Monday, August 07, 2006

Cross Country - Alberta Bound

We did it!! Who would have thought that Greg, Jake, Jonathan and I could handle a 4000km drive together, stuck in a mini van? Not to mention the overgrown hamster, Matilda, as Greg calls her. Surprisingly, we did pretty well if I do say so myself.

We saw some stunning sights, we laughed along with Sam Malone and the Cheers gang on the portable dvd player (and I suffered through hearing a Liverpool dvd and thought it would be the end of my trip), we visited more than one Tim Horton's and can honestly say they are all the same, we saw lots of trees, lots of Inukshuks (sp?), lots of rock, lots of flat land, lots of lakes, lots of hills, lots of windmills, lots of dust and haze, lots of sun, no moose, one coyote, one deer, one wild turkey (Greg not included), 2 stunning sunsets, 2 motels and finally..... HOME!

Day One - we'll skip detailing all of the goodbyes that preceded our trip on the Saturday morning. It was a tough week. What cannot go unmentioned is the fact that someone heard my begging and pleading and Jenny went into labour before her due date (or maybe it was the fact that we put her through a strenuous workout of packing boxes for us??). Beautiful Isabella Jean was born early enough that we got to see this precious little girl before we left. I'll save my more personal thoughts about the addition to our Farm Family in another post once I have some pictures of her to show off.

We had planned to leave Saturday morning at 7am, but as is typical for us, I don't think we actually left Toronto until around 11:30. Our wake-up was a surprise visit-goodbye from Mitch and Auntie Shell at Grandma's place. It was a great send-off. We picked up Uncle Greg, then head over to Auntie Boom's, where Jake had left a few things in her car. We managed a quick breakfast at the Tulip and then we were off. Our good spirits and excitement about the road trip soured the second we hit the 400. We CRAWLED our way up past Barrie (nearly 2 hours in gridlock), but once we got further north, it was beautiful. I had never been in that part of Ontario before (only north-east Ontario), so I enjoyed every minute of it. The weather was perfect for us. While everyone else was suffering from the extreme temperatures and humidity outside, we benefited from the blue skies while sitting in our air conditioning. We stopped at a little restaurant in Blind River, ON then arrived in Sault Ste. Marie by 9pm, where we brushed our teeth in Tim's. Jake nodded off shortly after and we bravely decided that we would drive on through to Thunder Bay. Dumb. Once the sun set after the "Soo", we could only sense that we were climbing through hills, because we couldn't see anything but the moose signs every few kilometers. An electrical storm followed us, threatening a downpour and we passed one poor victim of a moose collision at the side of the road, surrounded by emergency vehicles. It was enough to scare us into pulling over at a motel in White River. I think we all nodded off around 1:30am.

Getting ready to hit the road again in White River, ON at 7:30am

Day Two - We drove hard on Sunday and saw three provinces in one day. Our first stop was at the Terry Fox memorial in Thunder Bay. Throughout our drive and especially from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay, it was said more than once in our van that we all have a whole new respect for that man. How he found the strength to run through that terrain we'll never know. He really is inspiring and after explaining who he was to Jake, he too is in awe of our Canadian hero. He also can't wait to see a picture of Terry in colour because "he doesn't look to interesting as a grey stone person".

We all agreed that the only good thing we could say about some of those towns that we passed after Thunder Bay, was that they produced some decent NHL'ers. I still can't believe that Jody's fiancee Lindsay is from Dryden!!! What do you do in Dryden??? Kenora was absolutely gorgeous and it seemed really full of life and was the perfect advertisement for Ontario's summer tourism campaign. I would love to spend some time there in the summer.

Jake pointing out one of the thousands of miniature, homemade "Inukshuks" that were found all along the highway. "May the Inukshuk be your guide for a safe journey throughout life's travels. Let it always guide you home."

We were making such good time and were feeling really good about the drive that we decided to drive right on through Manitoba, hoping to make it at least to Brandon before finding a place to sleep. After passing through Winnipeg, we didn't realize that we wouldn't find anywhere to stop all the way through to Regina. We were on the lookout for deer for most of that trek.

Our Manitoba sunset

While the sunset was stunning and seemed to last forever, it made the drive a little nerve-wracking because it was so hard to see the road ahead. After a close call where we thought Jonathan may have popped one of the tires in a mini dip into a ditch (we won't talk about that), we arrived in Regina around 2:30am, Ontario time.

Day Three - We left Regina after a hearty breakfast at a Days Inn and started out for another fantastic day of weather. I had no idea that Saskatchewan could be so beautiful. I had heard more than once that by the time we hit the Prairies, we would be ready to hang ourselves with boredom over the sights. They were wrong. Jonathan and I both agreed that it felt like we were driving through a movie set from Regina to the Alberta border. The colours of the fields around us were like nothing I've ever seen and it wasn't all flat like I thought it would be. Rolling hills in many places and a real quiet beauty. I loved it. Can someone please tell me though, what that white stuff is that you see around the little ponds and lakes in Saskatchewan? It looked like snow and we wondered if it was limestone or something? Anyone? Somewhere between Moosejaw and Medicine Hat we saw fields and fields of windmills. They looked like something from another planet.. pretty incredible.

It's hard to find a toilet in the Prairies. Boys are so lucky.

Wind Power at its best

Maybe it was just the fact that we had driven over 3000 km and had had enough, or maybe it was the dusty haze in the air from the extreme heat, but none of us were impressed when we passed the border into Alberta. I didn't get that moment of happiness realizing we were now in our new home, it was more of a disappointing "uh oh, what have we done". The drive into Medicine Hat wasn't much better. I don't want to trash the town too much, because we really didn't see too much of it, but it really isn't a great reflection of the province if you have visitors seeing it first. We were all pretty grumpy by then, but we were in the final stretch and knew it wouldn't be long til we were there!

At 5:00pm we caught our first faint glimpse of the Rockies. We were so disappointed because they were shrouded in a haze, but at least we saw that we were close. We pulled into our driveway at 5:30pm and surprised Aunt Sally when we opened our front door. She and a friend were inside, trying to clean it and stock it with groceries for our arrival, which they didn't anticipate for at least another couple of days. No one thought we would get there so quickly! The house was a sight for sore eyes. The painters did a fantastic job and it looked clean and fresh. I was so happy to show Jake and Jonathan each room, one after the other, because neither of them could believe how many there were!

It's been three weeks since we arrived and it feels like home. I love this house. We all love this house. Our neighbours are amazing - could it be more perfect? Our next door neighbours have two pugs named Stew and Belle and across the street is Al, a teacher and rugby player/coach - can you believe it? Our next door neighbour even brought over an entire meal, complete with cookies for dessert on our second day here.

It was worth every minute of the drive.

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