The Great American Road Trip II - 7 - The Greenhouse Effect
We had a filling breakfast of eggs Benedict far surpassed last night's dinner in terms of flavor. The storm system that had pasted us last night was still in the area, but had moved past far enough for us to make good time west across North Dakota. Our first stop of the day was the geographical center of North America at a town called Rugby. We took US 2 all the way there.
We saw a bunch of red-winged blackbirds. It was raining intermittently and gusted indefinitely. The record rains North Dakota has been getting create impromptu lakes along the sides of the road to the degree that you sometimes feel as if you're still on the Mackinac Bridge. We saw cloud cover low enough to obscure whatever windmill blade happened to be on top.
At 12:30 we stopped at a rest area. A fellow in a red shirt walked by as we used the term "lunch" to describe small bird roadkill in the parking log. My dad then proceeded to tell him about our usage of the word, as well as more recent additions to our dialect such as "snack pack," "dinner party," and "buffet," which all mean different things for different kinds of roadkill. The man said "oh, good to know" and hurried away. As he walked back to his car, we were still looking at literature inside, so I decided to prank him by locking the car until it honked as he walked past.
I think we disturbed him.
At 1:35 we arrived in Rugby and pulled over to see the geographic center. All that was there was a small stone obelisk with a few plaques on it, along with the flags of the US, Canada, and Mexico. We got as many pictures as is was possible to take, as the wind was whipping all around us. My dad and I barely held onto our hats as we staggered back to the car.
We went through downtown Rugby and saw, amongst other things, a water treatment plant. Now, water treatment plants are not usually considered interesting sights, but Rugby is a sleepy town and their only claim to fame is found in its location. The water treatment plant used a bunch of fire hydrants as decoration.
From Rugby we went to the Canadian border via state route 3 and were surprised by the hilliness of the area. It was not mountainous but it was not the sheer flatness that had characterized the state up until Rugby.
A little less than an hour later we got to the Canadian border, but we did not go through customs first. Instead, we went inside the Canadian border at a place called the International Peace Garden. It's the only place where you can drive into and walk around in Canada without the need for going through customs. The border was symbolized with various cool-looking monuments all around the Garden, but we barely saw anyone else there save for a few construction workers renovating the small chapel there. The border ran through the exact center of the building, through the pulpit and organ. We didn't stick around in there for long because of the constant sound of jackhammers. but they had a plethora of cool quotes carved into marble around the sides.
We got a number of dumb pictures goofing off on the border, jumping over it and making faces. My mom was the resident nonplussed designated picture-taker.
There was also a bell tower there and a memorial to the 9/11 victims with a mangled mass of steel and concrete from Ground Zero. Continuing with the theme of international cooperation between the US and Canada, the signs around the memorial emphasized Canada's role in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Before we exited the Peace Garden area we pulled into the nearly deserted parking lot of their interpretive center, next to - of all things - a car with another North Carolina license plate. We found them inside the center's greenhouse. They were a young couple on their own road trip, though not as massive as ours is going to end up being.
The greenhouse houses a large collection of cacti, of all things. Almost every species was present inside the large, humid building, and we found strange specimens ranging from furry towers to spiked melons to vines. It was apparently the private collection of a rich fellow who lived in the southwest and moved to Minot. After the Minot floods a few years back they moved the collection to the Peace Garden. There was only enough room in the center's greenhouse for about a third of the entire collection and the rest is in other greenhouses on the property waiting to be moved into the center's greenhouse when it is expanded.
After talking to the musician at the gift shop for a little while we got back on the road and headed towards Canada. It took a while to get through the border but the customs guy was friendly. (In our discussion with him we learned that Americans commonly attempt to smuggle firearms across the Canadian border.) He checked out our passports and heard him say "eh," which was rather fun.
We crossed into Manitoba and played "O, Canada" as we changed the car's settings to Metric. We had fun trying to figure out the temperature gauge in Celsius and fiddled with it for a while. The road up to Brandon was littered with potholes of all sizes.
En route to Brandon we passed through the small town of Boissevain. The customs guard had told us to "look out for the turtle" as we drove through. The turtle was hard to miss to the the fact that it was 30 feet tall. The rural roads that intersected the highway were rarely, if ever, paved.
At around 5:00 we passed a fun billboard advertising Wendy's Baconator that said "Holy Cow and Pig!" A few minutes later we rolled into Brandon and within short order found the hotel.
We went out to find supper and my dad had a hankering for Mexican food so we pulled into a Qdoba. The girl who checked us out was giving him a hard time for not drinking a beer and intimated that she had connections that would prevent us from getting arrested if he drove drunk.
Now we're back in the hotel trying everything we can to get the internet to speed up to a snail's pace. My mom is walking all over the room to try and get various pages to load on the iPad and I think she's found a spot in a corner that's a bit faster.
Tomorrow: we head westward once again on the Trans-Canadian Highway bound for Swift Current, Saskatchewan.