Day 9 - Saskatoon
Trip Start Aug 13, 2012
18Trip End Ongoing
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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.
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.