Alright, this is a little past due, as I’ve actually been in Penticton since Tuesday and in 15 minutes it’ll be Sunday – but well, it took a bit of work to get up and running on the Internet.
The trip was amazing, but was not without its rocky moments (pun and groan intended).
A somewhat crazy night at Sarah’s birthday party/bonfire led to a slow start the following day, but I managed to have the car packed and ready to go for my noon departure time. With Vanessa on her way back to St. Kitts to grab us some food for our travels, I pulled out of the driveway one last time only to have my car protest with a large growl.
Pulling back in, and quickly wondering if I’d done something to piss off the fates, I propped the car up and assumed that my exhaust fix from a couple weeks back had finally decided to quit – but nope. Turns out this was a brand new crack in my exhaust. After some pondering with CJ and a quick trip to Canadian Tire we had a temporary fix that though still quite noisy, had me on my way.
All that remained of the sculpture that was the â€œfixâ€
For the first three hours of the trip Vanessa and I had to pretty much yell to hear each other over the engine noise that was escaping CJ’s and my well-crafted “fix”. We were roughly an hour south of Parry Sound when we pulled in to get gas and noticed that the fix had failed and my tailpipe was now kissing the pavement.
With no way to prop it up, I had to let it drag and just hoped it would stay on until we got to our campsite. When, about 10 minutes away from our campsite just south of Parry Sound, the dragging noise stopped – I jumped out, wedged the dislocated tailpipe into the bike rack and headed on our way.
Other than the whole tailpipe thing and the fact that Vanessa learned blowing up her air matress requires the power of the four winds, the first night on the road went well. We ate Thai soup cooked in a camp fire and planned out what the car delay would do to our itinerary.
In the morning I took the car in to Canadian Tire and after a quick examination they informed me that no where in the city was there a replacement pipe to fill the space between my catalitic converter and my muffler. With a smile (and a shake of my head at my forgetfulness) I informed them that it was no problem, I had one. So after a quick run back to the campsite I was back in the waiting room. Really beginning to question my luck, I also had to get them to fix a hole that had magically appeared in my rear tire. Fortunately for my budget they forgot to charge me for it. They did however charge me $100 to fix the exhaust.
Vanessa getting intimate with her air matress. Notice the nicely inflated one in the background
We had hoped that by the end of the second day we’d be at Kakabeka Falls just west of Thunder Bay, but due to the delay we only made it as far as Lake Superior National Park just south of Wawa. It was a beautiful campsite though, as it was right on the beach, and though very windy made for a beautiful sunset.
The cold waters of Lake Superior
Vanessa taking in the view as she inflates her bed
I braved the Superior winds for a couple of songs as the sun went down
Day three saw us up first thing and on the road. It was nice to finally get going at the proper time. I always forget how beautiful the scenery is around the fringe of the big lake they call Gitche Goumee. Aside from providing lots to look at, it gave my little car her first test of inclines. She struggled a bit, but held her own, which gave me a bit of well needed confidence that she’d survive the Rockies.
With a few hours of driving behind us we considered just packing it in at Kakabeka Falls and getting back on track the following day, but with some extra sunshine coming our way and an excellent CAA camping guide we decided to push a couple hours further west. Deciding we had earned them, Vanessa and I grabbed some steaks and headed for a small little campsite in Dryden. By the time we got the tent up it was full-on pouring rain, making my job of lighting the fire next to impossible. Just when I was about to give up an old man from an RV a couple sites over came by.
Him: “Got a propane torch?”
Him: “I’ll be right back!”
And true to his word he was right back and shoving the flame from his torch against my soggy mass of kindling.
Him: “Got a hatchet?”
Him: “I’ll be right back!”
And once again he returned to our site with a tool that would see we had warm food in our stomaches before night’s end. While the fire was getting going the old man hung out and shared a bit of his history with us. In an odd coincidence he too was from Welland (along with a number of other places).
Though not to camp, we decided to stop for a quick photo op at Kakabeka Falls
We were really stuck on how to cook the steaks when we saw the size of the grill â€“ but Vanessa came up with the genius (and now patent-pending) flat-stone method. It worked brilliantly!
After having our first showers since leaving Niagara we hit the road the following morning. We hit the ON/MB border a couple hours into the drive and man did it feel good to finally get out of the province. It shouldn’t take three days to get out of a province!
We breezed through Manitoba and Saskatchewan, stopping only for some food (and a hatchet) in Winnipeg and gas along the way. I wanted to get to Banff the following day with as much daylight as possible, so we decided to push into Saskatchewan as far as we could. We found a campsite in Buffalo Pound National Park about 25 km north of Moosejaw. The park office was closed when we got there so we drove around the park somewhat aimlessly searching for the campsites. The park looked like it was right out of a cattle-drive western. We found a load of deer and a load of nothing, so we returned to the camp office. Still no lights on, so we headed down another road and managed to find the sites. We fell into our now refined routine of setting up camp and I put my new hatchet to work on some fire wood. We hit the air matresses early and were up and out of the park before the office opened – effectively saving ourselves $20 in camp fees.
Now leaving Ontario
Everything in between!
He seemed to look at us as if he knew we were completely lost
Yeah, so we finally found a campsite – I wasn’t too keen on the Blairwitch decor, but well, it was getting late
Monday was the day that Vanessa and I had both been waiting for – the day we hit the mountains. As much as central Ontario is beautiful and you try and appreciate the praires for what they are, there is just no comparing any other part of the journey to the Rockies. We stopped quickly at a Safeway in Calgary to grab some food and then headed to Banff. My nerves about the mountains and whether they’d eat my car alive were creeping up on me, but the road to Banff was flat and straight, providing no worries at all. Another great thing was that the parks employees were on strike so we didn’t have to pay a park entrance fee or a camping fee – which was just awesome considering my bank account took quite a hit that second day with the car repair.
Yup, thatâ€™s a big rock
The view from the road leading into our campsite in Banff
Our campsite was right up in the hills above Banff at a place called Tunnel Mountain. It was fantastic. Getting there early allowed us to grab a bunch of the complimentary firewood, set up camp and generally just relax. As it had been since the edge of Ontario, the rain made everything a little damp. The morning brought with it no relief from the rain, so we decided to forgo our walkabout tour of Banff and settle for a quick drive-thru.
Even with the rain, I was hoping to finally get to visit Lake Louise, as it has always been on my “to see” list – but I’ve never had the opportunity. In fact, this was the first chance I’d had, even though it was my fourth trip through them, to see the Rockies in daylight. Though it was pouring in Banff, by the time we were 20 minutes away it was blue skies – got to love the mountains!
Lake Louise was cold but beautiful. The water is an amazing light teal colour that almost looks milky. You’re able to rent canoes at the lake, but we decided to pass out of fear of actually having to touch the frigid waters.
A small creek that runs from the glacial lake
Leaving Lake Louise we discovered that the sign we had seen back near Banff wasn’t lying and Hwy 1 was actually closed from Field to Golden and we needed to back track nearly the entire way back to Banff to take a 190 km detour south through the Kootaney Mountains. It was long and out of the way, but the incredible scenery made it completely bareable.
Coming through Revelstoke we found rain again, but it didnâ€™t stop me from pulling the car over and snapping a couple photos
The drive through the mountains to the Okanagan went smoothly, but being so close made it seem very long. We finally made it to Kelowna (about 45 min. north of Penticton) and hit traffic for nearly an hour – I couldn’t believe it and very nearly lost it.
We arrived to my cousin Kitten’s open arms and celebrated in true BC style with salmon steaks and some cold Kokanee.
The last few days have been a bit of a blur reaquainting myself with the city, running by my old appartments, checking out the live music scene/open mics and partying it up at the night club. I’ve also wasted no time in setting up my new room. It’s frigin’ huge! Easily three times the size of my little closet of a room at Cory’s.
Vanessa flies out of Abbotsford on Tuesday, so we’re going to head to Vancouver on Monday and check out the big city before she leaves. After that it’s job searching time… wish me luck, write me e-mails and I’ll talk to you all soon.