Murtle got her solar panel this morning. A lengthy but otherwise painless (unless you count expense) experience. Tomorrow morning Murtle’s vehicle parts get a mechanical pre-trip so I decided to try a local RV Park. Tonight is my first night in one. Oceanside RV Park to be specific. The landscape is pretty spectacular, and the place is very well maintained, but Murtle, my little RV is quite dwarfed by the monster rigs parked here. I’m surprised at the number of units that are long term, with decks and gazebos built alongside. I cannot imagine living this close, cheek by jowl, for any length of time. Even staying two nights makes me a little uncomfortable, like living in a mobile goldfish bowl. I think I will tend more to Provincial and National Parks for stop overs on the trip north in May. I’m also quite uncomfortable parked on Tsawout First Nation land. There is no reference to that fact in any of the park literature and the advertised beach access is, in fact, a trespass on Tsawout First Nation land. There is a complete disconnect between the guests at the park and the residents right next to the park with each side ignoring the other. Frankly it’s a little spooky.
Arrived safely in Calgary after 8 hours of white knuckle driving, battling 45 km head winds with gusts up to 90 km. Clear and sunny but what a wind. Reminded me of the classic old folk song “They Call the Wind Maria”
I was planning to stop in the Shushwap on the way back to Vancouver but I have so much to think about, so much planning, proposal writing, research and writing to do that I am quite anxious to get started.
- AirBNB and Hostels will not work for the Mother of All Road Trips. Must find a decent winterized camper. Easier to explore at a leisurely pace, take time to photograph, film and interview. No need to unload and load gear at every overnight stop. Cheaper for food too with my own kitchen.
- Explore the online broadcast of set “Webisodes” for Definding Canada and see about sponsors for same. Need a prosumer camera and light/sound set up for this.
- Plan a route that allows at least a few weeks for each province.
- Research grants for writing, publishing and film production.
- Recover my French.
- Have the survey translated into French.
- Look into prices and best times for flights to Inuvik.
- Create a new Crowd Source Funding Campaign.
- Start writing the book “Definding Canada”
- Start digging into Stats Canada for historical info on Canadian demographics.
But for now, sleep.
Well, driving across Manitoba was Not the highlight of the trip, but it is now behind me and I am comfortably ensconced in a delightful Regina AirBNB run by Laurie and Don. Theirs is a beautifully done heritage home on a quiet street and I am being quite spoiled by them. Thank you Laurie and Don. And thank you again to Bronwyn in Kenora. Hope you made it safely to California.
Next stop, Calgary and a visit with my brother and sister-in-law, then Roger’s Pass and home.
Manitoba was snow packed rough highways, bitterly cold for a Vancouverite, with aggressive head winds and cross winds, but otherwise pleasant sunny skies and very little traffic. The highway is very rough west of the Ontario border. I also keep forgetting how flat southern Manitoba can be. The Winnipeg by-pass isn’t that much of a by-pass but better than meandering through the city core. Sufficient roadside fuel and comfort stops but I do miss my Tim’s. And this time I DID see buffalo!
In Saskatchewan the highway is great. Two lanes in each direction, reasonably well maintained, paralleled by railway tracks, with very little traffic and grain elevators at regular intervals. All fuel and comfort stops, however, require that you exit the highway to a service road first (if you are lucky) or take a side trip to a small town just off the highway. Almost as though folks would prefer that you just keep driving till you’re across the border into Alberta or Manitoba. And yet, when you do stop folks are wonderfully friendly. Fascinating.
The trip has been worthwhile exploration of the travel and accommodation options for how best to approach the 2017 Mother of All Road Trips. A lot of research, proposal writing and planning to do. I am figuring a week or two for each province, in a winterized camper with either a canine companion or a human assistant/videographer. Too many missed photo ops because there was either no time or no place to safely pull over.
For now, a little much needed sleep before heading to Alberta in the morning.
Staying at my first AirBNB tonight, near Kenora Ontario. The country side is beautiful even in that dreary season between winter and spring. Hostess Bronwyn is a lovely, down to earth woman and her dog Hugo is a delight. Son Jared was most helpful with the tiresome chore of bringing in cameras, computer and related gear.
The drive from Thunder Bay was a short one, less than 500 km and the van broke all fuel records, closing in on 8.7 litres per 100 km. Unbelievable. It certainly helps that there are few hills on the highway that stretches through the rugged countryside above the Lakehead.
This part of Ontario is quite sparsely populated with still more evidence of folks abandoning their properties. A lot of For Sale signs on small roadside businesses too. Most of the land along the highway is forested with pine and birch and lots of rock. Not the same massive trees of the west coast but it seems to stretch on forever, with great bare patches that have been logged.
As I drive by some of these very small communities, sometimes no more than a solitary house and outbuildings, I can’t help but wonder how folks survive. Many of the houses are in poor repair, barns in near collapse or little more than a sloping pile of grey timbers. Farming up here must be a very short season.
How do they survive, those hardy few who have not given up and moved elsewhere? Perhaps they’ve moved to a nearby town, maybe elsewhere in Canada. I can understand a local economy tied to a resource industry or seasonal tourism, but where does the cash flow come from in these tiny little communities in the middle of what is otherwise the Canadian wilderness? (Photo credit Jerm IX)
(Once again no safe place to take the photos I wanted to take. Sigh. So I borrowed a few images – again.)
I enjoyed a beautiful day of driving along or near the shores of Georgian Bay on my way from Brantford Ontario to Sault St. Marie Ontario. Bright sunshine and the lake ice definitely in retreat.
Heavy snow in Southern Ontario Sunday night had me a little worried about a Tuesday morning departure, but all it did was add to the scenery. Traffic was light once I was clear of Southern Ontario and almost non-existent along the shores of Georgian Bay.
I grew up in Ontario and spent summers in and around Georgian Bay canoeing and camping. There is a distinct smell to the water in this area, pleasant and reminiscent of my childhood. When I came through decades ago with my own children my first plunge in the lake water at an accessible beach brought it all back to me. Needless to say the water was a little chilly for swimming this trip, not to mention still frozen over in many areas.
Another fond memory of this part of Canada is the exposed Canadian shield rock and the beautiful silver birch. There is an old camping song that refers to the birch, “Land of the Silver Birch” and the beauty in the front yard of my uncle’s Brantford home is a perfect example.
The rock that cradles the highway as it winds around and across countless lakes and rivers ranges in colour from grey and near black to pink and is frequently scored with the drill cores from the blasting necessary to build the highway.
I had booked into what was supposed to be a hostel in Sault St. Marie. NOT! It was a seedy hotel in a rather unpleasant part of town so I revisited the motel I enjoyed on the eastbound trip. My luck with hostels has not been great so far this trip. Hopefully it will improve by the time I get to the Shushwap. Kenora and Regina I will be trying out AirBNB.
Minor issue with the van, the key fob remote no longer works. Must find a Chrysler dealer tomorrow to see about a replacement!
Tomorrow night, Thunder Bay.
The formal part of the journey, the 2016 Investiture of new Knights and Dames into the Order of St. George is successfully concluded. The Canadian Priory of this venerable and centuries old chivalrous order has only existed since 2003 and is struggling to establish itself in Canada but is stuck somewhere between the Victorian era and the twenty-first century. I was invested as a Dame last year and nominated two rather wonderful individuals to membership this year. The ceremony is very formal with real swords, robes and much fanfare.
All took place at St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church in Ottawa, home to the beautiful Ottawa Window, a three-light stained glass window beyond the altar, designed by Wilhelmina Geddes as a war memorial http://www.yorku.ca/rsgc/IrishArtsReview1994.pdf.
The formal events of the day were followed by a fine dinner at the Chateau Laurier, giving folks an opportunity to step out in their finest formal wear and military mess kits, enjoy an excellent supper, hear a few good speeches and then kick up their heels on the dance floor. All in all, wonderful as the event was and the organization is, in many ways it’s an example of Canada’s inability to break free of colonial roots. The Order of St. George does a lot of good work in Canada and I am certainly proud to be a Dame of the Order, but so much of the ceremony and symbolism dates back to Victorian England. It would be nice to see it updated to something that reflected the history of the Order but also incorporated more inclusive, contemporary, and distinctly Canadian elements to the ceremony and symbols.
The same could be said of many of the symbols of authority in Canada. First there’s the fact that there are pictures of Queen Elizabeth, our head of state, in all military buildings. (The Prime Minister is the head of government). Remember too that government land is still called Crown Land. In our courts when we are taking on the government in litigation we are claiming against the Crown.
Our coat of Arms includes the British lion and the French unicorn, each holding their respective national flags. Under the lion and unicorn is Canada’s Motto: “A Mari usque ad Mare” (From sea to sea) but it might be better to read from sea to sea to sea. Government corporations are called Crown Corporations. Our military has reverted to the use of Royal in the title of its respective components like the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Many of the provincial flags http://www.thecanadaguide.com/flags-of-canada include either the Union Jack, the British lion or the crown. The provincial flag for Quebec has four Fleur-de-lis. So where does that leave us as a sovereign nation state?
In any event, my path has done a 180 degree turn and I am headed back westward. And it’s snowing. In April. A lot. Sigh
Resting up in Ottawa. A few functions to attend, friends and family to visit, and then back on the road again, headed west. The trip here I encountered a subtle but constant battle with time zones. Every day of driving that crossed a time zone was an hour longer, on paper. For the return I will have the little pleasure of the day of driving feeling an hour shorter every time I cross a time zone. A little thin but it makes a difference in planning arrival times.
I learned the hard and expensive way that many Canadian Hostels are not open before April and it never occurred to me to try Airbnb. The end result was several nights in hotels and motels instead. Killed my trip budget.
Canadian Hostels http://www.hihostels.ca/
For the return journey I have booked in to a combination of hostels and Airbnb and am quite looking forward to the journey. I have a brochure now too that makes it easier to connect with folks on my travels. Getting some solid ideas about how best to tackle the Mother of All Road Trips too.
First, don’t set out till after March, so that I can take advantage of all hostels, provincial parks and national parks.
Pick Facebook posts and updates that relate directly to events taking place either by date or by where I am visiting next. For example, although it is a month plus away, May 12 – 23, 2016 in Ottawa marks the annual The Canadian Tulip Festival:
“It is difficult to describe how absolutely beautiful this is. There are literally thousands of tulips of varying colour. It sure is a sight to see. But it doesn’t stop at just the tulips – there are exciting shows and exhibits too. What a great way to say goodbye to winter and hello to Spring (actually at this point we are nearing the end of Spring and heading into summer). Read more about the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa.”
I wonder what is happening in Kenora April 7th?
Arrived safely in Ottawa last night and spent a lovely evening getting caught up with dear friend Susan. The drive from Sault Ste. Marie was very peaceful. Not many folks on the road.
There was a lovely ground mist in the valleys and the still leafless trees were coated with white frost. Very picturesque. The marching line of power lines that stretched out from the highway into the morning mist was a reminder of how reliant we are on access to power and connectivity across Canada. Lots of Micro Wave towers and wind turbines too.
Ontario is littered with lakes and rivers with small towns clinging to the highway and the waterways like multi-coloured beads along carelessly dropped lengths of silver and string. Farms are smaller here and as in the prairies there are more roadside Mom and Pop businesses boarded up, little houses abandoned. We are losing our connection with the land that shaped us as more and more folks give up the country life and move to the cities. Impossible to compete with corporate farms. I am often amazed at how folks survive in some of these tiny remote communities. They can’t all be trappers!
Stopped to take a picture of a beautiful bridge in Ironbridge Ontario and just as I got out of the car with my camera a Mennonite farmer in horse and buggy pulled up to the intersection. Talk about timing.
Had an epiphany about Canadians as I rolled across the rocky hills of the Canadian Shield. The early settlers who came after First Nations were, for the most part, not of a class entitled to own land or participate in the politics of their home country. I think of them as historically disenfranchised from the land they worked to the advantage of landowners and monarchs. Moving to Canada, for many, represented an opportunity to own their own land. It would be hard work but would afford them an autonomy never known in their family history. I think this is worth researching as an underlying cause for a tendency to isolationism in Canadians and a reluctance to engage in politics to the extent that our neighbours to the south do. With the distances too, folks would be inclined to self-sufficiency, happy to help out when needed but otherwise content to quietly get on with their own life and affairs. It will be interesting to do some exploring of this idea.
Today marked the transit from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie. Got an early start in hopes of catching the arrival of the first Lakers to arrive in Thunder Bay for the season. The motel desk clerk made an error. There were no ships this morning as it was Good Friday morning. But what a beautiful sunrise. Sadly all access to the waterfront was fenced off or I could have captured a beautiful image of the Sleeping Giant with the sun rising across the water. So instead I pinched a few more photos courtesy of a successful Google image search.
May times in the drive today I caught sight of a great photo op, with no place to pull over. So frustrating. So I stole more photos from Google. My bad. I did, however, have fun playing with a balancing of the engine RPMs with the vehicles KmH. I think I got the best fuel efficiency rolling into Thunder Bay yesterday when fuel consumption dropped to 8.9 litres per 100 km. Today the best I could do was 9.1 litres per 100 km. Not bad for a loaded van with a 4 litre engine.
Thoughts on the journey, I really need to acquire a decent camper van for the Mother of All Road Trips. Motels are pricey and annoying with the need to load and unload the van. Meals in restaurants (or roadside picnics if it were warmer) are pricey. If I am traveling in my little home away from home there is no loading and unloading, no eating in restaurants and a far more leisurely approach to Definding Canada. I figure at last 10 days to 2 weeks for each province at a minimum. With a camper van the extra cost in fuel is easily offset by the savings in more expensive accommodations and meals.
Now if I can just convince someone (Road Trek – hint hint) to donate a reliable, winterized camper for the adventure. I could provide lots of stories, photos and videos.
Interesting to reflect today, as I sped by rock faces covered in icicles, abandoned homes and roadside businesses and tourist stops closed for the season on how much our culture has changed. People fly from place to place creating a dwindling need for small highway gas stations, diners and motels. It’s too bad really, because Canada is so amazingly beautiful with every province presenting a different face in weather, geography and architecture. The landscape shifts from farm to field to rocky cliffs and forests of pine and silver birch. Driving across the eastern half of the prairies I was delighted to see eagles dancing overhead. The magpies of the prairies gave way to the crows of northern Ontario, many of them dancing in pairs in the updrafts by the faces of the escarpment. All in all a beautiful sunshiny day. And tomorrow Ottawa, visits with friends and family and the annual Ottawa gathering of the Order of St George. Then back west again. I have made note of several spots I really must hope for good light and a place to pull over and do a little shutterbugging.
Well I passed the mid-way point of Canada yesterday just after zipping by Winnipeg. I told my grandchildren that I had passed the bellybutton of Canada. That’s a lot of road time to spend reflecting on all that I’ve seen and read as I travel and research our country.
Any accurate study of Canadian history reveals a less than stellar track record when it comes to treatment of folks who fall outside the Anglo/Franco model of Confederation. You’ll find a brief (and not comprehensive) summary here:
It’s a history most Canadians have not bothered to learn. Then again, as I recall Canadian history was not heavily taught decades ago when I was in high school. Instead we focused on British, American and French history. Hopefully our academic attention to our own history has improved since the ‘60’s.
Folks are also inclined to blame government policy for the dark passages in our history, but that doesn’t explain angry and destructive mobs, prejudice, cruelty, and downright criminal behavior at both the institutional and individual level.
So what’s the answer? I’ve lived in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and BC. I’ve also traversed Canada, this trip and in a 2013 trip from Victoria BC to St John’s Nfld. In my travels I’ve seen such a diversity of geography, weather, industry, and people that I would love to find a way to define our national identity in a way that embraces and celebrates that diversity of land and people. We seem to get all tied up in looking back in anger which to me seems like trying to drive by your rear view mirror. Time to face forward and look to what lies ahead. This doesn’t mean I suggest we paint over or deny our past. There must be a way, however, to acknowledge all we have done wrong as a people and then go forward with a shared vision of a Canada and a Canadian identity that can stand as an example of celebrated diversity for an increasingly conflicted global community. We have, after all, already been held up as a model for the resettlement of Syrian Refugees.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi says Canada as a whole has been a leader in global Syrian resettlement and that’s why he chose to visit here this week. He says he’d like the Canadian government to help other countries roll out programs like the one the Liberals put in place to resettle 25,000 Syrians in a matter of three months.