here we head east out of the mountains. We are on the Yellowhead
highway, which has its eastern terminus in Winnipeg, almost 2000
kilometres to the east. We continue east until just before nightfall,
where there is a small argument about accommodations. Ewart, Luc,
and Caroline prefer just to crash by the roadside somewhere, while
Markus and I prefer the idea of a motel. In the end, we find a spot
where they can crash and then head back a few kilometres to a sleepy
motel. Markus is uneasy about the way things are going on the return
trip (it appears like we'll just try to drive as far as possible
the next day) and we have a long conversation about the many things
that are bothering him, including him not being able to sleep well.
5:30 am the next morning, we pull up to the roadside camp that Luc, Ewart and Caroline have set up. We are soon rolling eastwards through Edmonton (where the traffic is not too bad at this time of day) and then through the northern prairies. At Lloydminster, we stop for an oil change for the van and for Markus' car (after all, we've put around 8000 kilometres on the vehicle so far on the trip). From there we continue east until mid-afternoon, where we decide to stop at a sleepy little prairie town (which I believe was Wynard, SK) and have a lunch/dinner picnic. While I go for a quick nap in the van (I want to maintain alertness for what is turning out to be a marathon drive), the rest cook up a lunch at a deserted town park while Luc demonstrates his climbing ability on the kid play structures.
We continue through rural Saskatchewan, passing through ethnic enclaves and grain elevators. Just past the border into Manitoba, I am driving Markus' car and pass over what appears to be a bit of road kill. BANG! Turns out that this is not road kill, but rather some ugly and very hard piece of machinery. Markus' car's exhaust note is much louder now, and we pull over to examine the damage. Turns out that this piece of debris on the road has punched a nasty gash into the center exhaust pipe of his car. At least it didn't hit anything that would affect the roadworthiness of the car.
With the car now sounding like some 'aftermarket tuning' has been done to it, the journey east down the Yellowhead highway continues. We reach the Winnpeg area at dusk and make the final decision to pull an all-nighter drive to get to Thunder Bay. Ewart strongly cautions us about the possibility of moose and other large wildlife on northern Ontario highways and puts a good dose of fear into us. After some more dithering we decide to go, but to be extra wary, go slower, and follow large transports relatively closely.
As night falls, we skirt Winnipeg via its bypass ring highway, and are soon heading east towards the Ontario border. We reduce our speed and wait for a large transport truck for us to follow. We are lucky enough to come upon a whole convoy of transport trucks, which we tuck in behind and follow relatively closely. The night slowly ticks by as we make our way towards Kenora.
Fortunately, my little naps throughout the day and a few good caffeinated drinks have me feeling pretty alert. As the night wears on, we encounter a little drizzle and a fair bit of fog, further reducing visibility, and the echoes of Ewart's moose warnings still ring loud in our minds. We stick close behind the relative safety of a slow-moving transport that we have been following for many hours.
At about 2 or 3 am we reach Dryden and stop for a gas/food break. I take another 20 minute nap in the car so that I can make the last leg from Dryden to Thunder Bay, where we plan to crash at Markus' sister's place for the morning. Luc, even though he hasn't had any naps, seems to be doing ok (he is driving the Van, and I am driving Markus' car; Caroline and Ewart are sleeping the night away in the van). And, even though he isn't driving and even though he made a big brou-ha-ha about not being able
In Their Own Words...
Ewart: [In Thunderbay] "After breakfast, we all cross the street to a corner Italian shop to get some provisions for the remainder of our journey. Whilst we are talking outside, who should pass by, heading for the same shop, but Dan Fossum and his wife Anne. Dan is an old friend of mine, who lives in Ottawa, who I have not visited since my arrival back in Canada some 2.5 years ago, and was my Adirondak hiking guardian between 1993-1996, the longest anyone has held this prestigious position. Dan's family is from Thunder Bay. I'll pop in on you soon Dan, promise!"
to manage this marathon drive-through, Markus remains quite awake for most of the drive, surprising even himself.
After a few more hours of slow white-knuckle driving, the first grey light of dawn finally comes. We arrive in Thunder Bay shortly after 7am. Edmonton to Thunder Bay: 2000+ kilometres in less than 24 hours! This is the by far the longest I've driven in one go. An interesting experience. Luc and I crash for a much-needed sleep on Marlene's (Markus' sister) couch. Markus, still running on all cylinders and relatively full of energy, skips a nap and heads out to poke around Thunder Bay with his sister.
Luc and I sleep for only about 2 or 3 hours, until mid-morning. The plan for the day is to drive from Thunder Bay to Markus' parent's camp. Marlene takes us to this wonderful quaint restaurant for a hearty breakfast (name?). Never having been to Thunder Bay before, I discover that it is quite an interesting place - lots of ethnicity and character, as well as a certain interesting 'oldness' that distinguishes it from most cities with "cardboard" neighbourhoods and cookie-cutter houses and stores.
Shortly after noon we start our 8 hour drive to the Sault and Markus' parent's camp. We stop by briefly at the very moving Terry Fox memorial near Thunder Bay. The drive along the north shore of Lake Superior is actually quite nice. In Wawa Markus insists on stopping to take a picture of "the big goose".
We are welcomed very warmly, as always, by Markus' parents at Amogla camp. We are served more hearty German fare before we crash for the night in 'the guest house'. Having had not more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep for the last 48 hours, I sleep very soundly!