The memories of Winnipeg – Days 11-15

Children Red Chair Centre of Canada
Child Husky Muskie

Onward to Manitoba! Before getting to Winnipeg we had to stop for two roadside attractions. First, we had to go to Kenora to view the larger-than-life Husky the Muskie. Like the Wawa goose, this was one of those childhood memories I needed to recreate. The underpass from the parking lot to the Muskie was flooded by the river so we had to run across the “highway”. Isabella enjoyed that part the most. We got the required picture and were back in the car. Closer to Winnipeg, we stopped at the longitudinal middle of Canada (96°48’35″W according to the sign). It was just off the Trans Canada Highway that had a couple giant Adirondack chairs (that seem to be all across the country and some needed washrooms). We stopped quickly as Paige and I just wanted to get to Winnipeg, do some laundry and dry out all our wet gear from Blue Lake. We were splitting Winnipeg up into 1 day at a hotel and then 4 days outside the city at Birds Hill Provincial Park. The kids were looking forward to this part of the trip as we had enrolled them in a week of summer camp at the University of Manitoba. Izzie was off to become a scientist while Julie was going to hone her gymnastic skills. Paige and Mike were going to do…….well, we had nothing planned for ourselves.

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Blue Lake – It is Far – Day 9-10

Children Blue Lake Provincial Park Sign

We were prepared for a long day of travel from Sleeping Giant to Blue Lake Provincial Park so we were on the road before 7am. Fortunately for us, the wildlife was on the move too! We saw a couple deer while brushing our teeth. Within our first 10 minutes on the road, Paigey achieved a lifelong dream of seeing a moose in the wild. Although I must say, she did misidentify it at first as a bird. Then I suggested it was a deer. As the jeep got closer, it started running down the road and voila a baby moose. Even the kids in the back got to see it, so check that one off the list!

We had some time to check out Kakabeka Falls on the west side of Thunder Bay. I remembered being terrified at walking the bridge that used to cross the falls. It was one of those metal see-thru bridges and the terror is seared into my memory (I’m terrified of heights). Fortunately, 30 years later it wasn’t that scary as there are robust planks that make the crossing seem like any normal bridge crossing. The kids were upset I wasn’t super scared. We did a quick hike, found some hares and watched the cascading falls.

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The Sleeping Giant – Days 7-8

Family lost at cross roads
This is how you make a wrong turn on a trail

Yep, that first night of camping in five-degree celsius weather was a cold one! Paige and I felt it. The kids on the other hand voiced no displeasure. But they followed my lead and took an early morning shower. For those who don’t know, some Ontario Parks showers are amazing. Great pressure with bloody hot water. Another check mark for Neys. After the showers, we lit a morning fire (Paigey and I haven’t done that in years) which put Paige and I in a more comfortable state. The kids went off to play at the beach.

Children with moss on faces

We didn’t leave Neys early on Day 7. We decided to slow things down and took a bike to a trailhead. Finally figured out how to get Julie Tailgator sorted out so that she doesn’t lean the entire time while being pulled by her mother. We went on a small hike and I made a bad joke about me growing facial hair…..anyways the punch line is MOSStache. And the pictures are spot on. We then went to the visitor centre at the park (we always go to visitor centres if the park has them) and did some homeschooling. Julie learnt about rocks. For those that don’t know, Julie will tell you that “Amethyst is the purple one”. Isabella played with the animal pelts trying to determine which one was the softest. We went back to the site, broke camp for the first time and were back on the highway.

The drive to Sleeping Giant took a long time. We stopped for lunch and filled up on some camping supplies. Our butane is due to go out any day so we stopped at the “smallest” Canadian Tire in the country. Don’t know if it is true but they have a sign saying so in Nipigon.

Many stops later we got to Sleeping Giant after 5pm. Good thing the sun doesn’t set until 10:30. Our campsite was a split level (first time we had stayed at one of those) that Isabella had selected when Paige let her select some sites. We went for a quick swim and noticed the water was full of crayfish. I always thought they hid under rocks and such, but here they were in the clear water in the sand. Might explain why their carcasses were also littered all over the beach. Paigey caught some live ones for the children to see. I went swimming.

The kids slept well that first night as the swimming tired them out. They got up and dived into their morning school-work. I was skeptical at the number of worksheets Paigey had brought for them, but they sure do love the morning activity work. Izzy did a worksheet on Red foxes and was blown away when we saw a stuffed one at the park visitor centre later in the day.

Child homework on shore sleeping giant

We went spent the rest of the day exploring the park and surrounding area. We were realistic and knew the hike to the sleeping giant formation was outside our abilities. So we picked a shorter one to a pebble beach that the kids loved. We saw butterflies and took a wrong turn that delighted the children as they had to scramble up some boulders to get back on the trail. They no longer let Paige and I lead the way on the trails.

We also discovered Silver Islet, a tiny hamlet at the end of the peninsula. It was one of those hot days where you dream “If only we could find an ice cream place …..” and then one appears out of nowhere. The kids had Superkid ice cream which is their new favourite flavour thanks to Aunt Sil’s Ice Cream joint in the Soo.

The entire time we were at Sleeping Giant we had no internet access and attributed it to the remoteness of the park. It was one of the reasons we seemed to stumble upon things these two days. Turns out there was a big internet outage in Canada that we were blissfully unaware of.

By The Numbers:

  • Total Kilometres – 2093 km
  • Depart 11:15 (Neys) – Arrive 16:45 (Sleeping Giant)
  • Ice Cream – 1 (thanks to the miraculous appearance of the general store in Silver Islet)

Animals seen:

  • Bazillion crayfish
  • 2 Cranes
  • 1 Mouse (ran across the road in front of my bike, Paige did not see it)
  • 1 Deer (on the morning walk)
  • 1 Polyphemus moth (another Isabella find)

Ciao for now

Mike

Driving up Lake Superior – Neys Provincial Park – Day 6

Family Pancake Bay Provincial Park Sign

To set some context, you first need to know that I try to walk 5km each morning before the kids wake up. So there I was, walking outside the steel mill in Sault Ste Marie at 6am when a Jeep rolls to a stop alongside me. The window rolls down and a woman leans out and yells: ”Hey was that you taking over the gym this morning?”. I momentarily blank but then clue in and admit that yes, it was me. She then apologizes for her son being such a jerk and kicking me out of the gym. I shrug my shoulders and tell her he will be a great Pokemon champion. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, you obviously don’t play Pokemon Go.

Anyways we left the relatives early in the morning having received a download of the key lookouts on the drive ahead of us. We said our goodbyes and were on our way with the bikes tightly secured. Our first stop was Chippewa falls where the kids got to hike and use the washroom. This was going to be one of those days with multiple washroom stops.  We then stopped a further down the highway to eat some world-famous apple fritters at the Voyageurs’ Lodge near Batchwana Bay. There is an entire rack full of individual fritters waiting for people to grab. There must have been 100+ sitting there and we watched a procession of cars stop to pick a couple up. For the first time in our lives, Paige and I did the sensible thing and bought one and shared it. We ignored the sign that said there was no tax charged if you purchased six. We only needed the one, they were ginormous.

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Canada Day in the North – Timmins – Day 3

Family Hollinger Pit Mine

The kids were up at the crack of dawn on Day 2 to play with some of my cousin’s toys they had seen when they fell asleep the night before. After prying them away from the Groovy Girls, they descended upon the kitchen for a “dream breakfast”. There were 8 different options of breakfast cereal available for us to choose from. It was like a kid’s version of an omelet bar. I ate Apple Jacks (I didn’t know they still existed) while the kids ate a mixture of cereals. Good start to the day as all the eating and playing had us leaving a little later than expected.

Before leaving Lively I made sure those bikes were buckled in tight. I was tired of stressing over them falling off so took my time to find the “optimal” configuration. I did such a good job, I took pictures so that I would remember how to replicate it.

We also realized after day 1, that our packing strategy needed to be tweaked. It was just too much effort to bring each of our luggage down from the roof each night. What we needed for the future was a grab bag of a small set of clothes for each of us together. Also, putting toiletries in the trunk was also idiotic. For the most part, we want the trunk to be storage and we need to be able to grab any gear we need from the back seat without doing all the Jenga.

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And we are off – Sudbury – Day 1

Were we anxious the night before? Absolutely. For some reason, everyone slept in the same room even though that will probably be the norm for the next few months. We got up too early (4 o’clock), did our walk, “fed” the kids (if you can count a breakfast of cucumbers as a meal) and posed for the obligatory Day 1 picture in front of the tree. Paigey wanted to take the picture to see how much or how little we change when we get back. If I don’t come back with a better tan, I’ll be surprised.

Anyways we were so anxious we actually packed the jeep the night before and hoped no one broke in. All I had to do was “fight” with the bikes and get them mounted on the back. I imagine many of my future posts will be ranting about the bike hassles. Morning departure was a breeze and we were on the road by 9am.

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Last Minute Scrambling – 1 day to go

Gear for Camping Piles

A thousand days of planning and somehow I am left scrambling the day before. We were making good progress but then our youngest got sick the other day and that threw a wrench into things. We are just happy she had wrapped up the last of her play dates and birthday parties this past weekend. So for the last couple of days, she’s been staying at home watching me attempt to fit a ridiculous amount of gear into a finite space. That and watching TV. I think she knows TV will be hard to come by and is getting all the viewing she can right now.

Anyways, we’ve crossed off a bunch of loose ends this last week.

Storage – We rented a small locker to store the items our renters probably don’t need or want to see. It is pretty much full now. One final run to today and then I will padlock it and see it again in a year. I am embarrassed to say it, but I would not be upset if 75% of the stuff were to disappear.

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Our Goals for the Canada Leg – 20 days to go

Children Books Worksheets

Get ready to roll your eyes and shake your heads as I share some things we are hoping to accomplish during the Canadian Leg of our trip. These aren’t so much travel list checkboxes but rather goals for the next few months. Whether we do these or not, we at least WANT to do them. When we get back we’ll reflect on how many of these we managed to see through.

Food / Dining

Eat fries just once a week. Yep, even I recognize this will probably go by the wayside when I see two chip trucks on the same day of driving. Or when I have to order a “fish and NO chips”. That just doesn’t sound right at all.

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Trial Camping Run – 29 days to go

A week ago, we loaded up the vehicle and did a trial run to see how prepared we were for the cross-Canada leg of our trip. We had not had the chance to “field test” some of our gear and wanted to try it out during a three-day camping trip at a nearby provincial park.

I borrowed my dad’s Jeep, installed the roof carrier and attached the bikes onto the back. I struggled with the roof carrier as it took me a while to figure out that I was blocking the locking mechanisms which was preventing it from closing. Once I figured that out, I spent a couple hours loading up the vehicle to determine the best packing configuration. I had two main goals: I wanted to have an unobstructed view out the rear window and the kids needed to have an unencumbered ride (i.e. nothing at their feet or beside them). We managed to achieve both of those goals. In the future, I’m hoping I can do better than two hours.

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Credit Cards & Cash – 34 days to go

Foreign Conversion Fee Credit Card

We have had a couple posts about the fun stuff, now it is time for some money matters Any dollar I can save is something Isabella can spend later at LEGOLAND. For some reason, I showed the kids LEGOLAND clips on YouTube and now we have to fit that into the budget. So here are two ways we plan to stretch our dollar.

Let’s start with credit cards. From the beginning, we wanted two different branded cards on the trip (a Visa and an Amex). If one particular card was not accepted, or one got compromised then we would always have a backup. This never was a necessity in our daily life so we needed to go hunting for a new card. Where to begin? Fortunately, there are amazing sites out there that showed us the pros and cons of the different credit card offers. Type “best credit cards in Canada” into Google, and you’ll have enough reading material for weeks. During our research, we realized we should have cards we used BEFORE we travel (i.e. during the planning) and then cards we should use when we were ACTUALLY TRAVELLING. This was new for us and so far it has saved us a large bucket of money.

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