After a great deal of consideration I am slowly taking this blog down. I am in the process of saving the information to my computer but over time you will see less and less on this site.
After a great deal of consideration I am slowly taking this blog down. I am in the process of saving the information to my computer but over time you will see less and less on this site.
In 2011 we set out for a two month road trip and looking back I realize I did very little in the way of planning. This time I have done more research and have booked extra days to do sight seeing on our way to Newfoundland. We have hotels and tours booked through to Sept 4 but have left the rest open. On our way to Newfoundland, we have a set date to be in Deer Lake but after that we are free to stay and tour with no specific date in mind. I have poured over maps and tour guides, making notes of things we want to see and do. Currently our return date is early October. I didn’t realize how much there was to see in the Maritime Provinces of Canada and we want to experience as much as possible.
After months of planning, we leave in three days (Aug 6). The suitcases are out and a small mountain of stuff is rising beside them. The bills are paid and all the household things are taken care of. The car is sporting new tires and we are ready and raring to go.
We want to thank of Tech support people – Keith Howie and my niece Jacqueline Cullimore for their assistance in making the website easier to navigate and follow, and easier for me to post. I love the new look and I hope our readers will take advantage of the “Facebook” link. This trip is also made easier in knowing our good friend Bob Davies is caring for our home and sweet dog Molly. We will miss both of you while we are gone.
We hope our readers will enjoy following along as we drive across Canada and back. We have been looking forward to and planning this trip for a long time and we are very excited to start this journey.
Despite weeks of planning and organizing I didn’t get to bed until after midnight and asked for a 6 a.m. wake up call. Most of the packing was done and in the car. I had room in my suitcase and we even had a little bit of room in the trunk of the car. I hope I remembered everything! Just as we were set to leave I checked my email only to find the deposit we paid for our January Panama rental is in question. The owner said he did not receive the money from PayPal but my account shows it was paid. I spent a few minutes trying to sort this out before we left, and as of tonight…still no word from him. We have paid for our flights so I hope we aren’t now going to have issues with our Panama rental. So much for good planning!
Our sweet little dog Molly is not in good health and is responding only so so to treatment, and as a result I found it very hard to say farewell ( for now) to her this morning. She is a bright little thing and knew something was up. I hope she will forgive us for leaving for two months. It was also hard to say good bye to our friend Bob as he takes over running the house and caring for Molly. These trips would not be possible without his assistance.
I had hoped to leave home no later than 0900 this morning but we left in good time…just before 8 a.m. Anyone will tell you this is a rare occurrence for me. I always have last minute things to attend to. As the trunk still had room, I did toss in our portable printer. The morning was warm and the skies sunny. I’m a prairie girl at heart and I enjoy looking at the fields of corn, potatoes and grain. We even saw a field of sunflowers in bloom.As we approached Medicine Hat the scenery gave way to barren hills and ranch land. From the Highway we could see the Cypress Hills off in a distance. On the Saskatchewan side of the hills is a high hill called Bald Butte. When you are standing on it, you are at the same elevation as the town site of Banff Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies. This outcropping was left behind during the last ice age and is a sight to behold….a forest in the middle of the prairies where you can find elk, bear and streams of trout.
We arrived in Swift Current ( my birth place) at noon hour. My husband suggested Wong’s Kitchen which is located on the highway. This used to be a great place to eat when I lived here so we opted to give it a go. What is the saying “You can’t go back” well that surely applies to my home town. The restaurant looks like it hasn’t had an update since it was built and while outside you could smell food, on the inside, you got the overwhelming smell of mold. I’m afraid my Trip Advisor review is not flattering, yet it was filled with locals.
As we were driving along I tried to remember all the surrounding towns and my have things changed. I really miss the old grain elevators,for one thing you could see them miles away and they broke up the landscape. We saw remnants old these prairie fortresses and the new replacements simply do not have the charm and appeal of the old grain elevators.
We arrived at our evening destination of Moose Jaw a couple of hours early and checked into our hotel ( which will not get a good review). We had booked to tour the “Tunnels of Moose Jaw” at 5 pm but they were able to move up our tour time. Between the mineral springs and the tunnels, Moose Jaw has become a bit of a tourist destination although the city isn’t trying hard to put on a pretty face. The Tunnel Toursoffer two tours, one telling of the Chinese immigration to the area and the other is the “Al Capone” connection. We opted for the Al Capone tour and while entertaining, it didn’t tell you anything about the tunnels. They want you to think Al Capone stayed in Moose Jaw while doing some rum running business, but in reality, he never stepped foot in the place. It was obvious the tunnels were rebuilt in places and after doing some digging I found out the truth about the tunnels. They were not for Al to hide his cache and hide from the law, instead the neighbouring building steam engineers, developed the tunnels so they could move goods around in the winter without having to endure the bitter prairie cold. They were used during prohibition era, as booze was moved through Moose Jaw to Chicago on the Soo rain line. They fell into disrepair after and have been redone and restored and turned into a tourist attraction.
After a disappointing meal at the local Bonanza, we took a ride around the city. Tomorrow we have a journey of 553 km ( ten less than today) as we travel to Portage La Prairie. We expect to continue to enjoy the prairie scenery for one more day.
After a good night sleep, we were up and ready for another day. We have learned a few tricks from our last long road trip and know to bring into the hotel, only those things we need. We bring in a change of clothes instead of a full suitcase and share a small bag with toiletries, medications etc. So one suitcase and the computer bag come in each night. Periodically we bring in the big suitcases to re-arrange stuff or when we do laundry. Prior to this trip I checked the internet for packing tips for road trips and they suggested a roll of paper towel, so I tossed one in. This morning our back window was filthy with dust and overnight dew, so was in need of cleaning and that roll of paper towel came in very handy.
I did all the driving today while Brian played tourist/passenger. The roads in Saskatchewan ( #1 Highway) were not in great condition as opposed to Alberta, but Manitoba was even worse. Maybe that is why Manitoba has a speed limit of 100 on the four lane Highway 1. East of Brandon we crossed over the Assiniboine River and the river is still high and you could see the surrounding areas filled with debris and fields remain under water. When we left Alberta we noticed the crops were maturing fast and the canola is finished blooming and in one case has been swathed. The further east we drive, the crops are further behind with places in Manitoba – the canola is just starting to bloom. The prairies are unusually green for this time of the year.
We stopped in Moosomin for lunch at the Red Barn. The place is new, spotless and while busy the service and food were good. When we left Moose Jaw this morningthey were starting to get hit by a severe thunderstorm but we were able to run out of it, but it looked pretty ominous in the rear view mirror. We no sooner left the storm when we hit fog at Regina. We had cloud cover until after lunch today which actually made the driving quite pleasant. I am surprised at how light the traffic is. The other thing we have noticed is the lack of gophers( Richardson ground squirrels). Since we left home we have seen 1 road kill but nary any others. I thought they had over run the prairies, so not sure why they seem to have disappeared.
We arrived in Portage La Prairie early but then found out we lost an hour…so not as early as we thought. It’s a windy but sunny day so we opted to check out the little town. It has a population of around 13,000 folks but serves a business area of 50,000. It is a main hub for trains as 72 trains pass through daily. The land around the town is very fertile ( likely from repeated flooding) and grows potatoes, beans, strawberries and grain crops. The potato plants grown here supply McDonald’s and Wendy’s food chains. Too bad we weren’t here this weekend. The are having the potato fest this weekend.
Portage has a lovely large park called Crescent Park which we opted to check out. I loved to see thefloating water lilies – in bloom and they have a Dutch style windmill, but can find no reason for it. The lake reminds me of Wascana lake in Regina, especially with the number of geese. You have to watch your step in the grass!
Tomorrow we are off for Winnipeg to visit a good friend then carry on to Kenora. Not sure what is going in Kenora, but it was a challenge to book a room, and that was over a month ago!
Today we had arranged to visit friends in Winnipeg and as we did not want to land on their doorstep too early, we had a bit of a lie in then a leisurely breakfast. As it was we still arrived an hour ahead of schedule but our friends were warm and welcoming and didn’t seem to mind the time.Don Jones and Brian met while they were working for Ganong Bros chocolate and were part of the sales team. Ganong got rid of their sale force in the 90s but Brian and Don kept in touch and both ended up as independent businessmen selling the same type of goods. If Brian is talking on the phone for more than 15 minutes….I know he is talking to “Jonesie”. Lynn ( Don’s wife) and I had never met but by the time we left, if it was I had known her forever. I sure wish they lived closer as we had a grand visit and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Five hours went by in what seemed like a heartbeat.
The drive from Portage to Winnipeg is a short one but gave us one last look at the prairies, of course intermingled with more and more trees. The farm land is this area is excellent and I think they could grow anything here with there beautiful dark soil. Once leaving Winnipeg it was obvious we were leaving the prairies behind us and the patch of trees became forests and the fields became lakes and granite.We left Winnipeg about 330 pm just as half of Winnipeg headed to “lake country” for this beautiful summer weekend. Combined with heavy traffic, occasion heavy downpours and road construction it was a slow but scenic drive.
I was looking forward to staying in our “upscale” booking at the Best Western Lakeside Inn and Conference Center in Kenora. I had checked other hotels when booking a month ago and found most places were completely booked. They have a rowing competition here this weekend plus another event, so the city is busy. Sorry to say our upscale booking is sadly lacking and very over priced…now I know why they still had rooms when no one else did! We opted for dinner on the 9th floor on this round structure. The dining room has a killer views and I wanted to take some photos but the windows need cleaning.The service and food were both found lacking and I think we will pass up our 25% off breakfast and find a diner further down the road in the morning. I was also put off by having them put $330 on my credit card to cover the room costs($160 + taxes) and “incidentals.” $170 for “incidentals”…you have got to be kidding! I was told they would refund the balance in the morning. Best Western always sends out an email survey when guests leave….pretty sure they won’t like mine! Tomorrow – Terrace Bay Ontario – pretty much in the middle of no where.
We opted for a Tim Horton’s breakfast today. Our hotel didn’t have a complimentary breakfast so we thought we’d see what we could find down the road. I have often regretted not getting the navigation system when I bought my car, but I knew if we were to use my car for this trip, I would need one. I got a Garmin GPS recommended by the manager at our local London Drug and so far we have been very happy with it. They are doing sewer line replacements by the marina and near our hotel and several roads are blocked. The GPS was very helpful in getting us to the hotel and onto the highway this morning.
Prior to leaving Kenora this morning we stopped at Safeway to buy some ginger ale and bottled watered. One of the suggested tips I found prior to this trip, was to bring your own pop/soda into the hotel to avoid buying them from the vending machine. It was also suggested to stick with water at meals and save the $3.00 cola cost. I have done this since we started the trip and I believe we are saving $10 at day. This saving is very helpful considering today we paid $1.45 for a litre of gas. We stopped at the Wayfarer Restaurant in Ignace Ontario for lunch today. We felt we got a bargain at lunch.Brian had a hot beef sandwich and I got a bacon cheeseburger. The bill including tax….$14.95.
We have definitely said good bye to the prairies with the landscape now forest and rocks…mostly granite. The highways have signs everywhere warning of moose on the road. About a 1/2 mile in front of us a huge deer decided to lope across the highway. Fortunately there was little traffic. The traffic comes in spurts and that is for a reason. As soon as we entered Ontario we noticed a huge improvement in the road surface. The amount of road construction / reconstruction is like nothing I have ever seen. There were times you couldn’t get up to speed when you hit another construction zone. I lost count after 20. The Trans Canada Highway is two lane traffic with passing lanes few and far between and the posted speed is 90.As a result, in the construction zones they close one lane so you sit and wait for on coming traffic then you get your turn. I figure I would hit at least once where we didn’t have to come to a full stop…never happened. When I was planning our trip I knew today would be a long haul but though we would arrive at 4 or 5 this afternoon. It was 7 when we got to our destination. I had not planned for the loss of an hour ( time change), the slow posted speed and the road construction.
The GSP took us around Thunder Bay so we didn’t get to see the grain terminals and only occasionally got glimpses of Lake Superior. We finally did come to a” look out” and got a real look at this huge lake. I stopped for a couple of photos.The Highway has gravel shoulders for the most part so it is not easy to stop for photos. I had hoped to get a photo of the sign that says “Moose on the Loose.” We have seen a couple of them, but each time I was driving when we came across them.
If you check a map of Highway 1 around Superior you are not going to find many major places to stop. I have been checking Trip Advisor more often when looking for lodging and I kept coming back to this one, east of Terrace Bay. The motel is called the Coach House Motel and it’s across the Highway from Jack Fish Lake. It’s a Mom and Dad motel but on trip advisor it had a solid 5 star rating. I had to phone to book the room as they didn’t have internet reservation capabilities. When I knew we were running late I phoned to let them know. I think they have two other rooms booked besides ours.The hosts were waiting for us and took our dinner order so it could be ready once we put our stuff in the room. Obviously they menu is limited but it’s all homemade including the bread. The choices were spaghetti, chili, stew and several soup choices as well as a salad. In talking to the owner she makes the food in batches and freezes it separately so when she gets an order, she would cook the spaghetti and heat the frozen sauce. We opted for a bowl of soup and it came with a mini load of bread. Brian was able to finish his, I was not. Having sat in the car from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. I was ready to move. I walked up the highway to the lake turnoff and strolled down to the beach. Unfortunately the mosquitoes were waiting so I didn’t dally long. There are lots of wild flowers in bloom and some of the smells were heavenly. The owners have Hummingbird feeders and we watched them outside the window while eating our dinner.Our hotel room is a good size ( with double beds) the bathroom has been renovated with sparkling new fixtures and the room is clean and spotless. The TV is pretty old…I had to pull out the button for Brian ( I think he has forgotten how to do that.) We have no air conditioning but have three windows that open and it’s dark and cool out there now. The truck traffic noise may be an issue but for 1/2 the price of last night, who is complaining.
Our little motel didn’t have air conditioning so we left windows open. The room was very fresh and cool upon arising this morning. Our hosts made breakfast to order for us and we both relished it. They knew we would be there when they opened and when we walked in, the table was set and they were waiting for us. As well as a great breakfast we had a delightful conversation. The owners are well versed about the area and filled us in on the economy, the mines and the connection to Canada’s Group of 7. We could have spent the morning visiting but we had several miles to go.
I may have mentioned in an earlier blog the many many signs warning of moose, calling them a night hazard. It seems the moose don’t read the signsand can’t tell the time of day. We were approaching a small slope and something came up onto the side of the road…A BIG MOOSE. I jammed on the brakes and came to a full stop about 150’ away from the moose who at this point was still on the side of the road. I guess he knew he had the right of way ( who was going to argue) so leisurely loped across the road. My camera was in the back seat and inaccessible so no photo. We later saw a dead one on the side of the road. My plastic front end and likely the car would be gone if we hit one. A little further down the road, the coyote leisurely walked on the shoulder coming towards us as we passed. He wasn’t the least concerned.
We have seen several signs telling of the speed limit and the fines imposed for breaking the limit. The speed limit is 90 yet the fines don’t start until 110 KM. You can tell the Ontario drivers, when you are travelling 100KM they pass you like you are standing still.The road is becoming tiring and we had to stop several times today to take a break. We both wanted to take a nap. We stopped at Wawa for lunch. The town was hopping as they had the drags races on. I wished we could have stayed awhile to watch them.
We arrived in Sault Ste Marie around 3 pm. I am glad we are taking a day off the road tomorrow. We have a day long train trip booked for tomorrow. We are taking the Agawa Canyon Tour. We will be travelling by train 114 miles north of the city over trestles, along the lakes and river, past granite formations and through forests. This is the landscape that inspired the Group of 7. We will descend into a canyon where we will have a break so we can walk and take in the scenery. It’s a full day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Looking forward to taking a break from driving. It seems when I close my eyes, the scenery is rushing past me. Time to give my senses a change.
We were up early after a poor night’s sleep. We got to the dining area of the hotel feeling a bit groggy but that did not last long. Running this Comfort Inn’s breakfast area, is a little elderly lady who’s name badge reads “Grandma Judy.” After listening to Judy speak, I knew she was from the Maritimes – turns out from Cape Breton. When she heard we were heading to Newfoundland and her neck of the world the volume got more animated and louder. She started regaling us with stories and what we would see and then starting telling jokes to everyone in the room. She had us all wide awake and rolling in laughter. My favorite of her jokes today:
“ Two elderly ladies meet after years of not seeing each other. One says – Oh my husband Ernie, he’s a real Saint, honest to God a real Saint. Her friend responds. You are so lucky, my husband’s still alive.!”
How could your day not get off to a good start after a belly laugh? We got to the train station in good time and left on our adventure on the dot of 8 a.m. The train car was in good condition although by the end of the day, we found the seats a little hard on the touche.Today we would travel 114 km north of Sault Ste Marie to Agawa Canyon. The train is well equipped to provide as much information as possible to it’s passengers. Mounted on the front engine is a camera that feeds television screens in each passenger car. The beauty is you can see what’s coming up and get the camera’s ready. It is obvious the crew cleaned both in and outside windows, as taking a decent photo through the window was easy. On board were 2 CN staff plus train crew and two hosts from the City of Sault Ste Marie. They all worked hard to ensure we had a good experience. In addition to the camera, from time to time the TV will switch to videos giving the history of the area and seems to match up to the area we are travelling through. As particular points of interest come up, the overhead speakers alert you and also let you know which side of the train the area of interest can be found. There is no way to turn the train around so they suggest on the way back, people switch to the other side of the train to get a close up view of what they may have missed on the way out. In addition every guest receives a souvenir brochure. Every detail is well planned.
Once the train leaves the station they serve a hot breakfast for those wanting it. The average cost was $10 to $13 for a hot breakfast but beverages were extra. At noon you could order a boxed lunch or eat in the dining room. Lunch is served from noon (arrival time in the canyon) until 4 pm. The train stays in the Canyon for 90 minutes allowing people to take one of three hikes in the area, or just relax and enjoy the scenery. I opted to hike the Talus and River trails.Brian opted to have a beer in the dining room and wait for my return.
I started out on the forested trail and wends it’s way along to the Black Beaver Falls. The walk is covered with the forest canopy and is fresh and wonderful. I used to hike in the mountains, until Brian’s knees gave out and I think I must return home and starting hiking again. I forgot how much I loved walking in the forest. After visiting the falls, I crossed over the tracks and walked along the river back to the awaiting train. We were very lucky with the weather today as clouds and rain were in the forecast but we had sun and clouds. Once I returned to the train we had lunch in the dining car and were there when the trained pulled out heading back to “ The Sault.” The train has about 140 people on it today which afforded everyone double seats facing each other, so Brian and I (as did everyone) had a total of four seats. We could face forward in the direction the train was travelling, or backwards watching the landscape slip away.
During this time of the year, the CN is doing track repairs so we had several delays coming back and ended up returning an hour later than planned. We grabbed a quick take out to bring back to the motel. It has been years since I road a train and forgot how the rocking can almost lull you to sleep. Both of us fought sleep during the afternoon however several passengers gave in so the trip back was pretty quiet. As the tracks were laid amid rock and forest, you don’t often see anything but trees and rocks. The trip can be monotonous, especially when you have spent the past two days driving through trees and rock. From time to time we had great views and I managed to snag a couple of photos today.
There are many lakes in this area, most have no access by road. People build cabins here and come up on the Sault Ste Marie passenger train that runs to Hearst. They are simply dropped off at their request. This area is known for great fishing and the lakes restocked annually.
Our morning got off to a good start with Grandma Judy in the Comfort Inn breakfast room. Once again she regaled the guests with her good humor and jokes.She gets the guests talking to one another and really sets the tone for your day. We met a couple returning to Fairview Alberta from their original home of Newfoundland. When they heard where we were going they shared a few ideas and things not to miss when visiting the rock, including “Pineapple Crush soda” like Orange Crush only Pineapple flavored. We will be sure to give it a try.
It started to rain last night and continued, in fact we had rain all day in varying degrees. The drive and scenery changed today with the rocks and trees giving way on occasion to open fields and farms. We noticed Highway signs to watch for horse and buggies. Later down the road we did come across a horse drawn buggy that held two bearded men wearing broad brimmed straw hats. While they appear like the Pennsylvania Amish, here in Canada they are referred to as Mennonite.
Our destination today was North Bay. We checked into our hotel and spent some time unwinding before leaving to catch our evening “sunset” cruise. Just before we left the clouds opened up with a deluge complete with room rocking thunder. I called the tour company and they were planning to sail so we set off. They are only about 2 miles from the hotel and were high and dry. Just after we sailed off the clouds opened and we saw a bit of sun, the first of the day.
The cruise sails Lake Nipissing. Lake Nipissing is one of Northern Ontario’s largest lakes. Once explored by Samuel de Champlain, it has been used for logging, minerals and transportation, and is now a legendary fishing and recreational waterway. Our ship was called the Chief Commanda II. It was named after a famous Chief who lived in the area. I am not sure how they make any money a we were only about 20 people with a staff and crew of 6 or 8.The cruise lasts 2 1/2 hours sailed into Callandar Bay. Callander Bay is a bay at the extreme east of Lake Nipissing. We could see some pretty impressive homes along the shoreline. We were very fortunate tonight with the rain holding off and the break in the clouds, allowing some sun and some pretty photos as the sun was setting. We had a lovely evening and look forward to spending time in Ottawa.
The forecast for today was quite dismal, however we ran into only scattered showers. I drove the entire way today so don’t have any photos from our drive. We stopped once for gas and arrived just before 2 p.m. We checked into our hotel – a Best Western Inn & Suites and are very pleased with our room. This would be a great place to stay if you are planning a few days in Ottawa. It has a living room with pull out sofa, a kitchen area, spacious bathroom and nice bedroom. The living area even has a bit of an “office” area so perfect for business travellers. It’s rather nice to be able to spread out and not be tripping over each other. Given what we have, it’s reasonably priced.
We have a hop on hop off tour booked for tomorrow so we spent part of the afternoon driving around looking at the sites on our own. ( We needed more miles today…ha ha!) It end up to include a bit of an adventure in the end. We drove along the Rideau Canal for a bit and drove past the embassies and parliament hill, then over the bridge to Gatineau. Our GSP is clever as it converted to French immediately once we crossed the bridge. When we figured it was time to turn back I ended up taking a wrong turn and ended up on a transit bus only road. Thank goodness unlike my niece experienced years ago, this road did not come equipped with a car trap. Thank goodness the road went in both directions so at least I wasn’t going one way on a one way street, however there was no way off for several blocks. A transit driver coming towards me, threw up his hands in disgust. What…did he think I did this on purpose!!! I eventually found an intersection to allow me to get back on the proper road system and just carried on. Perhaps my GSP isn’t that smart…I should have been told before turning onto that bus road!