Day 1: Kenora, ON to Bismarck, ND

We were so efficient at using up our perishable groceries that Caroline had to drink her tea black this morning. Despite this, we managed to start out on schedule, pulling away from the house at 0603. We did lose some time at McDonalds, because they were “making fresh eggs.” I find this unlikely, but whatever they were doing, we had to wait seven or eight minutes.
So far we have not had the ‘Oh no! We forgot the tickets!’ moment, but we did learn that packing the kettle in the cooler is a mistake. The base of it filled with meltwater, and has not yet drained to Caroline’s satisfaction. Hey, I start my day with grapefruit juice – 110 volts is kid stuff.
When Caroline was awake, we counted ‘normal’ tractor-trailers (with van-type trailers) vs. all other kinds: flatbeds, tankers, bob-tailers etc. She built up a sizeable lead on the way to Winnipeg, outscoring me nearly three to one. Once we got into the US, things evened up a lot, especially when she was sleeping. In the end, she beat me about 275 to 225.
Customs at Emerson/Pembina was very quick. There were only a handful of cars there, and we found a lane with no line. As always, we were candid about our recent travels, and we were through before you could say ‘What kind of criminal record?’
Plates of the Day were Massachusetts and Virginia; we didn’t manage to spot either of those on our one-week trip in February, let alone on the first day.
Lunch at Roby’s in Valley City. This is an American Diner, which means they have patty melts. Actually they have a Roby’s Melt, and if they’re proud of it, they have a right to be. Back in February, my biggest complaint about this place was that the décor featured pretty much every kind of brown. They have repainted, using just two shades of grey (three if you count white) and the place looks much more inviting.
Two more hours on the interstate brought us to Bismarck, and by then I was looking forward to kicking off my shoes and stretching out on a bed, and perhaps even closing my eyes for an hour. Unfortunately, the line at the front desk stretched right back to the entry doors: the hotel had turned over nearly every one of its three or four hundred rooms and the maids were running behind. Can’t clean four hundred rooms in four hours? Surely they have fifty or a hundred housekeepers – what were they doing all day? While some people were being quite obstreperous, we went for a walk, sat in the car for a couple of crosswords, and finally moved to the lounge for a Chardonnay and a G&T. The only people I saw with a better plan turned their tweens loose on the pool and stretched out on a chaise. We did get into our room before 1800, plenty of time to get ready for dinner.
I am happy to say we don’t have our usual grind to Bozeman, MT tomorrow. Instead, we’re cutting it short and stopping at Billings. Our only previous stop in Billings amounted to a very poor lunch in an Applebees. I don’t think we’ve given them another chance since. This time around, we’ll be staying downtown, where the good restaurants are.
We did not take any photographs today. Seen one Interstate, seen ‘em all.

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