It’s hard to believe the journey has come to an end, that we’ve finally seen the Atlantic Ocean. After countless hours of driving I can finally be completely still.
Day 11 of our trip was a short and easy one, after visiting one of my family’s old friends in Fredericton, we hit the road. Nova Scotia was much hillier than expected, the 102 & 104 from Amherst to Halifax looked much like photos I’d seen of the Coquilhalla highway (All uphill, so it seemed). Unfortunately it was a grey and slightly wet day as we descended into Halifax, and our first view of the city was during it’s rush hour.
It was thrilling driving into what will be my new town, but there was the sense of uncertainty: where would we spend the next few days?
Just as we should of suspected there was no overnight parking allowed at the Walmart, or probably anywhere in the city for that matter. We went to my great aunt’s place in Dartmouth to visit and park for the night. Tomorrow we are probably going to drive along the south coast and find somewhere near Chester to stay, enjoy the ocean and the countryside.
The journey isn’t over yet! Thank you for following along the way, I’ll always feel safe when I think of my friends back home.
After surviving a brutal wind storm in Cornwall, we awoke to a sunny, blue sky, a perfect day for a drive. This would be the last day of extended driving for the entire trip.
We were about 20 minutes from the border with Quebec, and as soon as we passed the landscape turned into vast hilly plains. We drove past Montreal and Quebec City, the latter looked surprisingly modern in contrast to pictures I’d seen of the old city; from the highway it had a much different face. We stopped for a little while in a small town on the St. Lawrence, it was unlike any place we had seen in Canada yet, it really did look like we could be somewhere in France. Across from the old stone school was a 250 year old church, overlooking the river as it turned to sea.
New Brunswick was much like I had expected, vivid red and green colours and rolling hills. We were able to go ‘prairie-speed’ here too, taking in so much of the beautiful landscape in so little time.
Although my Dad was born in Halifax, he grew up mostly in Fredericton. Before we carry on I’d like to meet some of my family’s old friends, being the first Finck to come back in a long, long time.
This evening we will be in Halifax!
I cannot describe how helpful the mechanics we found in North Bay were, not only did they get us fixed up for a third of the price as Canadian Tire, they did it before 11 AM, offered free driving service, and a couple of courtesy pocketknives. Funnily enough, one of the mechanics saw the keyboards in the back and assumed we were a band on tour, and wanted to set us up with a gig!
In conclusion I urge you, no matter where you are, or how stuck you are, don’t let any swindling bastard from Canadian Tire look under your hood; it’ll ruin your day.
Anyways, back to the trip. Yesterday was the only time we had encountered rain since we left. And what rain it was, heavy downpour with 50 km/H winds made it a less than ideal day for driving. We pulled into Ottawa around rush hour and not only did the miserable weather discourage us, once again the Walmart in town forbade overnight parking.
After going for a wild goose chase looking for a Walmart in Casselman, only to find a couple little farm houses (Google Maps glitch!), we carried on to Cornwall, right on the border with USA once again. It’s pretty warm here, but the winds were incredibly violent, It was pretty difficult to sleep last night.
Tomorrow we are on our way to Fredericton, New Brunswick, via Quebec. It’ll give me a chance to brush up on my French.
Forgive the lack of any post yesterday, however, this has turned out to be the most stressful portion of the trip. Back in Sault Ste. Marie my van was making some funny noises, and though it seemed to go away driving at any speed higher than 50 km/H, it was getting far worse as we drove into North Bay.
I got a mechanic to check it out at Canadian Tire, some foul mouthed jerk who tried to play me for a fool and charge me over 600 bucks to fix it. Luckily I was able to contact a few friends back home who happened to be mechanics, and they came up with a few simpler solutions.
I called a mechanic in town who seemed genuinely helpful who would be able to get us back on the road for a much more reasonable price than Canadian Tire. The only thing is we’d have to wait in North Bay an extra day for the part to arrive: although it’s fairly warm here, waiting with the van at a mall parking lot is making it hard to make the most out of this situation. Just one more day, I keep telling myself, then we’ll be on the road again.
Thankfully we are still far ahead of schedule.
After a great breakfast of Finnish Pancakes at Hoito Restaurant, we began the long drive to Sault Ste. Marie; this is the part of the trip I was warned most about.
We were cut off from the rest of the world for about 6 hours in total, neither of us could get any mobile service or even tune into CBC for the majority of the trip. The roads did get a bit bumpy, twisty and turny but it was a relaxing drive overall, it was nothing like the perilous Roger’s Pass in BC. The further east we travelled, the more winter was replaced by spring. Yes, it was a bit repetitive, but nothing like the prairies. It was all worth it when we got those spectacular views of Lake Superior.
As we drove into Sault Ste. Marie, I heard a disturbing scraping sound coming from my engine and thought: “great not again”. Worse yet, the city has an enforced anti-overnight parking law, even at Walmart. (What kind of stuck up place is this?) I had a look under the hood, and saw the noise had something to do with a belt drive. I called roadside assistance and they gave me a second opinion, that it was in fact the AC compressor’s drive that may be a bit loose, but absolutely nothing to worry about.
Instead of risking a tow or ticket the OPP, we found a Howard Johnson to crash for the night. I’ve been needing a good solid sleep pretty badly, so just as always, everything happens for a reason.
Despite the fact that almost everybody said Northern Ontario would be a drag, I’ve found it to be beautiful and diverse. About every minute you’ll pass by another lake, and see families of deer trotting through the snow.
Generally people know how to drive here, they will let you merge and everyone mostly sticks to the speed limit, the locals anyways. I saw more than a couple Saskatchewan plates zooming at 110 km/h towards a $95 speeding ticket.
We stopped for the night In Thunder Bay, an impressive little city on Lake Superior. Dissapointingly there is no real waterfront per se, mostly just factories and commercial docks.
It’s supposed to be -6 tonight, slightly less cold than the previous night. We still plan to prepare for the bitter cold and insulate the van as much as possible.
Tomorrow we carry on to the area around Sault Ste Marie (I still don’t know how Sault became ‘Sue’) along Highway 17. It’ll be a good 8 hour drive.
We had our first Walmart Parking lot experience the other night, trying to get some much needed rest in paranoia and the freezing cold. It was sufficient, and with a full tank of gas we decided we could easily clear Manitoba today and land over the Ontario border.
The plains became even more monotonous by the time we left Regina, it was like an endless frozen sea. Apart from a few more trees and bumpy hills, Manitoba was for the most part the same as Saskatchewan. As we stopped at the border, we saw a little prairie dog trying to cross the road. We drove through Winnipeg for about an hour just to get a feel for the place. It was a windy, congested, but lively city. Not the best place to set up camp mind you.
Kenora, Ontario was just about two hours away from Winnipeg, a town barely big enough to have a Walmart. What a nice little town it was too, the centre was built right around a calm lake. We were surprised to see seagulls flying over, so far from any ocean (Lake Superior is not far away however).
The Walmart had signs prohibiting overnight RV parking, so this was a bit of a deterrent as you can imagine. One of the managers assured us this just applied to RV’s, and only during the camping season.
Today we are going to pass through Thunder Bay, hopefully find another small town like this one.