Monday, April 27, 2009

October 2: Manitoba Natural History Museum

I was still stuck in Winnipeg, and it was clearly time to get going. The weather wasn't going to get any warmer, that was certain. I kept calling the people I met in Spruce Woods, but they best they could get me was a ride down to Fargo. From there, maybe I could catch another truck to Minneapolis or some other point on the Mississippi and continue my trip.

On the other hand, there was something intoxicating about completing the remainder of the trip on my own power. I had made it this far already, so why not? If I started south on the Red I might make it far enough to be able to limp over to some tributary of the Mississippi. In fact, a tributary of the Red runs almost all the way out to the Minnesota River, which meets the Mississippi in the Twin Cities. The valley that connects these rivers actually crosses a continental divide, and during high floods the Mississippi and Red riversheds sometimes actually join across here, producing an unbroken stream of water from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

I decided I would paddle south. But as I walked to the Red River, I passed the Manitoba Natural History Museum and couldn't help but walk in. I had checked out of the hostel and so my backpack was completely full for the journey. I had to buy a locker, stuff it in there, and then finally wander around the exhibits.

The museum was surely built in the 60s or 70s; all the typefaces and design seemed to date from that era, and frankly I appreciated it. How nice to have hexagons, triangles, circles and playfully varied typefaces instead of the stark lettering of modern art museums.

The writing was as good as the design. Certainly better than my review here, I failed to take good notes so I am describing from memory, like a kind of dream. A dream in which placards warned about insanity-inducing biting flies, I could vouch for that, and a no holds barred attack on artificial water levels created by manmade dams.

I walked through a field of dinosaurs, sailed a nineteenth century vessel that had housed a score of men, wandered past giant boats that were pulled up and down the Red River. These boats were four times as wide as mine and probably twice as wide, and made of heavy oak. Crews of a dozen men would have to carry and push them over any obstacles in the waters I had travelled, just to trade a few furs.

By the time I reached the boat club, the sun was making itself comfortable on the horizon. Jim shook his head and said it would take too long to get out of the city that night, and I was sure he was right.

I walked back to the hostel, and told the girl at the counter, "Well, I guess I need yet another night." She smiled, scanned my credit card one last time, and handed me a room key.

Day 103 ended: HI-Winnipeg

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