From the last post you can see that the sun was setting quite quickly as MT finished up her droning for the day, being daylight saving time, it was already after 9pm and at this stage we were still just outside of Regina with no solid plan on where / when to stop.
We start looking at google maps to see some viable options, Winnipeg? Ideally yes, but no, it’s too late to drive that much further. Moosomin, another fantastic town name, just like medicine hat, but still in Saskatchewan, we need to at least make it into Manitoba. Virden, it’s on the right side of the border and a managle drive of ~3 more hours tonight.
Off we Set again, TW at the wheel and MT logging into Expedia to find a cheap motel to get some much needed sleep after the banff debacles. Alas, no hotels are showing available online in Virden, we decide there probably are hotels available but with our arrival time and given they are likely small or local hotels they may not be open when we arrive, even if they have a room. Back to Google maps. What’s the next town. Can we make it to Winnipeg? No, still 6 hours away. Brandon – looks a decent size town just 45min – 1 hour down the road from Virden. Done! Super 8 booked. MT takes over the drive for a while while TW naps a bit for the last leg of the drive.
The drive had been pretty but repetitive so this portion of the trip we didn’t mind doing after the sun went down. We felt we weren’t going to be missing anything. Being summer time we didn’t actually spend too much time driving in the dark so we did still see the landscape and other points of interest. We saw a hay truck on fire at one point and MT almost jumped out of her seat trying to make sure everyone was ok. It was on the split highway and they were on the other side of the road. It appeared to just have happened and the whole truck is fully engulfed in flames. MT’s father used to be a truck driver so she has a quiet little tear in the uncertainty that everyone is ok or not, I hold her hand. It is probably ok but did she want to try and get over there to help? There are no turning bays and we have now passed the fire trucks and ambulance on their way so she says we should keep going. There had also been a ute/truck on scene and she hopes this person got the driver out before the flames took over, if the driver was unable to do so himself.
We drive through Virden and not only is there a number of hotels, they all appear to be open with rooms available. Oh well, our room is booked now so we have a reason to push on. It would have been nice to stay next to a Tim Hortons though. We haven’t tried it yet and all we have wanted to do is try it. Every time we go in there though the line is just too long to wait. It can’t be that good, can it?
Crap! We missed the Welcome to Manitoba sign. Dang it, not going to drive all that way back. Well, this photo will have to do.
Time is all over the place, we left Sydney for Hawaiian time and then to Vancouver and crossing Canada west to east means we are driving in to time zones that are behind the one we just came from. It literally means we are driving against the sun and the days, although long, are shorter in this direction than if we had booked our flights in the other. We tried to do it that way but couldn’t get 2 seats on the same flight or the dates we needed or the city we wanted, it got too difficult so we booked the way we could book.
We have adjusted to a new time zone, we are no longer on Sydney time, I don’t think we are on Hawaiian time now either but I do not know which time we are in. Hawaii feels like a life time ago and Whistler a distant memory but we have only been in Canada a couple of nights. I wonder if that means the road trip is going well.
With this now behind us the rest of the trip looked the same, the sun had now gone down completely. We arrive in to Brandon. Our hotel is right on the highway making it easy to find.
The hotel itself was pretty decent. We were given keys to one room but it hadn’t been made up. We received many apologies and given keys to another. Our original room may have been in a quieter spot of the hotel but the room we had was nice, big and decent value really. The bed was very comfortable, we slept well. Breakfast was included with the room but we planned to be up and gone before it started.
As it turned out breakfast was almost over by the time we woke up, we decided that it would be easier for TW to get a coffee here than to stop down the road so he rushed down to see what was at the breakfast and hopefully get a coffee.
MT had a shower and got ready as quickly as she could. Breakfast was 5 minutes from ending when she was ready and went to see if anything was left. She had only taken 5 minutes so was pretty pleased with herself. TW was pretty pleased with himself at that moment as well. They had waffles in their spread. He made some, enjoyed them and was off to shower and get ready.
Mt’s waffle making skills were not amazing, she hadn’t used enough batter but given breakfast was now over, she had to make do and couldn’t really ask for a fresh batch of batter be brought out because we had overslept. It was a decent and unexpected breakfast, we saved a little bit of money by making the effort to go down to it and we were on the road only 3 hours later than planned. There goes our extra time at the lakes, but hey when you need sleep and have a comfy bed, you have to take it right?
We did just eat but we are a little peckish so our first stop is in Portage la Prairie. Just over an hour down the road. We have adjusted to this road trip life. It might just be thirst, so we go in to the shopping centre. Most stores are not open, we are confused about the day of the week. Maybe it is Sunday so the smaller stores are closed. It is a bit eerie so we leave to go to the fast food place outside.
Finally, we step foot in an A&W. We both hate root beer, unless that root is ginger, as ginger beer is fantastic (well MT thinks it is ok and TW really enjoys it). We don’t know how we manage it or why TW keep persisting on choosing a line, but without a doubt every time, he will choose the line with the most annoying and slow people in it! Figure out what you want to order before getting to the counter, don’t wait until you are at the counter to then ask your kids what they want. We have been in line behind this one person, just one person, the only person in line when we arrived (and her 8 kids, plus grandma, mother, uncle, two husbands – we can only assume one is ex and one is current but didn’t ask – all of whom were somewhere else at the time of the line and came up one by one to order, argue, change their mind and leave. When the order was confirmed the lady at the counter would yell back at everyone, who were scattered across the back of the restaurant. Once the order was placed and confirmed she then decided to tell the cashier she wanted to use as many coupons as they could. The coupons were for completely different things to what they ordered. The yelling started again, can you change X to Y so you can get the drink for free. Until ultimately everyone is confused and we will see just how well how this bamboozlement of an order pans out), while we have been in this line of 1 person ahead of us, 15 other people have been served at the next counter. We cannot explain why we did not, at any time, move to the other line. Possibly because at no point was there a line in that line. People just walked to the counter and ordered, efficiently, and then sat and waited for their order. We are not sure we understood properly that it was a line. By the time it is our turn to order, the cashier ushers us to the next counter – the one with prompt and efficient service – to order because she has to process the 52 different items ordered at her counter in order for the coupons to be valid.
Anyway, the burgers are nice enough and after about 1.5 hours of line waiting and 10 minutes of eating we are back on the road to Winnipeg. The order of the lady in front of us – they ate their food but she had said her youngest kid was not allowed the full size drink that came on the voucher so she was given a small. When all the others arrives as a large she kicked off about how her kid would feel left out and that couldn’t be her fault for asking for a smaller size it must be their fault for listening and given her what she had asked for. Do they not know what kids are like. So the drama continued, for them. While we ate we heard them chatting and they were on a long road trip so everyone just needed to get used to it or it was going to be a very long day. They left home 3 hours ago and still had 4 to go to their destination. It sounded like they were going to have the vacation from hell but maybe they learnt that one adult and one kid should order and hand over their coupons/vouchers rather than one person doing it all.
We take highway 100 and bypass downtown Winnipeg by accident, it was only an hour or so ago we ate and we tell ourselves, once we realise we are on the bypass, that we don’t have much interest in seeing anything in Winnipeg anyway.
We head to the border, making great time on these good highways. They say Saskatchewan is a great state to drive through but so was Manitoba. We only stopped 3 times: Sleep/Food/Petrol. The highway was fast, clear, easy. We were on the highway, probably in the boring part of the state so while it is actually a great state to drive through when we make it back to Canada we will drive north and spend time in the state. There is a lot to explore but maybe not right on the highway. We had been warned about how horrid the drive would be. We have driven a fair way already and the roads have been great. They were a little slow Whistler to Banff but we can’t really imagine wanting to drive any faster than we did. All the twists and turns and the magnificent sights to behold, just can’t see it getting boring, no matter how often you drive it.
MT is asleep as we hit the border of Manitoba and Ontario. Having a 50% strike rate with off ramps, this time TW does see the off ramp for the “Welcome to State” sign and pull off and wake MT for some quick snaps.
The second you enter Ontario the speed limit drops to 90kms, the split highway ends and signs saying “if you speed 10kms over the limit we take you to jail and throw away the key” appear constantly. Possibly even helicopter dropped in front of your car and fines handed to you via drone. Well maybe not that extreme but it is clear they don’t tolerate speeding in this state. Not entirely a bad thing as the scenery picks up again and starts to rival British Columbia. We are definitely out of the prairies and farmland.
We are starting to get hungry. Again. Time to think about lunch, there are tonnes of small towns off the highway on super pretty lakes we could stop at but we can’t decide which one or where or what we want to eat so we stay on the highway. Finally we decide on Kenora.
Kenora is a slight detour off the highway but well worth the stop – probably worth spending a day or overnight here as well if you have the time. You drive down a hill into the town around some lakes on either side. We stop before we get in to the town, not knowing it is just around the corner, a top of a hill. We see Casey’s Bar & Grill and decide that is where we will go for lunch. We thought was a local diner only in Kenora, turned out to be a chain but still well worth it. Ribs and poutine thanks. Poutine now being one of TW favourite snacks/meals/beverages. It now rivals air, it is needed to maintain life.
After lunch we drove through the township, which was very pretty, think 1930’s style town and buildings, fairly busy for the area. No time for sightseeing, back on the highway. Being single lane 90km you can get stuck behind trucks and slower cars quite easily and really need to plan you passing and overtaking to make the most of the minimal passing lanes that are available. This is where, we decide, all the urban legends about this drive being terrible originate. Wintertime could be horrendous with snow. There are many, many warnings about snow on these tight and winding roads. Getting stuck behind a log truck in winter, that could set you back. We got stuck behind a log truck, he was doing the speed limit, even up the hills, it was really not any kind of bane in our existence.
GPS. When you get back in the car, program in Thunder Bay and get very confused about what the GPS is trying to tell you. It is 7:30pm and we have 1 hour and 10 minutes of driving left but we won’t arrive at 8:40pm we will arrive at 9:40pm. Eventually we worked out we were not insane, we had crossed a state border hours ago but the time zone we are in now is Central and just before Thunder Bay it changes again to Eastern Time which is 1 hour ahead of us now.
While it looks like mid afternoon it was actually closer to 9pm that we hit the landmark of 90 degrees longitude West. The start or finish, depending on your point of view, of Eastern Standard Time Zone. Another quick pic or two as we watch all the cars and trucks we had worked so hard to pass in the last hour whiz past, before getting back in the car for the last leg to Thunder Bay.
Finally on the last stretch of road to Thunder Bay. It’s been another long day of driving, but this time with some wonderful scenery. We take a turn off that has been glaring on the GPS for hours. I don’t know why but I’m really excited about Thunder Bay, I think the name makes me think it’s really cool and interesting, so my anticipation grows as we get near, Then we get into town. “Huh’ well ok” a bit of a let down. I don’t know what I was really expecting, but whatever it was, it wasn’t there. The town itself seemed like a working class / docks town. Nothing too bad about it, but just nothing special. We checked into our hotel, the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, a bit dated and could do with some maintenance – a lot like Thunder bay itself really. Once again with this daylight saving time it’s deceptively late, the sun has just gone down, but it’s near 10pm. We no real options we walk to Mcdonalds, a block or 2 away for some dinner. I end up ordering way too much and upgrading every item; Coke, no I’ll have a shake, regular fries, no I’ll have poutine, regular burger, no I’ll have the angus blah blah. $28 later I’m full and we navigate the drunken teens and adults on the street back to the Prince Arthur for some much needed sleep.
Ontario is probably one of our favorite states so far. Very pretty lakes and forests at every turn, there are a lot of of them here and we are hardly in it. It is exciting, if tomorrow is half as good as today, we will be blinded by beauty. Given we have just arrived at one of the great lakes we think it is going to be better but time will tell and we are excited.
Most of our remaining time in Canada will be in the state of Ontario and with the brief introduction today we are happy with the decision to get here as fast as we could. MT thinks we are really going to enjoy it here, unless we constantly decide to hang out in the sketchy parts of towns like Thunder Bay. Then, maybe no so much but content with our chosen direction of travel and how the trip is now likely to pan out, we drift off to sleep.