Friday, 22 August 2014

Canada wrap-up-FINALLY!!

It seemed a bit surreal on May 24th when we crossed the border at St. Stephen, New Brunswick from Calais, Maine. In one way it was a relief to be back on Canadian soil and in another way it was a bit sad. Why? Because it meant that a really big part of the winter trip was finished. The great part was that a new part was just about to start.

Neither of us have ever been to the Maritimes before and it started out quite funny. As we were standing in a small grocery store in St. Andrew, I looked at the clock and noticed that it “seemed” to be one hour too fast. I mean, after all, my watch said 6 pm and this one on the wall said 7 pm. It MUST be wrong, right?? Ha ha ha. Seems that, embarrassingly, us West Coasters, had forgotten that there was an Atlantic time zone. Duh!!! Did I ever feel stupid! Of course, when we thought about it, we knew this was true. What an introduction!! To be fair, we had just travelled all the way up the east coast of the US in the “eastern time zone” and did not even give another time zone a second thought. 

We absolutely, head over heels L-O-V-E-D the Maritimes. Everything that people say about the folks here is true. They are the salt of the earth and are very hardy souls. I mean, think about it. All of our history really started back here. They have been in this country way longer than any of us West Coasters have been. Seems strange, huh? We did not meet anyone who wasn’t kind and helpful and welcoming, with a capital “W”!!  

Let’s start with New Brunswick. The province is densely forested with a rugged and beautiful shoreline that runs along the Bay of Fundy. Wind-swept hills that plunge down into this fierce bay, we really enjoyed it. The weather sucked (sorry guys), but it did. It was pretty cold and we experienced a lot of pouring rain. One thing we were thankful for is that we did not venture any further north and east than we did because the campgrounds were just beginning to sweep the cobwebs off themselves and get ready for another “short” year of camping. Sheesh!!  

No doubt, the greatest thing we saw was the Hopewell Rocks, or better known as the Flower Pot Rocks. It was absolutely breathtaking to see the tide change of 30-40 feet. Being from the west coast of Vancouver, we are used to tidal changes, or so we thought. Nothing compares to this one!!  Also notable in it’s beauty was the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. We wished that we had had time to visit Fundy National Park. Maybe another time.

Flower Pot Rocks.....

Where did all that water go anyway??
Cape Enrage Lighthouse..... 

Next up was the great province of Nova Scotia and home to our dear friends, Paula & Jerry. There is just something different when you cross the border into this province. Their pride is obvious, right from the on-set. Now, of course, we were spoiled rotten by our friends. From the get-go we felt at home. Arriving at their house to a customized bedroom, complete with a framed picture of Gus by the bed was indescribable, especially after all the time spent in the van. We can NEVER thank them enough. They chauffeured us all around, sometimes for hours at a time. Remember saving the snapping turtle on that winding highway and the “other” incident too? How about fishing old floats out of trees on the side of the road??  

Never did we lack, on these exploratory road trips, for food. There is a bakery and café at every turn and small town. Each one is a worthy testament to the baking prowess of it’s proprietor and I do believe Paula & Jerry know each and every one of them! We visited Bear Creek, Lunenburg, Halifax, just to name a few towns and cities. But nothing compares to the two local concerts we attended. One for Dave Gunning and the other for Ron Hynes. Both truly Canadian gems and we feel it is a pity that here on the West Coast, most have never heard of them. Dave Gunning recently played for Prince Charles and his wife. Ron Hynes wrote the amazing late 70’s hit, Sonny’s Dream. Once we could peel ourselves away from our friends, there was the spectacular Cape Breton Island and the Cabot Trail to explore. Unarguably one of Canada’s finest road trips EVER. We will return and take more time!! Louisbourg, Sydney. The list goes on and on. We may have been what they lovingly term PFA’s (Persons from Away) but they made us feel like we belonged. Thank you Paula & Jerry and thank you Nova Scotia for showing us what REAL Canadian pride looks like.

At the fort at Annapolis Royal...dear friends, Paula & Jerry!
 Just one of many cafes....


Peggy's Cove.....

Beautiful church in Lunenburg...

Mr. Snapping turtle....saved!!!!

My buddy, Paula & some lovely margaritas!!
Dave Gunning with Paula & Jerry
West side of Cape Breton Island....


East side of Cape Breton Island.....

Chillin'  (and chilly) time in Cape Breton......

Tiny Prince Edward Island held lots of charm. It may be small but that Confederation Bridge leading you in is nothing short of miraculous. The way the farm fields on the west side of the island just seemed to sweep right down into the ocean was transfixing for Doug. He could not get enough of it. The eastern side was heavily forested and at times seemed as though we were right back in New Brunswick again. Who could forget the home of the Anne of Green Gables saga, written by our own Lucy M. Montgomery. It was a favourite of mine growing up. The Cavendish Beach area with it’s red soil reaching right down into the sea, a sight to behold that’s for sure. We took the ferry back off the island and were treated by the First Mate with a visit to the bridge of the vessel. Now, you can’t beat that for hospitality!! 

Confederation Bridge into PEI
Cavendish Beach

House of Anne of Green Gables.....

More Cavendish Beach......

Yes, they really do grow potatoes on PEI!!!
Note the red soil!!

Victoria by the Sea, PEI.....
Last up and certainly not least of the Maritimes, The Rock….Newfoundland. I never did quite work out if they preferred Newf-undland or New-found-land for pronunciation!  Not that it matters as they couldn’t have been kinder. That 6 hour ferry ride across got you ready for what some don’t realize is a HUGE province. From Port-aux-Basque on the southwest tip up and across to St John’s is a hearty 950 kms drive. No, there is NO short-cut to come back, just the same way you went over. Experience Table Mountain and the Wreckhouse Winds. They can blow over a semi-trailer and can occur on the highway about 15 minutes out of Port-aux-Basques. They are quite the welcome to this fine province!! We did have a brief, few minutes when we wondered if we should do Newfoundland or just turn and start our westward trek back. It was on a dark and rainy night in Nova Scotia and we quickly sorted ourselves out. I mean, WHO could come this far and NOT go to the furthest eastern point in Canada? Certainly not us!!! We discovered the Ugly Stick (look it up), we went up a few of the peninsulas on the north and eastern portion of this great province to see our first icebergs!! We will never forget that sight and we quickly became iceberg-a-holics!! Twillingate with our first taste of toutons at the Cozy Tea Room. We had to drive by Tizzard’s Harbour. You could spend a year on this rock and still not see it all. Every colour, shape and size of fishing shack and house. We loved them all. Oh, and puffins!!! But the roads!!! Pretty much win the prize for the most dreadful. We dodged potholes the size of cars. We understood their problem in fixing them but still, you have to be on the lookout, at all times. Some of them that Euri hit I was sure the wheel would not recover from. Then, how about St. John’s? Really, you have to feel sorry for them. Isn’t it always 11C and raining in St. John’s every time you look at the weather? But, it did not let us down. We had the MOST spectacular (if not the windiest) day of our time in the province. Cape Fear, Signal Hill and more ICEBERGS, right in the harbour. Massive, incredible and beautiful blue. Jellybean houses in St. John’s (by the way, did you know that St. John’s has the third mildest winter in Canada, right after Victoria and Vancouver...who knew?) From here, I scooped up water from the Atlantic in a thermos to be, someday, mixed with water from Tofino on our farthest reaching West Coast. Could be cataclysmic! What a time of it we had. It was hard to leave but leave we did, right back the way we came and on that ferry back to Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Maritime Ferry, ready to roll (I mean sail....)

Crazy Newfoundland mountains!!

The Ugly Stick (compliments of Dennis)
The first of many icebergs.....

Toutons (fried bread dough), beans and molasses...... 

...and yes, more icebergs!
Just a small sample of potholes.....


Iceberg contemplation.....
Cape Fear in St. John's. Most easterly point in Canada....

Jellybean houses in St. John's

Signal Hill.....St. John's

View from the Ladies Walk on Signal Hill.....

Terry Fox Memorial......

Atlantic Ocean water...time to head for home!!!
It was time to head westward…… 

Next up, was Quebec.  I was probably the most nervous about visiting Quebec as I was anywhere on this odyssey. I mean, I cannot, sadly, speak French. It is all lost in a jumble in my high school mind days. Doug, he is the language person and can do a handy recall on some important words. But, we never had to worry (much) most people were pretty good. The most time was spent in old Quebec City. Incredible history and gorgeous architecture. We loved it and felt a real sense of the other "beginning” of our history. French and English. Boy, they have battled it out forever, haven’t they? And no, we did not ever have to worry about that “language” thing. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to spend here but what we saw, we enjoyed, immensely. 

Famous Hotel Frontenac.....





Always time for sangria in the Old City!!!



Changing of the guard and now it's time to go!!!

The VAST province of Ontario!! Yes it is true, that you can drive forever through this province and feel like you will never get out of it!! Best memories, for sure, are spending the time with Doug’s cousin, Dale, wife Sue and daughter, Chelsea in Appleton, just west of Ottawa. Dale was our tour guide into Ottawa. It was breathtaking (there’s that word again) to see our Nation’s capital. Such a beautiful day it was too…and my birthday! If this place doesn’t instill some Canadian pride in a person, nothing will!! So much more important though was the hospitality they showed us. Staying in yet another fine home and feeling so welcomed. It was amazing. Someone on the blog referred to the next portion of our drive as the “never-ending” Northern Ontario and they were right! We did not think we would ever climb our way out of there. One profound stop was the Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay. They have done a beautiful job of memorializing him. It was especially poignant since we had visited where he dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic in St. John’s on his Marathon of Hope. Such a Canadian icon he has, deservedly, become.  Probably one thing we will really remember is the BUGS!!! We had heard about them but you really have not experienced them until you have tried to run from your van to the bathroom with a starving pack of mosquitoes, hot on your heels. You could not put on enough DEET to help save yourself and I think, we swatted them for the next four provinces!! Yes, it does, indeed build character. Speaking of characters. We met our most memorable one in Ignace, ON. Roger McDougall. Remember the Australian gentleman who was cycling across Canada and was 70 years old – on his own??? He made it by the way…all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is now, no doubt, back on his own Australian soil. He was a joy to meet and we wish him well. Many thanks to the Arden clan in Appleton for the good, old “home-style” fun. Wish we could have stayed longer but westward places (and people) call.

Dale & Doug at the locks on the Rideau Canal....

Parliament Building and the Peace Tower....

Almonte, ON

...with Dale & Sue!!
Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay ON

Crazy Guy on a Bike, Roger McDougall....
No really, that is the name of his blog!!!
Then there was Manitoba…..We never spent much time here. Very notably was our stop in Winnipeg at the corner of Portage and Main. Geographical centre of Canada. I must admit, considering that we have all heard about “that” corner, I thought it might be a little tidier than it was. Although great to see and get the pictures, I just felt like it could have offered more. It certainly could have been a bit nicer set up, a few tended gardens, etc. Sorry Winnipeg, just not as good as we had hoped. (…gotta keep it real here, right?). After leaving the very bumpy streets behind, it was just an overnight stop in Virden, close to the Saskatchewan border. 
A lot of miles left to go.....

And then there was Saskatchewan. Not much for us to do here but drop in on Kevin & Ruth in Cabri Regional Park and have a great visit with them. Yes, the wheat fields are beautiful and so are the canola fields with their brilliant yellow flowers. We have been into Saskatchewan before but from the west side so it was nice to traverse the whole width, east to west. Rugged road into the Cabri park but good old Euri managed just fine and we were happy to reacquaint ourselves with our old friends!! We appreciated their hospitality. There was much great conversation and even a bit of wine drinking to be had. Thanks guys!!

Kevin & Ruth at their campground, Cabri Regional Park.....
They have done a great job on this park!!



Ah, Alberta…..well, we do love Alberta as we have lived in this province on several different occasions. Josh was born in Calgary and many of Doug’s immediate family (including the ever important Mom) live here. Once again, the hospitality was amazing. That is the great thing about having good family and friends sprinkled across this great land. Always somewhere you feel welcome! It was nice to spend Canada Day here as well. Prairie people love their parties!! We stayed “low” in the bottom of the province, coming in at Medicine Hat in the southeast corner and out in the southwest side through the Crowsnest Pass. Thanks everyone for the fun times!! 

Doug and his Mom....
Did someone say free cake at Canada Day???
(Nancy & Diane think so!)

Happy Canada Day everyone!!!

Then……….British Columbia. I was almost speechless when we crossed the border. I made Doug stop the van so I could get out and put my feet on home soil. We drove along in silence for quite a bit. Neither of us knowing what to say or do. It really felt like “we had done it”!! That huge drive and although we weren’t officially “home” yet, we were back in good, old BC!!! Next stop was Nelson, home of our daughter, Teagan and son-in-law Shawn. What a beautiful new “hometown” for them. They had only been moved in for a month or so and were busy getting a business up and running. We had a great visit and it is a beautiful town. Thanks, again you two, for the good times – especially the tour through the VW graveyard and the Frog Peak Café!! Unforgettable…love you guys!!

It's good to be back!!!!


Shawn & Teagan.....missed you guys!!
Famous VW graveyard......

...and we're gone!!!
Soon it was back to White Rock where this EPIC road trip had began, some 29,417 kms previous. Ahhhh….now we feel at home. There was a welcome of the best kind in the form of a little Gus (oh, Josh, Kathy & all other family and friends too, of course!!!) but there was our sweet, beautiful little boy. Who said he could grow so much???

Banana Man!!!
Time for a hike at Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver....

Sure missed this group, too!!
One more day at White Rock beach 


Time for Grandpa and Grandma to go back to the island!!

A wrap it is. I have discovered that it is really hard to do a summary. It is impossible to put into words all that we experienced. I am thankful for the ability to post the blog. It allows you the unprecedented ability to share, in almost real time, what is happening. It also allows us the ability to clearly look back and see just what it was that we did. Such a treasure and a tool it is. We felt each and every one of you with us, cheering us on, letting us know (….most of the time) that we weren’t crazy. Letting us know that you missed us as we missed you. Thank you for that. No, really, we mean THANK YOU all for that.  

Back in Nanaimo, things returned to normal pretty quickly. We took a few days to unpack the van, clean it out and sort through memorabilia. It seems that I am very crafty packing and hiding little things everywhere. Doug discovered this first hand when he found the rocks from Cape Enrage under my floor mat in the front (well, I had nowhere else to put them!!). It was great to sleep in our own bed and to put our things away in drawers in a dresser. There are things you never really appreciate until you do not have them for a little while!! Not to mention the bathroom – it’s all MINE (well, and Doug’s). Never once have I had to wear my bathroom flip flops in the shower (to be fair, we never did this at our friends and families houses either!)
Catch-up lunch with our landlord (aka sister - Sue)
Time with my Mom, Nadyne in Cowichan Bay Village....nice!!

There will be more adventures. Maybe in a slightly different format. We will keep you all posted! We have one more road trip planned for September back to Alberta with the Gus-machine. Return trip includes a stop in Nelson. No, Euri, will not be attending. Stay tuned for that adventure. After that we are into the Lower Mainland of Vancouver from September 24 until November 12 for two housesitting gigs. Should be fun there and close to our kids – yahoo!!!   

I have learned many things but this I know. I am proud to be Canadian and home is where your heart is…… 

Thanks everyone!!! 


Thought for the Day: Do your thing. Do it unapologetically. Don’t be discouraged by criticism. You probably already know what they’re going to say. Pay no mind to the fear of failure. It’s far more valuable than success. Take ownership, take chances and have fun. And no matter what, don’t ever stop doing your thing...A. Roth

We both feel that this is what we have tried to do.....


  1. Your adventure has been an inspiration, and some day Shelagh and I will embark on something similar. It has been a joy to follow you both through the USA and Canada. Thank youbfor sharing your experiences.

    Cheers, Peter.

  2. I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to sip and enjoy this read about your adventures in this wonderful, beautiful, diverse country of Canada. As always, you entertained me from start to finish. What an incredible journey you had and, as we have said many, many times, we enjoyed every single second of your time with us. It was such a treat to spend quality time and experiences with two terrific friends. You felt just like family to us. We loved that you "got" Nova Scotia's charm and the pride we have in our province. It runs strong and deep. We know you feel the same way about your beautiful neck of the woods. We like that about you! :-) You've made memories to enjoy for a lifetime. Oh, and always know our door is open for you . More memories to be made . . . Great wrap up, kids! xo xo

  3. Very nice wrap up! So glad that you had such a wonderful time, wish the weather had been better for you but like us you just go with it or else you wouldn't see a thing. I have been to Newfoundland twice and Kevin has been once and we loved it but never made it to St. John's after seeing your pictures of it and the icebergs I know that we definitely have to return.

    Canada is such an immense country and it would take years to see it all but you managed to cover it quite well and did an amazing job on writing about it.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to come and visit with us, we wish your stay could have been longer but we knew you were eager to get back and see Gus, the love of your lives.

    Glad you have been enjoying your summer and we look forward to this winter's adventures.

  4. We've been across the country several times, but never all at once. Some places we have no ambition to see again (PEI) and other places we feel we haven't seen enough of (Vancouver Island and Newfoundland). It's such a huge country, isn't it? I don't think anybody can profess to understand how big it is until they've driven across it!

  5. We were happy to have been a small part of your adventure even if it was a meeting far from both our homes.
    Here is hoping that some day our paths may once again cross so that we can again share more adventures.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  6. Thank you, everyone, for the extremely kind words! It inspires us to keep on exploring when we get such positive feed-back. It really was the "trip of a lifetime" and we will carry the memories with us forever.

    We will endeavour to keep the blog interesting and informative through the fall months. There is always something going on!!

    Please, everyone, stay well and keep in touch!!

  7. What a wonderful wrapup!! So enjoyed reading it and following silently along with you. Your outlook on life is so inspirational!! Can't wait to see what comes next. Hope we can meet you one day along the way.

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words. Was nice to have you along!!

  8. That was probably one of the best "road-trip summaries" we have ever read on any blog!!
    We are saddened to say we have never been any farther east than Winnipeg, but that will change for sure!!
    Your zest for life, each other and family is very contagious!!
    Take care guys ... TnT

    1. We are truly humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much. Glad to have had you along for the ride. Keep in touch!!