Calgary – Bring on the zoo – Days 73-75

Fun playground at the Calgary Zoo

Even though the family was sad to say adieu to the mountains, we were still looking forward to Calgary as the kids would get to hang out with their cousin Lorron. Calgary would also serve as the location where we hopefully put our passport woes in our past. Julie and Mike both submitted passport applications in early spring (and by early I mean March). Mike’s passport arrived in July but kids’ passports are not considered renewals and take longer (the website said 6 weeks when I submitted it). After 20 weeks and many phone calls of nothing, I drove to Calgary to have our application transferred to a local office with my proof of travel. With two visits to the Harry Hays building, two new passport photos and only 3 hours for me in a chair, we had a passport!

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Salt Spring Island – A Return Home of Sorts- Days 52-57

My family had a summer cottage on Saltspring Island for 24 years.  My dad used to spend a few months on the island every summer (when his television program was on hiatus) and the rest of us used to come for two weeks every July.  I lost my dad when I was 17 but there’s nowhere that I have fonder memories of him than on Saltspring Island.  I think of him teaching me to drive a boat, catch crabs and drive a Yamaha scooter (well before I turned 16). I have such happy memories of the place that I was terrified to go back as a tourist without a “home” to stay. Yet my desire to show the place to the girls outweighed this fear.  To make it even more special, my brother flew to BC for a long weekend to be able to return with us.  We rented side-by-side Airbnbs (on a different part of the island from our old cottage) and we crossed our fingers hoping that the trip would bring happy new memories and not just make us sad.

The magic of Saltspring was still there.  Leif and I were reminded of all the things we loved about the place and we weren’t sad -only grateful for getting to spend so much of our childhood here.  We were shocked at how much was the same after 8 years but also managed to find some new island gems.

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Tofino and Pacific Rim – Days 38 – 41

Let’s start by saying 4 days in Tofino ain’t bad (even if you are not a surfer).

We woke up in the morning after our ferry to Port Hardy and blitzed to Tofino. We stopped only in Coombs to find a cute market with goats on the roof that we remembered from our last trip to Vancouver Island. Instead of a quaint market, we found a zoo of shops selling every piece of tourist junk you could find. Our ice cream hole-in-the-wall was replaced by a gelato store trying to look like a french cafe. It’s one of those dangers of going back to places you’ve been to before. Your awesome memories get replaced by new crappy ones. Oh please … do not ruin the “Mike and Paige newly in love memories” from Tofino!

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We made it! – Kluane National Park – Days 29-31

We planned for Kluane National Park to be the furthest point north that we’d venture before turning south. Michael had always dreamed of going to Nahanni in the NWT but when he realized that required a float plane, he decided that Kluane was a little more realistic. We were surprised to find out that my mom also dreamed of seeing the Yukon and its rugged wilderness. She signed up to join us for this leg after flying into Whitehorse to meet us.

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Whitehorse – Airbnb time – Day 26-28

A common question we get is whether we book everything in advance or if we just find places to stay as we go.  It has been a mix of both but when you end up with an Airbnb as good as the one we had in Whitehorse, you come to appreciate the “book early and find the most awesome place”.  We knew that my mom would be joining us for part of the time in Whitehorse so we booked a nicer place than we usually do. Even still, this place far exceeded our expectations.  It was a two-bedroom penthouse condo (3rd floor but that’s high for Whitehorse) with a great kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows.  It was really nice having our own space for 3 nights in a row.  It made us concentrate all the more to book longer stays in one place.

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Life in the Prairies – Saskatchewan – Days 18-20

Entering Saskatchewan, I always feel a weird sense of belonging since my parents were both from here. Isabella has been to the “Land of Living Skies” before but Julie had not. Thankfully both girls have now been to 5 provinces and there is no sibling rivalry.

I drove a decent chunk of the drive to Saskatoon from Yorkton (where we made a stop at Wal-mart to replace the bell that had broken off Julie’s bike). I love driving on the prairies; you just set the cruise control and stare ahead at the interesting clouds and occasional grain elevator. It was a long but pleasant drive.

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Sault Ste Marie -Days 4-5

Driving from Timmins to Sault Ste Marie was a longer drive than we had expected (about 6.5 hours). There were not a lot of stops along the way but we did manage to stop at the Watershed Drainage Divide this time (after missing it on the way north). It is pretty awesome to think that rivers and lakes north of this line feed the Arctic Ocean as opposed to the Great Lakes.

Other interesting sights along the way include a population of white moose near Foleyet. They are not albino – they just carry a recessive gene that makes them very light in colour. I kept my eyes peeled thinking that white moose might be easier to spot than brown ones. I had no luck with white ones either.

We drove through the childhood home of my friend Kandice, a tiny hamlet called Wharncliffe and we were reminded just how small of a place it is -wow. The drive’s highlight for the kids was the Big Loonie right outside Sault Ste Marie.

The “Soo” has always been a place where Michael’s relatives spoiled him with elaborate Italian meals – this was no exception. Michael’s aunt Silvana made a delicious homemade pasta with meatballs and sausage. Luckily the kids had swum in Sil and Ernie’s pool before dinner because, afterwards, we were all in a food coma!

After getting new haircuts the next morning, we visited the Sault Ste Marie Locks which is a National Historic Site. The Historical site was partially closed but the kids still managed to find a tent with National Parks workers and collect their first “dog tags”. We suspect that they will collect many more of these as we continue west.

Whitefish Island is also nearby which is an island with a unique location between Lakes Huron and Superior. There is a rich fishery at the St. Mary’s Rapids and we even saw fishermen standing on the breakwater casting into the rapids. This island has an unfortunate history whereby it was taken from the Frist Nations who had treaty rights to the island and was only returned to their ownership quite recently. The hike around the island was full of birds and animals but we had to turn around when the boardwalk was flooded -causing lots of excitement.

We finished our time in the Soo with a meal at Auroras and some movie watching with aunt Sil. The girls also loved watching cousin Aly put on her make-up each morning we were there. Now we have at least 5 camping days ahead of us so I guess we’ll test out all the gear and hopefully we did not forget anything important. Also, let homeschooling begin!

Paige’s List for the trip

A few days in and this is my first blog post. I start a lot of posts but then always seem to get distracted by children in the backseat. Today we sit in Mike’s aunt’s backyard while the kids play soccer and I am going to try to actually finish a post. Below you’ll find my fun list of things that we want to do in the three months across Canada. Please add to our list by letting us know your suggestions in the comments below. Any not-to-be-missed experiences that you’ve had in your travels across Canada?

See a moose: Despite spending a lot of hours in a car across Canada’s north, I have never seen one in the wild. My friend Tamara once told me that it was because I never spent enough time in a canoe. We’ve already driven about 12 hours and so far the only moose I’ve seen is the stuffed one (see above) in the ice cream parlour in Sault St Marie. *Thanks for the yummy treat Auntie Sil.

Hold a starfish: Spending lots of time in BC as a child I spent a lot of time taking starfish out of crab traps. It was only when I scared Michael by lifting them on rocks that I realized most Ontario children did not play with starfish. Izzie and Julie are going to learn about petting these critters.

Catch a fish: The fishing rods did not fit in the car so this will be interesting but I think lots of provincial parks rent them out.

Read 12 books (one per week): My friend Eva gave us a reading list. I cannot wait for reading to replace TV for a while.

Julie to swim with her face in the water: She still hates getting her eyes in the water so I think that this may involve a lot of diving down and picking up toys at the bottom of the pool.

Izzie to waterski: I loved waterskiing as a kid and I hope Izzie will too.

Get Pat’s curry at the Saltspring market: We’re stopping on Saltspring Island where I used to visit every summer as a kid. My mom asked to pick up some Moonsoon Balti (a large one). I am just excited to see the Ganges market once again after so many years.

Do Pilates in 3 different cities/towns: For Mother’s Day, the kids gave me this as a gift. I cannot wait to spend some time on a reformer again.

Remove Julie’s training wheels for good: She is very close to being to ride without them and it will make Michael happy to not have to put them back on each day (they do not fit on the bike rack).

Learn about 25 animals: During homeschooling, we’ll learn about two animals each week and hopefully write a short report that we’ll add to the blog.

Have the kids write a journal: Isabella has already started her daily journal which I wanted to be physical but the pull of imagery with the iPad may make it an online journal. I guess it will be less paper to carry and make it easier to syndicate to grandparents.

Send lots of postcards: We rarely get postcards anymore but I loved writing them as a kid. Get ready to receive a lot of postcards from Julie using all her new sight words!

Eat BC peaches in BC: I realized yesterday that we’ll probably miss BC cherry season but I hope that we make it there for peaches.

Pick blackberries: I love picking from those bushes along the side of the road on Vancouver Island. Isabella’s favourite fruit is blackberries so I hope we find some.

See a whale: Do you think that we’ll be lucky enough to see an Orca on one of our ferry rides?

Zodiac ride on a Yukon river: Getting the family out on the water seems exciting in the land of grizzly bears.

Visit a hot spring: We’ve done this in other parts of the world but the kids would not remember it. I love finding a hole in the earth and soaking sore camping muscles.

Go to the Olive Garden and Fuddruckers: Mike and I have different childhood memories when it comes to family restaurants. He loves the Olive Garden with its breadsticks and “Tour of Italy” trio. I remember my great Aunt Carrie taking me for Burgers at Fuddruckers with my cousins. We would tell the cashier that her name was “Michael Jackson” and laugh hysterically as she was called to the cash. The Regina location is gone but there seems to be one in Saskatoon.

See our new baby cousins: My cousin Jill has had two kids who we’ve not seen. My girls cannot wait to meet Henry and Halle.

Teach Izzie some Canadian history and geography: I brought a Canadian Kids Atlas (which took up too much space according to Michael) because I wanted to teach the kids about where we are driving and some of the history of our Country

Get zero speeding tickets: A lot of kilometres ahead of us and we need to learn to slow down and enjoy the journey.

Finish B level books with Julie: Julie learned to read all the A books. If the Canadian leg is the Bs then we can move onto Cs in Colombia. Seems right!

Read or listen to the first Harry Potter books: I borrowed the first few as audiobooks from the Toronto Library. Since I get sick when reading in the car, I thought that this might be a fun way to start the Harry Potter series. We are two chapters in and Izzie is loving it while Julie has trouble following the quick-speaking British reader.

International Itinerary – 66 days to go

One of our dreams for this adventure is that friends and family will join us in different places around the world. Whether you have a week or just a few days, we’d love to meet you somewhere.  If any of the locations below appeal, let us know soon (before I go ahead and book a tiny bachelor apartment there).

Some of our family have already signed up to join us in different places. My mom is coming to the Yukon, Bali and somewhere in Europe. My brother and sister-in-law are also coming to Bali for Christmas together. Mike’s sister is planning to come to Australia to discover kangaroos and koalas with the girls.

I know that others were waiting for our itinerary to be a little more locked down before making a plan to join us somewhere. Well here’s the plan! We are still flexible in our locations, especially for the second part of the trip. For example, we plan to spend spring in Spain but if someone we knew wanted to go to Croatia or Greece with us for a week then we’d probably just change the itinerary.

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