After squeezing everything back into the van and parting ways with Matt, we made it to the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.
We hadn’t been in the van very long but I couldn’t drive by the Saskatchewan sign without a photo. Matt, who has trained my bladder to stretch through long drives, would’ve certainly disapproved. But we are on “Van-time” which means lots of breaks. Plus the kids have never been to Saskatchewan so this was a marker for them.
Ben was expecting that the instant we crossed the border, the Great Plains would be flat for miles and commented his surprise on the landscape’s rolling hills. We had our sights on Buffalo Pound Provincial Park north of Moose Jaw. Driving the road into the park was interesting because as we drew closer to the park, it was as if some forces of nature dug a massive hole in the flat lands to house a lake. It was very beautiful and certainly a pleasant surprise. It was a solid reminder that even the Canadian Prairies have beautiful lakes nestled into them.
We did not get an early head start leaving Cypress Hills, so we arrived at Buffalo Pound around the dinner hour. As I scrambled to cook some noodles for three hangry little monsters, it became apparent that Buffalo Pound was also tick heaven. We did frequent tick checks because I found four in the van within an hour of opening the van doors. I was constantly flicking them off our gear around the site. I must admit, my 'ick' factor was in overdrive.
While dinner was simmering and I was flicking ticks, my travel buddies and I looked at the map to get an idea of our location relative to Canada and the province of Saskatchewan. Without Matt, we were the final decision makers. We made our plan for the next day. We would followed the transCanada and drive to Moose Mountain Provincial Park. When I googled it, it was a 3h20 min drive. Easy peasy. We would keep the drive short.
We didn’t set up the tent that night, so that we could use what little time we had at Buffalo Pound to go explore the park. We got on our bikes and started pedaling the campground until the kids spotted a pool. And that, was the end of the ride. After their swim, they pedaled back to the campsite, soaking and shivering following their evening dip. They then cozied up in the van to sleep for the night.
The plan was to get up and go! That way, the next day we could make it to our destination early and avoid the dinner scramble. With extra time to kill, we could spend some of the day exploring.
Of course, early is never quite as early as you expect it to be. Especially with one set of adult hands to three kids. But I got organized and we had a simple breakfast. In real adult work life, we would've been late showing up for the boss but we eventually hit the road and I was predicting a Moose Mountain arrival in the early afternoon.
We set off driving south to the transCanada from Buffalo Pound Provincial Park, but with only ten minutes of highway driving, Black Betty chose to get fussy. Her check engine light turned on and I had to roll into Regina’s Mercedes dealership to deal with her antics.
Day two without Matt and engine trouble! Eek!
We drove up the Green Mile to the dealership where Kelly took good care of us. They were excellent to deal with and she had us in and out as quickly as possible, however, it still turned into a 3-hour delay. The kids were troopers and though it crossed my mind to check into a hotel for the night, we chose to press on.
Our short day on the road was turning into a rather long day.
In what seemed like a small eternity, we got to Whitewood, Saskatchewan. There, we were to head south. I stopped for diesel because I wasn't sure if there was going to be another opportunity to fill the tank between Whitewood and the park. But the Road Tripping Gods were not in our favour because when I lifted the pump, before I even squeezed the trigger, the diesel came spewing out. Hurriedly, I shoved the nozzle into the tank but I now had diesel on my shoes, pants and shirt and I was standing in a puddle of it. Soaked in it, I pumped it into the van, and it filled the tank and proceeded to spill some more. There was diesel everywhere. Even though I wasn’t squeezing the trigger, it continued to spill out. Now it was dripping off the van and I was soaked in it, both arms to my elbows, including my clothes. I was certainly smelly and extremely flammable.
I had to go in, and clean off as best I could. I dug for clean clothes but still I couldn’t get the smell off me. Our ten-minute stop turned into a forty-five minute environmental clean up.
Needless to say, we were late getting camp set up and I had very hungry kids on my hands. I was still cleaning dishes in the dark with a headlamp at 11pm. What a day!
Hiccups happen I guess.
Such is the way of the road, I suppose.
But all in all, I learned something about myself: engine lights and diesel baths are not my favorite things.
I’m happy we’re settling in for two nights!