For those entering Canada from North Dakota: take heed. There will be no gas on the way. We coasted on fumes into Pembina, the last chance for everything before the border crossing at Emerson where the passport guy grilled us with a lot of intrusive trick questions about our personal lives (“How did you two meet?”) and our reasons for visiting. We were already pitting out over the pack of fresh pork chops we were bent on smuggling in and watched in horror as two motorhomes ahead were pulled into secondary and boarded by customs officials.
After finally entering the country (pork chops and all) we dissected the emotional strip search at the border. I won’t compromise their national security by listing the questions, but we determined they were designed to bust middle aged yanks escaping in their RVs to illegally take advantage of that sweet Canadian health care system.
First stop: Kitchy Manitou (great drag queen name), a beautiful and spacious campground within Spruce Woods Provincial Park in Manitoba where mosquitos were so bad neither our smoky bonfire nor Ralph’s cigar repelled them in the least. (Most underrated attribute of the PacNorwest? No bugs. Yes, it’s cold and it rains 300 days a year but there are no flying, blood-sucking summer insects CAN I GET AN AMEN, Portland?)
We roadtripped through the peaceful, endless yellow prairie of Manitoba and Saskatchewan on the Trans-Canada Highway, a deeply boring and predictable part of the world, like North Dakota without the sophisticated nightlife. Every little town on Highway 1 has a tagline: Indian Head – “A Progressive Prairie Town”; Wolseley – “The Town Around a Lake!”; Qu’appelle – “A Community Built on Caring and Sharing” (o barf). City officials must argue for months about these. Signs announcing whatever upcoming hamlet include the slogan and their must-see attraction (some are a stretch—more than one swinging bridge, and a potash museum).
Provincial, Regional and City parks are plentiful in Southern Canada. We passed my birthday at Grenfell Regional Park (an improvement from a year ago when I celebrated by wrecking the Airstream), where facilities for campers are located in the basement of the adjacent community hockey rink. When the caretaker took our money she gave us a stern lecture about not showering together or engaging in “hanky panky” in the bathrooms. (!)
We exited Canada over the Nelson Range in British Columbia on a scary patch of highway (a semi truck was actually jackknifed on the runaway truck ramp). Near the border our brave tow vehicle turned 100,000.
Sweeping Generalizations About Canada
- Canadians have sharp-looking eyeglasses.
- Bagged ice prices are outrageous.
- 2 in 5 public commodes are out of order. (“It must be the enormous amount of cheese they eat,” Ralph surmised after a look at the vast dairy aisle in the Calgary Safeway.)
- Men in Canada parade around shirtless and Canadian women are obsessively clean, spending hours in the campsite bathrooms compulsively washing their hands and queuing up morning noon and night for the showers. (Ralph: “Personal hygiene is overrated.”)
- They really do say “aboat”, (not “aboot” as is widely thought), as in “Coffee’s oat, we’re makin’ a new pot.”
- What is Tim Hortons?
- Canadians are either very sociable or Airstreams are a novelty—more people approached us to ask about the DWR in one week in Canada than in our entire three years of ownership in the States.
- Canadian campground bonus: Free firewood!