Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 8, 2011 - We've arrived in Hayward

We arrived in Hayward tonight, just past 5:30 p.m. Central time (2:30 p.m. Alaska time)!

The day started off in St. Malo, Manitoba where we spent the night. After by-passing Winnipeg on Thursday night, we headed south toward Minnesota on Hwy 59. We went through a couple of small towns with French names, St. Pierre-Jolys and La Rochelle, before reaching St. Malo. The French cultural influence appears to be quite strong in this part of Manitoba. All the road signs were in both French & English (not the case elsewhere). St. Pierre-Jolys felt like a little French village, with a winding, tree-lined road going through town with quaint old homes intermingled with local businesses rather than a straight, sterile business strip.

We got an earlier start Friday morning than other days, rising at 7:00 a.m. We had breakfast at the little cafe/restaurant attached to the St. Malo Motor Hotel. The cafe was filled with middle-aged and older men, nearly all of them speaking French. Four different guys, who were local regulars, offered to refill our coffee, helping out the one woman who was doing everything else. One of the men brought us a couple of local newspapers to read. There was an old poster of Betty Boop on the wall, advertising "Boopsicola," and an old Corvette sales & service sign in bas-relief.

As we got up to leave, I felt like saying, en francais, "Au revoir, messieurs, je pense que je suis en France," ("Good-bye, sirs, I think that I am in France") but I was too shy to do so. (In hindsight, I wish I had followed my heart and spoken to these men in French. Like Mike said, what did I have to lose?) As we stepped outside, an old man road up to the cafe on an old one-speed bicycle and, as we were leaving town, we saw three men, all of whom appeared to be in their 70s, riding bicycles into town. I truly did feel like I was in France.

We crossed the U.S. border just before 9 a.m. without any hassle. The customs agent asked just a few questions and told us we were too young to retire. He peeked inside the back of the truck but didn't ask us to remove anything. He didn't even look in the van. The weather was sunny and hot again yesterday. The temperature was 85 F in Grand Rapids, MN at mid-afternoon. We stopped to get fuel at a place that sold forty five kinds of "brats" and wild rice, a sure sign that we were in Minnesota.

By 4 p.m. we were passing thru Duluth (bordering Lake Superior) and over a bridge into Superior, Wisconsin, only about 60 miles from Hayward. We made much better time because the quality of the road surface in MN was much better and smoother than the last few days in Canada. When we arrived in Hayward, we dropped off the trailer at the local U-Haul place, drove the truck to our house and went out to dinner to celebrate at the local brew pub, the "Angry Minnow." I can't believe it was only a week ago Friday that we left Juneau on the ferry!
The sun sets on our journey to Hayward.

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