Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lesson Learned.

     Hide your kids, hide your wife's bear mace. Nine inch hunting knives: fine. Three cans of bear mace in grizzly country: bad. Driving across the border, the patrolwoman eyed our bikes and camping gear, looked back to my dad, asking if we had anything to declare. My mom, nervous and excited sat in the passenger seat blurting out random items in the truck. "Clothes! Stove! Tents...and beer!" The woman looked at my mother, her face blank. "And self defense weapons?" Both my parents this time, "You know, a couple hunting knives...bear mace." I could almost see the sigh come out of the woman's mouth. "Well the bear mace will not be coming through. Just pull ahead to the building where those two patrol people are standing." As we got out of the truck, the woman asked us all the questions. Where we were going and how long, but when she asked why we chose here to come through and why Canada, we looked at each other, my mom spouting off something about going through Buffalo and how it worked out to be longer and it took all my self restraint not to say, "Oh! Well to see your beautiful country of course!" *impish grin*
      We found out very quickly that driving through Canada is not exactly fun. All of the signs in Quebec are in French, our phones' service came to a halt right on the border, and the navigation system in the truck was as baffled as we were to the change. After some pantomiming with two older women at a side-of-the-road fruit stand, we bought ourselves a map and got on our way. Quebec was confusing, us getting lost in every city we passed through. Ontario was better, signs every 100km that exclaimed Ontario! like you forgot where you were as you passed through 885km of the province.    
     The first night of camping in Webbwood, Ontario, at the Black Bear Campground. The campground was deserted, all the seasonal campers gone, giving the woods a much eerier feeling than it would have originally had. It rained continuously, and on every bathroom door, bear resistant trash can, and bulletin board, there were warnings of bear activity in the area and I suppose if you're staying at a campground named Black Bear, you shouldn't be surprised to see warnings about the camp's namesake, yet we found ourselves with headlamps in hand, shining them into the woods at any rustle in the brush surrounding us.
     Manitoba and Saskatchewan we found, were flat farmland where you could drive for an hour without seeing any type of gas station or motel, passing mile upon mile of barbed wire fence that held only large round bales of hay, but no cows. On several occasions, my mom and I would find ourselves debating whether the people outside the truck could hear us talking about them, or not. At one pump, as I claimed that I knew the man across from us was not from the area based on the cleanliness of his truck (it was't caked with mud) and the wide-eyed look he had on his face, my mom growled, "Skyler! Hush! He can hear you." We decided to test our theory by faintly calling to my dad as he was pumping our gas. Our calls to him grew progressively louder and louder, "! Dad!! DAD!" Looking at each other as we tried to prove the other wrong, shouting for my father outside the truck, we laughed, thinking our antics ridiculous, but such was the life on the Trans Canada Highway. On the fifth morning of travel, we stopped in at a gas station just pass Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan that boasted a gas station, campground and restaurant! (The restaurant situation throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan was sparse at best) After pumping gas, we walked into the gas station looking for this restaurant, our heads swinging left and right. Weathered old men sat in the far left of the gas station sipping on their coffees and with confusion on our faces, we walked up to the counter, asked the older woman behind the cash register if there was a restaurant in the building. She shook her head, looked at us with that same blank stare we received throughout the country. After a minute, my parents looked at each other, looked back at the woman and asked whether there were any breakfast restaurants nearby. The woman paused, laughed, and directed us to the hotel right across the street and said, "But they're closed."
     Once we passed into Alberta, however, my dad started pointing out the front window of the truck, I squinted, looking into the sky thinking there was an eagle or a plane he thought was cool. "Mountains!" he yelled over the rush of the air coming through the open windows. I squinted a little more and there they were, their form hushed from the fog surrounding them. Driving away from Calgary, we saw their outline getting larger, and then in a backwards way, it wasn't us moving into the center of them, instead it seemed as though they were the mobile ones shifting around us.
      We are now in Banff, Alberta after five days of travel. We decided to camp here for two nights and leave Monday morning even though the forecast shows rain and then snow. Right now it's 45 degrees and drizzling and the only spot I can get any type of service is hunkering down in one of the hotel restaurants, ordering food out of guilt for taking this poor kid's table as I drone on about the ride across Canada.
*note the man in the background with the bentley, his head buried in his hands. 
bathing in lake superior
view from our second campsite on lake superior

second day camping
third day camping
railway following trans-canada highway
driving from calgary to banff

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