You learn a lot by travelling by bus. Okay, you could probably learn the same things when travelling by car, but you just don’t. That’s because when you travel by car you don’t have to pull off the road every 40 km or so to pick up or drop off passengers at places like Trout Creek (although I can understand why someone would want to get on the bus in Trout Creek, I don’t understand why they would get off the bus, but I digress). Anyhow, these are some of the things you have probably missed by whizzing by all of those exits.
There are many stores that do not think it is odd to advertise their product mix as ice cream, worms, and taxidermy. I’m not sure whether people stop in for a cone and leave the store with an impulse purchase of a stuffed moose head, or if you eat the ice cream while waiting for your moose to be stuffed. Regardless, the worms are in the fridge next to the ice cream freezer in handy snack-size containers, each with a little window in the Styrofoam so you can see if they are still alive.
Speaking of ice cream, small towns north of nowhere seem to have a big fascination with frozen desserts and frozen food in general. Maybe this is because ice is a renewable resource in those parts or perhaps it’s because things that are encased in ice are more likely to survive the trek beyond the outskirts of the 100 mile diet. A word to the wise: do not be seduced by the promise of mussels Provencal at the local diner – it will not end well.
It seems to be possible to make your living owning a motel a few miles off the highway (or maybe it was on the highway once, before they got the notion that four lanes were better than two perfectly good lanes). In fact, most of these motel owners are so proud of their entrepreneurial success that they put it right up there in neon: Irma’s Motel, Clouthier’s Motel, and Motel de Marie-Phillipe, to name a few you might want to visit if you find yourself anywhere near Mattawa or South River (but be sure to make a reservation well in advance if you plan to be there during hunting season). Also note that not all of the patrons heed the rule of not cleaning their deer in the room, so be sure to inspect yours before you hand over the $45 (high season rate – colour television, no breakfast).
Businesses off the beaten track are masters of the art of diversification. The Cloverleaf Hotel, a fine example of mid-century non-modern architecture with much more ample parking than its maximum capacity would seem to require, now offers long term accommodation to seniors (quite a different business model than its previous incarnation as a ‘rooms by the hour’ establishment), monthly memberships to its ‘fitness centre’ (a treadmill past its prime, a swimming pool that must be at least 10 feet long, and one of those vibrating machines that are supposed to trim your waistline without working up a sweat), and acts as the local bus/package delivery depot.
Although urban hipsters think they invented the food truck last year, rural landscapes have long been dotted with mobile purveyors of made-to-order, farm fresh delicacies, mostly headlining the potato. You will never go hungry however far you are from the main highway if you remember that the chip wagon will always be found in the centre of town. And if you have trouble finding the centre of town, you have bigger problems than I can help you with.