After the Canadian Cross Country Road Trip:
ARTICLE #6: Learning About Myself In The Vast Landscape That Is Ontario.
As I’m checking my cargo carrier and bicycle, and that everything is all with me and in my car, I glanced one last time to the city of Montreal and headed onto the highway towards the Ontario border. I’ve had such a great time in the province of Quebec with exploring Quebec City, Montmorency Falls, Jacques Cartier National Park, and Montreal. Now it was time to make my departure once again and with an oil change service appointment scheduled in Ottawa. The weather was gorgeous on the way out of Montreal, but that eventually changed when I hit the Ontario border. I had no idea where this terrible weather came from, but mother nature wasn’t having a great day. A massive thunderstorm greeted me when approaching the border with rain falling at a rapid pace, enough so that it was slowing the traffic down on the highway. I and many other motorists had our four-way flashers on because the visibility was poor. Eventually, we got out of the storm, and gorgeous weather appeared once again like nothing happened. The upside was that my car did need a wash, so it all worked out in the end.
Ottawa was going to be my first stop of the day. Since I’ve been accumulating a good amount of mileage on my car, I’ve been trying to keep on top of oil changes. I motored along and was in my little world and later realized two things. Number 1: I’m not making ample time to get to my final destination based on what the GPS is telling me. Number 2: my gas tank was not topped up that morning so based off what the info screen of my car was saying I was going to make it to my destination but only by a hair. And so the journey commences in a true-Marcel fashion where my attention is focused on driving within the legal speed limits and also be conscious of how much fuel I’m using. With 18 km (11 miles) left in my tank and five minutes to spare, I made it to my destination. I got my bicycle and took off on a little adventure in the southern parts of Ottawa. With a population of 883,391, Ottawa is the capital of Canada. Being one of the most educated cities in the country, over half of the population have graduated from college/university. It also offers the biggest bilingual schools in the world. You also have tourist attractions like the Parliament Building, Rideau Canal which is another Unesco World Heritage Site, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Baytown Museum just to name a few. Now with all these beautiful examples being within the city you’d think that I'd have a ball exploring this large cultural location. Well, I’ll be honest with you and tell you that this was one of the most challenging times for me in this trip. The province itself was astonishing and comfortable to travel in. It was the traveler that was having issues. I never traveled like this before, everything that I was doing throughout the course of this trip was a learning experience. It was my personal classroom towards adversity so there was bound to be mistakes. My eating habits were terrible, relying on fast food 65% of the time. Living out of a car and sleeping in a tent proved to be interesting. Having to wear multiple hats throughout the trip kept me on my toes, and continuously trying to work within my schedule while keeping a sustainable budget all added to ultimately exchanging rest time over travel and destination time. You have to work with the cards your dealt given. Long story short I had to skip Toronto for the sake of myself and my project’s budget and time. I'm making it a priority to visit the fantastic locations that are in Toronto shortly like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and of course my biggest landscape interest Niagra Falls. After taking the time to get a game plan of where I wanted to go in Ontario, I got a call that my car was ready, and after loading the bicycle onto the roof, I made my way to my night destination, Sudbury.
Istayed in Sudbury on my way to the East Coast earlier in the summer. Known as Greater Sudbury with a population of 160,274 people, this was once a thriving area for lumber and Nickel mining production. Rocky landscape surrounds the area with Ramsey Lake sitting near the downtown area. I woke up from a great sleep and shrugged when I looked at all the gear I had to bring back to the car. I trust people to an extent, but I don’t leave expensive gear in my car overnight when I stay at hotels. My end destination for today was Sault Ste. Marie. Located west of Sudbury, this was once a part of Michigan until a treaty was established in 1812 which initially created the border between Canada and the United States. I would get the occasional text message from my cellphone service provider telling me “Welcome to the United States. Please check out our roaming packages.” when I got close to the border. Ontario is a vast province. It gives a part of it’s land to the world’s largest freshwater lakes with Lake Superior, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Ontario. All of them, including Lake Michigan, contain about 21% of the world’s freshwater. The province itself is 1,076,395 square kilometres (415,598 square miles) which makes it bigger than Spain and France combined. The population of the entire area is 13 505 900 people, just a little under half of the population of canada. Pair that up with a tired traveler that was spoiled with smaller provinces like the Maritimes and then embark in what seemed like a separate country on its own was quite entertaining, but I was determined to get things done.
Road construction is something that happens quite regularly throughout the summer. You’ll have maintenance provided to old roads, highways, and bridges which are nothing out of the ordinary. In my case, I was passing through some areas that had missing patches of pavement and instead it was covered in dirt with large sized rocks. You might have an idea where this is going. I’ll give you a little context. When I was in Nova Scotia, I had gotten a crack in my windshield. It’s a small and frequent damage in the grand scheme of things. I got it replaced and then took off on my road trip. Fast forward to this moment where I’m driving through this construction zone to where they're pieces of the pavement missing on the road surface. When I got to one of these areas, there was a gravel truck in the opposing lane passing by at the same time. The next thing I knew I heard a bang and after quickly looking for any damage, I learned that it hit my brand new, less than a month old windshield on the passenger side. I was frustrated by having a little itty bitty crack on the original windshield. Now I had a foot long crack on the passenger side. Surprisingly I didn’t get mad. I took a deep breath, continued paying attention to the road, and put the music back on. I made it to the campsite at Sault Ste Marie. With my tent set up, a meal cooking on the camping stove, I grabbed my folding chair and called it a day.
Day three had come upon my tent in a nice glow of a beautiful sunrise. I woke up a little more refreshed from the drive I had the day before and took the morning atmosphere while I sat down and wrote in my journal. With my car packed up and securely locked, I was gone like the wind. My destination of the day was Thunder Bay. With a population of 108,359, the city has been referred to as “Lakehead” because of its location at the end of the Great Lakes. What’s great with the Trans Canada Highway is that you get glimpses of some of the lakes. One of the first lakes that I got to see was Lake Huron. From off the Trans Canada Highway, this lake looks more like an ocean. I got a few drone shots of it and couldn’t help noticing the gorgeous colors that we’re in the water. Lovely green shades that eventually got darker as the water got deeper. Next was a beautiful waterfall at a rest stop. I didn’t get the name of the area, but I did capture it with my drone. Today was going to be a long stretch. The distance I was planning to cover was 706 kilometers (438 miles) to get to the northern metropolis. At this point in the day, I still had a good deal of distance to cover and with caffeine being a close friend of mine, I took my time. There’s a fair amount of risk that comes in our lives on a day to day basis, but we don’t focus on them because our daily routines become second nature. We’re aware of the potential dangers that could happen if we become complacent or careless but overall we’re pretty good at keeping those thoughts from littering our minds. Some of those thoughts were running through my head. I’m driving by myself; I’m on numerous highways that had at times long stretches of nothing before I would see any civilization. I’m running on adequate amounts of sleep, but I’m not 100% on par with my nutritional intake and physical exercise. I took breaks every so often to get out of the car, stretch out my limbs, move my body, and clear my head. This province showed me the challenging sides of traveling. I eventually made it to my final destination which was another campground just outside of Thunder Bay. One of the things that I enjoyed was the social atmosphere that’s offered in these locations. You have people from all sorts of different directions that are traveling and seeing this beautiful country through their perspective. The soundtrack of people laughing, stereos that are blaring the top summer songs, the fires that are crackling. To some this might be the opposite of what they're looking for, I personally enjoyed it. With the tent welcoming me in its none insulated fashion, I went to bed with another brand new day just over the horizon.
Day four has arrived, and the story continues with leaving Thunder Bay and heading towards the Trans Canada Highway. I didn't have an end destination in mind, but I knew I didn't want to take the way that I came when I went towards the East Coast earlier this summer. Highway 11 was going to be my answer. Being a more scenic route, I was going to take my chances. Highway 11 is the world’s longest street, at 1896 kilometers (1178 miles) I’m sure I was going to see something great. This stretch of the highway consisted more of forests and lakes. You would get the occasional small town but if you’re looking for a route that gets you away from the city noise and into nature, this is one excellent choice. My end destination of the day was eventually going to be Eagle-Dogtooth National Park which is located on the west end of the province in between Kenora and Dryden. I wasn’t familiar with the area, so I trusted my GPS to get me there. Now to be fair, I’ve relied heavily on my GPS, and it has served me very well. I can count on one hand throughout this entire trip where it led me to the wrong location. Within the midst of traveling towards my end destination that day, one of those examples of being lost became a reality. I followed highway 11 till I hit Fort Frances. A town of 7952 people, the locals shared with me that this is a great fishing area. With my cell phone continuing to welcome me to the United States because I’m so close to the border, I made my way to Highway 71 which would bring me northbound towards my final destination. I’m getting closer to the what the GPS is telling me is Dogtooth National Park. I eventually get directed off Highway 71 and onto a dirt road, which is nothing out of the ordinary since campsites are most of the time in the woods as they should. The problem at hand was that the road was progressively getting worse, but I kept going. Bear in mind I don’t have a great off road vehicle, so I’m beginning to be cautious of where I’m heading. The GPS told me to turn left and when I looked at where it was directing me I wasn’t looking at anything remotely close to a National Park entrance. This was a service road that led into the park’s boundaries. This pathway was more suited for a quad rather than a Ford Focus ST. I stood in the path for a bit, tried to gather my thoughts and started thinking of an alternative plan. I decided that I was going to get back on the highway and continue heading north. When I regained cell phone service, I took a look to see if I could find any other campsites and luckily there were a few within a fifteen-minute car drive. Rushing Water Provincial Park was going to be my final destination. Being by Dogtooth Lake I considered it close enough. I got into the park, found a beautiful location to set up my tent and grabbed my acoustic guitar and went into the woods where I could get a clear view of the sunset and play. Music has been a therapeutic outlet that I’ve used for as long as I’ve been playing an instrument. It becomes a way to take my mind off the long days that I would go through. It would help me reconnect with my creative side when I spend to much time away from it. It’s a way of expressing myself. I would categorize myself as being an introvert and music has been a great way to voice my interest that I continue to feel strongly about. With another day slowly ending, I started thinking of how far I’ve gone on this trip. I’m halfway through this country, and it felt like I just started my journey. My time spent on this project had been a blessing to experience so far. I didn’t document as much as I did in the previous areas but what this province has offered me is an opportunity to learn more about myself and be conscious of what’s going on in the present moment and the decisions that will affect me in the future. With that realization set in place in my head, I strummed my last chord, walked to my tent, and called it a night. With the Manitoba border coming, I wanted to make sure that I was up to the remainder of this great cross-country road trip.