4–City slickers

or, Ahh, luxury!

20 July

But the river was right where I'm standing, just last night!
But the river was right where I’m standing, just last night!

We wake up to find the river almost gone! Ambrose Jane sits ten metres from the river’s edge. During breakfast, however, a horn sounds from the power station and by departure time the water has returned. Hurrah for all those electricity-eating air conditioners! It’s great to be back on the river, with its wildlife close at hand and a strong current to do much of the work. We do feel bad as we chase broods of ducks and geese downstream. And once again the navigator needs to be on his/her toes as the river braids around large sandbars. We reach Outlook in the early afternoon, cruise the town for bread and food, meet the Silverthorns, parents of a Ucluelet friend of ours, and push on for a few more kilometres.

21 July

The river straightens out a bit and flows faster. Inspired by the current (and the big-city lure of Saskatoon close ahead), we row 59 kms in twelve hours — our best run yet.

22 July

Saskatoon berries is what we’ve been craving, and if we can’t find any in the wild we’ll take them any way we can! As luck would have it, the big, red Berry Barn sits right next right next to the river. We arrive just as it opens, and scarf down a monster breakfast of waffles and saskatoon berries. I manage to reach Glenn, of the Saskatoon Rowing Club, who offers to store Ambrose Jane in their clubhouse for a few days. We arrange a rendezvous.

Guests of the Rowing Club in Saskatoon.
Guests of the Rowing Club in Saskatoon.

Under deadline now, we have a bit of a marathon row into the city, shooting past a nude beach and other intriguing spots. But we make it in time, get into the city to rent a car, and plunk ourselves down in the Gordon Howe Campground, right near the heart of the city. It’s chock full of motor homes, all from Alberta, and tenters, every one (like us) from British Columbia. The showers have the highest water pressure we’ve ever felt, which is what we need right about now.

23-24 July

We spend two more days in the city, collecting mail and packages, catching up with phone calls, doing mega laundry, and shopping for exotic food like real Swiss cheese. We have a delightful visit with friends Grant and Christine from Ucluelet, who happen to be here visiting Grant’s mother, Dorothy. We catch a movie — The Perfect Storm, what else? — but by far the best city treat has been to catch up on all our e-mail!

Sylvia does some research at the library archives, looking up 1908 issues of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix for any mention of Ambrose and Jane. Nothing there, but she finds lots about the record flood that year: people drowning by the dozen, and pictures of the steamboat City of Medicine Hat (which left Medicine Hat the same time as Ambrose and Jane) pinned against a pier of the CPR bridge. Gramma Ida, in her account of the trip (she would have been twelve years old), mentions some CPR workers helping them navigate their way around the pilings. One of the news articles says the current that year was timed at over 7 mph (12 kph); we reckon ours at 3 kph. The ancestors must have been flying through here!

We also suss out Saskatoon’s infamous weir, a treacherously invisible thing from upstream, and plan out our portage around it. We’re loath to leave our luxurious life in good ol’ Gordie Howe Campground and return to the hardships afloat.

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