Archive for the 'The Trip' Category

Filling in the gaps: Crossing the Rockies

NOTE: This was a “guest” post written by [the other guy], so he refers here to his niece and his experiences having lived in the area.  – Paul

I have to admit, I was more than a bit nervous to drive over the Rockies, in January.  Throughout December I checked the weather network several times a day and watched several storms come and go.  I read website after website trying to find information that would tell us which mountain pass is the best to conquer in the winter and even did a test drive to the beginning of Crowsnest Pass in the Jeep to see if I felt we could handle it in the motorhome. Of course, well meaning people all have their own advice to give and some of the most discouraging comments came from people that have never driven over the Rockies before.  I have been over the pass several times before but those trips were many many years ago before I had any concept of fear. As the time to leave drew nearer a storm began to develop on the West Coast.  Vancouver was scheduled to have freezing rain then snow, and temperatures were forecast to drop.  The storm was to continue towards the Rockies and would cause blizzards at the higher elevations.  It was a difficult decision but we finally decided to risk it and leave as planned and drive as far as Creston and if need be we could stop in Creston until the storms passed. Read more…

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Filling in the gaps: December in Cardston

NOTE: This was a “guest” post written by [the other guy], so he refers here to his experiences having lived in the area.  – Paul 

I understand that I am supposed to be filling in the gaps.  Gaps like spending the month of December in Leavitt and then driving over the Rocky Mountains in January.

We arrived in Leavitt around 11pm December 2.  It had been an extra long day of driving and just as the end of the road was near we experienced the mysterious fogging mirrors.  We had stopped for fuel just outside of Lethbridge and there was a light fog but as we entered the city the fog thickened.  Visibility was poor and we were looking to find a turnoff to the highway to go to Cardston.  Minutes before we were to change lanes to turn I noticed that the rear view mirrors had all iced over and I couldn’t see a thing behind or beside us.

Driving a 30 foot motorhome through the city is hard enough but without mirrors it’s darn near impossible.  I didn’t dare change lanes so we just followed the road we were on until we were able to safely pull over to the side of the road.  It just so happened the first safe spot to pull over was completely on the other side of Lethbridge going the opposite direction than we needed to go.  When it was finally safe I pulled over and we scraped the mirrors, turned the rig around and headed towards Cardston, our destination for December.  The fog and the moisture was not necessarily a bad thing as it was the beginning of a chinook which was a nice break from the unbearable cold that we felt in Winterpeg.

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Day Four: Three in One

Today we make HUGE time. After our short sleep and getting the RV warmed up every couple of hours to avoid total freezing of the engine we headed out very early on.

In a few hours, we’ve finished Manitoba and head into Saskatchewan. Nothing eventful in that last stretch to report; the roads were flat and it was cold.

Saskatchewan though was quite different: it was a bit warmer. The roads were still flat and we actually saw one or two slight curves. With a break or two for beverages and lunch, we motored on steadily.

This is what Saskatchewan looks like:

After numerous hours of the above or slight variations thereof (I swear there were one or two bends!) we eventually got out  of Saskatchewan and into Alberta. Alas, by that time the sun was down so I have no photos to post. There was also not very much difference in the roads until we got a little past Medicine Hat.

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Day Three: Farewell Ontario

When we woke up in the Marathon, ON Tourist Info spot at about 5 am, there were a half dozen trucks all around us (clearly we picked a popular spot) and there was a light snowfall happening.

The tight sleeping quarters were a bit of a problem; we had not planned that change of bed too well. Next time: more blankets!

After taking the dogs out for a quick pee and making sure the bird was secure, we went into Marathon proper, filled up with gas at a… SPG? (Swipe, Pump and Go) station, grabbed some coffees and muffins at the local Robins Nest and headed west for day three.

A note on the people we’ve met so far: Mostly gas station attendants and coffee servers but by and large a bunch of friendly and warm folk. For example, this morning getting into the gas station. Nice lady, even if gravelly of voice (probably smokes and beer) came out to help us with the gas card. Pointing out that the cards were typically topped off at $100 automatically, and showed us how to get a second fill from the same card. Lots of hon’s and friendly demeanour, even at 5 am.

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Day Two: Northern Ontariario

Today we start out very early, about 6 a.m., while it’s still dark. Although there is snow in the region of Parry Sound, the roads are clear and there is no or little actual snow falling.

We easily make it up to Sudbury and zoom by it.

Our next stop: Sault Ste. Marie. We stop at Wal*Mart (yes, sorry) and I run in to grab some McFood. 45 minutes later(!!), I emerge with a couple burgers. We chomp it down and we are off again, this time heading north along Lake Superior towards Wawa.

We note a sign saying “no more gas for xxx KMs” and look at the gas gauge – we won’t make it. So after about 10 minutes, we finally find a spot to turn around and head back towards the last gas station we saw. We fill up on Premium, the only kind they had there (they were upgrading their pumps) and head back up. Word to the wise: fill up in Sault Ste Marie where the gas is a tad cheaper if you are low.

About halfway up, we stop at a lookout spot and see a striking view of Lake Superior near sunset. Read more…

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The First Stretch

Having to leave at 5 pm means we’ll be hitting a fair bit of rush hour traffic as we head up from Burlington towards Barrie, Ontario. And being November, it’s already starting to get dark. In no time, we’re (meaning [the other guy] at the wheel) officially driving at night. After a slight miscalulated turn and detour, we finally get onto Highway 401 and eventually onto the 400 headed north.

We make pretty decent time on our way to the first potential stop, Barrie, but as we got there at about 8 p.m.,[the other guy] felt ok to carry on so we headed onward towards Parry Sound.

We went a little further past Parry Sound to a spot near Horseshoe Lake where there was a truckers’ rest stop. This is where we set up for the night. At this point, there was a fair bit of snow that had fallen, not much traffic and only a few rigs in the parking lot. Signs posted there said “2 Hour maximum” but we hung out for about 6. It was about midnight when we stopped and let the dogs have a pee. We went to bed in the back of the RV on the actual bed, although the slide was closed, and after a few hours’ sleep, started off again.

Pretty good distance for what was a half day.

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