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!
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’.
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.
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!