Day 45 Ponteix to Lafleche, Saskatchewan: Ici On Parle Francais - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 14, 2011

Day 45 Ponteix to Lafleche, Saskatchewan: Ici On Parle Francais

The laid back prairie environment is so restful, it hurts to even think of the world of whizzing traffic, pay parking, and anonymous strangers. This is true even if the traffic is whizzing to a Best Buy, staffed by those strangers. (And I'm sticking to that position, until my computer breaks (or a new model is introduced!).

We began our day chatting with Hector, the man in charge of the campground and pool. There might have been some discussion about whether we put our tent in the right place, or any other administrative issues, but the focus was on substantive matters: the prevailing winds, road ahead of us, problems of local farms, etc.

Our tent site in Ponteix. We put it right by the washroom building. Since we were the only ones in the park, this was our private ensuite.
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Ponteix main street. Typically charming.
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We moved on to the local cafe, where the scene has become so familiar: Non fancy surroundings, 8-12 farmers at one table, possibly some of their wives at another table. Bacon, eggs, toast on offer. This time the cafe was also a "bakery", which in rural Canada means donuts and too fluffy cinnamon buns. We settled on muffins, which were not half bad.

The bakery was not too innovative!
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The standard table of farmers.
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Dodie talks to Ron St Cyr.
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A typical street in Ponteix
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One fellow in particular asked us the UQs, and we in turn asked some of our farm questions. The fellow, Ron St. Cyr, confirmed the continued process of rural depopulation. He estimates that typical farms are 20 quarter sections now (3200 acres) and ranging up to 40 quarters (6400 acres). We will check the Census of Agriculture soon to get the final word on this.

I snapped Ron's photo with Dodie, and asked his name. After that it was not long for us to ascertain that he was the cousin of one of our friends in Duncan. Our friend's father had grown up in Ponteix. Small country!

We did not have time to check out the Ponteix cultural centre, but we know this is one of the first spots where French heritage in strong on the prairies. Of course, in Winnipeg at St. Boniface there is an extremely strong French presence. Still, the farmers at the table in Ponteix did their chatting 1/2 in French and 1/2 in English.

The town features a very impressive church built around the time of the town's founding. The town itself was named, we believe, after the place in France where the founding priest came from.

On the way back to the highway we passed the graveyard, and could see the St. Cyr presence in the town very clearly.

The impressive church
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Our friend's family is much in evidence in the town
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The St Cyrs of Ponteix
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Although earlier on our trek through Saskatchewan ghost towns were both spooky and a problem for us in getting supplies, towns with cafes or gas are a little more plentiful in this stretch. So at Hazenmore we found a small bar/cafe, and in fact they made an excellent flame broiled burger! The town itself, followed the now familiar pattern: a few quiet streets and one block of small old buildings housing the downtown core. The big features are friendly people and he fact that you could take a nap in the middle of Main Street with little fear.

Hazenmore is also peaceful
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The Hazenmore cafe (and bar!)
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One of the reasons that we seem to a little less worried about reaching groceries and camping is that our range has improved with the flatter road and better weather. However we see up ahead some pretty long gaps (and some worsening weather). So we still have to plan out hops, to make sure that each day is neither too short nor too long.

Another classic scene
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Rural depopulation is proceeding, with family farms disappearing. These auction flyers at the Coop are all current. Between their lines are sad stories.
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The plan for today included the hope of making it to Assiniboia, so we could then hop to Ogema at 92 km. We pooped out though at LaFleche, so we will pay for it tomorrow with an extra long day.

We are becoming connoisseurs of small prairie towns, and we see that Lafleche, while nice, is not in the top rank. The downtown lacks true heritage buildings, and the cafe is integrated with a bar (a la USA). Dining next to three beeping video gaming machines does not produce the correct ambiance.

The "cafe" at Lafleche.
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Still, in Lafleche, the great open prairie is never too far away, and that prairie is gorgeous. In Banff, you see a mountain at the end of the main street. In Caye Caulker, Belize it's the ocean. In Lafleche its the ocean of grass. Each of these places is stunning in its own way, and we love them all.

Lafleche does have a nice church too
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Downtown Lafleche
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At the end of main street (or almost any street) is the sea (of grass). By the way, this truck was parked in the middle of the street unattended for at least an hour. You can see it sitting there alone in the previous photo.
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