The Vandersluys Back Roads Tour 2008: Day 3

Day 3 of the vacation was a full day—not too much driving, but quite a bit to see.  We started the day with a trip to the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina.  The main reason we went to the Science Centre was because right now there is a Magic School Bus (children’s educational television show) exhibit, which we thought would be interesting for the kids.  The kids went through it and seemed to enjoy themselves for the most part, but it proved to be underwhelming; I’m guessing this was the tail-end of the exhibit’s tour, as some displays were not functioning properly or altogether broken.

Luke poses.  For once.

The science centre hasn’t changed much since I went there as a child.  The kids enjoyed it.

After wandering in alone, Madeline ran screaming from the room below.Mangy Zombie Bear with Gimp Eye

Behind Luke and I is what I have dubbed “Mangy Gimp-Eyed Zombie Bear”.   There is a motion sensor somewhere in the room; when you enter, the bear’s head starts moving and it starts pawing and growling.

It’s an unnerving sight, mostly because the bear looks like taxidermied road-kill.  Its stiff movements, mangy hair and dead right eye belied the fact that this bear had been dead on the side of the road for several days before being picked up, stuffed and making the rounds of science centres and roadshows across the continent before settling at the Saskatchewan Science Centre.  The bear, it appears, had been undead prior to said demise.  This is all conjecture of course.  Scary stuff.

After the science centre, I took Madeline and Luke to the Kramer Imax Theatre, which adjoins the science centre, while Dixie and Olivia went off to do some shopping.  The choice for the kids was between exclamatory titles: Dinosaurs Alive! or Sharks! It’s too late now, but had I noticed the punctuation in those titles at the time, I would have exclaimed them each time they were spoken, like so:

“Well, which film should we see, kids—Dinosaurs ALIVE! or SHARKS!! ? What do you think?  It’s up to you.  I think I’d prefer SHARKS!, but it’s more likely that you’d enjoy Dinosaurs ALIVE!

But I digress . . .

We did choose Dinosaurs Alive! because we thought the kids would enjoy it more.  In retrospect, Sharks! may have been a better choice, because Dinosaurs Alive! was 80% documentary about palientology and discoveries of new dinosaurs and maybe 20% subpar computer animation of those dinosaurs.  This was enjoyable to me, maybe not so much for the kids.  But they got (free! day old! they were out of kernels!) popcorn and (not free!) candy and saw some dinosaurs on a really big screen.  They said they liked it.  Kids are probably easier to please than parents-on-behalf-of-kids.

After the IMAX theatre, we all drove to the University of Regina, our alma-mater, which is just south of the science centre.  From the outside the university looks the same, but once on the grounds inside the circle of main buildings the place is nearly unrecognizable.  I spent 4.5 years there and nearly got lost.

We visited our favourite buildings, which are actually Luther College and Campion College and looked up the offices of our favourite professors.  Of course, being summer, no one was around.  Then it was off to the Ad-Hum building, where Maryanne and friends would hang out in the pit.

This is me at the writing centre, where I choose to work for my one semester of graduate studies:

The Writing Centre

Exciting stuff, isn’t it?  There’s a more interesting story I can attach, however: one of my other options available to me for student work was to work with Jeanne Shami, who is a world-renowned John Donne expert (she’s referenced, incidentally, in Wikipedia’s article on John Donne).  What a chicken I was!  It was probably a good thing for Dr. Shami that I chose not to work with her, because I left the program temporarily (and then permanently) after one semester.  Had I stuck with it, however, I would have made a very poor choice.

The Writing Centre was a frustrating job, by the way, because I spent most of my time tutoring a) dim-witted jocks who were just filling their English requirement, and b) English As a Second Language Students who somehow managed to get into 200+ level English courses without having English as even a 3rd or 4th language.  But it paid the bills.

And here’s me at the other end of the hall in front of what was my shared office that one semester:

My office The professor in the office next to mine was also a tea lover.  He would give me tea samples.  He’s one of the people I missed after I left.

After the university and a quick lunch, we left the city in search of the Big Muddy Badlands.  After I read about the Big Muddy Badlands in a CAA magazine a couple of years ago I intended to take a solo road trip to the area.  That turned into a road trip with Madeline.  That didn’t happen.  Then last year’s travels of the back roads of Saskatchewan were a hit, so Dixie planned this year’s trip around the Big Muddy Badlands.


On the way there we found the highway completely blocked by someone moving a Quonset in one piece.

Quonset being moved, near Coronach, SK

Quonset being moved, near Coronach, SK

You won’t see that on the main highways.

The Big Muddy Badlands are the head of the Outlaw Trail, where outlaws such as the Sundance Kid would hide out.  Immediate appeal there.  Plus, “Big Muddy” sounds like the perfect name for a town in a western film (it’s probably the similarity to Unforgiven‘s “Big Whiskey” that makes it appealing).

Here’s the thing: the Big Muddy Valley looks exactly like something from a Clint Eastwood western:

Big Muddy Valley

Bug Muddy Valley

It was hot, dry, solitary—just what I was looking for.  I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a shoot-out on horseback in the distance.  Davey could very well have been shot by William Munny in them hills yonder.

Our goal was Castle Butte, a 90-metre high clay monolith in the Big Muddy Valley (approximately at the green dot on the map above).  It was about 20 kilometres down a gravel road.  Here it is, folks:

Castle Butte

It was quite a sight and bigger than it looked.  We drove up to the base of Castle Butte and go out planning on first doing a little spelunking in a cave Maryanne’s husband, Chris, told us about and then climbing the Butte itself.

The cave wasn’t hard to find.  The entrance was a little low and even though I’m not claustrophic (that I’m aware of), I was reluctant to go into the cave.  Madeline had been talking about exploring the cave since before we left.  We even packed some flashlights.  We did finally go in.  It goes back into the Butte about 50 feet, before the cave jumps up into a smaller passage clearly carved by water.  The cave was very cool (in both senses of the term). Someone more brave and skilled than I could possibly have gone further into that smaller passage, but that wasn’t for me or the kids.

At the entrance to the Castle Butte cave

After we left the cave, Madeline, Luke and I started climbing Castle Butte, but it quickly became clear that it was too steep for the kids to climb.  After some yelling and some tears, I headed up alone while everyone else waited in the van.

A picture of me at the top and one of the van from the top:

Me near the top of Castle Butte The Van from the top of Castle Butte

After this, we drove to Coronach and had a nice meal at At Touch of Class (which looked far from it on the outside), where I had possibly the most refreshing Pilsner ever.  That southern Saskatchewan sun was hot!  It was like we spent the afternoon in a Sergio Leone film.  After that we drove to the B&B on a farm 10 minutes out.

More pictures in my vacation set.  And check out the map.

5 thoughts on “The Vandersluys Back Roads Tour 2008: Day 3

  1. Collette

    you guys have the neatest vacations! I have been wanting to go to Big Muddy for a couple of years now! but, haven’t made it there yet.

  2. Linea

    That is cool. I like the map with the pictures overlaid on it. If you would have gone west on the #18 a bit farther you would have come to Leo’s old stamping grounds – Rockglen. At he was not far north of there while you were exploring the place at his brother’s in Scout Lake.

    He thinks I don’t like the south but it has its own beauty. I don’t like the dry hot winds in the summer and the blizzards in the winter and the red necks that are common place in the region!

  3. Phil L

    That’s a lot to fit into one day.

    Apart from Cypress Hills and the Great Sand Hills, I haven’t seen enough of southern SK. Thanks for this travelogue on our diverse province. You are an inspiration.

  4. Pingback: Vacation Pictures | VanderMeander

Comments are closed.