John Varty and his fiancée Molly Daley are driving across Canada in an effort to speak to farmers about the issues that concern them, and to bring those concerns to urbanites. They’re doing it in an unusual fashion — towing a "farmhouse" behind a Massey Ferguson 1660 — more details here. They will be posting periodic reports of their trek across the Prairies.
July 7-12: "The Soo" to Winnipeg
I’m always filled with a strong sense of anticipation driving west into Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario — "The Soo." Deciduous forest gives way gradually to coniferous; a distinct geological zone (the "Superior Province") gathers itself out of the "Southern Province." Both of these announce the fact that you’re heading north and west.
The Soo is definitely a threshold point beyond which things get more complicated. You have to pay closer attention, and plan better: "where are the fuel stations, food stores, and service centres?" "Will they be open?" One thing’s for sure, the land may rise in elevation beyond the The Soo, but pretty much everything else seems to drop off.
Anticipation of all this is heightened at 28 kms/hour. You have more time to think… and worry. How on earth, we wondered, will the drive from The Soo to Thunder Bay go? How many more jerry cans will we need? Is it even safe, given the hills, narrow stretches, and heavy truck traffic? What if there’s a flat we can’t plug ourselves?
With these anticipated risks in mind we decided to approach a few trucking companies in The Soo…just see what it’d cost to haul this rig at least as far as Thunder Bay, perhaps beyond. After a quick Google search we find ourselves at National Transportation on Sackville St. The owner, Bill Siddall, wasn’t around. He was haying, we were told, on his farm in Echo Bay, about 20 Kms south of town.
Haying, you say? We can help with that…and maybe work something out for trucking our rig.
Bill’s place is nestled on the fertile flood plain of the Bar River — a tributary of the St. Mary’s — hemmed in by substantial treed outcroppings. This is beef and hay country, with some cash cropping. Within no time we had a haybine hooked to our little Massey and the work began. The Massey worked hard, and so did we. Over the next five days we put up an average of 1,800 small square bales per day, along with dozens of large rounds. It’s been a while since I’ve worked a mow, and it was nice to get back in there.
Several days and thousands of bales later it was time to bid new friends adieu and return to our own journey. In return for our services Bill agreed to ship us up and around the Lakehead, all the way to Winnipeg. You can’t imagine what a relief that was! We were finally going to reach the Prairies.
As it turned out our rig was a few inches too high for a regular flatbed trailer; we couldn’t let enough air out of the tires to make it legal. This meant finding a drop deck, which Bill’s dispatcher, Mark, produced in no time.
Lacking an appropriate loading dock, we appealed to Town and Country Towing for use of a tilt loader. They only had their small one available, which barely did the trick (we only had one axle on the loader deck). We backed onto the drop-deck, waited while additional items — a large scoop and compressor bound for Thunder Bay — were loaded.
We joined our driver Ed in the new Freightliner Coronado, and about 42 hours later the Winnipeg skyline poked its head out of the southern Manitoba landscape. We didn’t like leaving the serene landscape surrounding the Bar River, but the historically unparalleled Prairies awaited. It was time to move on to big-grain country.