Driving north from Fargo it was the first time we had seen the real heartland of the USA. The term “Flat as a Pancake” really came to mind. The 2 hours from Fargo to the Canadian border was nothing but corn and other veggies in land “As Flat as a Pancake”. It was also the first time on the trip that the speeds of the highway jumped from 70mph to 75mph. Bubbles however cannot maintain a speed like that for very long so for a few hours almost every car and even a few trucks were speeding by us.
Finally we reached the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. I had traveled a few times between the USA and Canada in the west and they are much different than out east. The biggest difference is that the border crossing is literally in the middle of nothing. On either side the nearest town is 30 miles away. Because of this I figure that the border agents are a little bored and if your not from the immediate area or are doing something a bit different like Julie and I are the questioning might be a little more intense than back closer to home. Just as I had thought after getting through questioning we were told to pull over and go inside for further inspection. Julie and I have crossed the USA/Canada border at least 3 times a year going from New York to Ontario without incident so this was a little strange. So we pulled over and went inside and spoke with another border agent who took our passport, asked more or less the same questions and ran our passports through some sort of FBI/Mountie database before saying that she didn’t see why we would not be able to come into the country. She then proceeded to tell us the great tours of the Winnipeg Legislature building, which was pretty nice of her. After getting our passports back we were on the road driving the rest of the way to our campground for the night just outside of Winnipeg.
The next morning we woke up ready to go. Today we were exploring central Canada’s largest city of Winnipeg. Winnipeg is sort of like Kansas City. In 20 minutes or less you go from flat farm fields as far as you can see to the middle of a booming city with skyscrapers 40 stories high. It was pretty nice how easy it was to navigate the city. After finally parking (we have an issue with cities having parking lots that are permit only part of the time and public part of the time, the signage is never great and pretty confusing for a tourist who is visting.) we headed to the main tourist area in Winnipeg called “The Forks”. The Forks has been a meeting place for native people for thousands of years. It is also the place where the Red River and the Assiniboine River meet. Today there is a huge market as well as visitor’s center and recreation center. After a short walk Julie and I arrived and went into the market. This market unlike others that we have been to on this trip was not a farmers market but more of one that sold goods and trinkets to tourists and locals and had a plethora of food stalls and restaurants as well. We wandered around the stores picking up a few things (we have been collecting postcards & a magnet to put on our little fridge from every state/province that we have been to). We then walked through the food stalls finally selecting a restaurant called the Beachcomber, which overlooked the rivers.
From the Beachcomber we walked into downtown waiting out a rainstorm in the cities underground walkway mall and a Tim Horton’s before going to the Winnipeg Jets Hockey store and picking up a few shirts. From there we went to the Manitoba Legislature (State Capital Building). This was pretty impressive as right when you walked in there were 2 huge buffalo statues. We took a tour, which was one of the best capital tours so far but 3 things stuck out more than the others. 1. When building the capital the foreman in charge stole millions of dollars worth of building material. The largest of that being 4 huge marble pillars which ended up getting him caught. 2. The statue on the top of the dome, which is a golden male angel and whose official name is “Eternal Youth” is known as the “Golden Boy”. We thought that was a pretty fun name. The 3rd thing while not having anything to do with the capital but interesting nonetheless is that Winnie the Poo is named after the city of Winnipeg. After getting our fill of Manitoba & literature history we headed back to the campground for dinner and relaxation.
The next morning we woke up ready for our next adventure. Today we were headed an hour north of the city to Lake Winnipeg. In looking at a map the lake looks huge….and it is. Lake Winnipeg is the 12th largest lake in the world. It is even larger than Lake Ontario witch is pretty amazing. The first for the day was the beach town of Winnipeg Beach. From pictures that we saw from the 1920’s through the 1960’s this was the place to be in the summer. Today its still nice, although much smaller than it used to be. There was a small main street a quarter mile beach and a boardwalk. While the water was not as clear as Lake Michigan and Lake Superior it was still amazing how big it was. We walked along the beach looking out not able to see the other side. We then took a bike ride around the little town and had lunch. It was a great start to the day.
Next up for the day was 20 miles north in the town of Gimli. Gimli is famous in these parts for being settled by people from Iceland. It’s also knows as “New Iceland”. In the 20 mile drive we started to see signs with last names that we could not read at all. When we were in The Forks the previous day I had remembered seeing something about the “Icelandic Festival” in Gimli but thought that it had already passed. When we got to the town I found out that I had gotten the dates wrong and to our luck the festival was going on today! We found parking on a side street and walked to the center of town where row after row of tents was set up with vendors selling everything under the sun. Oddly enough we could only find one vendor selling anything Icelandic. All of the actual stores in town were selling Viking wear, Iceland Flags and lots of trinkets with “New Iceland” printed on them. After walking around for a bit and seeing an American Gladiators style battle (there is footage of this brief fight in our video) over the water where people volunteered to go against one another to see who could push who off the log first into the water. We also found a re-creation settlement. In this people dressed up as Vikings and you were able to see how they cooked and what they ate, to how they made clothes and weapons. It was all very cool. Lastly they even had a one on one battle between men in a tournament. It was really cool. As it was starting to get late in the day we hopped back into Bubbles and drove back to our campsite with Vikings on the mind. This was one of the most unique festivals that either of us had been to.
The next morning after our usual breakfast of peaches and dry cheerios we packed up bubbles and headed south. After an hour drive and not any issue at the US border we were back in North Dakota.
Next up……We head to the capitols of the Dakota’s, Bismarck, ND and Pierre, SD.