Canada has always been there to help people who need it.
(August 20th, 2015)- We began our trip bright and early from my parents house in Lakefield, ON. The car was uncomfortably full, with my most treasured belongings at my feet, a cooler full of food on the arm rest and just enough space for Marley to lay down in the back seat. We barely made it out of Lakefield before we transferred the food to a cooler bag and ditched the bulky cooler in a McDonald’s parking lot. Freeing up the arm rest felt wonderful considering how crammed the car felt. The reality of everything only truly sank in once the trip began: We were modern day hippies with no income and no plan. It felt freeing and terrifying all at once.
Less than an hour on the road Jon and I had a scary experience that could have ended our trip or worse, our lives. We were driving along a 2-lane country highway and laughing about something I thought I saw(I mistook a haystack for a Buffalo). When our eyes returned to the road an 18-wheeler in the opposite lane was quickly drifting into our lane. We suspect the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel, because at the last minute he swerved back into his lane, missing us by mere inches. My heart felt as though it fell into my gut. We sat in silence in the car for minutes after, blankly staring at the road. As much as we wanted to pull over and process what happened, we continued driving. From this point on, the sight of an 18-wheeler on the road would cause us great anxiety.
The first day of driving was definitely eventful. We stopped in Sudbury, ON so Marley could reunite with his breeders and birth mom. As we continued on our journey, we experienced the vast beauty of Lake Superior. At 11:30 PM after a twelve hour travel day, we decided to rest in Wawa, a small town a couple hours outside of Sault Sainte Marie. While we had planned on camping in Wawa, by the time we arrived the campsite’s office was closed, so we found the next best thing: a Tim Hortons parking lot. It wasn’t glamorous by any means, but at least we were able to get something to eat, take a sink-shower in the washroom, and get some sleep in the car. The car was so jam-packed that we couldn’t even put our seats back to sleep, but sleep we did.
We awoke around 5 AM absolutely exhausted, but ready to continue on our journey. Our next destination was Thunder Bay, ON, our last Ontario stop before we would officially leave our province and enter Manitoba. Thankfully Thunder Bay was only about five hours away from Wawa, so our second day involved much less driving. Furthermore, Jon’s friend’s mom was gracious enough to allow us to stay with her while visiting Thunder Bay, even though we had never met her before. This part of the trip was a pivotal point that I am forever grateful for. We hadn’t eaten a real meal since we had left, nor had we properly showered, and we were running on no energy. Hattie and Phillip were wonderful hosts, and true Canadians. They allowed two strangers and their dog to stay in their home, treated us to an amazing dinner, and took us site-seeing around their beautiful town. We were able to shower and sleep in a real bed, and even though we had only been gone for two days, we really needed this recharge. It’s hard to explain how amazing it feels to have your basic needs met when you are without those things. It felt as though we hit the reset button; we were refreshed and our trip began anew. After what felt like the greatest sleep of all time, Hattie and Phillip made us a wonderful breakfast before we hit the road again (seriously, thank you). Our goal was to reach a campsite in Brandon, Manitoba on day three, which was about a ten hour drive. We blew this goal out of the water.
Manitoba and Beyond
It took us a total of seventeen hours of driving time to defeat Ontario. Our goal for day three was to arrive in Brandon, MB and camp for the evening. As we passed through Manitoba the time zone changed, and we gained an hour of daylight. We knew that if we continued to Saskatchewan, we would gain yet another hour of daylight. We decided we would stop in Winnipeg to quickly experience the capital of Manitoba and stretch our legs. We aimlessly drove around the city until we found a nice park to stop at. It was a quick rest-stop, but in the time we were there we heard a voice yelling “SODA!” (Jon’s nickname). Much to our surprise Jon’s good friend from high school in Ottawa just so happened to be walking past that park. It was one of those funny coincidences that made Canada feel so small and so large all at once.
When we passed by Brandon we were feeling pretty tired as we had been traveling for nearly ten hours, but we really wanted to take advantage of the extra driving time we had gained. We fuelled ourselves with some 5-Hour Energy drinks and surpassed Manitoba altogether, continuing through to Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan’s beauty was something I had never experienced before. Ontario seemed to be defined by its lakes and green hills, while Saskatchewan was defined by its wheat fields and flatness. The night sky was lit up with stars, and we even got a shadowy glimpse of the Northern Lights. While they weren’t in their full illumination, it was still an astonishing thing to witness. After sixteen hours of driving we finally settled in yet another Tim Hortons parking lot. Something about Tim Hortons felt like the closest thing we had to home. It was inviting and safe.
This time around, sleeping in the car was much more unpleasant than the first night. We woke up cold, our bodies stiff and heads aching from shivering and clenching our jaws. We continued on, driving another couple of hours to Medicine Hat, Alberta. In four days we spanned four provinces. It was beautiful and difficult and tedious and profound. I felt as though the country was testing our ambition, our wills. We fought the terrain and we fought our own mental battles, and we made it to our final expanse of the journey.
The Road to Vancouver: Part 4 will cover my favourite part of the trip: Alberta, camping in Banff, and our arrival in Vancouver. This final part of our journey is the most defining part of the trip, something I will cherish forever.