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SPRUCE BAY: Lazy days

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The Caravan Song

Where the sun always shines

and the boys are lookin' fine

Sittin' out by the fire,

2 a.m. it's burnin' brighter,

When the sun comes up

we'll be loungin' in the sand

But until then,

we're stuck in this Caravan!

There's a quiet little haven about an hour north of Winnipeg that is inspiring starry-eyed teenagers to write incriminating songs while "stuck" in a newer-model passenger van.

It's a tremendously tranquil spot where, truth be told, the sun doesn't always shine. In fact, it's been raining quite a bit lately at Spruce Bay, a quaint little beach borough on the western shores of Lake Winnipeg.

We bought a cottage here a couple of years ago after spending way too many years camping in a two-room tent. It's a teeny thing, not much bigger than a spacious garage, but we're quickly finding that our summer retreat on Lakeshore Drive is fitting this straightforward family of five just fine.

Inside, the walls are covered in chocolate-brown panelling not unlike the kind our parents installed in their basements back in the '70s. And in keeping with this dated decorative theme, the sunken living-room floor is swathed in an orange and brown carpet. It's a questionable design, quite possibly left over from the so-called flower-power era, and is, quite frankly, the only item destined for the dump.

Down the hall, the bedroom walls come to an abrupt end about four feet before the 12-foot tiled ceilings. It took some getting used to but, after a couple of summers, this group of novice cottagers can sleep through just about anything. In fact, snoring, chewing and other nightly noises have become quite commonplace around here so, if you plan on spending the night, it's best to leave your insecurities at the door.

Outside, just through the screened porch where countless jigsaw puzzles have already been solved and endless novels have been read, sits one of two lovely wooden sun decks. The first, the one with the shiny new barbecue and lopsided picnic table, faces south. As a result, it has become the gathering spot for various young sun-seekers who, oddly enough, prefer to stretch out on raised deck railings rather than loungers.

The other deck, anchored on the west side of the cottage, faces the cottage area's main road. Every beach town has their own Lakeshore Drive, an inadvertent meeting place for loads of local dog-walkers and other friendly passersby who just want to stop and chat. It's also a cycling path, an electric golf-cart corridor and a dirt bike strip. But most importantly, the busy, bustling roadway serves as a passageway to the nearby community cornerstone, The Sands Beach Café and Bake Shop.

This is where beachgoers, campers and cottagers go for fresh-baked pastries and pina colada soft ice cream. Gerry Hammond, the marketing and office manager of the neighbouring Spruce Sands Trailer Resort, sells just about anything at this essential meeting place that's been around since Spruce Bay Road was paved nearly 50 years ago.

And even though Gimli and all its conveniences are only 10 minutes south on Highway No. 8, The Sands Beach Café and Bake Shop is the one and only spot for a meat-lover's pizza.

A lyrical inspiration?

Probably not, but it's pretty tasty nonetheless.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2009 E3

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