(Part one here: Sioux Lookout to the Ottawa Valley | Part two here: Ottawa Valley to Lake Superior Park | Part three here: Lake Superior Park to Dryden, ON | Part four here: Dryden to Medicine Hat, AB | Part five here: Medicine Hat, AB, to Nanaimo, BC | Part six here: Nanaimo | Part seven here: Abbotsford, BC, to Valemount, BC)
The clouds had lifted a bit the next morning, but we still weren’t able to see the tops of the mountains. Still, the weather was far better for travelling than it had been the day before. With a renewed sense of adventure, we had Jasper in our sights, because after all that work to get there the day before, we still wanted to see what it was all about!
We drove past Mount Robson, the highest peak of the Rockies, but the weather was still bad enough that we couldn’t see the summit. It was still exciting to be back in the big mountains, especially because we missed some of the interesting peaks on our way through the first time on account of it being so dark.
We had a quick lunch in Jasper, opting to call various family members to tell them about our engagement after filling up on gyros, souvlaki and baklava. Matt tried on some bike gear at a motorcycle shop in town, wishing we had somehow been able to go there before the trip ate all of our money. We finished our brief excursion into town off with a trip to an arts store, where Matt bought me engagement ring #3, an inexpensive amber ring that actually fit my finger.
It felt like the mountains faded away very quickly. When we hit Edson, AB, there was nary a peak to be seen, but, unlike our trip there, it didn’t feel like we were really in the prairies. The Yellowhead Highway offered a slightly more interesting view, along with what felt like way less wind than on the Trans-Canada. The bumps, however, were still definitely in place.
I must have gone into some kind of prairie hypnosis because I don’t remember much of this ride. The road around Edmonton was really bad, and the sun was just starting to set as we cleared the city. Matt asked me to find a hotel a few hours away as he was feeling like that would be the point where he’d need to stop driving. We ended up in Vermilion, courtesy of the GPS.
We went to a chain hotel, another Super 8, I believe, to be informed that there were no vacancies and there was only one other place in town. We raced a woman in a pick-up truck to the hotel, the Vermilion Motor Inn (she won). Luckily, they had room, so that’s where we rested our heads for the night. In the morning, after eating our complimentary breakfast (cereal), we vowed to get as close to Ontario as possible — we were due back to work the following day, but the BC weather and battery problems had set us quite a way behind our schedule.
I started to feel sick again that day, but we soldiered through, stopping for the occasional granola bar and water along the way. Right near Maymont, SK, Matt pulled over on the side of the road. I asked what was up and he pointed to the speedometer — it, along with the odometer, had simply stopped working.
I believe the trip meter was on its eighth roll around (i.e., 8688.3 kilometres) but I can’t say with certainty any more. Matt ended up using the GPS to tell him his speed, and we abandoned any idea of having an accurate kilometre count at the end of our ride.
Again — prairie hypnosis. I know we were sore and tired, but I seem to have blocked out most of the ride. In Russell, MB, we started thinking about hotels, as it would take us until 3 AM to get to Winnipeg. We asked around town but there was nothing available.
Manitoba after dark is a lonely place. Looking at the GPS, we discovered there were only a handful of hotels between Russell and Winnipeg. We stopped in Shoal Lake, where a somewhat-scary maintenance man at the only hotel in town, which was under construction, offered to let us stay in a room if we could find one with an unlocked door. No thank you. Strathclair had nothing, either.
I should mention that the whole time we were stopping into these tiny prairie towns, a train was following us. We’d stop to look for a hotel, the train would show up, cross the tracks, blow its horn repeatedly, and drive us crazy. By the time we arrived in Minnedosa, our last hope, we were pretty unhappy. Nobody was around at any of the hotels we tried — apparently once it gets dark, you cannot get a hotel because the proprietors aren’t awake.
Our only option was to drive to Brandon, MB, 40 minutes out of the way, back onto the Trans-Canada. Did I mention we were on reserve fuel and, much like there were no open hotels, there were no open gas stations? We stopped at the very first gas station we could find in Brandon and Matt opened the tank to discover there was absolutely nothing in the tank — we were literally running on fumes.
Naturally, it was 3 AM by the time we got to Brandon, meaning we could have gone straight through to Winnipeg. We bought McDonald’s, sharing the line-up with the drunken post-bar crowd, and checked into the only room left at the Motel 6.
Next up: Cross-Canada Motorcycle Trip — Brandon, MB, home to Sioux Lookout!