Sue woke up early. Chased me out of bed and into the shower. Rudy, we gotta get going. It was too early to force breakfast down my throat. Sue went and got a bunch of little muffins and a couple of yogurts from the breakfast in the hotel lobby. It was cold and dry outside. Clear sky. We have a 10-hour drive ahead of us. We were on the road at 7:35 Mountain time. A few clouds in the eastern sky kept the sun out of my eyes as we angled northwest from Mile City, Montana. We had coffees to go — which meant that by the time we got to Sidney, a small dirty town just before the North Dakota border, we needed a washroom break. Well, why not go to the Macdonald’s and get an Egg McMuffin at the same time? Big sign on the door of Macdonald’s says ‘Sorry. Closed today. Due to labor shortage we can’t open the restaurant’. What? Labour shortage? I thought that people were out of work and business was suffering? Not here. We punched the next town into the Garmin. Williston, North Dakota. Big new Macdonald’s. VERY busy. Parking lot is all full. People inside are standing in a long line holding their ‘tickets’ with their order number, waiting for their food. About 25 people are working their butts off in the kitchen. Sue suggested that maybe I would like to order ‘lunch’ instead of breakfast, since it was already close to 11:00, and actually 12:00 with the time change. We waited longer than we’ve EVER waited for our order. Not really worth it, either.
We filled up the car at a big new gas station. The ice cold wind blew right through my windbreaker and jacket. B-r-r-r-r. This is what we’re going home to? Back on the road. Big oil pumps all over. Lots of construction. No, LOTS of construction. This is the most ugly country I’ve ever seen! All the cars (well, trucks mostly — everyone here drives a big Dodge RAM 4×4) are filthy. So is our van! Bugs plastered to the windshield from the warm drive through Montana yesterday afternoon — and now they’re getting FROZEN on. I couldn’t read the license plates on any of the cars and trucks I passed because they were covered with dust and dirt. Plastic bags fluttered in the gale-force winds, trying desperately to hang on the barbed wire fence along the side of the road. Row upon row of big steel buildings with big parking lots full of equipment everywhere. Lots of manufacturing going on here. Looks like pipeline work. Looks like UGLY work. I thought that there were a lot of people living in mobile homes in Phoenix, but this takes the cake. Fenced in yards with a mobile trailer with several attached porches and an old truck camper shell lying beside it, right next to where the barking black dog is chained up, across from a line of old washers and dryers and maybe a car or two that don’t work anymore but one of these days when you get around to it you’re gonna make sumpin outta that stuff. And if you don’t have a beat-up trailer to live in then maybe you’d consider one of the many ‘labor camps’ that are popping up all over here — row upon row of ‘factory-built’ tiny bungalows with just enough room between each house for you to park your truck. This is NOTHING like the (artificial) paradise we just spent the last 3 months in, where everything on the yard is immaculate and the houses are all tidy, and the residents are all retired. But I guess that’s the thing about trade and commerce — it don’t have to be pretty but it pays the bills.
Our Garmin was mapping out a route that took us up along Hwy 2 in northern North Dakota. So for much of the afternoon we passed big highway semis along a two-lane road 20 miles south of the Canadian border. Sue read her kindle. The Garmin said at the rate we were going we’d be home by about 7pm. The temperature outside went down to 1 degree. Snow on the fields on either side of us.
Close to the I-29 we began to see quite a few deer — and at one point a whole row of them ran across the road in front of us. Unfortunately, by the time I got a hold of the camera and figured out where the on/off button was all I got was a photo of their rear ends as they trotted off into the snowy field. We stopped at a Dairy Queen near Hallock for one last peanut butter shake.
The Tolstoi border crossing had 2 white vans ahead of our Montana when we arrived there at 6pm. Both went through quickly. The border guy asks us how long we’ve been away. Any alcohol or tobacco? Any work done to the vehicle? He takes our passports inside, comes right back out and sends us on our way. Didn’t even ask us where we were from or where we had been! Welcome to Canada.
We got to Steinbach just before 7pm. We stopped at Tim Hortons and picked up a couple of bowls of chili and went home. Neighbour Nathan sees our van in our garage and comes to say hello. Sue decides that we should unpack first and then eat our supper. (There is only one correct response when Sue makes a suggestion like that.) We unpack. Put the bikes back together and park the golf bags in the garage. Sue has the suitcases unpacked. We eat our chili. No TV, no internet — that will get connected tomorrow. But we’re home. Sue calls Alex to let her know.
Tomorrow we’ll see Max. We’ll go say hi to Tim and Alex. We’ll say hello to my mom and dad and Sue will visit her mom in the nursing home. We’ll probably have my sister Linda and her husband Dale over for supper — they’re visiting from Abbotsford and will be going back home early Saturday morning.
Yeah, the weather here sucks. The scenery is downright ugly compared to where we’ve been and the places we’ve driven through in the last few days. We probably won’t be taking out those golf clubs for a couple of months. We’ll probably even leave the bikes in the garage for a while. But it’s home. And the people we care about are here. And that’s the best thing about coming home.