Three Day Drive
Some time ago I promised a "full report" of my trip back from London, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta. Here it is.
[Update: Galleries taken offline]
William the bush pilot and his faithful seaplane.
I should say "Night 1". We began our journey behind schedule as usual. Fortunately, despite being exhausted from working on the house and packing to leave, we were wired and nocturnal, allowing us to progress all the way to Parry Sound before deciding to turn in. Richard was feeling below par and, with the van getting thirsty, it was imperative that we quickly find accommodation. Luckily we passed a promising looking "Jolly Roger Inn", not only vacant, but appropriately titled for two wayward scallywags. Unluckily, the nearest highway exit led us not to the Jolly Roger, but to more dark endless highway and pine trees.
We stopped to reluctantly investigate one seedy motel we spotted down the road with no luck finding anyone on duty. It was either press on, or turn back to look for the Jolly Roger. We made the decision to turn back and the signs were much more clear approaching the Inn from the other direction so we could find safe harbour for the night. If you are in Parry Sound, might I recommend staying at the Jolly Roger Inn.
First on the agenda was attending to the van as our tank was empty and we needed some, as Richard put it, "liquid dinosaur" to continue. We inquired at the motel where we might find the nearest gas station and set off in that direction. Passing an ancient set of fuel pumps I squinted to see any signs of activity in the storefront set some distance beyond the pumps. The sign in the window read "open" so, chancing it, I pulled into the station. Eventually the store's door swung gently open and an old lady in her green cardigan and long dress casually made her way out to the van.
She was from Italy originally and had been living near Parry Sound for years and years. After a nice chat, a filled tank, and reassurances we were wearing our seatbelts, we continued on the journey.
The Trans-Canada Highway flows through the Sault-Ste-Marie area taking you through the most inspiring geography. You are going either way up or way down and never straight. As the highway rolls through the peaks and valleys, every passed corner reveals a glistening lake cradled in the forested mountains. Walls of colourful Precambrian granite are exposed in the gaps blasted for the highway or where the trees and soil gave way to erosion. It is the stuff car commercials are made of.
When nightfall came we were on our way to Marathon. Around Marathon is the most perilous, environmentally antagonistic stretch of highway between Southern Ontario and Central Alberta. Every time I have traveled that route, no matter how pleasant the weather was earlier, by nighttime it is raining, foggy, windy, and miserable. Winding, undivided highway, though charming and beautiful during the day, becomes blind and terrifying at night. With two meters of visibility we crawled our way to the first available motel within what was left of our veiled eyesight. The "Zero-100 Motor Inn".
Only on our third day do we make it out of Ontario. From here on, the rest of the trip is mostly straight and we aimed for Winnipeg having never stopped there on my previous motor journeys.
On the way, we pulled over to stretch our legs and discovered a beautiful camping spot on the edge of Lake Superior. The water is crystal clear and the trees obscure the nearby highway making you feel alone with nature - and the other campers! We skipped rocks and I soaked my feet and socks jumping across the tributary running down from the mountain. After changing socks, we jumped back in the van to continue our journey refreshed.
In Winnipeg we stayed at a Travelodge, cheaper and much better equipped than our other stops, indicating, however isolated, civilization. Taking advantage of that civilization we aimed downtown for food. Winnipeg is quite attractive and the downtown infrastructure gives it a feeling unique among other Canadian cities. There were some really wide streets downtown considering its small size.
We found a party going on, on a Tuesday night, at an Earls restaurant! Who parties on a Tuesday night at Earls? Earls, by the way, is a casual restaurant chain in Western Canada. I have never seen a party with a live band and DJ at an Earls before. We stopped and ate there. Winnipeg definitely warrants further exploration.
It takes three days to get out of Ontario, and only one day to drive across Manitoba and Saskatchewan to get to Alberta. Many think the open prairies across the prairie provinces must be boring, but it is actually quite an experience to drive that passage.
Imagine looking forward and seeing dead straight highway ahead of you until the horizon. Look back and you see the same thing. Look right and left to the edge of the Earth. The wheat fields punctuated only by a lonely farmhouse, shielded from the wind by a barrier of deliberately planted trees. Short telephone poles border the highway and bails of hay, either round or square, show you that at least somebody is tending to the vast openness.
We drove through downtown Regina on the way. Usually we just drive past Regina but partly because of curiosity and partly because of a construction detour, we headed into the city. Regina seems a little more down than some of the other cities we pass through. I think it could be in part due to the drain of people migrating to economically booming Calgary. In the past, however, we have stopped for the night on the outskirts of Regina at the Country Inns & Suites and enjoyed quite a party at the bar next door.
Eventually we rolled into Calgary. And Calgary is another story altogether!
Posted by William at 2004年10月12日 00:47
Some of Sakko's Canada photos are here;
Posted by: Sakko at 2004年10月14日 19:44