© 2011 jemma

Our drive across Canada – Ottawa to Edmonton!

So we were off! Beginning our 3538km journey across Canada from Ottawa to Edmonton. Only a few thousand kilometres, and only 356km short of driving from Wollongong to Perth. Just a bit of perspective there. Once the trip was done however, we would have achieved our dream of driving from one side of Canada to the other, obviously not in this one trip, but including the entire year. Oh and not including Labrador/Newfoundland – we will get there one day though!

We headed off late Monday afternoon, leaving Ottawa for the first 5 hour leg to North Bay. We drove and drove and drove, and even drove through the town of Petawawa, a town and a military base. Apparently Jess’ Dad was Commander of the Special Forces Airborn Squadron there. While we were driving through we read all the signs for the different training areas e.g. Urban Assault training area. Although you can’t see any of these for the trees, it’s fun to use your imagination, especially when a large helicopter – Jess does not want to commit to a name – is doing figure eights overhead.

Just outside North Bay it began to pour and get dark. Road works seemed to be everywhere and although the road itself was paved, there were no lines, heavy rain and the shoulder was a gravel pit. Safety first! We followed a truck pretty much the rest of the way as he seemed to know where the road went. At some points we had no idea the road ended in places. Needless to say we were very happy to get to our hotel!

Day two was yet another long drive – you will start to notice a repetitive trend – I think it was 6 or so hours to Sault Ste. Marie, the Ontario side. On the way we passed by more beautiful lakes and forests which are easy to see as the speed limit on the Onterio part of the TransCanada Hwy – or TCan – is only 90km!! Shame the trucks that pass unsafely seem to forget that on the windy – turn turn not woosh woosh – roads. We even got to see Lake Huron which is pretty huge!

The things that stick in my mind that we saw along the way were 1. over 15 bald eagles counted along one river alone. Their nice white heads stick out from the dead trees they were sitting in. It became a spotting competition. And 2. The many many Mennonite or Amish farms that we saw. They stand out because of the horse and buggy road signs and also the men working horses in the fields and the buggies that families were travelling in on the side of the highway. Very cool and something we had never seen before.

We made it to Sault Ste. Marie in the evening and treated ourselves to nachos for dinner – again NOT as good as the ones back home. Sault Ste. Marie is a town cut in half by the Saint Mary’s River which splits the Ontario side from the Michigan side. It was fun walking around the next day and staring across the water and thinking ‘that’s a separate country right there.’ Only the birds however are able to cross the boarder freely. It was cold though, and I was very thankful for a bit of sunshine.

Then we were off to White River a small trucking town almost half way to Thunder Bay. Lots of people had tried to tell us to cross the boarder and travel under Lake Superior as it takes so much longer to go around. Well we wanted to stay in Canada – Oh Canada! – as that was the whole point of this year. That and we would miss good old Lake Superior and the fact that it looks like an inland sea as you can’t see the other side.

We had very nice scenery today and there were so many nice lookouts to stop and admire the scenery. Oh wait there are no ‘Lookout/off’ signs and you just drove past it with no way to turn around? Bad luck, just look from the car. We did however make one stop to see the gorgeous sun setting at one of the Lake Superior Provincial park beaches. Beautiful. We also stopped at Wawa to check out the Big Canada Goose. Ahhhhhhh Canada geese, gotta love them.

White River was freezing! Icy, cold and freezing and no Internet access from Bell – whom I suggest should look into that. It is the home of Winnie the Pooh, who as a black bear cub was trapped and sold to Lieutenant Harry Colebourn in White River. The English soldier called him Winnie after Winnipeg his adopted home town and later on Winnie was donated to London Zoo by Harry where Christopher Robin Milne, son of A. A. Milne loved him. Thus beginning Winnie the Pooh. Who knew?

We woke the next morning to find a thick layer of ice over our car which took most of the morning to melt off. After an A&W lunch – we had a banana breakfast – we headed out on our big big drive to Thunder Bay!

This was a great drive because we followed Lake Superior most of the way. There are so many little holiday towns, beaches and separate lakes which make up the beautiful drive. Heading into Thunder Bay we saw the Terry Fox monument but it had unfortunately been taken over by road works. Terry was a Canadian humanitarian who ran despite cancer and only one leg across Canada. He made it 5,373km before cancer unfortunately took his life but every year he is remembered by the annual Terry Fox run to raise funds for cancer research.

The weather forecast called for snow showers and -10deg temperatures that evening. I made Jess go for a little walk at least to stretch his legs, however he only wore his wind breaker and no jumper and he froze. I’d like it on the record that I told him to layer up! We both got hot chocolates to warm ourselves up on the way back to the hotel though. It was cold!!

We woke the next morning to no snow but frost all around. A nice heavy frost indeed. Today we had a very long 7 hourish drive to Kenora just shy of the Manitoba boarder. Yup we were still in Ontario! Can you believe it!?! It certainly is one big province.

We stopped in at a couple of waterfalls and a few petrol stations on the way to Kenora. The falls weren’t really running at their full spring melt best, but the gorges were beautiful. The drive mainly passes through farmland and then 30km out of Kenora changes to lake country with – again – many beautiful lakes. My favourite are definitely the ones with islands and beaver lodges in them. They are the most picturesque. We had flurries today too, which always makes fun driving conditions.

It was Friday and that can only mean one thing, lots and lots of weekend driving hours! We had a deadline to get to Edmonton by Halloween eve. We weren’t going to miss out on carving pumpkins!!

When I mentioned the heavy frost in Thunder Bay, it was obvious we hadn’t been to Kenora yet. We woke to frost and thick ice all over the car and -4 deg. COLD!! Jess spent much of the time out in the car park – where apparently bears had been spotted – scraping the ice off the windows. It was foggy too which wasn’t good either. We went to Macas for breakfast – I had porridge and Jess a McGriddle which he didn’t like – and then headed out the foggy streets of Kenora towards the Manitoba boarder.

We reached the boarder just as the fog was clearing, took a photo of the crossing and then realised that the speed had jumped from 90k to 110km!! Whooooo hooooooo! The downside of this was that someone in the fog had rolled their 4wheel drive off the road and there were a lot of police about. But it was 110km, and we finally felt we were moving!

When people say that the prairies are flat they are not exaggerating. Just outside Winnipeg the forest just disappears and along comes flat flat farmland. It is quite nice though, the colours and the farms and the cows. I kinda liked it.

We stopped in at Winnipeg for a little leg stretch at The Forks a provincial park at the joining of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. They are certainly muddy waters. We checked out the market and salivated but resisted the food vendors and the bakery. We had to get moving if we were going to make it to Regina by the afternoon. That’s right we were driving across one province in one day, take that Ontario!

We drove and drove and drove across the prairies, going through one rain band to sunshine to rain again. It was that way all the way to the Saskatchewan boarder and onto Regina. Lots of cows, farms and harvested fields. Oh and a few grain elevators along the way. That and millions of migrating Snow and Canada geese!

Arriving in Regina we went down to the gym and then walked up the road to get some dinner. It was freezing as usual but we were excited about eating Vietnamese and not Subway. The restaurant was closing – they had a party to attend – but agreed to make us a take out dinner. Here is a tip, do not order a take out vermicelli salad ever, it is just not take out food. The spring rolls were nice although there were enough to feed a small army. Breakfast anyone?

Next morning we were off, off on our final driving day to Edmonton via Saskatoon. The fields were golden in the morning sun and we had radio all day for a change. Our first surprise of the morning was when we had been driving across the flat earth for about an hour we found ourselves dipping down into the Qu’Appelle valley. It was a nice distraction in the days drive.

We drove through Saskatoon just to say that we had – it has a nice river front – and had lunch in the only Subway that I have seen with blue lights in the bathrooms, we all know what that means! And we were off again. Drive, drive, driving across the golden prairies through Canada’s only boarder town Lloydminster and into Alberta!

Our first signs of Edmonton were seeing once more the bison of Elk island, then it was onto Jess’ Aunty Eleanor’s and Uncle Lawrence’s house for pyrogies and cabbage rolls, hiking in elk island and coming face to face with bison, freezing temperatures, walks around Edmonton, volunteering, JESS’ BIRTHDAY! and carving Halloween pumpkins! Hmmmmm Halloween candy!

It was certainly a well deserved break and a chance to gear up for our next big trip, driving down to California to meet Andrew and Sarah! Go Harlequin! You can do it!