Ducati: Many Roads of Canada – Finding the North Star

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Ducati: Many Roads of Canada - Winnipeg, MBMy original plan was to push through Winnipeg, but my blind servitude to the Garmin Zumo GPS carries me into the downtown core.  Then architecture grabbed me, the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank, the Via Rail station.  A rail hub and the former central point of the fur trade Winnipeg has maintained a sense of grandeur even as the modern world moved on and red river carts became trains, trains and trains gave way to automobiles and plane.

My original plan was to push through Winnipeg, but my blind servitude to the Garmin Zumo GPS carries me into the downtown core.  Then architecture grabbed me, the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank, the Via Rail station.  A rail hub and the former central point of the fur trade Winnipeg has maintained a sense of grandeur even as the modern world moved on and red river carts became trains, trains and trains gave way to automobiles and plane.

The lure is strong enough to encourage me to set aside the cross Canada push, and stay the night.  That’s a bit of a problem.  Thinking I was going to ride through, I’ve already begged off staying with a friend’s mother, so that leaves hotels (expensive) or the hostel.  Politeness dictates not flip-flopping on such decisions.

Ah, the chic of travel on a budget.

At the hostel’s front desk I ask the clerk for her take on the “quintessential Winnipeg restaurant.  Something not to expensive, where real people go for a good dinner, but not a special one.”  The result was a curiously blank look.  Eventually, I just asked, “Where are the best perogies in town.”

“That would be Alycia’s.  You’ll want to drive.”

Traveler’s luck.  I arrive at Alycia’s and it’s closed, across the street is a burger stand called the North Star Drive-In.

As I order Brie at the counter explained, “They’ve been closing early.”  

Every city has a dark pride in it’s rough part of town, and the ‘Peg is no different.  Read the local media and the culture of fear rings through the pages, the gangs have come to town.  “Shootings, stabbings, the works”, says one of my Hostel roommates – a semi-resident security guard weighing in at 300-plus.

At the corner of Cathedral and Machray, the North Star is clearly a family affair.  Brie’s father, is the cook, and there’s even a motorcycle connection as he used to ice race.

Brie remembers traveling to the races with her father.  “They used to pour Coke on the tracks to improve traction.  We had an old volkswagen van and I used to sit on the engine.  One time another driver cut Dad off, and he slammed on the brakes.  I chipped a tooth on the bike.”

I’d like to take a moment to dig further, to meet Brie’s dad, to bench race a bit and listen to the stories of ice racing, but they are busy closing up shop.

Garbage is being taken out.  Metal shutters drawn.  Chains draped across the parking lot entrances.  Across the street, a group of young men are hanging out around a heavily tuned and modified civic.  Night has fallen and the drive-in has become a small rectangular fortress by the time I’ve finished my meal.

Back at the Hostel, Mr. Security asks me where I went for dinner.  I tell him about the North Star, the ice racing, and Alycia’s closing early, the response is a slightly stricken look and, “You went to North Winnipeg?  At least it wasn’t dark.”

“Of course it was dark.  It’s night.”

Perhaps the North Star’s fortification during closing should have been a tip-off, but I was distracted.  A hand formed patty, fresh hand-cut fries and entraining conversation can do that.

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