On the Home Stretch
I have no recollection of Kenora, where we spent the fourth night. In those days it was just a small town on the main highway between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. In the fifty years since then it has seen a major transformation from a backward lumber town to a modern city with a sharp focus on tourism and support for recreational ventures at the Lake of the Woods with its 105,000 km of shoreline making it the longest coastline of any Canadian lake. Its name did not hint in the least at the wonders it had to offer to the outdoor enthusiasts. There was an incredible number of over 14,000 islands on this sixth largest lake after the Great Lakes. Surely there had to be a separate island for each canoeist and camper to land on here.
As we crossed the provincial border into Manitoba the next morning, the lakes became rare, the forest denser, the land increasingly more level, and the highway had fewer curves. Adolf and I began to get bored. We were both eager to get to Calgary as quickly as possible. When we left the trees behind and entered the open prairie, which was only now beginning to show some signs of spring, Adolf stepped on the gas to cover as many miles as the speed limit would allow. The gray monotony of the fields still waiting to be planted with wheat and the unfiltered harsh sunlight made our eyes burn. I was feeling tired, although I was only sitting on the comfortable car bench. I began to view the second last lap of our trip more as a burden than a pleasure. Adolf, my good brother in times, when my spirit was noticeably drooping, encouraged me, “You should come back here in June, when the wheat fields begin to green or better yet in the fall, when an ocean of golden stalks greets you with waves of ripe wheat stirred up by the wind and is putting on a show that you don’t want to miss.”
He was right. I should not have allowed my enthusiasm for the land to sag so quickly. Looking back at the marvelous sights of the past few days, I felt thankful to Adolf for having taken me on this trip. A few kilometers past Port La Prairie we stopped at a roadside rest area to have a lunch break. I delighted in seeing the first signs of spring in the green grass already growing around our picnic table. Cooking a simple meal like chunky soup from cans was really fun on the little gasoline stove that had been useful so often since my boy-scout years in Wesel. After this short rest in the sunshine we put in six or seven more grueling hours of travel time and eventually dropped in at a small modest motel in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. It was going to be our last night on our way to Calgary. Thanks to Adolf’s tireless driving often at speeds going over the posted speed limits we arrived at Gerry’s house on Fyffe Road two days earlier than we had planned.