Manitoba Roadtrippin’

May 2nd, 2009 by Laurel

Today marks my three month ‘Pegiversary. I have the distinction of being the one Wo’HMer who lived in Manitoba before, though my family left the province when I was two. This past week my parents visited from Vancouver Island, and we did a roadtrip east of the city to the small towns where they used to live.

We left a little after 11am, in a rental car – I once swore I would never drive a car as painfully trendy as a PT Cruiser, but after a couple days on the road, I think I’ve become a Cruiser Convert. Granted, we didn’t go far, but it ended up being the perfect vehicle for the trip!

Classy looking hotel in Beausejour.

Classy looking hotel in Beausejour.

First stop was Beausejour, which once housed the base that got my parents living in Manitoba in the first place – my dad was a radar technician in the Canadian Airforce.  Like many radar stations in Canada, CFS Beausejour has closed, but unlike the others, it’s also been turned into the Milner Ridge Correctional Centre. You can still see the base of the radar tower amongst the prison buildings – it’s a little surreal, and I’m sure we attracted a bit of attention from the staff while we stood there taking pictures.

The town of Beausejour itself is pretty small, but has an extremely wide main street – the entire thing is lined with angle parking on both sides. I don’t think Beausejour has grown since my parents lived there – many of the businesses are still around, including the Lyric, the town’s movie theatre. The Lyric lacks a marquee, so instead there’s an old truck parked outside with a hand-lettered sign mounted in the bed (Hannah Montana! Coming May 28th!). Another long-lived business is Lee’s Village Restaurant, a place my dad and grandpa used to sneak beers when they should have been picking up take-out when my grandparents visited.

The next stop on the trip was Lac du Bonnet, where my parents rented a big old house on the Winnipeg River before they moved to Beausejour. Unfortunately, that house is now big ol’ condos, but, like Beausejour, a good portion of the town is still the same: we had lunch at Casey’s, a bar my parents used to go to. Casey’s was pretty full for early afternoon, with half the crowd watching hockey, and the other half engrossed in the video poker machines. When my dad asked what they had on tap, we were told only Coors Light; the guy apologetically added that it wasn’t a ‘fancy place’.

Lac du Bonnet sign across the road from the motel, in front of the Winnipeg River

Lac du Bonnet sign across the road from the motel, in front of the Winnipeg River

We checked in to the Lakeview Motel, another establishment that was around when my parents lived in Lac du Bonnet. Our original plan was to spend the night, and take our time heading back to Winnipeg the next day, but even though we had lunch late, I started to worry it was going to be tricky to burn through all that time. We peeked into the Legion (which was packed to the rafters with people for the weekend Meat Draw, a concept I was unfamiliar with until about a week ago), walked along the river, and browsed some of the local stores. In the end, it was a nice leisurely afternoon, and we even checked out the bar in the motel, a place that looked dank and uninviting when we first checked in. In the evening the place was jumping, full of people enjoying the ‘Steak Pit’, where they serve various kinds of steak with sides. The waitress encouraged us to forgo separate pints for the largest pitcher of beer I’ve ever seen (at only $10!), and the bar officially won my heart when they served us free pretzels.

Ruins of the Pinawa Dam.

Ruins of the Pinawa Dam.

The next day, we ventured out to Pinawa, the town where I was born. Pinawa was formed to support the province’s first hydro-electric dam in 1901. In the 1960s, the town was moved 10km away from it’s original site for another energy source: Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd’s newly opened nuclear research facility. The ruins of the dam still remain, as well as stone markers and maps for the buildings in historic Pinawa. We probably spent two hours climbing around the old dam – it’s amazing, and was totally worth the trip alone.

After grabbing a coffee at the Pinawa Golf Club, we took to the road once more, heading back to Winnipeg. It was a great trip to do with my folks, and a neat way to see more of the province that I’m now calling home.

Sidenote: A little late for the trip, I picked up a copy of Bartley Kives’  A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba — makes me want to head out on the road again, especially since it includes worthwhile stops that were totally on our way! Next time!

18 Responses to “Manitoba Roadtrippin’”

  1. Emma says:

    I love that you had a fun time in LDB, because I have many fond memories of childhood summer vacations there. It’s a great town with a sweet little library and a fun lakeside concession… can’t wait to go again!

  2. Aaron says:

    Since we’re the first to comment on your post, I’d also like to mention my excitement for another little MB roadtrip that you’ll be a part of…”Gimli + Imperial cookies = Pure Heaven” 2009 (sometime)!

  3. mrchristian says:

    I love roadtrips ! I try to hit and photograph all sorts of small towns.

    Most beautiful drive in the Province ? Go up to Dauphin via Russell and Riding Mountain Park. Drive down the other side of the park – McCreary, Kelwood etc. Amazing, especially when there’s some colour in the fields. I’d put that roadtrip up against any other in the province or even the country.

    I keep pics on my Flickr Manitoba Album http://www.flickr.com/photos/christiansphotos/collections/72157601540995873/

  4. You guys amaze me. To see Winnipeg and Manitoba through your eyes (and blog) is a whole lot of fun. I have, for the most part, lived in MB. most of my life. I have never felt a burning desire to drive Manitoba just for the sake of looking around.

    I think maybe I’ll do that this summer. Thanks for the inspiration. And look to the winnipeg sandbox for the result of that inspiration.

  5. Laurel says:

    E & A – I think we need to do an Imperial Cookie tour of Manitoba… or at least Imperial Cookie day trips!

    Mr. Christian – Thanks for the trip recommendation! Your photos are awesome – how long have you been traveling around the province?

    Grumpy Old Man – You totally should! We’ll keep an eye out for your adventures on your site 🙂

  6. Shannon says:

    Hey, sounds like you guys had a blast…i love your picture of the old dam in Pinawa…makes me want to go on a road trip in Manitoba!!

  7. Laurel says:

    This is why you have to come out to the ‘Peg for a visit, Shan! September would be a great time for a roadtrip!

  8. cherenkov says:

    Totally my neck of the woods!

    Beausejour hasn’t changed much as you say, but Larry’s closed down a number of years ago. Larry’s was a walk-up fries and burger stand on the main drag. I put “fries” first because they were the best ever in the history of the world. Vickies is also pretty good though. I usually stop there for fries, bison burger and shake when I’m passing through town.

  9. Laurel says:

    Cherenkov – Aw man, Larry’s sounds like it was the place to go – I would totally drive to Beausejour just to get awesome fries!

    Maybe you can verify something for me – my mission from Emma for this trip was to go to Vickie’s and try a deep friend pickle (which they apparently serve?). I didn’t make it, but can you confirm their existence? I’ve never heard of deep fried pickles before, but now I’m kicking myself for missing the opportunity to try one.

  10. mrchristian says:

    I’ve been doing it for years now. A job I had a couple of years back sent me around the province (sadly I didn’t have a camera then). I’d always drive to the meeting or whatever and then meander home by the back roads.

    GOM – definitely go for it ! I find the best way to get going is pick a date when a town is having their fair or homecoming and target an event to get to for Saturday morning or afternoon. (I find that if I don’t pick a target event Saturday morning has a way of getting away on me running errands in Winnipeg).

    There are a few places this year having their 125th homecoming which is great – the towns are alive and bustling and usually the schools, arena, churches, are are open to the public. On the way home I meander by the smaller roads and stop here for gas, there for a snack, another for coffee and to read the paper, hit the Home Hardware etc. By the evening you cover a lot of ground.

    Other recommendations:

    Wawanesa – nice main drag and some beautiful, tiny churches.

    St. Lazare – great views driving down into the valley (remnants of Fort Ellice are there too but I think that’s on private land).

    Inglis MB – National Heritage Site of 5 restored grain elevators all in a row along the tracks (nice B&B’s too due to the ski hill being close by)

    Boisevain – nice town, good food at the Red Coat Inn and also close to the Int’l Peace Garden which is a beautiful place to go.

    Kelwood MB – population …. maybe a a couple of hundred ? It has a funky art shop / bakery and, thanks to the Alana Levadoski connection now has the Harvest Sun Music Fest!

  11. If you thought the Meat Draw was something, wait until you’ve seen Meat Bingo! They’ve had it (on a few occasions) at the Legion on Hartford & Main here in West Kildonan.

  12. cherenkov says:

    I cannot verify the existence of the deep fried pickle. Sorry. I think have heard something about it but did not notice it on the menu. I guess I just go straight for the burger and fries and disregard everything else. I’ll keep an eye out for it next time though!

  13. Yikes, “Deep Fried Pickle” sounds horrid. Of course now I must try it because it does so yech-ish…

  14. Courtney says:

    Looks like you had a great time with your parents. Your trip reminds me of the drives Brooke and I would take around Wynyard whenever we were back in Saskatchewan. You really don’t appreciate the prairies until you’ve been away for awhile.

    If you ever happen to stop in Bruxelles, MB let me know what it’s like. That is where my great-grandfather is from.

  15. Courtney says:

    PS. My sister had deep fried pickles when she was in Houston and said they are really good. They were pickle chips though, not whole pickles.

  16. ian says:

    MEAT DRAW! It’s a prairie thing I guess

    You gotta head out to Spruce Woods prov park, its a long day trip but you can walk among the sand dunes, the “desert” in the middle of Manitoba! http://www.flickr.com/photos/ianmcc/2735655451/

  17. You have got to get out to Steep Rock some time this summer!

  18. jeanie says:

    Another fun place to head out to is near Summerset, Manitoba where the Manitoba Hydro windmills are located. It’s amazing to see — and the surrounding towns are beautiful.

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