The plan for RV Trip 7 was to travel to Winnipeg to visit family and later return home visiting some areas that we had not been to before. We have driven to Winnipeg many times but believe it or not on this trip we actually stayed in 7 new (to us) Provincial Parks (PP)! Due to the COVID situation it was a difficult decision to make as to whether we should actually travel. We did not want to jeopardize Sharon’s Mom’s health in any way. We did a major grocery shop and then in essence quarantined for 14 days prior to seeing Sharon’s Mom (Edie). We were required to quarantine in Manitoba for 14 days because we lived East of Terrace Bay within Ontario. The advantage of driving the RV out to Winnipeg was that we could prebook our accommodation in the provincial parks, pay for diesel at the Esso pumps, and we could bring all our food with us. This meant that we would have limited interaction with anyone on the way to Winnipeg.
We left home on August 26 and planned to stay in Chutes PP the first night. Everything was going according to the plan until we were driving on Highway 69 South of Sudbury. I had the RV in cruise control when suddenly the cruise control cut out and 4 different error messages came up on the dash. It indicated issues with ESP, ABS, Wheel rotation, and Cruise Control. I was able to drive it fine but just could not use cruise control. Sharon looked through the manuals and they did not say anything about the wheel speed sensors, which we found out later was the problem. Since there was a Mercedes dealer in Sudbury we decided to stop in there to see if they could look at it. It was around 4:30 pm by now and the service desk said they would not have a technician in that could look at it until the morning and if parts were needed, which she expected, it would be the day after that to get them. We had another difficult decision to make as there are no Mercedes dealers from Sudbury all the way to Winnipeg so we needed to make it about 1,700 kms. The service person said we would be fine to drive the vehicle, however, we probably could not use cruise control. When we restarted the vehicle the error messages had cleared so we figured we would continue to Chutes PP for the night and hope the issue had been reset.
We had tried to break up the trip out into 3 equal days but the next day would be our longest leg at about 640 kms. Shortly into that days drive our error messages were back, but again it was allowing us to drive at full speed. We had booked a Service B for the chassis at the Winnipeg Mercedes dealer but we called them to say that we wanted to bring the vehicle in sooner so they could diagnose our error condition. We had rain off and on for the day but luckily it was clear for the drive through Lake Superior PP which is one of our favourite sections of the trip to Winnipeg. We had a weewee in Wawa (nice thing about having your home on wheels) and of course stopped to see the Wawa Goose. We arrived in Neys PP with enough time to take a walk on the beach and then to enjoy another amazing Lake Superior sunset. We will definitely include Neys PP on future trips west.
The next day we again had rain off and on and our first stop was just south of Thunder Bay at the Terry Fox Memorial. It was interesting in the parking lot as we saw an original Triple E (same company as our Leisure Travel Van) Class A motorhome. We did not see the owners, so we never found out how old the RV was. We continued through Thunder Bay and just before Ignace we turned to take the 12 km side road to Sandbar Lake PP. It was raining when we arrived, and we were surprised to see that the majority of camp sites seemed to be occupied by seasonal campers who almost all had fishing boats. There were very few transient campers like us. We assume the lake must be good for fishing, so people book sites for the whole season. There was a short hiking trail so when the rain let up, we did the loop and just got back to the RV when it absolutely poured rain. We decided we likely would not return to this campground as it was not that pretty and did not have much for us to do.
When we left Ignace we headed towards Dryden but we decided to stop and check out another PP that we had not been to before named Aaron just south of Dryden. This was a much prettier park so we will likely stay at this one on a future trip. The rest of the drive to Winnipeg was sunny and we stopped to see the Longitudinal Centre of Canada. When we first arrived no one was there and we started to go over to the sign boards but all of a sudden 7 cars arrived all at once (must have been touring together) so we exited so as not to break our quarantine. The RV transmission was acting up when we left there but luckily it did get back to highway speeds. We arrived at Edie’s place and started our 14-day isolation.
After arriving in Winnipeg one of the first calls was to the Mercedes dealership to arrange to take the RV in early. We found out that their rule was that vehicles from out of province had to sit on their premises for 96 hours before a technician could look at that him. We emptied our stuff out of the RV and dropped the RV off on their lot. After the vehicle quarantine was over the technician was able to determine that both our rear wheel speed sensors had partially failed and needed to be replaced. We were very lucky because if they had fully failed you could only drive the RV at about 20 kph. It would have been an exceedingly long 1,700 kms at 20 kph!!! The dealership was able to replace the sensors under warranty, so it did not cost us anything to get it fixed.
During our quarantine time at Edie’s place we enjoyed lots of good meals, wine we had brought with us, and our daily Bocce Ball tournament in the backyard (I won’t rub it in and mention who was the grand champion😉). As you will see from the photos, we also had interesting bug encounters around the property. Sharon started her 8 mm movie project to convert all the old family movies to digital format. Many of Edie’s neighbours knew we were quarantining so they were nice enough to drop off fresh vegetables from their gardens for us😊
After our quarantine was over, we did several first-time things for us around Winnipeg. We had brought our MTB bikes with us, so our first outing was to ride from Edie’s place to the St. Norbert North MTB loop with Brian (Sharon’s brother). The MTB loop was twisty single track through the forest and had a few jump features. We did a total of 18 kms and we even enjoyed the housing area we went through to get to the MTB loop. On the way back we stopped at Place Saint Norbert for some snacks and to see the Red River ox and cart exhibit in memory of Normand Tellier’s trip from Fort Garry to Fort Carleton (1,000 km round trip) to celebrate the Centennial in 1967. The first Red River ox cart was built in 1801 in Pembina and they were used for commercial transport across the prairies. They were built of wood with leather binding and no nails or screws were used.
On Saturday we decided to do a sightseeing tour to Pinawa Dam PP and to the town of Pinawa (about 2 hours NE from Winnipeg). The Pinawa Dam was really fascinating, and we had a gorgeous day to tour it. Here are a few fun facts about the Dam:
- The Pinawa Hydro Electric Dam was built in 1903 and was decommissioned in 1951.
- The Winnipeg Electric Railway Company proposed the Pinawa Dam and when they started building it in 1903 many said it was a poor investment. They said the ice would wreck it, they said electricity could not be sent the 100 kms to Winnipeg, and they said the population of 50,000 people in Winnipeg could never use the 14,000 kW it would generate.
- There were 9 generators in total in the power house, 4 started in 1906 and 5 in 1907. It took 6 teams of horses to pull each generator on a sleigh from Lac du Bonnet to Pinawa.
- In 1909 a penstock burst and flooded the generator building causing power disruptions in Winnipeg for 2 weeks.
- To build the dam 18,460 cubic metres of concrete were poured and it was all done using wheelbarrows. To this day engineers are still impressed with the quality of the concrete. The cost to build the dam was $3 M and $1 M of that was for concrete.
- The dam was designed to generate 14,000 kW but the equipment was built so well that they could generate 22,000 kW.
- The spillway was used to increase the water pressure flowing into the power house and to allow excess water to flow around the power house when needed. To alleviate the concerns of ice damaging the spillway in the early days they had someone lowered down the spillway to break up the ice. Later they used bubblers to prevent ice from forming.
- The water went into the plant at 226 cubic metres per second which is about 2 million times greater than the water flowing from your taps.
- They had steel gates for each penstock so they could close off water flow if they needed to work on a turbine.
- Pinawa Dam was decommissioned in 1951 to redirect water to the newly built Seven Sisters Dam on the Winnipeg River.
- The electricity produced by Pinawa was a key factor in the economic boom for Winnipeg and it paved the way for hydroelectric plants in cold climates around the world.
We did a loop tour of the dam visiting the power house, the lower river area, the spillway, the upper channel flow where the kayakers were having fun in the rapids, and back around to the viewing platform above the spillway. They had display boards to explain each aspect of the dam and it was fantastic that they keep these grounds open to help explain the history instead of just fencing it off and letting it deteriorate. We had our packed lunch here before heading to the town site of Pinawa.
As we approached the town of Pinawa we turned off to see the Suspension Bridge. One of the things Brian had wanted to do was to rent a tube and float from the diversion dam to the suspension bridge on the Pinawa Channel so we will note that for a future trip. It takes around 3 hours to float down that section of the channel. There are also several hiking trails in the area that we will try on a future trip. The town of Pinawa was quite pretty with tons of deer wandering around everywhere. We stopped in the centre of town to see the large sundial. At first, we thought it wasn’t telling the correct time but then we read the display boards and understood how to properly read it.
The next day was a “significant” birthday for Sharon so we had a visit from Sue and Rob in the morning and then went to the St. Norbert market to visit Randy. In the afternoon we went to Brian and Susan’s for an amazing dinner and lots of laughter as Sharon opened her 60 presents😉
A couple of days later we had a nice walk in King’s Park which is very close to Edie’s house. Many of the flowers were still in full bloom even though it was the middle of September.
The following day was nice and sunny, so we visited 3 new (to us) tourist sites, Trappist Monastery PP, Duff Roblin PP with the Red River Floodway exhibit, and the St. Norbert Provincial Heritage Park. The Trappist Monastery was established in 1892 and the community was named Our Lady of the Prairies. The Romanesque Revival Church was built in 1903-04 and the guesthouse was built in 1912. The monastery included milking barns, stables, a cheesehouse, apiary, sawmill, and cannery. In 1978 the Trappists moved to a site near Holland Manitoba to protect their contemplative life from the effects of urban sprawl and then 5 years later the church and residential wing were gutted by fire. The grounds are located along a bend in the La Salle river which was well suited to the monk’s lifestyle.
We found Duff Roblin PP by accident as we were driving on a back road to see the Red River Floodway. Edie had never seen the exhibit area we stopped at before, so we assumed it was relatively new. The Red River Floodway is a 47 km long channel that was built from 1962-68 so the Red River could be diverted around Winnipeg in the event of a flood situation. It was affectionately named “Duff’s Ditch” after the then premier Duff Roblin. The floodway proved it’s worth in 1997 when the “Flood of the Century” occurred. The exhibit had some plaques, a viewing platform, one of the bulldozers used to build the floodway and a dirt road to see the floodway diverter. There were several posts that looked like eventually they would have more history boards displayed on them.
Our last stop of the day was to visit the St. Norbert Provincial Heritage Park. The park is at the junction of the La Salle and Red Rivers and illustrates how a natural landscape used for hunting, fishing and camping by the Native peoples evolved into a French speaking Metis settlement and eventually into a French-Canadian agricultural community before WWI. In the summer they do tours inside the restored buildings, but we just walked around the grounds and did the loop trail. What a great day learning the history of the area and seeing new Provincial Parks.
One of the other areas in Winnipeg we decided to explore was FortWhyte Alive (a 660-acre reclaimed urban green space) and the Bison Butte MTB Trails. The Bison Butte MTB area was setup in 2017 for the Canada Summer Games mountain biking competition. Brian brought his trailer over and we loaded up the 3 bikes to go check it out. It was lightly raining when we started off but then cleared and was a great temperature for riding. Brian knew the owners of Jensen’s Nursery so we parked the SUV and trailer there and then rode our bikes to the trails. The MTB trails were at the north end of the property, so we rode through the wetland and forest areas to get there. The property used to be owned by the Canada Cement Company (now Lafarge Inc.) but it kept flooding, so they abandoned it and the Manitoba Wildlife Foundation took it over. We even saw a herd of Bison that they keep on the property. Once we reached Bison Butte we started off with the beginner trails and worked our way up to the advanced trails and features. Many of the advanced trails were routed off the one large hill in the centre. There was also a log and rock section and an elevated boardwalk to try out. We all had a lot of fun riding these trails and we were surprised by how many people were riding there on a Friday during the day. Definitely a trail area we would return to on a future trip and it’s very close to the Mercedes dealership where we get the RV serviced.
Sunday was the Virtual Terry Fox run (23 km MTB ride for us) so we decided to repeat our route to the St. Norbert North MTB loop and then we circled through King’s Park on the way back. It was amazing how much the trees had started to change colour in the forest from the green leaves we saw the week before. Our team was able to raise $5,151 this year to help fund Cancer Research so we sincerely thank all of you who contributed.
On the Tuesday before we started our trip back home Brian wanted to take us for a boat ride along the Red River and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. After travelling around Winnipeg on the city streets for many years it was a very interesting perspective to see the city from the river. We launched at St. Vital Park and went through the downtown area and all the way out and past the perimeter road in the NE of the city. If we had carried on eventually, we would have reached Lockport. On the way back we took a short tour at the Forks up the Assiniboine River to the Manitoba Legislative Building and returned to the Forks for a beer and some snacks before returning. When we got back to St. Vital the boat launch was busy, so Brian took us further South. Unfortunately, when we got back to boat ramp Brian was watching a snazzy red coloured boat like his that was pulling out and by mistake ran into the corner of the pier! Luckily, no one was hurt, other than Brian’s pride, and the damage to the boat wasn’t too bad even though the crunch sound was loud. However, the amazing experience of this trip will be what stays in everyone’s mind.
This concludes our visit to Winnipeg, and it was truly amazing how many new experiences we had even though we had been to Winnipeg many times before. The next blog will cover the trip back home and it also had many new adventures.