12 June 2008

The long way around

Our drive today – even had we not encountered such trying conditions as yesterday making comparisons easy – was simply lovely. As I know I’ve said before, there is something about this entire route in which I take delight. Grand Forks to the Canadian border and on into Manitoba, though, is something extra special.

We woke to see the sun on I-29, so situated was our room, the light a pale yellow, angling low and long. On the road before 8:00 we watched, however, as a long bank of clouds appeared on the horizon and we and it seemed to approach each other at a pretty rapid clip. (I was contribuing 75 mph on our part!) Being the driver, I was happy when the clouds proved to be only clouds. By the time we bought fuel in Pembina and crossed into Canada dramatic clouds, a stiff wind and a temperature in the low 50s is all I have to report. Happily. (This shot was taken at the Canada welcome center at the border crossing, the flags demonstrating the breeze's intensity.)

With fewer than 300 miles to travel we took a long, rural route to the east around Winnipeg, in general, on long straight roads, at right angles to each other through lusciously green fields interrupted occasionally by muddy driveways. The towns we passed through were fascinating – if for no other reason than their springing up in front of us so quickly and disappearing behind us so thoroughly. The real surprise, though, were the churches, Greek Orthodox churches, simple, but strangely grand with their onion domes, and, again, dramatically remote.

I cannot fathom how the folks who live on the route we traveled do it. Late spring through late summer is one thing. There are signs this time of year for fishing tournaments, to golf courses, about rodeos, and the like. But, late August through early May? What a life. But, who knows. Maybe I’d surprise myself and thrive.

We stopped in Steinbach, the largest town on our route, for lunch, at a McDonalds. Here’s a hint at how they do it. There’s a fire place in that McDonald’s. A fire place!

And, today, 50 degrees and windy, the fire was burning, there were people wearing fleece –- not simply eating a late breakfast or an early lunch, but reading the paper, working the crossword puzzle. For much of the year being inside just has to be OK. And, perhaps being interested helps as well. The lady at the counter who took our order, on being handed a US ten dollar bill, asked where we were from and wanted to now where we were going. And, when we left some 45 minutes later, she called out a “happy fishing” goodbye.

How do they do it? Hard as it might be for me to grasp, they are themselves, they live their lives where they are and they love their part of the world. Not so unlike everyone else I know.

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