So we had to be at the airport in Calgary by the evening of the 24th, to pick up our friend Linda , who would travel with us the last 10 days of our trip. Maybe for some people, 6 days is plenty of time to get from Ottawa to Calgary, but—don’t stop me if I’ve mentioned this before—it takes Step and I forever to get from point A to point B in the van. Part of the reason is we use propane as fuel whenever possible, and while it is cheaper and cleaner burning than gas, it takes a long time to fill the tank. The other reason is that we are Looky-Loos and I take about 100 pictures a day, so we are constantly stopping for photo ops.
On our way east we had traveled Highway 67 (also in a hurry—why?), so this part of Highway 17 was new to us. Despite our determination to make road time, it was very slow going due to frequent detours and delays caused by crews maintaining the roads. At one point when we were at a standstill, a trucker got out and bounced our bikes. He explained he thought our rack was loose, and had tried to contact us on our CB radio. Haha! We fooled him! The Boogie Bus had at some previous owner’s point had a CB, but all we had left were the antennas.
Ironically, after traveling the Stewart Cassiar and Trans Labrador highways, it was highway 17 that gave us the biggest windshield crack of the trip, from a flying rock, and, of course, right in front of the driver’s side.
We stopped in Sault Sainte Marie for propane and groceries, and after spending so much time in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador, I was gobsmacked by what most would consider a normal array of foods for sale, and took pictures until a suspicious but friendly store manager asked me to stop.
Maybe an hour down the road we made a pit stop, and I was surprised to note we had stopped at the halfway point of the Trans Canada highway. There weren’t bells and whistles, just this plaque.
We also went into Wawa for gas, and I learned the giant goose by the highway was just 1 of 3! It turned out the original one had been flimsy but so effective at getting Trans Canada visitors to stop that a sturdier one replaced it. I don’t know where the 3rd one came from.
We camped at Berry Trails campsite, at Obatanga Provincial park. It’s too bad I had never seen a wild blueberry before, because we saw a lot of them there and I bet they were fucking delicious. I suspected what they might be, but was too afraid to try one. (Yes, I ate the blackberry in Labrador, but I had a botanical guide for that area). The trees are really tall there, although they hardly rival those on the west coast, and the campsites are near a small, serene lake. We had a campfire which we doused multiple times with lake water, but in the morning the remaining logs were entirely embers, so I learned how hard it is to put a fire out. I am glad we did not burn down the park. Berry Trails campsite has the Worst Showers Ever. Why? Because the shower heads were ridiculously high up on the wall, and the water sprayed out so far that all the water just ran down the walls and none of it landed on us. So we got slightly damp but not at all clean.
We had to gas up in Marathon, again. ‘Nuff said.
Before Thunder Bay we stopped to visit Michael, an old University friend of Steps’s, and his wife. They have a very lovely home on a little lake, including their own Finnish sauna which we all enjoyed and then ran into the lake. That reminded us we wanted to try the Finnish pancakes at Kangas Sauna. It was a debate on whether to lunch there, or once again at the beloved Hoito, but in the end Kangas won, since we had only saunaed there on our trip out, but not sampled the fare. They were good! So was the smoked fish we picked up at Lilsa Karkkainen Fish Shop. She had wild blueberries for sale, but they really cost a lot. It makes sense—wild blueberries are tiny and picked by hand.
We also stopped in at the Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout. For those that don’t know, Terry Fox is a iconic Canadian Hero, who, due to cancer, had his leg amputated at a young age. He then decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research; The Marathon of Hope. At first, no one paid any attention, but as his marathon gained momentum, so did his fame and the feelings he inspired in people. Even though he was from Port Coquitlam, which is in British Columbia, he started the run in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and made it to basically Thunder Bay before succumbing to his illness. So he didn’t make it across Canada, but he died trying. I know, too, from personal experience, it’s a long way from St. John’s to Thunder Bay. Anyway, Canada has all sorts of Terry Fox memorials but the one near Thunder Bay is the main one. Step felt quite emotional at the memorial and wouldn’t let me take his picture.
From Thunder Bay we were able to veer off of the Trans Canada Highway, which we had already driven, and instead drove Highway 11 through Fort Frances and then the cottage district of Lake of the Woods to Kenora, where we got back onto Highway 1. I didn’t take pictures of the cottage district, but it was Canadian and woodsy, with signs with beavers and mooses and whatnot. Also, we slept that night behind an empty building in Emo, but we got sort of paranoid because there were kids out drinking and fooling around, and then the police came to investigate the kids, and we were hoping no one would investigate us, and thankfully no one did. So, were those these Emo kids we hear so much about, haha?
Sadly, the most boring part of the Trans-Canada highway is from Kenora to Winnepeg, but there are no alternate routes so we now drove it a second time.