Saturday, August 27, 2005

This morning we got up early and drove in to Ottawa. We managed to navigate the freeway system and get ourselves right downtown. We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard in front of the Parliament buildings. Since we didn't get there early enought to get a good spot, we mostly just were able to the backs of other tourists heads, but oh well. We walked around the grounds of the Parliament buildings and saw the locks on the Rideau Canal. We actually watched some crazy canoe/rower guy go through the locks, which are a National Historic Site and have to be cranked open by hand. We went on a guided tour of the interior of the Parliament Buildings, which was great. It was just like it is on TV, except without all the yelling.

After the Parliament Hill stuff, we wandered over to Byward Market and had a look around. It seems that every Canadian City has its own Granville Island type market: Calgary has Eau Claire Market, Winnipeg has the Forks, and Ottawa has Byward Market. We had an excellent lunch at a cafe, and then concluded that we had pretty much seen everything there was to see, so we hit the road and headed for Montreal.

As soon as we crossed the border it was obvious - people in Quebec drive like maniacs! It was about an hour of white knuckle stuff all the way down the freeway and then through Montreal to Chris' house, where we were staying. We are staying with Greg's high school friend Chris, we lives in Montreal and works for DND in aerospace engineering. His Croatian girlfriend, Katja, lives with him. They live sort of near Mont Royal in between St. Laurent and St. Denis on a quiet little street in a converted loft apartment in an old warehouse. It's a pretty cool place.

Chris and Katja took us out on the town tonight. It is nice to be a big city like this with someone who knows where they are going and what is good. And who speaks French! Greg speaks French, but I don't and I feel quite useless. They took us to Swartz's the most famous place in Montreal to get the traditional smoked meat sandwiches. It has been around since the 30s and definitely looks it. We all had big fatty smoked meat sandwiches and pickles. Mmmm. There was a street festival on St. Laurent and it was closed to traffic so we walked all the way downtown and looked at all the booths of people selling stuff. There were tons on teenagers doing Frosh for McGill. It seems strange to think that I'll be starting school soon.

We went to a big bar with a huge open air courtyard thing to have a pitcher. The place was massive - way bigger than any bar at home. It was also full of drunk people singing in French. What is it about us anglais that we don't really seem to have drinking songs?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Science!


After breakfast this morning we headed directly to Science North in Sudbury. It's kind of like Sciene World. Once we got there we found out that it is $29.95 to get in. Insane! We were contemplating just skipping it when a lady in line offered us almost expired member passes that she wouldn't have time to use. Sweet! Free! In the end, we were glad that we went, but also glad that it was free.

We saw a "4D" film about Bushplanes, which was cheesy. There were 3D goggles, but apparently it was "4D" because the seats moved and they sprayed water at you when the bushplanes landed roughly on a lake. Right. I thought it was "4D" because it was historical, and the actual 4th dimension is time, but no. (I'm that much of a geek.) They had lots of good interactive exhibits and I got to see a beaver and a porcupine. I also got to ride a segueway. It was actually really neat and not nearly as dorky as I thought it would be. It was impressed with how well it handled and easy it was to manuvere.

Afterwards, we had Mickey Ds in Sudbury and then drove to North Bay for groceries. I saw a dead moose on the side of the road. I've been wanting to see a moose this whole trip, but not like that! Poor moose.

Tonight we are camped at Fitzroy Provincial Park where the Carp River empties into the Ottawa River. We are so close to Ottawa that we are actually inside the Greater Ottawa city limits. Since it is Friday night, the campground is a bit noisy, but it's really nice and we have a site on the Carp River.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Mini-Hike Makes our Day


I had a shower this morning! It turns out that most Ontario Provincial Parks have what they call a "comfort station". Bascially, this is just a building that has flush toilets, free, clean, hot showers, and a laundromat. Coming from BC, the land of pit toilets, this was a luxury indeed. Last night I even paid to do some laundry because everything we own stinks. We feel so much cleaner now!

After a quick breakfast of a banana and nutella sandwich (my new favourite morning meal) we hit the road. We basically just drove all day. We grabbed some Subway in Wawa and took it to Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park for a bit of a picnic. It was really pretty, but quite cold since it was windy. Other than that, not much happened on the road.

We got groceries for dinner (tofu stirfry because we are such West Coast hippies) in Sault Ste. Marie, a.k.a. "The Soo" and headed to our campsite at Chutes Provincial Park. The park is called "Chutes" because there used to be wooden chutes to carry logs around the waterfalls on the Riviere aux Sables when there was a large scale logging operation there. We arrived early enough to take advantage of the little hiking trails to the falls and rapids. It felt nice to walk around a get a little sweaty.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What is clabbered milk?


We woke up early this morning and quickly packed up our campsite. We headed off to Thunder Bay trying to get there in time for lunch. As usual, we were late and didn't arrive until 3:30 so we were starving. We went to a Finnish restaurant that our guidebook recommended. Apparently Thunder Bay has the largest population of Finns outside Finland. Who woulda thunk? Anyway, the restaurant we went to is actually just the cafeteria in the basement of the Finnish Community Centre. We both had the most Finnish thing on the menu: salted fish with potatoes and clabbered milk. It was basically salty lox with onions, mashed potatoes, and big bowl of a sour-cream like substance (that was the clabbered milk). The clabbered milk was weird as we weren't sure if we were supposed to eat it like a soup or use it as a condiment, so in the end, we just put it on stuff and it was pretty yummy.

On the way out of Thunder Bay we stopped at the Terry Fox Monument up on the highway near where he was forced to stop his run. For some reason the Terry Fox story really gets to me and I found it really moving to be there.

We drove out our campsite for the night at the Rossport portion of Rainbow Falls provincial park. Our campsite is right on the shore of Lake Superior. It is a big lake! For dinner, we had some left over burritos that we had been storing in the cooler all day. We made a double boiler on the campstove and steamed them to warm them up. It worked pretty well - sort of like a back-country microwave. I only mention the burritos because the Mexican dinners have become a sort of theme. We have had Mexian food for dinner three nights in a row because we keep having left over ingredients that we feel we have to put to good use. Thank God we've finally used it all and we can have something normal for dinner tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

So much Mennonite

We got up late this morning and had breakfast with Dar, George and their grandchildren. Dar and George insisted that they pack us some food for the trip. They sent us on our way with bananas, oranges, pop, and some pepperoni bums. (Apparently when they lop off the pepperoni bums to make all the sticks the same length, they save them and people who work at the factory take them home and give them to their friends, which is how we ended up with some. They taste just like regular pepperoni and they are salty and good.)

After saying goodbye, we drove down to "The Forks" kind of in downtown Winnipeg. It is like the Granville Island of Winnipeg in the Stanley Park of Winnipeg. The Forks is so called because it is where the Red River and the Assinaboine River meet. It is a big park with a market, some historical displays and all kinds of neat stuff. We walked around and had some good perogies for lunch. Then we crossed the river on a neat footbridge and wandered around St. Boniface, the French area. We saw the cathedral, the cemetary, and the controversial Riel statue.

Next we drove to Mennonite Central in Steinbach. We went to the Mennonite Heritage Centre. (Greg's mom's side of the family is Mennonite so it was of particular interest to us.) It is a museum set up to look like a traditional Mennonite Village from whent he Mennonites first came to Canada. There were also galleries explaining the history of Mennonites in Canada and demonstrations of traditional life, like biscuits made on a wood-burning oven and a working windmill!

Afterwards we drove towards Ontario and stopped at an infocentre for maps and an awesome Ontario Provincial Parks guidebook, our new Bible. We drove to Kenora to pick up stuff for dinner, then drove out to our chosen campsite at Rushing River Provincial Park on Dogtooth Lake. It is gorgeous here. Too bad we arrived a bit too late for a swim.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Canada's Only Significant Contribution to World Architecture: The Grain Elevator

We had a really long day today. We drove all the way across Saskatchewan and half of Manitoba. We were on the road for about 14 hours with very few breaks. It sucked.

We had a quick breakfast at our Cypress Hills campsite and then set off for Winnipeg. Our first stop of the day was in Swift Current to pick up some essentials. We also spent most of the day listening to The Davinci Code book on tape that Reid downloaded for us when we were in Calgary. We put it on our Mp3 player, then while were passing though Medicine Hat yesterday, we picked up a FM transmitter so that we could listen to the Mp3 player through our car stereo. We are really acquiring the gadgets on this trip! We listened to quite a few hours of the book, but since it is 16 hours, I think we have a lot left. The book is so cheesy and reads like it is written for people who are used to watching movies, but that is what makes it so great for listening to in the car since you want to know what happens next. The road in Saskatchewan is so straight that we can just stare straight ahead, eat chips, and zone out like we really are at the movies while we listen to it.

We didn't have time for anything today though, since we were so hard pressed to make it to Winnipeg. No tunnels of Moose Jaw, no downtown Regina visit. It makes both of us cranky, but I guess it means we still have stuff to see if we drive across again in three years. We did have time for a quick stop at Fleming near the Manitoba border. The grain elevator there (in the picture above) is the oldest one in the world. We pulled over to see it, but after seeing grain elevators all day, it really wasn't that exciting. It was battered, disused, and forlorn, and I kind of felt sorry for it. We also stopped briefly at the Manitoba info centre for some maps and brochures. We promised Dar and George, our hosts in Winnipeg that we would be here by 8, but we miscalculated the distance and forgot about the time change and didn't arrive until close to 10:30. We were exhausted and the concrete highway outside of Winnipeg played havoc with the trailer. Hell.

Dar and George and the best hosts ever! Dar is the sister of Greg's parents friend, Dennis, and we have never met her before, but she is still so nice! They served us homemade meat pie and talked our ears off until nearly midnight. It's been a hideously long day, but at least it ended well with good food, friendly people, and a nice comfy bed to sleep in! Such nice people.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Giant beasts


We got up early this morning and drove to Denny's to have brekkie with Chuck and Elaine (Greg's uncle and aunt) and their daughter Jenny, and her husband Julian. It was nice to have time to visit with them and Jenny and Julian told us all kinds of fun stories about their recent trip to Singapore and Thailand.

Afterwards we drove to Drumheller to go to the Tyrell Museum. It was quite impressive with lots of huge dinosaur skeletons and we spent a few hours there. The badlands weren't as cool as I thought they would be though, although they were pretty neat. I guess I expected them to be deeper. Oh well.

After Drumheller we drove back to Highway 1, then down to Medicine Hat to buy groceries for dinner. On the way we stopped in a little tiny town called Bassano to try to find a place to eat our picnic lunch. We were looking for a park or some sort of rest stop, but we couldn't find one so we ate our lunch on the nice green grass of the lawn of the local hospital. All the people who drove past us looked at us as if we were crazy.

After getting lost in downtown Medicine Hat (I know... it sounds impossible, but it isn't), we drove down to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and checked in at our campsite near the town of Elkwater. Our campsite is very quiet and all the way up in the trees. It is neat to see trees and canyons and such after a day of driving through such flat (well rolling a bit) country. We had a late dinner and called home and now we'll head to bed in our tent for the first time.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

K-Country! (That's not the name of a radio station)

Today we were supposed to get up early in the morning to go for a big hike in Kananaskis Country (which the locals call K-Country) with Reid, but we slept in a bit. Instead, we ambled over to Safeway to pick up lunch, then drove downtown to pick up a GPS antenna for the car (yeah, we're geeks). Next Reid tried to give us directions out of downtown Calgary, but he ended up giving us an extended tour instead! Eventually, however, we ended up on the road to Calgary, U-Haul trailer in tow.

We drove through K-Country with the U-Haul and got some funny looks from other drivers. We chose a short hike to the Kananaskis Lakes Fire look-out because we were supposed to be back in Calgary early for a party. We hiked Reid-style: quite fast, carrying not much, and taking few breaks. After all the backpacking we've done this summer, it felt nice to move that fast and not have a load on my back.

We made it back to Calgary rather late and were late heading to the birthday party for Reid's friend Kevin. Kevin and his wife Belinda live in one of Calgary's crazy self-contained over-planned suburbs. You have to see it to believe it. Everything looks the same in those things. Their house was really nice, but their neighbourhood was a bit like the twilight zone to an urbanite like me.

The party was really fun even though we didn't know anyone. They had rented a blackjack table and even though I don't gamble, I did surprisingly well with the fake money. On the way home, we tried to leave Kevin's suburb and got hilariously lost. We could see where we wanted to go, we just couldn't make our way though the maze of cul-de-sacs and loop roads. Even using the compass on the GPS didn't help us!

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Special Tonight in Cowtown: Beer-Butt Chicken

After breakfast with Anna this morning, we set off for Calgary. We stopped in Revelstoke for lunch and found a cute little deli where we bought fresh baked bread, cheese and some mortadella. We packed it all in our cooler and set out for the Roger's Pass Interpretive Centre to have a picnic. At the interpretive centre we bought a year-long pass to National Parks and National Historic sites so we'll be able to visit lots of good stuff on our trip, and for the next year in the Maritimes. The Roger's Pass Centre was pretty interesting. It's amazing how much snow they get there.

After lunch we drove through the Rockies. It was a beautiful sunny day and the views were amazing. I am quite sad to be leaving the land of mountains. We had a bit of a crisis between Calgary, and Canmore, however. We thought we were going to run out of gas! Thankfully, a PetroCan miraculously appeared on the horizion saving the day. It was pretty stressful for a bit there.

We arrived in Calgary later than we intended, but Reid had a beer-butt chicken, some BBQ-ed corn on the cob, and some cold beer waiting for us, which was awesome after our stress-filled drive. (For those that aren't in the know, a beer-butt chicken is a chicken with a half-full can of beer shoved up it's butt, then slowly barbequed. It makes the meat really moist and yummy.) We sat around with Reid and chatted until all hours of the night. Laura was in Vancouver for the week, so we missed out on seeing her, but Reid managed to be a good host all the same.

Doggies and Horses and Chickens and Kitties and Emus in Vernon

After a big breakfast with Bill and Ruth (and Tuffy too) we said goodbye and hit the road. Destination: Vernon!

We stopped in Kamloops to meet up with my grandma at the White Spot, as per our tradition. I introduced Greg to Grandma and they seemed to hit it off quite well. It was nice to see Grandma as I hadn't seen her in quite some time. It seems I might not be able to get up to Kamloops for a few years, which is a bit sad, so I'm glad we had time to see her.

After Kamloops we drove straight to Vernon. We are staying with friends of Greg's parents - Bob and Anna. They are such nice people. They have a cute little hobby farm with two dogs, some cats, some horses, a bunch of chickens, and two emus, which are rather creepy. They look at you like they want to peck your eyes out. They dalmatian, Montana, is insane. She is two years old and she has so much energy. I don't think she ever stops running and playing.

We had a nice dinner with Bob and Anna, their daughter Mary-Lynn, and her boyfriend. Afterwards, Anna showed us photos of her cycling trip through Holland. It looked like so much fun. Since Holland is so flat, it looks like my kind of trip! Another one to add to the list. Bob and Anna are so nice - since it is too hot to sleep upstairs in their guest room, they gave us their bed and slept outside in their 5th wheel! I can't believe how nice some people are. I really like Vernon and I wish we could spend more time here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Leaving Vancouver

We spent the whole day today cleaning and packing. Jess came over to help, which we couldn't have done without. It was exhausting. In the evening my sisters, Mom, Dad, Nick, Amanda, Tudor, Emily and Jess came over for pizza and goodbyes. Although we really weren't finished getting ready to go, it was nice to have a break and see people. When it came time to say goodbye I got quite teary, but I'll get over it.

We didn't get far on our journey tonight, just to the Smolyn's in Surrey. Since our bed is packed up, we figured it would be more comfortable to sleep on their carpeted floor than our wood floor. Tomorrow we really start our trip.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Welcome!

Welcome to our blog, and welcome to our home. Well, our home which needs to be squished into a 5 foot by 5 foot by 8 foot cube.

We plan to keep you up to date on our doings and the ins and outs of Atlantic life, so add us to your RSS feed and stay in touch. As an added bonus, we promise to provide you with a Halifax Fun Fact on every entry. As an added bonus to our added bonus, we guarantee them to be more fun than a barrel of lobsters (they might also quite possibly be true).

For our first Fun Fact: Inhabitants of Halifax are known throughout the land as...
...Haligonians! Just think--- soon you'll have two friends/relatives/nemeses who can proudly lay claim to ridiculous adjectives.