Day 24 CCR: A Happy Father’s Day
All the planets must have been correctly aligned for Father’s Day because I had a really great day.
Since it was Father’s Day, I got a shout out from older daughter Heather, FaceTime with my patient and understanding wife, FaceTime with younger daughter Hilary and her two littles, Elena Denise and Juliette Lauren, and lovely recognition by my beautiful middle granddaughter in Wisconsin, Hanna Jean. If nothing else had happened today, Father Day hugs from everyone mentioned would have constituted a great day. But there was more. Lots more.
We undoubtedly had the best road day of the entire trip. Under blue skies this morning, we started riding with temperatures in the low 60s and the thermometer climbed to near 80 before the day was done. Today marked the first time since we’ve been riding in Canada that I rode in a t-shirt (long sleeved) all day. And I enjoyed every coatless minute of our five-hour ride to Flin Flon. The highway was mostly smooth, the pace was moderate and I got 56 mph at one of our gas stops.
As I noted yesterday, the landscape of south central Manitoba is mostly agricultural, but I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures as we dodged inclement weather. A few miles outside Swan River where we stayed last night, I took a couple shots that were typical of what we had been riding through yesterday and would continue to ride through for about 100 miles today.
But the landscape was about to change again, this time living up to the road’s place on the Northern Woods and Water Route, which covers the four western provinces and generally stays north of the Canadian Prairies. While Manitoba doesn’t claim as many lakes as its neighbor to the east, it counts more than 100,000 bodies of water within its borders. Soon we had lakes big and small on both sides of us. The fertile fields were mostly gone by the time we traveled half of today’s distance, replaced by dense forests that carpeted the growing number of hills we rolled through.
About 30 miles from Flin Flon we passed through Cranberry Portage. The 2 mile portage referred to in the name was used for more than 2,000 years, originally by First Nation’s people and then by European, mostly French, traders and trappers who moved furs and pelts by canoe from the western part of Canada to Churchill in Hudson’s Bay, where they were loaded on ships destined for the Continent.
With abundant forested habitat I would have been surprised if I hadn’t seen wildlife today. As we left flat farm land and the road cut through the forests, I spotted a doe in the road in front of me. Standing there. In the middle of the road. I got closer. She continued to stand there. Finally, as I slowed to about 10 miles an hour, she took one final look at the two-wheeled intruder in her domain, trotted nonchalantly off the road and walked into the woods. Next on my animal bingo card was a beautiful bald eagle that flapped it’s wide wings lazily as it flew slowly above me. Nice. Herons in small ponds and standing water occasionally launched themselves carefully into the air, gaining altitude with every slow flap of their long wings. But the bingo winner for the day was the black bear that crossed in front of me, never close enough for either of us to be in danger, but close enough that I got a good look at its eyes as it turned toward me before disappearing in to the forest. My lucky day. Riding along at 90 kph, of course, there are no pictures to show of my wild kingdom encounters.
One more animal category deserves mention. Bugs. No, make that BUGS! BIG BUGS. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Splat onto my headlight. Splat onto my windshield. Splat onto my helmet. Splat onto my pants. Splat onto my hands until my fingers were sticky. I washed my fingers and my bike as soon as I got to the motel. My pants still have splat on them.
Despite running the bug gauntlet we made it to the nicely remodeled Oreland Motel in Flin Flon and checked in. The friendly and helpful motel clerk (remember, she’s Canadian) let us check in early, and we had time to take care of some business. Susanne, whom we had met in Newfoundland with Don, had asked me to email her when we got to town. I did, and told her we were headed to Subway for a quick sandwich before checking out Flin Flon. While we were at Subway, she and Don showed up. We chatted for a while, and they invited us to join them for a cookout in the evening at a nearby lake. At six o’clock, they stopped by our motel on Don’s 2014 Triumph Trophy, and the four of us rode to the lake where Don put smokies and dogs on the grill. We had a great dinner, fun conversation, a tour of Denare Beach, and yet another reminder why I like Canada so much. It’s because there are so many “amazingly friendly, incredibly helpful, wonderfully courteous Canadians” like Susanne and Don. Don, by the way, is extremely knowledgeable about Flin Flon, having been awarded the Manitoba Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Historical Preservation and Promotion for his work with the Flin Flon Heritage Project. He was also a miner, a mine rescue expert and a firefighter.
As I planned the CCR more than six months ago, I included a stop in Flin Flon because it was off the beaten path and I was fascinated by the name. During the quick tour Steve and I took of Flin Flon this afternoon, we stopped by the Visitor’s Bureau and Flin Flon Station Museum for an obligatory picture of Flinty, the character for whom the city is named. Here’s the story as told at the site of the statue:
Flin Flon is named after Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, an adventurer in the “The Sunless City,” a novel by E. Preston Murdock. In 1914, a copy was found in the wilderness of northern Manitoba by a party of prospectors. A year later, these men working claims near the present site of Flin Flon came upon a conical hole having rich showing of gold. Tom Creichton, recalling the adventures of Flintabbatey Flonatin who escaped from an underground lake through a large gold studded hole in the earth’s crust suggested the claims be called Flin Flon. And that is how Flin Flon got its name.
But Flin Flon is more than a town with an odd name. In fact, it’s been an important mining site for a hundred years, though, as it turns out, the mine is shutting down this month. Most of the displaced miners will be offered jobs at another mine site owned by HudBay opening soon. The mine has produced thousands of tons of copper and zinc over the years, though the original prospectors who named the town were looking for gold.
Flin Flon is also known as “The City Built on a Rock” because it, literally, is sitting on rock, the northern edge of the same Canada Shield mentioned when I wrote about Ontario’s landscape. As we approached Flin Flon for the final 30 miles or so, the rocks became more apparent and by the time we got to Flin Flon huge rock outcroppings were visible everywhere.
Tomorrow, we head south and west toward Prince Albert in Saskatchewan, but in order to go south we will first have to go a little farther north, reaching the northernmost point of the CCR. Changing landscapes and new adventures. I can’t wait to get on the road again.