I know I'm not alone when I say this but, being separated from my family during COVID sucks! I'm so scared of boarding a plane to see my parents, catching COVID, and then passing the virus on to them. So I've been patiently waiting for the numbers to improve and for it to be reasonably safe to fly again. But the numbers are moving in the wrong direction and being on a plane doesn't feel like a great idea. So after a few conversations around juggling work commitments, the length of the drive from Vancouver to Toronto, and our options, we made the decision to drive across the country. We did the drive last year as a vacation and loved it, we just had not planned on repeating it again so soon. But the middle of the country will start to freeze over soon and flying is not a great option, so here we go again!
This time, we are trying to arrive in Ontario as quickly as possible, aiming to do the full drive in 4.5 days. I'm going to pack all the food and water we will need for the trip. We won't be stopping in any communities except to fill-up with gas.
Preparing for a month-long road trip is not that much different than preparing for a quick weekend getaway. We still need the bed and all the bedding, the clothing shelves, the cooler, the kitchen area, our first aid kit, our tools, and our games. But there are a few extra things we need to bring. The most important being electronic equipment like an extra laptop, a monitor, and random cables to ensure that Chris can work comfortably while we are away. And we need a few more pieces of clothing that will allow us to move from the warmer summer temperatures to the cooler fall temperatures. New items on our packing list include masks and exercise equipment. Other than that, we are set - or at least we will be set by the time we leave on Thursday!
We made it to Toronto! The driving days were long but we still saw so many beautiful places. I love the drive through the prairies and the way the sky goes on forever. The flatness of the land makes me feel completely free. The drive from Thunder Bay to the Sault is my absolute favourite though - the way the road cuts through the Canadian Shield, with views of Lake Superior coming up after every turn.
Our first day of driving took us from Vancouver to Strathmore, Alberta just east of Calgary. We tested out sleeping in a Walmart parking lot for the first time ever. The experience was what you might expect and I hope not to have to do it too often. But I do appreciate having it as an option.
One of the things about our microcamper is that we are always "setup". Our kitchen is always ready to go, waiting for us to grab a quick snack or cook a full meal. We can pull into any rest stop, open the tail gate, and we're ready to start making food just as easily as if we had been setup at a campsite for several days. It makes me feel like we're truly at home in our vehicle.
On our second day, we drove from Strathmore to slightly past Brandon, Manitoba. Yup, that's right - three provinces in one day! The prairie did not disappoint me - the skies were a crisp blue, with fluffy white clouds dotting the sky and the wheat fields went on forever.
That night, we paid $17 to stay at a friendly campground featuring extremely clean and hot showers included in the price. It felt so luxurious to be able to take a shower and have an uninterrupted night's sleep.
Our third day on the road went from Brandon to about 30 minutes east of Thunder Bay, Ontario. We found a quiet parking lot right on Lake Superior near lots of deer and jumping fish, where we could spend the night. The sky had a perfect sequence set up for us, from viewing the sunset with Thunder Bay in the background, to stargazing, to the moon rising and reflecting off the lake. I wish I could have caputured a picture of how beautiful the night was, but I don't have the skills or the camera for such a shot.
The plan for our fourth day was to go from Thunder Bay to Sudbury. This was the day I was looking forward to the most, as the entire route has views of Lake Superior and the rocks of the Canadian Shield. We even able to see some steam coming up from the lakes and had to drive through fog for a few minutes (please ignore the bug guts covering the window - we got most of those in the prairies!). Though we had a lot of ground to cover, there was still enough time for me to take a quick run into the lake. I mentioned earlier that our microcamper has a great kitchen setup, but it also has a well organized clothing system. This makes it super simple for us to find our towels, swimsuits, or warm clothing at any time during our trip. So putting on my swimsuit and running into the lake was so easy!
As we approached Sudbury, Chris looked online and picked out a truck stop for us to spend the night. But as we neared the truck stop, we were both feeling really good and decided to continue our drive all the way to my parents' place in Mississauga, arriving at 11pm. So we did about 4300km in 4 days. It was exhausting but so worth it to see our families.
We spent 2 weeks at my parents' place in Mississauga. We were also able to see my sister's family for the first week as they were on vacation and we were able to create a "COVID bubble". Activities included apple picking, celebrating my and my niece's joint birthdays, and scanning in thousands of old family photos with my mom.
We spent another 10 days in Carleton Place and the cottage visiting with Chris's parents. We worked on our window screen project, enjoyed some fine wine, and spent some time on the lake.
We spent seven days driving back to Vancouver. After driving out in only four days, coming back in seven was luxurious. We spent the first night at a free campground near Pancake Bay on Lake Superior, with stunning views of the water.
The next day, we hiked the 10km Awausee trail and picnicked at Lake Superior Provincial Park.
That night was spent just a bit further up the coast in Marathon, Ontario. Chris was woken up that night to a large black bear tapping at his window! He woke me up to tell me there was a bear outside but by that time he had been scared off. I could just see the bear farther down the parking lot heading back into the woods. The next morning, we found his paw print on our trunk.
For night three, we wanted a proper shower and paid for a camp spot at a tiny private campground somewhere between the Manitoba border and Winnipeg.
On the fourth night, we visited with Chris's brother and his family in Regina. It was great to see our nieces and nephew and hear about their adventures. Chris's brother took us out to see the Northern Lights, but unfortunately they were not showing that night. We did see some fantastic stars though.
On our second to last night we stayed in a fantastic free campground in the foothills of the Rockies. It was a bit chilly but we enjoyed the views from under our warm blankets.
The next day we checked out the town of Banff. We were going to visit Lake Louise too, but for the second year in a row, it was just too crowded so we kept driving instead.
Our last night was spent just past the Coquihalla Summit in a pullout near a creek. It was a lovely spot but it felt so secluded that I didn't feel as safe as I would have liked. In the end I was probably just being too nervous as it really was a great spot.