The Daily EO: August 6th, 2012

Greetings from St. Catharines, Ontario and the ten Den B&B.

Hours Driven:  15
Kms travelled:  1308
Money Spent:  $123

It was ambitious, but we decided to drive from La Crosse, Wisconsin (which is almost in Minnesota) to home in one day.   In reviewing the route, we determined that it was even further than we could handle and decided on a stop at my in-laws in St. Catharines to shave a couple of hours off the journey.  And then we could see them too!

We made our requisite stop at a cheese factory in Wisconsin and gawked at cheese – how to pick just one?   After driving more than 3000 kms on the I-90, we finally turned south to head around the lake.  For excitement, we considered taking the Milwaukee ferry across Lake Michigan, but once we determined the cost to be $300, we decided the 1 hour we’d save wasn’t worth it.  I guess we are too accustomed to Canada’s subsidized ferries – but that seemed ridiculous for a route that has a reasonable driving estimate.

Illinois is where things got tricky – we had to change highways several times and stop to pay tolls frequently.  We were running low on American cash and therefore snuck Canadian change to our toll payments.  We’d ask the collector a question to distract from our coinage and then leave immediately once the gate was up!  The 407 toll highway in Canada is more expensive sure, but it was annoying in Illinois have to stop at 5 or 6 toll booths while making our way around Chicago.   The last booth was quite confusing – pointing us to Iowa – and we mistakely drove right through without paying.  We are waiting for the FBI to surround our house in Canada looking for their $1.50.

Emile played the Blues Brother’s Chicago and I answered back with Frank Sinatra’s.  Yes, we are dorks.

We snuck through Indiana, and then back to Michigan. You know, for the “auto” state, Michigan has some nice scenery.  In Charlotte, we stopped at Taco Bell for our last American experience.  Afterwards, we shook hands to say No More Fast Food for a LONG while.  About 30 minutes later, Emile saw a White Castle sign and promptly forgot our agreement.  Fortunately, he fell asleep (I was driving by this time, otherwise that would not be so fortunate), and I avoided any other purchases.

The border guard accepted our passports and declarations without incident and we found ourselves with non-roaming cell phones for the first time in days.   Oh, the things I could look up!

As I neared London, I started making up songs about our trip including a lovely ditty that I rhymed up “pee”, “me” and “tea”.  The end was nigh and I was finally cracking up.  Emile – rightly so – got concerned that a crazy person was driving, and requested to take over the wheel.

We pulled into St. Catharines at 1:30 am, and I’ve never been happier to arrive anywhere.  Except the bathroom at Tri-State Toll Highway Hinsdale Oasis.

August 6th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:   The quiet and peaceful sound of driving on asphalt after crossing the border into Canada versus the loud and bumpy concrete highways in the USA.

It’s good to be home!



The Daily EO: July 13th, 2012

Greetings From Cranbrook, BC and the Levang Motor Inn!

Hours Door to Door:  15
kms travelled:  1525.3
Money Spent:  $124.56

We had a plan – we were going to sleep in, enjoy the gym at our fancy hotel, eat breakfast, then hit the road for day 3.  That all changed when Emile woke up early feeling refreshed – and with a thin wallet – and said “I think we can make it all the way today”.  It wasn’t a bad idea, we had about 1.5 days of driving left and it felt silly to stay the night 4 hours away from our destination.  So, plans changed – out of bed, in the shower, stop at McDonald’s, fuel up and head out of Winnipeg with a song in our heart.

Just a note here – for anyone who hasn’t had a McGriddle in a long time (like me) – they are as wonderfully terrible as you can remember a sandwich made with syrup pitted pancakes to be.  And the Higgins and Burke Earl Grey tea was excellent.

There are those that will tell you driving the prairies is boring, but for me, I love it.  The vast expanses, the fields of yellow and purple, the multiple tiny towns gathered on the highway’s edge and the land filled with grain elevators, silos and even small oil pumps.   I also love that as a province, Saskatchewan refuses to change their time for Daylight savings – if it is 11:00 am in January, it’s good enough to be 11:00 am in July.   They just opted out.  I didn’t know you could opt out of Daylight Savings time. – I should try it in the Spring ahead and get my extra hour of sleep.  Just like the city of Creston, BC who as a town refused to change their clocks – they are right on the timezone line, otherwise that could be problematic.

I also love that Western Canada seems to have an end to their cities.  There isn’t outskirts for even most of the major cities – suddenly its upon you and just a quickly you are through.  In Ontario, we stretch and spread beyond the city limits, and now it seems that Barrie to Niagara Falls is one unending path of human construction.

We stopped at a little bakery in Indian Head outside of Regina.  I ordered 3 “jam jam” cookies and savoured them as we continued our drive.  Actually, I didn’t savour them at all, I ate them as quickly as I could.   Emile’s Long John – and I am talking about his chocolate covered pastry – disappeared pretty quickly also.

We missed any restaurant that appealed to us in Lethbridge, so ended up at Jimmy’s Drive Thru in Bow River about 40 kms past.  Type of place that really doesn’t care about the service levels – just takes care of business.   We ate our burgers on the go as we continued our trip through Alberta.

Do you know the speed limit in Saskatchewan and much of Manitoba is 110 km/hour?  You’ve got a four lane divided highway with 5 km visibility.  I wonder if they ever have accidents there?   In BC a twisting mountain narrow 2 lane highway speed limit is 100 km/hour.  I think one of these provinces need to consider adjusting.  As Emile was passed several times by the locals, we enjoyed the reemergence of the mountain ranges, and I felt the familiarity of home.

This is where we’ll stick for some time now before carrying on to Vancouver and returning to Huntsville via the United States.   It’s not very often that you take a picture of the welcome sign for three provinces in one day – it’s nice to have a break from driving.

July 13th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Photo Credit Susan – that’s right! Not Emile!

Sunset in Big Sky Country

The Daily EO: July 12th, 2012

Greetings from Winnipeg, Manitoba and the Sheraton Four Points!

Hours door to door:  13 hours (Wawa to Winnipeg)
kms travelled: 1212.9
Money Spent:  292.89

After training in the hills of Huntsville, running 4K through the flat streets of Wawa felt pretty easy.  Well, for the first 2 kms, anyways.  But I ran further than I ever had before without stopping.   Yeah me!

We had a later departure after partaking in a leisurely breakfast at the Empire.  The perfect small town diner replete with aging waitresses, casual service, and fried bologna.   (Emile says it just tastes like hot dogs – I didn’t need the experience)

The views yesterday were lovely, but there were more of the same of the sun shining over Lake Superior.  We stopped in Terrace Bay and listened to what I associate with the ocean – the tide.  It took us nearly 10 hours to drive half of Lake Superior’s rim – a large lake for sure, but dwarfed when you think of the grandeur of own country – Canada.

Our cell phones both were out of range and it was a liberating feeling to feel so far from our lives in Huntsville.

We purchased the most expensive per litre gas in Marathon 142.9/liter.  (we didn’t fill up – just a half a tank – we showed them!)

Emile and I were both embarrassed to lack details of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope.  We couldn’t remember if he started on the East or West coast.  Emile claimed to remember pictures of him running through the prairies, and I couldn’t tell him he was wrong.

We discussed him and Rick Hansen during our drive on the 100 km Terry Fox Courage Highway coming into Thunder Bay.  We tried to think of others of any nationality that have made such a worldwide impact in bringing medical issues to front of mind – and couldn’t.

We stopped for an urgent pee break and to educate ourselves at the Terry Fox memorial near Thunder Bay where he had to end his run shortly before he died.  In reading the plaque, it crystalized in my brain that he was running a marathon every day.  And I barely able to scratch out 4 km with two good legs.

Driving through Kenora and into Manitoba, we were treated with my favorite scenic view – dark blue sky just after dusk with black silhouette landscape.  Those skies were lit up with showy lightning, and we spent 10 minutes driving through an intense rainstorm reducing our speed to 30 km.  It was exhilarating.

We tested our odometer just outside Winnipeg and discovered that for all practical purposes it is accurate.  Seems like a strange government program to put signage up for.  Well, a load off our minds.

Our arrogant Ontario-centric selves thought finding a room in Winnipeg would be easy – but the first four hotels were sold out.  And we wondered if we should have brought the tent.  No matter, we found a wonderful newly renovated place – more than we wanted to spend though – and crawled into a fluffy dream bed.

July 12, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:   Emile and I both being so moved at the Terry Fox Memorial that we needed to pause our conversation to get a hold of ourselves.  (photo credit Emile)

Terry Fox statue near Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

The Daily EO: July 1st, 2012

I don’t really understand what it means to live without, to generally be concerned about my safety, or need to protest in the streets to get basic human rights for me or my fellow countrymen.  I don’t know what it means to not have EI to turn to, worry about getting sick because I cannot afford the bill, or face the workings of a corrupt police force.  I do not like Stephen Harper much – he’s is a bit of a stuffed shirt – but I don’t have to worry about him eliminating the Québécois in massive act of government-sponsored genocide.  And I will not be taken from my home for voicing a negative opinion about him.  I don’t have to bribe a government official to receive a licence.  And I can log into Facebook any time I want (which I do not want).

My generation – and the ones that are coming after me – for the most part don’t get it.  Those who came before us fought – both literally and figuratively – so we didn’t have to understand it.  So suffering and misery were replaced by hope and opportunity.

I know some of you would point out the challenges we face here:  many Canadians living under the poverty line, social issues prevalent in our Native populations, the erosion of our Peace Keeping reputation on the world stage, the underfunding problem in healthcare, cheap imports devastating our manufacturing base, and conservation of our generous nature resources.  There will always be problems for us to solve.

But we have the basics of the basics down.  And today – despite it’s predictability – I am thankful.

July 1st, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Celebrating my Canadian Citizenship.