ACROSS CANADA Sept 19 – Oct 21, 2008
Well here I am again at the beginning of another winter traveling. The plan this year is to go across Canada to the Maritimes and then down the eastern seaboard of the US to Florida and some warm weather. I’m hoping to beat any cold weather.
I had a fast drive from home across south Alberta (odd to not stop in Medicine Hat but my brother was in the British Isles). I stopped in to see my 84-year-old aunt in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and then drove SE to Glentworth, the town I lived in till I was seven. Nothing much has changed except the railway track is removed and only one elevator still stands. My father was a Pool elevator agent. Our old house now has plumbing, a fenced yard with grass and is still lived in. When we were there the toilet was a honey bucket in the basement that was emptied once a week (probably nicer than an outhouse in the winter), water was from a well so that the once weekly bath water was shared by everyone (I got to go first) and electricity was only turned on Monday mornings to do laundry. The town still only has about a 100 people and is kept alive as it has the regional school. The only store in town is now owned by the community. The hotel is being renovated. The country is rolling hills and basically grain country with ranching.
I then went on to Assiniboia, the town I was born in, to visit with four of my paternal aunts and uncles and some of my 33 cousins on that side of the family. Nobody does hospitality like them with food and coffee constantly on the go. Assiniboia has an incredible art gallery built by a past local who made it big and provides it free to everybody.
Moose Jaw is known for its Tunnels tours. The Al Capone tour was mostly fictitious theatre and the Chinese tour was mediocre and not worth the price.
Regina is attractive with Lake Wascana in the centre next to a lovely Legislative Building. With 36 kinds of marble including spectacular green striped marble columns from Malta, it is supposedly the nicest provincial legislature in Canada. My camper batteries died and I’ve been trying to revive them in the bright prairie sunshine. There is always a challenge with the camper or the truck.
Trees start to appear before crossing into Manitoba. Winnipeg has lots of skyscrapers surrounding Portage and Main with no pedestrian crosswalks. Underground malls avoid the wind and cold. After touring the legislative buildings with the golden boy on top, I walked along the Assiniboine River to the Forks where it meets the Red River. The Manitoba Museum had some nice dioramas and the Winnipeg Art Gallery was disappointing with its Inuit exhibit closed. I made a short detour to Steinback, SE of Winnepeg, to the Mennonite Heritage Museum. It gave interesting insights into the Mennonite farm and way of living.
The view from here to SW Ontario doesn’t change much with trees, rocks and lakes. With all the fuss over Sleeping Giant Mountain (had more votes than all others combined in the CBC Seven Wonders of Canada contest but never made it attesting to the fervor of Thunderbay residents), I made the 23 km walk in an easy day to the Top of the Giant (a nondescript widening in the trail surrounded by trees) and then walked another 4 km round trip to the Knees and a view of Thunderbay across the corner of Lake Superior. Hiking here is not like at home with flat walking through trees and limited views.
I didn’t risk kayaking in Lake Superior Provincial Park, drove trough great red maples on the way to Sault St Marie, went on a mine tour in Sudbury (called Dynamic earth, constructed for tourists and little better than the LeRoi Mine tour in Rossland), and watched a ball game at Don Cherries Grill in Parry Sound on the drive around Georgian Bay. One of the highlights so far was three days kayaking and hiking in Georgian Bay National Park, my picnic shelter was taken over by 16 people who arrived Saturday am for their annual preThanksgiving turkey feed. They treated me like one of the family. I walked 15 km of trails and kayaked around Beausoleil Island.
Trying to kill time waiting for my brother to return from a holiday in Kentucky, I drove around the south end of Georgian Bay through Collingwood, Owen Sound and Wiarton (hiked part of the Bruce Trail) and then through the pretty towns of Elora, Fergus, Elmira (Old Order Mennonites in horse and buggies) and St Jacobs and then via Waterloos/Kitchener to London. After two pleasant relaxing days visiting with my brother and his wife, I drove the 401 to Yorkdale Mall in north Toronto, parked and took my first subway to downtown Toronto. The Inuit exhibit at the TD Center was nice, the excellent Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario were closed for renovations.
Past Kingston is the Thousand Islands and I took a cruise to Boldt Castle (in the US), well worth the trip. I lucked out in Ottawa finding a great free place to park in Jacques Cartier Park next to the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau. After one day at the Museum, I walked over the bridges across the Ottawa River to tour the Parliament Buildings and the National Gallery of Canada (building not very practical).
I bypassed Montreal and drove on the south side of the St. Lawrence. I stopped at St. Hyacinthe where my great-grandfather (10x removed) arrived in 1668. The town record office was closed unfortunately as I had hoped to find some references to him. Quebec City is one of the most spectacular cities (it is the only walled city north of Mexico City). The city was full of thousands of police to provide security and most hotels were closed for the world Francophone conference, I saw Niclolas Sarkosy, the French president. Police escorted motorcades streamed by constantly. The old walled part of town is always a worthwhile visit.
My exact itinerary is in constant flux and I now had to decide if I was going to tour Gaspe, PEI and Nova Scotia or simply head south through New Brunswick. The temperature has been going down and it is not a lot of fun in the camper when it is below zero. I had my first really cold nights and so decided to head south down the St John River Valley. All the fall colour was gone but the valley is still very scenic, I walked around the falls at Grand Falls, McCain’s Potato World Museum was closed and I walked across the world’s longest covered bridge (1282 ft) in Hartland. Fredericton has little reason to visit so I continued to St. John. Reversing Falls is little more than a rapid and St. John is an unattractive industrial city. I walked 8 kms of trails in Irving Nature Park, and drove to St Stephen, the border crossing closest to the Atlantic. I thoroughly cleaned the camper of all herbal material and eventually threw out the remainder of my stash. Oh to be drug free. The border crossing was uneventful with no dogs sniffing around. I’ve driven 7,202 kms.
I’m looking forward to getting emails from all of you to keep me in touch with life at home. Onto the US.