Canada Day 2013

Canada Day is a pretty important day for me. Not because I’m some sort of super-patriot or anything, but rather just because I thrive on traditions and nostalgia. Seriously, I’m fairly dependent on doing the same things over and over forever because they’re safe and comfortable. I’m fully aware of this, and I wouldn’t ever want to change it about me. Who needs excitement and variety when you can just enjoy the things you already know that you love?

That said, anyone who knows me will have a pretty good idea of where I am and what I’m doing at any given time during the Canada Day weekend. Or, at least one day of the Canada Day weekend. It rolls out a little differently each year, but all the pieces are usually the same. That said, I still feel compelled to write about my Canada Day adventure because it’s one of my favourite days of the year. It even beats out my birthday now that I’m old and don’t get presents any more.

This year was the biggest Canada Day change-up in, oh, probably the last six years or so. The obvious change, of course, being 2008 when my wife and I started dating. That was also the year that my grandparents sold their cottage and moved to the city, which may have changed Canada Day more than anything. Important because that was the year my family stopped doing the usual Canada Day stuff, but luckily the tradition lives on because my wife’s family has always attended the same festivities that mine used to.

Oh, and the images are clickable if you want to see bigger versions. Though why you’d want to see a super-sized version of the crack through my windshield or crappy pictures of fireworks is beyond me.

What are these festivities that I hold so dear? Why, they’re Lac du Bonnet Canada Day Weekend, of course! I’ve been going out there for ages with my family, and while the little town means so much more to me than just Canada Day, that’s pretty much the only time I get out there anymore. Which is sad, but the truth is that there just isn’t quite enough out there for me on a regular day to justify a “just because” day trip.

When I was just a li’l guy, the trip would always seem to take forever, even though in reality it’s only roughly an hour away from home. It was easy to kill the time back then, because Game Boy. These days, I’m the one doing the driving, and it’s much less fun. Even worse is that the tape deck in my car is busted so I’m forced to listen to the radio while I drive. On the upside, my radio station of choice’s signal has gotten a nice boost in recent years, and doesn’t even get fuzzy when we’re at the farthest points of our adventure.

It also just happened to be an “epic songs weekend” so the playlist during our travels was pretty darn good. At least, better than an average radio day would have been. Have I mentioned before that I kind of hate radio?

Basically the only thing you see on the drive out to Lac du Bonnet is Robyn’s Drive-In. As children, my brothers and I would always want to go to, and pester whichever adult was driving to take us for ice cream there. My parents were understandably resilient to our begging, but I think that my grandparents actually stopped once or twice.

The funny thing is that I’m pretty sure that I’ve never actually eaten here as an adult. It’s mostly because I only ever drive out for one day at a time any more, and I always have my meals planned out in advance. Plus we generally pass by before noon and then after 11 PM, and neither is really an optimal time to stop in. Maybe next year I’ll make a point to finally stop in for a bite.

This is most of the rest of the trip. Sometimes the road is paved, sometimes it is not. The only constant is the complete lack of any interesting scenery.

The wife and I left a little later on in the day this year, for reasons that I’ll get into a bit later, and we skipped right past Lac du Bonnet at first. There are some other important traditions that I had to take care of before we settled into town for the afternoon.

The most interesting thing I can point out about this leg of the journey is the skinny bridge. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a bridge that’s maybe a little more narrow than it should be.

In my younger days it was a pretty exciting thing for reasons I cannot possibly hope to explain as an adult, but some of it was that it was an easy sign for kids that we were like two minutes away from the cottage, and the horrible drive that took forever was nearly over.

As an adult, it’s mostly just annoying because I have to drive even more carefully than usual. At least the scenery changes from blue and green to blue and blue for a bit.

Our adventure then took us past this tower of some sort. A radio tower? I have no idea. I’ve spent many hours exploring the wilderness around the tower, but I never quite cared enough to learn what it’s for. I’m sure that my grandfather must have told me at some point, but I never bothered to retain the information. After all, there was exploring to do!

The path leading up to the tower has been consistently barred over the last few years though, so it’s been a long time since I’ve gone exploring around there. I would love to spend half an hour or so clambering about out there though, so I always drive by it in hopes that someone left it open.

My grandparents tried to take my brothers and I to the Pinawa Dam many times in our youth, and not once do I remember even trying to be interested. Of course, during those few years where provincial park access was free, I was really excited to stop by and show the wife this place that I’d spent many years going out of my way to not care about. Funny how things like that change as you get older. Makes me wish I’d appreciated it more back then.

Of course, now you have to pay to get in, so we didn’t go. I wanted to, but for five dollars? I’ll admit, I’ve spent a lot more on pure nostalgia before, but it’s hard to justify here. Also I don’t carry cash so it probably wasn’t even really an option. I’d be very surprised if the entry shack has a debit machine.

Finally, we have reached our first real destination: the town of Pinawa. There was a big sign out front, but I didn’t take a picture of that, so here’s a photo of their big fancy sundial. I’m impressed by it because I took that picture with my phone on full zoom, and it’s still a clearer photo than I usually take. Good job, iPhone!

Pinawa is way out there, and it’s another one of those places that I dreaded going to as a child but have become a very important part of my Canada Day tradition. Why you ask?

Because I need to go to the Burger Boat, that’s why! I’m not sure why I need to go to the Burger Boat specifically, but I do. It’s also noteworthy that I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a hamburger there. Usually it’s just a stop for ice cream, and in recent years, a box of fries for the drive back. Also ice cream fries.

Man, people just don’t believe me when I tell them about ice cream fries, but it’s totally the best thing. Listen to me, next time you go to McDonald’s for a McFlurry, get some fries to go with it, and scoop up the ice cream with the fries. It’s like magic. A Wendy’s Froster is the best way to do it, but any combo of fries and ice cream works.

I’m not crazy!

The lady asked me what I wanted before I was ready and I panicked and got chocolate chip cookie dough. Not a bad choice, but I probably would have been happier with cherry cheesecake.

There’s a tiny little shopping centre right across from the Burger Boat, and pretty much all it has in it is this Solo Market. I stopped in because sometimes small town shops have great things that you don’t expect (like the one in St Rose that had honest-to-God bottles of Pepsi Throwback), and I was hoping for some uncommon Pop-Tarts flavours. You know, because that’s my new thing. They didn’t have any.

Truthfully, there’s also a credit union (Sunova I think?) ATM in there, and I could have used it to withdraw cash that we could have used to access the Pinawa Dam, but meh. Coulda shoulda woulda.

It’s a long ride out there, and the shopping centre always doubles as our pit-stop of choice. The bathroom is hidden down a tiny hallway covered in fancy painted murals, and then it has this fun little outhouse painted on the door. I am a little bit worried about that tiny vulture hangin’ around. I suppose outhouses to have a tendency to smell like something died in them, though.

I was originally going to skip it, but on the way back, I decided that I had to drive by the ol’ cottage. I mean, I spent so much of my youth here, and it’s got more happy memories attached to it than any other single place I’ve ever been to. Looking at it in photos is kind of a gut punch, but driving by and seeing that at least someone else is creating happy memories in it makes me feel a little more at ease.

Of course, if I ever came into a ridiculous amount of money, the very first thing I would do is march down there and demand that they sell the place to me, but I really don’t see that happening in my lifetime. You may think me odd, but remember that episode of Futurama where Fry gets rich and then uses the money to replicate his old twentieth century life? That’s how I feel every day. I just don’t have the moolah to make it happen. After typing that out, I wonder if I may be somewhat unsatisfied with my life and/or depressed.

Steering quickly away from that dark place, here’s a poor photo of a roadside inn! It’s called Drifter’s, and I often stop here to refuel the car after the Pinawa detour. Not this time! No, I put more than enough gas in before I left to get us through the whole trip, so Drifter’s is really just more of a distraction tactic this year.

We finally arrived in Lac du Bonnet at roughly 4 PM, which is roughly six hours later than I’d normally like to get there. Why? Because 2013 was one of those years where the people who are in charge of the festivities decided to put the parade and fireworks on different days. Those bastards.

See, I love me a Lac du Bonnet Canada Day Parade, I really do. But the fact of the matter is that I go for the fireworks. The fireworks were on Saturday and the parade was Sunday, and I really didn’t want to spend the whole weekend over there without a home base (read: the cottage) to retire to when I got bored of being outside, so we made the decision to only go on Saturday and skip the parade this year.

It’s not a particularly impressive parade, but it’s fun and pretty close to my heart. It’s also very similar year over year, so here’s a gallery of pictures I took of last year’s parade. The pageant girls will be different (probably), but I’m sure mostly everything else is the same if not very similar.

And that’s that. It’s also too bad that arriving so late caused us to miss the farmer’s market. I don’t ever buy anything there, but it’s a lot of fun to look around.

After lounging around on the hill by the beach, wifey and I decided to get up and walk around for a bit. See the sights and all. One of the sights is Deals For Dollars. Or, was Deals For Dollars. At some point, I guess they just didn’t have enough appeal to stick around any more. Not a major bummer, as DFD never had anything good. But like the farmer’s market, I always enjoyed poking around in there anyway.

You probably remember The Bargain Shop. It’s been a pretty big part of this website’s life, and I always always make time to get in there for a solid half hour or so and track down any toys, candy, or other wacky things that demand my attention. It’s been pretty dry the last few years, but this time I found a few things that I’d actually like to own.

These are not necessarily one of those things. I have no idea what Mashers are, but I’m really happy that Nickelodeon is pushing the new TMNT so hard. In a year’s time they’ll be on damn near everything again and I’ll feel like I’m back in the early 90’s. Which would be just great.

There’s no getting around it; I want a Michaelangelo sprinkler more than anything ever. It was pretty expensive though, and I’m pretty poor these days, so I had to abstain. One day though. One day…

I also wanted to buy a dirt-cheap copy of Tony Hawk Ride, even if it is a steaming pile of crap. It’s not even $20! Alas, I have no Playstation 3 to play it on, and they didn’t have any copies for Xbox 360. The only terrible video game peripheral I would have been more excited to take home would have been an $18 DJ Hero.

Wonder Shows had a midway set up, as they always do. And we did a couple laps of it, knowing well beforehand that we weren’t going to ride any of the rides or play any of the terrible rigged games. The wife has never been into rides, though she does go on the less intense ones with me if I ask. The big thing that stopped me is my stupid old geezer body, which simply cannot handle thrill rides anymore. I can get about one Tilt-A-Whirl in before my stomach says no and I’m reduced to a pile of quivering paste. It’s too bad, because I feel like only a few years ago was I finally really getting into thrill rides.

The carnival games we axed because of the aforementioned lack of money. Also, none of them were offering sexy posters as potential prizes this year, so it’s not like there was any real incentive for me to toss blunt darts at half-filled balloons.

There were different characters on all the “you must be this tall to ride” signs, but this is the only one that I spotted who was blatantly copied and modified just enough to avoid legal troubles. Trust me, if I’d seen a poorly painted Top Cat dressed as a scuba diver, you’d be looking at that picture right now.

And speaking of which, I’m sure I took more pictures of the rides and stuff, but there don’t appear to be any in my image folder here. So either I’m just making stuff up or they got lost in the transfer process. We may never know!

After a tour of the (Northern half) of the town, we settled back down onto the beach incline. Or whatever it is. There’s the beach, and then there’s an area of grass between the beach and the grass. That’s where we set up our watchin’ spot. Does that still count as the beach? I need to know these things!

Anyway, we went back and chilled there for a bit. I started Tweeting some pictures I had taken while the wife went for a dip in the river, and then we just kinda hung out for a while. It was starting to get a little late, and having been baking in the sun for a few hours already, we retired to the local Subway for a while.

Now, the Subway is special. For one, wifey’s uncle owns the place, so we’ve got an excuse to just hang out inside when we want out of the sun. Number two, her mom always treats us to a free meal, so we took up that offer and had us some Subway for dinner. And that’s why I didn’t mention eating my weight in midway food. Because you can’t eat that greasy garbage and Subway. No human stomach could possibly contain such a volatile combination. Also, you know, we didn’t have to pay for the Subway.

We hung out in there for a bit longer, and during that time I decided to start playing Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. My tradition usually requires me to spend any gaming time on Canada Day picking away at Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, but I just wasn’t feeling it that day, you know?

But then Mrs. Ryan got bored of sitting around playing video games in Subway, so we went off on another walk. It was horribly uneventful, as we mostly just did another lap of the midway, and then went back to the beach. There was also a trip to the car to wrangle up our fireworks-watching gear (which was lollipops and a hoodie). We did shake down her mom for a few more bucks to buy mini-donuts though, so that was something.

After that it was a couple hours of laying around on the beach. She contented herself with some book I bought her for our anniversary, and I had moved onto tending my town in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I watered flowers, chatted up neighbours, and farmed island beetles until finally the fireworks show was only a few minutes away. Putting my 3DS away, I snuggled up against my honey and got ready for the reason we came out on this wacky adventure in the first place.

I didn’t take many pictures, or even a video, because apparently my iPhone’s memory was all filled up and I had no idea before it was too late. Oops! On the other hand, the show was almost exactly the same as last year’s, so you can just watch the video of the 2012 fireworks that I uploaded to YouTube last year. Hooray!

And that’s that. It’s a really great fireworks show, and I’m always glad that I make the trip out to see it. The video isn’t really great, but you can sort of tell that this is a fireworks display worth seeing. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that it hadn’t changed notably from the previous year, but I suppose it’s more a case of it not being broke, so nobody tried to fix it. Good on them.

Once the fireworks ended, it was the lest fun part of the night: getting out of Lac du Bonnet. So many people come to see those fireworks that it can take upwards of half an hour to get out of a town that’s small enough that you could drive from one end to the other in about a minute. It’s totally worth it though, because I had a great day. I love Canada Day.

Totally mucked up my car’s front tire with all that driving though. Whoops!

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