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Journey to the Top (part I)

The Great Lakes at dawn

I am on the front deck of our new home. It rained last night and a moth is struggling to escape the puddle on the railing. I blow it off and the little bug takes flight in mid air and flies to safety. Unknown birds chirping around me and a woodpecker is hammering some distance off. I sit on the concrete floor since we haven’t gotten any deck furniture yet. This is when I realize I don’t have my phone with me.

A quick panic ensues. I stand up; pat all my pockets and orifices; look around like a newborn looking for the severed umbilical cord. Through the floor to ceiling windows I locate the phone, lying peacefully on the concrete kitchen counter. It’s only seven in the morning, nobody will call. Peace Zen peace. I sit down again.

Yup, I guess we are doing this.

Our journey here took six days of driving across five provinces of Canada. Here are the highlights.

Tobermory Ferry-well – We booked the Chichiman to cross the Georgian Bay. Chinaman on a Chichiman? We thought we gave ourselves lots of time until we see that the SUV + Uhaul trailer combo is moving like a log. Top speed 80kph and often times slower, we held up traffic like a grandma at the Indy500. Sorry Ontarians. By the time we arrived at the terminal we had 15 mins before boarding (normal buffer is 1 hr.) T nabbed a couple of beaver tails (aka horse blankets for folks out west) and we were off. Because we didn’t have time for gas, the low gas warning light was on for the last hour. I was holding on to my steering wheel and hoping for downhills and favourable winds. Luckily there was a gas station on Manitoulin, although much more expensive. 

Saying goodbye to one of our favourite spots in Ontario – the Georgian Bay.

Wawa waiting – Nearing the giant geese statues of Wawa T uttered the words any lumbering passenger dread to hear: “Hey I’ve never seen that warning light before.” Turns out our car engine is overheating. As I opened the hood a nauseating wall of coolant steam enveloped my face. “Sorry honey, I smelled it last night and thought it was someone else.” I choked out the words between coughs. We donated all the liquids on hand to the labouring car except M’s milk and drove to the nearest gas station. Me? I was holding on to my steering wheel again and licking my dry lips. The awesome people at the Jeep dealership worked their magic and replaced the broken rad cap and Cloud 9 (yes we name our cars) was back on the road again.

Sault St. Marie and Thunder-bay – Northern Ontario is a wild place and it took us three days to clear it. The Soo and Thunder bay are welcoming sights among rocks, swamps, trees and insects that won’t quit. I stopped at a Subaru dealer and Randy gave me great tips on how to tow a trailer uphill. He also couldn’t believe we’ve made it that far with such a heavy load. Don’t say it in front of Cloud 9! Randy shook my hands and wished us good luck. This is a big gesture during a pandemic. I was touched, literally.

Serene landscape in Northern Ontario.

Kenora, panic – Because of the pandemic we planned to sleep in Ontario and blow through Manitoba. I called seven hotels and motels in Kenora and they were all booked. Is there a Northern Lights Film Festival I didn’t know about? As it turns out a wild fire force-evacuated the community of Red Lake and they were moved to Kenora that night. May be if they named it Green Lake they wouldn’t have so many fires but who am I to judge? I had a bed to find for the night. Fortunately I found one late at night. It was a cross between a First Nations Reserve and a 60’s party resort complete with underage teenagers wearing long hoodies, gumball machines and old fashioned phone booths. I of course fit in right away. Someone even mistook me for a buddy they were supposed to meet up with. It must be the unshaven beard, I tell myself.

Winnipeg, A piece of cake – T lived and studied in the windy city before and she took us around her old neighbourhood. We had cakes at the restaurant she worked at. They had big slices and even bigger menus. When we were satisfied with the amount of glucose and fat we stored up for the rest of the trip we were off to the prairies.

We used a map to help M understand what we are doing.

To be continued in Journey to the Top Part II.


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