One More For The Road

I remember it backwards.

*Blink*

Mrs Widds and I give our statements to the cop. I’m shaking but can think coherently. Mrs Widds is in ‘crisis management’ mode, feet firmly on the ground. I love that woman.

*Blink*

It feels like it takes forever for the police and ambulance to arrive, but in reality it’s only about half an hour. The cop asks for witnesses and thanks everyone else for their help.

*Blink*

Waiting is always the hardest part. The adrenaline fades and shock takes over.

*Blink*

Some idiot who’s probably had five minutes training in Med school flings his stethoscope round his neck, pulls the young woman passenger out of the car (first huge mistake) and asks if anyone has any Tylenol. What an idiot. Mrs Widds shuts him down.

*Blink*

A young guy gets out of the wreck wearing a shirt, underwear, and no shoes. He checks on his passenger then grabs his cellphone and pants. More people stop.

*Blink*

A couple of cars have already stopped and people are trying to help. I walk up the hill waving my arms, warning the cars and trucks in the slow lane.

*Blink*

Mrs Widds calls 911 and I make sure the trailer is secure. Chock the wheels. Not going to make that mistake aver again. Especially on a steep hill like this.

*Blink*

I pull over immediately, slam on the hazard lights. We share a look of horror, take a deep breath, and swing into action.

*Blink*

Mrs Widds is screaming something. I see the car. It’s going too fast on the inside lane. The driver loses control. In the blink of an eye it swerves back across three lanes of traffic, misses us by a few meters and crashes into the embankment.

***

Lets backtrack a little shall we?

When we left Dinosaur Provincial Park the rain and overcast sky of the day before had cleared and we had beautiful blue skies before us all the way to the Rockies. By the time we were back on Highway 1 storm clouds had rolled across the prairies and were taking bets on who would get to rain on us first.

We decided to drive straight through Calgary rather than take the bypass. (because we’d been so successful avoiding storms on the Winnipeg bypass) Visually it was a bit of a disappointment because cities seldom show their best side to the freeways dividing them in half. Still, we did avoid the storms. Those ones.

I saw a jagged blue smudge on the horizon and rejoiced. Mountains!

I felt like I could breathe again

I felt like I could breathe again

… and then they disappeared. Rainstorm!

Not a big one and soon it was blue skies (and big fluffy white clouds) all the way home.

Mountains to the left of me, mountains to the right of me ...

Mountains to the left of me, mountains to the right of me …

This glacier used to come all the way down the mountain.

So many of them looked like this

So many of them looked like this

Inside an avalanche shed east of Golden

Inside an avalanche shed east of Golden

***

The accident happened about fifteen minutes east of Merritt. Stopping and helping and giving statements took a good chunk out of our afternoon travelling time, but we were back home on Widder Island in time for supper!

***

A couple of photos that slipped through the cracks …

I took this one at Mt Robson P.P. The way the trees grew reminded me of the rune, Mannaz – The Self. A great message to have at the beginning of our journey.

Ents of a different sort

Ents of a different sort

We were in Sault Ste Marie (the Canadian one) in the midst of a sweltering heat wave when I see this sign.

What? Snow? Where?

What? Snow? Where?

***

Next: Tally

A cliché, I know, but Westward Ho

Sunflowers on the Prairies

Sunflowers on the Prairies

Getting from Michfest to Sault Ste Marie wasn’t as easy as you might think. The backroads in the boonies of Michigan were not to be trifled with, nor was getting back into driving and towing the trailer mode.

Before we even got to the main highway Mrs Widds left her truck (and trailer, and various lock-up-ables) keys at our first gas station.

We’d like to say our thanks to all the wonderful strangers who gave us their gift of their experience, knowledge and human goodness.

To the guys who helped us maneuver (and at the beginning of our trip outright did the job for us) and back up our trailer into campsites that seemed way to small to fit anything larger than a pup-tent. The guy who wouldn’t look us in the eye after he did his good deed – perhaps not realising we were lesbians until it was too late. The grumpy guy who couldn’t speak english. The guy who took pity on us one very dark evening as we tried and tried and tried to back into a campsite that had a 1 meter drop-off on all three sides.

Thanks to the woman at the gas station in small town in Ontario who gave us directions after we took a wrong turn (it’s no fun negotiating single lane backstreets with a travel trailer) and let us stay parked at the pump while we did a life-saving dash to Tim Hortons. To all the women behind the check-in desks (and an occasional guy) at the campgrounds who were unfailingly generous with their time, local know-how, and advice.

And special thanks to ‘T’ at that gas station in Baldwin, Michigan, who found and posted Mrs Widds keys back to us.

Perhaps the Universe looks kindly on inexperienced middle-age first-time RV’ers who jump into the deep end of the pool without a parachute.

***

Back to Sault Ste Marie. There are two of them, one on each side of the border. The highway that connects the two, and our only way back into Canada, was closed for repairs.

Construction! Again!

Construction! Again!

Did we follow the detour signs until we couldn’t see them any more? Yes.

Did we get caught in the canyons of the historic downtown core that were in the midst of, a) being closed off for some sort of celebration, and, b) also in the throes of summer roadworks? Yes.

Did the street get so narrow that we feared we’d have to grease the sides of the trailer just to keep going? Yes

Were we screwed? Pretty much! …

… until Mrs Widds spotted a woman walking her dog and begged for mercy. I reckon the denizens of Sault Ste Marie (US version) were used to befuddled Canadians asking them how to get home because she gave precise directions and after two toll bridges, and one very nice Canadian customs person, we were back in the Motherland.

***

We’d gassed up at the Agawa Indian Crafts store on our way to Niagara Falls but didn’t have time to stop and shop then. Now we did.

We bought some sandalwood essential oil to go with the divine lavender oil we bought in Niagara-on-the-lake on our wine tour.

(Oh, I didn’t tell you about that? Short version: 4 wineries, lunch in a gorgeous old ‘plantation’ style inn, 2 bottles of ice wine, 2 of peach wine, all as yet unopened.  A Chardonnay to die for, a Cabernet Merlot that put a whole lotta ‘ooooo’s’ in smooth, and a Riesling we’re saving for our wedding anniversary – 11 years on 19th September – maybe we’ll open an ice wine, and a peach wine too)

Because I hadn’t seen a single moose, in spite of roadside warning signs of immanent moose crossings, I was tempted to get a hand carved wood one, but among all the great pieces, nothing caught my attention … until I saw this gorgeous drum …

Definitely not a moose

Definitely not a moose

***

Next stop, White River, and a close encounter with a very special bear.

Where the story really began

Where the story really began

***

One of our mottoes is, ‘talk to the locals’. After our amethyst mine adventure we stopped at a nearby truckstop for gas, of course, and to see if there were any campgrounds we might be interested in staying at on our way back. (we never retrace our steps, if we can help it) Turns out there was.

First we had to get through a pea-souper of a fog bank that rolled in from Lake Superior and hounded our footsteps (wheelsteps?) from White River to Nipigon. All those opportunities to stop at scenic lookouts and take some great pics of Lake Superior? … all we got was fog.

Le sigh!

Little did we know that beyond the fog and the blue sky horizon, a convocation of stormclouds voted to commit mayhem in our general vicinity … again.

The exit off the Hwy to our little campground in Mirror Lake didn’t inspire confidence. Overgrown, red rock gravel, ratty signage at least twenty years old, and cast into a gloom by those pesky clouds.

Into the maw of the unknown we drove.

The maw

The maw

And discovered a little rustic wonderland where we spent a couple of days relaxing and reflecting on our adventures to that point.

There were still those stormclouds to contend with though. Three storms shrouded us in darkness, spat out a bit of thunder and lightning… and blew away to reveal a midsummer’s blue sky. A fourth one looked serious, so we reviewed our ‘packing-everything-up-in-a-hurry’ plan, and kicked back with cuppas to wait it out. After it delivered what I call the ‘storm-breaker’ crack of thunder (usually the last big one before the storm moves on) the sky grew light and I ventured out to get some cloud pictures before it all blew away …

T’was a dark and stormy day ...

T’was a dark and stormy day …

… just as I opened the metal flyscreen to get back in the trailer, that sneaky storm turned around and attacked me!

I snatched my hand off the door and swore like a trooper. Loudly.

Thankfully it was only the static discharge from a verrrry close lightning strike, but none-the-less it hurt like hell.

Moral of the story: There’s always another lightning strike in every storm!

***

Back on the Prairies … driving back around the Winnipeg bypass in a storm … stocking up in Regina for the last push toward home … and the moose of Moose Jaw.

The only moose I saw

The only moose I saw

It’s a four meter statue, but I figured that once upon a time it was alive until hordes of mosquitoes sucked the life out of it! They were everywhere, millions of the little blood-sucking gremlins. I planned to get a better pic but in the interests of preserving my very existence, I hightailed it back into the truck, wound up the windows and hoped there weren’t enough of them to carry the truck (and me) off to who knows what horrible end.

Mrs Widds (back from a quick dash to the info center bathroom) told me the locals said it was a ‘bad year’ for mosquitoes (and white cabbage butterflies) because of the ‘strange weather patterns’ the area had been experiencing of late.

Just my luck.

***

I loved the whimsy we sometimes came across.

A weather vane somewhere west of Moose Jaw

A weather vane somewhere west of Moose Jaw

***

And then … our last adventure began.

A gap in the world

A gap in the world

 

Next: Close Encounters of the Cretaceous Kind.

Why We Are Out Here

(The weather turned and my arthriticals turned with it, but I’m back now)

***

It’s flashback time. What author worth her salt would tell a story like this without flashbacks?

But first … here’s that little green butterfly in close-up. (those two evil eyes staring at you in the middle of the picture)

Little green butterfly's close-up

Little green butterfly’s close-up

***

Picture it; Sydney, Australia, late 1980’s. (paraphrased from Sophia Petrillo)  It was everything a young lesbian feminist political activist guitarplaying writer could want. Ahh, the wine, the women, the song … hmm … we’ll focus on the ‘song’.

We were writing songs of protest, (this was still an era when we fought nuclear proliferation and wondered if we’d live to see the turn of the century) songs of inner strength, songs about falling in love, (and possibly renting a U-haul the very next day – ask your nearest lesbian if you don’t understand the U-haul reference) We were marching in the streets, we were Reclaiming the Night, we were organising and performing in fund-raisers, cabarets, townhall concerts, and music festivals the length and breadth of the east coast. (I’m fairly sure it was happening on the other coasts too)

Occasionally an imported ‘star’ from the women’s music scene in the US would headline, but mostly it was our homegrown performers that moved us to be something greater than what we were.

In all of this occasionally we would dream of going ‘big-time’ and play at the Michigan Womyns Music Festival in, (where else?) Michigan. Very few of us could afford that kind of trip, so we’d console ourselves with the stories of those who went and returned.

***

Fast forward: Widder Island, BC, Canada, the early months of 2015. After working toward seeing Canada in our own RV for years, Mrs Widds and I finally signed the papers for our brand spanking new trailer. Next thing we did was sit down and decide where we would go sightseeing first.

Nothing too challenging because for all our dreamweaving, neither of us really knew anything about the care and feeding of an RV, even a (relatively) little one like our 7-and-a-bit-meter long travel trailer.

In the front yard before we left, untouched by distance, and time, and bugs, and hail, and dust, and rain, and ...

In the front yard, untouched by distance, and time, and bugs, and hail, and dust, and rain, and …

We discussed a short trip to the Northern Interior where Mrs Widds grew up, or maybe even a quick trip south through Washington’s redwood forests. We were certain of two things; we wouldn’t go far and we wouldn’t go for too long … which lasted until I heard this year’s 40th annual Michfest (as it’s colloquially known) was going to be the last, and Mrs Widds thought it might be a great adventure to see the Maritimes, which just happen to be waaaay over on the other side of the country.

Long story short, we didn’t have the time or money to get to the Maritimes and back (this year) so we settled on Niagara Falls as our eastern-most point and thence west through Michigan and back home.

***

The drive from Niagara Falls to the Canada/US border at Sarnia went as smooth as we could possibly dream, but once past the checkpoint we were back in roadworks and construction again. Oh yes, and one large tortoise crossing the road just as the roadworks began – a harbinger of how slow the traffic would get perhaps?

***

It occurs to me that an awful lot of our driving time was spent negotiating storms and construction!

***

Speaking of which, a storm was brewing to the south west of us as we bumped and thumped our way along Hwy 96/69. (so many opportunities for jokes there) It required another round of white-knuckle driving as the trailer swayed from side to side in the ever increasing wind. We made it to our campground on the west coast of Michigan just as the storm broke right over our heads. Yet another 8+ hour drive. Oiiiii!

The campground was chock-full of women on their way to the festival and we learned that although we were advised not to start queuing up until 10am the next day, women were already camped out at the gates. We resigned ourselves to wait at the end of a very, very, very long line.

It took us almost twelve hours to get in to the festival grounds. Twelve hours of inching forward fifty meters every half hour. I cleaned accumulated sand and dust dragons from the hidden corners of the trailer, and napped, and tried to occupy myself with house … erm … trailer cleaning tasks, being extremely thankful we had our very own toilet and water source.

Mrs Widds read. An entire book. She doesn’t suffer waiting or queues or fools easily. That book is what saved the organisers a fate worse than death.

We later learned they were not expecting anywhere near the number of attendees. Many women, like us, decided to go because it was the last festival, the end of an era.

***

Overall, I didn’t have a good time. There were moments that I enjoyed: catching up with an old friend from OZ that I hadn’t seen for a couple of decades.

A beautiful hand-made gold wire bracelet …

Look at that gorgeous Art Deco-ian detail

Look at that gorgeous Art Deco-ian detail

… Hitting the music tent and stocking up on CD’s.

… The beaming smiles; women would deliberately make eye contact just for the ‘beams’.

… Being completely surrounded by women, of all shapes and sizes and ages, all gathered together for a singular purpose, to make and experience music and community, together.

… but, that didn’t make up for the lack of adequate infrastructure, especially for someone with my degree of dis-ability in getting around long distances by shank’s pony.

The actual festival started on a Tuesday, but by the time we got there on Monday evening the festival resources were already at full capacity, and hundreds and hundreds of women and their piles of camping gear were flooding in by the hour.

There were tractor-shuttles but they were always full mostly with all that camping gear, and ran far too infrequently. There were long line-ups for everything, particularly at mealtimes. Thankfully we’d stocked the trailer in anticipation that we’d be having some meals just the two of us, but not 95% of ‘em. Even the queues that were specifically for otherly-abled women were overrun.

***

Some women had been coming to the festival for years, some from the very beginning, others, younger, who’d been coming here for all of their lives. These women were celebrating as well as grieving, and their celebrations and grief was so deep that it became a palpable shimmer above everyone’s heads.

Some like us, ‘virgins’, stood apart to a degree, separate simply because we didn’t have the history others did. The party was great, but the grief wasn’t ours.

Mrs Widds made the observation that it felt like being invited to a wake for someone we didn’t know all that well. The kind where you circulate the room, say your piece to the grieving relatives, then make a discreet exit.

By Thursday night, three days before schedule, we knew it was ‘discreet exit’ time.  We hooked up ‘ol Bessie’ Friday morning and rumbled outta town. Rumbled because hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of vehicles using a dirt road do not a smooth journey make. Five kilometers of tsunami sized washboard corrugations left our backsides numb and kidneys liquefied.

At the end of the road we did a quick check to make sure nothing had shaken loose both inside and outside the trailer and headed north.

***

If you’re interested in the politics of why the festival ended and why it began, you can do a google search for ‘why did michfest end?’ (or just click on the link 🙂)

As always a workable truth is somewhere in the middle, but I liked what this piece had to say.

I do hope someone will pick up the torch so this sacred space will continue for another 40 years.

***

Next: A Cliché, I know, but Westward Ho

***

P.S. Coco is back. I’m guessing this is the official cat-sanctioned start of Autumn.

I did not muss up my chair. It has always been thus

I did not muss up my chair. It has always been thus

Over and Under the Falls

Unstoppable

The thing to do with giant tourist places like Niagara Falls is to plan ahead. We paid for our accommodation in advance, pre-booked a wine tour of the Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries, and got a wonderful two-day package of Things One Must Do that included public transit from our campground to all the sites and back again.

If we hadn’t organised ourselves like that, a combination of our tiredness, the oppressive heat and humidity, and the sheer overwhealming impact of the Falls themselves would’ve left us floundering.

We had a blast!

***

First touristy thing: Niagara’s Fury

Our tour group lined up (we did a lot of that) put on our rain ponchos, (we did a lot of that too) and shuffled inside a giant water tank. A 360° surroundsound, shaking floor ,water spraying, virtual reality, theatrical extravaganza, water tank.

This little guy, Chip told the story of how the Falls came into being. (the link isn’t Chips’ version. His is much cuter, but you’ll have to go the Falls to hear it. 🙂 )

Hi. My name's Chip and I've officially joined the Widdershins household

Hi. My name’s Chip and I’ve officially joined the Widdershins household

The household: Myrtle Moose, Mini Myrtle, Odie, Garfie, Hartz, and Chip (with his little hug-buddy)

The Household Guardians: Myrtle Moose, Mini Myrtle, Odie, Garfie, Hartz, and Chip (with his little hug-buddy) … scary, no?

***

Second touristy thing: The Butterfly Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Sadly we didn’t get to tour the gardens, my knees wouldn’t go the distance, but we did spend a delightful hour or so hanging out with these guys …

Mrs Widds and her colour coordinated butterfly

Mrs Widds and her colour coordinated butterfly

Mine - they had a thing for hats

Mine – they had a thing for hats

The butterfly version of, 'Where's Wally?' - Clue. I'm iridescent green

The butterfly version of, ‘Where’s Wally?’ – Clue. I’m iridescent green

Stripes. Iz mah camoflage

Stripes. Iz mah camoflage

Feeding time

Feeding time

***

Third Touristy thing: The Whirlpool Aerocar

The Whirlpool - A panorama

The Whirlpool – A panorama

I’m good with heights, but put me in a metal cage that swings from side to side whenever anyone breathes, and held up by twisted bits of metal? That’s a horse of an entire different kettle of fish.

As the water rushed down the river from the Falls, it had to make this 90° right hand turn. The water didn’t like doing that so it chewed away at the bank and eroded an ancient river gorge, creating this aquatic cul-de-sac about 4000 years ago. The water naturally turns counterclockwise (widdershins!) and if there’s enough water in the river an actual whirlpool forms.

It's big, really big

It’s big, really big

***

Fourth Touristy thing: White Water walk

We lined up in the foyer of an innocent looking gift shop and inched forward half a dozen steps at a time until the elevator doors loomed front of us. We entered with eight other people and waited for the operator. The air smelled of dark damp places that mere humans ought not to venture into. Down and down and down, the elevator went.

The operator, a young man, working a summer job, (what did he know of mortal fears and dank dark places?) asked where we are all from and some of us answered in a unsettling mixture of nervousness and excitement. He issued instructions that I couldn’t hear and the elevator bumped to a stop.

We were down at river level and surrounded by the wild roar of the Class 6 rapids 

It may not look like it but some of those waves out there are 4-5 meters (12-15 feet) high

It may not look like it but some of those waves out there are 4-5 meters (12-15 feet) high

 

The water scoured rock barely contained the constantly churning water

The water scoured rock barely contained the constantly churning water

You can see clearly here how the river has cut almost vertically through the rock – and a young woman conducting the wave orchestra!

You can see clearly here how the river has cut almost vertically through the rock – and a young woman conducting the wave orchestra!

***

Fifth Touristy thing: Behind the Falls

Different elevator, new rain ponchos, same spooky feeling, only more so. When we got to the bottom the elevator didn’t open out onto a wide open vista but a wet downward sloping tunnel that was 2 ½ meters high at most, and maybe a meter and a half wide.

Fluorescent tubing spaced way too far apart for my liking lit the tunnel and glistened on the runnels of water on either side of the narrow walkway, eagerly gurgling toward who-knows-what ending.

We gingerly walked along the tunnel, Mrs Widds running point in case I slipped. (a fall on this hard slippery surface would completely ruin my day)

To one side a gated opening enclosed the ruins of an old tunnel that had collapsed. As the water chews away at the front of the falls, the tunnels have to be re-routed. I was kinda glad our tunnel was shored up with concrete and not old timbers like these …

You can almost hear the tired old timbers groaning

You can almost hear the tired old timbers groaning

The sound of roaring water grew louder and we passed by another opening.  This shot gives you an idea of how close the tunnel roof and walls were …

Low ceiling

Low ceiling

... and this is what Niagara Falls looks like from within the cliff face ... watch your step!

… and this is what Niagara Falls looks like from within the cliff face … watch your step!

... and this is what it looks like next to the cliff face

… and this is what it looks like next to the cliff face

See that boat with all those people in red ponchos? That’s where we were going next.

See that boat with all those people in red ponchos? That’s where we were going next.

***

Sixth Touristy Thing: Hornblower Cruise

This was perhaps the most exhilarating thing we did, and the one we got the least pictures of, seeing as we were preoccupied with getting soaked.

We decided to buy heavier duty plastic ponchos than the flimsy recyclable ones they were giving out for free. (which will be featured in another of our adventures on the way home) And suitably attired, we boarded our boat. Thankfully it was late afternoon and the ‘sardine’ crowds were long gone.

This close to the USA

This close to the USA

Huge boulders at the base of the American Falls

Huge boulders at the base of the American Falls

From here on our boat got closer, and closer, and CLOSER to the Falls, and consequently our boat felt smaller and smaller. We put our cameras away as the picturesque mist became a heavy spray, obscuring everything.

The Falls, the boat, our fellow passengers all consumed in a downpour that rivaled the best our Winnipeg storms threw at us. Part of me wondered how our little vessel would stay afloat … but it did. The captain took mercy on his beleaguered passengers and turned away from the onslaught.

I’ve hung out under some waterfalls in my time, even skinny-dipped in a few, but nothing, nothing came close to this.

***

Back above the Falls again

Back above the Falls again

Tired and happy, we watched the full moon rise through the mist above the Falls as we treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant right next door

 

Misty moonrise

***

Next: Why We Are Out Here

On the Road to Niagara Falls

A strange thing happened as we neared the border between Manitoba and Ontario, the rolling canola fields ended and the Land of Many Lakes began. I don’t suppose Canada’s Drawers-of-Lines-that-Mark-Provincial-Borders did that on purpose, but even if they did, it was a nice surprise to drive right by lumps of earth and rock higher than a few meters.

Red earth, red rock

Red earth, red rock

***

All the lakes had names, but in a part of the world that has a gazillion lakes, I guess the person who named ‘em got in touch with their inner whimsey. We passed ‘Mom Lake’, closely followed by ‘Dad Lake’.

Now, you’d expect that if names continued in this vein next would be ‘Kid Lake’, or ‘Children Lake’. We certainly expected that, but no, the next lake was ‘Orphan Lake’!

Someone had a delightfully twisted sense of humour.

***

Most of the mosquito bites I’m still scratching I got during our first night in Ontario. They even had these little buggers that bit chunks out of me and left trails of blood running down my legs to freak me the hell out.

Skeeters have always liked the taste of my blood. Every Summer it’s my lot to either be smothered in nasty chemicals to keep ‘em away, or be smothered in nasty bitey insects that WILL NOT leave me alone.

***

Enough about blood-suckers, lets talk about Amethysts.

About 45 minutes north of Thunder Bay is a little dirt road that winds up the side of a mountain. Travelers like us are encouraged to leave their RV’s back at their campsites or deposit them at a turnout at the bottom of the mountain. We opted for the ‘leave the rig at home’ option.

At the top of the mountain is a quarry where some of the finest amethyst in the world is mined. It’s called Amethyst Mine Panorama and you get to dig for your very own amethysts.

There are white ones ...

There are white ones …

And purple ones ...

And purple ones …

And white and purple ones ...

And white and purple ones …

There are ones that have 'fools gold' stuck to them ...

There are ones that have ‘fools gold’ stuck to them …

And just for good measure, you can also pick up some sharp-edged flint

And just for good measure, you can also pick up some sharp-edged flint

All for C$3 per pound

***

Ever onward we drove. North then east then south around Lake Superior. We drove through White River where we had the best donuts since Tim Hortons, and met a very special sort of bear, but more of that later.

 We pulled into here for gas, but didn’t have enough time to explore the hidden delights within. We vowed to do so on our return journey. Turns out something magical was waiting for me. (also, more later 🙂 )

Agawa Indian Crafts

Agawa Indian Crafts

***

We stopped in Sault Ste Marie, exhausted from yet another 8 hour drive. We knew it would be our last for a while so we took ourselves into town for to stock up on fresh veggies, and thusly fortified we slept the sleep of the dead … until 6am when we took off for parts East, and the South Baymouth/Tobermory Ferry.

***

There’s a little fish and chip cafe just off the main drag at the South Baymouth ferry terminal.

Look! Wrapped in newspaper, even!

Look! Wrapped in newspaper, even!

With a fairyland outdoor patio to eat them in

With a fairyland outdoor patio to eat them in

Then it's into the belly of the (ferry) beast

Then it’s into the belly of the (ferry) beast

Across the water we go

Across the water we go

When I saw such a huge expanse of water, with the opposite shore being below the horizon, I expected to smell that unmistakable salty, slightly fishy ocean smell. Nope, it was a slightly fishy, freshwater smell. All that water and not a whiff of salt. Who’d’a thunk!

***

We followed Hwy 6 South and got turned around in Owen Sound, and drove for most of the journey to Hamilton at an average of 60 k an hour. Every little hamlet and village and town was ‘speed quietened’. Mrs Widds surmised that a couple of centuries ago they sprang up like weeds along this route at about a day’s horseback ride from each other.

***

Negotiating the Hamilton bypass, (Queen Elizabeth Way, no less) was an exercise in controlled terror. Eight lanes of peak-hour traffic. We couldn’t understand why all those other drivers weren’t as laid back as us. (or as laid back as we were before we got on the bypass!) Wasn’t everyone on a grand adventure holiday?

A couple of semi truck drivers got downright nasty. Most kinda good-naturedly gave us a wide berth, but those two … I do believe there’s a hell especially reserved for arrogant aggressive asshole truck drivers, and every now and then Patrick Swayze drops by and beats the living crap outta them. Cue ‘Roadhouse’

***

So, Niagara Falls at last. Our campground was on Lundys Lane,  quite cosmopolitan as it turns out, and just down the road a couple of ‘gentleman’s clubs’ and massage parlours. We’d landed on the edge of a red light district!

***

The last word … I must’ve walked by this sign half a dozen times before Mrs Widds pointed out how special it was.

 

Of course I noticed the typo

Of course I noticed the typo

***

Next: Over and Under the Falls

 

Winnipeg, Oh Winnipeg

Before I start, are there any Winnipegites (Winnipegians?) in the audience?

Well, the lighting isn’t that good in here, so I’m just going to go with it.

I’m convinced Winnipeg doesn’t really exist, or if it does it’s a bit like Brigadoon (doomed to appear only one day every hundred years) only Winnipeg exists when there’s a blindingly ferocious storm pounding it into the deep and ancient prairie dirt and at no other time on this mortal coil.

Storms like this …

A storm to cover the entire horizon

A storm to cover the entire horizon

***

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before Winnipeg there was Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan, where we decided to hang out after two grueling 8-hours-behind-the-wheel days.

Mrs Widds has no great love for mammals of the order Rodentia. We had a bit of a rat problem here on Widder island last Autumn and she Was Not Pleased.

Unfortunately the many and varied families of Rodentia have taken a perverse liking to Mrs Widds and appeared to inform their prairie cousins of this fact prior to our arrival.

I was snoozing in the trailer, she was outside, reading, when who should come along but these cuties …

Just passing by unnoticed

Just passing by unnoticed

I had no idea you'd be camping here

Why, I had no idea you’d be camping here!

I'll be on my way then

I’ll be on my way then

***

Onward we drove through the Prairies along Highway 17

The Prairies aren’t flat. They also aren’t my preferred geological or geographical terrain to drive across, for hours, and hours, and hours.

They are beautiful, and I’m glad they’re there doing their Prairie thing. I think one of their main tasks is to stop the Rockies from sliding down.

Another task is to brew up gigantic storms whose torrential downpours reduce visibility on the afore mentioned construction-riddled roads down to a few meters, and speed to something below 40 kilometers an hour.

I thought we were alone on the drenched highway but when I glanced into the rearview mirrors, I saw a line of headlights following us. I guess they figured so long as they could see us they’d be fine. Silly little lemmings. I could’ve led them astray but I was too busy with my deathgrip on the steering wheel to give them anything other than a fleeting thought.

***

… which brings us back to Winnipeg. We drove Highway 100, the Winnipeg bypass, twice. Once heading east and then on our return journey heading west with Mrs Widds driving.

Both times this …

Canola fields in the sunshine

Canola fields in the sunshine

… turned into this …

No escape

No escape

I have no evidence that Winnipeg exists outside of narrow strips of road bordered by red construction pylons and blinding rain.

***

Next: On the Road to Niagara Falls

Road Trip: A Few Stats and Our First Adventure

We’re baaaaack!

Long Winding Road

Long. Winding. Road

Stats:

31 days

5 provinces. 1 state

10,000 kilometers

17 campsites

Mosquito bites: Me – 1,964,281 … Mrs Widds – 2

Roadworks – The entire length of Hyw 17 from the BC/Alberta border to the Manitoba/Ontario one. (only a slight exaggeration)

Bridges under construction – Every bridge in Ontario. (no exaggeration)

Another valley, another bridge

Another valley, another bridge

Gigantic humongous scary storms – 6

Biggest variation of temperature in a 24 hour period in one place – 37°C to 17°C

Times we forgot to chock the wheels of the RV – 1, setting up our 2nd last campsite, and that was the time it rolled a bit and crunched the leveling jacks. (of course) Nothing our trusty RV fixer-uppers can’t fix,  but oh, the embarrassment!

You can't see it but they bent one of my flippers

You can’t see it but they bent one of my flippers

Moments of complete awe and wonder – too many to count

Arguments – none

***

The Costco Adventure – Day 1

Because we didn’t get our trailer until two days before we left we had very little time to acquaint ourselves with how everything worked, or to stock up on holiday supplies, so our first plan of action was to trundle our merry way to our Costco and shop.

The trailer brakes didn’t seem to be working properly from the very beginning, (we thought) so by the time we got to Costco (½ an hour from home) we decided to call our RV guys and see if they had any suggestions. The safety chains were a bit tight so Mrs Widds (with a great deal of Mrs Widds patented glaring) got them undone, untwisted and reattached, and we set off …

… and got 10 meters along. A very loud BANGCRUNCH rattled our truck completely freaking us out. The hitch attaching the trailer to our truck completely separated from the truck and our lovely shiny trailer was smack down on her nose in the Costco parking lot.

If you know anything about trailers and hitches, you’ll know this doesn’t happen without deliberate human interference. Someone had removed the cotter pin that locked the hitch in place. From the moment we left home we were a major accident waiting to happen. It was only the tight safety chains, and Costco, that prevented us from being a statistic on your nightly news.

***

By the end of the second day, we were here, so all was … well, neither forgiven nor forgotten, but a whole lot better, and we felt like we were really on holiday.

Mt Robson, the beautiful

Mt Robson, the beautiful

***

Next: Winnipeg, oh Winnipeg