We yet again woke up early, packed the van and headed off. Before leaving Fredericton we took a quick drive around the UNB campus. It’s quite an old campus, with a lot of bright red brick buildings.
From then we drove to PEI via the confederation bridge. At the beginning of the bridge we stopped to dip our feet in the ocean as we officially made it to the Atlantic ocean.
Next stop was Charlottetown for lunch before continuing to the other side of PEI and hopping on a boat back to the mainland and Nova Scotia. Rolling into Halifax we found out that our sleeping plans had fallen through. After about an hour of trying to contact people we threw in the towel and started looking for places to camp. We drove through random unpopulated roads for a bit looking for a clearing to camp in. On one of the smaller roads, we pulled over next to a field to let someone pass. She rolled down her window, asking us if we were lost. We explained the situation, at which point she said, “Just camp on the field there, it’s my backyard”. Through dumb luck and a nice stranger we finally found a place to camp for the night.
Fun fact: PEI produces 25% of the potatoes for all of Canada.
Woke up this morning in the land of the French. We bid our French friends goodbye and toured the city for a bit. By the time we left Quebec City, our French was pretty genuine. Our thank-you note below can attest to that. We also checked out the ramparts before we left (old quebec city fort).
We then hopped back on the trans canada en route to the maritimes. It was a pretty uneventful drive through Quebec before the crossing into New Brunswick, province number seven. We decided to take a quick detour and check out the world’s largest covered bridge. We drove across, took some neat pictures, and then drove back. The bridge was a bit of a novelty considering there was a huge two lane steel bridge next to it. The covered bridge was only one lane.
Once in Fredericton, we met up with some engineering student from UNB. They showed us around the town and then we called it a night and crashed on their floor.
“New Brunswick can’t have too many people per capita”
Being in our nations capital, the first thing we did was wander around Parliament Hill. Next, we took a quick drive to Rideau Hall and checked out the Prime Minister’s residence.
Back on the highway, we plotted a course to Montreal. Just before the city we passed a milestone. We entered the sixth province of the road trip. Also, we picked up our first hitchhiker, Romain. He was a Quebecois native who had been traveling around the country for the past few months. He didn’t speak too much English but he was pretty cool.
After dropping our new friend off in Montreal, we parked the van and wandered around for a few hours. Grabbed some food and beer. Next, we took the van up to the lookout point of Mount Royal for some tourist shots overlooking the city.
Next stop was Quebec City to meet up with some engineering friends who were taking a two week summer course at Laval. Once we ditched the van, we headed down to a student bar by the highway. It was basically 90’s night. All 90’s songs. The awesome part was that it was a live band and the beers were only $1.50. Gotta love Quebec.
“Despite all of the touristing and driving, this was scheduled to be a rest day.”
We woke up early again to pack the van and head to the highway. Yesterday we had tweeted to @Telus regarding our lack of cell coverage on the Trans Canada Highway. We awoke this morning to a reply from Telus support on Twitter. After a bit of back and forth and their attempts to save face, they just admitted that yep, there is indeed no Telus coverage along that 8 hour section of the Trans Canada.
After a bit of rural Ontario highway we came upon the mess that is the highway system leading into Toronto. We transferred a few highways and eventually made it to downtown Toronto. A few navigational mistakes later and we made it to the correct Works Burger for lunch.
Leaving the highway was even more fun as the caught the beginning of rush hour on the 401 at 3:00 pm. 6 lanes of traffic exiting the city averaging a speed of 10 km/h. Luckily it was only the very beginning of rush hour and we only spent an hour stuck in that. However, 10 km/h wass unfortunate considering our only method of cooling the van was driving fast…
Once through that, we hopped back on the Trans Canada and ploughed through some more rural Ontario on our way to Ottawa. We had a hot shower and crashed on warm beds.
“It won’t be that bad on the 401, it’s not rush hour yet”
Bright and early we assembled and left Thunder Bay. Quickly after leaving we all noticed that we had no reception. Rogers does cover most parts of the Trans Canada but we all have Telus phones. And Telus only has a cooperative agreement with Bell. So we were without contact until about four in the afternoon.
Construction crews in Ontario routinely store equipment on the highway. They block off one lane (there is only one lane each way) and pile equipment on the highway. They then put a set of mobile lights at each of the blocked off lane to control traffic. We drove by about ten of these today where no one was working. It was the middle of the afternoon on a Monday. So instead of letting traffic easily flow, they are blocking off the Trans Canada Highway just store a digger and some lane dividers. They even repainted the lines accordingly. Seems like a pretty questionable use of highway space.
At one of the pit stops today we checked the trip odometer. 4009 kilometres. That gives an average speed of 41 km/h for the whole trip. That includes all stops and sleeping at night. Pretty good.
We stayed the night in the lounge of the Laurentian Engineering Student Society. Our new friends from Lakehead last night put us in touch with their president. Another night sleeping in the Mech design lab, just like back at UVic.
“Worst case Ontario, we end up in the middle of Ontario”
Hot shower and home cooked breakfast from our awesome hosts and we were out of Winnipeg and back on the trans canada. The morning drive was pretty uneventful as we flew into Ontario.
Right before the border is a small Welcome to Ontario sign with almost no shoulder on the highway. It was so small, that we actually over shot it had to pull a quick u-turn. After the tourist pics, another quick u-turn happened to get back going the right direction. Luckily it was just a double yellow.
Of course right after this, we came upon the actual welcome sign, which had a proper rest stop and turn off from the highway. Oh well.
The interesting (read: annoying) part about Ontario is the very strict driving laws. Also, the speed limit is only 90 km/h and is heavily enforced. This contrasts sharply with the prairies with a speed limit of 110 km/h and everyone drives at least 130 km/h. Ontario is going to be a slow trek.
Once we crossed the border, there was about 15 warning signs about various driving laws. Some of the notable (and possibly redundant) ones were:
“Yield to opposing traffic when passing” (ie don’t play chicken with oncoming traffic)
“Large vehicles need more room”
“Can’t see don’t pass”
“Watch for vehicles”
Our first stop of the day was at Kenora just inside Ontario. It was supposed to be a quick gas-up and supply run at Canadian Tire. However, we ended driving around the town going to a few stores and then a few liquor stores. First, we tried to fill our growlers at a local craft brewery but their growler filler was broken. Yes. The brewery did not know how to pour beer. Finally, we just went to the “Beer Store”. There was a wall with one empty of every beer they sold. After you found the one you wanted, you asked the teller, who would then get it from the back. It seemed extremely inefficient.
While barreling down into Ontario we shot a couple emails off to Lakehead Engineering Student Society in Thunder Bay. After a bit of confusion, we met up with our new friends for a couple drinks. Then called it a night and crashed on the floor of their house.
“Home is where the van is”
PS. We knew that our website was down. UVic had a scheduled server outage and our server had not rebooted. If you are reading this, then awesome! That means our site is back online.
We packed up and said goodbye to the Calgary folk. Bright and early we hopped back on the Trans Canada. Made a few stops on our way to Winnipeg. First, had a nice lunch in Swift Current and said hello to a fellow WESSTie.
We also stopped at Moose Jaw, just to get a picture of the moose.
Experienced Regina while we listened to Experience Regina. This only lasted for about 12 minutes as we didn’t stop in Regina and that song gets pretty annoying. The stereo in the car doesn’t have a audio input line so we’ve been burning cds the whole. So there is a cd with 6 copies of Experience Regina, just so we wouldn’t have to hit repeat.
After Regina, we just stuck to the trans canada and headed on to Manitoba. The drive from the ‘toban border to Winnipeg was mostly straight but very dark. Being BC boys, whenever we saw a large dark mass on the horizon we assumed it was a forest. Nope. It was just emptiness that had lighter clouds above it, giving the illusion of trees. Silly west coast kids. There’s no trees in the prairies.
Chez Marriott graciously hosted us in Winnipeg. We had a pretty chill night. Just a quick swim in the pool, a couple beers and warm beds.
After over 15 hours of driving and 1300 kilometres we were there.
Hang a steve. It’ll be steves for days
Started the day by packing our trackside campsite. In the night, a train had actually stopped next to us. Packed the aerostar and onto the highway. Drove for a little bit then grabbed some breakfast at a quaint little lockout next to Shuswap.
Next, the rockies. We were in luck, as there was construction at 4 places on Rogers pass! Stuck in gridlock on the pass, we made some friends with drivers around us. The drive over the rockies was pretty slow so we wasted time by creating as many social media posts as possible (fb, reddit, twitter, blog, fb again…)
After a quick food stop at Golden, I hopped in the cockpit and drove us onto Calgary. Once there we met up with our U of C friends and they showed us a good time on the town.
In other news, Trevor made good use of the utility flap in the roof of the van:
Eastbound and down
Day 1: To the loops
To start the day we loaded up the van (aka Cathy) with all of our luggage. After a heroic rescue of Baman (David West) from his Elec 250 exam we headed off to the start line. On our way, we had to make some classic Victoria hipster stops. First, some growlers from Philips Brewery. Then of course waffles.
Once at the start line we gathered the requisite sea water in the trans canada cup. After about 10 seconds the handles broke and we lost all the water. Attempt number 2 sans handles worked well. Then some obligatory tourist pics in front of mile zero at beacon hill.
And then we were off, headed down the trans canada bound for the Atlantic. The waffles took a little longer than planned, so we were hauling ass down the highway trying to make the 3:10 ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe. (the swartz bay ferry is obviously faster, but against the rules, as it is not part of the trans caned highway) We made it to Nanaimo at 3:05 just in time to find out there is a two sailing wait for cars. cool. So we just had to wait in a line of cars for a couple hours. 32 degrees and no AC.
After a chill BC ferry ride we were back on highway 1 headed to Hope. Once beyond Hope, we hung a left onto the trans canada through the Fraser Canyon. (again, there is a shorter route, but we have to follow trans canada highway). Due to the late ferry, we arrived in Kamloops around 1:00 am. Thus our planned sleeping spot was gone.
A quick google showed a provincial park not far from the highway (~100 m). It turned out to be more of a gravel road than a park. But we found a small empty gravel clearing to camp. Did I mention it was 20 metres from the train tracks?
Ya. Trains are loud. and run all through the night.
PS. we found out at sunrise that the clearing was not empty. It bordered the river and some houses…