Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 3: Plymouth, MN to Regina, SK

Alaska Trip, Day 3 (Sat Jun 26): 733 miles; 10 hr 56 min (By the way, the drive times I'm showing here are driving time only, and do not include stops for gas, food, or silly roadside landmarks.)


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If you know Amber and me well, then you know that we like Canada. A lot. That's reason to get really excited about Day 3. Yeah! But first, we get to experience Minnesota and North Dakota.

Minnesota

I wrote a separate post with some observations I made about traffic devices and such in the Minneapolis area. Click here for that post, if you're into that sort of thing.


Our Saturday morning drive through Minnesota was mostly in the fog, but I guess that was preferable to driving through another severe thunderstorm.

I'm a big fan of Minnesota. If you like Canada, but don't actually want to live there, then Minnesota is for you! I might have considered looking for a job there if it weren't so far away from friends and family. And, of course, there's that whole "winter" thing.

North Dakota


Amber likes driving and road trips just as much as I do, but she isn't a "road geek". I pay attention to road signs and the roads themselves; Amber looks for animals and clouds, and takes pretty pictures. (I'd say it makes for a pretty good combination.) So, she didn't notice that most (or all?) of the interstate shields in North Dakota have the state name in small print above the number, until I happened to point that out to her. "Hey, that's neat!" That's step one...it's only a matter of time before minute sign details such as this* become an obsession. Muwhaha... (Actually, the only way I see that happening with Amber is if road signs ever grow fur and/or paws.)

(* - Other examples of "minute sign details" that can potentially spawn obsessions include control cities, button copy, Clearview font, and pretty much any sign that's 40 or more years old.)


North Dakota is pretty flat overall (noticing a pattern?), but there are hills here and there if you look hard enough. I think the western part of the state is far more hilly, but it's been 16 years since I've been out that way.


So, we were in Jamestown, North Dakota looking for a nice place to get out of the car and have some lunch, when...why, what's this? Another "World's Largest" something or other? Well, might as well get a picture of Mo the cow puppet with it.

This is a classic example of a "World's Largest" attraction that generally underwhelmed. At least we didn't have to pay anything to see it. The "World's Largest buffalo statue" - or bison or whatever - is also visible from I-94, so you don't have to pull off the freeway to catch a glimpse. We only got off the freeway because this would have been our exit anyway; from here it would be US-52 all the way to the Canadian border.

Well...almost. I decided to take us on a slight detour through Eddy County (point B on the map) for the purposes of my county map (which has now been completely updated). The US-281/ND-15 detour was was only a mile or two longer than US-52, so why the hell not?


Ah, North Dakota. Not much traffic, is there?


Just north of Minot (in a surprisingly scenic area), we saw a bunch of numbers periodically laid out in rocks on the hillsides, over a stretch of several miles. Our conclusion was that each year, the seniors from the local high school commemorate their graduating class by marking their graduation year on an area hillside. I think the oldest year we saw was 60-something.

Okay, so...North Dakota is nice, but we're ready for Canada. Are you ready? The thing I like the least about going to Canada is passing through customs, something we'd have to do six times throughout the trip. The most interesting border crossing experience was by far the last one, though, so I'll save that discussion for later.


Now that the Canadian dollar is almost even with the American dollar, it's not really worth it for us Americans to go north of the border and buy stuff (except perhaps on Boxing Day). So what was one of the first things we did after crossing the border? We bought stuff! I mean, obviously.


Really, can you blame me? Lots of people go to Alaska and buy Alaska-branded apparel. Chances are, someone you know has a t-shirt or sweatshirt that says "Alaska" on it. But how many people do you know have a piece of Saskatchewan-branded apparel? I'm willing to bet that I'm the first. (I also liked the crude drawing and the slogan. That's the real reason I got the shirt.)


Fun fact: the first town we drove through in Saskatchewan - Estevan - has more sunny days per year than any other city in Canada. It's the Phoenix or Las Vegas of Canada! Except I hear the winters are a little colder.


That's a view of the Regina, Saskatchewan, skyline. Our hotel was nowhere near downtown - I heard that Regina has a fairly high crime rate, so we stayed a safe distance away from the city centre.

From what I've gathered, the city of Regina is kind of a running joke throughout Canada. Not because it rhymes with "vagina" (although that can't help much), but because most of Canada thinks it's a lowly, pathetic town or something. Regina: the Cleveland of Canada! We weren't there long, but I thought it was alright.

What did we do during our evening in Regina? Grocery shopping! The closest store to our hotel was a Safeway, but we didn't go there. Safeway is a fine grocery store, but they are freaking everywhere out west, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. Instead, we went to a store called "The Real Canadian Superstore" (also a large chain, just not as large as Safeway), where we bought some fine Canadian snacks.


Cheez-Its aren't sold in Canada, and Canadian Wheat Thins are nowhere as good as American Wheat Thins (yes, they are different - VERY different), so we got what we could. I mean, with a name like "Mr. Fudgey", how can you go wrong? I'm sure there are some "cult Canadian snacks" out there that are absolutely delicious. We just don't know what they are. Australia has Tim Tams; what does Canada have? (This is where you, the reader and potential commenter, comes in. And yes, we know about Coffee Crisp.)

Tomorrow: Day 4, featuring more Canadian goodness.

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