26.07-29.07.08: The Big One!

I left Calgary on Saturday afternoon to drive 3,500 km to Kitchener, ON. Writing that now, it seems a little crazy, but I'd never done it before, so it didn't seem so daft at the time...

Day One: Wonderfully hot weather - windows down, music up, cruising along happily through Alberta into Saskatchewan. The prairies were strangely hypnotic, like a green ocean that rolls up in waves to meet you. It is strangely like the sea, actually - the folds in the land are like waves on a stormy day that prevent you from seeing too far, and the constantly moving grasses are reminiscent of the flowing, eddying water. 

As the day turned into night I realised that I should find somewhere to sleep, and failed miserably in that endeavour. I had passed Regina at about 8pm, and was headed into the great space between that city and Winnepeg. The odd thing about the main road across Canada is that it is only really punctuated by large cities - Calgary, Medicine Hat, Regina, Winnepeg, Thunder Bay, etc. with little else in between. For those of you who are Europeans like me, that is a strange reality to be faced with. At home, there is always a town or village on the road, the next stopping point is never more than 25 miles away. Here the next stopping point is about 600 miles away. Oh. 
So I eventually grew tired and managed to pull off behind a truck that was also parked up for the night. I grabbed my sleeping bag and settled into the back seat, with visions of policemen checking the car, or worse... Now, for those of you who don't know me, let me explain something. The back seat of my car is about 4ft 3 across, and I am 6ft 4 tall. Needless to say this was not the height of comfort!

Day Two: Having guaranteed myself an early start (no curtains and little comfort) I set off in yawning earnest. I was now in the thick of it - there was no turning back, only the endless road ahead. Now I know I was tired, but this has to be the most boring drive in the universe! I began at 6:30 am and arrived in Thunder Bay nearly 14 hours later having seen this almost all day:

Now I'm sorry Canada, but there's only so much monotony that even I can take! Once in a while there would be lovely sections of road that cut through the myriad lakes that cover northern Ontario, which I just wanted to stop at and dive into! (Oh, and by the way, after a night on the back seat, I splurged on a Super 8 motel - which seemed like the lap of luxury!)

Day Three: Thunder Bay is on the edge of Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world by surface area. Now I knew that, and hey! it's a big lake, right? Er, well imagine if you will, coming from a country where if you peer long enough on a clear day you can see from end to end, seeing a lake that forms the horizon of your world. Not the sea, mind, but fresh water. I've never known BIG like it. It took me 5 hours to drive along its northwestern shore for goodness sake! That's like going from Scotland to see my parents near London! I LOVE this country!!!!! (Slight mood swing from yesterday?)

So once I passed Sault-Sainte-Marie I was heading to Mantoulin Island on the northern edge of Lake Huron, to catch the ferry the next morning (thanking God for the advice of my good friend Konrad for suggesting the change of transport!). As with so many places on this whistlestop tour, I only regret not being able to spend more time in this area - Mantoulin seems like it would be the most beautiful place to explore properly. I stayed the night in a charming cabin right on the lake (again foregoing the confines of my back seat) and relaxed into a deep, satisfying sleep. Tomorrow, the end would be in sight...

Day Four: Another early morning, but with a decidedly different tone - relaxing by the lakeside while eating breakfast, sad to leave but eager to conclude this rapid epic. I drove onto the ferry and left the car to cool my heels looking out over this calming tranquility that was Lake Huron.

Once we docked in Tobermory (not the Scottish Tobermory...) I suddenly realised that there were only 3 hours left until I arrived at Konrad Sauer's house and could stop bloody driving. I have to admit that a somewhat fey mood took me, and if I could make it in 2h45, I would! Not to be deterred by slow motorists ahead on the single lane highway (who I steamed past at any available opportunity), I headed south. I then realised that I was mad to be clock-watching, slowed down to a reasonable speed and reminded myself to enjoy the present - "Live in the now, dude!" (Not the only time I found Wayne's World quotes coming to mind). So I ended up driving through Amish country before hitting Guelph (pronounced 'Gwelf' - argh!) and getting a little lost... Anyway, I yet again miraculously managed to arrive safe and sound at the door of Mr. Konrad Sauer - somewhat road-weary, and very glad to see one of the people who inspired me to think of this madcap trip in the first place. 

So long Great Lakes, so long prairie lands... Hello beer and barbeque!


  1. Canada is a very beautiful country(i should know i live in it!) but i drove from montreal to vancouver and back, and wow very very boring, the hardest drive was through ontario and the prairies. when you eventually hit the Rockies, wow absolutely stunning!

  2. Absolutely Amish - the Rockies are the highlight as far as I'm concerned!