To Moose Jaw

Oh man, what an awesome day that was. I decided last night that I would do the 35 or so km to Moose Jaw today and spend the rest of the day here. So I slept in, had a leisurely morning and hit the road at about 10.
The wind was not in my favour, which was not so much fun, but I was still able to maintain a decent pace. The road is finally starting to level out, and become what I thought the prairies are. A few km in I saw some cyclists heading west so I pulled over to have a chat. That’s how I met Guillaume and Virginie, a couple from France cycling from Quebec to Vancouver. Thank goodness that I was able to recall some of my French, because we were actually able to have a decent conversation. They were delightful people.
I pulled into my campsite in Moose Jaw at about 12:30, and set up my stuff. I had a pair of socks from a couple of days ago when I got caught in the rain that still had not had a chance to dry properly, so I left them out in the sun. They were really starting to smell. Then I went into town, got some lunch, and got my ticket for the tunnel tour. Moose Jaw has some underground tunnels that originally helped workers service the steam heating of many of the city’s buildings, but were later likely used by Al Capone during American prohibition.
I had first read about the tour of the tunnels in Moose Jaw in my guide book a few months ago, and ever since I have been looking forward to it. I don’t know why! I dislike guided tours and tourist traps, but I couldn’t help but want to do this. When I got my ticket I saw the board out front, which had a photo and description of each member of the cast. That’s right, cast. This was to be a theatrical production. And oh my goodness, was it ever theatrical.
The tour group, which consisted of 3 retired couples, one slightly younger couple, and me, were led across the street by some poor kid forced to wear dress pants and suspenders…they were not worn ironically, but for the minimum wage I’m sure he received. We were then left alone in a room above a cafe (not sure how the location was decided) across the street, where we were told our guide would meet us in a moment. I’ve gotta hand it to the university and college students and grads working at that job – they sure are earning every penny they make. Through humiliation.
A twenty-something girl in a flapper dress with a boa and feather in her hair, and red lipstick in a quantity normally reserved for the stage, burst through the door and introduced herself as our guide. I was instantly taken with the hilariousness of this.
She began as herself, asking us to turn our cameras and cell phones off. Then, with a deep breath, she became the character of Miss Fanny, a woman who ran a bar in Moose Jaw during prohibition. This took balls, as she was really just standing in a room above a cafe, in a silly costume, in front of a group of strangers, and had been talking to us in a normal voice only a moment before.
Her accent, I suppose, was meant to be from Chicago, although who knows. She led us through a door into a large room set up as a bar, with 3 humanesque robots – one was playing the piano, one was a bartender, and one was passed out at a table with drinks in front of him. She began interacting with these robots as if they were in a scene in a play. Whose idea was this? I guess hiring minimum wage actors costs more in the long run than these robots? They did not factor in the level of creepiness.
We were then directed to a screen in the bar, which showed a brief film about Al Capone and prohibition, narrated by the ever creepier bartender robot. It was informative, but easily could have been told by a live person.
When the clip was over Miss Fanny kept us moving through a few other rooms, furnished as if they were Al Capone’s office and bedroom. The actress did a decent job with what she had been given, but it was some weak material. The retirees ate it up.
We were then taken down a staircase into some underground rooms and tunnels where we were introduced to the character of Gus, played by another theatre grad. This actor was actually fantastic. He was calm and confident, had a believable New York accent, and smoothly interacted with the audience. He led us through some more tunnels and gave the rest of the tour, which was pretty good.
However, the most awkward part was saved for the end. At the very end, “Gus” said he wanted to introduce us to his good friend. He then removed his fedora and introduced himself as an actor. I’m pretty sure I saw that exact thing play out in an episode of the Simpsons. (“You may remember me from such films as…”)
The tunnel tour was everything I hoped it would be and more.
I was walking toward by bike when I ran into some fellow cyclists. Scott, who I met yesterday, and Asakaya from Japan were chatting in the sidewalk. I had run into Asakaya a couple of times in the past few days. Long story short, it is Asakaya’s 71st birthday. This guy is cycling from Vancouver to Toronto at the age of 71. Puts me to shame.
We went out for dinner at a terrible Chinese food restaurant (the restaurant selection in Moose Jaw is limited) and Asakaya ordered beer and wine for everyone. For the record, Asakaya is how I remember his name, but may not necessarily be correct. It was a blast and we all had a great time.
I came back to my campsite, prepared stuff for lunch tomorrow (shocker!) and took a hot shower (under the strongest shower head I’ve ever used). Now I’m off to bed in beautiful, warm, dry Moose Jaw. Lucky me.

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