Life in the slow lane is still too fast

I know it has been a long while since we got off the island and posted our last piece. We may have had time to post but no WiFi to work on the blogsite aka journal… There was one day when I brought up the site, turned off the hot spot on my phone that gave me an online link, then wrote a whole bunch of stuff and lost it. Apparently, WordPress does not work offline. Learning curve…Shit. Point is, this is a long one.

Mid July – Whistler…We have a time share. Well actually, had a timeshare, but the resort has sold, and we just have some time to use up. Way better!!!!!!! Last Christmas, Marn, my sister, and I, and our respective hubbies, booked a week at Whistler BC. This was even before Al and I contemplated selling everything and becoming trailer trash! We booked a one bedroom plus pullout. We travel well together so it was super doable. Not for everyone, that’s for sure. 

So, off the island we go, dragging our house up into the mountains, even though we aren’t even going to use it, and – where the hell will we park it?!? (We calculated our gas consumption has gone to about 5 cents per litre, ugh) We met Marn and Jim at the check in and the front desk person was very apologetic about the renovations going on at the resort so they upgraded us to another resort with 2 bedrooms in an area that has the only street parking in Whistler. YES!!! So we had our trailer with all our foods, dishes, soda stream, ginventory, ice crusher, etc. all there. This was going to be an amazing week!!!

The next day, off we went on our bikes. Albert and Jim went and hit the hill and Marn and I rode on the many pathways that surround Whistler and the lakes in the valley. Unfortunately, Jim fell on the mountain trails and broke his right elbow and left thumb so that meant no biking for him.

Whistler mountain and the many railways that weave through the valley
Poor Jim!!
Selfie Selfie

So, the next few days we went hiking and Albert and I found some nice trails to play on.

Eric, our son, took Albert on a trail called “A River Runs Through It” that was at the top of his comfort zone. Whistler is full of lots of well-maintained trails for all levels of biking. All in all, it was a good relaxing time with lots of hot showers!!

We left Whistler and rather than take the short steep Duffy Lake route through Lillooet, we chose to take the longer flatter route through the Fraser Valley.

New trailer has new brakes and truck is small, so we thought it wise. We have an app called Harvest Hosts that lists free places to park overnight that are not Walmart!! (www.harvesthosts.com If you RV, then get in touch with us and we can send the referral to give a discount) We stayed at Recline Ridge. The deal is to call ahead, arrive somewhere near the closing time, and no obligation, but maybe buy something from them. OKAY!! We had the vineyard parking lot to ourselves. We drank their wine. It was lovely.

Next day off to my sister’s place in Calgary for two nights. As soon as we arrived, we leveled the rig, then whipped downtown to “The National on 17th” to meet up with Albert’s high school friend, Russel, who lives and works near Calgary for 6 months and spends the rest of the year in Zihuantanejo, Mexico. We will be visiting there down the road too!! As soon as we arrived, SURPRISE,  a grad from the VIU culinary program, Elicia, jumped up and we had a big hug and a great visit!! She is a successful food truck operator; her truck is Lil Truck on the Prairie. She has been nominated for a top chef in the city award and she is vying for Top Chef Canada. Wow. Check it out when in Cowtown!! I wish I had taken our picture together.  Next day, we put in a 30°C 30k bike ride through the bikeways of Calgary and Fish Creek and just dreamed of cold beer. We had ice cream for lunch. 

After Calgary, we were off to Saskatoon via Drumheller. 

In Saskatoon, we met up with two more VIU Culinary grads, Brodie and Steve, at 9 Mile Legacy brewing for an IPA. These guys were a ton of fun when in the program. And super smart. Steve knew he wanted to be a cook and a rock star. Freshly graduated from high school he put an ad in kijiji “Awesome singer seeks band” and the next two years was spent on the road playing music back and forth across Canada a few times!! Then he quit that and got into cooking. He is running a restaurant in Saskatoon now. Brodie and his friend Lewis hailed from Winnipeg and decided cooking school as far away from there as possible was a good idea. They chose VIU in Nanaimo. I gave them a {papier mâché} moose-head that I had for a Red Green Party we hosted and this fit in well with their funny sides. Brodie is a successful sales rep with Centennial in Saskatoon and Lewis is a successful caterer in Winnipeg cooking for the film industry among other things. 

This was on or way to dinner with a friend of mine, JB, that I worked with at 4thStreet Rose, in Calgary, over 30 years ago. John and his partner moved to Saskatoon a couple of years ago. We caught up with another 80’s Calgary foodie, dee Hobsbawn-Smith who is an award winning writer living near Saskatoon. JB had us all over for his birthday dinner and since he originally hails from Newfoundland, he had gorgeous lobsters flown in for dinner. www.lobsteronthewharf.comThey were so rich, we didn’t even use butter. “Newfoundlanders don’t put butter on boiled lobster. Its rich enough.” And it was.   

JB and me

Next day we were off to Wasagaming Campground at Riding Mountain National Park in Clear Lake, Manitoba to visit with Albert’s sister, niece and her young family. Driving through the mountains of BC, then the contrasting foothills and the vast flat prairies, leads you to the grand massif of Riding Mountain National Park. From the horizon when it first surfaces due to the curve of the earth, it is relatively unnoticeable to a BC resident. Our son, on a previous trip, exclaimed, “That’s NOT a mountain!!”. But as we got closer and reached the park boundary a steady uphill and rolling hills after that for about 55 k to Clear Lake and Wasagaming confirmed its hilly stature. Scraped into position over 12,000 years ago, it sits above the Manitoba escarpment and is made up of deposited glacial rubble. On the south east corner is the largest of all the lakes, the spring fed Clear Lake. Consider the name “Clear” lake. Southern Manitoba lakes, to my observation, are mostly brown, weedy and mud bottomed. I don’t swim in them. Albert’s Manitoba childhood was spent catching leeches off his legs (and torturing them) in Lake Winnipeg! No thanks!!! When the “fish flies” hatch, there is a fly-slick that smells of dead fish that washes up on the shore. This in effect feeds the ecosystem, much like a salmon run where the dead fish contribute to the lake and riparian areas. Clear Lake stays clear. It is full of people!! What a destination and being a national park, it is much like a mini Jasper with park buildings, tourist shops, interpretive trails, red chair pairs, plenty of hiking and biking and lots of pontoon boats with families and parties touring the lake.

Wasagaming campground is close to the town of Clear Lake and we were walking distance to a bakery, restaurants, swimming, and the cabin Al’s relatives were sharing. They left the day after we got there, and we had a day to explore on our own. Pretty sure that was our first exploring day (just us) since leaving BC. We rode the trails part way around the lake, the connector trail to a small town Onanole. I think it is on a knoll. Next day, on our way out of town, we stopped at the Onanole farmers market and bought gorgeous vegetables from the Hutterite vendors and natural levain wood oven breads. 

We headed for Brandon. Brandon is not near the mountain but does have a hilly valley feel to it. The Assiniboine River carves its way through the area where the city was built. Brandon is a farming and railway town but also has the Tragically Hip famed Brandon Wheatkings (and pretty things), a large community of education Brandon University(??), Assiniboine Community College with the Culinary Institute of Manitoba (CIM). And this is where Don Berger is an instructor and long-time friend of mine. Don was an apprentice at the Westin Calgary when I worked there as Chef de Partie and then Sous Chef with Fred Zimmerman as chef. Don continued on in his career via Westin Mauna Kea, Hawaii, then into Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel in California. Continuing his journey with Ritz Carlton he eventually was the opening executive chef for the new property in Hong Kong. Leaving hotels, he eventually wound up in Hanoi and ran two restaurants (the last one reaching top 100 Asia!!) that he was forced out of through the bully tactics of the Vietnamese underworld. After losing everything they got out and he and his family wound up in Brandon and he landed a sweet teaching position at the CIM.  Cold winters but clean air and great hours has meant he is able to be the dad and husband he wants to be. Che is going into grade two and he put us to shame with his knowledge of astronomy and math!!! Sweet Thuy is his lovely mom and is a long way from her family and the warmth but also is so happy to have Don back after the 18-hour days, 7 days a week that comes with running a successful restaurant.  What did we do at Don’s? EAT, DRINK and catch up after 30 years. Don’s experience with food in Brandon is that it needs some help. He said he would never open a restaurant there. The best and busiest restaurant is the Keg. So, playing with food and getting students excited about preparing ingredients differently than what they are used to is super exciting. While we were there, he had a BBQ burning twigs that fell from the trees in the yard. Smoked Beef, chicken and duck were cooking. Don made carpaccio of elk (bison steaks at the local Sobeys) with fresh radishes and Thai basil from the garden, smoked duck breast, Caprese salad, grilled rib eye skewers, rice noodle salad with shrimp and peanuts, and way too much wine to remember the rest!! But suffice to say, Albert was BLOWN AWAY with the beer that had a frozen homemade popsicle floating in his beer. The popsicle was a Clam Eye Caesar – Clamato, fresh grated horseradish, worchestershire sauce, vodka and fish-sauce. We had such a great visit. WOW!!! So glad Don, Thuy and Che are safe here in Canada. He is going to change the face of food in the city for sure!!

Next morning the trek to Hecla, Manitoba. Albert Tomasson, spent many years in his early life at the Icelandic fishing village on Hecla Island at his Amma’s house, the Tomasson Boarding House. Icelanders populated the area in the 1800s as refugees after the volcano in Hecla, Iceland erupted, and their village and livelihood was extinguished. Canada offered up some unforgiving land on Lake Manitoba and the commercial lake fishery began. Fast forward to the late 1900s and the Manitoba government decided the island should become a provincial park and they expropriated the land and village from the descendants of the original settlers.

25 years ago when Albert and I were married, we made the trek to Hecla to see his old stomping grounds. “I caught leeches there…I pulled the legs off frogs there…I ate my Amma’s rosettes, sort of like fried batter/doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar…that is the old summer kitchen…this is the desk my dad Carl sat at when he was in elementary school. Look there are his initials carved into the desk…” It was pretty cool seeing it become preserved. Then a couple of years later the government offered the land back to the descendants at a low price as long as they built something that looked like it was old and done within two years. So it has become populated again. Probably because the government has not done any upkeep since they stole the town from the originators, and they want them to maintain it. 

 The park has developed a bunch of trails and bird viewing areas and has a golfing resort with a wood burning pizza oven and free WIFI so we spent some time planning the next stage of our trip sipping craft beer and eating delicious pizza!!

The gull moved in when the people left

Karen, Albert’s sister, joined us for two nights at the campground and we spent a day with their cousin Billy who has a house at the old settlement. We did a fantastic tour of the area and they reminisced about their shared grandparents and the life of the settlers that they had as part of their oral history. 

Sipping a craft beer at the north end of Hecla Island in the lee of the wind. There is always wind.

We spent our third day there riding the trails, doing laundry at the general store and the aforementioned planning at the resort. Originally, we had contemplated going through the southern shore of Lake Superior as the research showed a big savings in gas price. Then we considered the fridge and freezer full of meat and produce and the cost of roaming and realized this would be more expensive in the long run. Hooray, we were about travel through parts of Canada where we hadn’t been before!!

What a great decision!! Once over the Ontario border we hit the Canadian Shield. So different than any other part of Canada we had seen before. Lakes, lakes, lakes and more lakes. Trees, trees, trees and more trees. And the rock. The rocks are old, hard, weathered, pink, white, black, green, striped, granite and quartz with plenty of sparkle. It was like traveling through a showroom of raw countertop materials!

The drive from Hecla to our next provincial campground had a few exciting moments. First of all we were watching the details on our truck dashboard that tells us all the gory detals like, oil and fuel levels, temperature, mileage etc. and we figured we had about 130k left before we would need to fuel up. Dragging our lovely house has been great but our gas mileage has plummeted to about 5k/litre. Yikes. After about another 10 k the confidence building gas level reading showed “LOW” capitalized!!! The next gas station was about another 10k away at Falcon Lake. Then we took a wrong turn and wound up at the Home Hardware and asked where the gas station was. A friendly local said he was going there and that it was 2 minutes away. As we U-turned out of the parking lot the truck hiccupped and we crossed our fingers really tight. We made it. We put 79.47 litres in our 80 litre tank and realized that our dashboard has a 100 k difference between reality and fiction. The Blue Lake Provincial park was not far from there and we pulled into our site that was viewing distance from the beach and a clear sandy beach with NO WEEDS and perfect swimming temperature. The mosquitos chased us out of our site so we took our BBQ to the beach and had a gorgeous dinner cooked lake side with some lovely wine…as usual…

Next morning we headed along the north side of Lake Superior.  We are so glad we chose the north side. I will continue this tomorrow….or the next day….

5 thoughts on “Life in the slow lane is still too fast

    1. It really is interesting. They built a life but it certainly couldn’t have resembled easy at all. The settlers arrived in the fall by boat as there was no road to start their community and livelihoods.

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  1. I enjoyed reading about your adventures over a coffee this morning 😍 I look forward to hearing more! Deb & Albert is my new Netflix series 😂 Wishing you both a continued safe journey xoxo

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