This past Saturday, I visited Westman Reptile Gardens near Brandon. Having first seen their brochure in a nearby shopping center a couple of years ago, I had been anxious to see their collection of crocodiles, snakes and lizards. Saturday at last presented that opportunity.
En route, as many of you might have expected, I stopped to get a shot of this sign at the junction of PTH 16. This Yellowhead sign with the “16” in the middle is among the last of a dying breed, since every sign on the route has been replaced with Trans-Canada signage. The only other remaining sign like this is in the eastbound direction on the other side of the traffic light. Interestingly, I have seen old signs like this cut in half, turned around and repainted for use elsewhere in this area.
The halfway tree, the unofficial halfway point between Winnipeg and Brandon.
Near Road 77W was the first sign for Pile o’Bones, Saskatchewan’s capital that is currently known as Regina.
It would not be a drive in the SPRM without construction.
There is plenty of advance signage for the turnoff at PR 340 north of Douglas that takes you there. As the sign suggests, it is an official Manitoba Star Attraction.
Before going there, however, we had a nice side trip to Brandon, only a few miles to the west.
I took advantage of the light traffic to get a shot of this overhead sign near the P.E.T.R.O.-Canada station. For those of you who are unaware, P.E.T.R.O. unofficially stands for Pierre Elliott Trudeau Rips Off Canada. P.E.T.R.O.-Canada was founded during Trudeau’s autocratic rule over Canada and the Crown corporation remains a sore point in many regions of the country. It is scary to contemplate the fact that Trudeau’s son, a pothead with the maturity of a ten-year-old, leads a major political party today.
This station always evokes memories of a time when I was there with my parents as a young child on our way back from the Farmers’ Republic of Saskatchewan. We had been talking at length with a family with young children who left about a half hour before we did. After getting back on the highway, we saw their car overturned in the ditch. We never found out what became of them, but it certainly didn’t look good. This was in an era before seat belt use and airbags were commonplace.
Grand Valley, west of Brandon. For those of you who have not read Pierre Berton’s book on the settling of the West, the settlement that has become the SPRM’s second-largest city would have been in Grand Valley were it not for the original landowners who had overplayed their hand with the railway.
Back in Brandon for a lunch break at Subway, we had the misfortune of being stuck behind three guys, none of whom spoke much English. It was an entertaining and lengthy game of charades as the three guys and the flustered clerk traded hand gestures to try and get their orders right.
Heading east on PR 457, Veteran’s Way, towards the Reptile Gardens, there was this interesting sight on the road.
This half-wit had stopped to let her big dog run loose amid the heavy traffic in both directions, making no effort to keep the dog contained. Not only could this idiocy have caused an accident and significant damage to a passing car, but the dog was left in mortal peril. It looked as if the dog owner was trying to get someone to euthanize her dog and use an MPI claim to pay the bill.
The Reptile Gardens are well off the beaten path, but there is plenty of signage to direct you there off PR 340.
From the outside, it doesn’t look like much and were it not for the signs, a passer-by could easily mistake it for just another one of the handful of farmhouses in the area.
They hadn’t even swept away the light dusting of overnight snow.
Upon walking in, the pair of disinterested teenagers behind the counter couldn’t even be bothered to greet us. I had to ask as to how much the admission price was and one of then made the supreme sacrifice to get off her stool and accept my money. I haven’t seen such lethargy since I last attended a Fighting Moose game a decade ago. They would make for ideal Mark Chipman employees, but they would have to learn not to give a cursory “thank you” before customers leave, as they did in our case, in order to be considered for employment in a Chipman organization.
I then took out my camera and started capturing digital images of their massive reptile collection.
A turtle near the front entrance. Admittedly, it’s not a great picture, but, considering the circumstances, it’s the best that I could do. The facility was poorly lit and the glass in many of the pens obviously does not get cleaned very often, if ever.
A snake near the front entrance.
A yellow snake shedding its skin.
A lizard sizing up a sludge pond.
This lizard actually had it good by comparison.
Crocodiles were left to soak in shallow pools of murky water and some pens didn’t even have water at all. One turtle was left at the bottom of a dry tub that was clearly too deep for it to be able to crawl out of. Their quarters seemed small and most of the creatures looked like zombies doing hard time in prison. All in all, perhaps the most disappointing part of the visit was to see the poor conditions under which the reptiles are kept.
A turtle trying to escape.
And another snake.
It’s a snake, trust me, though it’s hard to tell through the dirty glass.
Also included in their collection were scorpions, tarantulas and piranhas. I tried to get some shots of them, but again, the fact that the glass had not likely been cleaned since it left the factory rendered fruitless any attempts at getting good shots of them.
I spent about three-quarters of an hour there and I enjoyed my visit. I had expected a little more, but, overall, I still found it to be a worthwhile trip.
For more information on Westman Reptile Gardens and their location, check their Web site at www.reptilegardens.ca.