Well, after many weeks of planning and organizing, the trip day is finally here. I've managed to rent a Dodge Grand Caravan mini-van for a good price and unlimited mileage. I've also struck a deal with Markus regarding the use of his car. We are to have his car along, and in return he doesn't have to pay any rental car fee. This gives us a big mini-van and a smallish sedan for 6 people and a bunch of camping and climbing gear for 2+ weeks. Having his car along allowed me to take out the rearmost seats in the van and have a much larger storage area. If there is one thing I've learned about trips like this it is that it is better to allocate extra vehicle space than to try and squeeze things in. It may all fit nicely on the first day when everyone's stuff is well-packed and everyone is fresh, but at the end of a tough backpack when everyone's stuff is mixed up and un-optimally packed... well let's just say that then the extra space is of great use. I also wanted a van with individual seats in the second row in order to maximize our cross-country trip comfort.
The plan is to stay at Markus' parents Amogla camp (Amogla camp is a recreational lodging establishment with beautifully crafted cabins on the shore of Rock Lake near Sault Ste Marie). With a friendly and accommodating atmosphere, it is always a pleasure to stay there. Markus and Luc have already gone ahead to Amogla camp, having left the day before (Markus wanted to meet with some relatives). Markus has already informed me (via a phone call the night before) that the air conditioning in his Acura EL has gone on the blink.... and that he is worried that we'll all abandon him to sweaty isolation in his car while we pleasantly glide along in cool comfort in the van. Such a doom-and-gloom attitude that boy has....
from Ottawa to Amogla camp is a nice pleasant drive - the day is
sunny and we have some tasty snacks with us in the van. In order to stem the boredom
on the long drive, I've brought along MP3-recorded versions of a
CBC radio program that I like called IDEAS (cbc.ca/ideas
). Since I always have my laptop along, i figure that I could somehow
use it to play the programs and increase our driving enjoyment (well,
for some of us, anyway...).
I borrowed an old analog transmitter
from Markus to broadcast the sound signal to the Van's stereo. It
works, but the signal is constantly wandering back and forth and
is also very sensitive to the position of the transmitter's antenna
and wire. This leads to frustrating bouts of static and careful jostling/positioning of the transmitter. After a while it is pretty obvious that the annoyance factor of the Van's occupants goes up rather than down.
In any case, we arrive at Amogla camp intact and before sundown. Markus takes us on a whirlwind tour of "the Cliff" (a large cliff on the camp's property) before sundown. We get a great view of Rock Lake and of the nice Canadian Shield scenery of the area. Caroline slips and gets her jeans dirty on the very first day, much to her annoyance.
Back at the camp, Markus' mom treats us all to tasty German fare in the main house. The ambiance of the place is wonderful, as it always is.
A little bit of southern Germany grafted into the Canadian landscape. Markus has issues taking pictures with his digicam because of his usual battery problems.
There is not quite enough room for all of us this particular night, and so Ewart opts to sleep out on the lawn in his tent and PG on the couch in the main living room. The plan is to get up at 4am and try to hit the road for 5:30... we want to try to eat up a bunch of distance so as to minimize our drive-out-west time.
In Their Own Words...
Ewart: "The trip from Ottawa to Markus's parents starts just after 12.00am in parking lot T of the Carling campus. Unfortunately, Andrew was unable to get the Honda Odyssey that he wanted, and instead has acquired a Dodge caravan. However, the vehicle is very comfortable, with 4 individual seats, Andrew having removed to the two rear-most seats to allow room for a huge volume of luggage - it also allows for one or two people to sleep in the back push-comes-to-shove. The drive up is uneventful, Andrew and Ewart sharing the driving. The only stop we make is in Sudbury, where we stop off to tank up with some much needed gas, at a rip-off price, as well as make a visit to the nickel mining visitor centre where there is a giant Canadian nickle coin mounted on a small hill."
Peter: "Starting out in Ottawa at noon time we headed for our first road stop at Amogla camp owned by Markus's parents. Along the way we passed throught Sudbury and snapped some shots of the Giant Nickel. The Amogla camp area itself was beautiful, on the shores of a lake not far from the Sault Ste Marie border crossing. There was a nice little cliff to scramble up and the house itself was amazing inside. The work of a master wood worker, the entire interior was beautifully done in wood, right down to the door latches and hinges."