It’s about a year and a half. What happened? Well, I found a place to live, got settled in, and then one daughter arrived in town for about 9 months, with two granddaughters, and then the other daughter added another granddaughter to the mix. A wealth of riches, and somehow a bit too private to be blabbing about here.
But now I’m on another road trip and pretty used to being called Grandma. It seems to fit better, since I drifted into ‘golden’ status. I’m on my way to Ottawa, currently sitting in Thunder Bay, or just outside. I’m a bit confused about city limits here, but I’ve found an idyllic spot to catch my breath after six days on the road. The two grandkids and their mom are back home, and I’m bringing them their car. So not such a sight-seeing trip. More a meditation on wheels.
I started out from a vaguely sunny Vancouver, stopped in at Harrison Hot Springs to walkabout with a friend, and then slept in Kelowna. An easy start. The real driving (or so it always feels to me) is once I’ve made it past the Okanagan Valley. This is probably because so many childhood summertime trips with my family wound up on the shore of one or another lake in that valley. After all that driving around the place two years ago, I was a bit more challenged this time to find different roads to travel, seeing as I wished to stay within Canada’s borders.
I retraced some of the last trip, down Highway 37 to join up with 3, and slept in Cranbrook, in a new time zone. I like Hwy 3, and would have been on it from Hope, but had some stuff to drop off in Kelowna. So I missed the Similkameen Valley this time out. Oh well. You can’t go everywhere in this ridiculously large country. Consider that I didn’t pass the longitudinal centre of Canada until yesterday, six days out. Some day I have to pick up the road from Ottawa, and go see what the actual east looks like. In BC we refer to Ontario as ‘back east’ but of course it should be ‘back centre.’ But then Toronto calls the prairies ‘the west’ which is peculiar if you live beyond that. I’m sure Maritimers and Newfoundlanders have issues with the whole east/west/centre thing too.
This isn’t even mentioning that there is a lot of Canada north of the highways I’ve been threading myself along. The farthest north I’ve been is ‘out west’ in Yukon Territory, only as far as Whitehorse. Which is pretty far south in the Yukon…
Anyway, from Cranbrook I aimed the car for Medicine Hat, AB, as a reasonable distance to go as I warmed up to this driving thing again, and certainly a beautiful drive through the Rockies (missed hitting a deer) and into the foothills, where it was raining. Hard. The next day I headed for Estevan, SK. More rain. I can’t remember why I chose Estevan, except maybe to try roads south of the Trans-Canada. I was going to travel along the border road, along hwy 18 , but at Climax, SK the road became rather iffy, so I backtracked to 13 before I turned east again. Saw what I thought was an antelope off the side of the road, but might have been another (prosaic) deer. Missed several ground squirrels. Lots of birds swooping around, avoiding the windshield. Saw plenty of hawks.
Hwy 13 was better, but the only other vehicles I encountered were trucks, and I started to yearn for that much maligned (by me) Trans-Canada. So I turned back up hwy 4 toward Swift Current. All this prairie driving added a couple of hours to my day, probably. Silly, but I felt better back on the bigger road. (And I’m reminding myself of a recurring skit that SNL used to do, called “The Californians,” where there was a lot of mentioning of highways…freeways in California’s case.)
Woke up to wind instead of rain, which through the day did it’s work moving clouds around. Estevan is a pretty little town. Full of human sized houses, not the behemoths that keep getting built in Vancouver. The kind of houses I can imagine living in, except that I can’t imagine living there. The motel I stayed in was staffed with Filipinos, which suggests that there are a lot of other people who can’t imagine living there either, or at least not working in the local h/motels. I wonder how it is for people coming from hot and populous countries, and landing on the prairie. But then that’s the whole story of the populating of Canada (except Europe wasn’t so hot, temperature-wise). I remember reading novels set in the prairies, often featuring sod huts as first homes. I think that was in As for Me and My House by Sinclair Ross, maybe something else. And then there is Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie, which is more the early Ontario experience, eking it out in early days Ontario (Upper Canada then).
From Estevan it wasn’t far to Neepawa, MB, relatively speaking. I skipped the detours. This destination was more of a pilgrimage, to pay homage to Margaret Laurence, who filled my imagination with her many novels, back when I was in my twenties. (She didn’t set her novels in Neepawa, but many of them are set in imaginary Manawaka, which resembles it greatly.) I got there in time, in spite of another time zone shift, to get admittance to the museum that is her childhood home (The Margaret Laurence House). And then drove down to the cemetery, where I know her ashes are interred. I didn’t find her headstone, but I did see the statue that is likely the inspiration for the one in The Stone Angel. And the sun shone. Nice. So there you go; a bit from the canlit canon.
I set myself a ridiculously long drive the next day, from Neepawa to Thunder Bay, and so bypassed Winnipeg, where there is another childhood home, that of Gabrielle Roy (Maison Gabrielle Roy/ Gabrielle Roy House). Reason to go back to Winnipeg, I suppose. (I read The Tin Flute, eons ago, in translation. More from the canon.) And the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I feel like I ought to go there. I might do another train trip one day, and make a stopover then. Add those too sites to my list. I do find myself going to Ottawa often enough, given the presence of daughter and her lovely family; it might happen.
So. Neepawa to Thunder Bay. Add in another time zone shift, and I was pressed to get there before dark, not wanting to crash into any moose. I was pressed only because I’m chronically bad at getting up in the morning, though on this occasion, I was in the car and driving east by 8:30 a.m. Amazed myself. Not so much rain this part of the trip, but the skies seem to have become chronically grey. Occasionally a glimpse of blue, but then the wind shifts those clouds around. I read in the paper this morning that a climate-change-studying expedition has been cancelled because the climate has changed. Old news I think, but I haven’t been keeping up. Likely to become regular news. Sigh. Or should I say: Sad.
I pick my sleep-stops online, using Google Maps to guesstimate time, and then search out motels that don’t horrify my spoiled sensitivities while not bankrupting me. But I had a couple of travel cards a friend had given me after I shared a room on another trip (which I neglected to write about) and so I searched out the Best Western in town. There are two, and one was booked up, so I reserved at the second one, and took it for two nights, as I wanted to rest up from the days of travel, and the too-long drive that got me here.
And so lucked into this idyllic spot. I’ve a bit of patio, and the view is across a green lawn and a pond, to a series of bluffs/mesas. Peaceful. Can hear birds. Can’t hear traffic. It’s a long way to come for R&R, but it’s doing the trick. Earlier I went for a walk down Loch Lomond Road till it petered out, and then back, just to get some exercise that didn’t involve moving my foot from gas pedal to brake, about an hour and a half all told. Houses nestled in the woods or set back from the road, lots of birds, about six cars the whole time. I know Loch Lomond is here somewhere, but I didn’t see it.
Went into town for a bit today, just to have a looksee, and to pick up a salad for dinner. Was enjoying the brief coming out of blue sky, but coming back here, I could see that the rain was pouring down. Deluge! Soaked me while running ten feet from my car into shelter. Ah well, so much for the patio. If it stops I’ll put a towel on the chair and get my outside-sitting done. It’s all grey again. Only sign of life are the Canada geese grazing on the nice lawn. They don’t seem bothered.
Tomorrow I head for Kapuskasing. I know I’ve never been there before, so a completely new road beckons. And after that Ottawa, to put on my grandma hat.