Day 9 - Saskatoon

Trip Start Aug 13, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Canada  , Saskatchewan,
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Is that rape?" I asked the guy leaning up against his giant F-150 pickup.  He looks me up and down and I know I have committed yet another politically incorrect indiscretion.   "We call it Canola Mister" he said "women didn't like the other name -- and yes, it is.  And that over there is barley -- see the long whiskers growing out of the grain?"    

 There are four crops that alternate in the farms along the highway -- canola, barley, wheat and hay.  In Alberta they were harvesting the first three.  In Saskatchewan much of the barley and wheat seemed to be still green -- don't ask me why -- but they were also busy bringing in the canola.   The fields are enormous.  So is the machinery.  It all seems rich and prosperous. There is no drought here.  New silos can be seen at the farm level, and new grain elevators seem to have been built at the railroad stations.   This probably reflects the high price of grains over the past few years.  I am sure Mark will have some views on these matters. There was more hay in previous days, further West and North.  Even saw a feedlot for cattle yesterday.

As an overlay to the farming, oil and gas extraction is still going great guns -- all the way from Eastern BC through Alberta to half way across Saskatchewan.    The on-farm well head installations changed though coming out of Lloydminster (the provincial border).   They are now either one, or two, large black cylinders some 30 to 40 feet high -- flat on top, not to be confused with the bright aluminum silos of about the same size, for grain.  These black blobs are scattered across the plains -- at intervals of quarter to half a mile.  Large refineries can be seen in Edmonton, and in the prairies.  

I am following the Yellowhead Highway, Canada's route 16, which slopes Southeast from Prince George (in BC) down to Thunder Bay (in Ontario).  The experience is very similar indeed to driving US Highway 2 across the midwest.  It is NOT a freeway, and goes through the middle of each town.  It has stoplights and intersections.  The highway is usually divided, with a two lane road in each direction.  Not much traffic on it, and all going at 65 to 75 miles an hour.  There are differences though.  In the Western Plains of the US, route 2 goes through a very high, dry grassy plateau with few inhabitants or breaks in the flatness. Here, while flat, the land is lower, and is all farmed intensively.   One crosses a small town every 15 minutes. The road even turns every now and then -- even though there is little relief to avoid.   The region is drained by two huge rivers.  The North Saskatchewan flows East, and the road has been following it since Edmonton (which lies on its banks).  The South Saskatchewan comes up and joins it North of Saskatoon at Prince Albert.  There is something majestic and comforting about a river.  It is wonderful to discover them when you get to town -- they are normally invisible from the road.  
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Harry on

Could you ride your bike in the Edmonton Mall or did you have to walk? You're not the only white guy in North America right now who cant tell rape when he sees it.

Gwynn on

I haven't seen rape since England in 1992, but the fields were beautiful.
This is the first time I've heard the difference between barley and wheat grains.

Mark Fairless on

Oil seed rape is fine. It alllooks great and wonderfull and i was envious untill I thought of winter there . I willstick to Uruguay. While we were with you in usa the frosts in Uruguay were tough and many. But now it has begun to rain well and everything is going green quickly it may be a good spring. Hows that for an optimimistic little farmer!Drive safely

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