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On the Winter Road Again... and Again!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I am sitting in my car, outside a school board office in the town of Souris, Manitoba, about 230 km west of Winnipeg.  It isn’t very cold outside – about -16° C (3° above zero, Fahrenheit) – but I pollute the atmosphere idling the engine (a) to keep warm... and (b) to run power to my laptop.  Periodically I turn the car off, until the inside temperature drops to an uncomfortable level, then I turn it on again.

Why am I here?  Because I have driven Heather to a meeting.  There are a couple of hours to kill in this parking lot – in the bright Manitoba sunlight – and I am using the time to catch up on a few emails and make this blog entry.  I can’t send the emails until later today, when we’re back home, because my technology is not so sophisticated that I can send emails from the middle of nowhere!  But I can type them, and feel like I’m catching up with my life just ever so slightly.

Heather really dislikes winter driving, and while she might attempt it if need be, she is happy if I offer to do the driving for her.  I actually like winter driving (if I didn’t, I would never have attempted that trip to B.C. in November!).

Heather serves on a “Board of Reference” for the Province of Manitoba – a body that determines school board boundaries.  They hold hearings, for example when a farm family lives near – but not actually in – a certain school division, and the parents want to send their children to school in that division (perhaps their own district doesn’t offer French Immersion, or Drama, or if its schools have no provision for ability challenges).  The family may apply to re-draw the division boundary to include their farm, and thus allow their offspring to attend the desired school.  Heather’s board considers the request, examining issues like whether or not school busses can collect the kids if the boundary is moved.  Then they make a decision, which is binding.  The hearings are almost always in some remote town, so I drive my beloved there, wait through the meeting, and then drive her home to Winnipeg.

In today’s instance, the meeting was far enough from Winnipeg that the Province allowed board members to make the outward journey yesterday and stay overnight in a motel – all expenses paid.  Which makes for a pleasant little two day “vacation” for us!

This junket is nowhere near as complex and potentially hazardous as our trip to B.C., but it has not been without its scary moments.  Skies have been clear and blue with a bright sun, but unrelenting prairie winds cause surface snow from the fields around to blow across the highway, so that at times the pavement and its markings are completely obscured.  It’s like driving in a very low fog: visibility everywhere except for the floating puffy white clouds moving along at ground level.  I can see the road’s general location because the contour of the ditches are outlined on either side, but it would be very easy to stray onto the soft shoulders, and if that happens, within seconds the vehicle would be out of control and we’d roll, or be in the ditch, or both.  As it is, when the centre line does become visible for a second, I often find that I’ve strayed over it and into the wrong lane.  All of which can be a little hair-raising, but I enjoy the challenge.  It keeps me young.

And all which was compensated for, yesterday afternoon, by the most astonishing and memorable “sun dogs” as the sun moved toward the western horizon.  Sun Dogs are bright rainbow segments, appearing in the sky far to the right and left of the sun, and formed by some interaction between the sun’s light and ice crystals in the atmosphere.  They can be seen particularly when the ambient temperature is low (it was -26°C yesterday; 14 below zero, Fahrenheit), but rarely are they as vivid as they were yesterday!  I wished that I had a good camera with me, for I might have tried to capture the amazing sight.  I didn’t, and will merely have a slowly fading memory.  But it was absolutely glorious.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The above was typed, as I mentioned, mostly while I was waiting during Heather’s Board of Reference meeting.  In due course the meeting ended, she came out, and we drove home more or less without incident.

And now, only a week later, we’re at it again!  Once more I have driven Heather to a meeting, but this time we’ve headed 350 km. East, rather than West, and find ourselves tonight in Dryden, a mill town in Northwestern Ontario.

It is essential that Heather be at this meeting.  It is a gathering of the Synod of the Diocese of Keewatin, and is a crucial one – the final step in a complete restructuring, and the creation of a wholly aboriginal diocese in the Canadian church.  Heather holds the office Chancellor – the chief legal adviser – in the Diocese of Keewatin.  Her presence is so important that Synod authorities moved the date of the meeting in order that she can attend (it was originally supposed to be some time later in February, when we will be either in California, or in Hawaii, or in a cruise ship on the ocean).  So earthquake, famine, wild horses or bad weather cannot and must not stop Heather from being in Dryden at this Synod.

We drove out this afternoon, and have been given a room in a motel. Tomorrow morning (Valentine’s Day) the meeting will take place.  Although the session is crucial, there is only one thing to decide, so the meeting should not take long.  Then we’ll head back to Winnipeg – hopefully in daylight.

Last night there was a snow storm in Winnipeg (around the same time that severe winter weather was pummelling the Southern United States, causing death and hardship), and I wondered whether our intended trip would prove to be a big mistake.  But the storm dissipated, the sun came out, and for the most part the highways were clear.  We had a few scary moments, but nothing to make a big fuss about.

So the winter driving continues.  Good thing I like it.

Soon – on Sunday, February 16, to be exact – we leave Winter behind.  We fly to San Francisco, and a couple of days later board a cruise ship for a trip to Hawaii.  A little over a week from now, I hope to be snorkeling on a tropical reef.  No winter driving to be had there, as far as I can determine!  Indeed Heather heard somewhere that the Hawaiian language has no word for “weather,” because it is so consistently comfortable that the first inhabitants hardly noticed it.

I’ll probably post something here to let you know how all that unfolds.

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from Cathy C., February 15, 2014 4:19:00 PM EST (CA)

I am now waiting for your colourful reports from a somewhat WARMER (and less white) part of the world!!  I enjoyed reading this rather short saga about heading to Dryden, but can’t say I LIKE knowing about those highway conditions and so on.  BRRR and YIKES!  But thanks for telling me about them!!  You know I love reading your accounts. :)

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