Tayrona National Park (but not really) – Days 110-112

Family buying bananas on side of the road in jungle area

If you’ve had 4 days of warm, wet weather, why not go someplace with warmer and wetter weather?! We had a great intro to Colombia with our stay in Cartagena but since we had booked things ahead of time, we were on the move! Our destination was a mini-resort hotel just outside of Tayrona National Park at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was our first internal transit day and we were anxious to see if we still had those backpacker skills from years ago.

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The big tourist destinations of Madison & Indianapolis – Day 82-84

Family at a mock sports broadcasting studio

We got two more pictures of state capitol buildings by stopping in Madison and Indianapolis. One might ask, why go to Madison at all? The answer for us was logistics. We simply wanted to break a ten-hour drive into two five-hour legs. And on the map, Madison is about the midway point between Minneapolis and Indianapolis. Our real goal was getting to Indianapolis because Paigey had read about a children’s museum there and thought it could be a good place for homeschooling. If you have kids and they aren’t in school, this is the spot for you and is completely worthy of a road trip. We went during a weekday in September and essentially had the museum to ourselves (it was too early in the school year for field trips). I’m not exaggerating, at some of the live demonstrations, our kids were the only 2 people to show up so they got to learn from the scientists one on one. This day, we didn’t even have to pretend to be good teachers.

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Minneapolis and the Golden Gophers- Days 78-81

Two kids standing in front of inflatable mascot at a football game

It was an early departure from Grasslands National Park as we anticipated an eight-hour day of driving. We had not really planned on it but we were changing our route and heading back to Toronto through the northern states. Fortunately, we had picked up Julie’s passport the day before which allowed us to take this “southerly” route and avoid a repeat of the drive between Winnipeg and Nipigon. Julie was pumped as she was getting a new country and Isabella was excited as she figured out Olive Gardens are more plentiful in the US than in Canada.

So there we were at 8:30 in the morning somewhere on the Saskatchewan / US border (Morgan to be exact) waiting for US border control to open up the border. Talk about ignorance on my part! I just assumed the border was open all hours of the day (as I did not listen to Paige who said it might be closed). But we had to wait an hour for the gate to be opened up and for us to be allowed through.

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Alone in Dinosaur Provincial Park – Day 76

Two children on a cliff in the badlands at sunset

It was early in the morning when we said goodbye to cousin Lorron and continued our journey east. We remarked that it felt like we were really heading “home” since we no longer had any friends or family to visit. We didn’t want to keep Lorron from work so we opted for a McDonald’s breakfast. The drive was through the prairies but they were no longer yellow and green but brown and dying – even the harvesting seemed complete.  The landscape changed to badlands as we approached Drumheller.  At Drumheller, you kind of descend into the town (felt like a valley) and then the dinosaur marketing hits you.  There is a colossal T-rex at the tourist information centre which the kids noticed first from the backseat of the jeep. After that, there are dinosaur statues everywhere leading to the Royal Tyrrell Museum

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The Icefields Parkway & Banff National Park – Days 70-72

Two girls playing in mountain landscape

It is always easier to leave a place when it is raining and Jasper saw us off with a slight drizzle and low temperatures. Our destination was the other tourist mecca of the Rockies, Banff National Park. Having already secured our camping spot for the next three days, we were in no rush and could enjoy the scenery along the Icefields Parkway. If only the clouds would lift!

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Elk, Hot Springs and Forest Fires – Jasper National Park – Days 67-69

Children playing in the sand by a lake with forest fire in the background

Back on Jan 31st, I sat at my computer waiting for the reservations at Jasper National Park to open up. I had been quite fortuitous with other national park bookings and we were once again trying to get lucky. We were aiming high and trying to land a spot in one of the Otentiks at the newly refurbished Whistlers Campground (as Paigey really did not want us camping in our tent with the bears and the cold). Unfortunately on that day, the park hadn’t yet made a decision as to if they were opening the Otentiks to the public so I was somewhat disheartened. I reached out to Parks Canada directly to try and get some insight if they were close to a decision and was told to check back later. So each day thereafter I would log onto the site and see if those Otentiks were available to the public. I was multi-tasking on a work-related “zoom” call when I lucked out on a morning in April. With our spot secured, Jasper was firmly on the itinerary! After 40 years, I was finally going to get to visit Jasper!

I was the most excited as we left Vernon and started our long drive up Highway 5 in British Columbia. There was a decent amount of construction along the way as I believe work crews were working on the Trans Mountain Pipeline (sooo many construction sites). As we approached Mt. Robson (at the highway terminus), the temperature dropped and it got overcast. Due to the change in weather, we were unable to see one of the most photographed mountains in Canada. It wasn’t all that bad as we rounded the corner of the mountain and then we all started cheering as we passed the Welcome to Jasper National Park Sign.

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Capturing Olympic Glory? Vancouver & Whistler – Days 58-60

Children inside the Olympic Rings at Whistler

A decade ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Winter Olympics that were held in Canada (not the Calgary ones, I’m not that old). I believe that at that time, my brother and I got to see Vancouver and Whistler at their absolute best. We rode the newly built Sky Train, meandered aimlessly through the streets of Vancouver and bused our way up to Whistler on the expanded Sea-to-Sky highway. As for the events, we were very fortunate as we saw Canada win their first medal of the games and also got to watch the men’s hockey team score eight goals in their opener. The sporting memories are some of the most vivid of my life and we still laugh about how lucky we were to secure tickets. Over time these memories have overshadowed some of the hiccups (like the bus lineups, the rain, and the protestors). I was looking forward to reliving some Olympic glory. But alas, where Paige got fortunate with Saltspring living up to her memories, the same could not be said about Vancouver and Whistler.

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Time to play with other kids – Smonecten – Days 46-51

Family at picnic table in Smonecten

Months ago, Paigey sat online waiting on the clock for summer camp registration to open up in Sidney. This was the week we were to benefit from those efforts. Five days of kids off on their own at summer camp while we got to enjoy all the Victoria area had to offer. It wasn’t just the kids that were excited. I relished the routine of bedtimes, wake-ups and even packed lunches. Paige was excited about the weather and lunches without crayons or kids’ menus.

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Denman Island (an island just off an island) – Days 44 & 45

Family walking on beach with tide out

One of those places where the journey is better than the destination. That’s Denman Island to me. Paige and I had to fill a couple days before the kids started summer camp near Victoria so we decided on a two-night stay on Denman Island. I didn’t know anything about the place but it had availability and fit into the budget, so we gave it a shot.

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Port Alberni – Days 42-43

Two children holding up a tree

It was raining when we broke camp in Tofino. We find it easier to leave a place you love when it is raining (at least emotionally easier). However, packing a wet tent sucks. It causes you to rush and amid the chaos we left behind Isabella’s bike lock. It was the first piece of gear we had “lost” on the trip. If anyone finds it, feel free to use it. The code is 61014.

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