Monday, July 21, 2008

Home sweet home

Today was our last day. We slept in a little bit to get some rest after being deprived for 3 days. Mom had breakfast all ready for us when we got up and we sat around and chatted over coffee for a little while. By 10am we were on the road, with Mr. Dash, the family cat in tow. He had flown to Edmonton the previous week and stayed at the farm until today.

I first had to stop at the CN Rail Yard in Edmonton to pickup my Kia Rio that had arrived a month ahead of me through the magic of rail transport. So started the solitary leg of my journey! Heading out on Yellowhead Trail, we knew we had to gas up before leaving the city. But by the time we would see the gas stations, they'd be gone, because the traffic was horrible. So we made a sojourn out to Spruce Grove, another lovely little city. After filling up, Ed was itching for a Booster Juice, so we inquired with the locals. The local leisure centre had one.

Allow me to digress for a moment while I extol the virtues of leisure centres. I have now seen two of these: the Tri-Leisure Centre in Spruce Grove and the Millennium Place in Sherwood Park. Both are marvels of community planning and if I do nothing else in Peace River, it will be to spearhead the development of one of these for this great community. What is in a multi-use leisure centre? A pool with super cool kids areas and splash parks and a full size lane pool. A kids indoor playground. A full service fitness centre. A hockey arena. A curling rink. A basketball court, tennis court, racquetball court, running oval..........hell, they even have a Booster Juice and a food court. Could it get any cooler than this? The genius thing is that they get all the local corporations to put their names on the various rooms and services, I'm assuming to lift the tax burden that would result from funding such a behemoth. The greatest thing about these: they are always full to the brim with people from the community. And what are they doing? Spending time with their families and being active. What could be better for community spirit. Awesome.

Told you I'd digress. Anyways, we got to Peace River by about 5:30pm. I thought Sacha was going to hit the ceiling when he saw me. It was so adorable. He was hopping up and down and shaking with excitement and saying "da da, da da" over and over again in a frantic manner! We went and saw our beautiful new home. Unfortunately, our furniture is delayed until the 30th, so we are living at the in-law's for another week. Oh well. I'm so glad to be back together with my family and getting closer to finally settling down!

PS-For anyone who thinks a multi-use leisure centre will never fly in Peace River, Whitecourt, a town of only 1000 more people, has one. So there. And who cares if Peace River voted against the notion only two years back. Things change!

Total distance=3500 km
Total travel time=35 hours
Total gas cost=? (I will update it when I fill up the Prius tomorrow!)
Average mpg= (Same as above)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Day of the Long Drive

Today is the big day. We drive from Brandon, Manitoba all the way to Millet, Alberta. You can see our arduous journey here. First of all, let me reiterate that I think Brandon, Manitoba is a great little place. For a town of 41 000, I must say it has a leg up on another town of roughly that population with which I am now quite familiar. I mean any city laid bare on the bald-ass prairie with an Indian restaurant must have something figured out. Oh, and I also learned that the McKenzie Seeds Company, you know those guys that you buy the little packets of seeds from in the stores, is headquartered in Brandon.

Anywho, we took off from Brandon at 6:30 Alberta time after having a nice free continental breakfast at our hotel. There wasn't much but rolling prairies until we hit Regina, Saskatchewan. Oh, and even though Saskatchewan is in the same time zone as Manitoba, they are the only province in Canada that does not observe daylight savings time, so this time of year, they are on Alberta time. That was great because we gained another hour quite early in the morning.

We pretty much drove around Regina because we both have seen it before. It is quite a nice city, although I don't like it as much as the Paris of the Prairies, our next stop.

Saskatoon is a beautiful city of 200 000 sitting in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful topographic layouts in all the world: the prairie. (When I first arrived in Ontario two years ago, I thought the Canadian Shield to be new and exciting, and it is undoubtedly beautiful, but the prairie is where I feel most at home.) Saskatoon is home to the remarkable University of Saskatchewan with a truly breathtaking campus, and a string of bridges that cross the mighty South Saskatchewan River. I really wanted to stop at the Berry Barn for lunch, which is a long-time favorite of mine, but we had a long ways to go yet, so I settled on Dairy Queen!

While in Saskatoon, we rethought our previously planned route. The route would take us up to the Battlefords, then Lloydminster, and then close to Edmonton. We could bypass the city, but given that my parents' farm is a good bit south of Edmonton, I thought there must be a better way. Turns out there is. You can take highway 14 out of Saskatoon, which turns into highway 13 in Alberta, which comes upon Camrose, and then Millet, close to my folks' farm. I think this stroke of navigational genius shaved a good hour off our time.

Highway 14 is possibly the most beautiful highway I've driven on in Canada. If you don't like prairie, don't bother, but it was a feast for my prairie-loving eyes. Besides, we got to pass through a lot of cool little towns. Like Biggar, Saskatchewan, where the welcome sign says: "New York is big, but this is Biggar!" How wonderfully cheesy. It is also the home of Olympic champion curler Sandra Schmirler.

We also came across Unity, Saskatchewan, a booming little outpost that has won the Communities in Bloom competition in its category more than once. It houses the Sifto Salt Plant as beneath Unity lies loads of sodium chloride laid down when Saskatchewan was covered by seas. You can actually see the salt on the banks of sloughs throughout this area of Saskatchewan. As the sloughs dry up in summer during dry periods, white salt is left behind on their banks. Pretty cool.

When we entered Alberta, I could have cried. I now knew what it felt like to feel called back to your homeland. I don't know how people can leave their countries of birth. It must be so difficult. As far as the eye could see were rolling fields of purple flax, yellow canola, and green wheat and barley. I could almost hear the bison stampeding through the fields. It is such a magical view to behold, and I couldn't have been happier to be back. Plus, unlike my point of origin, it was sunny with not a cloud in the sky and NO RAIN!!!! Beautiful.

We went through Provost, a little town that seemed to have endless oil or natural gas tankers popping up in every field around. Shortly after that was Camrose, another city I consider to be very beautiful and worthy of living in! It has also won Communities in Bloom a few times. We looked at moving there a while back, but the offer I got in Peace River was just too much better to warrant taking the job in Camrose.

Not long after Camrose, I finally set eyes on my original home: the farm. It always warms my heart to see it. Memories flood me as I pull into the driveway.

After a great supper of barbecued steak and hamburgers and a wonderful visit with mom, dad, and my father-in-law, we settled in for a long, well-deserved rest.

By the numbers:

Total distance driven: 2900 km (today alone=1200km)
Travel time: 12 hours
Total coffees: I lost count
Average fuel consumption=53mpg

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Au revoir, Ontario

Day 2: Thunder Bay to Brandon (See map here)

We got up earlier today and headed out of Thunder Bay. We didn't get to see much of the city unfortunately. I've been there twice now, but have never been able to see much. We saw the Sleeping Giant a bit, and a bit of Lake Superior, but other than that, not much. However, we did go to the Keg and have a nice expensive dinner with wonderful wine. I had a slightly tipsy walk back to the hotel. Then we sat in the hot tub. So it made for a great sleep! On the way out the next morning, we did get to see awesome Kakabeka falls. How amazing!
Amidst the endless rocks and trees lay the beautiful community of Kenora. I've been to a few places in Canada, and this is so far my favorite. It is just so beautiful, lying on the banks of the Lake of the Woods, a massive, gorgeous Canadian Shield lake full of islands and cottages.

The most frustrating thing about driving through Ontario is that all highways in Northern Ontario are single lane, so inevitably you get stuck behind some trucks and slow pokes. Had we driven the speed limit the whole way, it would have taken us forever (90kph the whole way). So at one point Ed was passing another slowpoke and reached about 140 kph. As he slowed down past the slowpoke, a van pulled up next to us attempting to pass us. As I looked over I saw a big Ontario Provincial Police stripe on the van. Oh oh. He matched are speed for a second (on a single lane highway, remember), gave us a disapproving look, and then continued on.

After Kenora, the Ontario-Manitoba border comes quickly. As you continue west, just outside Winnipeg, you suddenly emerge from the forest and the land abruptly becomes prairie farmland. Then there's Winnipeg. Thank goodness for ring roads. I've been to Winnipeg once, found nothing there to write home about, and so decided this time to bypass the whole bloody mess.

We got into Brandon in good time, spending 11.5 hours on the road, 10.5 of those driving. Brandon, by the way, is a wonderful little city in the middle of the prairies. And after all the chain restaurants we'd visited over the last while, I yearned for something authentic.

I found a little Indian restaurant called Chili Chutney. We had garlic naan, beef samosas, tandoori chicken, and limb vindaloo, as well as yummy mango lhasis. It was totally awesome. It was on par with some of the best Indian restaurants in Edmonton which rank as some of the best ethnic restaurants in Canada. And the lamb vindaloo was so hot, it made me sweat and made my nose run, my gauge of success when consuming Indian food! Hooray!

Tomorrow we have the longest leg of our trip, Brandon to Millet, AB, a total of almost 1200km. Wish us luck!

By the numbers:
Average miles per gallon over entire trip so far=56.2
Total distance driven: 1745km
Total cost of gas=$152.95
Total driving time=20 hrs
Total coffees=5 again
Total emissions of flatulence into car interior=I do not have that number on my keyboard

Friday, July 18, 2008

I'm Alberta bound

After a teary farewell at the pharmacy where I've worked for the past 2 years, we finished off our last day in Timmins by visiting a good friend of ours and having a wonderful glass of wine. Our super-neighbors, Bob and Janie, then had us over for barbecued T-bones, potatoes, casserole, and rhubarb torte. We chatted for awhile and then went to the house to do a couple last minute things, like fix the bannister that the movers didn't put back together, and the door sweep they broke, and clean up the cigarette butts they flicked onto my neighbors driveway...classy. Finally at 10:30pm we checked in at Cedar Meadows, a wonderful resort hotel in Timmins.

6:00am we were up having breakfast at CM and then were out of Timmins by 7:30. I am driving the Prius with my father-in-law. Not only is it going to be a nice drive, but it gives me a chance to put my Prius gas mileage to the test. I will update you on each leg of the trip of some things we saw, how long the trip took, and what kind of mileage I got with each tank.

Day 1: Timmins to Thunder Bay (See the map)

I decided to take the Lake Superior route instead of the Hearst route because it runs all along Lake Superior and is much more scenic. Although the day started out very dreary and foggy, obscuring any views, we did see a lot of the beautiful Superior. I can see why the old explorers thought they'd reached the Pacific when they hit Superior. It's massive.

After Timmins, the first major town we passed was Wawa. There is a huge Canada Goose there, keeping with the small-town Canadian tradition of building oversized objects to attract tourists. It is, however, a charming little town lying on the shores of Wawa Lake.
Shortly after that was White River, a small town where A.A. Milne met the bear that inspired his classic Winnie the Pooh stories.

We continued on along the shores of Lake Superior, where we eventually had to stop for gas.

We stopped in a little place called Terrace Bay for lunch and then continued west. Finally the sun came out and we could see remarkable views of Lake Superior. It was amazing.

Outside of Terrace Bay is a place known as Aguasabon Gorge, a waterfall that drains into Lake Superior. It was only a short trip off the road, so we decided to check it out. It was worth it.
The only real snag in the trip was about 50 km outside Thunder Bay where we hit 2okm of heavy construction. It must be damn expensive to build roads in the Canadian Shield. They were literally blasting the rock off the side of the road just to expand it. But the views were worth it!
The final tally for the day:

MPG on first tank of gas: 52
Total km driven: 811
Total driving time: 8hr 37min 45sec
Total travel time: 10 hrs
Average speed: 94km/hr
Coffees drank: 2 cups breakfast, 1 XL DBL-DBL, 2 L DBL-DBL=5 coffees
Total metal albums tolerated by father-in-law: 3
Total Goodies candies eaten: lost count

Friday, July 4, 2008

More Canada quizzes

I must admit, I love taking Canada Day quizzes and even though it is over now, it is REALLY slow at work, so I am taking quizzes for funsies. Below are two more quizzes to take. The first is REALLY hard, and the second tests your relative knowledge of Canadian versus American history. On the first I got 50%. On the second I got 9/10 on Canadian, 10/10 on American. Try and whoop me!

Test #1
Test #2