Friday, June 22, 2018

BC or Bust roadtrip

Pic by RLT.
A one-way trip to my new little house in the west. Mostly following the Trans-Canada Highway from Toronto to Sidney on Vancouver Island.
(I could have gone via the USA, but a combination of rudeness and paranoia at the border is off-putting. Their financial loss.)
My 2005 smart car, with trusty diesel motor, never missed a beat.
Thursday 7 June.
Depart 05:30 with a full tank of gas. Bye bye Hogtown. Election Day in Ontario and reports on the radio of a deadly shooting in Scarborough, with a cop being saved by his kevlar vest. Take the 400 Hwy north initially but turn off via Kleinburg, Nobleton, Thornton on Hwy 27. Taking a last look at familiar places. Back on the 400 Highway at Barrie.
Pitstop at Tim Horton's, 35 Lone Pine Road, Port Severn. using up Tim's gift card. Coffee $1.77. Past Parry Sound through the rocks towards Sudbury. The 4-lane highway runs out in Canadian Shield country.
At Sudbury I divert into town for Esso Sudbury #253, 1813 Regent Street South: diesel $18.40 with discount card. Subway lunch at E4-2408 Long Lake Road, Sudbury. I leave keys in ignition.
Out of town past the giant chimneys at the mines hereabouts.
Listening to Steppenwolf - "Magic Carpet Ride"; Toby Keith - "I Love this Bar."
Now westbound thru Massey, past Elliot Lake, Lake Lauzon, Blind River, with road works and hold-ups. Arrive 15:25 at Delta Hotel, 208 St Mary's Drive, Sault Ste. Marie. Views of namesake town in Michigan across the river.
While watching election coverage in the hotel View restaurant + bar a woman is loudly dropping the 'F' bomb at regular intervals at the top of her voice. Attending a "heritage conference" is this what women fought for? (Bar tab $25.14, no alcohol.)
I take a stroll by the river. A random woman asks "Are you graduating today?" Me: "Why would I be graduating?" "You could be getting a Masters in Psychology." Me: "That is very flattering!" End of conversation.
A giant laker is in the St Mary's River: MV Indiana Harbor.
429 miles.
Friday 8 June.
Dep 05:30. Start with a wrong slot, straying west to Gros Cap, instead of north. Wasted most of an hour in the boondocks running short of gas. High anxiety. Happy to reach Trading Post Esso, The Trading Post, 1332 Great Northern Road, Sault Ste-Marie at 06:34.
Through miles of gravel roadworks to breakfast off the road at Twilight Resort, Hwy 17 North, Montreal River Harbour. A self-described greasy spoon in a shack, we talk of the old days. This was a camp for conscientious objectors in WW2, mostly Mennonites, who were interned and put to building roads. There were also POW camps in the district, some prisoners stayed on after the war. Nowadays there is a mixture of holiday makers and contractors working on local building projects at this lakeside resort.

Pic by RLT.
I stop to talk to Dale Walker, cycling on his Trek 520 to Minneapolis to see family. I help him out with some water and three energy bars. I couldn't help with "medical marijuana." He has been on some epic cycling tours:
I stop at the Visitor Centre for Lake Superior Provincial Park on Highway 17. A kind lady from Abbotsford B.C. takes an interest in the smart car with the "B.C. or Bust" sign. I see more cyclists.
I stop for gas at Esso on the main highway at Wawa: $10.05. Then at Tim Horton's I encounter a couple from Zurich/Montreal who are attempting Ottawa to Vancouver by bicycle. I stop to help another cyclist but no help required - he is simply walking up a hill - no shame in that.
Through Schreiber, ON, a railway town. Stop at Esso Terrace Bay, Hwy 17, diesel $17.40. A man with relatives in Blighty takes an interest in the smart car.
Across the new Nipigon River Bridge, with triple tower cable-stay design.
Arrive at Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel & Suites, 17 Cumberland Street North, Thunder Bay, ON, P7A 4K8. Hotel kitty corner from the old CPR railway station. Noisy - freight trains and partying - but great view of Lake Superior. I am not feeling too good so ice cream for supper.
Listening to: Johnny Paycheck "Take this job and shove it!"
464 miles.
Saturday 9 June.
Dep 05:42. Find Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) no trouble. Gas at Shell Canada Products, 4794 Highway 11 & 17, Kakabeka Falls at 06:16. Happy to find diesel at this early hour.
Breakfast stop at Black Spruce Motel & Old Country Kitchen, south of Upsala. Breakfast special $5.99, coffee with refill $1.99. Sixties music playing. The good ol' boys have been fishing.
Listening to CBC "bang on" politically correct radio - some lady gardeners calling themselves "eco-feminists" (since when was gardening a political statement?), endless global-warming baloney (what Canada could use is warming up a bit!).
Past Lake Wabigoon (Wobegon?). Tim Horton's at Dryden, ON, arr 09:35, lose an hour. Ask for mug, not disposable cup. The drive-through is choc-a-bloc. Nearby take gas at BG Fuels Gas Bar #3878, 647 Government Road, Dryden, ON. ($16.11). Clean windscreen. Stop at garage sale on exit of town, there is a table of tools but nothing has my name on it.
Endless pickup trucks towing boats. The road is empty for stretches - motoring as she used to be.
Divert through Kenora and Lake of the Woods. 12:40 reach Manitoba, three days of riding through the rocks comes to an end, as I have reached the Prairies. Speed limit rises to a more sensible 100km.
On to Winnipeg - arrive at Travelodge at 14:39 but it is sold out. So to Canad Inns Destination Centre Windsor Park, 1034 Elizabeth Road, Winnipeg, where I apparently get the last room at 15:10. A peculiar hotel where they demand a $200 deposit on the room. Crash out until 21:00 approx - I must have been tired. Snack in hotel $17.67 incl tip, avoiding mayo. There are freight trains and a busy road at the end of the street.
Good Lovelies play Mariposa Folk Festival, Orillia, ON, Sunday July 8th.
432 miles, running total for three days 1,325 miles.
Sunday 10 June.
Dep 05:00. Signposted out through Winnipeg city centre, not a snag at this time of day. Turning left at Union Station, I can't help thinking of George Ernest Willmett. Followed by a cop car for a while - unnerving. Take gas at Petro-Canada, 2607 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, at 05:35: $15.
Early morning fog, past Portage La Prairie, to a stop at Sidney, Manitoba - a rather dog-eared town with a rusty old Pontiac Parisienne taking pride of place, amongst other vintage tin.

Pic by RLT.
Stop at Brandon on TCH for fry-up at A&W (The Dub). The good ol' boys are in residence:
"You going out to the lake?"
"Don't do anything till I get back!"
Listening to The Farm country radio: Chris Janson: "Drunk Girl" (are drinking songs back in fashion?); Dierks Bentley: "What was I Thinking?" Radio reception much better on the Prairies.
Gas at Esso Amethyst Stores Ltd, Trans Canada Highway, Elkhorn at 10:13 - $14.40. Past Moosomin, SK, where the Red Barn is a favourite stop.
Wind and hail warnings on the radio. Travel-trailers fishtailing on the highway. Horrible wrong slot at Regina - a sign simply says road closed ahead - no advice about what to do. I turn south drifting eastward to Krona.
After a spell on gravel roads where I am cursing loudly I regain the TCH, finally back on the black stuff. After passing Reed Lake I reach the Holiday Inn Express, 1301 North Service Rd E, Swift Current ($125.67). The local Co-op is closed, so I dine at Tim Horton's, making a big effort to rehydrate.
551 miles - the Queen Stage.
Monday 11 June.
Dep 05:43. A mama duck and brood are attempting to cross the TCH. I hoot loudly and they flee in another direction. I fear for them. Soon after a stag is crossing the road in front of my car, more hooting to deter two followers. Let us hope they made it. Too much roadkill on the highway testifies to daily carnage.
Gas at Gull Lake Esso, Junction Hwy 1 E and Hwy 37 N, Gull Lake, SK at 06:32. The cashier berates me for cleaning more than the glass on the smart car: "No washing!" Good breakfast at adjacent International Diner, Gull Lake, deserved $5 dollar tip. I'm told the boss is an Englishman, speciality English fish and chips.
Gas at Shell Canada Products, 1343 TransCanada Way, Medecine Hat: $10.
Drizzle. I can see the Rockies at last from 100 miles away. Stop at splendid rest area. Chat to local couple heading out to a summer job with a big rig.
Gas at Calgary Co-op Edgefield Gas Bar, 140 Edgefield Place, Strathmere, AB: Total $13, $1.229 per litre. (Due to a collapse in civility in Canada you have to prepay for gas in many places, which leads to a guessing game as to how much you need. Get it wrong and you have to go back for change - that is two transactions instead of one.)
To Co-op store, bought lunch, on quick look round prices seemed higher than in Toronto. Buying beef is everywhere promoted. Cowboy hats are popular in store, both customers and staff.
I take a huge loop around Calgary, with a pitstop for a pic-nic about 50 miles short of Banff in another rest area. Views of snowy mountains. A huge traffic jam is developing eastbound.
Banff has succumbed to mass tourism and is not a pleasant experience. Prices are through the roof. I drive the strip as endless tourists disembark from buses. Managed to find a room at Bumpers Inn: interminable check-in procedures, crashed out at 18:00. $232.37.
402 miles.
Tuesday 12 June.
Dep Banff 04:55 for a day of endless mountains. Good idea to go early avoiding traffic and grockles. To Lake Louise for a short tour, taking in the old log railway station from 1910.
Kicking Horse Pass (fantastic), stop at spiral railway tunnels, then down Ten Mile Hill. Cyclists are coming the other way. Crazy. Dropped in at the tiny village of Field, BC, but it was closed. (I am now in B.C.) On to Golden, BC, for gas ($20) and A&W breakfast. Through Rogers Pass to Revelstoke, a railway town with museum, where I take tea at the Main Street Cafe, served by a girl from Melbourne, Australia.
I cut south towards Kelowna, pitstop at Safeway Vernon Square, 4300 32 Street, Vernon for gas $15.00 and a drinkable yoghurt $1.04.
Then at helpful Kelowna tourist information with maps. Over the mountains to Merritt, after struggling to find turn-off. I consider stopping here for the night but think better of it, plenty of cheap motels but not much more than a logging camp.
I carry on to Hope, arriving at Best Continental Motel, 860 Fraser Ave at 17:25 approx. I manage to negotiate a room on the ground floor at Seniors rate, $89.27 - saves battling upstairs with luggage. Good value. To Rollo's Restaurant, next door, a delightful old-fashioned diner, three courses $27 incl tip. Friendly staff, recommended. I take a short stroll after dinner and spot a row of charging points for Tesla electric cars.
Pic by RLT.
Hope has the mountains like Banff but none of the gouging. I prefer it.
467 miles.
Wednesday 13 June.
Dep 05:00. Find Chevron gas station at Hope - open early. Take coffee while chatting with the cashier about the old days on the Saanich Peninsula (where I am headed) - he laments the loss of commercial daffodil growing, pushed out by development of subdivisions.
Running in the rain in heavy traffic on the TCH. Stop at a welcome rest area where there are many rabbits. Through the southern outskirts of Vancouver.
Reach Tsawwassen for B.C. Ferries "Spirit of Vancouver Island" 09:00 sailing to Swartz Bay (Undersize vehicle and driver: $72.50). Take Starbucks breakfast at Tsawwassen Quay Market. We depart ten minutes late but the captain says he will make up the time. Car alarms keep going off on the car decks. We pass "The Spirit of British Columbia," headed the other way, in the narrows. Rapid unloading at Swartz Bay and I arrive at the house in Sidney at 11.02.
107 miles, total for trip 2,852 miles.

No comments: