August 11th, Brandon, Manitoba – 432 km from Moose Jaw (Wal-Mart Parking Lot $0.00)
Brandon Wheat Kings – those words stick together in my mind like peanut butter and jam. The name of a junior hockey team based nearly 2,000 km from my home: I wonder how I know that piece of trivia? It was a long drive today from Moose Jaw today, made longer and more challenging by periods of torrential rain. The road seemed to go on forever, with no place to stop. My camping spot tonight is the Wal-Mart parking lot – there are definitely not too many frills here, but the price is sure right. When I arrived, I could hardly wait to get unbent. I headed out across a muddy field and found a big park by the Assiniboine River. It was still raining but it felt so good to be out of the truck. I wasn’t surprised that there were no other walkers on the pathways except one shadowy couple taking refuge in a concrete picnic shelter.
After a good long walk and getting thoroughly soaked in the process, I climbed back into the trailer and tried to dry off Baloo, but with his thick coat, it was almost impossible, and what do you do with wet dog towels in such a tiny space? Next on the agenda was dinner, and it had to happen fast because I was famished. I splashed through the flooding parking lot, rinsing the mud off my shoes, to the Safeway, and bought hot spiced chicken wings, and a fresh bagged Caesar salad, a (healthy?) dinner ready in seconds. Two phone calls from family, and they both described how the weather on the west coast was so amazing – sunny and warm. I wasn’t jealous as I stared at the wet dog towels hung strategically from the overhead cabinets. Rain, mud, it didn’t matter in the slightest, I was on an adventure, a huge adventure, and I could hardly wait to see what was around the next bend in the road.
The night’s free parking helped alleviate last night’s over the top camping fee. Because of the battery, and tanks, I’m all set up – I don’t need power or water or sewer. I am a bit nervous because I have heard many, if not all, of the scary Walmart camping stories but can only hope that it will be quiet and safe under the lights in this gargantuan parking lot. The rain is hammering down so hard that I am sure it will keep the low lifes confined to tv or the bars.
Rain or not, I’m in Manitoba whose provincial motto is “Glorious and Free.” Apparently their licence plates used to say “Sunny Manitoba, 100,000 lakes,” but now they make do with “Friendly Manitoba.”
I never realized that Manitoba is so skinny across its bottom half. As I look at the map, I see that I have almost reached the Ontario border. My son Travis, who lives in Toronto, is leaving for the west coast soon to attend a friend’s wedding – and I’m going to try and make it to Toronto in time to see him. It will be a big push – Ontario does not fit into the skinny category, in fact, I can hardly believe how big it really is. I wonder why I never noticed this before. I started thinking about what it would be like to drive on Toronto’s expressways, pulling a trailer. I remember a doctor who I once worked with told me how he had started his practice, tending to the 401’s accident victims and that kept me awake.