It was hot and humid as we left Toronto for Oakville, 45 minutes to the West on Lake Ontario, which is lovely to look at but not clean enough to swim in, and the winds are fickle for sailing.
Dinner with former neighbours in their beautiful historic home in Old Oakville, and then on to stay with old friends from Egypt and catch up with their family and news.
After talking, talking, talking, it was then driving, driving, driving, as we set off through Western Ontario, along Lake Huron to Sault St. Marie. I learned about the Great Lakes in school in England and have heard the place names over the years. How thrilling to be travelling through and past them, like a constant Group of Seven exhibition, with many shades of grey, green and brown.
Driving through a series of towns, you get a little sick of seeing the same street names repeatedly: Victoria Street, Lake shore Drive, King Street, so I appreciate the different ones. The best one so far, in the middle of nowhere, is ‘Seldom Seen Lane’. And I wondered about the Englishman who, sick for home and with no playing fields or schools within 50 km, named his hamlet Eton-Rugby.
Something we had never seen before was traditional Mennonite communities. After many signs warning us of both horse-drawn buggies and the Second Coming, we did come across three buggies, the ponies trotting smartly, the men in broad rimmed hats and moustache-less beards, the women in long black capes and bonnets.
We listened to the radio to break the monotony of road, lake, trees and rock. A radio announcer interviewed the organizer of an annual Finnish Festival, who could not get anyone to sign up for the Wife Carrying Race. Strange, because the prize is your wife’s weight in beer. The interviewer remarked that the race was odd. “Not as odd as the telephone and boot hurling competitions” was the reply.
Outside of Thunder Bay, at the suggestion of locals we met at a diner the night before, we stopped at Kakkabeka Falls. As high as Niagara but not as wide, and with the bonus of few tourists and no souvenir shops.
We had a day to explore the lovely city of Winnipeg. The Museum for Human Rights is my kind of museum – it is about ideas and stories, and the architecture is part of the story – representing the earth, sky, rock and glaciers of Manitoba. The Ukrainian perogies and the Jazz Festival went down well too. Again, so much history came to life walking around The Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet.
What can you say about Saskatchewan? It’s flat, and the car licence plates read: Land of Living Skies. That’s true, the skies are part of the landscape. Here are some of my impressions during our eight-hour driving days:
- A one km long cargo train carrying grain, and a family picnicking by the side of the tracks, waving to the driver in the caboose.
- Transport trucks, and salvage yards of old trucks.
- Oil pumps pecking at the fields while cattle graze around them.
- At Moose Jaw, home of the Snowbird aerobatic team, a flock of geese in such tight formation I thought it was the Snowbirds on a practice flight.
Regina to Calgary, and then the heavy driving is finished…