From July 1 to the 24, five members of the concert band, Country Blend, from Baldur, arranged a concert tour for themselves and 36 others to a part of Canada that had never seen a touring bus! Thee couples from Deloraine, Ivan and Linda Carey, Glen and Margaret Franklin, and David and Claire Day were part of this epic journey, all 12,000 kilometers of it!
Our group was a motley crew that came from all across the prairies, British Columbia and even Ottawa. Our bus driver Dave and his wife Margaret, from Lloydminister guided us through many harrowing experiences.
The bank played eleven concerts at different stops as we traveled north from Calgary to our destination, Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. This hamlet is above the Arctic Circle near the Arctic Ocean and Beaufort Sea. Most of us had packed warm clothes in anticipation of tundra temperatures but eh day we arrive3d at “Tuk” it was 25 degrees Celsius! We rarely wore a jacket during eh whole trip.
The band played to a variety of audiences, but the loyal passengers were always in the crowd. “Crazy Fingers” Gordy Lindquist from Bottineau, Country Blend’s pianist, is as much fun off stage as he is onstage. One never knows what he’ll say, at one concert he looked at David Day and thanked him for being his music teacher for many years. The tour group even became roadies for the and by helping to load and unload the equipment, and that included Gordy’s full-size upright piano! This meant up flights of stairs in the North because of the permafrost. Our favourite concert was in Tsiigehtchic, NWT, a small village on the Mackenzie River shoreline. During eh winter vehicles travel on the ice, but the rest of the year, traffic is carried by the ferry MV Louis Cardinal. So, our tour bus got loaded to cross the Arctic Red River. Some of the 120 residents of Tsiigehtchic were treated to a free concert and the Country Blend entourage were treated to an amazing homemade meal of white fish and mashed potatoes that was prepared by two older gentlemen. The children came off the playground to sit in the front row and be wowed by Crazy Fingers playing the piano with leather mitts on!
In the Land of the4 Midnight Su, young people are out on play structures or quads until two in the morning or later with the continuous daylight. But this makes for peaceful, quiet mornings. Another Arctic phenomenon we saw was the pingos! Mountains made of ice pushing through the soil surface, it’s worth a Google to see a picture!
This adventure was planned when the new highway opened up between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. The journey up the Dempster highway, which was built in the 1970’s, form Dawson City to Inuvik was so dusty, but then on the way back through rain and sleet it was hair-raising! There had been a mudslide and so we had to be escorted through the slick road conditions just before they closed the highway. A more appropriate word would be a logging road. But he scenery made up for the rough terrain. After a ninety-five dollar “bus bath” we could marvel at eh fir trees, sparkling water and mountainous landscapes. The wildlife was abundant, we saw black bears, mountain sheep and goats, healthy bison, huge ravens and eagles. And there was splashes of colour everywhere with the vibrant purple fireweed. The forty-two passengers onboard made many “pit stops” and briefly shopped for the local arts and crafts, like bead and caribou work, jade and wood carvings.
The trip was amazing but it was made so enjoyable with an easy-going group of people who rolled with the punches and faced every new day’s adventure. Canada is a vast and wonderful country and we were lucky to make new friends with the warm, loving and trusting Inuit people. CBC Radio North interviewed several travelers of our group as we were the first bus tour to “Tuk” and we might be the last for a while if the highway is impassable. One member of our group taught in Inuvik fifty years ago and was able to reconnect with some of her former students.
An adventure to remember and made possible by Cyn and Dianne Lodge for having these dreams and making them a reality for us to share
Editor’s Note: A big thank you to Claire Day for taking me seriously when I asked her to take notes on her trip. It is so much appreciated and gives us a glimpse of the far north. We often joke about going as far as Tuktoyaktuk in our speech (to exaggerate) – now we know people who really did it.