The weather was so windy, cold, grey and miserable that I thought I’d live in the past for a few moments and recall a lovely twenty-four hour road trip I took just a few weeks ago when autumn was still warm and gorgeous.
The day was clear as we moved along Highway 11. No construction. No accidents and no surprise weather anomalies. Just beautiful, carpet like rolling fields straight north for two and a half hours.
A quick pause and snack had us at the very boring and very commercial roadside stop near Davidson. And, as far as gas station/convenience stores go this place is typical. There’s a Dairy Queen, a Tim Horton’s (we are, after all, trapped in Canada) bathrooms, and fuel. But there is also a gift section in the gas station that distracted me like a well stocked toy store for a small child. Trendy, kitschy gift shop style jewelry, travel mugs, squish-able scarves, toques, socks with cusses on the soles, purses, wallets, shot glasses, tea towels with witty quips—they had it all. The hoarder in me wanted everything! But my inner minimalist grabbed a snack and a coffee and went straight back to the car.
Our destination in Martinsville came early enough for a nice six kilometer walk in the sunshine. Diana, our friend and hostess and Sophie and Rowdy her canine sidekicks, set the pace and we followed stretching our road trip legs. The leaves, yellow and bright were still hanging on. The grasses, dried that dusty gold shredded wheat on each side of the path and the occasional bird whipped by a little too close, playing chicken with us humans. I wonder if birds call it ‘playing chicken!’
Ashlee, Diana and I aligned nicely in two areas: no one needed a lot of time to get ready and all three of us had tall dark boots. I’ve always said that boots are the stiletto of the north given our cold temperatures.
Diana has a presence and a self assurance I was barely tending to when I was in my thirties. She had on the sexiest, bohemian leather jacket embroidered with beautiful flowers—screaming something Spanish to me—Senorita! Take me! Her leggings shiny black and her tunic shirt also shimmered. She’d somehow fandangled a look I could only describe as equestrian Mexican chic! Ashlee, a much softer friend, always concerned, always gentle, a patient mother of two, feminine in her dress, accessorized and well put together, was the hyphen between us. Then there was me with my comfortably shirt, strategically exposed arms, self assured red lips and statement earrings, classically accompanied with lazy blue jeans and a leather jacket (not nearly as cool as Diana’s). Ashlee asked “If we were the Sex and the City Girls would Diana be Miranda? I’d be Charlotte and you’d be Sam or Carrie?” Sure!
For simplicity sake we went straight to Broadway Avenue.
If you haven’t been there then you should go. If you’ve gone, then you know. You know that it’s an inclusive environment. You know that Broadway Avenue is stacked with restaurants, and places to drink—short jaunts from one place to another so if an establishment is full, or lined up there is always another offering down the street.
Odla was our destination. We sat at the bar with a plexiglass partition between us and our barman. I’ve always been a fan of sitting at the bar. There’s a little more action—watching the barman build his elixirs, keeping me company when I was alone or engaging with my friends when I was with others. Socially it’s always been a favorable seat for me. And, this night it was as well. The atmosphere was casual, fun, and light. There was patience in the server who kindly checked on us as we tried to decide—taking too long, like our drinks may be a life and death choice. Sometimes they are.
Drinks and Eats
We settled on Hurts So Good (Aperol, melon syrup, orange juice, sparkling wine, soda) Cherry Bomb (vodka, cherry liqueur, choke cherry syrup, lime oleo, citric acid, soda) and Champagne Swizzle (Bacardi White Rum, Torres Brandy, J. Wray Overproof Rum, Lingonberry Falernum, Champagne shrub, orange, pineapple). If you get the Champagne Swizzle prepare yourself for some over-the-top deliciousness. The bar tender passed over a small bowl of preserved cherries to sweeten our palette—a gesture we appreciated.
Food was a light balance to go with our drinks. We ordered the mushrooms, lamb meatballs, and chickpea fritters. We tried ordering the schnitzel, the small plate special, but missed our chance as a server came out to tell the barman there was none left. We rioted! Yelling playfully and slamming our hands on the counter. The server laughed raising his hands in surrender. We decided not to shoot the messenger and used this opportunity to order dessert instead of another small plate. I had a pavlova that I have dreamed about since.
When finding a new place I often snag on the details—things like the atmosphere of the place, how the servers interact, the art on the walls, the bathrooms. Odla was a great first impression. If you’re in Saskatoon, try it out.
The temperature outside was still kind to us on our walk back down Broadway Avenue. Traffic rolled, moderately. Patrons sat inside glass storefronts as we walked. People hung out on the street. It felt urban, social and good. There were no big box stores, nasty uninviting parking lots. It was a city neighborhood of old intention.
Nightcap cheese cake
Back at Diana’s house we changed into our pj’s and sat in the living room eating cheese cake from The Great British Bakery I understand that I already had dessert. I understand that it was late. But I also understand that life is short and full of goodness, memories and connections. Sitting in the living room with the girls, chowing down on more creamy sugary goodness, chatting, laughing, with two dogs at our feet was the perfect end to the night. There were no regrets—not even in the morning. I expected an unhappy belly of cream and sugar but I didn’t have one. That speaks to the goodness of the cheesecake we had.
With the same efficiency of the night before we were on the road quickly in the morning. No moments were wasted in this 24 hour excursion. Our mission was to get to Hometown Diner before it opened to avoid standing in line and the truth was exactly that. The restaurant was lined up at 8:50. We were first in line but minutes after there were many people behind us.
Inside the brick wall, minimal seating and hanging plants gave this diner a different feel than other breakfast places I’ve been to. I ordered coffee with honey. The girls both had chai lattes. We ordered donuts to go (Boston Cream and Chai). I had the Huevos Rancheros, Diana had the scrambler and Ashlee had the bacon and egg panini. Although everyone’s breakfast looked good I honestly think I got the best meal: a homemade blue corn tortilla was balanced on bed of cheesy black bean paste. The tortilla was full of bacon, guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa verde, cotija cheese, a soft poached egg and sour cream. I’m salivating just writing about it. So. Damn. Delicious.
The other thing I liked about this place was that the washroom signage didn’t say men or women. It said Everybody Washroom. Inclusive and important!
Walking Saskatoon River
Our bellies reached their capacity. To aid digestion we parked the car and walked the South Saskatchewan River. The hike offered a variety of environments—colorful forests of the fall, sandy shorelines, concrete bridges over other bridges for a full mix of nature and city. Eventually the leaf covered path took us away from the river and onto Saskatchewan Crescent. If you like house gazing this is the street for you.
Time to leave the city
Diana took us to meet her horse, Ruby. She is a beauty. She is stabled with several other horses at a farm south of the city. Horses make me a little nervous. However, there is something special about being in the presence of animals. It’s like I have to step into a humbleness, to put fear aside, to let myself connecting. Diana introduced us to all the creatures there. The smell of the hay, the barns, being outside among them put me in a completely different head space—one that I rarely get. Being around animals, particularly ones that are bigger than me—reminds me that I am not “a big deal.” and I tuck away my self-importance.
Black Fox Distillery
We hugged Diana and left her to tend to her Ruby. On the main road away from the farm we saw a sign Black Fox Distillery. Every moment is an opportunity. Ashlee turned the car around. Black Fox is a distillery, a pumpkin patch, a shop, and a pick your own flower field when you get there at the right season. On this day there was live music and a bar with gin cocktails for purchase.
Inside was a tasting area and a gift shop. I picked up some honey produced by bees and Black Fox. I also bought a bar of soap that smells like gin. I know one particular gin lover that is going to adore this gift. We took a drink and wandered the property, sitting on the hillside listening to the music and enjoying the warmth of this fall day.
This trip was local. In fact I’ve been to Saskatoon before. But the truth is I don’t have to go far to explore and discover. All I need is desire and curiosity. With that I scratched an itch to go. I found a bunch of new experiences: food, drink, animals, hikes, a distillery. I got away and I spent time with friends. I should be good for a while.