by Anita Mae Draper
This past summer, my sister and I drove 4,000 km/2500 miles in 8 days to attend a family reunion in Ontario. The trip was exhausting, but I treasure every minute I got to spend with my sister who lives five hours northeast of our farm near Montmartre (Mo-mart), Saskatchewan.
Bonnie and I rendezvoused on the TransCanada Hwy #1 about 2 am on July 30th, and headed east. It seems like a weird time to travel, but Bonnie had to work until 9 pm before taking the long drive down to meet me. Also, there aren't as many tractor trailers/semi-trucks/18 wheelers on the road at that time, so it's less stressful than the daylight. Of course there are deer and moose, and other critters, but that just means a watchful eye on the road.
We crossed the provincial border from Saskatchewan into Manitoba at 4 am just as a sliver of grey appeared above the horizon. And 6 am found us stopping at Brandon for a much needed cup of Canada's favorite coffee - Tim Horton's.
|Bonnie and her Timmy (Tim Horton's coffee) about 20 mins east of Brandon, TransCanada Hwy, July 30, 2013|
We spent the morning travelling across the flat prairie of Manitoba until about an hour from the Ontario border, the prairie suddenly disappeared and we were in the trees and rocks of the Canadian Shield.
|Manitoba/Ontario border at 11:30 am on July 30, 2013. The 490 km sign denotes the distance between Manitoba's east and west borders. (A 7 1/2 hr drive including pit stops.)|
Driving across the Canadian Shield is hazardous at night with its hills, turns, and ever-present rock cuts, but after years of living on the prairies, I savored the colors and textures of my birth province. Although Bonnie lives among the trees and hills, she considered it her duty to take a photo of every rock, tree and lake we passed along the way. And I'm so glad she did because I had to keep my hands on the wheel and she took many of the photos you see here.
|Rock cut through the Canadian Shield northeast of Kenora, Ontario, July 30, 2013|
|Trees and lakes northeast of Kenora on TransCan Hwy 1, July 30, 2013|
At 7:53 pm we neared the outskirts of Thunder Bay and my tired, but watchful eyes picked up movement on the north side of the highway. I slowed and then pulled onto the shoulder as I made out 2 moose browsing in the area between the road and trees. If this YouTube doesn't work, check it out on my YouTube Channel.
We pulled into the city of Thunder Bay at 10:30 pm that night where our mom was waiting up for us. The next morning, I knew I was 'home' when breakfast included scones from the Current River Bakery and a newly opened jar of Finnish Lingonberry jam.
|Lingonberry jam from Finland and Current River Bakery scones, Thunder Bay, Ontario, July 31, 2013|
As usual, a trip to Thunder Bay wouldn't be complete without a brief stop on High Street to gaze across the harbor at the familiar vista of The Sleeping Giant.
|The Sleeping Giant, Thunder Bay, Ontario, July 31, 2013|
On August 1, Bonnie and I took to the road again, heading east toward Nipigon for the second leg of our journey. Of course, we took full advantage of pit stop adventures, like this one at the Ontario Travel Information Centre in Nipigon. This is one of those self-portraits where I set my camera on a tripod, click the timer, then run like crazy to get into place.
|Bonnie and Anita, self-portrait, Ontario Travel Information Centre, Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013|
Instead of turning north at the Nipigon junction like we normally did, we headed south and east near the northern shore of Lake Superior toward Wawa where we were expected for lunch. This area is known for the iron in the rock which gives it a reddish color. The town of Red Rock is on the west side of Nipigon, and the highways are paved with pinky/red asphalt. But it wasn't until we were on the east side of the junction that we saw the splendid color in the rock cuts along the highway.
|Bonnie showing off the gorgeous rock color east of Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013|
|Hwy 17 overlooking Nipigon Bay to the escarpment in the west. Aug 1, 2013|
|More red rock cuts on Hwy 17, east of Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013|
We stopped for a brief rest between Rossport and Terrace Bay where I walked the sandy beach and picked up some choice rocks. We arrived at Wawa, shared a wonderful 3 hrs with our dad and his wife, then backtracked to White River where we turned north on Hwy 631. I'd never driven this highway before, but it looked good on Google Earth and so it was as you can see from this next photo...
|Hwy 631 south of Hornepayne, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013|
Three hours later, Hwy 631 ended and we turned west toward Longlac, 149 km/92 mi away. I tell you, driving toward the setting sun is not where I want to be, but a brief prayer was quickly answered by a cloud moving into position between me and the solar orb. Dusk fell and we realized we needed to make one last pit stop if we wanted to make it safely to Longlac. Again, our need was answered as we arrived at the Klotz Lake Rest Stop at 10:05 pm with a gorgeous sunset to ease our travel aches.
|Sunset at Klotz Lake Rest Station, Klotz Lake, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013|
Half an hour later, we shared a joyous family reunion which included Aunt Taimi, who lives in France - and whom we hadn't seen in a dozen years, but who regularly shows up on my blogs and Facebook page , and her son, our cousin Edward from England whom we'd never met. I've always enjoyed my visits to Longlac and never tire of the view from their livingroom window. It was raining on Aug 2nd which was our designated day to visit, so I didn't get the shot of the bridge that I wanted, but there's enough in this following photo to bring back happy memories.
|Looking north across Long Lake toward the highway bridge across the CPR line, Longlac, Ontario, Aug 2, 2013|
The pylons sticking out of the water are leftover from the logging days when huge booms of logs were tied there until needed.
On Aug 3, we spent some time taking family pictures outside in the rain under Longlac's landmark - a reminder of the Hudson Bay Company's Long Lake post which was built near the North West Company's fur trading post.
|Hendrickson Reunion, Longlac, Ontario, Aug 3, 2013|
After hugs and kisses, Bonnie and I headed back to Thunder Bay, but not before I took a final photo of my aunt's house while crossing the bridge.
|On the CPR bridge looking across part of Long Lake to Aunt Mimi's house, Longlac, Ontario, Aug 3, 2013|
On our trip back to Thunder Bay, we stopped for an hour or so to explore Geraldton and share our earliest memories of when we lived there, my birth town. And although I took loads of pics, that's the topic of another post. I will add that wherever we expected to see Geraldton on a green highway sign, we found the word Greenstone instead. We'd asked our aunt about it and she explained that the 3 communities of Longlac, Geraldton, and Jellicoe had banded together under the name Greenstone. As well as being a tourist zone, the 3 communitties were able to save money and duplication in their budgets and logistics. However, my aunt said it's disconcerting to some tourists who expect to see a community of 5,000 and instead find the population scattered among the rocks, trees and lakes. All this to say that if you can't find Geraldton on a new map, try Greenstone.
I have much more photos of rocks, trees and lakes, but I'll spare you those today. At Nipigon, we turned west toward Thunder Bay, but suddenly, I slammed down the brakes and yelled for Bonnie to grab the camera. As I rolled to a stop on the shoulder of the road, she zipped down her window and pointed the camera at the small black bear rooting beside the road.
|Black bear cub, Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 3, 2013|
"Where there's a baby bear, Momma bear's not far behind," I warned as Bonnie leaned out the window snapping pics. I cranked my head around looking for a large black moving object, but couldn't see one.
The cub disappeared into the bush, and I raised Bonnie's window - just in case. As we started on the road again, I can honestly say I felt good to be alive.
After spending several days in Thunder Bay, Bonnie and I headed west for home. As we neared Brandon, I felt an overwhelming need to pray for people I'd met on the trip, and to praise for keeping us safe. And although I'd been praying right there at the wheel, I wanted to do it at the tiny Wayside Chapel overlooking Brandon. We spotted it in the gas station parking lot. There was enough room inside for 6 people - one small pew each. We prayed and praised and it felt good.
We pulled into Draper's Acres at 11:30 pm that night. Excruciating pain in my arthritic knee had me limping to my door, but oh, I was so glad I'd made the trip.
Several times while I drove, I thought of Inky Jennifer AlLee and her book, The Mother Road. If I recall, it's about a mom and daughter who take the trip of a lifetime down Route 66. It's good reading. :)
Have you ever taken, or are thinking of taking a trip down memory lane with a family member? I'd be honored if you'd share your experience, or your dreams for the future.
Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East. Anita Mae semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. Anita Mae's short story, "Riding on a Christmas Wish" will appear in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at http://www.anitamaedraper.com/