Thursday, August 7, 2014

Time with Old Friends

Our first stop in Southwestern Ontario was at the Greens in Grand Bend. Their neighbour was kind enough to let us stay in their driveway for the night. The Green's was on too much of a slope.
Emily, Adam, Arch, Julia and Kendra
Kendra purchased The Little Red Roaster from me when we "retired" and moved to Nova Scotia. She was the manager of our first store and owner of our store in the Covent Garden Market. She married Adam a year before we left. Now they are a family of four. Wow! Time flies. So much to catch up on.

It was a wonderful visit. Not only did we catch up on their news and activities but we learned enough about soccer to enjoy the upcoming World Cup games. Beacuse it was "soccer night in Grand Bend" and Emily and Julia both play.
Emily suiting up
Soccer is a great game for kids. The equipment requirements are minimal, so parents aren't out a lot of money if they decide soccer is not for them (Last year Emily and Julia were both into dance) and the kids get great exercise.

Then home for dessert and coffee
And off to bed. Such lovely young girls.

The next day we headed to the KOA in London for a week. Lots of friends to visit and some repairs to be done on the car - the air conditioner wasn't working. Not a good thing in Southwestern Ontario.

One of the highlights of our visit was dinner with some classmates from our university days:
Sely, Arch, Kathy, Gill and Dave
Gill is the odd man (woman) out here - the others all attended university together and are friends of 50 years +. She joined the clan when she married Bob - seen below- and has blended in well with this motley crew.
Bob, Gill's husband, Sely and Arch.
The last time we saw Dave and Kathy was at The Glades in Feb 2013 and we hadn't seen the others for several years so it was a wonderful visit.
The question here is "how many people does it take to open a bottle of wine?"
Gill served a wonderful cold supper on this warm night:
Poached salmon surrounded by green beans, hard boiled eggs, asparagus, olives and of course, potatoes. "After all" said Gill, "I'm Irish" accompanied by a lovely dressing

This was our second "one-platter" meal. See the photo from our visit to the Greens, above. It must be a new trend. And such a great idea.

Another day we played golf with buddies Dave and Dorothy
Both are excellent golfers and gave Arch a run for his money. I just tag along.
Dorothy is a Party Lite representative and a very good one at that. While we were there she was enjoying the use of the Party Lite car which is awarded each month to a different representative, based on sales.
We also made quick visits to several other London friends (I keep forgetting to take pictures), and between that and visiting old haunts and getting car repairs done the time went quickly.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Heading to Familiar Territory - Sault Ste Marie to Tobermory, Ontario

The plan was to drive from Sault Ste. Marie, around the top of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, stopping around Bracebridge for the night.

When we were preparing to leave the Sault Ste. Marie KOA a group was gathering for breakfast in the kitchen pavilion:
Caravan from Quebec
They all met up here the night before and were Alaska bound. Arch was very envious as he is anxious to go to Alaska.

We saw a lot of cyclists as we crossed Canada. It would be quite a trip. It took us 14 driving days to come from Abbotsford, BC to Sault Ste Marie. I cannot imagine how long it would take on a bike.
Heading across Canada - It is a long way to Newfoundland
This was our seventh day on the road without a break and we were getting awfully tired of driving. So, at Espanola we turned the Adventure Bus south to Manitoulin Island and the ferry to Tobermory. The original plan was to drive to Sudbury, then go south. I calculated the cost of the ferry on the internet and thought it would cost about $350. Expensive as the extra gas to drive around would only be $100. But, enough was enough and we saw this as an investment in our sanity. So the ferry it was.

We saw a lot of moose driving through Northern Ontario, especially on the drive from Atikokan to Thunder Bay. (If you do this drive be aware of the warning signs and be alert!) But the warning signs driving between Espanola and the bridge to Manitoulin Island were interesting:
First we saw this sign
Then this warned that a moose was likely on the road. How the heck does the sign know that?
The road was lined with motion detectors. Of course!
But we did not see a moose on this leg of the journey. Maybe they don't like all the fuss about their presence.

The bridge onto the island is a very narrow one-lane affair:
Once again very few campgrounds were ready for visitors and the one we stayed at was wet and mosquito-infested. But the sunset view from the Adventure Bus was beautiful:
The next day we were up bright and early and off to catch the ferry at South Baymouth. When we purchased our ticket we were happy to find that it was "only" going to cost $250. What a bargain! Ha!
Here comes the ferry
The ferry was quite comfortable. Arch settled in on the upper deck and I found a corner in the lounge to read. Animals must stay in your vehicle and we were a bit concerned about Princess as we were parked right at the front of the vehicle area beside the engines. But she is a great traveler and a trooper and was resting happily on the bed when we returned to the Adventure Bus.

We arrived in Tobermory just in time for a quick lunch before headed out to explore the area. Tobermory is the home to two National Parks. Fathom Five National Marine Park, Canada's first National Marine Conservation Area.

To qoute the Parks Canada website"

"The park preserves a rich cultural legacy that includes 22 shipwrecks and several historic lightstations. Fathom Five's freshwater ecosystem contains some of the most pristine waters of the Great Lakes. The rugged islands of the park are a reminder of the impressive lakebed topography found beneath the waves."

 We knew the boat trip to this area was expensive and we blew all our play money on the ferry so we set out to explore a bit of the Bruce Peninsula National Park.

Again, from the Parks Canada website:

"Located in the heart of a World Biosphere Reserve, the 'Bruce' is place of global significance. Thousands of visitors come each year to experience the massive, rugged cliffs of the park, inhabited by thousand year old cedar trees, overhanging the crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay. The park is comprised of an incredible array of habitats from rare limestone barrens to dense forests and clean lakes."

When visiting a National Park we always start at the interpretative centre. We were disappointed to learn that, due to budget cuts, the park was closed Monday and Tuesday. And it was Monday. However, when we arrived a park employee was just letting a group of school children out the door and, since it would take her an hour or so to close, she lets us in for a quick look-around. You could spend hours there.

Access to the tower for a over all view of the area was open:

It was quite a climb but the view was worth it.

We spent some time exploring the hiking trails.

Then back to the Adventure Bus to prepare for another day of travel. Tomorrow we are off to Southwestern Ontario and the driving marathon comes to an end. It was a long way from Calgary to Tobermory!!

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

North of Lake Superior

The trip around the north side of Lake Superior was another two day affair.

We left the KOA campground (recommended - the only challenge is traffic noise from the Trans-Canada) on a rainy, unpleasant morning:
And the first day of our trip was relatively uneventful. We enjoyed sightings of the lake, sometimes spectacular, as we drove along. Basically we seemed to chase the sun all day. We could see it in the distance but never caught it.
Our overnight stop was at Marathon - we stayed at Ley's Lunch Campground and do not recommend it. They cater to fishermen and bear hunters who are obviously not too particular about pleasant surroundings.

We had difficulty finding nice RV camping in Northern Ontario. I  believe most people stay at the provincial parks but we were so appalled by the cost ($40 to $50 per night for a site with electricity PLUS a daily entrance fee of $10.75) we were avoiding them. There is also an excellent National Park in this area that would be a good choice if you have a Parks Canada Discovery Pass. We did not stay there because we were just passing through.

As we were passing Marathon the next morning we saw this wonder high on a hill overlooking the highway:
What on earth!! Has a UFO invaded Northern Ontario?!?
 Called the UFO on the Hill it is actually a VOR. What is that you ask? Well., according to the tourism information folks in Marathon:
"The VOR provides directional information to aircraft equipped with VOR receivers. The Pilots tune in the frequency of the selected VOR, and identify them using Morse Code. For example, the Marathon VOR transmits on 115.9 Mhz and emits the Morse Code for Marathon. Once the station is identified the pilot can tune the receiver to determine the exact bearing of the aircraft to or from the beacon. The Distance Measuring Equipment will tell the pilot how far, in nautical miles, the station is from the aircraft. For example, if the aircraft is 50 miles south of the beacon, the VOR receiver will show the bearing to the station’s 360º to or bearing from the beacon as 180º from depending on whether the pilot requested information to or from the beacon. In either case, the Distance Measuring Equipment will display 50 nautical miles. The beacon here in Marathon is part of a continent wide airways network operated by NAV Canada and the Federal Aviation Authority in the USA. 

This beacon, due to its proximity to the Marathon Airport can also be used to allow aircraft landings in instrument flight conditions such as reduced visibility, low cloud cover etc."

Interesting.

Next we paid a visit to the Wawa goose:
Wawa means “Wild Goose or Land of the Big Goose” in Ojibway
Wawa is a lovely little town just of the Trans-Canada highway about halfway between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie and well worth a visit. The Visitor Information Centre is the spot to start your visit. It has a wealth of information about the area and many plaques telling the story of the town's history through its people. I loved these lawn chairs - called Muskoka chairs in Ontario.
They are painted as a tribute to Glen Gould. When visitor season is in full swing they reside at Magpie Falls - a waterfall that he loved so much he built a cottage in the area. Or so the story goes.
There is a fun general store in Wawa with the mandatory moose as a mascot:
And a lovely park with a small fishing pier and a beach. We are now in the area of Northern Ontario where beaches proliferate and there are many inviting ones along the road.

Just before arriving in Sault Ste. Marie we stopped to visit this shop:
The moose again
It is extensively advertised along the highway and surprisingly enough was worth the stop. They featured hand-carved items from across Canada. Most of which were very well done.

And then we arrived at the KOA in Sault Ste. Marie (Canada):
This was by far the nicest CAMPSITE we stayed in on this 9 month trip around North America. Very well run. Great services, including a dog agility area and a RV wash. Everything was spotlessly clean and the sites were very well maintained. 5 stars to them. Incidentally our favourite RV Resort was the Bensen Palms Village RV Resort in Mission Texas.

It would have been nice to spend more than one night there but we were getting close to our old stomping grounds (We lived in Southwestern Ontario for 40 years) and had commitments to keep.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Northern Ontario, Kenora to Thunder Bay

It was a cold, wet spring in Northern Ontario and I think we experienced the brunt of it. And we did not help the situation with the route we chose to drive from Kenora to Thunder Bay. Normally you take the Trans-Canada Highway 17 but we thought, been there, done that, it is a boring drive through the woods. Lets try Highway 11 through International Falls and Atikokan instead.

It was a pretty drive:
In spots the road was lined by granite cliffs
Lots of beautiful birch trees
Interesting marshes
Pretty lakes dotted with small islands
Many small waterfalls where rivers spill into lakes
Wild rice growing in the lakes and rivers
This is not a touristy area but in Souix Narrows we found this shop selling native arts and crafts, among other things.
This is fly-in fishing country so we saw several businesses designed to accommodate sportspeople with money:
Add caption
 This was a two-day drive for us. We planned to spend the night at a city park in International Falls but the park was still flooded with the spring run-off and pretty much un-usable. Although it was open.

So we went on to Atikokan, a Native community known as the canoe-making capital of Canada. It was pouring rain when we arrived to another flooded, town-operated campground.With no potable water, a flooded dump station and minimal electricity. Cost $30. What can I say.
The view from our front window.
The rain did stop eventually so we thought we would head out and see what we could learn about canoe making but - when the rain left the mosquitos arrived. BIG mosquitos, HUNGRY mosquitos, NASTY mosquitos. So we quickly settled in to enjoy a quiet, indoor evening.

The next morning we were up early and on our way to Thunder Bay. During the trip we crossed into Atlantic Watershed:
up until now all streams flowed north into Hudson Bay.
Ontario seems to be on a bridge-repair binge. It do not think we crossed one in the north that was not under repair.
This one was nearly as narrow as the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York that we crossed last year
Eventually we arrived in Thunder bay:
We were pretty happy to see these ugly grain elevators at the Port of Thunder Bay.
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Crossing the Canadian Prairie

Arch says driving across the Prairie is a lot like watching the water go over Niagara Falls. At first it is awe-inspiring and amazing but after about half an hour it is just boring.

We started out from Okotoks, Alberta on a beautiful, sunny day:
good by Rocky Mountains
As we drove along we were chatting and admiring the scenery and missed a sign that said “road closed at the Bow River” so after about 50 kms we were confronted with this:
The bridge was washed out by the floods, we assume
We weren't the only ones to miss the detour sign. To the right you can see a white SUV. He was trying to find a way around the detour. Eventually he turned around and came back.

So, for us, there was nothing to do but take the car off the dolly, unhook it, turn the Adventure Bus around and reconnect everything.


In the photo above you can see, behind us, another car that missed the detour sign. There were five or six cars that passed us and turned around. Obviously the road closed sign was not too visible.

Eventually we headed out again around a 100 km detour and were on our way . Here are some sights from the road:
Endless Sky
and endless highway
oil wells
The big teepee at the Medicine Hat Information Centre
I understand you can boondock here for the night. We decided against it as it is very close to the highway and therefore, very noisy.

The day we crossed Saskatchewan it was very rainy. But we still saw lots of grain elevators:

At one point we passed a man on a unicycle. I wanted to stop and find out what he was doing but the rain was pelting down and the wind was blowing it sideways so we decided against it. Later I "googled" him and learned he is cycling "across Canada" from BC to Ottawa to promote unity for climate change.

What struck me most about Saskatchewan was the amount of wetlands we crossed:
It is no wonder they get so much flooding in the spring rains. As you can see in the photo above the water comes right up to the Trans Canada Highway.

Saskatchewan is also home to the largest saline water lakes in Canada. This one is Chaplin Lake between Moose Jaw and Swift Current:
The rain makes it difficult to see but that is hills of salt, not snow, at the edge of the lake.

Manitoba was more of large farms and endless highway.

It took us four days to cross the Prairies and we missed a lot but decided not to stop as we were running very much behind schedule and we were due in London, Ontario on June 10 so we pushed on through. If we could go back we would take a day to visit Aberta's badlands, a day in Moose Jaw to visit the Al Capone tunnels, a couple of days checking out Saskatchewan's wetlands and Grasslands National Park and a couple of days at Lake Winnipeg. We missed a lot but that gives us a reason to go back some day.

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