Triumph TransAmeriCan Tour – Saskatchewan leg
by Scott McGibney
Sept 1st, noon; Saskatoon:
Ed and I pile into Ed’s Morgan 4/4 and head out for Rocanville, a village of 500 just north of the TransCanada on the Manitoba border. There seems to be a road crew at work at least every 100 Km, but no major delays. Warm and sunny, a fine day for a drive in a little British car with a throaty exhaust note. Nearing our destination we dip through the Qu’Appelle valley and the temperature momentarily drops about 10 degrees. Stop for a look at a cairn erected to commemorate some of the settlers who homesteaded the are in the late 1800’s. We’re getting into my home territory – my grandfathers homestead is about 10 miles east. Arrive at Rocanville about suppertime – no sign of anyone at the motel so go for a bite to eat. 7:30PM, still no sign of life at the motel – find a cell number and call – "Oh, been expecting you, the door to room 7 is open, just go on in and make yourself at home. We’ll be around in the morning" – gotta love small town Saskatchewan. Go for a walk at 8:30 dark o’clock – forgot how quiet a small town can be at night – just me and the crickets and the stars out here.
Sept 2nd, 9:00 AM; Rocanville:
Up and away for breakfast in Moosomin, but first a side trip into my hometown of Welwyn about 10 minutes away. It’s been about 10 years since I was along this road and there are noticeably fewer farmhouses. Just out of town we pass the farm were I spent the first 7 years of my life – the "new" owners have torn down the old farmhouse and replaced it with a modern bungalow. In town, the only business still operating is the gas station – there was a grocery store and a couple of gas stations last time I was here, and when I was growing up there was a general store, a hardware, two grocery stores, two garages, a barber shop, two restaurants, a bank and a movie theater. Times change. Stop by the village graveyard to pay respects to all my relatives there. No one from my family lives in the area anymore. Times change.
Into Moosomin for an excellent (and large) breakfast at 10:30. At 11:30 we make our way 18 Km east to the border to meet John Macartney and the Manitoba caravan. We’ve barely pulled into the information center parking lot when two Triumph Stags and an MGB appear on the horizon – must be them. Sure enough it’s John’s blue Stag, accompanied by Tom Struthers in his pristine Red Stag (only 16,000 Km), Brian Lanoway and Dave Emberly’s supercharged MGB. After the requisite handoff photoshoot at the border sign we all trundle back to Moosomin for lunch (Ed and I opt for milkshakes as it’s barely an hour since we stuffed ourselves at breakfast). Fed, the Manitobans head back to Winnipeg and we set out for Regina four hours to the west. We nip up into the Qu’Appelle valley to give John a break from the straight, flat 4 lane expanses of the Trans Canada highway. It’s getting hot, so a mid afternoon stop for a cool beverage by a lake seems in order. The request for refreshments went roughly as follows:
Scott: What brands do you have?
Barkeep: We got ‘em all!
Exchange of significant glances among the travelers.
Ed: Innis and Gunn?
Blank look from the barkeeper
Scott: Newcastle Brown?
Blank look from the barkeeper. Thoughts of Monty Python’s "Cheese Shop" skit come to mind. After a few more unsuccessful inquiries, the exasperated barkeeper opens the cooler to display the wares within and exclaims: We got Coors, Bud, Molson Canadian, Labatt’s Blue. All the beers!
A sharp eye spots a few bottles of Rickard’s Red hidden away in a remote corner and soon all parties are satisfied and happily.
Properly refreshed, we proceed on down the valley, arriving at dusk at Tony and Donna’s on the outskirts of Regina. A fine repast, replete with many entertaining stories from John ensures.
Sept 3rd, 9:00 AM, Regina:
Next morning, a contingent meets at Melrose Place, the Jagnuts regular breakfasting eatery, to contemplate the day’s plans. We proceed to Bob England’s so "Uncle Jack" (the Stag is named after recently deceased Triumph racer/builder Jack Drews) can get a much needed wash. Being good hosts, we pull up lawn chairs to watch while John works.
Then it’s off in search of John’s ancestral home in the heart of Regina. Pulling up at the address provided, John finds the house recently refurbished but still recognizable from earlier photographs. Things change.
Then it’s back on the road heading west, the Morgan and Stag being joined by Mike Scales of the Jagnuts in his 89 Sovereign. No scenic detours this time, four lane divided freeway all the way to Maple Creek. It’s hot (+38C/100F), windy and dusty; Mike is enjoying his air conditioned Jag, but it’s tiring in the Stag, and between the semi’s, the heat and the wind buffeting, downright exhausting in the Morgan. When we roll into Maple Creek at 5:00 PM, Ed is approximately the same deep shade of red as the Morgan’s paint job. But a cool shower and an hour in air conditioning has us ready for supper and our hosts Fr. Dick Kennedy and his wife Colleen, take us up into the Cypress Hills for supper at the resort, a view of sunset looking far out over the prairies, and John’s very first moose sighting, which he’s quite excited about.
Sept 4th, 8:00 AM, Maple Creek:
Henri and Nicole Lefebvre arrive from Calgary in their MGB-GT to escort John into Alberta. We take handoff photos in front of the rectory and wave goodbye. John, Henri and Nicole go west, Mike departs for Regina, and Ed heads cross country back to Saskatoon. I walk down to the bakery for a coffee and the best cinnamon bun in the world to start a few days vacation in southwest Saskatchewan.