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Old 05-12-2009, 08:25 PM   #99
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You are killing me Gene, how can you be in Ely and not be canoeing? Oh well. Sorry to hear about the bearing, but now you have had your glitch for the trip. (uh oh, I think they may of said something like that on the Apollo 13 mission forget I said that).
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Old 05-14-2009, 08:09 PM   #100
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We saved Canada!

We've made it to Brandon, Manitoba. Possibility of snow and freezing rain tonight and windy, high here 34˚ tomorrow. The weather is better to the west and we head to Moose Jaw, Sask., tomorrow. Seems like there's a lot of do in Moose Jaw besides marvel at the name. We plan to spend a day there as we are ahead of schedule (pron. here: shed-ul).

I have been secretly practicing Canadian and will carry a hockey stick around and try it out before we leave. I think I can do ok with the inflections and will try to avoid the definite article before "university" and "hospital". I do have trouble with "aboot" as in "I'm aboot to go oot to university because I got injured playing the hockey".

Grand Marais and Ely are both launching points for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but 2 towns could not be more different. GM is artsy, in a dramatic setting on Lake Superior and more modern touristy. It's hardly a wealthy area—most of the houses are small, always a good indicator of community wealth. I think a few second homes have been built, but prices seem low to us. Some good restaurants—Angry Trout on our trip into town to get parts. People are really friendly and helpful. It has a good health food market.

Ely is a working class mining town being transformed into a tourist town. This was in the iron mining area of Minnesota, but most of the mines are closed now. But because the buildings are distinctly practical and not northern tourist, it just doesn't have the atmosphere. We ate at the fancy hotel's restaurant, the Evergreen, and one dish was good, one dull, and the room was new hotel style, i.e., antiseptic. Nice view of Shagawa Lake. The best restaurant in town (as the guide books recommend anyway), Burntside, was still closed and the Chocolate Moose, also recommended, was also still closed. The Northland Market has some specials—Taco Tuesday ("Tacoriffic!") and Thursday is "Hot Bologna (regular or cheese)", but we deferred. Ely is now promoting itself as a candidate for the 2016 summer Olympics, so they have a sense of humor. We stayed at the Silver Rapids Campground. We choose it because it was close to town, had full hookups and their website was so well done, we thought it might tell us something. A mistake. Motel rooms, campsites and cabins jammed in together and a difficult back in. Another nice lake view though.

It rained hard when we got there and when we got back to the trailer, it was leaking. Not big leaks, but several small ones. They only get worse over time. I went looking for sealant (had planned to buy some before, but forgot) and found something that seemed it would work and then to the local garage to see if they had a ladder, gun and a willing guy to go up there. We found Bob at the Goodyear dealer and he had those items. He found all but one place where it was leaking (Fantastic Fan cover, skylight, over a front window). One of the side oval windows is still leaking a little, but we can live with it for now. Long ago we used to call a car that you couldn't trust a "county car" because you didn't want to drive it outside the county in case it broke down again. I'm beginning to think we have a "county trailer". It's getting to the point of "what's next?"

So Gunflint Pines Campground at Gunflint Lake was a good place to be especially fixing wheel bearings, Grand Marais is a great setting and some good restaurants, but Ely was a disappointment, but a good place to do laundry. If you are wanting to canoe, a lot of this doesn't matter, but we, unlike Rodney, aren't interested. We did a little hiking at Gunflint. We also checked out the FS campground at the end of the Gunflint Trail ("Trails End") and it had some good sites, some with water. They don't have a dump station, so, in effect, they are telling you to dump grey water on the ground.

After Ely comes International Falls, one of those places that claims to be the "icebox of the nation", but it has warmed to near 70˚. Ft. Frances, Ontario, and IF each have a paper mill and sometimes the smell of a paper mill makes me want to throw up, so after a quick border check, we drove quickly west and on toward Lake of the Woods. There are a gazillion islands in this very big lake and we had thought of staying in either Sioux Narrows or Nestor Falls, but decided, as it was early, to go on to Kenora at the north end of the lake. Five years ago we had eaten lunch at a hotel downtown (Best Western I think) which has a restaurant on the the top floor overlooking the lake. We watched float planes land and take off and not hit any boats. Great view, ordinary food. So we stayed at a campground with an unspellable, unpronounceable name—Anis… something, maybe. Pretty new looking, great view of the lake, wireless not installed. New people running it and trying to straighten it out.

On the way, about 15 miles south of Nestor Falls, we saved Canada. It was very windy and a tree had fallen at the edge of the forest and almost to the road. It was on fire, maybe having hit electric wires on the way down. It looked like the fire had only started several minutes before. A woman was on a cellphone down the road, we drove on looking for someplace to tell someone if her phone didn't work (ours didn't). About 3 miles down the road was a bar and it was closed, but there was a guy with a phone and a radio in his truck, so he said he'd call it in. Canada saved! I'm sure Stephen Harper will be calling soon to award us.

About a half hour up the road rain started and the temp kept falling. By the time we got to Kenora, it was dropping to about 40˚, still very windy and raining—bone chilling cold. When we went out to the restaurant, it was spitting a little snow and down in the 30's. The view was still great, the food mediocre. I should have learned now to not order Mexican food in Canada. At best it's "Mexican influenced". Strangest tortillas I've ever eaten. Couldn't eat more a half of one.

A little snow during the night, but it didn't stick and we were off to Manitoba. We decided to drive to Lake Winnipeg—it's very big and we just want to see it. We drove around what seems to be something like a peninsula on a very bad road and then some not so good roads—bouncing along, avoiding potholes and bumps and dips. We getting out of the land form that dominates northern Ontario and some of northern Minnesota and into the prairie. Unlike the US, there are plenty of trees rather than almost all grassland. Once out of the lake country, farms and flatness. We did get a glimpse of the lake, but mostly the roads avoid it. We drove around Winnipeg on roads that turn you into bobbleheads. I am not impressed with the quality of Manitoba's paving practices (northern Minnesota wasn't so great either, but this was worse). The cold here makes road maintenance difficult, but Ontario, BC and Alberta seem to have mastered it.

We have seen billions of bogs, rivers, lakes and trees. It's beautiful country, but it was time for something different. I didn't even find the flat, straight road across Manitoba to boring, but tomorrow is another day.

We were going to change some money at bank, but unlike the US where there's a (broke) bank on every corner, we haven't seen any. We're using the credit card for everything and have about $20 Canadian, so I guess we'll survive.

Later I'll post photos.

Gene
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Old 05-14-2009, 08:17 PM   #101
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I have been secretly practicing Canadian ... I do have trouble with "aboot" as in "I'm aboot to go oot to university because I got injured playing the hockey"....
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Ah, that's Canadian Raising. Wikipedia has a decent article about it:

Canadian raising - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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Old 05-14-2009, 09:52 PM   #102
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Photos

1. Safari and truck at campground in Mackinack City. Lake Huron in background.

2. Duluth Aerial Bridge going up. You'll have to take my word for it because it looks the same going down. The operators go up and down with it and can be seen in the middle of the roadway span.

3. Tug and barge approaching bridge when all the way up.

4. The new trim on the Safari which looks just like the one they now put on the Flying Clouds.
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Old 05-14-2009, 10:08 PM   #103
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More photos

1. Beautiful young trophy wife on rocks in Grand Marais harbor.

2. Grand Marias from Artist Point in harbor. Note new square unimaginative motels along shore which don't at all look like the rest of the town actually does. Also, trees and more trees on the hill to the west. Outside of the few small towns, lots of trees, bogs, lakes.

3. Snow at Gunflint Lake in mid May.

4. Old man contemplating his wheel bearings. He's cold and tired.

Gene
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Old 05-14-2009, 10:27 PM   #104
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And more photos

1. A loon (we think it's a loon) on Gunflint Lake. The Canadian dollar, only comes as a coin, has a loon on it, so everyone calls it a "looney". The two dollar coin, actually used here unless the US $2 bill, is a "twoonie". The land in the background is Ontario. A large fire a couple of years ago started to the west in Minnesota, went east into Ontario and then south to Minnesota, sparing the Gunflint Pines Campground. I think the lake is about 1 1/2 miles across here, but it's quite a few miles along. The lakes tend to follow the direction the glaciers moved here.

2. One of the camp dogs, 'Sota, who accompanied us on a hike.



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Old 05-14-2009, 10:43 PM   #105
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Great posts, Gene. And now enhanced with photos! You've come a long way from "It's following me home..." (I can't believe Terry remembered the title of your first post.)
We hope a trip to Canada is in our future, and your travelogue keeps us motivated.
Love the yoga pose "addressing the wheel well..."
Happy and safe travels to you and Barb.
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Old 05-14-2009, 11:02 PM   #106
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Thanks, Janet, for the compliments. I now notice all my misspellings (they only show up after the edit feature goes away) which means I'm ready to go to bed after I disconnect the water hose. CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp., sort of Canada's BBC) has their national news on at 10 pm for an hour. It's called "The National". I've tried to watch it and read Forum posts simultaneously, not doing either well. Since US media ignores Canada (not the same here where there is coverage of the US), it's interesting to catch up on what's happening here. There seems to be a lot more depth to the news here than in the US. But in the morning, instead of the jolly "news" of programs like Today, most stations have cartoons instead, including CBC.

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Old 05-15-2009, 09:33 PM   #107
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Gene,

CBC has a cable channel that has 24 hour/day news. Cable also offers BBC news.

Best Morning news here is CTV. Every city of any size has a CTV affiliate, typically on channel 9.
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Old 05-15-2009, 11:47 PM   #108
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Aage, we haven't had a cable connection for weeks, a difficult time for a news junkie like me. Since we've been in Kenora, Brandon and now Moose Jaw, we've gotten local TV, and I did find the news on CTV in the morning. CBC has Stanley Cup games on almost every evening, but I've lost touch with hockey since we moved out of the Denver area and stopped going to games—we stopped before we moved because tickets had gotten so expensive, it just wasn't worth it anymore. What little I saw of a Red Wings/Vancouver game showed me the referees haven't gotten any better. It looked like a Red Wing slammed into the goalie—a very illegal move—and the goalie got the penalty! The announcers on Hockey Night in Canada seemed nonplussed too.

Since RV campgrounds rarely have newspapers, I haven't read one in weeks. Motels in the US usually have USA Today which I would read, but never see it at a US campground. Kind a refreshing, but I do miss the NY Times.

Last night we stopped at Brandon after a bouncy day on Manitoba's roads. As we neared Winnipeg, the roads got faster and better and were almost entirely 4 lane. Well into the prairie and straight tedious driving. There aren't a lot of 4 lane highways in Canada and they usually aren't like US interstates. Mostly they have traffic lights in larger towns and cross traffic all the way. It's a lot cheaper to build a road this way, but there seems to be little necessity for limited access roads since there are a lot less people here. Canada has one tenth the population of the US and even on the one major east-west highway, by comparison, there's much less traffic. It's refreshing and reminds us of the US we grew up in. In my lifetime the US population has doubled, though Canada's is around 50% more in the last 40 years. We miss a less crowded country, but Canada fulfills our need for space and relatively quiet roads. Of course, when we were in Quebec 5 years ago, or if we had gone to Toronto, we got plenty of traffic.

We decided to spend 2 nights in Moose Jaw. We skirted Regina, the province's capital (now I've been in every provincial capital and the capitals of two territories; Barb hasn't been in Fredrickton yet) and drove directly to Moose Jaw. The prairie looks similar to the grasslands of the American midwest, but there are still more trees and less people. Moose Jaw has about 34,000 people. There's a transportation museum here which we will see tomorrow and the tunnels under part of the city. There was a program about the tunnels on the History Channel a while back. They have two tours—one about how Al Capone's gang used them during prohibition and the other about tunnels used by Chinese immigrants. The second sounds more interesting to us. I think the tunnels tour will be kind of silly and every once in a while, we need that. Moose Jaw has some old buildings, some interesting, many not. Their tourism people do a good job promoting the city. There are other interesting things here, but we don't want to use it up.

We went to an Asian restaurant, more Thai, some Chinese, Overseas, and the food was excellent, though different than we are used to. The room is large and lacks atmosphere, but the food is what counts. MJ has a fair number of Asian restaurants, a lot of them Thai. We have noticed there are a lot of Chinese restaurants in some parts of Canada, even in very small towns and today we saw Sask. has many. On the average, they are far better than Chinese restaurants in the rural American west.

We decided to stop at the Prairie Oasis Tourist Complex since it seemed to have everything so we could have full hookups and wireless. It has cabins, permanent sites, motel units and RV spaces. It is right off the Trans Canada Highway and looked easy to find (it was). When we got here, we found the sewers were frozen and most of the water system was too. I saw few spaces even though it was 3 pm and it seemed they only had very few left. There's another full service campground just south of downtown, but we hadn't been smart enough to call ahead and check things out. Getting complacent once in a more populated part of the world than northern Minnesota and western Ontario. We figured we had to make an immediate decision. I don't like to use the community shower—after all I've got one here, but it fills up the grey water fast. We've got plenty of water and can use it for everything else. With one shower room and around 100 spaces, I imagine the showers will be packed tomorrow morning and so will the one dump station. How can they build a water and sewer system in Canada and not get it right? Becauses they can't charge as much, they must be losing at least $500 and maybe more a day and having to hire a large steamer truck (we saw it).

After we go to the tunnels in the morning, we'll come back at midday hoping the showers are unused then, and then go to Boston Pizza. So far as we know there are no BP's in Boston, Mass., it an entirely Canadian chain. Unlike most chains, the food is good. We discovered it in Thunder Bay in 2004 and every time we are in Canada, we know there may be one near when we want to eat out. Museum afterward.

Every one wants to know how Moose Jaw got it's name. There seem to be 3 stories, 2 involving the Cree Indians. One is the name comes from a bend in the river likened to a moose jaw and another about a Cree word having nothing to do with moose but sounding similar to Moose Jaw. The other is about someone using a moose jaw to fix a wagon or a wagon wheel. It's been pointed out there could be no moose around here since it's in the middle of the prairie and how could you fix a wagon with a moose jaw? The Cree word sounding like Moose Jaw is more logical, but I can't remember what it meant, probably something about the river, but nothing about moose.

This province has another strange name: Saskatoon. Medicine Hat is interesting too, but it's in Alberta, though close to Sask. There is a Mexican Hat in southern Utah for all that collect these things. Mexican Hat is named for a rock formation that does look something like a Mexican hat.

For rock 'n' roll fans, Randy Bachman (Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive) received an award from the Canadian government today. I am tempted to say "for what?", but I did like a few of his songs.

And, finally, nothing broke today (except the campground). Tomorrow I hope to post a photo of the giant moose at the tourism office, maybe the tunnels and I don't know what else. I must find a baseball cap that says "Moose Jaw", though what we saw today was pretty lame.

Gene
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Old 05-16-2009, 11:59 PM   #109
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Today we went to see the underground tunnels in Moose Jaw. There are two tours. One was the Al Capone tour which has to do with the Chicago gangsters using tunnels to conceal their liquor and other fun businesses here. The other is about how Chinese immigrants a century ago were treated so badly they lived underground. We chose the Chinese tour. Many had worked on the railroad when Canada was building it to the Pacific in the 1880's, but when it was finished they had to find other jobs. Canada's history of mistreating Chinese is as bad as that of the US. We saw a laundry and the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant. Actually is more like interconnected basements with passageways between. Pretty awful conditions and it's amazing how people survived this. It's also amazing how many people show up for this and this company sure does a good job of promoting it. It was interesting and if we come back to Moose Jaw someday, we'll do the other tour.

Then off to the provincial museum. There are 4 of them around the province and this one has classic cars, some railroad displays (locomotives, railcars, etc.) and airplanes. Some cars were restored well, some not well, some not at all. The rail museum in Duluth is much better, the bush pilot museum in Sioux Ste. Marie, Ontario is much better, and many classic cars museums we have been to around the US are better. The museum seems starved for funds. Nonetheless, we enjoyed it and once again managed to wear ourselves out.

Got my Moose Jaw baseball cap to add to my collection of caps from far away or strange places. Weather was the best we have seen in what seems like forever. Sunny and 60's.

Left turn signals are different, sometimes, here. Sometimes the green light flashes, sometimes there's a left turn light, sometimes the left turn light flashes too. All mean the same thing. Another observation is that although the US is known for obesity, it seems Canadians have caught up and fast. We did not see so much girth the last time we were in Canada in 2006.

Tomorrow we turn south for Montana and hope for no hassles at the border. When I lived in Buffalo in the 1970's we expected to be hassled every time we came back to the US and sometimes were. It was the immigration guys that did it; the customs ones never did. Now the agencies have been combined, so we can't know who is who. All along both sides of the border people will tell you horror stories—sometimes personal, often about someone else. Certainly the stories help create a gulf between the countries, two nations so much more alike than different. We haven't had any problems coming back to the US in this decade, but the gov't claims detailed inspections are random, though no one seems to believe it. You can spend hours trying to get back into the US if your number is up.

Gene
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Old 05-17-2009, 10:57 AM   #110
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Great posts, great stories of the road, beautiful pics and of sweet wifey! Your bird on the lake looks like a loon, we saw and heard them for the first time last year in the UP and up the Gunflint Trail, fell in love with them and had to have a loon print to bring home. We have found even the smallest towns all seem to have Chinese and Mexican restaurants, says something about the demographics and melting pot nature of our country these days, the few times we have had Chinese on the road it has been very good. We always like to try local specialties wherever we are, bison burgers/moose chili/pasties/lobster rolls/shrimp & grits, etc., etc.---all part of the incredibly wonderful, joyful RV'ing life. Travel safe.
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Old 05-17-2009, 05:26 PM   #111
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Thanks doug&maggie.

The drive from Moose Jaw to Glasgow, Montana, is one of those forever drives—only about 200 miles, but it goes on and on across the prairie. Crossing the border at the lonely stop on Sask. 2/Mont. 24 was pretty simple. They wanted to look under the truck's tonneau cover and in the Safari. The guy was interested in the Airstream and looked in the shower, wardrobe and refrigerator. I had the feeling he was curious about an Airstream plus there's little to do there. We probably didn't see more than 10 or 15 vehicles in that 200 miles.

They now have radiation detectors at the border. It's this big rectangle painted yellow you drive through and if you fail the first one, there's another one. The caps now say "CBP" which he pointed out does not stand for Canadian Border Police, but Customs and Border Protection. The US building looked new and was about 5 times larger than the Canadian one.

Now I have to get used to not multiplying kilometers by .62 and the temp. by 1.8 and adding 32. What a relief.

There were hills about 25 miles south of MJ with lots of what might be called megapotholes. Pot holes are small bowls gouged out by glaciers that collect water. These were ponds and swamps without a drainage through an area maybe 10 or 20 miles from north to south. I don't know whether they are fed by springs or snowmelt. It's a jumbled topography. Never seen anything like that. After the landscape became low hills, grass and farms. The trees we saw up further north were gone. A few small towns in Canada and a lot of rail lines; in Montana, not much of anything except large farms and a few ranches.

The only campground with hookups in Malta, 70 miles west of Glasgow, is closed until June 1, so we stopped in Glascow at Shady Rest, full hookups and wireless, no cable. Otherwise we would have had to drive to Billings, another 270 miles, making it a 470 mile day and I didn't want to destroy myself. Barb wants to get home, so we had to talk about this for a while. The clincher was dinner out in Cody, 381 miles from here, so we are in Glasgow. Day after looks like 400+ to Craig, Colorado, and Wednesday is about 200 more. The next day is Barb's birthday and dinner out again is absolutely required. The schedule has pretty much come out the way I planned it. Since I wasn't nearly as anal retentive as usual, I guess it wasn't necessary to get wired about it.

I'm anxious to get home too, but in good condition. This is our longest trip—four weeks. The feeling of claustrophobia I was a getting last year is gone. It probably helps we made more two day and three day stops, even though one was because of the wheel bearing. I'm thinking about Newfoundland next year, but we've got to work that one out. I'll make Barb watch The Shipping News every week until she agrees. The movie and especially the bgook do capture the essence of Newfoundland. The problem of something breaking every day has stopped for days now, so a 8,000-10,000 mile round trip begins to look better.

We are in the land of few gas stations. We got to Glasgow with the gas pump light on for 30 miles, the readout saying we had no gas for 15 miles, the needle starting to dip below E and still had almost 3 gallons when we filled up here. I guess Toyota wants to make me crazy. Kind of breezy as always on the prairie and we can go 65 (105 kph), so gas mileage is dropping and tomorrow has one 200 mile stretch with 2 towns between Malta and Billings. We are back in a heat wave—82˚ now. Tire pressure was last dealt with when it was cold and rainy, so about 100 miles south of Moose Jaw the TPMS monitor went off and one tire was up to 80 lbs and the outside temp. was 72˚. I let some air out of 3 tires and drove on. I'll have to check them all tomorrow morning as it's supposed to be even hotter.

Time for a nap!

Gene
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Old 05-17-2009, 10:47 PM   #112
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Gene,

Thanks for all the great posts....been following your trip, as ours progresses. I've had a bit better luck with problems, but probably should have waited to make that comment. The worst thing we are dealing with is a high-pitched whine from the converter when we have overhead halogen main cabin lights on, and then turn on the bathroom lights. Sometimes it does it, other times not.....never did it before we started on this trip.

Try to stop at Buffalo Bill's place in Cody....forgot the name of the hotel. The restaurant is very quaint.....looks very original......food was just OK. They do have a wild west shootout in the streets.

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