Friday, August 15, 2008

A few stats

Kilometres driven: 16,368
Nights in parking lots: 3
"Where to Eat in Canada" meals: 14
Pounds gained: 3 (only!)
Money spent on gas: $1918.18
T-shirts bought: 3

Day 35: Englehart to Toronto, ON

Technically, the day started in Kirkland Lake, which is where our hotel was; thus adding a half-hour on to my day's drive! My Mom insisted that my Dad try driving the bus. She said that otherwise he wouldn't understand just what a feat it had been for me to drive halfway across the country in it. So, Will went with Mom and I went with Dad, and after I started it for him (Bobby does love me best) he drove me as far as North Bay.

We stopped at the Thornloe cheese factory, where we always stopped when I was a kid for cheese curds. The factory had been bought by Parmalat, who then decided to close it. Fortunately for me, it was bought out by area milk farmers, and they're still producing those toothsome, slightly rubbery cheddar cheese curds that I love.

We also made the absolutely obligatory stop at the Highway Book Shop, in Cobalt, ON. They have 350,000 books in a delightful warren of additions to the original building, still presided over by Dr. Pollard, the same gentleman who founded the store in 1957. I'm not sure Will really thought it lived up to all the excitement I'd felt about going there, but I did help him pick out a few books to get him through the final hours of the trip.

Lunch was in Temagami, where we had the worst meal of the trip at a restaurant I won't name for you. We drove on to North Bay, where Mom and Dad were splitting off from our route. There I discovered that I'd left my bag - including my camera - at the restaurant. Driving back to get it would easily put another two hours of driving into my day, getting me home after dark, but Mom and Dad wouldn't hear of it. I'll feel guilty about this for years, I'm sure, but I let them go back and get it, and I drove on! They put in the extra kilometres (thanks, folks), and mailed it express to me the next day.

Will and I got McDonald's, which we hadn't done since the first week of the trip, and cursed the slow road at the top of the 400. It turned out to be a fender-bender that everyone was gawking at, and after that we moved quickly, despite it being a long weekend and tons of people coming back into town. We were home at 8:30pm and had time to unpack a little bit, bathe and shower before going to sleep in beds that had grown unfamiliar after so much time!

Total: 13,638km.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

DCMF writeup on CBC

CBC has a writeup on the Dawson City Music Festival, with the typical snarky user comments.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 34: In Englehart ON, August 3

We started the day at a church service held jointly by all the churches in town, big enough to be held at the arena - mostly my Dad and I wanted to hear the choir! We did meet up with some of our cousins there that we hadn't seen yet, so it was good to catch up with them. In the afternoon we drove out and through all my dad's old stomping grounds; down to the farm, where all the outbuildings are gone, but the house he helped his dad built when he was 12 is still standing; to the cemetery, where I told Will about his great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents that are buried there; and through a bunch of the surrounding countryside.
The evening ended with a drive back down to Charlton, a lovely beach where the fireworks were held. The town of Englehart had gone together with Charlton and Dack (local counties?) and bought a TON of fireworks - I think I heard that they went for a solid 45 minutes! It was certainly long enough that the little girl sitting in the next group lost interest, but I loved it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We're home!

Will and I arrived home at 8:30pm yesterday, Monday August 4, as scheduled.

More later as I get used to being home again...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 33: In Englehart ON, August 2

This isn't supposed to be a blog about the Englehart reunion, so I'm not sure how much to write here. We attended the parade today, which had some really wonderful old cars and tractors, and even snowmachines! The high school was open and my Dad got to meet up with some of his old friends from his youth, and it was neat hearing them reminisce about their families and hijinks. By the time we'd seen everything and everybody there, it was 4pm, and time for Mom and Dad to get ready for tonight's dinner-dance to be held at the Arena. There were only 500 tickets available, and they sold out early; apparently there were 1400 people at last night's event, so there are plenty of attendees here. So, Will and I are hanging out at the hotel in Kirkland Lake, conserving our energy for tomorrow's events, which will wrap up with fireworks at dusk.

Day 32: Hearst to Englehart ON, August 1

Driving the extra distance to Hearst made it reasonably easy to reach Englehart in good time, our destination for this leg of the trip. My father was born and raised on a farm just outside of Englehart, and went to high school in town. The town is celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend, and with Mom and Dad going, Will and I thought we'd join in the fun if the bus held up and we made it there in time.

As it happened we arrived around 3pm, beating Mom and Dad here! I picked up their registration packages at the town hall for them, so that once we arrived we could just go straight to the hotel. We're actually staying 30km away in Kirkland Lake, since there was nothing available in town.

After a nice prime rib dinner at the dining room at the Howard Johnson's, it was early to bed for all tired drivers and their passengers.

There's a very pretty little church in Val Rita. It's odd for me to be back in a French- speaking area of Ontario again; when you're in Kapuskasing, for instance, you're more likely to hear French spoken around you than English.

Total so far: almost exactly 13000km!

Day 31: Ignace to Hearst ON, July 31

When crossing the provincial border the day before, I still felt a long way from home when I realized we still weren't even in the same time zone as home! When I gassed up in Upsala I was confused by their clock, but they told me they keep Thunder Bay time rather than Winnipeg time. There didn't seem to be much more than a gas station and three houses in the town, so I guess they can feel free to do that.

We got to Thunder Bay a bit after lunch and got to visit again for a couple of hours with Jon and Rebekah, and admire Jon's trophies from his weekend of observed trials biking in Duluth. I think he's there again this weekend, riding in a class up from last time, so I'm eager to hear the results from that. Hot running water has become a bit of a novelty for me, so I also took the opportunity to wash our dishes in their kitchen sink, and by 4pm we were off again; of course, I'd managed to forget my keys again, and Jon had to deliver them to me in the north end of town. (Thanks, bro!)

Will and I stopped in Longlac for pizza and to fill up on gas (brother's orders - it's 200km to the next gas station), and I felt I could still drive for quite a while. I figured if there was a campground, we'd stop, but it's just the same as I remembered it; for 150km there's almost nothing at all, just an art gallery/store that I didn't remember. There aren't even houses, just countless trees on both sides of the road. I watched carefully for moose and deer, but the only wildlife we saw was a rabbit that wisely hopped off the road, and a partridge-like bird that unwisely flew right across our nose, but didn't get hit.

We reached Hearst about midnight, and I thankfully pulled into the Husky parking lot to put down the bed in the back and collapse into sleep. The humming of the refrigerated truck next to us didn't even keep me awake.

Total so far: 12611km.

Day 30: Virden MB to Ignace ON, July 30

After an uneventful morning's drive into Winnipeg, we managed to get to a restaurant close to lunchtime. Will picked the Bistro Dansk from Where to Eat in Canada, and I ended up with a great schnitzel while he ate a chicken and vegetable soup with dumplings. "This is like yours!", he complimented me.

I had a bad case of yellow line fever by then and couldn't seem to stop driving; I pushed us on and we covered a record 750km by the time we stopped for the night in Ignace, stopping just briefly in Dryden for supper at the Husky. Our night's stop at the Davy Lake Campground was one of the nicest we've stayed at; along with a nice new comfort station we had a huge lot with dozens of trees around us. I was sorry to arrive so late, when there was a nice beach too.

Looking at my camera card, I see that I was so busy driving that day I didn't take a single picture. Will took this one of his new woolly mammoth helping to navigate, so I'll have to give you this one instead!

Total so far: 11846km.

Day 29: Herbert SK to Virden MB, July 29

We've been pushing to get an earlier start to our days, but lost a half-hour looking for my bus keys this morning. I eventually gave up and left a note for the hotel owners, and used my spare keys to drive off with. Fortunately there is a spare fuel cap key too, or we wouldn't have gotten far.

The view of Regina from the west; those buildings in the middle are 20-30 stories tall.

In Regina we stopped for lunch at the Willow, a fancy restaurant on the shores of the Wascana River in town. Everyone there looked like they were on an expense account, so Will and I in our grubby shorts and sandals asked for a table on the patio. I needed coffee, and fortunately theirs was excellent; so was the "land" chowder, the cucumber panzanella (bread salad) and Will's short ribs, which came with a sweet potato and jalapeno salad and swiss chard.

The Science Centre was only a couple of blocks away, so we could hardly pass up the chance to go, even though we'd gone two years ago. That had us leaving Regina pretty late, and we debated whether to stop in Indian Head for another Where to Eat in Canada meal that day. Will convinced me to do it, although I worried when I realized that it was actually at Katepwa Point, 25km off the main highway, adding more than half an hour to my driving day (depending on the condition of the road). To add to that, the restaurant when we found it was closed; their "spring" hours are only on Friday and Saturday. "Spring"? Is it not the end of July? Is that not summer pretty much anywhere?

Fortunately the view, the scenery, and the beach made up for it. Saskatchewan is flat and a yellowy-browny-green, as you probably know. Fifteen kilometres up the road we found ourselves driving down into the Qu'Appelle River valley, lush and green. It's the same type of valley we were seeing in Alberta, but without the crazy striped layers of rock; it's all grown over with trees and grass. We sat on the beach and ate peanut butter sandwiches, leftovers from lunch, and Fudgee-O's.

I managed to drive for a few hours longer, and we ended up across the border into Manitoba. The night's stop was a Lions campground in the tiny town of Virden, MB. Once again we set up in the dark and didn't end up seeing any of our fellow campers, all of whom seemed to be tucked up in their 30-foot rigs watching satellite TV. You can camp there for $15 a night, or $1550 a year; with flush toilets and free showers, I started wondering why Mike and I didn't just sell the house, retire, and live there. I decided the road was starting to make me crazy.

Total so far: 11096km

Friday, August 1, 2008

Day 28: Drumheller AB to Herbert SK, July 28

We took the scenic route out of Drumheller, stopping at the World's Largest Dinosaur statue at the information centre in town, then at the Hoodoos that aren't too far away. They were smaller than I expected, but still pretty neat formations; pretty quickly I got fed up with the tourists who wouldn't observe the plentiful signs asking us to stay on the path and not touch them, and we took off back for highway 1.

We came into Medicine Hat in time for a very late lunch at a place called Zucchini Blossoms, which Where to Eat in Canada describes as "a casual cafe with someone in the kitchen who knows how to cook". We had grilled sandwiches that were delicious (mine had marinated pork tenderloin, Will's was provolone and salami), and since they were closing momentarily, took dessert with us to go on our own plate from the bus. I quite liked Medicine Hat from the quick look at it I got, although I did wonder at first at a city that would choose as its motto "The Gas City".

We made it quite a ways into Saskatchewan and stopped for the night at the Lone Eagle Motel in Herbert, which also has camping out back. We were the only campers there, and had good first-base seats for a baseball game on the diamond on the other side of the fence. The bathroom had the oldest coin-operated controls I've ever seen outside of a museum, but for five minutes of hot water for a quarter, I wasn't going to complain!

Attractions included a playground for Will with entirely homemade toys, and two alpacas in a pen that were receiving special attention from the owners. As well as the motel and campground, they keep a herd of 90 alpacas. They get anywhere from 400 to 500 pounds of wool from the herd each spring when they shear them, the owner said.

Total so far: 10554km