We’ve had a nice Winnipeg, Manitoba visit. Arrived Thursday, toured Fri and Sat. We left North Dakota three days ago for Manitoba. Our border crossing from Mn into Canada (on Highway 59) was notable for us. Canadian Border Guard asked about weapopns including pepper spray. Told him we have bear spray but no pepper spray and no handguns. He asked about tobacco and alcohol. When we said, Yes we have alcohol, he asked, “how many ounces?” I was trying to convert the 1000ml and 750ml (1/5 gallon) bottles contents to ounces and he became a little impatient. “Just guess how much you have”, he said. I was still a bit flustered and he prompted, “Do you have less then two quarts each?” Oh yeah, we’re within that.
He said, “I want to see the bear spray, but let’s talk some more before you get out of the truck. Do you own handguns? Are you licensed for concealed carry in your home state? Where are the handguns? Where did you leave them? Why did you leave them with him? When you travel with handguns, where do you keep them? Where in the trailer do you keep the handguns? Show me.”
When we entered the RV he asked, “Is this original or modified? Are there concealed storage spaces?” He looked closely, using his pocket flashlight, into a wardrobe. He opened the refrigerator very briefly, and one dish cabinet. He peered all about the RV but did not open any other doors or drawers, and did not open the washroom compartment door. I showed him the bear spray and he read to ensure it was labelled for use with bears and not humans. He did not ask to look inside the truck cab or bed, nor the RV exterior storage bins. He asked, “Do you have more than $10,000.00 with you?” Of course we don’t but it opened a conversation for a little while about money exchange rates.
This is the first of three times we have had any inspection entering Canada, but we won’t be surprised when it happens again. Western countries are concerned about border security and seem to be developing their new inspection protocols accordingly. The good news is, we have no contraband and nothing to hide. Jim still gets pretty tense about it all like it’s a test. The crossing is intended to be a challenge but not for us. We’ll become more accustomed to it as we go along.
Aside from the difference in appearance and bi-lingual language (French/English) of road signs, we couldn’t tell we are in Manitoba. Sure, the speed limit signs are metric, with maximum speeds of 80 or 100 being in kilometers per hour. Everything else looks, well, so North American. We enjoyed seeing very large flax fields, with the blue flowers, and canola with bright yellow flowers.
Yesterday was a dreary cloudy and misty morning. Great oatmeal breakfast, struck the large awning, and drove to the city after waiting ’til after rush hour. Found free parking a few blocks from Portage Ave, the world’s longest street. Walked along Carlton to Portage and managed to bypass Tim Horton’s, at least temporarily. Walked down Portage, through the shopping district to Hudson’s Bay Companies old store (now called The Bay) and browsed this 1926 store. It appears the company has done little to upgrade the store’s interior appearance, but fortunately it seems to have been well-built to start with. So, while not appearing very clean, the store does seem to serve well enough still.
Raining harder and cool, we walked six or ten blocks to the financial district and the crossing of Portage and Main. This intersection is said to be the windiest intersection in North America, but we couldn’t really tell. Debbie managed to snap a picture of Jim standing by the intersection’s signboard. Then off we walked to find The Forks.
We realized we wouldn’t have so much time to shop the foods, crafts, and gifts in The Forks because our truck parking was only for two hours. We reconnoitered The Forks, briefly walking through the inside shopping areas. Let’s go get the truck and move it the nearby three-hour parking at The Forks. This walk took us under Union Station of Canadian National Railway.
Union Station lured us in with it’s early twentieth century entrance. Immediately inside the front entrance we entered the large rotunda, capped by a massive copper dome. The building was completed 1911 and the rotunda has been used for holiday galas since. Pictures adorning the hall walls show very large parties, presumed of the CN, from the 1920s. This is still an attractive and viable working railway terminal.
All cool and rainy morning we had considered a hot cup of coffee and a doughnut at Tim Horton’s. We were close to the truck’s parking place and had almost twenty minutes to spare. And look at this, a Tim Horton’s is on our path. We, having resisted long enough, enjoyed a very hot cup of coffee and a pastry before continuing our walk.
The truck recovered, we drove to The Forks and walked almost an hour along the riverfront and attractions thereabouts. From the river’s edge a long masonry wall was contributed by the local Masons Union and masonry suppliers. Wall plaques along the ramp describe the geographical significance of this height of the land or river level. The plaques trace the earliest glacial till deposits, the early meetings, over 1,600 years ago, at The Forks, and the European trappers, traders, and settlers arriving in the 1700s. Great floods of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries created very high water levels in Manitoba and covered much of Winnipeg. The high water marks are shown and described, with aerial images of the flooded land masses.
Most fascinating is the Oodena Celebration Circle, a large circular construction with twelve huge stone pedestals ringing a bronze sun disk. Each pedestal describes a constellation as one of the inhabiting cultures historically values it. Examples include constellations like Virgo, Orion, Lyra the Harp, Ursa Major and Minor, with Betelgeuse, Vega, Altair, and other stars. This was difficult to photocapture but we tried with a couple of pictures. We want to learn more about this multi-cultural monument before we move on.
The Forks remind us of Granville Island in Vancouver, B.C. Old buildings, restored to serve another use in another century, provide covered shopping for fruits, vegetables, bread, candies, coffees, meals, and gifts, among other things. Delis and restaurants as well as quasi-ethnic food counters, similar to what we find in some large U.S. mall food courts, provide a fair variety of dining experiences for shoppers.
We sampled one deli’s soup and sandwich before buying a little fresh produce and meat for home. Rush hour rapidly approaches and fortunately we are already near the east edge of Winnipeg. We hopped in the truck and surfed traffic’s edge east and north to Birds Hill Provincial Park. Once in the Park we took the scenic route to our camping loop. This allowed us to survey the entire Park and stop at the nice-sized (+/- 5 acres) man-made swimming lake and beaches. The water is only 16 C degrees, a little cool, but if another day is sunny Jim wants to have a swim.
Well, third day now, cooler and cloudy, raining a little at first. No swimming. Attended a Farmers Market in the Provincial Park. Guess what? No corn yet. We’ve been eating good local fresh corn since mid-July in the States, but Manitoba’s corn hasn’t come in at all. Coldest four-month season they’ve had in years, holding the corn up. Well, and trying to hold us up — how about 75 cents an ear, if you really want an ear of corn? No thanks. We’ll hopefully run into fresh corn soon.
We toured the Royal Canadian Mint today — fascinating and very large. One of two mints in Canada, the other is in Ottawa. This Winnipeg mint produces up to 20 million coins daily. Yes, 20,000,000 per day. WOW! Sixty percent of production is for foreign countries, none of them European ones (the European countries have for so many years had relatively stable governments, and therefore currencies, and mint their own coins. Guided tour took us through two-ton rolls of metal entering the building, being punched into steel blanks, edged (rimmed), electroplated with copper or nickel, then punched with coin imprints on each side. Punch machines stamp up to 850 coins per minute per machine, and there were at least sixty machines. Just a huge operation, minting for all of Canada and for over sixty countries world-wide.
We toured St Boniface, the community on the other side of the Red River this afternoon. The Grey Sisters (Nuns) log house was built in 1847 to house and train Sisters before they went north to teach and care for people. Today the building seems in very good shape still despite subject to floods and other problems over the past 162 years. Neat museum and view into the nineteenth century living in Canada’s “west”.
Tomorrow we head westward in Manitoba, then Tuesday into Sasketchewan.