Friday, July 08, 2011

To Red Lake, Ontario!

Day One: Road Trip Iowa City, IA to Red Lake, Ontario
7 July 2011: After getting everything packed, dad & I wake at 6 & set off about 6:30am on our long road trip towards Canada & tomorrow’s plane.


We make pretty good time all morning flying past the green cornfields of Iowa & up into rollier, hilly country in Minnesota. My favorite car spotting moment is a couple in an old bronze cadillac, the interior visibly worn to shreds, the ceiling of the car hanging down into the back seat, enormous red fuzzy dice hanging down off their rear view mirror and 2 white 10 gallon cowboy hats along the back window.


We stop off for breakfast in a spot dad remembers as generally a wasteland & the non-town there has built up a faux rustic casino on one side of the stop next to a big hotel (I guess so that if you decide to linger, gamble & drink at Diamond Dave’s you can then just waddle on over to the hotel for the night) & opposite there is the “red barn” rest stop & tourist info center. I take a few pics (seen here) & we are back on the road.


Generally, we keep going nonstop, eating food that would make a nutritionist cringe (sausage & egg biscuit breakfast, a dairy queen ice cream lunch then a snack of root beer & chips--fer shame, fer shame!).




At around 5:30 pm we pull into International Falls—the American border town—where we get gas at FREEDOM station, with its o too American design (seen here).


We are surrounded by somewhat tacky tourist shops—the antiques place with both the American & Canadian Flag & a few “Indian” moccasin & gift shops which sport "handmade pottery sold here" signs. There are also a few bars, tackle shops and little hotel-motels.


One of my favorite signs is near the Freedom station--a spot called the “Outpost Saloon” with its sculpted wooden sign depicting a native Indian in a canoe. The sign is held up on both sides by faux totem poles. Out front, a few good ol' boys seem to be standing on the Outpost's porch looking downroad. Almost every single vehicle is a pickup, minivan, truck or other sort of 4x4, many with boats hitched to them and piled high with gear--like us.



We drive slowly across the border--over railway lines then a bridge past a paper mill, pausing to answer a few questions about where we are from and going. Then we are in Canada.



I catch sight on the Canadian side of the border—Fort Frances is the name of their border town—of the old Messonic Temple building with its fantastic wall mural. We drive at a crawl through Fort Frances where the town is crawling with tourists & perhaps locals, too, stopping in shops or restaurants. Then we turned onto Ontario route 11 & headed towards the lakes & woods. It is slower going here, as the roads are smaller and the speed limits more limiting. We spot many speed traps & so are careful to abide by the law even though, after Minnesota, it does feel a bit like we are going at a crawl along this first highway.


Along the later routes, 501 I think it was, the road curved & signs everywhere announced “Night Danger” below a picture of a moose who looked like he was about to barrel out into the road. The speed limit on these windier roads seemed more understandable. As we pressed on we found ourselves increasingly alone--only passing of being passed by an occasional truck or mini-van/pick up.


Evening was coming on & we had been driving for over 12 hours. Knowing a short night awaited us, we chose to push on, not stopping for food in Dryden, but when we pulled into the edge of the next town—& pretty much our last option for dinner—it seemed like everything had closed down except for a cute tourist shop with ice cream parlor/café attached to it. We hopped out & rounded the wooden building, swatting at so many mosquitoes I thought I might inhale some! The pictures from outside this shop—of the native statue & behind it totem, & then the taxidermied moose by the coca cola fridge—might make you laugh, but inside they did have lots of genuinely cute items. But we were not there to shop, & they were kind enough to direct us a bit farther down road to some places we had not spotted.



We ended up at Buster’s Barbecue—home of the blue ribbon winning blueberry bbq sauce. We split some slaw, potato salad & a side of chicken bbqed in the traditional sauce (dad also added a bit of the blueberry & habanera sauce to his to give it a kick). We both enjoyed the amusing décor—giant fish lures hanging from the ceiling, fun fishing signs by the bathrooms along with a massive global map where visitors were encouraged to stick little dot stickers on the places they were visiting from. I was certainly not coming from the farthest away—in fact there were many stickers from French cities & a slew from the Alsace/Basel area. The farthest? Perhaps New Zealand. The most unexpected? Some region from Russia & a few Chinese tourists.




We hopped back in the car after our nice dinner & thought we were 90 kms from Red Lake only to realize we still had 176 to go.


But along the way we started to see moose. First, a moose mother & baby who rushed off into the foliage before I got a decent photo. Then there was a big moose who crossed over the road with an awkward gait as we again failed to get a photo, but the last one—pictured here—was enjoying the tall grasses by some telephone poles & power lines (yes, so rural an image!) so much that even when I said “Hey, look here” the moose hardly even deigned to raise its head for long enough for me to get the shot.


This was our last moose sighting of the evening, & we made pretty good time to Red Lake then a little farther to Balmerton & our hotel—as we pulled round the back side of Nature’s Inn a fox caught in our headlights. Healthy & hefty, he led us around the building as he scrambled back into the woods for cover.


Nature's Inn had left our room open—it was an entire apartment, with full kitchen! Dad got the bedroom & I had the main room with a pull out couch, which was certainly comfy enough. After laying out my clothes for the morning, I had a shower, got into bed & fell fast asleep by around 11:30pm, knowing we were going to be up at 4:30am!

5 comments:

Dzina said...

What a fantastic journey, with yr dad no less! Of course, your observations make me smile. Please continue to keep us posted!

Bonny Finberg said...

Great post. I love the stuffed moose next to the giant Coke can. America can seem so exotic when you've spent time away. Have a great time. xo

Jennifer K Dick said...

Hi Bonny & Nance--

Yes, we are having a great time in CANADA (sorry, Bonny, I had to say it! But yes the coke can is so very US American, and the Moose is so Canadian American!)

I certainly plan on posting more from the trip, if I can manage it between all the fishing we are doing! Thank you both for reading!!!

Bonny Finberg said...

A character in one of Godard's recent movies points out that "America" is a continent,not a country as some of us refer to it, i.e. it includes Canada and Mexico as well as all of South America. Being over here in Europe i often feel a connection to anything "new world". Like seeing those American Indians on bd Clichy that day. And btw, stuffed moose and a coke sound like a really exotic lunch. :-D

Bonny Finberg said...

A character in one of Godard's recent movies points out that "America" is a continent,not a country as some of us refer to it, i.e. it includes Canada and Mexico as well as all of South America. Being over here in Europe i often feel a connection to anything "new world". Like seeing those American Indians on bd Clichy that day. And btw, stuffed moose and a coke sound like a really exotic lunch. :-D