Last month, the S.O. and I embarked on our first trip of the summer — a road trip from Boise to Winnipeg, MB, and back. Aside from the drive from Detroit to Boise when we moved a year and a half ago, our last great road trip was a Detroit–Charlotte, NC round trip around Thanksgiving, 2009. In addition, since leaving Detroit, we’ve missed the ease of going to Canada for genuine Indian food, the Bulk Barn, and Cuban cigars. So we were really looking forward to this trip.
We took I-84 east from Boise to Idaho Falls, then hopped on to I-15 to Great Falls, MT. After a massive car snafu — I’ll spare you the details — we puttered along several
nothing farm roads State Highways until we reached the border crossing. We then took Highway 41 north into Alberta for about 60 miles until we connected with the Trans-Canada Highway, which then took us all the way across Saskatchewan and on to Winnipeg.
Bob’s Sheep Farm was about 15 miles north of the border along Alberta 41. These flat, grassy plains, occasionally dotted with an old barn or farm shed leaning in stubborn surrender to time and weather, followed us all the way from Great Falls to Winnipeg.
The scenery along the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is bland and repetitive — grasslands that slowly ease into tepid farmlands and back into grasslands, over the course of 600something miles. Minimal traffic makes the driving easy, but the absence of many major cities, landmarks, or natural attractions leaves you with a rather tiresome plod down the road. So here are a few tips for anyone driving the Trans-Canada through the prairie provinces:
- Book lodging in advance. Lodging options are limited (only a few hotels in each town, and the next town is an hour or more away). Hotels fill up. The difficulty of finding a room after 8:00 pm surprised me.
- Pack a lunch. In the small towns, your dining options are mom ‘n’ pop diner, McDonald’s, KFC, or gas station convenience store. It’s at least an hour to the next town, which will have the same selection, with perhaps a Pita Pit. Pack a cooler with the fixings for turkey sandwiches, or bring along leftovers from last night’s dinner.
- Be aware of stoplights and cars crossing or entering the highway. Cars stop perpendicular to the highway, and proceed to turn East, West, or continue straight across the highway. In a few places, there are stoplights on the highway, so you may need to come to a complete stop for cross-traffic. It’s a bit slower-going than the US Interstate system.