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This summer, we listed our house for sale, and then took it off the market again. We had had enough of fixing up our home and waiting for the pandemic to be over.
We were double vaccinated, free of responsibilities, and STIR CRAZY. After a year of assorted online school and work, our four young adults were getting ready to go back to University, – two reasonably close to home and two were far away across Canada. What were we – almost/once again empty-nesters going to do? What about us?
We REALLY needed to get out of the house. We had been avoiding public spaces, socializing and all the rest, but the summer was slipping away. We could foresee a fourth wave of COVID 19 heading our way in the fall, so we thought we should get out there and experience life before it was too late. I don’t think our government prognosticators predicted a fourth wave, so why should we ordinary people know better? Just common sense of course.
When we did hit the road, and travel across Canada, we discovered that every other Canadian was thinking the same thing!
“Let’s road trip!!”
Everyone seemed to be taking a last minute vacation during the last two weeks of August, before the children went back to school.
We once again decided to drive west from Southern Ontario to Calgary Alberta and back to visit with one of our boys, whom we had not seen for a year. We had kind of waited around, anticipating that Mr. Biden would open up the U.S. border to allow us to drive a slightly faster route to Calgary and back – and also because it’s nice to take a different route if you are going to drive 3500 kilometers and then back again. It would be lovely to visit the United States again, and I was hoping to show my husband beautiful Montana and the Dakotas. But no, our happy Prime Minister thought it was OK to open our borders to our neighbours, but not the other way around. These are the things that we can stew on while we are driving 7000 kilometers or so. Apparently it will be OK on November 8th to drive to the U.S. – now that we are home.
Last year we drove west across the Transcanada Highway – north above Lake Huron and Superior, and then westward through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. We drove through the mountains into British Columbia as well. We took the main route on the way west, and then diverted through the north on the way home to give us some variety of scenery for the drive back
This time around, my husband said “hey why don’t we go further south this time, just like Margaret suggested” last year…. and so we did! This was an awesome idea. Thank you Margaret. The best thing about blogging is hearing from other bloggers! Margaret is a writer whose website is called “A Prairie Perspective“. In a future post I will post some photos about our southern Saskatchewan diversion.
As we had driven to Calgary and back (+more), last year, this was more of a “driving A to B” trip. We were on a mission to get there and back quickly – with the exception of the southern Saskatchewan diversion. Last year my husband humoured me by stopping at every large roadside attraction and plaque that we could find.
Whenever we take a really long drive, we rent a car. This is generally not too expensive, and reduces the wear and tear on our own vehicles. Last year, there were very few cars available at local stores, because the stores were being shut down for the pandemic. On the other hand there were all kinds of vehicles available at the airports, because no one was flying! We rented a giant new SUV from Enterprise Rent a Car at Toronto Pearson Airport for about $700, – which is just plain crazy. We rented a brand new vehicle and drove it (a little further) for about 8900 kilometres and returned the car covered in bugs.
As I said earlier, this year, we discovered that everybody in Canada was driving. There were very few vehicles available to rent from anywhere, and so the prices were higher, but we still managed to rent a new SUV for about $1000, kilometers included.
We were once again moving some possessions across Canada, and so rented a large SUV and loaded it up. We were trying to reduce our household clutter, and so we decided to deliver a double bed and mattress to one of our sons’ University apartment in North Bay, and another sons’ drum sets to Calgary (among other things). Please visualize our full vehicle and imagine the sound of cymbals clashing every time we put on the brakes…….. We had a lot of time to say things like “drumroll please”…..
We initially drove from Southern Ontario to North Bay (3.5 – 4 hours) for a quick and enjoyable coffee with relatives. Then we unloaded our son’s bed and headed on our way to Thunder Bay. From North Bay we drove above the north shore of Lake Nipissing, through Sturgeon Falls and then Sudbury, approaching the north shore of Lake Huron, and finally the north shore of Lake Superior.
As we drove up and through Northwestern Ontario, we noticed a lot of road construction. Last year we spotted alot of wildlife along our route. This year we think all the road work kept the creatures away. The highway had a steady chain of tourists travelling along with us as well, and we found many of the small tourist hotels full.
As we discovered last year, it’s a long and beautiful drive from North Bay to Thunder Bay – with beautiful lake views and forested areas all along.
After about 4.5 hours of driving from North Bay, we passed through Sault Ste. Marie, and about 45 minutes further along the shore of Lake Superior, we stopped at beautiful Batchawana Bay Ontario to put our feet in the water! This is a beautiful and scenic area with a big beach. We pulled into the Voyageur’s Lodge and Cookhouse across the road, for the world’s best apple fritters (they really are – we had them last year) – they were all gone. The hotel was full too.
We realized that we were running late and made a reservation through the Best Western central reservation line for a hotel in Thunder Bay. Our pandemic coping plan was to reserve only first floor entrance hotel rooms so that we didn’t have to walk through lobbies and go through elevators to get to our room. This didn’t work well at all through our trip because the central reservation line never knew which rooms were available, and although they might have typed a note on our reservation, it never seemed to matter when we got to our reserved hotel.
Starting at about 11pm we tried to call the hotel’s direct line regularly as we were worried the hotel would be locked if we arrived late. The phone rang continually – no answer, which worried us. We ended up arriving at about 2am at the Best Western Nor Western hotel. We had stopped there the previous year as the hotel was re-opening, and the staff had been really happy to be back to work greeting people (even though through brand new plexi-glass). This year, one lone staff member greeted us with few words spoken. We thought the $228.78 price for a basic room was a tad much, but the best that we could find!
If we had planned our trip in advance, I’m sure we could have found some better deals, but driving across Canada with no planning is reasonably doable if you are happy to go with the flow (as long as the weather is good!). There are so many online tools to book things as you go now – but there are many big gaps along the way where the cellular service and internet fades away. No matter, we can just keep on driving the TransCanada! That night we needed to stop because there are typically moose and deer crossing the road at night which is really dangerous, and we were just plain tired.