Tompkins, Canada - Polarsteps
We had visitors in Walsh! Christine and Em and Neko the dog, dear friends from Victoria, came and found us in the morning at our dumpy campground on their moving-across-the-country drive. It was the best. We had some breakfast at a dilapitated picnic table and then they had to move on to make it to Winnipeg Folk Fest and we moved on down the road.
We crossed into Saskatchewan and immediately found it not as flat as expected; the hills were gently rolling but pretty continuous, and it made for a tiring day. We ended the day in the tiny town of Tompkins, planning to head to the campground there, but we made a stop at the ice cream shop just off the highway and in the process of getting ice cream, were offered tenting space by Katrina (working at the ice cream shop) and her husband Ryler. They own a decomissioned curling rink in town that they're working on converting into an auto shop; we camped next to the building and they had us in to play pool for the evening, and then over to their house to shower and hang out in the morning. These two were so lovely, and made Tompkins a memorable stop-- a town whose claim to fame, otherwise, is as the home of the man who invented weather forecasting via use of pig spleens (it's worth looking up video of this; it does involve the spleen being placed on the forecaster's head before he declares that it's going to be a wet spring).
Walsh was the first time on this trip where interactions were not honest and straightforward. We had seen a super cheap campsite listed on google for just 5$ per night. It looked like it was super basic; a spot in a field, just off the highway, where we could pitch a tent and not be disturbed. Dealing with the owner was another thing completely; he also ran the gas station/ convenience store. He started by saying he could give me much cheaper gas if i bought lots of stuff from the store. He then charged me 10$ for the campsite (he didn't know Sara was with me so I didn't push it as 5$ a head is fine for a complete dump of a campsite) and tried charging 16$ for chips and no name "peach drink". Yeah, this guy makes a go from ripping people off because Walsh is a point on the map between a lot of nothing and people need gas and maybe a treat at that point. I avoided interacting with him the remainder of the evening. I looked him up online later and found out that he is in fact super sketch and violent; he did jail time for assaulting the owner of the gas station next door over gas prices. If you're ever in Walsh (not sure why you would be) do not go to the Save-On-Gas.
On the super plus side we woke up to Em and Christine in Walsh! They had been in Drumheller the evening before, had reached out to see where we were at and stopped there early that morning so we see the two of them. This was such a treat! Being with other queers makes everything shine just a bit brighter; the silver lining in a world that has not yet caught up to understanding who we are and that we don't fit into rigid catergories that the cis-het culture have set up (very much to thier own detriment in fact. Just imagine if there were not catergories? How would you know who to treat with more respect? Or how to deal with your own phobias?). I honestly do not have energy to have that conversation with everyone I meet; the blog can do that work for me. At this point I am simply dismissing being misgendered; it is for the most part out of people not knowing. It has been an interesting experiment in dysphoria and, frankly, culture shock being outside of the circle of people who know who I am for this amount of time. That's why visiting people we know on this trip has been so incredible and amazing.
Rolling into Tompkins was a nice shift out of the shadowy vortex of Walsh; we were offered a place to sleep by the person working the ice cream shop we stopped at (they had rum raisin! You have no idea how stoked I was!). Katrina and her husband, Ryler, bought the old curling rink and are slowly rennovating it to turn it into a mechanic shop. We played pool (on a purple pool table!) and went over to hang and have showers the next morning. There is always just so much kindness from people while on the road, so much more of that than the weird world of Walsh from the night before. As Sara mentioned, this is the home town of a forecaster who utilized pig spleens to do so. We watched video where he had the spleens on his head even. I was also informed he worked for the government of Canada; perhaps as a pig spleen forecaster.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲