Day 3. Thunder Bay – Brandon, MB, 920 km.
The morning in Thunder Bay began in pretty much the same way that the previous day has ended – with a rain. But in addition, there was a dense fog. I did not realize how bad it was before I left city – on the highway visibility was really poor, I could not drive over 80 km/h and keep it safe. The traffic was next to non-existent – dense fog, early Saturday morning. But it is a kind of drives that get into my memory the most!
Just out of Thunder Bay was a great point of interest the Kakabeka Falls. This gorgeous waterfall is often called “The Niagara of the North” and, in my opinion, absolutely worth-visiting. Just one minute from highway (follow signs, not GPS!), but you will be able to enjoy true beauty of Canadian nature! Needless to say that I was the only visitor to park on that humid Saturday morning.
Pushing further, to road continues West on still pretty much remote, mountainous terrain with very few towns. Lakes and forest are dominating this land.
Next stop – the Central Timezone sign. The very western part of Ontario lives in the Central timezone. Switching my watch back one hour, and I have the fist 25-hour days of my trip. Two more to come.
The closer I was getting to Manitoba, the thinner the fog was getting, and mountains were giving way to plains. Finally – Manitoba sign! I am now officially in prairies! And in reality, too. Strange thing, almost immediately after the province border, the terrain changed completely, there were no more mountains, and soon no more forests and pine trees – just endless plains to horizon!
Speed limit in Prairies is pleasant 110 km/h (68 mph), helping to make a good time on empty and wide roads. A short hop – and I have arrived to the next POI on my map. This time it is a longitudinal center of Canada! It is a midway point between extreme east and west locations of Canada. It was safe to say, that I was equally far from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which added some epic tone to my journey. This was my third day of travel, and it was amazing to feel that I have just reached midpoint of this amazing country!
I was progressing much faster then I anticipated, so i decided to take a better look at Manitoba. I decided not to go around its capital, Winnipeg, but to drive through it. It seems to me like a very nice and modern city, I would like to know more about it.
In general, Manitoba feels very different from Ontario. Like you have crossed to another country. Totally different landscape, both natural and human. Endless fields, tractors and other machinery working on them, countless grain trucks, huge pickups, beautiful farms and country houses. It reminded me of… Ukraine! At some point I felt back at my home country, but kinda more prosperous, well-groomed. A kind of Ukraine from parallel universe that did not suffer from devastating virus of communism.
With a mix of great feeling of being like at home and some taste of bitterness the day has ended at Brandon, the second-largest city in Manitoba. A beautiful Lakeview Inn gave a great feeling of cozy country home of your grandparents. When the sun set, I could not have enough of unique smell of wheat fields.
It was a great day. Cold and fogy in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon. Very bright and emotional.
Day 4. Brandon, Manitoba – Brooks, Alberta. 930 km.
The morning started with… rain! But it was more like a drizzle that faded away when I reached Saskatchewan border. It has a great welcome center and province sign. I have walked here infinite times on Google Street View, following the Trans-Canada route and dreaming about driving it one day. And here I was, standing exactly where my dreams have been for many years. Saskatchewan have always seemed so remote and unreal, although I have always known that I would see it one day. Frankly, I did not expect it to happen so fast.
Driving through Saskatchewan was pretty similar to driving through Manitoba. However, it was similar and different at the same time. It was an endless flat prairie too, but it was brown-yellowish instead of greenish, and it seemed to me that the industry is different too. I have seen many small farms and country houses in Manitoba, whereas in Saskatchewan, in my own impression, the farms are much bigger and seem to belong to big companies. I would like to know more how much of it is true.
I really liked my experience with Winnipeg the previous day, so first we decided to drive through Regina, which seemed like a very nice and quiet city. A kind of place where I wish I had family, so I could escape there. Then I drove through Moose Jaw, where I planned to have lunch (it did not go well actually, the gave me burned steak that tasted like coal and that I declined).
After Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan decided to show me who is in charge. The weather was still sunny and beautiful, but the wind started to blow like crazy. It was so strong that it was hard to stand straight outside. There was a headwind blowing to the front of my car at angle. As a result, if I kept my speed, the fuel consumption jumped over 30%, from 6.2 l/100km (38 mpg) to 8.5 l/100km (27 mpg), that is a huge difference. In addition, the wind was blowing sideways, so it was really hard to keep the car in its lane. At some point, I have noticed that in a left curve, I had to steer a bit to the right, to keep my car in lane. You can only imagine how much fun it was for truckers, I have seen some trailers (obviously, empty), trying to follow a truck at an angle. It was a memorable drive!
What was also interesting about western Saskatchewan, is change of a landscape. Endless fields gave way to small hills and salt lakes! I did not expect to see it there! I guess it may have had similar origin with Great Salt Lake in Utah.
Getting closer to Alberta calmed down the wind, but the weather seemed to be determined to show me everything it has got! There was a really really dark cloud on horizon. And the closer I was getting to it, the more menacing it looked. It felt like a huge storm was about to start. And it started! No thunder or lightning, but crazy downpour! I don’t thing I have ever seen a rain that heavy in my entire life!
It has finished as quickly as it started. And then the Nature decided to smile at me – there was a huge double rainbow! I think it was a good sign. It always feels great to see the sun after storm, but rainbow made it feel special! I could not resist to stop and enjoy this moment!
After I passed Medicine Hat, the sky cleared completely and it was a nice pleasant drive through the evening that ended in Brooks, a couple of hours out of Calgary.
The next was, possibly, the most anticipated moment of entire journey – seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time.