Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Word From The Saskatchewan Board of Tourism

I take pains (pains, I say!) to make this blog something worth reading (on some level). Too often I find that blogs are little more than colourless lists of what a person did on the day of the posting. You know, utterly boring fare like,

Woke up today at 10 am… a little late, LOL! Met Shelly for lunch and then worked the fries off at the gym! Then I came home, fed the cat, watched some Gilmore Girls and chatted with R. I think he likes me.

And so on. To this end I try to avoid updating anyone about what I do, since it’s usually more boring than the example I just made up. That said, living up here does have moments that can just barely qualify as interesting – and I just happened to bring my camera along for them. The following incidents have taken place within the past month or so.

First up is the trip to Saskatoon George and I embarked upon some weeks ago. I’ve spent a little time in the city’s airport, but I figure it would be a crime to come all this way west and not do things right.

Oh, those wacky locals. This car can still be found on the treacherous 121Km road out of Sandy Bay that I have mentioned numerous times. If the dust wasn't on the hood, you would find "Vote for Herald" spray-painted on it. Interestingly, they didn't bother swiping the tires from the passenger side.

Saskatoon being a six hour drive, George and I decided to make the stop in Prince Albert the Friday evening after school. Saskatchewan works like this: You’ve got your Regina towards the bottom, Saskatoon not two hours north of that, and then as close to the middle of the province as you can get, you’ve got Prince Albert. I believe they call it the Gateway to the North or somesuch, because there isn’t much worth writing home about above it. I mean, really, north of PA (as those in the know call it), and you’re scrounging for anything close to 5000, even. And I’m five damned hours north of it.

Loyal readers will recall PA as the site of October’s northern teacher’s conference, so George and I had spent some limited time there already. It’s a very attractive town in its own way, not the least because there’s nothing else but it for hundreds of kilometers. It has around 40, 000 people living in it, a quaint yet impressive downtown, considerable selection of bars, and so on. It really wouldn’t be an awful place to live, although I do understand it has its problems. With the paper mill shutting down earlier this year, I can’t imagine that situation getting any better. All the same, George and I had a nice cooldown after the drive from Sandy Bay, and I have to admit I am not opposed to spending one last weekend there before I head back (hint hint, chum).

This is a photo of a particular stretch of "highway" from Sandy Bay to Prince Albert. It typifies the natural environment up here.

I guess this is probably the most impressive photo of Saskatoon I could find of what I took. So don't let it be said that I didn't try to make the place seem interesting.

George and I were up early enough and on our way for the 1.5 hour drive south to Saskatoon. I’ve done this leg five times now, and I have to say it’s grown on me. You begin to move away from the lakes and trees that characterize the northern half of the province and gradually make your way into more… prairie-like conditions (although it’s not quite like the postcards – I suppose that’s more Regina’s neck of the woods). Along the way you pass many Northwest Rebellion-related sites, so the route is rather interesting from that perspective, too.

This statue in downtown Saskatoon recognizes the meeting of a boyhood John Diefenbaker and PM Laurier. I think that's actually kinda cool.

We didn’t exactly have a game plan for Saskatoon. We figured we’d roll into town, grab a hotel at some point and do some shopping and the like. It took some legwork, but we finally found a seedy little hotel to take us in at 5. This gave us quite a lot of time to kill, but we managed to get shopping and sightseeing accomplished in what turned out to be a rather productive day. All told, we drove 80Km in and around Saskatoon that day, so I’d like to think I have a pretty decent impression of the place. To top it off, George and I dined at what the waitress assured us was Saskatchewan’s only Red Lobster… so suck on that, everyone. Quite the feather in my cap.

Typical street in downtown Saskatoon. See, I saved you the trip.

The following week, I believe, I accompanied George and some staff members on the grade 4 class trip into Flin Flon. Primarily we were there to see Flin Flon’s stage production of Beauty and the Beast, but we also crammed some swimming and McDonald’s in there for the kiddies. It was a fun little experience, but I have to say that in retrospect there wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t hounding or supervising the kids in some way. It’s like the mind starts running when you get in the van with the kids, and doesn’t stop till you drop the last one off at home the next day. You also have to be in your “teacher” persona 24/7, which is like being in a play yourself all day.

I must commend the Flin Flon Arts Council on their excellent production. Flin Flon’s a tiny little town in the grand scheme of things, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and, I think, great civic participation. The show put on by a town of 6300 rivals anything Oshawa, London or Kingston could have done, without question. There are a lot of people there who give of themselves to create and maintain an identity for the town, and it really pays off.

And while I’m commending, I have to say that George did an excellent job in planning the trip. Little touches like the swimming and the weenie roast were really appreciated by the kids, and his choice of the Rocky View lodge for our, erm… lodgings was very convenient.

I sure as hell can't show you any photos of students from the trip, but here's the view we enjoyed from the balcony at our hotel/lodge. I imagine that ice has come very close to disappering by now, but what the hell do I really know?

Finally, this list of moderately notable stuff I’ve done lately would be incomplete without last week’s “jazz” night of sorts in Flin Flon. I’ve said it before, but Flin Flon is a very social little town and if you get in the right group you can have a really marvelous time on a Friday night. This particular weekend they brought in some live music and people just sat around tables, brought their own food (Buz brought his old staple again, caviar), and drank booze. To top it all off, the Trevors and I headed over to the seediest little bar I’ve been in and we had a grand old time with two of the locals. If all this wasn’t enough, I was even threatened with molestation by one of the city’s more attractive citizens. All told, a pretty positive experience.

George and his dog (who asked not to be named online) perched perilously close to the edge of one of the many crevices not far outside Flin Flon last weekend

This coming Victoria Day weekend in Flin Flon will see a solemn recognition of Her Majesty’s birthday, maybe some fireworks and some friends of George’s from down Minnesota way. I am told they are Vietnam veterans with some strongly-held beliefs, so I think this could be quite the experience. Also – and I don’t want to make you too jealous – this weekend will see the long-awaited appearance of two particular east-coasters at the Trevors’. Quite simply, this has been months in the making, and I cannot wait.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey Mike. I'm glad to hear you are having some good times out west. When are you heading back? We should have a drink, I miss you, old buddy! I should write you a formal email soon.


7:27 pm  

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