Heloise Dixon-Warren and her husband Ted Traer set out to drive across the Yellowhead Highway in September. They were on their way to visit a friend in Winnipeg, and they drove through the Rockies through to the rolling prairies and on to their destination.
“We drove a lot. It was beautiful,” says Dixon-Warren. “We didn’t just drive on the Yellowhead; we got off, we zigzagged, and the viewscapes were just amazing. And the history of the Canadian prairies was phenomenal.”
They drove through communities with Orthodox Ukrainian Churches with onion dome roofs, abandoned towns where the only thing remaining was a still-operational post office, and rolling hills and farmland.
When the pair arrived in Winnipeg, they set out to learn more about Louis Riel, visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and even toured the Canadian Mint.
Dixon-Warren and Traer are both very interested in the local history in Bouchie Lake, and Billy Bouchie’s family came from Manitoba, which brought another layer to the trip for the pair.
“I encourage everybody to see Canada before it changes too much more,” says Dixon-Warren. “The towns on the prairies are getting smaller and smaller, as people are moving into the cities — which is where the work is. And the farms are getting larger.”
The history of the prairies is particularly interesting, says Dixon-Warren, because it’s so different from the history in B.C., and Eastern and Central Canada.
“We learned a lot about a different component of Canadian history,” says Dixon-Warren.
She says as they were driving in a limited time frame (two weeks) and their primary destination was Winnipeg, the time they spent in transit largely served to give them a feel for places they would like to return to for a visit.
The pair have been to the east coast, where Traer is from, and Alberta, but neither had spent much time in the prairies before their trip in September.
Of the trip, Dixon-Warren says their first stop was the most memorable.
“We went down to the Fraser River in Tete Jaune Cache. We’d never been there before, even though we’ve driven up and down the Yellowhead, we’ve been to Alberta numerous times and have driven past the sign … but we never pulled off the road.
“And there’s a beautiful kiosk there, with all this history about the community. There used to be a whole bunch of people living in Tete Jaune Cache and then it flooded and it all went down the river,” she says.
Dixon-Warren and Traer will be presenting their trip on Monday, Feb. 25 as part of the Bouchie Lake Lawnchair Travel Series.
It won’t be their first time presenting in the series, and as the organizers and the pair who originally started the series, it’s unlikely to be their last, either.
Although domestic trips aren’t as “sexy” as international ones, Dixon-Warren says they typically try to have at least one Canadian trip per travel series.
She was inspired to start the series in 2012, after hearing about a phenomenon called armchair travel, where people return from a trip, have a group of friends over and present the trip to them.
When they originally started the series, people would bring their own lawnchairs and set up in Bouchie Lake Community Hall, have a snack and enjoy the vivid photos and presentations. This year, the series moved from Bouchie Lake Community Hall to Rocky’s General Store, chairs provided.
The snack for Dixon-Warren’s presentation is still up in the air, but she says it could be inspired by the food they ate out of the back of their car (fruit, bread and cheese) or by the Ukrainian food they attempted to hunt down in Alberta (perogies, perhaps).
The series always happens over the winter months and has seen several presentations on far-flung destinations in Asia, Africa, South America, and even Antarctica. While they do have some European presentations, like the Feb. 18 Iceland presentation, they are typically rarer than other areas in the world.
The series is run by Dixon-Warren and Traer, through the Friends of Bouchie Milburn Society. “It’s a great way of generating a little funds for the community. All of the money that’s generated [by the presentations] stays in the Bouchie Lake area to purchase things for the community and support local events,” says Dixon-Warren.
Dixon-Warren and Traer will be presenting their trip, Views from the Yellowhead, on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., gates open at 6:30 p.m.