Coalhurst to Moose Jaw Saskatchewan Aug 6, 2014

Bob & Molly

Bob & Molly

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.

Cypress Hills in the distance

Cypress Hills in the distance

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,

Prairie Icon crumbling - near Gull Lake Saskatchewan

Prairie Icon crumbling – near Gull Lake Saskatchewan

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 Tours

Al "Scarface" Capone wasn't here

Al “Scarface” Capone wasn’t here

offer 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.

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Portage La Prairie Manitoba August 7 2014

Crescent Lake, Portage la Prairie, manitoba

Crescent Lake, Portage la Prairie, manitoba

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 morning

Thunder storm over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Thunder storm over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

they 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 the

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

floating 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! 

Windmill - Crescent Lake Portage la Prairie Manitoba

Windmill – Crescent Lake Portage la Prairie Manitoba

Portage La Prairie, Manitoba to Kenora, Ontario August 8, 2014

I think this is one of those places they mean when people say " You can watch your dog run away...for days!

I think this is one of those places they mean when people say ” You can watch your dog run away…for days!

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 (left) and Brian (right)  "Buddies"

Don (left) and Brian (right) “Buddies”

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. 
Lynn & Don Jones

Lynn & Don Jones

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.

Assinboine River - still running high

Assinboine River – still running high

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.

taken from the restaurant overlooking the lake

taken from the restaurant overlooking the lake

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.

The Grumpy Grandpas

The Grumpy Grandpas

Kenora to Jack Fish Lake (East of Terrace Bay) Ontario Aug 9 2014

/>

Our view for much of the day

Our view for much of the day

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's $7 lunch

Brian’s $7 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.

Another road construction stop! One of many today

Another road construction stop! One of many today

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.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

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.

Our motel for the night Coach House Motel Terrace Bay Ontario

Our motel for the night
Coach House Motel
Terrace Bay Ontario

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. 
Jackfish Lake

Jackfish Lake

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.

Aside from the small towns(rare) one doesn't see many buildings. Loved the look of this old church.

Aside from the small towns(rare) one doesn’t see many buildings. Loved the look of this old church.

This guy seems to be everywhere

This guy seems to be everywhere

Terrace Bay to Sault Ste Marie Ontario August 10,2014

Lake Superior - we saw people enjoying the occasional beach, playing in the water, fishing and boating. A calm day on the lake.

Lake Superior – we saw people enjoying the occasional beach, playing in the water, fishing and boating. A calm day on the lake.

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 signs

This sign tells a fib. They come out in the day as well!

This sign tells a fib. They come out in the day as well!

and 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.

Speed limit is 90Km. Fines start at 110Km. Only in Ontario?

Speed limit is 90Km. Fines start at 110Km. Only in Ontario?

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 paid $139.9 today. First time I've ever paid over $60 for a fill

We paid $139.9 today. First time I’ve ever paid over $60 for a fill

Aug 11, 2014 Agawa Canyon Train Tour

International Bridge connecting the Canadian Sault Ste Marie to the U.S. Sault Ste Marie.

International Bridge connecting the Canadian Sault Ste Marie to the U.S. Sault Ste Marie.

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.

Agawa River

Agawa River

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. 
Trestle Bridge over Montreal river - reservoir is in this photo, the dam would be on the right. The river has three dams on it providing power to Sault Ste Marie and area.

Trestle Bridge over Montreal river – reservoir is in this photo, the dam would be to the right. The river has three dams on it providing power to Sault Ste Marie and area.

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.

Black Beaver Falls

Black Beaver Falls

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.


Still waters

Still waters

Sault Ste Marie to North Bay Ontario August 12,2014

A break in the clouds as we set off for our "Sunset Cruise"

A break in the clouds as we set off for our “Sunset Cruise”

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.

Grandma Judy - Comfort Inn North Bay Ontario

Grandma Judy – Comfort Inn North Bay Ontario

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. 

Private island complete with cottage

Private island complete with cottage

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.

North Bay to Ottawa, Ontario Aug 13,2014

Brian's drive by photo of Parliament Hill

Brian’s drive by photo of Parliament Hill

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! 

A Brief Tour of Ottawa Aug 14, 2014

Parliament Hill - the clouds opened up allowing a good shot

Parliament Hill – the clouds opened up allowing a good shot

We have a rather tight time line getting to Newfoundland so our stay in Ottawa was all too brief.  Hoping to get the biggest bang for the buck I purchased a one day Hop On Hop Off tour with Grayline. We have used these tours in other cities but we very much appreciated the ability to be picked up at our hotel this morning. While we are in downtown Ottawa our hotel is out of their normal bus pick up route and we enjoyed their flexibility. The weather today was for rain and cold weather.  We didn’t get as much rain as forecast but the cold we got via a north wind. I don’t believe the daytime high was above 14. For those of you who have never taken one of these tours, the majority of the seats are open air seats on the upper level.  I had planned for cool and rain for this road trip and brought along all sorts of warm clothes and rain gear.

We started the tour at ten a.m. and decided to stay on the bus for the 90min circle trip so we could see the sites before deciding which ones we could see in our limited time. 

Time for the changing of the guards - marching to the hill

Time for the changing of the guards – marching to the hill

We braved the elements and went up top despite looming dark clouds.  The skies were partially cloudy as we set out so I was able to get some decent photos of parliament hill and surrounding area. When we started heading out to the RCMP stables away from the downtown area, the rain started.  Being such a clever girl I brought along umbrellas. They might work when you are walking but definitely not the thing to use on a two level bus,  for one thing, when they are open the block the view and hit those sitting around you, plus the fact it’s WINDY.  Others around us put on their hoods and donned their  rain slickers.  Our rain slickers and hoodies, were left in the car! So much for good planning.  We eventually caved and went below.

Given the length of the round trip and the time between buses we realized we had time for two tours.  We opted first for the Canadian National War Museum. My niece was very impressed with this museum when she visited earlier this year and impressive it is. 

There is a wonderful display of Canada liberating Holland.  This cartoon indicates the love the Dutch people have of those troops.

There is a wonderful display of Canada liberating Holland. This cartoon indicates the love the Dutch people have of those troops.

It is extremely well done, easy to tour and well thought out.  We had only two hours and saw but a small offering, however we appreciated the effort and detail put into this place. It is a very fitting tribute to Canadian men and women who have served out country so well.

Our next stop was Rideau Hall, home to the Canadian Governor General. The building is a bit of a walk from the front gate, so Brian opted to wait while I took the guided tour. The tours are free and informative.  Over the years the building has been added on to, transformed and renovated…..at great expense.  The building is beautiful but one room is almost embarrassing.  The room is called the “Tent” room and in my mind is a “hot mess” with it’s candy striped walls and gold tassels.

The Tent Room decor at Rideau Hall

The Tent Room decor at Rideau Hall

Our tour was the last of the day and for the next few hours the building would be open for self guided tour where one could take photos ( while on the guided tours they don’t allow photos.) The last room to tour is the ballroom and the guide did allow us a quick moment to capture the ballroom.  The ballroom is where the Order of Canada medal ceremony takes place as well as most formal activities.  I would have like to spent time in the garden but the bus was coming and Brian was waiting at the gate. The bus was late returning to the drop off place so we only had time for a quick dinner before Grayline returned us to our hotel.

Brian caught a real chill while waiting outside and when we returned to our hotel room, he needed a hot shower to get his circulation system going. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, perhaps a bit more sun and  a daytime high of 18.  We will be using the heater instead of air conditioning.  We have the longer drive of our trip east tomorrow – 658 km.  We will be driving through Quebec, through many small towns and I am sure the usual construction zones. I am looking forward to getting glimpses of rural Quebec and hope we can manage to order food in French! We’ll see how much of my high school French I remember.

Grand Ballroom Rideau Hall

Grand Ballroom Rideau Hall

Ottawa to Riviere Du Loop, Quebec August 15, 2014

I think having Brian wait in the cold while I toured Rideau Hall was a poor decision. Last night be became very ill and was up most of the night. Of course I was up with him. He eventually fell asleep and I left him as long as possible, but he heard me up and around this morning.  He insisted he felt OK.  I had toyed with going to a walk in clinic this morning and got an address for same but we opted to give the road a try.  We just started out and he felt ill but it soon passed.  As the day went on he seemed to improve so we will see how it goes.  Perhaps I am pushing him beyond his limits.

It is obvious I will have to drive most of this trip and as a result will not have photos from our car.  We are travelling on Highway 1 and we have found very few turn offs to afford “photo ops.”  Despite a rocky start we did end up with one of our typical adventures.  We have noticed our GPS likes to take time in the morning to wake up.  She likes to go around the same blocks a couple of times before getting her bearings. I am not sure but she could have been feeling a bit off as well this morning. I thought she would take us back to St Catherine’s street and back to Highway 1 or in Ontario #17. Instead she took us further south before heading east.  At some point the road split in two and we didn’t notice which way we were to go or if we got into the wrong lane.  Next thing we know we are off into the countryside and having to make a left turn, to catch the FERRY!  Who knows where we were but I would say the boon docks somewhere…don’t know if in error or GPS planned this little outing. Anyway we paid our $9 and got on board the ferry  – holds about ten cars – and off we go to the other side of the lake/river? Who knows.  We eventually got onto a freeway and seemed we were on the right path.

The roads are pretty good with less construction but the traffic from Montreal through Quebec City was “congested” to use the electronic sign description.  This was to be our longest day drive and on 4 hours sleep, it was arduous.  Quebec, unlike Ontario, has rest pull outs which we used to our advantage today. I was very happy to arrived in Riviere Du Loop in one piece today! I had put an App on my iPad that converts English to French and vise versa, but we did not need it.  It seems people in the service industry all have some level of English and for the most part, very good English.  The only person who couldn’t speak English was the Pharmacist we went to tonight, however his assistance did and both of them could not have been nicer.  I explained Brian’s symptoms and they agreed it sounded like high blood sugars.  They offered to check his levels free, but I was there to buy a blood glucose monitoring machine. As it turns out his level was fine but given he had his meds ( he missed some two days in a row) and had eaten very little today, I suspect they leveled out during the day. You never saw a happier woman when I saw his “normal” reading.

We are off to Moncton tomorrow. For the last several miles today we drove with the St Laurence River in sight off and on, with low rising mountains off in the distance. I will try to take photos on the way home when the trees should have their autumn colors.

View from our "Ferry" adventure ride this morning

View from our “Ferry” adventure ride this morning