Running Back to Saskatoon / by Deborah Clague

It's an endless drive. The drive from Saskatoon to Winnipeg. Right when you think you are closing in on your final destination, the expanse of nothingness continues. Through Chamberlain, through Moosomin. Through towns with a population of 8.4. My iPod kept recycling Make Me Wanna Die as if reading my mind. But the extra long drive was nothing compared to the torture I faced in the 'Peg. The city didn't take our break-up well and decided to kick my ass upon my return.

I arrived early in the evening on August 27 with luggage, a wee dog and a growling stomach. Saskatoon is a great city, but it's got NOTHING on Winnipeg in terms of quality and variety of restaurants. Before departing, I made a list of all the places I wanted to revisit during my whirlwind week. Near the top of the list was Santa Lucia Pizza. After denying myself food all day, I made haste to the phone to order a pepperoni pie. Memories of their sweet, tangy sauce and ooey-gooey cheese made me salivate in anticipation. But after biting into a piece, I noticed something was different. Perhaps it was new management trying to rework a classic in their own vision. Or maybe it could all be blamed on the economy and yet another business attempting to increase their profits by decreasing quality of materials. In any event, this pizza did not live up to their usually high standards. The pepperoni had a weird flavor to it. The sauce lost it's bite. The ooey-gooey cheese was still there, but could not save it. I still devoured the whole thing in record time, but it was strictly out of pity. At this point, I was so hungry I was eyeing the cardboard box.

I awoke the next morning to a gut-ache and a flat tire. A bummer for sure, but part of me was just happy to see my vehicle in the same spot I parked it in (Winnipeg is the car-theft capital of Canada). After making a pit stop at the mechanic, I went for a walk with the two dogs downtown. This is not the first choice most pet-owners would make but Monty is already an urban pooch and Reggie is just happy to be taken anywhere. I wanted to "rediscover" the area of which I had spent a good portion of my adult life (albeit within regular work hours). I wanted to try seeing the beauty in a place that is considered so very, very ugly. Slowly meandering down the streets I once tried to flee, I realized that the downtown core is actually quite awe-inspiring. Every alley tells a story. Every block standing as a monument to Winnipeg's rise, fall and death at the hands of indifference. I made my way through the Exchange towards Higgins and then back around to Canada's most famous intersection of Portage and Main. Yes, vagrants were encountered. Yes, there were weird smells emanating from some of the abandoned buildings. I don't think I would live there, but if I still called the city home, I would definitely make more of an effort to appreciate its core (before the moon rises at least).

The trek through the concrete jungle definitely made me work up a healthy appetite thus my culinary adventure continued with a visit to Palatal Mongolian Grill (my favorite restaurant). As I debated what toppings to include in my stir-fry (and what sauce would exotically compliment them), I momentarily forgot that successful walking involves putting one foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right...eons of evolution promise that this should be second-nature by now. All those years of dyeing my hair blonde, however, must have had a strange osmosis effect. Or at least that's what I tell myself as I nurse a broken toe and a bruised kneecap that is blacker than Cruella deVil's heart. Stir-fry was ace though (as always).

The remainder of the week was spent hiking through two of my favorite parks (La Barriere and Bird's Hill), getting stuck in traffic, having my faith in humanity depleted, having my faith in humanity restored. My mother made a turkey dinner with all the trimmings that should tie me over until Christmas (mmmmmm mmmmm) and I also had one more pizza, this time from Mr. B's (the best in all of Canada, I guarantee). It was a return to my former life and all the joys and stresses that accompany it. Nearing day four though, I realized why I had wanted a change. Needed a change. I started to miss Saskatoon, where people still say 'hello' to each other while out for a walk rather than clutching their purses (and pearls). Where you can drive from one end of town to the other in 20 minutes flat. Where my newest favorite food resides (Super Donair). My stomach growling again, I hit the highway for the endless drive back.

Although it always seems faster when heading home.

Manitoba gallery has been added here.