Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 3 - Kenora, ON to Moose Jaw, SK

Route Highlights

View Day 3 - Kenora, ON to Moosejaw, SK in a larger map

Sight wise, a less eventful day, mostly flooding in Manitoba and Saskatchewan rampaging.

Breakfast for Gypsies
We got a continental breakfast this morning. I made off like a bandit. Stuffing three apples, two muffins, and two yogurts into mine and Shelley's pockets. Snacks for later. We had to pay a $10 pet fee so I was getting our money's worth.

I hid the food on the way out of the hotel one of Dante's bandanas as a hobo pouch. 
Here's the loot!

 Manitoba is really close to Kenora. After leaving later this morning at 8:30AM due to gather materials for our "Prairie Entertainment Project", we ended up leaving the Manitoba visitor's center at 9:19AM.   

It already felt like more progress than yesterday.  After spending two days driving through Ontario, it was hard to wrap our minds around driving through Manitoba and ending up in Saskachewan tonight.

Manitoba Highway Woes

 Shortly after starting on the four lane Transcanada Highway, it started to rain. It seemed fitting as we had already imagined having to portage the car through Manitoba due to the flooding reports west of Winnipeg. It made for an interesting image of Shelley and I attempting to move the car over water with Dante sitting on top like an Emperor on tour to visit his people.

"Pip, Pip, onward servents, and bring my my monocle." 
Needless to say, Dante is NOT a water dog.

 I do have some complaints about how the Transcanada is designed in Manitoba. There are stop lights, railway crossings, no on ramps - no you just turn onto the 100km/hr highway like any old intersection, no acceleration lane. Need to go the other direction? No problem, just cross two lanes of speeding traffic and make your left hand turn. Have the civil engineering of Manitoba never heard of an OVERPASS!?! Seriously people!

 We were told at the visitor's centre that the Transcanada and Yellowhead highways were never flooded but we did get a chance to see some of the rivers swelling well beyond their banks. 
 This is the Assinaboine River by the Winnipeg by-pass
 Assiniaboine River in Brandon, MB
There was a big field of piled wet hay. Not too sure what that was about but it was all definitely ruined whether intentially or unintentionally.

Portage La Prairie 
Here we found a historical pioneer settlement (recreation with original buildings I think).

I made Shelley laugh really hard when I "aquired" some hay for our "PEP." We fled the scene before the awkward questions could start from the employees.

Saskatchewan - it will take your breath away. Literally! 
The welcome centre over the Saskatchewan boarder looked a little shabby as it was receiving a new roof. I don't know how the roofer's didn't blow off. The flags in the photo really wanted to escape in the wind.

Prairie Entertainment Project (or PEP) - Part 1 
I spent almost the whole time being disappointed in the prairies. I expected flat, large fields, with little to no trees. It was actually kind of hilly. The topography seemed similar to Huron County, in Southern Ontario, except the fields were larger, everyone had an antique tractor or farm equipment abandoned at the side of their field, and the trees were skinny, flimsy and shorter -probably to bend with the wind.
Fortunately Shelley and I had prepared for boredom that everyone who has driven the prairies warns about. It took awhile to find a suitable place to set it up. You see, we didn't want any car, or farmer's equipement to hit it unexpectedly.

Anyone who's driven in any place in Ontario where the rocks are cut out for the road to pass through has probably seen lots of little inukshuks litering the landscape in recent years. Well the past two days we saw a lot of them. I wanted to make one but it seemed less special somehow when you could find one on almost any rock formation on the side of the road.

I decided I would make my inukshuk in the prairies and Shelley concurred (actually she laughed really hard as I came up with this idea in between demanding Loose Moose, and we were already loosing our minds). Shelley found the rocks in Kenora, during Dante's morning constitution, and we finally found a place to set it up by the flat road of Saskatchewan (110km/hr speed limit) without it being a hazard to motorists and farmers.

Maybe we will start a new trend.

No Animal Sightings with Life
You can check the map for the locations but today I was disappointed to realize I had been woefully misled by Doug and did not see one live prairie dog ("that's too easy of an animal, they are everywhere"). I saw lots of dead ones - so many I didn't record them all. Also a dead coyote, and a dead Elk. That's right Doug - an Elk! You told me it was too soon for Elk - you lie!

I Can See for Miles, and Miles 
After thinking my idea of a proper prairie landscape was fictional, we finally entered a new area, west of Regina!


And Land by the C.P. Line (Canadian Pacific Railway)

And grain elevators!

On the whole, the summary of the today has a lot less impressive images than the past two days, but surprisingly, due to our PEP scheming, I never experienced the mind numbing, brain-leaking-out-of-your-ears, boredom that I experienced for part of yesterday.

A huge plus was Dante finally figured out that after two days of intermittent whining or barking, we weren't going to the dog park. He slept on, and chewed his giant rawhide and watched quietly out the window. He is still very tired. We gained another hour we were not aware of until we got the hotel. I'm finishing the blog at 10PM tonight for once instead of 11PM.

Prairie Entertainment Project aka PEP - Part 2
Oh and you may have noticed that the Inukshuk was Part 1 of the "PEP", Part 2 will have to wait until we are done the trip and Shelley has the time to edit the videos. I'll give you two hints. There are prairies in Saskatecwan, and look at the first photo of this post.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 2, Wawa, ON - Kenora, ON

The Route Highlights

View Day 2 - Wawa, ON to Kenora, ON in a larger map

Click the link under the map for a more interactive map. You can select the bubbles to see the name of the event and a short description. Most green and yellow bubbles correspond with photos below.

Dante's Morning Constitution

 While I ate a breakfast of oatmeal, washed the dishes and packed the car, Dante and Shelley went for a morning walk.  The front of our cabin site had about 7 of these tiny statues that look like they were made out of butter.

Dante is not amused at having to pose by the Butter Bear.

 Shelley and Dante then found a hidden gem behind our cabin site. We bring you the most terribly unsafe ski lift ever!

 And we finally got to see some sun, for awhile anyway

 Dante searched the area high and low but still did not find a monocle. He is sad as he does not look distinguished enough without it.

Magpie High Falls
We were interested to know why our cabin was called the High Falls Motel and Cabins. So we checked a local map and sure enough, there were High Falls nearby. Before entering Wawa we traveled about 5 minutes down a terribly maintained dirt road and were rewarded with the scene below.

And this warning:

 The Magpie High Falls is the overflow spill weir of the Harris Hydroelectric Generating Station. The water level, and flow can change without warning and at any time. It is extremely dangerous to ever enter the river bed below, even when the water is lower in the summer.
The Magpie River flows from Esnagi Lake and empties into Lake Superior. The bedrock is pink granodiorite and is more than 2500 million years old from the Precambrian Era. We may not have historical buildings in Canada more than a few hundred years old, but we certainly have old rock formations.

 Dante enjoyed the extra morning exercise and really didn't want to get back into the car after the trail.


The proper pronouciation of Wawa can be heard here:, click play and turn your sound on.
This is not to say that Wawa was a failure but so you can know how Shelley and I referred to Wawa on Day 1 and continued to do so today as well. In actual fact Wawa was one of the highlights of the day (though they do "grab you by the short and curlies" with regards to gas at $1.459/L aside, but did provide us with the great quote of the day regardless.)

Most people think Wawa and think "Big Canadian Goose", but no one ever mentions the fun stuff to do on the way to the Big Goose.

 No one mentions how there are three of these happy guys!

 Or that Wawa was once a mining town. And that Sir James Dunn, who was instrumental in the rebirth and growth of Wawa and Sault St. Marie in the first half of the century, was "an articulate and outspoken businessman with a personality that demanded respect." In layman terms, he was an ass. (That's my translation of a sign about him)

No, all anyone EVER mentions is the Big Canadian Goose.

Okay I can see how a Big Canadian Goose can be fun

 Probably too much fun for 8AM on a Sunday morning

Canada's REALLY Big, or Rocks and Trees with the occasional Water 
 The title says it all.
As Shelley and I turned onto highway 17 west from Wawa, we played the Arrogant Worm's Canada's Really Big, just to remind ourselves that yes, Canada is REALLY big.  That song was followed by their song titled "Rocks and Trees". If you search for these songs and listen to them, that was essentially our day.

There were some highlights along the way, such as what I suspect is a new growth forest from an old forest fire.
This area of forest lasted from the town of White River to the base of White River Lake. On the google map, you can actually see the change in colour from the satellite image and it shows you how large this damaged area was. It was very interesting to see large section of low brush interspersed with the limbless, leafless trunks of poplars sticking up like a buzz cut on the land.

Lake Superior and Black Bear Sighting
The fog descended upon us again as the road drew nearer to cold Lake Superior. 

Due to the fog, and the abrupt transitions from rock to lake of Superior (ie lots of cliffs), I had given up hope of being able to actually touch it. 

Losing my goal of touching Lake Superior was sad but I moved on to my other goal of finding a moose and at every "Moose on the Loose" sign I demanded loose moose. Just past highway 614 enroute to Marathon, I glanced over to the side of the road and was stunned to see a black bear sniffing the air much like my dog Andy does. I hadn't even dared hope that I would see a black bear, unfortunately Shelley missed it as it happened quickly - such are the hazards of a road trip.

The fog made the rocks slippery, as I learned first hand going closer to the edge to take this photo. I now have the bruise tail bone to testify to this fact.
Lake Superior is there somewhere beyond the fog of this photo. These were taken from a scenic rest spot just past Ney's Provincial Park.

Noticing on the map that we were about to enter bays at the top of the lake, and this would be our last chance to try to access Lake Superior, and wanting to avoid pay a provincial park fee to access Lake Superior (as is the thrifty Gypsy way),  Shelley did some fancy driving and succeeded in finding a back road that led us to a place we could crawl down and test the waters.  

As expected, it was cold - yet somehow it was still unexpected when I actually stepped in and had to stay in for the photo. But at 11:35AM I successfully touched Lake Superior.

 Shelley demonstrates the proper way a true Canadian enters the frigged waters of the north. It's good practice for her in Prince George.

Due to the Wilson Island's close proximity to the shore, we were able to get a stunning shot of Lake Superior sans fog. (or as Shelley coined it, the Cleavage of Lake Superior)
 Goal one of the day complete, now all I needed was to find my "Moose on the Loose".

 Baby Black Bear and More Rocks, and Trees, and Water
Still lamenting the lack of loose moose (Canada's REALLY big remember and entertainment is low on this route) I was even more surprised to see a baby black bear on the right side of the ditch chowing down on some tasty plant life. No mommy in sight but Shelley had a chance to see this one so that makes me even more happy. So TWO black bears, yet no moose :'(.

Then around Nipigon, something happened to the rocks. They turned red!
Let me remind you that we have been on the road since 7:10AM with a dog that likes to whine in the car, and occasionally bark at oncoming trucks, and have been staring at rocks and trees for hours. 

The red rocks were an exciting transition. We later saw some signs for Amethyst Mines. I assume Amethysts like red rocks.

Nothing of Note in Thunder Bay
We satiated our hunger. That is all. 

Loosed Moose and Time Warp
North of Thunder Bay we saw a large something on the shoulder of the road. It wasn't sleeping. Poor female moose had been loosed.

 Shortly after the Loosed Moose we crossed the Time Zone and magically we had gained an extra hour of sleep tonight (that I am wasting by finishing this blog). 

Mind Numbing Boredom leads to Pit Stop
We started out the day so excited and got to see so many exciting things. Let me tell you, there are only so many times you can demand a Moose on the Loose in vain while staring at rows upon rows and rows (did I mention rows) of the same type of tree. Our rocks were gone. I never thought I'd miss the rocks. Water was sparse. Just trees, tress and more trees, all coniferous.  We had to make a pit stop. We were going crazy. 

Surprisingly the Pit Stop had a simple beauty.
 No beavers, though I'm not holding my breath to see one of those. Car commercials lie. Beavers do not show up on the road often so you have a chance to use your brakes, tires, or whatever else they are advertising. Trust me. I know.

Our rocks returned shortly after this stop. I never thought I'd miss rocks so much. 

Shelley the Goal Saviour
Just as it was Shelley's determination to get us down to the water so I could touch Lake Superior, it was Shelley who spotted the moose first. 

There she was, on the left side of the road. She was large, she was drinking, and most importantly she was Loose. 

(I think Shelley found her so I'd shut up about Loose Moose.) 



Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 1 - Owen Sound to Wawa

My first day as a Canadian Gypsy with my sister was more exciting than I thought. I figured that the first two days of driving through Ontario would be the most dull but despite the fog and rain, the ferry ride was fun, the geography was stunning, and 3 odd animal sightings!

View Day 1 - Owen Sound, ON to Wawa, ON in a larger map

There is sense to these colours, probably in an organization that only makes sense to me. Each bubble colour on the map represents a different thing. The yellow balloons are for photos taken from the car. The green balloons are for photo pit stops. The light blue balloons are for animal sightings, and the red balloon is for a random event that occurred that did not require stopping nor could a photo be taken.

Augh, 5:30AM wake up and packing of the car. Shelley and I finally escaped her driveway (after I had to run back in to get the maps I left on the kitchen table, needed those!) at 6:40 AM.

The Chi Cheemaun

We had to be in Tobermory to board the Chi Cheemaun ferry an hour before our 8:50 AM departure time. We made it and I had a chance to go check out the front of the ferry.

The Chi Cheemaun leaves from Tobermory and unloads it's passengers in South Baymouth. The trip takes 1 hour 45 minutes and threads between the uninhabited Tobermory Islands.

It also travels over the underwater Fathom Five National Marine Park. There are many shipwrecks from the time when captains had only charts, compass, sounding line, and their wits to guide them. As you can see from the map, there are lots of islands, and lost of places to hit rocks and sink.

  Just in case, Shelley and I scoped out the safety equipment and hoped not to sink because all our stuff (and Dante who was in the car hold) would be gone.

Obviously we survived to tell the tale of our crossing

 Despite the fog, obscuring the view the whole way, it was still a great experience. Traveling through the fog was terribly unnerving. We couldn't stop humming the Pirates of the Caribbean Disney song as it reminded us of the beginning of the first movie.

 It was very interesting to watch these crew men help guide the ship into South Baymouth.  The fog was so thick they had to be the look outs to indicate the buoys less we go off course on the rocky shoes.

My first look at Manitoulin Island - The world's largest fresh water island; that's a Canadian Fact!

Shelley and I were disappointed shortly after embarking on highway 6 to discover that there is no sign to pose by for The Mounted Animal Nature Trail. If you are unfamiliar with this song you can listen to it on this youtube video: We found the park, but in the years since the Arrogant Worms wrote this song, the place has become a whole nature resort. We listened to the song anyway as we drove by.

 I had to touch Manitoulin Island so we pulled over at a scenic look out overlooking the Strawberry Channel.

 The view was impressive. Across Strawberry Channel, you can see, surprise, surprise, Strawberry Island. I really liked the fencing in this field.

  Dante also had a chance to get out of the car and let any passing wildlife know he was there. He did not find a monocle, but he did make Shelley's feet very wet in the long wet grass in his search attempt.

Wolf Sighting and Bird Attack
About 10 minutes south of Espanola, through a break in the trees that led to an abandoned railway (the tracks had been ripped up at some point) I saw a wolf walking along. Terribly exciting, though of course it happened to fast to even think of grabbing a photo of it.

Between Spanish and Cutler road, Shelley's car door was attacked by a bird. The car won and we left the carnage behind us.

Blind River Loggers and Buzzards

Shelley had read online somewhere that there was a giant statue of Paul Bunion and his blue ox Babe in Blind River, Ontario as a road side attraction. We were excited to see Paul and do a pose with him.
 Unfortunately we never did find him, but we did find the National Logger's Memorial and they looked like they could use my help.

 They didn't think so. (Yes this is a memorial but I believe big gruff loggers would find this funny)

 Dante did not find his monocle here either. To show his displeasure he marked the OPP station wall. We left quickly after that.

Just west of Iron Bridge Shelley saw an omen of 4 buzzards sitting in a row on a fence. That of course set off a short round of "4 Short Neck Buzzards."

Sault St. Marie on a Dime
Unbelievably, due to 2 hours of travel on the Chi Cheemaun and not on the road, we made it to Sault St. Marie on half a tank of gas.  We rocked our way into the city with Lady Gaga, and the drive-by look I got of Sault St. Marie was that it wasn't really anything special and I couldn't put my finger on a description.
 Shelley told me it's a steel town and is pretty much the Hamilton of Northern Ontario. That was the description I was looking for. It had the same feel, but with less flames. Also who knew it was so hilly north of the Sault - certainly not me.
When leaving Sault St. Marie Celine Dion's All By Myself started playing and Shelley and I amused ourselves in realizing that it is my dog Andy's theme song. If anyone has a cover sung by someone with a deep voice I would appreciated it.

Batchewawa Bay and the Pancake Bay Lizard-Wolf-Demon

 Starting around Batchewawa Bay (above) we started to see signs for Agawa Crafts. The first one got our attention because from a distance it looked like they had a dog on their sign. Every successive sign (and there were many starting as far as 24 km away) we would discuss what type of creature it was.
 Our concencis was that it must a Lesser Lizard-Wolf-Demon. We stopped by the craft place but no answers as to the name of the species of animal depicted in their sign was found.

 Dante took this opportunity to enter the forbiden "private walk area" which instructed us to use the "designated pet area". I in my infinite understanding of the English language took this to mean that it was a private walk area designated for pets. Dante has started a habit of letting animals know he was there in forbidden places along this trip.
 No monocle was to be found here. Dejected, Dante reentered his tiny space in the back of the car and determined to blame someone, took to barking at the odd truck (and only trucks) that passed in the opposite lane.
 Lake Superior Provincial Park and Alora Bay

Tomorrow I will be seeing a lot more of Lake Superior. But I couldn't wait for better photo ops. I was just too excited to see Lake Superior from the ground (I've only seen it once from the air).
 Tomorrow hopefully I will touch it!

 Alora Bay photo platform. But it's pretty much Lake Superior.

 Lake Superior Provincial Park was very beautiful, even overcast. I'd love to go on a canoe/camping trip here someday. Lots of hills but no moose. We did see a fox carrying it's kill in the ditch though. It was much larger than the scrawny foxes I've seen in Southern Ontario.

Our day ended as it began. In the fog.

High Falls Motels & Cabins

I probably won't remark to much on some of our other accommodations along the route, but this place is fantastic. I can't recommend this place enough for people traveling with dogs. The owners love and understand dogs and are extremely friendly.

, We are staying in a cabin that sleeps four, have a flat screen TV, free movie rentals, kitchen and free wi-fi (which is why you are getting an update today, don't expect it everyday)

 Dante is extremely tired from his trip. We suspect he had a nap on the ferry but didn't really sleep other than that. He loves the cabin and has decided that the table is the best place to sleep under for the night.

 He has the right idea. Shelley is already asleep for our trek to Kenora tomorrow. I no longer assume the day in Ontario will be dull as today was much more exciting than I had expected. I am on a moose watch.