Day 1: Saturday, February 25th. Kenora, ON to Bismarck, ND

We were both up early this morning and we got the car loaded before 0600. I almost forgot my wallet, but Caroline offered me some of the US cash, so I went back in and got it. Then I started to program Dingbat and when I asked Caroline for the address our first hotel, she realized she had forgotten our accordion file full of reservations and stuff, so I went back and got that. Then we put the car in gear and we were westbound out of the roundabout by 0606.
Road conditions were good, and skies mainly clear, so we made good time. The temperature when we began was -16°C and that dropped to -23°C before 0800. After that it warmed up and we finished the drive at around -5. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Dingbat knows all the speed limits from Winnipeg down to the US border now. These are the first ones I’ve seen him display in Canada other than on the Trans-Canada highway. Customs was quiet as we got there before 0900. We only waited behind two other cars, and we could have had an empty lane with no delay, but one of the green lights was dead, so it wasn’t clear if she was open or not.
For entertainment (we’re easily amused) we decided to count snowmobiles. This was kind of a bust, as there was hardly any snow after Grand Forks and all the snowmobilers are sitting at home sulking, so we had to switch to something else. We did not see any very exotic licence plates, so I would have to award 3LPOD (Least Likely Licence Plate of the Day) to Wyoming.
Plan A was stop for lunch at Burger King in Valley City, as that is the first town we would encounter after noon. Turns out ‘Burger King’ is one of those phrases Dingbat cannot pronounce. No way were we eating at Burr Jerking. So Caroline dug out the Blackberry and hit up Trip Advisor to see if the Hilltop Café was any good. Turns out it might be, but Roby’s (rhymes with ‘hobbies’) got better reviews, so we went there. I will describe the décor as brown, and leave it at that. I will describe the washroom as weird, and elaborate. There were two toilets close enough to hold hands. I have never, ever, felt the urge to do that, so I will assume that this design arose in an attempt to make a small washroom more handi-capable.
One of my favourite diner foods is the patty melt. Partly this is because they can be divine, and partly it’s because when they aren’t divine, they’re still digestible. Except in Neepawa, or was it Nipawin? Just to be safe, I will never eat in either town again. Caroline applied a similar strategy and ordered a Denver. She had been thinking of the Seafood Chimichanga, but apparently it’s about the size of my shoe, so she chickened out. All the food was very good indeed. Whoever in the kitchen is in charge of quality control as it pertains to golden-brownness of patty melts raises the bar for all diners everywhere. Excellent battered fries, too. Now there’s a strange term. Battered Fries reminds me of Chipped Potatoes, something my brother had to eat in school. Guess flawless potatoes weren’t in the budget. Lunch took under an hour and was well worth the time invested compared to having a Burr Jerking Whopper.
Easy afternoon drive, arriving at 1500. It doesn’t matter whether we have a short drive or a long one, we always arrive at 1500. We don’t work hard at planning for that, but we do leave earlier and keep our stops shorter if we have further to go. Somehow, we always arrive at 1500, plus or minus about ten minutes.
We had our first disappointment of the day when we checked in, but it wasn’t the Holiday Inn’s fault. I applied for a US dollar credit card just for this trip and pre-loaded it with vacation funds but forgot to bring it! More precisely, I remembered to bring it, but carelessly grabbed the wrong piece of colourful plastic from my desk. Rats! Actually, the room is very nice, and we don’t even have to move the car; it’s right below our window.
Tonight, dinner at Pirogue. It’s named after the dugout canoe, not the Ukrainian food. Stay tuned.

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