It is bittersweet now that it is all over. While I look forward to clean showers and melting into a cuddle puddle with Bruno, I’m sad that years of dreaming about this trip are over. Of course, we have more adventures ahead, but we simply won’t get these years with the kids back.
Katie is especially impatient to get home. She misses her friends, her privacy and the comfort of her bedroom. But as she stands on the edge of starting high school, I want to tell her I know something she doesn’t understand yet. Once she takes that next step towards adulthood, everything changes. She will jump to test her wings, returning to us for safety and support as needed, before leaping away again. Tegan is not far behind; she is already so much older then her age. And I swear, Levi has grown three inches in only a month on the road. Must be all the fresh air and ice cream. This trip was so important for our family to take.
It was never about making it east at all, it was about making it there together.
Along the way we gained a whole new appreciation for this incredible country of ours and how we won the lottery of geography and history to be right here, right now. We were fortunate enough to have countless beautiful encounters with other Canadians along the way, with Newfoundlanders and Quebecois showing the greatest kindness, and Ontario drivers showing the greatest impatience.
I was also amazed at how safe I felt everywhere we travelled. Whether it was running alone or walking around late at night, we never once felt like our personal safety was threatened in the cities and towns we visited.
In contrast, we learned a lot about our dark history, and ongoing issues of race and injustice we continue to sort through as a country. So many of the historical landmarks we visited are riddled with the horrors of colonialism and deep rifts between the English, French and Indigenous peoples that were here first. On our way back through Winnipeg, we stopped at the Human Rights Museum to learn the moving accounts of Human Rights violations, and reparations we have undergone as a nation. A good reminder to remain humble, curious and willing to set aside our privilege to give equal voice and power to those that have been denied that in the past.
Apart from the people, what makes this country amazing, is the land. And there’s a lot of it. Vannessa barely scratched the surface when you consider the amount of wilderness that extends north, mostly uninhabited and loudly calling my name. And we’ve got a lotta trees. And rocks.
And soooo much water.
We stood in the Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans and swam in all five Great Lakes because that was Levi’s big goal for the trip. We even made it to Lake Michigan, which required an American detour on the way home but was definitely worth it.
We stopped at countless waterfalls; most notably the big flashy ones like Niagara and Montmorency.
And lots of rivers and lakes, also called ‘brooks’ and ‘ponds’ if you’re in Newfoundland, and I was so impressed at how easy it was to find water that was safe to drink everywhere we went. So many countries in the world do not have such accessible safe drinking water, and we have it in abundance here. Sounds like a resource worth protecting doesn’t it?
You know what else is worth protecting? Ice cream. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that we take our ice cream very seriously in this family. While the best ice cream award still goes to the Big Scoop in Waterton, AB, we found some close contenders in Percé, and St. John’s, and Winnipeg and Old Quebec City …ok we ate ice cream every day everywhere we went and who are we kidding, it was all good.
We even had an emergency ice cream binge in Cavendish where we had to eat two pints of melting ice cream after our freezer ran out of propane. What a hardship.
Once and a while we introduced other foods into our diets, like poutine in Quebec, and fish and chips in Newfoundland, and bagels in Montreal, and Hard Rock Café in Niagara, and lobster, mussels and clams in PEI, scallops in New Brunswick, cheese and more cheese in Quebec, smoked meat sandwiches in Montreal, pizza from a vending machine in Ontario, pasties in Michigan and Halifax donairs in Halifax.
To wash it all down we made sure to drink wine from Niagara and Gaspe, Moosehead Radlers from Saint John, Iceberg beer from Newfoundland and ciders from Anapolis Valley. And some American wine on the way home just cause it’s so much cheaper and I wasn’t about to argue with that.
It’s kind of fun when you travel to pick out little goals along the way to give some purpose and structure to your ramblings, and so one of our goals became to find the parliament building in each province to get a picture. Thanks to spending a year in Europe, I just love old buildings, and it seems our parliament buildings are the closest thing we have to old buildings in Canada, so mission accomplished.
We found ‘em all.
We also found the ‘Welcome to” signs of every province except Prince Edward Island! Either it didn’t exist or we missed it while travelling across the bridge in the dark. So, I guess that mission isn’t over yet.
Levi started collecting the dog tags from the Xplorer program in the National Parks across the country and amassed 11 of them despite visiting a lot more National Parks then that. Our National Park system is incredible and having an annual pass more then paid for itself several times over. I highly recommend.
Our favourite? Going to Levi National Park and finding a tag that felt custom made for our little explorer.
You know what else we found? A lot of weird ‘big’ things. Ya know, like big apples, and geese and a dime, and a nickel and lobster and moose.
So. Many. Moose.
Plus, the highways are riddled with signs warning drivers to be cautious of moose while driving, with the moose on the signs in Newfoundland looking especially formidable.
Guess how many real moose we saw?
One. Just one.
Thankfully we saw lots of other real-life animals too. Caribou in Port-aux-Choix, deer EVERYWHERE and a mama black bear and her two cubs at Riding Mountain in an incident a little too close for comfort even for this trail runner.
We found lots of smaller creatures like a bobcat near Thunder Bay, red foxes in PEI, mink in Michigan, black fox with a white tail in Newfoundland, Mississauga rattle snake in Bruce Peninsula, skunks, beavers and so, so many racoons in Nova Scotia. Most of them dead on the side of the road, but one adorable family was alive and well and looking mischievous.
Herons, pelicans, common gannets, cormorants, yellow finches, wild turkeys, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, quirky puffins and of course so many angry Canadian geese mixed in with a few million squawking seagulls.
We got some glimpses of whales and porpoises but have to go back because Kirk is dying to see a whale breach and that didn’t happen on this trip.
Vannessa did amazing. Far better then we ever imagined a 1981 Chevy Van would ever do. Other then adjusting a few things along the way, lots of oil top ups and a new wheel bearing, she preformed flawlessy. I mean, her window leaks a bit and the furnace cover won’t stay on, but that’s ok.
Oh. And she’s a guzzler. But we decided early on we weren’t going to worry about addressing her drinking habits right now as she is still able to function at a high level despite her indulgences. Her next family can host an intervention if they want her to change. We just practice harm reduction and love her as she is. She lost four out of five of her top front light covers, a fender, some trim pieces, and a sewage hose, but
don’t worry, Karma sent us another one that Kirk actually fished out of a dump station.
That’s my man.
As I was writing that last paragraph, we heard a pop, and the sound of sprinkling glass while barreling along the flat roads of Saskatchewan. The top front window took a rock from the grain truck ahead of us, and shattered, raining glass all over the bed and onto Levi at his spot at the table. Spoke too soon.
Good thing we only had a few more hours to go. A piece of scrap melamine and some duct tape and we Red-Greened it good enough to get home. Phew.
14980km with Vannessa + 2750km with a rental SUV for a total of 17730 km.
(If we include our BC trip in April, our total is 10 provinces with an additional 2500km for a grand total of 20 230km, or half-way around the world.)
17 hours on three different ferries.
A 4 hour bus ride
5 people in 147 square feet.
More $ in fuel then we ever imagined with prices ranging from 1.25/L in Michigan to 2.10/L in Northern Ontario and Vannessa guzzling 24L/100km. We aren’t even going to bother with that calculation.
Countless bags of Spitz.
One long playlist.
One big country.
One pretty great family.