Our second Manitoba campground was Kichie Manitou in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Only non-electric sites are available. We drove all the loops to view sites we liked, listed them, and returned to the office to book one. Our site is on relatively high ground, for a valley, and has short grass and lots of sunlight. Neighboring campers briefly lent us their axe so we could split our park-supplied free firewood.
Monday we filled our water bottles and daypacks and set off for a long hike. The park attendants had recommended two linked hikes to view 90 meter tall dunes and a geologic feature named punchbowl. Underground water erodes the substrate and the sandy sides continually slump downward into the punchbowl. We hiked three hours through mostly desert occasionally interspersed with small wooded oases. Informative sign pedestals provided us details about the views.
Several of the guide boards discussed the importance to the Aboriginals of the sandy desert area. This was a sacred area for the Aboriginals. They would meditate and seek wisdom through their desert experiences, and their code prohibited any fighting in this area. The hike was enjoyable and a perfect length at nine miles. Later in the evening Jim built a beautiful campfire, Deb prepared a fine hamburger dinner, and we finished it off with wonderful fresh fudge we bought at Tremblay’s Candies in Stillwater, MN. What a great day!
Tuesday found us breaking camp early. We anticipated enjoying a Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwich, cup of coffee, doughnut, and some free wi-fi, and since an ESSO station is located next door we can fill the gas tank at the same stop. This almost turned into a disaster. The ESSO station was out of gas. Tim Horton’s has no RV parking. No problem, there’s large truck parking behind ESSO and Tim Horton’s.
We too soon learned the truck parking lot was no passable with our trailer due to enormous craters that, somehow, the big trucks can negotiate (we have very low clearance to ground). As we backed and turned to pull out of this very uneven back lot Jim heard a POP sound from behind the truck. He thought, “Probably just the hitch bouncing on the hard ground.” Not a bad guess, but wrong.
We drove back to the service road in front of Tim Horton’s and spotted a sufficiently long back-in space in front and between the ESSO and Tim Horton’s and grabbed it. Walking to the restaurant, Jim said, “Uh oh Deb, look at this!” Our weight distributing (wd) hitch bracket on the trailer was broken and the long wd bar was hanging below it. The bracket was twisted and torn apart, despite being of almost 1/4″ thick steel.
Wow, this took a lot of force and must be the loud noise we heard when we were navigating the very uneven ground behind the restaurant. A Manitoba Provincial highways worker walked up to us and asked if we had problems. I pointed to the hitch and told him this was going to be a problem we need to fix. He pointed out the nearby locations of two RV dealers to us and wished us good luck. Oh well, at least we can get breakfast and wifi.
Tim Horton’s has great coffee served in china mugs, and our sandwich and doughnut on china plates as well. Nice! But wifi? Not here. Jim found a wifi signal and was only able to briefly connect to check email and update the blog for our Winnipeg adventure. We enjoyed our breakfast greatly and are glad we don’t usually rely much upon wifi.
Our internet service, when in the States, is provided by an aircard from Verizon. This almost uniformly provides us with some signal and often with very good service. We do not have Canada service for the air card and decided to rough it with wifi. We usually do not have Canada phone service either but, for the two months we’re here, we are paying Verizon a $10/month premium to add Canada service. If the past week is any indication and if adding Canada to our aircard is a comparable cost to the phone, it would have been worth it. We’ll be evaluating this decision for another few weeks and let you know what we figure out.
We started to leave the trailer in front of Tim Horton’s and drive about looking for the part we need, or to have the part straightened and welded. We decided we might as well take it with us, no further away than the RV stores were. The first store was familiar with the hitch, but was not an Equalizer hitch dealer and only had one on a trade-in trailer and they weren’t willing to cannibalize it (don’t blame them).
The second dealer had an Equalizer display model and some spare parts but not what we need. You see, no one breaks this part, never heard of this sort of failure. It’s really thick and strong steel. Jim asked, “What do you suggest we do? We have a lot of hitch weight and also really like the anti-sway we get from this hitch.” The man thought for a second then said, “The Equalizer people stand behind their product perfectly. Let’s take the bracket you need off the display model and they will replace it for me when they next come in.”
So we robbed his display model of the hanger bracket. Jim asked, “What do we owe you for this?” And the man replied it was covered and he was glad he could help. We installed the part on our trailer, parked in front of the RV store, and while Jim tightened everything up Deb walked the damaged part into the store so they could show it to Equalizer. Thank you so much, Pic-A-Dilly RV Store in Brandon, Manitoba, for rescuing us from what would have been a multi-day delay while we waited for parts to arrive.
Our drive westward resumed only two hours after first parking at Tim Horton’s. We had a nice Visitor Center stop upon arriving in Sasketchewan. The staff provided us a warm welcome and helpful tips on our route, our intended camping destinations, and things to see near Moose Jaw and Regina. We, thankfully, had an uneventful 70 mile drive to our next Provincial Park, Crooked Lake.
Crooked Lake is 20 kilometers long, we’re told. We are camped alongside the lake with a nice view of the water from our picnic table and our chairs. We are in qu’ Appelle, a very deep and long valley. This may be the first time we’ve had no FM radio. The radio will pick up two AM stations and we have XM radio but haven’t listened to much of these. The wind rustles the leaves and the lake’s small waves lap at the sand and rock shore just thirty feet from our camper’s door. We have spent most of our two days in this idyllic setting reading.
Debbie finished Cold Sassy Tree and Jim finished Shelley’s Frankenstein and Puzo’s The Fourth K. Jim also removed the wd hangers from the trailer frame and sanded and repainted the front section of the frame. It looks great, and he cleaned and reinstalled the wd hangers. He also found a cute little two-burner Primus propane stove at the trash cans. After checking it out carefully and replacing the gas hose he has it working. It cleaned up beautifully and we’ll have to decide if we can find a good use for it. It seems old but very gently used, and in colors from the sixties.
We didn’t have full sun in this campground so Jim decided to get the generator out for its good monthly run. Deb cleaned the shower joints with bleach, and our shower looks better than new. So, we’re still able to do the maintenance we like and have plenty of time for relaxing too. We’re heading next to Moosejaw, SK, and hope to find signal there to post again soon.