According to Mapquest the distance between Salmon Arm, British Columbia and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan by the most direct route, the Trans-Canada Highway, is 741 miles, and takes about 14 hours to get from one place to the other. We avoided the Trans-Canada as much as possible, instead searching out back roads, sometimes dirt and gravel. So it took us nearly 1200 miles—and nine days.
None-the-less, we feel like we have made good time. As Robert Pirsig said in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the emphasis has been on good rather than time. We spent the first night camping at a hot spring (hard to beat that!) Over the Labor Day weekend we stayed with Faye’s brother and sister-in-law in Calgary, who took us places we would not have known about, including to a nearby town for a rodeo.
I had thought that maybe we could have a theme for the trip, visiting towns named for odd body parts, i.e. Salmon Arm and Moose Jaw, but there were not enough of them. We did wander through Wayne, Dorothy, Patricia and Millicent. But they were fairly close together and didn’t get us far. Wayne had a nice sign that said the population was 27. Millicent was so small that the name appeared only on the map. The two-lane country road that connected them was quite enjoyable, though.
Speaking of odd names, one of our side trips from Calgary was to the town of Vulcan. It was named a century before Star Trek made Mr. Spock’s home planet famous. But about 20 years ago, in a desperate attempt to avoid extinction, the town decided to capitalize on the name, built a model of the USS Enterprise, opened a Star Trek museum and began hosting a yearly convention.
The Star Trek museum wasn’t very impressive. But the dinosaur museum in Drumheller was something else. The badlands near the town is one of the best fossil fields in the world, with new examples of prehistoric animals exposed every year. Well-known paleontologists have excavated fossils for decades, and continue to do so. The museum is filled with giant skeletons and impressive recreations. Of course the town makes the most of the area’s reputation with dinosaur statues in front of every other business, including one so big that you can take stairs up to the top and look out over the town through its mouth. Close to life size, evidently.
We entered Saskatchewan on a dirt road in a provincial park that straddled the border. We laughed when we saw the sign welcoming us to the province because it made Saskatchewan look, shall we say, undeveloped. However, after spending a few more hours getting to Moose Jaw, we thought that maybe our first impressions were not that far off. (Apologies to our friends with roots in Saskatchewan.) We got back on the Trans-Canada Highway and stopped at the welcome center. From the promotional brochures we read it became clear that most places in the province have a hard time finding anything to brag about.
We got to Moose Jaw late this afternoon. As far as we can tell the towns major attractions are a giant statue of a moose somewhere, and some underground tunnels supposedly used by Al Capone. We’ll visit both tomorrow before continuing our drift eastward. We’ll get on some back roads and see what we can find.