01 June 2012

Eau Claire, Wisconsin?? (Day 5)

You may have noticed, if you are an avid reader of this blog, that we failed to post yesterday. Such, sometimes, is life. Especially when the motel's wifi is weak and it's already very late.

Our initial plan was to drive all the way across Canada from Prince Rupert to Niagara Falls without once entering the US. Last night, however, we took harsh stock of our situation and decided that we needed to change our plans. This was exactly the reason that I insisted on bringing along something like twelve state/province/region/national maps when we left the house.

All along, our goal was to meet up with my family at The Falls and to have a couple of days of vacation. Unfortunately, that very scenic day of travel through Alberta put us farther behind schedule than we really wanted to be, and looking ahead to driving through "northern" Ontario, we feared that road conditions and travel speeds would be similar to driving the Alaska Highway (i.e., great if you have a decent amount of money and unlimited time, but painfully frustrating if you're on a budget and a schedule). It was decided that we would cut 5 hours of drive time (which equates to more like 8 hours of travel time when you factor in small children and a dog) from the trip by taking a right at Brandon, MB.

Now, to backtrack...

Here's what happened on Day Four: we drove 1020 kilometers. That's roughly akin to driving from downtown Boston to downtown Cleveland, except we did it across the prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Our goal was to run from Calgary to Regina doing a sort of Tour of the Capitols, but we were doing really well on time and comfort and decided to push onward. We found ourselves spending the night in Moosomin, SK, which is totally worth the visit if you like disgusting tap water and feed stores.

Along the way, I learned that Seren is a better civil engineer than the person tasked with that work in Regina (a long story that I really wish never to remember again).

Also, Petey P told the first joke that he heard once he moved to Alberta:
You know the best part about living in Alberta? You can watch your dog run away for three days!

When we heard that, we looked at each other, looked at the VERY long view over the hills, and just started laughing. Good times on the road.

As previously mentioned, we re-evaluated our plans last night. We decided that it would be better to cruise through the US and use cheaper fuel and cheaper hotels for our last two days on the road, especially as we'd be retracing the route that we drove when we first moved to Alaska.

We started by driving to Brandon, MB and getting breakfast at A&W. (Side note: every third restaurant in Canada is A&W or SUBWAY. Seriously, not even Tim Horton's [mmmmmtimbits] is as common.) Canadians should not make fried chicken that well, especially not for breakfast. Of even greater importance, we had poutine for the first time. It was all that I dreamed and imagined that it would be. More need not be said. You will never understand if you have not partaken.

From Brandon, we drove south to cross the border into North Dakota. There's a blur in my mind in which Grand Forks and Fargo exist, but I was too busy listening to Sherman Alexie reading a modern-day classic to let much of that register. We crossed all of Minnesota in one go because we're just hard core like that and I'm posting this from Eau Claire, WI.

Interjection on city driving: I was born and bred (as a driver, at least) driving the multi-lane highways of a large city. Driving in three dimensions, with ramps and tunnels and changing lanes and merges and whatnot was what I knew from the start. I could shove my car through the smallest gaps in traffic to get exactly where I needed to go and nothing bothered me. 

Spending two years driving on an island where nobody really gets that worked up over anything else on the road was bad preparation for driving in Minneapolis. Really, I don't know where all of those people were going at 9:30pm, but they were not "Minnesota nice" and I really don't find any big city nostalgia creeping in.

The kids are turning out to be road warriors like their parents. Spending an insane number of hours together in the car on consecutive days forces a bond between family members that just doesn't develop under less-constrained circumstances. Seren is being a great big sister, helping her brother when she can, amusing herself, and taking on more and more responsibility. Porter is fighting boredom to the best of his ability and doing very well with his toilet training. Even their parents are mostly amicable the majority of the time.

Here's the route we've followed to this point, with tomorrow in as the last leg: http://goo.gl/maps/rZ95 Please be so kind as to note that today's leg was actually 150 km longer than yesterday's, and that tomorrow will be similarly long.

Also, awesome tidbit about Canada: the border between BC and Alberta, where it doesn't follow a longitude line, follows the continental divide. That's so cool. Way to go, Canada - rivers aren't awesome enough for you, you need the tips of the mountain range. Much respect.


  1. you've never had poutine? it's like the state dish of maine. and a kind of staple in parts of massachusetts, that is unless you're in fall river and out to lunch for chow mein sandwiches, in which case you get fries and put some of the chow mein juice on them. another delicacy. better with coffee milk sometimes. you guys really need to get out of your comfort zone with foods ;-)

    1. We regularly exit our comfort zone (remember - we did buy a duck without knowing how to cook it and I do like to make kimchi from scratch)! It's just not easy to get good poutine anywhere in the US, and our last trip through Canada afforded no good stops for it.

      If we're ever eating chow mein sandwiches (which sound like an absolute travesty), we'll be sure to eat them with fries!