Saskatoon Reflections

I’m sitting in a Starbucks at downtown Saskatoon’s numerically alliterative corner of 2nd and 22nd. I’m actually typing this into Word, as it seems that Starbucks wants me to pay 7.50 for the privilege of an hours worth of wireless broadband. Needless to say, I am morally opposed to paying for the internet outside of my house, and so this is a sort of “live to tape” blog entry. Whatever.

Anyway- downtown Saskatoon is actually pretty interesting, and reminds me somewhat of Halifax, but without the history, hills, harbour and hominess. Its got the feel of a really nicely laid out city, where there are lots of nice, wide sidewalks with interesting and quirky local stores, while at the same time being mostly accessible to traffic. There are lots of historical plaques on the buildings, which is a sort of trivia wet dream for those with an affinity for local history and architecture. Some are interesting, such as a quote from Sir Wilfrid Laurier on meeting a young paperboy by the name of John Diefenbaker, others are the usual sort of local historical plaque that provides context on a building without really placing it in any larger historical narrative. It’s neat to know that the CBC building was designed by a prominent local architect and has been more or less restored to what it looked like 80 years ago, but it doesn’t really tell me much more about the city or the street. That said, there are lots of them, and that is pretty cool.

I had to come downtown to get a cell phone set up and my eyeglasses fixed. The glasses had spent the night on the ground in the Hotel parking lot in Thunder Bay, and the frames were pretty out of shape. Karma was probably telling me it’s time to get new glasses- mine are 8 years old- but cheapness overcame and I got them fixed for free. The cell phone was a no go for now, as the Sasktel people were unable to hack into the handset I had to activate it

Earlier in the day we drove through the U Sask campus, which is sort of reminiscent of Carleton in the sense that all the buildings seem to be spread out and it is next to a huge field. Apparently the research facilities adjacent (or affiliated, I can’t remember) are really, really cool and proficient. Or so I’m told by big Saskatoon pushers. I got to see the exterior of the Canadian Light Source Synchotron, and boy did my particles feel accelerated. I also drove by the Diefenbaker center, which is sort of a “Chief” Museum and library, and actually has him buried outside. I didn’t get a chance to stop and see the grave, but will be back later. Since the temperatures are of the usual bitter prairie winter sort, I’m not even going to bother trying to strike him off the list of Prime Ministerial graves slept on.

Its been pretty quiet on the election front. The campaign is starting slowly, with mostly logistical and organizational bitchwork being taken care of now. It’s one of those situations where two or three big pieces need to fall into place before we can really gear up and start the intensive electioneering. Realistically, this is probably for the best as, at eight weeks with a big intermission in the middle, the campaign is more of an ironman marathon than the usual hundred meter dash. So yesterday, I spent the afternoon doing the mind-numbingly dull task of merging 4 or 5 membership spreadsheets into one, making sure to avoid repetitions and keeping it simple enough to manage the information. Needless to say, my eyes hurt towards the end.

In the evening, Ryan, Holly and I went to the brand-spanking new Chris Axworthy Headquarters to do some cleaning and organizing. The office is a former bank, so comes complete with the concrete form of a vault and a functioning ATM. The ATM is handy, not least of all to get cash, but because it generates a lot of foot traffic near the front doors. The cleaning and set up task seemed daunting at first, but with a few solid hours of work between us and a handful of others, the office is in a usable shape. More work to be done before it can really be opened, but a good start. Once again, a Marathon, not a sprint.

It looks like I’ll be heading to Regina on Sunday morning. More info as it comes.

3600 Kilometers of Fun

Well, I am in Saskatoon now. Outside of the window, honest to god, I can see a grain elevator. Sadly it is one of the modern ones, but it's a grain elevator nonetheless. We made it to Thunder Bay on the Sunday night, and then to a small town about 250 km from Saskatoon last night. Below is a more or less chronological list of thoughts on driving through 1/3 of Canada.

I had always known that Ontario was really wide, but don't think that I ever really understood it, but after taking more than 20 hours of driving to get to the edge of the province, it seems a whole lot more real. Northern Ontario is probably really, really pretty during the day, but at night is just a series of winding roads and trees. My friend Damien biked across this stretch of the country last summer, I beleive on the same highways we were on. I have a whole lot more appreciation for the feat now.

On the upside, the roads were pretty good throughout, though visibility was kind of shitty on the way to Thunder bay. A really thick fog got in the way whenever we were at the top of a hill. This slowed us down dramatically, as Ryan was pretty much restricted to navigating by staying within the lines.

General comments on towns that we drove through: Sudbury seemed as desolate as I thought it would be, but in fairness we didn't really go through the town proper. Or atleast I don't think that we did. I didn't see the giant nickel, but saw a sign pointing towards Science North, one of the many interesting things I didn't get to visit. Sault Ste. Marie actually seemed pretty nice, though its roadsign motto of “Naturally Beautiful” makes me think that it is more beautiful on the inside than on the out. We stopped in Thunder Bay for the night, where I had to go all Russell Crowe on the Hotel deskperson to get a working phone. They also offered free “dial-up” internet in the rooms, which seems to me to be a whole lot like offering black and white TVs.

Monday's drive was mostly uneventful until the end. We made it through the last stretch of Ontario to Kenora, and then easily across Manitoba. The Prairies really are as flat as I had thought. I'm actually thinking about buying a dog, just so I can watch it run away for a few days. What we hadn't factored, however, was that small town Saskatchewan shuts down after 9pm.

Ryan had forgotten to fill up in the last major town, and so by 11:30 we had been riding the E for about 40 kms. We pulled into Foam lake, where the gas station had shut down and the Motel had switched to self check in. We called CAA, who very helpfully told us that we should have filled up 40 minutes ago. None the less, they sent a guy over who was supposed to bring us some gas. The guy, who seemed to be really annoyed that he had to be doing his job, didn't actually bring gas with him, but brought us to a nearby pump which he couldn't actually get working. It is still not entirely clear to me what he would have done had we been totally out of gas and had we been unable to get into the motel. We should have paid better attention to our fuel situation; he should have actually been able to do something other than use up more of what is left of our gas.

So we stayed the night in what seems like the surliest town in the Prairies. We made way for Saskatoon, and here I sit, getting ready to go off and jumpstart an election campaign for someone I have yet to meet in a province that, apart from it being flat and mostly rectangular, I know nothing about. Good times ahead!

North Bay: Gateway to the Boring Parts of Ontario

We left a bit late today, and so only made it as far as North Bay, population 56,000. A town, whose motto, as defined by their highway sign, is the “Gateway to Opportunity”. I can only assume that Opportunity is somewhere between here and Sault Ste. Marie, possibly in Lake Superior.

Tomorrow we make for Thunder Bay. ab0ut 1100 kilometers from here. Google says it will take 18 hours, but I think that 12 hours (driving) is more realistic. I am not an expert on Northern Ontario, but I suspect that rocks and trees will be in abundance.

All Things Go

My departure was bumped from Friday to Saturday, which works out for the best as it allowed me to take care of some things, like packing.

Anyway, tomorrow I head west for Regina in my friend Ryan's Toyota Matrix. I assume that at some point over the course of the next few days someone will make a joke about being “stuck in the matrix”. Actually, that person will probably be me. I've done long road trips before, and have driven cross country at least once, if not twice (albeit I was less than 5 both times). None the less, the prospect of a a number of consecutive 12+ days of driving is a bit unsettling. I suppose that is what I have a 20 gig ipod for.

I hope to be able to check my email at least once over the weekend, but that is not guaranteed. Blogging will probably not happen, but I'll do a mega-post with as many stories from the trip as possible.

It has risen

So, I've decided to head west, again.

Not again as in I've been west once already, but I've again made the decision to head west. So, barring any mass defections or a patented Jack Layton change of heart, I will be heading to Saskatchewan this friday to work on the election.

Hence, the blog resumes. Or atleast resumes in the sense that I am going to tell people I am posting to it again.