Onward to Manitoba! Before getting to Winnipeg we had to stop for two roadside attractions. First, we had to go to Kenora to view the larger-than-life Husky the Muskie. Like the Wawa goose, this was one of those childhood memories I needed to recreate. The underpass from the parking lot to the Muskie was flooded by the river so we had to run across the “highway”. Isabella enjoyed that part the most. We got the required picture and were back in the car. Closer to Winnipeg, we stopped at the longitudinal middle of Canada (96°48’35″W according to the sign). It was just off the Trans Canada Highway that had a couple giant Adirondack chairs (that seem to be all across the country and some needed washrooms). We stopped quickly as Paige and I just wanted to get to Winnipeg, do some laundry and dry out all our wet gear from Blue Lake. We were splitting Winnipeg up into 1 day at a hotel and then 4 days outside the city at Birds Hill Provincial Park. The kids were looking forward to this part of the trip as we had enrolled them in a week of summer camp at the University of Manitoba. Izzie was off to become a scientist while Julie was going to hone her gymnastic skills. Paige and Mike were going to do…….well, we had nothing planned for ourselves.
We really did appreciate our break at the hotel and we maximized our time there. We checked in early, cleaned the family up and revelled in climate control (I now appreciate having a consistent climate for 12 hours). The kids played in the pool and went down the waterslide 27 times in our hour at the pool (yes, I had to count the number of times). We even splurged and went to the Olive Garden for dinner and did the standard eat too much food and feel ill. I think gluttony best describes my performance.
With the kids well fed, rested and cleaned, they were ready for their week of summer camp. At their Mini-University camp, the kids got to be kids. They came home with drawings, crafts and science experiments. Seriously though, why does every science class involve them creating slime? And then why do they insist on bringing the slime home? And then why do they insist on playing with said slime, thereby ruining their clothes, bags and anything else the slime touches? Miraculously, the car interior wasn’t part of the great slime cleanup.
My slime rant aside, summer camp was great. They made friends, gave hugs, and learned how to do handstands. They swam, sang songs and went on bouncy castles. Some days they had stories to tell for hours, other times they fell asleep in the car after five minutes. We think we did the right thing putting them in the class even if we had to drive 45 minutes one way each day to drop them off each day.
Birds Hill Provincial Park. Let me start by saying, this was the first time we had ever camped outside of Ontario and didn’t know which way it was going to go. The park had hosted a big music festival the day before we arrived and we were curious about what state it might be in. Our worries were for naught as the park was in great shape and was a great place to settle down after our daylight hours in the city. We lucked out as the weather was great and we had a site that blended shade and sun perfectly. An added perk was that we felt we had the park to ourselves as it was probably only at 20% capacity the week we stayed -bonus for camping on weekdays. And since the park was free for cars that week it only cost us $20 a night.
So each day we would wake up, hack together a breakfast, make the kids a bagged lunch, leave at 8am and drive 45 mins to the University of Manitoba. Paige and I would then spend the day in town just the two of us. One day we went to The Forks. On another day we explored the Exchange District. Then there was Assiniboine Park. And finally, there was that great day we went to the movies. After our own activities, we would pick up the kids and then go for dinner (thanks Jim and Chris), drive back to Birds Hill and then in the evening we would go off on the bikes.
The park had some spectacular bike trails that doubled as roller blade trails. Good enough condition for roller blades means great condition for biking! Isabella, on her first day, was determined to do the entire 7km loop around the lake. Upon completion, she shouted out loud that it was the best day of her life (I guess we are doing some things right this trip). Better yet it was a great park to teach Julie how to bike. After 4 days, she was done with training wheels. Julie’s training wheels were the first pieces of gear to be “retired” and left behind.
Up next are two nights at our first National Park – Riding Mountain.
By the Numbers:
- Total Kilometres: 3488km (we did lots of driving)
- Depart 8:30 (Blue Lake) – Arrive 13:30 (Winnipeg)
- Cans of Mosquito Repellant Used: 1
- Sunscreen Used: 1
- Ice Creams: 0 – does a Slurpee count?
- Laundromat Visits: 3 (a disaster of a week on that front)
- Lots of deer (2 babies, 1 buck jumping a fence)
- 5 bunnies
- Numerous gophers (1 who got in our tent, yep it is as ridiculous as it sounds)