After driving from Toronto to Vancouver (via Montana, Idaho, and Washington state), I can safely say – again – this land is amazing.
So many people – myself included – have been to many places around the world without fully exploring our own country. I have been to every province – some multiple times – but I have not been to the north. I have not visited even one territory.
I also don’t know the real history of this land. I’m trying to remedy that.
I want to say I will never drive that cross-country drive again; I said the same thing 35 years ago when we moved from Calgary to Toronto. Once across the prairies seemed like enough. But, I somehow did it again and enjoyed it.
Mostly. Not the snow. Or the cracked windshield.
But other than that, I’d say it was a success.
Good company helps; my best friend Maureen (Mo), who had been my constant companion on road trips with my children when hubby was unavailable, came along for this latest ride. She brought show tunes and was keeper of the TripTik. She’s comfortable with long silences and my tendency towards getting hangry.
She also swore there was a field of cow statues somewhere on the prairies, but that’s a whole other story.
The trip started with taking a photo with me and the car that was heading for its new West Coast home. Then I headed to the Beaches/Beach area of Toronto where Mo lives and it didn’t take long to be reminded: Ontario is SO BIG.Mississauga, Ontario: traditional land of the Anishinabewaki and Huron-Wendat and Haudenosauneega Confederacy.
The first night was spent in Sault Ste. Marie at one of the many really nice hotel/motels we stayed in. Simple, clean accommodation – that’s all I care about. I forgot my water bottle after the first night so we stopped in a place called Pancake Bay. Inside a little store attached to this wood carving shop there were water bottles and bait, and all things hunting and fishing.Pancake Bay, Ontario: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.
The tourist complex also had a bathroom – my teeny tiny bladder often was the motivator for our stops throughout the day. Mo, on the other hand, is like my daughter: she can go all day without a series of bathroom breaks.
Often the bathrooms were, well, basic.Thunder Bay, Ontario: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.
It took us two days to get from Toronto to Thunder Bay. Not full-out driving, but about eight hours per day. Although it was late September, there was a significant chill in the air, and it frequently poured rain, but we did pop out once in a while for shots of the incredible skies and water.Thunder Bay: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.
You cannot go to Thunder Bay without stopping by the Terry Fox Memorial. It’s not exactly at the spot that Fox’s run ended but the memorial is very well done and it is in a beauty of a location.Thunder Bay: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.
After Thunder Bay, we still had more Ontario to go, but it was a gorgeous day to start. Machin, Ontario: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.
Once you hit the Manitoba border two things happen: the roads get very rough and the land gets FLAT. Ste. Anne, Manitoba: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
We stayed in Winnipeg for the night, shortly after passing through the longitudinal centre of Canada. Yup, it’s a thing. I didn’t get a photo, but really, it’s a thing.
An unexpected treat in Manitoba, Neepawa to be exact, was seeing the home of Margaret Laurence. Laurence is a bit of a hero of mine. Her book, The Diviners, was the first non-children’s book I read – I literally graduated from Harriet the Spy to The Diviners. Laurence made me fall in love with complicated characters and stories.Neepawa, Manitoba: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
Saskatchewan held its own surprises in the form of SNOW.Orkney, Saskatchewan: traditional land of the Metis and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
This is not the snow at its heaviest; at that point I was calling hubby and asking him to check the weather radar to see if we needed to pull over.
Side note: we had chosen our driving route based on a couple of factors. Firstly, we wanted to stay in Canada as much as possible. Secondly, we wanted to visit family in both Edmonton and Calgary. Lastly, and the biggest wrinkle, we had to avoid driving through BC other than the Lower Mainland because it is required that you have snow tires as of October 1st on BC highways. Theoretically, the snow tires for this car were already in Vancouver (and they weren’t but that too is another story).
So, on this day in Saskatchewan, we were driving with all season tires and the cars approaching us were very heavily covered with snow. Hence the call to the hubby to ask how long this snow was likely to last. Funny enough, he said 20 minutes at most and it was about 17 (I mean really, who was watching the road while I was watching the clock?).
It was slushy and slippery and gross. But then, it wasn’t. It was just dry, flat highways. Prairie Rose, Saskatchewan: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
The next day, after a night in Saskatoon (and some pretty good sushi), we headed out to more flat landscapes and GRAIN ELEVATORS!Lashburn, Saskatchewan: traditional land of the Metis and Cree and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
We tried to capture provincial border signs whenever possible. Just because that’s what you do.Manitoba/Saskatchewan border: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
But when you travel a more northern route between Saskatchewan and Alberta, you go through Lloydminster and you simply cross over a street with a large marker. Some time later you see the Welcome to Alberta sign. It’s one of those quirky things of the prairies.Lloydminster, Saskatchewan/Alberta: traditional land of the Metis and Cree and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
Along with big Ukrainian Easter Eggs (pysanka).Vegreville, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
One of the BEST sites while travelling came shortly before we arrived at my sister’s home. Elk Island is a National Park east of Sherwood Park and Edmonton. Elk Island is home to a lot of wildlife and has the highest concentration of hoofed animals but the coolest – in my opinion – are the bison. There are currently more bison in the park than there were in all of North America in the late 1800s. There was a concerted effort on the part of Parks Canada to increase the bison population. The area was first created to protect Elk, hence the name.
Thanks to Wikipedia and the Elk Island Parks Canada site for info. Elk Island, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree
When Mo and I were at the site, there was such a noise coming from the bison. I tried to capture it but instead, I caught Mo and I discussing how they sounded like snoring (a bit of theme for our trip!).
Elk Island, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree
A few days later, I headed to Elk Island again with my daughter (who had flown to Edmonton to meet us) and my sister. It was a beautiful day and it made me super happy to have two of my favourite women hanging out. Elk Island, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree
After a few days of rest and relaxation at my sister’s home – where it felt like we were in a luxury hotel – and visits with my mom, we headed south to Calgary for a lunch with my sister by choice and my niece and then into Montana.
Calgary had a huge amount of snow, but the roads were clear for the day. We woke up the next morning in Browning, Montana. The two lane highway with a very high speed limit was pretty empty and the scenery was amazing. Browning, Montana: traditional land of the Métis and Niitsítapi (ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ, Blackfoot) and
The day was spent rushing along through Montana and – blink! we pretty much missed Idaho. We landed in Spokane for the night. It was Mo’s birthday and I had found a restaurant where the chef also had celiac. Not that I wish that on anyone, but it meant we were assured ‘safe for us’ and delicious food. It was amazing. Spokane, Washington: traditional land of the Spokane and Pend d’Oreille and Ktunaxa
I’ll be honest – my mouth is watering remember the delicious meal.
Our last morning was a sign of the day to come – clouds and mist. It poured rain most of the day. We crossed the border and things cleared up and we admittedly cheered. We were happy to be near the end, even though it had been a great trip. After the windshield was fixed and the paperwork to transfer the car complete, I flew back home. I love Vancouver so much (and especially my favourite newlyweds!) and if I didn’t have a job to go back to, I probably would have stayed a while. Vancouver, British Columbia: traditional land of the Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilwətaɁɬ) and Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw and S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm
Leaving my daughter is never fun, but this time there was a bonus the day after I got back: my son moved home from Boston after living and working there for five years. My hubby had taken a road trip to pick him up and similar to five years earlier, I was on the West Coast with my daughter and hubby and my son were moving him to a new job. Mississauga, Ontario: traditional land of the Anishinabewaki and Huron-Wendat and Haudenosauneega Confederacy.
Yes, this land is pretty amazing.
Acknowledging that it has a history and a meaning to it that is not what we have been taught and believe is something that needs to change.
If you wonder about the real history of where you live and travel, I have found this website useful as a starting point.