, in T.O. (minus the flooding…barroom-boom). We are met at the door by Janis and Stella (her wise and friendly pup). Going into the living room, we meet Lu-Ann (Janis’ dear friend from Toronto) and another friend, Janis’ neighbour (who departs soon after the introductions).

We start out with some water for Wendy and a local mini brewery beer for me. That is soon followed up with food…a hearty tuna sandwich for me and a tuna salad for Wendy. There are also a bowl of olives and, from the way Wendle goes through them, I bet they were very tasty.

During lunch, we mention that we hope to stop at Elk Island National Park and Head Smashed In because of out interest in Bison and The First Nations. Janis and Lu-Ann tell us about Riding Mountain, a National Park in Manitoba, where a herd of bison roam freely on one of the few remaining natural prairie grasslands. We google the park and it definitely looks like something we should see. A few calls later and we have a tentative booking, at a small cabin in Wasagaming, right inside the park. The only caveat, it’s a three hour drive, the office closes at 7pm and a quick glance at our watches tell us that it’s already 4.40pm. Luckily, we discover that we have entered a new time zone…which means it’s only actually 3.40pm and we may still have time to make it. After some hurried goodbyes and many Thank You’s to our hosts, we fly out to the car and settle into the Winnipeg rush hour.

Whoever planned Winnipeg was a genius. Rush hour traffic moves smoothly and swiftly as we drive across town and before you know it, we are back on Hwy. 1 W. towards Brandon, Manitoba.

At Brandon, we switch over to Hwy. 10 North. The road is only one lane in either direction but the speed remains at 100kmh and, although the passing lanes are few and far between, the flatness of the prairies allows you to pass safely because you can see oncoming traffic for miles.

We arrive at our destination right on time and are greeted by a dude who claims to be the property’s caretaker. He is standing as he talks to us and he is spraying OFF all over himself…lots and lots of OFF (in fact, the dude is enveloped in a cloud of DDT). Wendy says “Boy, the Mosquitos must be bad” and the dude says “Yeah, but I got lots of this stuff. I go through several cans of it a week”.

We are now five minutes late (and covered in second hand OFF) but Barb, our new host, has waited and within a couple of minutes she has registered us and we’re on our way to our cabin. Cabin number 10.

After unloading the car, we head over to check out Wasagaming. It’s gorgeous. Nestled within the park, the streets are lined with stores, restaurants and the Park Theatre. Built in 1936-37, it has 490 seats and is the largest log theatre in North America (if not the world). We peek in and it’s absolutely enchanting.

We eat dinner at TR McKoys and enjoy the company of our waiter, a Winnipeg native who is studying Law at The University of Western Ontario. This country may be huge but it is definitely a small world.

After dinner and a leisurely walk along Wasagaming Drive (which reminds us both of a smaller and gentler Wasaga Beach ON) we head back over to ‘The Cottages At Clear Lake’ and retreat into our cozy and very clean cabin…it even smells great…wood and pine with subtle undertones of DEET.

Another long and exciting day and we nod off to sleep with the windows open and the sound of the bugs banging up against the screens.

Moose & Wendle

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