Wednesday July 26 - Day 26
Current Location: Regina, SK
Distance Traveled: 13,190km
Ever since I was a young kid, one of the things I'd written on my bucket list was to visit every capital city in Canada. Besides the three in the territories and the Arctic, there was only one I'd yet to visit - Regina, Saskatchewan. (Technically I've only been in Winnipeg by stopped train so far, but that'll change this weekend.) But today, I'm one city closer to my goal, having finished seeing Regina; the last province.
But without knowing anyone here in Saskatchewan, I had no access to a car. I fixed this by completing another first, and renting a car from the Saskatoon Enterprise. I've never rented a car in my name, and only needed one for 12 hours so I could see Regina and back. "Because you only need it today," the clerk said "I can give you the base price, but rent you a nicer car." I was excited by the deal....until I saw the car.
Close friends of mine will vouch for my word when i say I've always believed the Ford Flex was the ugliest motor vehicle in the history of transportation. And whaddaya know. It's a shiny, new, upgraded grey Ford Flex in all it's American glory.
Fortunately, the car drives remarkably better and more enjoyably than it looks. The GPS was top notch and Sirius XM radio was standard. Coupled with my route going directly southeast to Regina, it was just a two and a half hour drive on one freeway, totally straight. Passing through the Saskatchewan countryside, I followed the advice of my friend Gideon and "just kept going straight."
Some people might have been remarkably bored alone looking at grass plains and canola fields for hours on end (especially after seeing so many on the train.) But I found it surprisingly relaxing and comforting; I liked the small wind and the warmth of the road. Maybe I also enjoyed it because it was a rare chapter in my trip where i was completely alone and had time to myself - something I've rarely had this month.
The only real challenge about the drive was all the crows...leaving presents on the windshield. I had to stop twice to clean it because it was so large and frequent. Even worse, the "gifts" were all bright yellow from their canola diet. I decided to omit pictures of the front windows because the sight really was nauseating. But I paused, breathed, and ventured on.
About 10:30am I finally hit the city limit and passed the "Welcome" sign on to Main Street. The town was far more elegant and rigid than Saskatoon, suffering somewhat from Capital-itis, where it forces its aesthetic and culture to be slightly more serious than it's neighbours because it's the official city of the province. (I think Edmonton, Fredricton and Victoria also have a similar mild problem.)
My visit began with a short stroll along the river and through Confederation Park, overlooking the provincial parliament buildings. The bridge along Albert Street was adorned with dozens of Canadian flags on both sides, and looked extremely pretty once the wind picked up in the afternoon.
Outside the park was the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, a small institution that focuses on native history and the province's geography. It wasn't a large building compared to other museums i've been to this month, though it had some terrific dioramas and wildlife displays. Better still, the museum is FREE to all visitors. A nice touch especially after spending so much on gas and a rental car.
One exhibition was a special commission for the summer about Canadian inventions and animals called "150 for 150", and another rather cheeky display about a specific bush called "A Wise Old Sage." (Cue audience laugh track.) The Royal was a modest, warm museum that many of the young children visiting that day were definitely the most excited patrons of the day. There was also a robotic T-Rex named Megamunch that, while somewhat underwhelming, was still a fun addition.
My other major stop was a recommendation by Jack and Danielle yesterday night, suggesting I visit the Mackenzie Art Gallery. The building is shared by medical offices (where Jack used to work) and the museum, with gardens and guest parking surrounding the complex. And just like the RSM, admission is completely free to all guests! (I made a small donation at both, but there was zero pressure from either.)
There are several different artists and exhibitions on at any given time, with all four main halls only featuring their current shows for three to four months at a time. The curator I met with explained having high turnover rates in the work meant there was a high number of frequent repeat visitors, and it was one of the city's art hubs for people to gather and hang out in.
Current exhibits for the summer included Canada's relationship with science fiction, indigenous art and native paintings from Alberta, and a rather curious dark room called "The Dream Space." It was filled with paintings and sketches on black walls, with dozens of silver bean bag chairs in the middle. The room was the size of an NBA basketball court, and you were encouraged to sit, relax, view and dream.
The strangest and coolest part of the room was the far wall that featured a looping paper and a neon red typewriter, with a prompt written on the wall asking "Is the best yet to come?" Guests were told to sit and write their answers on the typewriter, adding to the collection. I sat, and after learning some of the buttons and functions (following two missed attempts,) I left my answer for others to see.
After another walk outside, it was time to leave Regina and make the drive back to Saskatoon for the night, where Jack and Danielle had invited me to a family dinner with their sons and the grandparents for the night. I raced back north, and happily returned my Ford Flex to the same gentleman who'd rented it to me 11 hours earlier that day.
Dinner at grandma and grandpa's house was full of delicious homemade treats and family favourites. Jack's mother made homemade pizzas with homemade italian sausages, and Jack had brewed homemade lager beer for us to enjoy. Dessert was made by Jack and Danielle's 15-year-old son William, who'd asked about my preferences for cheesecake this morning. He decided on a mint chocolate cheesecake, and it was even better than it looks.
I spent time that evening with William and Nathan (his 10-year-old younger brother), and I was amused by how much Will and i had in common. We talked with each other about school our interests, and I kept thinking how similar I was to William when I was his age. It was scarier for me to think that wasn't too long ago, and I wondered, how have I really changed since then?
Their grandfather's basement was decorated with football and other sports memorabilia, mainly from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. My family is made of dedicated Toronto Argonauts fans (our local football team,) and so we enjoyed riffing on each other's teams. My stepdad Steve is the biggest CFL fan I know, and I imagine he would have known more about the collection.
We ended the night with the boys all playing pool at the hall next door, playing a few games to pass the night. Grandpa eventually won the most, though I'm proud to say I snuck in a win before the night closed. After dessert and goodbyes, we returned home so I could sleep in before leaving for the train mid-morning tomorrow.
I know I shared some pictures of the Wallace family basement yesterday, but I saved some of the DVD wall and music room for today. It was in the music room where I found Jack just before bed. We chatted together as the kids were falling asleep upstairs.
He said how envious of my trip he was, and the best thing I'm getting is an appreciation to listen and accept offers from everyone I've met. The best gift I could accept is the willingness to try and take what they offer. That's how I learn - that's how I develop. That's how I change.
He said he was impressed with my ability to sit at a window on the train and think, just watching the world go by. Not anyone could do that for eight days. As I'm coming close to the end, I contemplated: What am I thinking about? How am I going to summarize my trip when people ask about it once i'm back home? How can I tie everything I've seen and learned together?
William came downstairs at the end, and Jack said he was 21 - my age! - when Will was born. They joked, but Jack and Will had a real, sincere love between them. I thought about Kris and Keon last week, and the memories I had with my own two Dads. But what a striking thought. What if I had a son right now?
I likely wouldn't be on this trip if I did. What are the things I've done differently? How am I thinking about children differently now than a month ago? What does this mean about my future?
I thought about a number of questions before i left, and tonight I started to think and write some concrete answers to what I've learned and seen on my trip the last four weeks. Funny how asking questions often leads to more questions as well as the answers - but like the serenity of the rolling, yellow fields outside, tonight all i felt - however much I thought - was a therapeutic joy and calm.