After The Canadian Cross Country Road Trip.
Article #8: The open spaces of freedom in saskatchewan.
The feeling of freedom is a feeling that continuously grows as you progress from what bounded you from it in the first place. When you’re working a job that doesn’t fulfill you in any way other than a means to secure a financially sound lifestyle, the escape that you construct in your head becomes a formulated image based on what you interpret freedom at that given moment. When you have the opportunity of taking on what you’ve been striving for in the pre-meditative state, there’s a probability that the image you've created in your head won't fully match what's waiting for you on the other side. As much as you plan your escape and your first steps, you never fully know what will happen since you spent planing within a headspace and societal construct different from the environment that inhabits the space you want to reach. The unknown is what’s really waiting for you. And that’s where things become beautiful.
With the morning light slowly seeping through my tent I opened my eyes and stared straight up trying to gain consciousness. I’m in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. This will be my last day in this beautiful getaway to the prairies. As I’m making my way out of my tent, I’m automatically running my objectives for the day. Throughout this trip, I had preplanned a route to where I wanted to go each day and things that I wanted to do. That preplanning slowly went out the window as I made my way across the country. Throughout the beginning of 2016, I worked on my days off on a layout of what I would be doing throughout the cross country road trip. The layout was saved on my phone and my laptop, and I revised it when I was home in Nova Scotia. That was the last time that I looked at it. Don’t get me wrong it’s crucial to have a plan when it comes to traveling for any long distances, but it’s easy to get swept into the moment when you get onto the road and see all sorts of surprises that you never knew existed. A part of the trip relied on the layout, but most of the choices that were made on the fly. It was a good way of keeping the trip exciting. I went for a quick bicycle ride that morning around the area to get the blood circulating since I’ll be sitting in my car for a good deal of the day. Once again the tent got broken down and loaded up in the cargo carrier of my car, and with one last look at Riding Mountain National Park, I was on my way towards the Saskatchewan border.
Being known as a major agricultural and oil and gas industry, Saskatchewan is the central prairie province that sits in between Manitoba and Alberta. With an estimated population of 1,150,632, the northern parts of the region are mostly boreal forests and beautiful clear lakes with the bonus of the sand dunes in the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park. The southern parts of Saskatchewan are the prairie landscape that the province is known for. My destination of the day was going to be Regina. As much as I enjoyed the diverse scenery that I saw throughout this trip, I have grown so accustomed to the prairie landscape in the last eight years that I felt more at home driving alongside the vast open fields. Having this type of space around me has a psychological effect where I have room to breath and think more within the present moment. You look at any direction, and your eyes can wonder forever. The landscape rolls along in a manner that is relatively flat but not boring. The variable agriculture that grows in these fields is so colorful and vibrant in the energy it gives off that you could almost feed off of it. As I’m slowly making my way towards one of the prairie cities, I started wondering what I was going to do when I’d be done with the trip. Alberta was where I was from, and I spent a lot of time exploring and documenting the beautiful things within it. British Columbia was going to be my last province of the trip, and then that was going to be it. Five months of planning and preparing had been executed and was soon going to be over. I snapped back into the present moment and continued focusing on what was in front of me. I still had a lot of ground to cover, a lot of different things to see, and there was no room to try to figure out something that I had little control over. With Regina in my sight, I straightened myself in my seat and motored along.
Heading towards the capital city of Saskatchewan, with an estimated count of 193,000 people and growing, I wanted to go to a beautiful spot and relax. The Legislation Building is what came to mind. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and there was a lot of people that we’re out enjoying the beautiful summer weather. I grabbed my camera and went for a little stroll around the grounds of the Legislature. Built in between 1908 and 1912, this Beaux Arts-style design has aged well. Being over a 100 years old I was awe strucked with the complexity of the architecture with the resources that would have been used in that period. I went for a walk alongside the Wascana Lake watching some rowers charging along the water. After laying under a tree to get away from the sun, it struck me that a tv series that my dad watches was filmed in Saskatchewan. Corner Gas started somewhere in a rural area of the province, and I thought it is an excellent idea to see if I could find it. My search results showed that it was 40 minutes away from where I was so after regaining a little bit of excitement I ran to my car and bolted southbound on Highway 6. When I was spending time with my parents in June, every day at 5 pm, the tv was on Corner Gas. I never watched the show before but with time I eventually enjoyed it. I think part of the reason was that I was spending time with my dad which is something I don’t get to do often since I live far away from home. From Highway 6 and then westbound on a dirt road, I finally made it to a small town called Rouleau.
With a population of 453, starting life as a location for a post office in 1895 and then eventually incorporating a town in 1905, there’s a good chance that this town would be better known for being the production set for the tv series Corner Gas. Airing in 2004 and ending in 2009, the set was abandoned up until an entrepreneur bought it as a tourist attraction for the town. I didn’t know what to expect when I’d get there. When I arrived, the set looked great. They repaired it to make it look close to what it did before, and I was smiling from ear to ear being able to see this little piece of history in front of me. I got into my car and parked it by where the gas pumps would have been. A little context, the set was a gas station and a restaurant in one building. I got my camera and took several photographs and placed it on Facebook right away. I was hoping that my dad would get to see the photo at some point and be excited about it. After soaking as much as I could of the moment and feeling like a celebrity, I made my way north on Highway 39 to my final destination, Moose Jaw. With a population of 33, 274, this town is known for being an important junction for the agricultural industry of the province, and also being home to the Snowbirds, the Canadian acrobatic military air force group. This town has a lot of amazing older buildings that have been kept with great care. My campsite of the night was on the south end of the Moose Jaw River which was nice because I was looking for a location that was close to the city but not into it. I set up my tent and eventually went to explore a little bit of the area. My first impression of the city was that it had a more relaxed pace than some of the comparable cities I had been into. I got a chance to examine some of the structures like City Hall. One of the tourist attractions of the area among many are the tunnels that are underneath the city. Established in the beginning of 1908, these tunnels were used for multiple purposes. Originally built for underground steam systems that were later abandoned, these tunnels were used for hiding Chinese railway workers from the Yellow Peril, and then later used in the 1920’s for rum running during the prohibition in the United States. It also served as a location for gambling and prostitution, and some say that Al Capone had supposedly visited Moose Jaw expressing interest in the bootlegging operations when they were active. Eventually, the tunnels got restored and were open to the public as a tourist attraction in the year 2000. With all of the amazing history that was literally under my feet, all I could think about was eating supper and going to bed. I was hitting one of the few mental brick walls that eventually made me decide to take some time for myself and relax.
After spending the night in Moose Jaw, I got out of my tent a little more refreshed than the day before and was ready to charge through another session of exploration. My destination was Saskatoon. Located northwest of Moose Jaw, I got onto Highway 2 and the eventually on Highway 11. I passed by a beautiful lake that I later found was associated with Buffalo Pound Provincial Park. Taking some aerial shots of the body of water that was nestled into the prairie landscape, I couldn’t help but think of the stereotypes that the prairies are known for. I’ve personally learned throughout the years that the prairies have beautiful hidden gems if you take the time to explore. When I got to the city of Saskatoon, I had this strong urge to go into a bookstore. I don’t know about you but as much as it’s a luxury to carry a library in your pocket that also has the accessibility of buying books anywhere there’s cell phone reception, there’s nothing like feeling the pages of an actual book. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to buy any physical books since I was traveling, but I never fully committed myself to that agreement. With an estimated population of 305,000, this is the largest city in the province. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time here because I wanted more time and the finances to explore locations like the Rocky Mountains and the various views in British Columbia, I’d have to keep moving forward and spend less time in the future cities. Saskatoon, Toronto in Ontario, and St John’s in Newfoundland will be trip I’ll plan for in the course of the next three years. As I’m making my way westbound on the Trans-Canada highway, I was already daydreaming of the epic pictures I’d be getting throughout the following two provinces which were going to be Alberta and British Columbia. The prairies were a refreshing scene for a set of tired eyes. Having the vast landscape stretch in front of you gives you a feeling of freedom. A sense that I continued to enjoy throughout the trip. Taking the opportunity to step away from what was considered an uninspiring headspace to a vast amount of landscape ready to be explored at your command had been something I had been dreaming of for a long time. With this in mind, I made my way west to the Alberta border, towards the wild rose country.