RV’22.12 Battleford, Brandon, and Winnipeg

My travelogue of our RV vacation is coming to a close. In this last post, I’ll take you on our return drive through the prairies.

Because of some scheduling changes, we ended up canceling visits to two other national parks, but our new route cut diagonally right through Saskatchewan. It took only a very small detour to visit Fort Battleford National Historic Site, northwest of Saskatoon.

This was an early outpost of the RCMP, Canada’s federal police post, back when it was still the Northwest Mounted Police. Out of all the Parks Canada places we visited, this was the place where we could see most clearly the wrestling with the history of colonialism, and the work of Truth and Reconciliation between Indigenous Canadians and Settler Canadians.

This National Historic Site was originally mostly about the history of the RCMP, celebrating their accomplishments in this area. However, this region is also the location of the most contentious struggles between Indigenous Canadians and the government. Parks Canada is retooling this whole site to reflect that. Now, the first thing you see when you enter the visitors’ center is a display exonerating Chief Poundmaker. As you approach the fort, instead of first entering the barracks exhibit, you enter this flag display. It explains the history and symbols of several local First Nations tribes, and the varying ways they responded and adapted to their world as it was forcibly changed by westward expansion.

After spending some time here, we met with our interpreter inside the fort, who took is through the historic buildings. Here we saw the reconstructed houses: the homes of soldiers, the barn for sick horses (which Sisko was allowed to visit), and the homes of the officers and the superintendent. These beautiful old buildings had more of what you would expect if you’ve been somewhere like Williamsburg.

All the artifacts inside were either original to the period (mid-1800s), or accurate reproductions. I had to stop and take a shot of this beautiful old antique log cabin quilt. It has the look of one made from strips of leftovers from other projects. I will make one myself one day!

Our guide was superb. I wish I remembered his name! He was generous with his time and enthusiastic about his history. It was a special place, still in motion. I hope they have a great summer – all the special events on their summer schedule were Cree cultural events hosted by First Nations. Cool stuff, dudes. Cool stuff.

We continued our journey across central Saskatchewan, which is about as flat as the jokes say. When Sisko got loose at this potty stop, I had the theme song to Corner Gas stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Eventually, we did make it into Manitoba, where we got to spend a few days with some dear friends from seminary. It had been a few years, and all six of our kids are a bit taller, but goodness it was good times again. Good times and better, to connect over all the crazy COVID-flavored ministry life we’ve been living the past few years.

I gotta say though, that aside from lots of long tea-fueled chats with Joni, the best part was seeing the next generation of Heroes of the Oak form. My girls worked with their boys for days making new DnD characters, and on the last night, they stayed up late to play a little baby campaign. There may have been some feels.

Our last few days of vacation were a little bit more like work. We drove to Winnipeg, where our friend Jon very kindly let us stay in his house while he was away. Jared and I spent a long day cleaning the RV, then had some last shopping and chores and cleaning to do before flying home. Sisko made friends with the neighbor-dog, Halley:

And the kids made friends with the neighbor kids across the street. Their parents graciously let them play in their yard with their stuff for hours upon hours while Jared and I cleaned and cooked and repacked. And we got in some board game time: Jon left his extensive collection for us to explore. (Tabletop curling?! Yes please!!)

Sisko and I got out for some long walks around the neighborhood, much needed for both of us. Sisko did his business, and I took pictures of flowers. Spring had so truly sprung there, and I basked in the scents of apple blossom and lilac.

We did manage one actual outing. Some friends in town for other business met up with us in the centre of town at a place called the Forks. We parked across the river, and had to walk there across this cool bridge.

Here, the evidence of flooding was still quite evident!

The forks itself was hipster central. We parked at a low table in the ample outdoor seating area, where we took turns going indoors to explore and shop while someone stayed outside with the dogs. There were all these adorable little shops, selling everything from books to handcrafted dog treats, from craft beer to macarons. It was a good thing I had left my wallet at the house.

The kids and Jared are at the top of the lookout. Wave!

The whole last week of vacation was a beautiful wind-down from the more intense parts of our trip. This series of posts has been another chance to wind down and reflect on our crazy adventure. It was not always easy; living on top of one another exposed all our rough spots, of which there are many.

But the memories are forever. And the kids must have had some fun, because Dooner is already saying “can we go on vacation again?”

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