We now have over a full week under our belts of being “official” full-timers. Since we’ve left Maine, we’ve spent 3 nights in campgrounds, 2 at truck stops and 5 at Wal-Marts. Not bad, we figure, although I am getting a little tired of shopping at Wally World, lol.
After leaving Vermont, we continued on our way, spending one more night stateside in a pretty little state park in Plattsburg, NY. The town itself left me cold, it was rather run down and ratty looking. But the park was beautiful, located right on the shores of Lake Champlain. Hot showers, nice neighbors and a quiet night was just what the doctor ordered.
Home again, home again
We re-entered Canada the next morning at Cornwall, ON with no trouble and a very friendly Customs Officer who wanted to know all about our trip. At first, I wondered if we were being quizzed to test our honesty, but I think she clued into what I was thinking, because she added a hasty “Nothing wrong here, just I’m heading down that way on holidays in the next couple of weeks and was wondering what I should go see.” We told her not to miss the Kancamangus. She thanked us and wished us a safe journey. Very nice lady.
Not much later that day, we found ourselves coming into Ottawa. I had never seen my nation’s capital, add the fact that it was Canada’s 150th birthday this year, and I wanted photos of the Parliament Buildings. Mike was more than up to the challenge, even with towing the trailer behind us. He even managed to find a double parking spot for Hank and Lonestar. (On downtown streets, on Saturday afternoon, no less.) He is the Jedi Master of parking, and I am in awe of his skills.
Dance like nobody’s watching
We put on our walking shoes and started exploring downtown Ottawa, playing tourist and going snap-happy with the cameras at Parliament Hill. We found a large group of people on the lower mezzanine in front of the Peace Tower. They had a DJ playing music, and they were all dancing. Nothing organized, just a bunch of people having a good time. As we watched, I realized there there must have been 20 or 30 different races, all smiling, laughing and dancing with one another. It made me so proud to be from such a wonderful country where something like this could happen so spontaneously. It got my Canuck pride up a bit.
We spent a couple of hours exploring, taking pictures and marveling at the history of the place. We finally wandered back to Hank and Lonestar and decided to stay at the Wal-Mart at the edge of the city. It was while we were setting up here that I happened to put my hand into my pocket and found the SD card that I was sure I had put in my camera earlier that day.
A quick check of my camera confirmed the horrible truth. 0 images. I was heartbroken. All those photos I thought I had taken were just the camera going through the motions. An incredibly stupid mistake.
My knight in shining armor
But I also married an incredibly wonderful man. When he realized what had happened and how upset I was, he calmly and quietly told me that we’d get up early in the morning and simply go back down to get the photos that I wanted. He reasonably pointed out that it would be Sunday morning, and the likely most of the streets would be quiet and empty.
Fate had other ideas however, as each street we checked for parking the next morning was either already full, or closed off to traffic. I was confused as to why this would be, but Mike merely shrugged and offered to drop me off near Parliament Hill so I could take photos while he continued to search for parking. He’d come and find me when he’d located a spot.
So after checking my camera at least 3 times to make sure I had that damned SD card in place, off I went. Unbelievably, I had Parliament Hill almost entirely to myself, and got some wonderful shots with the early morning sun illuminating the grounds and old buildings. It seemed like just a few minutes, but it turns out I was there almost an hour. Realizing that Mike was still circling, I started back towards the corner where he dropped me off.
“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” ― John Lennon
I stepped out of the gates of Parliament Hill to find the Terry Fox Run in full swing in front of me. So, that explained the blocked off streets and non-existent parking. I had completely lost track of the date, and what a happy surprise it was. Terry had been a childhood hero of mine, and it made me so pleased and proud to see all those people come out to honor him and his dream of eliminating cancer. Sometimes the nicest things happen when you let fate take over.
Leaving Ottawa behind, we made our way in a general westward direction, reaching North Bay, Sudbury and finally Sault Ste. Marie over the next few days. It was at “The Soo” that we decided to take a short break and booked a campground for a couple of nights. This allowed me to get caught up on laundry, and Mike to investigate and repair a peculiar vibration that Buddy had picked up. All better now.
“…Of the big lake they called “Gitche Gumee.”
From there we moved through some really beautiful country, following the shores of Lake Superior. One minute you’re looking over the world’s largest freshwater lake from the top of a mountain, the next you find yourself on a rocky shore with glacier till and gently lapping waves. We enjoyed the constantly changing gorgeous views for the entire day, until we reached Thunder Bay.
It was here that we passed the mile marker commemorating where Terry Fox had to end his cross-Canada run due to the return of his cancer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to capture a photo of the marker, but a few kilometers up the road we turned into the memorial park that Thunder Bay had placed for Terry, and we spent a little while wandering around the beautiful garden and admiring the monument that had been erected in his honor.
It was tastefully done, and I felt it was a fitting tribute to a young man who was a hero in every sense of the word. You can read more about Terry and his dream here.
The Un-Welcome Mat is out
The rest of the morning was wet and dreary, so we passed through Thunder Bay rather quickly, opting to get on the road instead. What we’ve discovered to our dismay is that Canada, at least from Ontario westward, is not terribly RV or traveler friendly. There are numerous PSA signs along the highways reminding us that “Fatigue kills, take a break.” But when you find a rest area or turnout, they’re plastered with signs reading “no camping”, “no parking”, “no stopping between this hour and that hour.”
Apparently, the only way to avoid being killed by fatigue is to pay a ridiculous amount of money at some overpriced campground, assuming you are lucky enough to find one that didn’t shut up tight on Labor Day weekend. Some of the sites we looked at were upwards of $60-70 per night. Pity’s sake, we could grab a cheap motel for that, and we wouldn’t have to bring our own bed.
Don’t go away mad, just go away
So feeling like we’d spent a month already in Ontario, we pushed toward Manitoba, planning to stop in Kenora, just short of the provincial border.
If the rest of Ontario wasn’t RV friendly, Kenora was downright hostile. Instead of the usual small “No overnight parking” you see at most Wal-Marts (even the ones that allow overnighting), the Kenora Wal-Mart had very large signs posted all along the perimeter boldly stating “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING BY CITY BY-LAW. STRICTLY ENFORCED” with the threat of a local tow company listed below, complete with phone number. We figured it was one of two scenarios: Either Kenora was completely self-sufficient and neither needed nor wanted tourism dollars, or the over-priced, swampy campground on the edge of town was owned by a greedy town councillor who figured the Wal-Mart was costing them money, so they pushed for new laws. (This very same thing happened in our home town.) Despite it being late and a wicked thunderstorm making visibility next to impossible, we moved on to spend the night at a Manitoba truck stop. We know when we’re not welcome. Kenora, you can bite me.
Next up…exploring the ‘Peg.