On the third day of our Great Adventure, Lucy and I woke up in Medicine Hat, Alberta, with about 1400kms under our belts and blue skies ahead of us as we sought make some distance across the prairie.
I'd honestly expected bitter cold and inclement weather on the drive, and to this point we'd been lucky; temperatures hovered just below freezing and the highways were clear. I just hoped we weren't blowing all of our good luck too early. The next few days would take us into northern Minnesota and then around the Great Lakes, and reports from the east had a whole host of winter storms and ugliness lined up to meet us.
But in the short term, the weather was nice, and the dog had a pretty frisky run around an empty parking lot before I plied her with her anxiety meds and piled her into the truck.
We left Medicine Hat around 0900 and almost immediately pulled over to take a picture of a rare Delaware & Hudson locomotive parked on the CPR siding in Dunmore, just outside of town.
I'd never seen a D&H engine before, and it was as good as a caffeine hit to get me started on the day. Because I'm a nerd who doesn't drink coffee, or any other caffeine-infused beverage, for that matter. And apparently my foamer status is legit.
We drove east, taking advantage of the prairie 110kph speed limit, enjoying a croissant and more of Alexis's delicious peanut butter cookies. Lucy napped through the morning, though I quickly learned to leave my hand on the gear shifter knob lest she accidentally nudge the truck out of gear while she snoozed.
The trains were plentiful, too, and I got a host of good shots around Swift Current, Saskatchewan, picking up an eastbound that we chased all the way to Moose Jaw, 175kms away and a good way to spend an afternoon.
Between Moose Jaw and Regina we stopped for gas, and I pulled off the highway to snap one last picture of an eastbound potash train in the afternoon light, and then I looked at the odometer and realized we hadn't covered much ground at all, and we needed to haul some ass if I wanted to make Brandon, still over 400kms away.
So I put the camera away and we navigated through Regina and out the other side as the light of day faded and the good weather turned to snow flurries.
Regina is always a pain in the ass to drive through. Winnipeg and Calgary, too. It's hard to explain to Americans what the Trans-Canada Highway is like; in some sense it's similar to the Interstate system, in that it's the fastest highway across the country.
But the TCH is in no way an expressway. In northern Ontario and parts of British Columbia, it pares down to one lane in either direction, 90kph max. And even in the prairies where the speed limits are higher, you can't pass through a major city without hitting at least five or six stoplights.
It's frustrating when you're trying to put miles behind you, especially if you hit construction or rush hour, but luckily the delays in Regina weren't bad and we were out the other side and into the blowing snow by dark.
From there, I just drove for a long time, and Lucy slept some more, and eventually we were about a hundred miles out of Brandon and I pulled over at an empty rest stop and let Lucy off of her leash and she zoomed about in the snow like a happy little dervish for a good long while.
When she was tuckered out again we piled back in the truck and limped into Brandon, which is the second-largest city in the province of Manitoba, and where I'd reserved a room at the Red Wood Motor Inn, which was completely deserted save for us and the desk clerk, but was otherwise a decent and inexpensive, pet-friendly little place.
I set a couple of beers out in the snow to chill and drove to a nearby Montana's Roadhouse. Ordered some kind of barbecue platter and brought it back to the room, and Lucy and I dined like royalty and I drank a beer and Lucy devoured a stuffy and we called it a night.