2013 Cross-Canada Odyssey Blog (June – August)

In the fall of 2012, Catharine and I decided to throw caution in the wind and plan a new adventure… to embark on a 17,000 km road-trip in our van with our three young children while living in hotels, cabins and rental homes. We coined it our “No-Fixed-Address Canadian Tour” and it would begin in June 2013. Over a 9-week period (63 days), we would travel from Calgary to the northern tip of

4 - Ryan, Andrew, Jenna, Catharine on Magdalene Islands, Quebec

(Aug 2013 – The Palmer kids and Catharine in the “Maggies” – Magdalene Islands, Quebec)

Newfoundland and back again – enjoying Canada and it’s diverse scenery, landmarks and cultures. Why? Why not! Sometimes you just have to throw the daily routines, schedules and common sense out the window and enjoy the exhileration, the education, the ups and downs and the spontaneity of new experiences in new places.

We began our odyssey on June 23rd…

Click here for Trip Photo Album

Day 63     The end…!          Weyburn, Sask to Calgary
Holy sweet mother of… 16,819 kms later, we pulled into our driveway yesterday around 4pm – I kissed the pavement then went inside and genuflected the couch. Then I kissed the couch b/4 hugging our bed.The first 60 days were fun pleasurable – way more ups than downs, but by day 61, it was turning into a game of mental survival.Did we enjoy this trip? Of course! Would we do it again? No bloody way (… meaning, we’d reduce the number of locations next time. Although lots of beautiful spots, we crammed way too much in). Did we go over budget? We blew it out of the friggin’ water! But that’s ok…Some things I’ve learned on this trip:
1 - Jessie (pilot), Mike, Ryan, Andrew Parry Sound Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands Tour
(June 2013 – our pilot, Jessie, and the Palmer boys before our tour over the Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands in Ontario)
1. Catharine is a great wingman on a trip! Kudos to you hon for all that you did 
2. McCartney puts on one hell of a concert
3. Patience
4. I’d never survive a trip to Mars in a cramped capsule
5. I never want to drive on the TransCanada Highway again (I should get over this in a few months, tho)
6. Canada is unbelievably beautiful in so many places
7. Americans are cool… Nfld’ers are very cool
8. Never use up all the hotel towels b/4 your wife has had a shower
9. I’ve learned how to drive, referee our kids and fiddle with a GPS system simultaneously (multi-tasking) while driving in the pouring rain in a Chicago rush-hour
10. A long get-away adventure is so great for family-bonding… we need to have more of these
11. Appreciating a slower pace… life is too short to rush all the time
12. The Magdalene Islands are a hidden gem! We’ll be going back there in the future for sure… highly recommended
13. I should have taken up the bagpipes and studied more in french classes when I was a younginAnd now I must blog-off until the next big adventure (in 2014, hopefully)…!

Day 61 to 62          Chicago – Minneapolis – Weyburn, Sask

7 hours… 7 ‘til we reach our house today in Calgary. Not to be overly dramatic but the kms, now, grate along my body like sandpaper.

After waking up outside the Windy City on Day 61, we jumped onto the interstate as Tommy guided us through Chicago. We were smack dab in the middle of the “rough” part of the city when the GPS conked out. Then J started getting antsy and began crying b/c she had to use the washroom – which got the boys antsy and wired up too. And it was raining cats and dogs – and Catharine was suffering from sleep deprivation and was starting to lose
it… then I began losing it. The perfect storm! Ol’ Brutus shoulda had padded interior walls.

We quickly whipped into a nearby greasy joint beneath a bunch of overpasses to get the kids into the washroom. A rough lookin’ woman was in the phone booth next to our van dialing up a drug deal (from what I could surmise) and some other shady characters were floating about. In a few minutes we all piled back in the van as I banged away desperately on Tommy a few times – then, bingo… the GPS came back to life – back in business! We got the hell out of there and back on the correct route out of the city. Kudos to Catharine who got everyone back into a normal mental state.

We changed our route and headed north instead of west and arrived in St. Paul / Minneapolis (Minnesota) that evening after a 732 km day. What beautiful cities (twin cities, they call them)! And Minnesota is a beautiful, lush state (10,000 lakes).

After a long day of driving, I headed to the Jacuzzi for my evening salvation but it was totally cold. That was brutal – but the pool was great…!

X-Canada Travelling Tip #12: If you’re in your forties and not particularly bendy, don’t try to impress your kids with a fancy
cannonball splash in the pool. Snap, crackle, pop… my back was a bit worse for wear afterward.

Yesterday morning we left the twin cities and embarked upon our biggest one-day drive to-date – we logged 1,115.6 kms and made it all the way
to Weyburn, Sask (I was all bug-eyed after that marathon). Calgary is firmly implanted on the brain as this last phase of our trip becomes more like a test of our endurance than pleasure – we just want to get home quickly.

X-Canada Travelling Observation: Americans love their fast food. In North Dakota, we drove by a huge billboard indicating a KFC all-you-can-eat buffet. Now, when I was a young lad, I used to love the Bucket of Cluck just as much as the next person. But I can only imagine how much cholesterol and other crap that gets pumped into the body after stuffing yourself full of cluck (they’d probably need a defibrillator on-hand…?). On a different note – most Americans we saw rarely wore helmets while riding their motorcycles (no state laws I guess).

One last note – Fargo was an interesting spot. I kept an eye out for the fence (re: the movie Fargo) but a Fargonian at a gas station told me the scene was actually filmed in Minnesota… lol (not enough snow in Fargo to make the scene work)

6 - Mike, Ryan, Jenna, Andrew beside Confederation Bridge, PEI

(Aug 2013 – here we are just before driving over the Confederation Bridge, PEI)

Day 59 and 60          Cobourg – Waterloo – Chicago

The glow on Catharine’s face from our wedding day showed itself again yesterday – as we pulled into the factory outlet village outside Chicago. Then I put 2 and 2 together… we weren’t travelling back home through the States simply to take in new sightseeing experiences – we were going through the States to partake in a shopping bender…!! And before long, I found myself caught in the whirlwind as we emptied our wallets.

Before all this – we had chewed up many kms over the past 2 days: 228.7 kms from Cobourg to Waterloo, ON on day 59 and then 736.1 kms yesterday from Waterloo to Chicago. And we hit another milestone – Day 60. Such wonderful experiences and fun living like nomads but my mental and physical capabilities are reaching the end… my house, need my house. Need my couch, my bed…

We enjoyed a nice bbq/evening on Tues in Waterloo with the inlaws before entering the States yesterday… and it only took 13 minutes to cross the border at Sarnia (an interesting note – there is actually a Wally World (re: Chevy Chase, Vacation) in London, ON that we drove by… lol).

The Americans are an interesting bunch – lots of embellished customer service greetings when we enter stores/gas stations… and at a Subway, we actually saw employees high-five each other each time an employee came out of a back room. That was actually a bit nauseating but entertaining to watch, nonetheless.

And then there was the mattress incident… somewhere around Kalamazoo (Michigan), we were in a group of cars on the I94 when a mattress flew off the back of a truck and bounced right into all of us. I can’t believe there wasn’t a pileup as we all skidded and swerved without a scratch. Another bullet dodged.

Aside from that – I found a good station and got the Led out on the U.S. interstate yesterday with some Zepplin (not to mention, Dire Straits, The Doors, The Guess Who, etc.). Sure, the kids constantly natter behind us with noises of every description as they ask for something every 2 minutes or play/fight together (when we started our journey, we were quick to install “quiet times”)… but zoning out at times and letting the music reverberate through the body brings peace to the soul.

Tomorrow we cut a path through Iowa, enroute to Omaha, Nebraska.

7 - Andrew driving Zodiac Catharine in back - Strait of Belle Isle

(July 2013 – our son, Andrew, driving the zodiac in the Strait of Belle Isle (north of Newfoundland) with Catharine and the marine biologist looking on)

Day 58          Montreal to Cobourg, ON

5am wakeup yesterday for the boys (yikes)…! I took them for a walk (so that the girls could sleep in a little) through parts of downtown Montreal – was a bit surreal… the sun was coming up and it was quiet b/c the rush-hour hadn’t started yet. We found a breakfast joint (Eggs-pectation) and happened upon some friendly Montrealers. One of them had the smallestdog I had ever seen – basically a gerbil that barked.

By 8:30am we had Brutus packed and then Tommy-boy (GPS) guided us through the spaghetti junction and out of the city. We had an extra passenger on board – a beautifully large butterfly. Unfortunately it’s body had been splattered on the windshield, but it’s wings had survived and were stuck on one of the wipers – they flapped gracefully in the wind as if alive. The kids called him Donnie – he stuck it out with us for a few hours.

One interesting note – we passed a place east of Ottawa called Mallorytown. I used to love watching Family Ties!

X-Canada Travelling Observation: The price of gas drops .18 cents after crossing the Quebec/Ontario border (from $1.43 to $1.25 / litre).

If you can believe it, we did not hit any fast-food joints or buy any pop so far on our trip… we tried hard to fend off the crappy foods – although there were some indulgences from time to time – desserts – at Grandma and Grandpa’s beachhouse (and other homes) which were delicious. Catharine had brought along a ton of organic food which we munched on for our breakfasts / lunches and then we either cooked on our own or ate at restaurants for dinner (about 50/50).

There were times when I needed a chocolate fix while driving… of course, I didn’t want to give any to the kids b/c they’d be bouncing off the van walls after such a sugar injection. And I know Catharine was wanting to drop a few lbs (I took the bullet for ya hon) so here’s a strategy I employed after many trial runs (it’s akin to tiptoeing amongst sleeping hyenas – any minute sound of ruffling candy wrappers perks the ears… and then everyone pounces and it’s a feeding frenzy):

I’d turn the radio up a little… then ask Catharine to jot down some notes concerning my blog… then I’d ask A to rummage through the luggage behind him for my hoodie… all this would be timed for when J and R would be focused on the iPad or reading books. With everyone preoccupied, I swiftly reached down with my left hand and snatched the bar out of the driver-side door compartment and quickly stick it under my right leg on the seat (the wrapper would need to have been preemptively ripped off to reduce sounds – I usually did this at a gas station in the washroom). Important note: You must have a bag of food sitting on your lap that you are also eating (ie – trail mix, baby carrots, etc.). You can now safely enjoy your chocolates without prying eyes. And if someone questions what you’re eating (R does!), just point to the food in your lap. Sure, it’s sneaky and it’s not father-of-the-year material… but ya gotta do what ya gotta do when you suffer from a chocolate addiction.

It was a short drive yesterday – 448.5 kms (we’ll get into the big ones when we plough through the U.S.) and we had a great stay at the Stokes homestead… it’s like a playland there – pool, zipline, playhouses, corn fields, etc. Today we’re off to Waterloo to visit the inlaws!

Day 57          Edmundston to Montreal

One of the funnier names we encountered during this segment was a place called “Saint Louis du Ha! Ha!”. Who thinks these up… lol

We travelled 560 kms yesterday (we didn’t land in any sinkholes or get hit by falling debris from bridges) before settling into a hotel in downtown Montreal.

X-Canada Travelling Observation: The drivers are crazy in Montreal – it took awhile to get my nails out of the steering wheel after some close calls (… not to metion, some guy freaked out on a motorcycle and was weaving in and out of traffic all around us for awhile on St. Catherine’s Street).

We took a nice walk around the downtown core and at McGill University (Catharine’s Alma Mater). Beautiful campus and it brought back lots of fun memories for her.

The kids were exceptionally energetic – especially J. After watching Megamind in the van, she had a mega-meltdown which lasted a mega-looooong time so it was a “hit-the-wall” kinda day – we all couldn’t wait to crash into our beds.

Today we make a run for Cobourg, ON where we’ll crash the Stoke’s house!

Day 54 to 56          PEI to Edmundston, NB

The long road home begins. Yup, we’ve definitely gone over-budget on our trip ($$). One of us needs to become a senator if we want to come in under-budget in future trips.

Had a nice time at my aunt Jean/Uncle Bill’s 60th wedding anniversary two nights ago. 20 would be a great milestone nowadays – 20 is the new 60…?!?

Lots of “last ofs” during our final two days in PEI – last beach day, last supper with the family, last pics, last swim in the ocean, etc. We’ll miss the “Island” life for another year as we always do. I noticed the kids really bonded to PEI this year – no shortage of kindred spirits for them to enjoy.

It was a 6-hr drive yesterday from PEI to Edmundston, NB… the littles and Catharine are asleep in our hotel room as I bang away on the keyboard, nursing an affliction… a carpal tunnel-type version on my muscle/tendons from my ankle upward past the back of my right knee. Maybe a result of the strain of my right foot on the gas peddle over many weeks of driving?? (you know you’re getting old when…) It feels alot better today than yesterday.

X-Canada Travelling Tip #11: When you’ve got 1/4 tank left of gas, and you’re wife suggests you should hit the nearest gas station, don’t say, “… We’re fine for awhile yet hon. Relax…” Heed the warning.

We were somewhere in the hinterland between Fredericton and Edmundston and I had totally forgotten about the gas warning (men have delicate brains and are prone to distractions quite easily. This was the second “gas” incident – the first one happened outside Swift Current, Sask on Day 1 of our trip). The warning light came one – we had 20 kms left as I frantically scoured the road ahead. Nothing.

Nightmares entered the brain… then an Irving sign came into view noting a station 16 kms down a secondary road through forests and hills in a place called Riceville. I veered off, hoping I wouldn’t be spending an evening on the run, literally. After chewing my nails off, the station finally came into view – ol’ Brutus smiled and began frothing at the grill (which begs the question: why do I refer to our van as a person… the long and winding road plays many tricks on the mind). We arrived on gas fumes, I swear. Another crisis averted.

On a different note – outside of Moncton, I heard, “Jenna ripped my ear off!”. A minor brouhaha erupted behind us in the van but it wasn’t serious. Maybe a few drops of blood. Ears were intact. Before long, the 3 of them were chattering and playing together again like long lost friends. Aside from the stuffed animal decapitations, the ripped ears, the store tantrums, the sporadic squabbles, etc. – if there was one benefit from this trip, it would be family time. We all bonded in so many ways by hanging out together on a crazy adventure.

Mind you, Catharine still continues to laugh every time I sing to an Elton John song on the radio. She says she’s laughing with me… that line is getting old Catharine.

Today we hit Montreal to visit Catharine’s old haunts (she graduated from McGill U. way back when)

Day 53          Fundy Coast, NB
I’m gonna need a sugar detox when we get back to Calgary. We started off so well, sticking to a, somewhat, healthy regime – but as the weeks blew by, the sweets and desserts have taken their toll which are making the days a little more lathargic. Oh well… holiday-mode.
Hopewell Rocks on the Fundy Coast was great! Beautiful scenery and the tides are such a force of nature. We’ve now retreated back to PEI once again for our final 3 days of R&R before we embark on the long trip home.
Speaking of which – we decided “not” to book any hotels ahead-of-time during the U.S. portion of our trip home (after Toronto, we’ll be hitting Chicago, Minneapolis, Fargo, the Dakotas – Mt. Rushmore area – before swinging north to Calgary). We’ll live on the edge a little and figure out accommodations day-to-day. On the flip side, for all other portions of our trip, we had reserved the accommodations/events in-advance. Pros and cons for both.
When there was some “me” downtime (surprisingly they were few and far between for Catharine and I), I’ve been reading a Steve McQueen bio. He led such a fascinating life… I can’t get enough of the bios these days – Before McQueen, I had read one on Mick Jagger and the next one on the horizon is Keith Richards. Catharine devoured some books on her time too, while also fitting in yoga.
This morning as I look outside the window of our beachhouse (PEI), the wind howls and the sun is straining to show itself. A rainstorm blew in last night, taking the humidity out. For the first time, I can feel fall in the air… can’t wait to head down to the beach to watch the waves.

Day 47 to 52          PEI to Bay of Fundy, NB

We’ve travelled 11,097 kms with 8,000 kms to go… which begs the question: Should we drive ol’ Brutus onto the beach and light him on fire (sanity and sanitary reasons) and just fly home? Despite the beautiful scenery and fun experiences during our trip, the thought of spending a week driving home sends my brain into painful spasms.

We passed another milestone a few days ago – 50 days (12 days left). August is ticking away quickly and I find myself thinking about our transition from free-ridin’ nomads to normalcy, routines and busy schedules. I try to axe off such thoughts quickly… another nomadic trip is the only cure – we’ve got one in the works.

So we brought 2 cameras (Canons) on our trip – one was damaged in the Magdalenes and we’ve since lost the other one.

X-Canada Travelling Tip #10: Bring 3 cameras.

Three days ago (Sunday) Ryan and I were driving up the Lakeside Beach Road in PEI and out of the blue, a hawk flew out of the woods, at car-level, and almost nailed our front passenger side window (spooked us both out…!)..! I’ve never seen anything like it – it’s large wings were right in front of the windshield. I’m at a loss why Brutus and I have had so many encounters with birds on this trip.

My mom celebrated her 80th birthday last Sunday and it was a good party in Morell…! Lots of relatives and good friends in attendance – no shortage of entertainment, drinks and food. I’m amazed at my mom’s energy level – she went to bed at 1am that night… she hasn’t slowed down much on the social front over the years.

Aside from more socializing, bonfires, kite-flying, star-gazing and seafood-eating, we spent an afternoon at Basin Head (PEI) on Monday with some MacAdam cousins and their families – beautiful spot. I always love going there – so much fun (jumping off bridges into the ocean, floating down the “run” current, beach volleyball, enjoying the MacAdam homestead overlooking the ocean).

Yesterday (Tues) we drove to New Brunswick and spent an afternoon at Magic Mountain water park – lots of sun and many waterslides. My butt is all bruised from the vertical Kamikaze slide – they gotta fix those rivets, but loads of fun with the family! I even bumped into an old bone (Chris MacGillvray).

Afterward, we drove down the Bay of Fundy (on the New Brunswick side) and settled into a cabin on a ranch – it overlooks the Fundy coast and is beautiful…! We’ll be headin’ down to Hopewell Rocks later on today to enjoy the tides – highest ones in the world (50 feet between high and low tides)…

Day 46          Magdalene Islands to PEI

So I was in the bar drinking with my kids… here’s how that came about.

It was an early-morning travel day (up at 6am to catch the ferry) as we island-hopped from the Maggies back to PEI – our 7th ferry ride on our travels and this one did not disappoint.

I was on the boat trying to find a little peace & quiet, rest – why not the bar room (which opened at 9am)..? I mean, who would be in a bar this early in the morning?

I found a nice comfy corner and fell into some shut-eye… before long, the music kicked up – a one-man show who belted out Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell songs (ie – Rhinestone Cowboy, Galveston) in French. I’ve always had a penchant for Johnny Cash and this guy’s singing and guitar-playing was spot-on (aside from the language).

So I ordered up a Keith’s beer and enjoyed the show… which gained momentum when the French began rolling in and packed the place. Before long, they were all singing in unison and drinking up a storm – and I’m not talkin’ youngins – most were in their 50s and 60s+ (one old-timer had on a muscle-shirt and fedora… hilarious). At one point the singer, who looked to be in his early 60s, belted out Cadillac Ranch and a bunch of 50 yrs+ women started line-dancing. Over time it moved into patriotic French songs where all voices sang in unison.

I felt one with the French… Vive le Francais! (but the Montreal Habs are still my achilles)

Footnote: kids were actually allowed in the bar – families were floating about and my kids eventually found me. So I continued enjoying my beer with my kids in the bar (I know I’ll never be able to say that line again) before we ventured off into the cafeteria.

X-Canada travelling observation: The most expensive gas we’ve come across, so far, was in the Magdalene Islands ($1.49 / litre). On the flipside, the cheapest was a station just east of Ottawa ($1.16 / litre).

We’re back in PEI for a few days for more fun in the sun – then we’re off to the high tides in the Bay of Fundy (New Brunswick)

Day 44 and 45          Magdalene Islands
For such small islands, this place packs a punch – highly recommended…! It’s a kaleidoscope of colors here in the Magdalenes… a photographer’s haven. Aside from the diverse landscape, the colors of the homes cover the whole spectrum and most of the lawns are like golf greens. We constantly find ourselves gazing at the beautiful homesteads while driving about.
We…’ve crammed a lot in the last few days… a kite-building class, scenic hikes, watching kite-surfers, indulging in tasty french pastries, exploring coastal caves, beaches (one white sandy beach is 30 kms long), seal-watching, rayfish-petting and the aquarium.
We drove 5 kms across the sand to get to the seal habitat yesterday morning. We almost got hung up on the beach (we should’ve rented a dune buggy) but ol’ Brutus II had the wheels spinning crazy and got us through. It was fun watching the kids’ excitement as we snuck up and quietly viewed the seals sun-bathing (new pics on our FB album coming soon).
X-Canada Travelling Tip #9: If you’re holding an expensive camera at the ocean’s edge, be sure to watch out for rocks behind you – so you don’t lose your balance, fall and damage the camera when an unsuspecting wave pounds the shore. Nuff’ said (at this rate, we’ll certainly be blowing past our trip’s $$ budget… yikes)
X-Canada Travelling Observation: Half the population in the Maggies appear to be from Montreal (bearing in mind it seems like half the population are tourists). They’re full of expressions and talk a mile a minute – friendly people!
A final note – we threw 6 bottle-messages off the eastern cliffs while strong easterly winds blew. If they can make it through the corridor between Nfld and mainland Cape Breton (they’re part of the mainland, right?), then they’ll be caught in the North Atlantic currents and be U.K.-bound… we hope!

Day 34 to 43          PEI Stayover, Magdalene Islands

Vomit everywhere. You haven’t lived until your child has had their insides splashed all over the interior of a vehicle (yes, my blog can be disturbing at times – I strive to provide only the raw, uncensored truth).

After leaving Nfld 10 days ago, we hunkered down in a Sydney hotel for the night b/4 headin’ back to PEI. Then came the ominous words 10 kms outside of Sydney: “I think I’m gonna get sick.” Normally when J gets sick, there’s a few minutes’ grace period before the vomiting. So I “thought” I had some time b/4 pulling over to the side of the road. Within seconds I was proven wrong and it was the only morning we had forgotten to buy water at the hotel for the ensuing day’s ride. We had to drive another 20 kms to the nearest Tim Horton’s for a cleanup.

(Footnote: J got sick 3 more times in the van before we landed at our cabin in PEI)

X-Canada Travelling Observation: the drive-thru vehicle line-up for the mecca that is the Tim Horton’s outside of Sydney actually spills out onto the highway, stopping traffic. I don’t make this stuff up.

The last 9 days were spent in PEI – our mid-odyssey interlude where we refrained from driving the van anywhere (despite the great travelling experiences, we needed a break from the road, big-time). We were only interested in our inner sloth during this segment – enjoying card games, the beach/ocean, family get-togethers, biking, bbqs, kayaking, and the cleaning of vomit (the rest of our kids were sick during the week too. They recovered quickly, tho).

A few days ago after plucking the latest road-kill off our grill (… I must admit, my mouth had watered a bit with this latest victim – the meat looked strangely unspoiled and edible), I decided to name our van Brutus the 2nd after my brother-in-law’s brother’s (big Brad’s brother Bruce Barrie… try saying that 10 times) old clunker of a truck he had named Brutus. It was a dependable tank, a steel-wheeled freakshow that could get you from A-to-B, no matter what – until it met its demise after the steering wheel snapped off… RIP B.

On a different note, we (I?? per Catharine) blew the power out of the van again…! I found the source – a power bar that keeps on blowing the fuses. Despite this latest setback (we’ll get the fuses replaced again soon), our van continues to carry us and our supplies forward like a relentless sherpa… I bow to the power of Brutus the 2nd.

Today we summoned the energy to venture back into the van where our bodies found the familiar and comfortable molds. We left PEI and took a 5-hr ferry ride to the Magdalene Islands, Quebec. I’ve always wanted to go there but never did until now. It’s known for many things – beautiful beaches and scenery, kayaking, scuba-diving, kite-surfing, wakeboarding (… among many other water sports), French bakeries, caves and the seal habitats.

We’ve now settled into our cabin overlooking the ocean (we had witnessed a rugged and stunning lightning show over the ocean last night) – it’s a beautiful, mystical place here. Hard to describe – part Nfld, part PEI; tidy, manicured but rugged in areas. Colorful homes (moreso than Nfld, it seems) and very hilly with lots of beautiful beaches and cliffs. It’s much more than I had anticipated.

X-Canada Travelling Tip #8: When a child says they are going to get sick, pull over like mad… immediately.

Day 32 and 33          Nfld

Nfld’ers love their Pizza Delights – seems like there’s one in every cove and fishing village. They love their beer too – even the smallest stores in the most isolated areas sell beer. If you need a beer fix at any time, Nfld is the place to be.

We’ve reached the “half-way” mark of our journey! Seems like months since we left Cowtown – and it’s feeling like an Ironman lately with the travels. Every night after the kids hit the sack, we collapse into bed too, exhausted, trying to recharge for the next day. Maybe we crammed too much into the Nfld portion of the trip, but we’ll be retreating back to base camp in PEI for some R&R before the next excursion (Quebec’s beautiful Magdalene Islands).

Our final moose count in Nfld was 5 sightings. Lots of wildlife here… speaking of which, more fur gathers on the front and underbelly of our kill machine (aka van). I can’t count how many rodents and birds I’ve hit (I’ll need tweezers to get the last poor fella out of the grill).

On day 32 we enjoyed the red Tableland mountainscape (looked like the surface of Mars… it’s the only place on the planet where the earth’s magma layer has been pushed up to the surface) and other Gros Morne scenery (Norris Point, Woody Point, etc.). Also chatted with a marine biologist who operates travel excursions into the northern reaches of Labrador. He says the topography there is on a much larger scale than Nfld. That might be our next trip (although the Northwest Passage is on my to-do list too)…

We stayed in Deer Lake two night’s ago – nice to relax in a hot Jacuzzi again after the chilly waters of the Strait of Belle Isle up north.

I awoke yesterday morning, groggy-eyed, dehydrated, and looking a bit worse for wear. Nothing but fog, rain (in sheets) and wind outside – a wonderfully rugged scene to end our trip to the Rock. I hadn’t shaved in days and I wasn’t even sure what clothes were clean or dirty anymore, adding to the general disarray. After packing up again, we rushed to catch the ferry and enjoyed a nice ride before docking into Cape Breton late in the afternoon.

X-Canada Travelling Tip #7: When you are rushing to catch a ferry with zero time to spare, and you stop into a store and mention to your kids you are buying only “one” DVD movie for them to watch on the ferry, DO NOT bring the kids into the store.

We arrived at the Wal Mart in Corner Brook during the ferry rush yesterday morning. We stressed one DVD to them but it was sensory overload and they were grabbing DVDs left, right and centre. We reiterated one DVD and before long, they were howling like wolves. We held our ground and didn’t retreat an inch (parenthood is war sometimes).

We finally broke off negotiations and axed their DVD opportunity, asking them to leave the store in an orderly fashion. Jenna was soon sprawled out on the floor, bawling, and Ryan was clinging to Catharine, frustrated and vocal, while Andrew tested our sanity with a thousand questions. As we hoisted our kids up and took them outside to the van, a whole bunch of customers (along with the cashiers) watched in horror, thinking we were the worst parents in the world. Catharine and I had been branded with scarlet letters and for a few moments I wondered if I should blare Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle out our windows (… the howling from the van intensified) in a symbolic gesture during our exit, while smiling peacefully and wearing sunglasses in the rain to further compliment the increasingly awkward and strange scene with the onlookers… but I didn’t.

We’ll be in PEI for a week now, becoming beach bums to nurse our tired bones. I’ll take a break from the blogging for the week (unless some interesting drama unfolds).

Day 31          Nfld
Here’s what I heard recently – “Oyull come der see ya der marr marnin'”… translated to “I’ll come to see you tomorrow morning.” (from the mouth of the manager of the cabins we were staying at, regarding our check-out). Love it here.
Another day, another boat tour out in the ocean… this time, in a small zodiac with a marine biologist who was about as happy a person as a person could get. Was awesome! We were off the most northern point of Nfld (L’Anse aux Meadows) and enjoyed the ice bergs, (more) humpback whales and coastal scenery. We also took in the viking settlements (L’Anse aux Meadows is the birthplace of North America, as far as the New World settlers are concerned) and had a good feed of cod… we feel totally screeched in now.
In general, we’ve had relatively good experiences with our accomodations – but last night in St. Anthony’s was the exception. Great service, but the issue was with the AC. When it was on in our hotel room, it was as loud as a plane’s engine but when you turned it off, the room warmed up like a sauna – hot and cold flashes all night.
Up to this point in time, we’ve packed or unpacked our van approx. 35 times. Although our trip has been a great experience so far, that is the one big achilles’ heel. Especially when the 5 bikes are on the rear rack (about 150 lbs that has to get raised or lowered to the ground each time we open up the rear hatch door). Mind you, it provides for great workouts… lol
X-Canada Travelling Tip #6: When venturing to northern Nfld, buy as much fresh fruit and vegetables for your meals as you can in Cornerbrook (not much to choose from in the northern communities) Today we drive back to Gros Morne to take in more sights, enroute to Deer Lake.
Day 30          Nfld
A large day – first and foremost, it was big J’s birthday… turning 6! She was so excited. The first thing she wanted us to do yesterday was buy her a cake for her bday dinner (tough to do in the isolated northern hinterlands of Nfld).
A few other big highlights yesterday:
1. Ocean boat tour off the northern coast between Nfld and Labrador – we saw many humpback whales breachin…g close to our boat (incredible! One of the bigger highlights of our trip, overall) and tons of dolphins swimming around our ship. The coastal scenery, once again, was stunning
2. Visiting and climbing the “arches” along the rugged coast – stone arches eroded over tens of thousands of years that loom high on the beach
On a different note, the Newfoundland dialect up in the northern fishing communities are such that you’d need to drink 9 beers just to understand it. But the Newfoundlanders are wonderful people and I love their rugged and hardiness! I love them, man. Everyone up here is so friendly – strangers wave at us and say hi lots… and today I was walking along the sidewalk and stopped to check the time on my watch and two cars stopped, thinking I was going to cross the road (which I wasn’t). Both were smiling and waving me across.
They’re a bit too friendly at times as we were in a Foodmart in St. Anthony’s buying some groceries and one of the employees began hitting on Catharine as I looked on from afar. His endearing Newfoundland manners soon had me under his spell, tho. I wanted to go out and have a few beers and fish cod with the guy.
I, now, want to move to Newfoundland and become a shrimp fisherman off the northern coast.
A funny name we came upon during our drive today – Nameless Cove (not sure if it beats Dildo, tho)
Our moose-seeing streak ends at 2 days. No moose sightings yesterday. Darn…
Today we visit the viking settlements and icebergs. We’ll be looking for some cod to kiss.
X-Canada Trip Observation: Often you’ll see large piles of boulders around telephone poles in Nfld (4 ft high, 5 ft wide). They actually help sturdy the poles because in some cases, the holes dug for the poles aren’t deep due to the stoney ground.
Day 29          Nfld
‘Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head’. A little McCartney line – but that was how the day started out yesterday morning – was a little groggy waking up after that crazy travelling day.
Day 2 on Nfld and we saw another moose (2 for 2 now… there are 4 moose / km in Nfld. The highest density anywhere on the planet)… we also went on a boat tour of the Western Br…ook Fjord (Gros Morne National Park) – this area seems like the land that time forgot – stunning and unforgettable to say the least. Catharine said it reminded her of New Zealand – to give you a taste of the topograhy.
The only major drama that happened was a decapitation – Andrew’s stuffed monkey (Bobo… rip) was ripped open during a little brouhaha. An intervention was needed.
As we near the midway point of our journey, I want to offer up some serious kudos to Catharine. I know I’ve been joking lots about her and I – but on the flipside, we wouldn’t have been able to pull this trip off without her organizational/engaging flair on the kid/food (and other) front. She organized all the kids’ luggage and their “entertainment” bags which has kept them busy and engaged in so many constructive and creative areas other than videos (as we’ve restricted their video time to about 45 mins / day… although most days we try and dissuade their video time altogether. It just corrupts the brain and their mood. They are always cranky after a video session).
As far as food – she’s brought a ton of it as we try and eat “organic”-based for the most part (ie – her homegrown smoothies in the morning – coconut / kale / fruit smoothies. yum!)… and it’s tough to buy that type of food in many locales. Catharine has tried keeping the emphasis on healthy foods which is a major bonus (it’s so easy to just let convenience and the temptations to take over – to go down the fast-food / junk food path… but we haven’t been to a fast-food joint at all on this trip – and we don’t plan on it for the remainder of our journey either). We’ve had our moments where we needed a sugar fix, but we try and keep it to a minimum – especially with the kids (but I do like a good sugar jolt from time to time, as far Cherry Blossoms are concerned! lol)
Today we’re off to the Northern tip of Nfld to take in the viking settlements and a whale / iceberg boat tour! Can’t wait for that…
Day 28          Cape Breton to Gros Morne, Nfld
An epic travel day! Typically we’ve restricted our travelling to 5-6 hours per day. Yesterday was the anomoly – we arrived at the ferry terminal in North Sydney at 7:30am (had to arrive 2 hours b/4 the departure time to check-in), then the ferry was delayed and we didn’t get going ’til 10am… then 6 hrs later, we docked into Port aux Basque, Nfld… then another 4 hours of driving up the west coast ’til we arrived at Rocky Harbour (coastal community) in Gros Morne National Park around 9:45pm. And we lost a 1/2 hr due to the time change (our 4th time change on this trip), not to mention the usual pee breaks, dinner, and another road-side negotiation – in this case, both Jenna and Andrew were enjoying a good ol’ fisticuffs session so we had to pull over, take out every last piece of luggage in the back (all luggage ended up sitting on the side of the road) and then push up the last row of seats in our van …for Jenna to enjoy her own space while I re-orged and packed all the luggage back in. Then we became one big happy family again.
The ferry ride was rocky but fun! Good waves out there but lots of people getting seasick – and when we pulled into Port aux Basque, I felt like a viking arriving in the New World. I have a penchant for reading historical exploration books (ie – polar expeditions from the 1900s involving such famous names as Shackleton, Franklin, et al – and the explorers from centuries gone by) so the arrival into this rugged landscape was breathtaking and exhilerating.
How can I explain the scenery so far up the rugged western coastline of Nfld? It’s tough to put it into words but if you combined the foothills of the Rockies, the Lake Superior coastal topography, the Bras d’Or Lakes region, the Cabot Trail – and then added on another layer of pizzazz, then you’ve got the western coastline of Nfld. Simply the most breathtaking drive I’ve seen on our journey so far, hands down. And we haven’t even gone through the best parts yet (northern Nfld).
One little scheduling glitch worth mentioning – we arrived at Rocky Harbour at 9:45pm last night. As I checked our family into our cabin for the 2 nights, I realized I had booked the 2 nights for the 22nd and 23rd (not the 21st and 22nd). Oooops! So we had no place to stay last night, after 15 hrs of travelling with an exhausted family waiting in the van. Luckily we did find a place nearby on short (very short) notice and everyone collapsed into their beds.
Day 27          PEI to Cape Breton
The mind goes down different paths after many weeks on the road. Subconsciously (not sure why), I’ve started tracking our morning pack-up speed when leaving a location – we hit a new PB yesterday at 58 minutes (rush job to catch the PEI-NS ferry). My wife said I was a knob for tracking the time so I’ve discontinued doing this.
With our Tommy (GPS) out of action, our spousal spats on directions have increased. The pressure is on to get Tom fixed asap. When he’s operational and talking to us about streets and locations, it calms the energy around us – kinda like what a psychologist does.
X-Canada Travelling Observation: They have orange-colored taxis in Sydney – interesting color. And yesterday, the temp in Sydney and the rest of NS was around 35 degrees (feeling like 40 in some places)… yet, only 25-ish kms away (from Sydney) in Louisbourg on the southeasterly coast, the temp dropped dramatically and was only 23 degrees with brisk winds. Very pleasant there, tho. And another observation – it’s impossible to use cruise control in PEI.
We enjoyed, immensely, our tour through various parts of Cape Breton yesterday – especially the Bras d’Or Lake area. The southern coastal route was very similar to our drive through the Northern Shield along Lake Superior. Gorgeous areas! We stopped into Big Pond (famous birthplace of singer Rita McNeil) and then spent a few hours at Louisbourg (one of the oldest forts in North America). I enjoyed the rugged scenery moreso than the fort itself, and the animators were very engaging and friendly (incidently, I had 3 neices who were animators there years ago when they were teenagers).
We settled into our hotel overlooking Sydney harbour (beautiful) last night and realized there was a tornado warning issued for the area but no twirlies to be seen. We seem to be one step ahead of the wild weather / disasters while crossing the country – we left as the rain poured down in Calgary and we were one step ahead of the flooding as we passed through Medicine Hat and Toronto… and one step ahead of the Quebec train explosions.
As I type, we are now on the ferry headin’ for The Rock…
Day 24 to 26           PEI
We’ve got power back in our van! I had mentioned a few weeks ago we had blown the fuses to our internal sockets (not to mention the fuse in our power adaptor that had been plugged into our van socket… back to Canadian Tire we went for another adaptor!). I took our van into a garage on PEI and the mechanic replaced all the fuses for $10 (it would have cost me at least $100 in Calgary, no doubt).
Yesterday (Thurs) was the quintessential beach day – warm, nice breeze, great waves for body-surfing.The office is far from the brain now and I wonder if I should move to PEI (… but I go through this phase every summer we’re here… lol). There is no better island to get away from it all and to get back to basics. …
We enjoyed a bonfire on the beach Wed night – although earlier in the day there was a gusty wind and we debated about having one. Jenna’s reply (in a totally serious tone), “Dad, we could just sit on the sand and eat the bag of marshmallows.” (she’s a marshmallow junkie)
Some logistical tidbits – by the numbers:
A.  1 near-death experience (moose near Thunder Bay)… 2 if you count the time I thought I had lost Catharine’s iPhone in Brandon
B.  1 speeding ticket
C. 7 hotel pools (plus 1 friends’ pool… Stokes!)
D. 2 birds killed on our van’s grill
E. 10 Ceasar Salads eaten (by MP)
F. $800 (approx) spent on gas
G. 2 accidents involving our van
H. 7,000 kms (approx) driven
I. 8 provinces visited
J. 14 different beds we’ve slept in (hotels, cabins, homes)
K. 5 moose sightings
L. 5 electronic device malfunctions / defections (3G, van socket fuses, adaptor, iPhone adaptor, GPS TomTom)
Some great highlights up to this point:
Mike = McCartney, town of Kenora, ON (scenery was amazing), Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands plane ride, hanging with the family in PEI and the beach (you just can’t beat the beaches of PEI), bagpipe bands, hooking up with old friends, Jays game at the Skydome, Parry Sound area
Catharine = visit with some great girlfriends, McCartney, Old Quebec City, Lake Superior coastal drive, hanging with the family in Waterloo
Andrew = Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands plane ride, boogie boarding, Skydome, bonfire
Ryan = CN Tower, bonfire, Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands plane ride, Skydome, ferry ride (NS to PEI)
Jenna = pools (she’s a fish, I swear), boogie boarding, Skydome, bonfire (marshmallows more specifically)
Today (Sat) we’re leaving PEI and heading to Cape Breton (Louisbourg). We’ll be staying the night in Sydney and then taking off for the next big adventure – a week in Nfld. I’ll try and get back to my daily entriesSee More
Day 22 and 23          PEI
Great few days spent in PEI so far…! Lounging on the beach, bike rides, walks, cousin get-togethers, sandcastle building.
But some interesting experiences… when we arrived at our cabin on Sunday, we didn’t have hot water for the first day (electrical issue). We had been in the ocean that day and were sticky with salt water and the sweltering heat – so the kids were sponged that evening while I thought I could handle a cold shower. I lasted 30 seconds. As I bellowed throughout (with visions of the Titanic on my brain), Catharine laughed at my inabilty to handle the cold (… she did say she was laughing “with” me) – and I know she had her eye on our camera, wanting to snap a shot of my moment of weakness.
On a different note – my girth grows while my workout regime crumbles. I was consistent for the first 1-2 weeks of our trip (jogs, weights), but gluttony has a firm grasp now. Winning!
I had another accident with our van – we hit a telephone pole at my cousin’s house… Andrew (MacAdam), you’ll be talking to my lawyer soon (enter Greg Collins).
X-Canada Travel Tip #5: Watch out for the nesting grounds of birds and their eggs when taking pictures. Today (Tues), Ryan and I walked to Savage Harbour (about a 1 hr walk from the beachhouse) and while I was walking backward toward a sandy dune to get a picture of Ryan standing on the Black Wall, I heard a bloodcurdling screech behind me that put my hair on edge. Turning quickly and looking up, I barely had time to duck before the great winged beast was upon me, pecking at my neck before darting back up in the air.
True, Gannets might be no bigger than a seagull, but this one was particularly nasty with the devil in it’s eyes… it was 7 feet tall, as far as it’s personality was concerned. It divebombed me again as I threw my backpack up in the air at him – all the while, Ryan was yelling out and running down toward the ocean’s edge, flailing his arms and scared out of his mind. It was straight out of scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. He divebombed me 2 more times before I retreated. Another day Gannet, another day.
Day 20 and 21          Antigonish to PEI
Parade’d, bagpipe’d, drum’d, and beer-tent’d out… I got my Scottish fix for this summer! Kids totally loved the parade (mainly b/c candies were being thrown out, lol), we spent the whole day at Columbus Field and then I enjoyed some long-lost debauchery at the beer tent with the old tribemates… my ribs were hurting I laughed so much.
We left good ol’ Antigonish this morning (Sun) and arrived in good ol’ PEI this afternoon after our first of six ocean ferry rides slated for our vacation (the others involving Nfld and the Magdalene Islands) – and are now settling into our beach-house for the week. Bloody hot today! We will be one with the ocean all week.
I will only do one update at end of this week (as we are staying in PEI all week) – b/4 we hit the trail and head to Nfld for a week. I’m really looking forward to that part of our trip! I’ve heard nothing but great things about Nfld
Day 19 and 20          Edmundston, NB to Antigonish, NS
We arrived in Antigonish on Thurs and after almost 6,500 kms, our van needs a serious cleaning and disinfecting. It’s a disaster zone – luggage busted open and collapsed onto each other and the back-end smells like coconut oil (a bottle spilled out awhile ago) while the front-end smells like a winery (we had uncovered a few lbs of “lost” grapes fermenting for the past 2 weeks under one of the seats). Seriously, if the police had pulled us over for anything, they would have thrown me into the clink b/c of the smell. But the good news – we’re in my hometown of Antigonish enjoying the 150th Highland Games! (the oldest Highland Games in North America I think) I haven’t been to these Highland Games in 20 years – looking forward to today’s (Sat) parade, pipeband competitions, and the beer tent where lots of old buddies and class…mates will be.
A X-Canada observation: When we started in Calgary, we restricted our pee breaks to gas station washrooms. As the kms blew past us, we relented and got by with the cover of trees. But after almost 3 weeks of travelling, the bar had lowered to the shoulder of the road, in full view of motorists. It might be considered indecent exposure, but we don’t care anymore. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go…
Yesterday we enjoyed the ocean for the first time at Mahoney’s Beach – met up with some old buddies there too. Also lounged around Columbus Field, enjoying some of the activities (Highland Games) and the fireworks. We take off for PEI on Sunday, then Nfld within a week – and then the Magdalene Islands after that! Lots of adventures awaiting us.
P.S. – On Thurs we took a picnic break alongside the longest “covered” bridge in the world in Hartland, NB (pic to come). One of the more picturesque spots we had seen during our travels

Day 18          Quebec City to Edmundston, NB

We had spent another good portion of the day in Quebec City taking in the sites in a carriage/horse ride (with “Chuck” the horse), enjoying some bakeries along the cobblestone streets, watching the guard-changing at the Citadel then it was off to Edmundston, NB.

Based on the last few days, I was nervous we’d make it to Antigonish with only a steering wheel in-hand (re: power blowout, roof-rack crash, etc.) – but no accidents or mechanical issues today. It was a low-drama day too. Not much to comment on.

18 days and 5,660 kms later, our sanity is still intact. It has been a great trip so far – Canada is so diverse and beautiful and I’d recommend this type of adventure to anyone…! (I just read in the Globe & Mail yesterday about a family who is traversing the width of Canada in a canoe. Amazing! But you’ll never see us go that far… lol) But constant check-ins and packing-ups in the hotels et al certainly take a toll on the brain and the back. And, at times, we’ve had some spillage in the van – a can of coconut oil once, water in the cooler a few times (drainage cap keeps popping off), etc.

Looking forward to another break in our next stayover in Antigonish (and then PEI)…!

Day 17          Ottawa to “Old” Quebec City

We notched another province behind us after entering Quebec and within 10 mins, I had my first speeding ticket. They don’t mess around here. We stopped in Montreal for a lunch break but my french is horrible so Catharine did all the talking (early childhood trauma involving the Montreal Habs stunted my french-speaking skills. Speaking of which – I had brought a wooden stake and holy water to exorcise and christen the Bell Centre but we didn’t have time).

We arrived in “Old” Quebec City in the early afternoon and unloaded our luggage and vegged for awhile in the Hotel Manoir Victoria in the heart of the old city b/4 venturing out for a walk. Lots of people! There is a music festival going on here so we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the festival too.

Of all the driving I had to do so far across Canada, maneuvering our van with the extended rear bike racks and roof rack around old Quebec city was crazy. The roads here are a non-conformist’s haven – the narrow roads criss-crossing and winding around every which way, people walking across the roads everywhere… the parking was full in our hotel so I had to find parking elsewhere.

X-Canada Travelling Tip #4: Check height of parkade b/4 entering. I was in a parkade a block away and managed to damage our roof rack when I ran into a low-hanging pipe, much to the amusement of a family walking nearby (you’re welcome). I couldn’t put the van in reverse so I had to press forward, hearing the pipe crack along the whole length of our rack.

Finally found parking 15 mins from the hotel and then the stress went away as we strolled around the old city and took in the sights and the festival. Beauuuuutiful city (except for the pipes) and the people are so nice.

On a different note: not much drama on the child-front except for an incident in the morning when we had to park the van for 20 mins along the side of the highway and wait out the negotiating involving an armrest – Andrew wanted it down, Jenna wanted it up. A few screams, a few cries, but after some bribing, it got solved. Bribing, sometimes, is a necessary building block toward the love and harmony of a family.

Day 16          Ottawa

A low-drama day… we packed up our van for the umpteenth time and headed down to the downtown core to tour Parliament Hill including the Peace Tower (incidently, I had lived on Elgin Street for a summer back in university so it brought back lots of memories as we toured around the area). Then it was off to one of Catharine’s close friends’ house (Lara and Jarrod + daughters) for a yum dinner and night-time stay.

I did manage to lose 2 pairs of sunglasses over the past 2 days… how does that happen. And we’ve been struggling on the electronics front – over the past 2 weeks, our 3G connection to the internet crapped out on us (defective plugin… had to get a new one), our GPS keeps on powering off and is virtually ineffective (Tom Tom model), my Blackberry was out of juice and I had lost the plugin cord for a few days (found it yesterday!), a different plugin I had bought before our trip that was to allow us to play music from Catharine’s iphone via the van stereo ended up being incompatible (need to hit a Canadian Tire today for that)… and last but not least, I somehow blew out the power to all our van cigeratte-lighter sockets so we can’t plus any electronics into them now. Canadian Tire again! (buy Canadian Tire stock! It’s been on an upwards trend since we started our trip)

Having said all that – Ottawa was a beautiful city to enjoy and we enjoyed our time here immensely! Today we leave Ontario and enter Quebec as we continue to plow our way toward the east.

Another logistical tidbit: It took about 7-8 hours to travel across Sask, about 5 hrs for Manitoba – about 30-35 hours for Ontario! A looong province.

Day 15            Ottawa

We were awash in a sea of tantrums yesterday morning (myself included) when we woke up – mouths were hungry, some of us wanted to go to the pool, some bickerings over toys and the like…

However, if there ever was a day that required restraint and discipline then this was NOT it – McCartney was in Ottawa and there was no holding back. I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was in Grade 9 and this would be my 2nd time seeing him in concert (first time was in Halifax in 2010). The concert was delayed by 1 hr but he did not disappoint!

Aside from McCartney, the day was filled with more pool time as it was raining hard in the Nation’s Capitol… although we did visit Katie’s (Maxwell cousin) farm – lots of lambs but no silence or cannibalism (they were a loud, funny bunch with one lamb sounding like he was belching every time he baaa’d).

I now debate whether I should grow an unwieldy beard for the remainder of the trip.

X-Canada Trip Tip #3: Always test your inflattable bed (we have a single for one of the kids) b/4 embarking on a trip. This actually happened on Day 1 in Swift Current but I had forgotten about it. I awoke at 4 am in the hotel and noticed Jenna at a 45-degree angle with half the bed deflated (leak). Despite the difficult yoga position she was in, she was sleeping soundly so I didn’t wake her to adjust (new bed at next pitstop).

Day 14          Ottawa

Spent some time with some old friends and their families (Bino Cesario and Derek McElheran) – lots of reminiscing about the fun and crazy university years. That time of my life just seems like yesterday. On other days, it’s a world away, fading further into the past. Hoping to see a few other university buds in the next few days.

Otherwise, had a nice visit with some cousins (Charlie MacAdam et al) and my publisher this morning discussing some book ideas and enjoyed some time at the Nepean sailing club before we ventured off to the Maxwell family reunion in Kanata for the day. Great time (scrumptious meals, pony rides, beer, farm time at one of the uncle’s homes)! Quality people through and through. But freakin’ hot here! We clawed our way back to the hotel through the heat and cooled off in the pool b/4 hitting the sack.

Day 8 to 13          Stayover in Waterloo / Toronto

Lots of excitement over the past week – a Blue Jays game at the Skydome, a CN Tower tour, a construction site tour of a condo high-rise (we’re partners in a company that builds high and low-rise condos in Waterloo – click here for company link), lots of inlaw reunion get-togethers… and then there was some downtime playing badminton and enjoying the water parks. But the clock ticks and it’s time to move on. So Rob Ford Land grew distant in the rear-view mirror… and now we’re in the nation’s capital, home to Mike Duffy (… or not his home? I’m losing track of his official place of residence) and his political cohorts. No big geese, nickels or moose seen along the 401 during the drive… just lots and lots of cars.

A little logistical tidbit – I had mentioned below in Day 1 that I had planned our 64-day trip with 5-6 hour driving days. That equates to about 500-600 kms per day (averaging anywhere between 100 and 120 kms / hr).

Day 7          Sudbury to Waterloo 

I’ve been hearing Abba songs for 3 days now as the kids are going through an Abba phase. I want to “accidently” drop the Abba cds out the window… we visited the Sudbury nickel… took a bushplane ride (Georgian Bay Airways) over the Georgian Bay 30,000 islands – unbelievable scenery and cottages on those islands (pics to come!)… visited the Bobby Orr museum in Parry Sound… X-Canada Travel Tip #2: check all doors (our back hatch-door was open for 5 hrs on the road… luckily nothing fell out). We made it to Waterloo! The first phase of our adventure is over – a stayover in Waterloo / Toronto for a week. So, I’ll take a break from the updates ’til Saturday

Day 6          Wawa to Sudbury

Paid homage to the Wawa goose today (… the monument symbolizes the completion of the TransCanada Highway). As we’ve done in some recent days, the day began with a yummy homemade fruit/kale smoothie – then we travelled onward and spent a few hours in Sault St. Marie. We landed in Sudbury for the night. X-Canada Travelling Tip #1: Never say, 5+ times, “Look! Moose! <pause> Sign!” Especially if your wife is a physiotherapist b/c she’ll know the pressure points on your arm for max. pain when she throws the punch

Day 5          Thunder Bay to Wawa

We’ve been hacking our way through fog, rain, forests, lakes since early morning in T’under Bay… we’re now hunkered down in a cozy cabin in the sprawling metropolis of Wawa (pop: 3,200). But beautiful country up here, I must admit! A X-Canada hinterland observation: I didn’t see any marked police cars between Calgary and the Ontario border (I did see one unmarked outside of Swift Current)…. In Ontario so far, I’ve seen at least a dozen marked OPP’s (no speeding tickets yet!). I now know I’d never make it alive in an enclosed capsule to Mars. Catharine has lost all trust in my navigation skills (she spends more time with Tommy <GPS> than me now). Had an inspiring visit to the Terry Fox monument where he stopped his run. Very inspiring man

Day 4          Kenora to Thunder Bay

The mind grew fragile as we drove thru the motherlode of forests today – I’ve heard a few hundred “Are we there yet”s while driving today (the jacuzzi and some quiet time saved me tonight). And it wouldn’t be a quality drive through the Shield without a close call with a moose (mom and baby were only a few feet from us along the side of the road – rather skittish fellows). We’ve seen 4 in total today. Also – we were in an Otter bushplane which was cool too…! On our way to Wawa tomorrow

Day 3          Brandon to Kenora

The royal mint tour in the Peg was excellent… we almost left a gas station without realizing one of our kids was still in the washroom (mandatory “head count” now initiated). Relaxed at Falcon Lake for a few hours – now we’re enjoying Kenora in the northern wilds of Ontario. This spot is a hidden gem! Reminds me of Halifax with all the beautiful lakes. She’s a scorcher today up here, tho!

Day 2          Swift Current to Brandon

Kicking around Brandon – nice town. Kids were pooped after a busy day and are now sleeping… Catharine doing some yoga – and I’m recalibrating my brain cells after many hours of driving. Tomorrow we hit Winnipeg and a Royal Cdn Mint Tour. Then off to Kenora. Since leaving Calgary there has been nothing but big prarie skies, endless fields, cows, trains and transport trucks. It really is true what they say – that if your dog ran away from your house in these parts, you could see him running for hours on end… lol

Day 1          Calgary to Swift Current

The psychiatric assessments are behind us now – our nomadic x-country road-trip begins! Criss-crossing the hinterlands of Canada/U.S. for a few months with kids in tow… 13,000+ kms, cohabitating in cabins/hotels, on beaches/fjords/northlands Shield, on ferries, zodiac boats & planes – island hopping from PEI to the Magdalene Isles, from Cape Breton to the northern bushlands of Nfld – it’s just the Canadian thing to do! There should be no shortage of drama (I suppose with 3 kids, it’s guaranteed… lol). Today’s drive itself was very pleasant as we all settled into our spaces. Catharine organized most of the kid’s stuff and food while I had dealt with the preliminary logistics and $$ budgeting (booking all the cabins/hotels/events to come) – she had an “entertainment bag” for each child which they now were enjoying – puzzles, coloring books, reading books, etc. And we decided we’d assign the kids approx. 1 hour of video time per day in the van (I had intentionally planned out 5-6 hours of driving per day…. anything more would be insanity, all things considered). One scenic note – aside from the endless prairies fields, we came across the biggest teepee in the world at Medicine Hat!

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