T here is an art to road tripping that is both gritty and glamorous. Requiring a willingness to embrace the unknown and forego comfort, road tripping is definitely for those who can appreciate the capricious.
Let’s face it, for those of us stuck in Winnipeg for the summer, dreams of escape follow us like ominous rain clouds. With financial and chronological constraints a pressing reality, we must vacation creatively. And there is no better way to do this than by getting in a car and going on a road trip.
The destination is always secondary. It is the meditative quality of sitting still for hours on end as scenes pass by your cerebral cortex faster than you can 6process them that forms the life altering essence of road trips. Suspended in this peaceful state of transition, insights about the home we have temporarily left behind and the people in it are frequent. At its best, we leave our everyday lives to road trip in order to know ourselves better.
I can attest to this as each road trip that I have been on has immeasurably contributed to the person that I am today. Through shitty road trips and electrifying road trips, there has been something formative about all of them.
My most recent road trip, to the town of Steep Rock in northern Manitoba, has helped make this jaded girl a little less jaded. Nestled on the shore of Lake Manitoba, there is nothing about this place that remotely reminds me of being in Manitoba. The lake water is clear, and on sunny days is the turquoise colour reserved for tropical destinations. There are limestone cliffs that line part of the shoreline, as well as caves that offer stunning views. Just three hours from Winnipeg, this place feels like it is a world away from everything that I know.
Next to the shore is a place that I like to call Peter’s Paradise. It is a small red and white kiosk equipped with hammocks and patio umbrellas — and unparalleled hospitality from its owner Peter Hofbauer. A world traveler who summers in his hometown of Steep Rock, Peter rents out canoes, kayaks and paddle boats, as well as selling drinks and snacks. Always friendly and engaging, Peter is akin to Steep Rock’s unofficial ambassador.
There is one privately owned campground just past the town’s defunct quarry and seemingly endless vista of hay bales. Appropriately called Steep Rock Beach Campground, this is a popular spot for campers. The wide selection of VHS movies available for rent in the campground office adds to this place’s small town charm. Most of the campsites are private and well-treed. Wild raspberries and saskatoon berries are abundant around the campground and are a tasty accompaniment to any fire-cooked meal.
Catching the sunset from the pebbled beach is not to be missed and if you are fortunate, you may get to meet some of Peter’s lovely family. You may even hear Peter’s musical dad play the mouth organ or even his accordion.
Yes, it is finding places and people like this that make road tripping a necessity. As much as road tripping is not about the destination, you can meditate on feeling doubly blessed when your road trip destination delivers just as much satisfaction as the journey.