Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Day 11: Lanigan SK to Maidstone SK, July 11

The first stop today was in Saskatoon, where we had to make three tries to find a Where to Eat in Canada restaurant that was actually open for lunch. Fortunately “Calories” was just up the street from the second unsuccessful search for a sushi restaurant. I wanted to order about six things on the menu, but settled on lamb ravioli; Mike shared his beef tenderloin salad with me, and we both helped Will finish his gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. I think it’s the first restaurant I’ve ever been to where the kitchen makes their own ketchup, and they did it without making a fuss about it on the menu.

Afterwards we headed to the south end of town to the Western Development Museum’s 1910 Boomtown. There were enough old buildings and vehicles out front that I thought at first it might be the Boomtown; we watched a blacksmith working for a while, and saw some folks operating a horse-driven well digger.

The actual Boomtown turned out to be inside the huge museum building, and consisted of at least 20 reconstructed buildings lining a dirt street. The number of artifacts the museum has is just staggering, and the venue gives them lots of space to display them in room settings. We were distressed to see some of the information about the government’s handling of Aboriginal issues at the turn of the century, such as their insistence on farming, then imposing restrictions and controls that made it impossible to be successful. Partly we were distressed at how much of it we hadn’t already known, such as the pass system being implemented into the 1940’s.

We finished up with two more major galleries, both of which were spectacular; the antique cars, of which they have 250, and the farming implements. The original founders of the museum were farsighted enough to realize that war effort calls for metal were going to mean that early farming technology was going to disappear, with no examples left for posterity. It looks like they collected one of everything, and we were astounded by all the machinery we’d never seen before. Their old car collection was neat, going back to Ford Model A's and T's, with many "survivors" that haven't needed to be restored. One car had only 100 original miles on it!

After that it was time for more driving, and we made it as far as the tiny campground in Maidstone, Saskatchewan. We were using Mike's Blackberry as our GPS, and it was a little odd to see the little blue dot that was us diverging from the highway - they've recently built a bypass around Maidstone, which made navigating a little tricky. There were only about a dozen sites, again in a circle around a comfort station, and although there were big RVs in about half the sites we didn't see any other people walking around. It was a nice quiet night.

Here's a typical view of Saskatchewan prairie; an old wooden grain elevator beside the railway.

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