The first part of day was in Alberta but for the second portion we would explore Saskatchewan. A rather remote section of Saskatchewan but that does not mean we will lack for anything of interest. We meet a dinosaur, see an observatory, fail to buy anything at a yard sale and end up in the Cadillac of Saskatchewan villages.
It has been many years since I have driven to Saskatchewan and the first time my son remembers coming. The 1989 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale was the first car to receive a tow from this spot right at the border with a suspected fuel pump problem. Speaking of fuel pumps my middle son had helpfully informed me a few days prior departure that the Mustang had failed to start occasionally for him. I had not driven it in months as he had become the main driver so this was news to me. Not wanting to get stranded with no replacement parts I had bought a fuel filter and pump to bring along in the worst case scenario. It is a job (the pump) that requires dropping the tank so really I did not want to do it at the side of the road but it would be do-able and certainly more appealing than a massive tow bill.
The road split off from the highway at the border heading south. This was not our route but I was intrigued by the designation of a “summer only” road. Why would that be? The most obvious answer would be a massive hill which seemed unlikely around these very flat parts and a terrain map does not show anything dramatic. I would be happy to receive any knowledge or indeed speculation in the comments below.
On the Alberta side the road was called Highway 501 and as we entered Saskatchewan the road named swapped to Highway 13 which is certainly a grand name for a gravel road. I do wonder how many people have planned a trip based on a map and been surprised by how the modest the road actually is.
After a long, long period of gravel road travel we found ourselves in the village of Consul where we caught up with the recently repaired Oldsmobile. The issue had been a fuel pump ground that shook itself loose on the gravel roads and so the car was back in the action with only a brief tow. While we were stopped it seemed like a decent time to check on fluids given that the Mustang had only been used as an in city runabout previously.
This 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne looked rather sharp in front of a pair of classic Texaco gas pumps. Once home I later found out it was for sale ($7,000cdn) along with a large cache of other vehicles. Shame I had not seen it before setting off otherwise I could have taken a closer look at the collection of project cars. Not that I need another old car to fix up at the moment.
Consul had, according to the census in 2016, a population of 73 souls down from 84 in 2011. This downward trend is fairly common in small rural centers leading to unoccupied buildings like this one.
Consul does still have a surviving grain elevator however. As you can see we had finally left the gravel behind for the much appreciated pavement.
I found this sign amusing which states “Customers Welcome, I don’t call 911, Whiners & Bitches” which has a depiction of a horse rider shooting what I presume to be a trespasser. There was a house in town with a similar sign out front as well. Home and work for the same person?
Continuing on we came across the Wilkinson Memorial Observatory. The build was started by local blacksmith and machinist Jack Wilkinson who built his own telescopes and lenses. He was unable to finish the observatory as he passed away in 1953. Friends and neighbors finished it to honor him. It was not clear if the building was in active use or not anymore.
Setting off again we travelled down the road into the scenic Frenchman River Valley. This area is home to similar scenery (but on a much smaller scale) to Drumheller from a few years back which feature so called Badlands landscape and fossil hunting opportunities.
The landscape was a little more apparent as we descended into the valley where our challenge was to meet “Scotty”.
An unusual traffic sign …
We soon came to the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, Saskatchewan. The building itself is nicely integrated into the landscape.
Inside we met the 65-million-year old Scotty, the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus or T.tex. These fossils were the first T.rex discovered in Saskatchewan back in 1991 by a high school teacher. The Discovery Centre was then later built to house it.
These stops are a great place to see your fellow competitors and their vehicles.
There are likely not too many events in which a Hudson competes with a Plymouth minivan.
Back in town we came across a yard sale which featured a number of antiques and unique items.
There were several items of interest but nothing I actually needed so despite some heavy sales pressure I walked away empty handed. Several of the other competitors did purchase items including my friend Rod who snagged himself a vintage 1960s orange outdoor chair.
The rest of the town held quite a few interesting buildings including this one which was boarded up and looking a little past its best. Shame about the open windows.
There were several curbside classic finds that could have also been at home as competitors on the GBC.
As well as several that were a little too nice like this International pickup truck.
Back on the road many of the farms and ranches had very nicely done metal signs.
Next the place on the map was Shaunavon which as a town of 1,699 (2016 censes) and as such was one of the bigger places on the route. Here we stopped for some dinner for ourselves and gasoline for the car. The Mustang had burned or leaked a bit of oil so that was topped up as well. My son’s phone had died and his cord was stuck in the back somewhere or possibly left at home. His only option for purchase at the gas station was a bright pink cord. It still to refused to charge at this point likely due to dust in the charging port. Rod had a portable charger that seemed to do the trick after a port clean. It was my wife’s birthday the day after the GBC so she got a pink charging cord from him as a gift.
There was some oil and gas development in this area. It was certainly less remote overall but certainly still sparsely populated.
In western Canada the year 2021 went down as a very hot and dry summer and so most farmers had already harvested their crops.
These buffalo or bison were an unexpected sight.
At this point there was not time for any more stops as the sun was setting and I wanted to avoid setting up our tents in complete darkness if possible.
We finally arrived at the village of Cadillac, Saskatchewan where we were able to set up our tents with the remaining light. The population is listed as 92 in 2016 so our group at least doubled that by filling their campground. Amusingly all the street names had an automotive theme including some more obscure ones like Napier.
My eldest son is one of the lucky ones who had turned 18 (drinking age in Alberta) during the pandemic and as a result we had actually never managed to grab a drink at a pub together. The Cadillac hotel was under new ownership who were renovating it and so as a result was not fully open yet but did have a limited menu.
We shared some Bagel Bites and a beer each while having some lively conversation with the locals which ranged from the GBC to farming to gophers. They warmed us that our route for the next day had some very remote and rough roads. One local commented that we were likely to need a few spare tires which we, of course, did not think to bring. I had the untested and almost thirty year factory spare but that was it.
No photos but the number of stars visible even from the camp site was amazing with no big urban centers near by.
The most interesting sleeping arrangement we saw was the Dodge pickup with the agricultural pivot on it. This swung out to create a base for their tent. That wraps up the first day. Day two promises some more gravel roads (hurray), rough roads, small towns and the world’s biggest teepee. Will we need to spare tires as promised by the locals? Or will the Mustang continue to perform well?
The whole Great Beater Challenge 2021 series