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Michelle's Journal

Manitoba

Day Date Entry
28 Fri, July 30 Although Manitoba seemed okay when I lived there as a youngster (age 17-19), now as an adult cyclist it's very disappointing. Needs are not met. Often the road's shoulder is unrideable rocky gravel and the rideable surface ends at the white line, which may be crumbled away or hidden under gravel. Repairs done in a patchwork, band-aid manner result in bumps as treacherous as the holes. It's stressful and scary riding the white line in the midst of big trucks roaring by, like walking a tightrope in addition to scanning for rocks, bumps and holes, with no room to maneuver when they inevitably appear. Safety is a major issue. Road signs tell you repeatedly that the same town lies ahead, but rarely tell you how far it is. Rest stops are rarely available and toilets are in horrendous condition. One outhouse with a crumbled toilet base that moved provided no confidence that I wouldn't land in the muck below. Haven't Manitoba's government decision-makers travelled in any other provinces to know how woefully deficient their province's services are? In Shoal Lake, we ate lunch in a Chinese restaurant. The food was disappointing, and I'm surprised the restaurant is in business. Is it possible the local customers haven't tasted any other Chinese food to realize how poorly it compares? Since it seems that mediocre businesses that would not survive competition in the city can carry on business in a small town, it's nice to find those that rise above the mediocrity. Peanut butter cookies from the local bakery were delicious.
29 Sat, July 31


Margaret Laurence's home

I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit author Margaret Laurence's childhood home (the home of her grandparents, the Simpsons) in Neepawa, and learn more about her life. As a teenager, she couldn't wait to get out of this small town, yet it became the setting for all her Manawaka novels that I greatly enjoyed. It was nice to experience a bit of culture after many days of looking at roads, skies, fields and swamps.


A Diviners movie prop book authored by Margaret's character Morag,
a divining rod Margaret used, and some of her novels


Margaret portrayed at the kitchen table where she wrote
30 Sun, Aug 1 When nature called, there were *no* facilities (not even bushes) for over 45K, then at the intersection of highways 16 and 1, I waited in a line-up with a dozen other people to use a gas station toilet. We had an enjoyable stay in Elie, a small town just west of Winnipeg. We asked the convenience store staff if accommodations were available in town, and they directed us to L'Auberge Clemence. It's an interesting three-storey bed and breakfast in a former convent, with a blessed chapel, a lovely garden and cemetery in the back, and three affectionate outdoor cats. Ironically, no road signs informed travellers of its existence - ironic since the owners also run a successful sign design company. They prefer word of mouth advertising and random guest arrivals to being swamped by tourists. I very much appreciate their approach in limiting their advertising so they can enjoy many careers and interests simultaneously, including driving school buses and supporting local artists. They display artists' work for sale throughout the B&B at no mark-up, so it's an art gallery too. We had the third floor (that had contained 40 beds in the convent) to ourselves, and enjoyed watching the video Cold Mountain. In the morning, our friendly hosts joined us for an interesting chat over tasty eggs benedict.
31 Mon, Aug 2

We've had the experience several times where local Manitobans say, "Yes, there's a good paved shoulder all the way from A to Z," and then we find that, in actuality, there is a good paved shoulder from A to B and perhaps P to Q, but the majority of the road is lousy with no paved shoulder. It seems vehicle drivers (the vast majority here) notice the good shoulders when they start out and then don't notice what follows, which may partly explain why bad roads are accepted. Locals mentioned they rarely see cyclists. If I lived here, I probably wouldn't ride a bike either! The Richer area has an interesting history. French-speaking voyageurs travelled west in the fur trade and lived with native women, as was the custom, forming Métis communities. All three restaurants near our motel had near-identical pizza/burger menus, but the Timberline was nicest, so we ate there. On returning there for breakfast, it was cool to hear everyone in the restaurant speaking French. One man, a customer, came over and offered us self-serve coffee, so later Bill reciprocated and served another lady coffee. It was neat to experience the license plate logo, "Friendly Manitoba."

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