A Travellerspoint blog

May 2019

Week 3 on the Road

Highway 11 through Northern Ontario, a cold Victoria Day, Hearst, Geraldton, Thunder Bay

overcast 10 °C
View TaJ 2019 on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

As we publish this blog on May 27 we are at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, outside Thunder Bay, Ontario. We have traveled 4,100 kilometers since leaving our home in Millville, Nova Scotia 19 days ago, on May 8. Of our total mileage, we have towed TaJ for 3,150 kilometers. Gas is near $1.49 per litre in this part of Ontario. That works out to around $5.25 Canadian per US Gallon (roughly $3.65 US per gallon for our American friends)

May 20 - Victoria Day (Canadian Holiday)

It was a dark and stormy night...literally. It rained most of the night and by morning it was 2 degrees Celcius with a 30+ kph wind blowing in off Big Nellie Lake. Our little propane heater was all that was between us and freezing to death. Well, a bit dramatic, but we survive just fine.

The weather was so crappy that most of the people who have been here for Saturday and Sunday bailed out last night and we have an almost deserted campground to ourselves this morning. Nothing for us to do but get our laundry up to date. Nice to have clean everything again. We did our sheets this time and Jenny got her workout in remaking the bed. As any R-pod 179 model owner knows, making the bed is not easy, or pleasant. Kudos to her for doing this massive job.

In the early afternoon the weather cleared a bit and the sun came out and the temperature deigned to increase to a very pleasant +11 C. At this point it feels like a heat wave. We took a drive around the area, checking out a source of propane for tomorrow when we depart with TaJ on the back of Sully, for Hearst, Ontario, another 300 k down the road.

Interestingly, we came upon an Ontario Provincial Police road check...looking for drinking drivers, at 12:30 pm. Wow, they must start drinking early here in the north. Of course, the weather might just drive you to an early couple of pints!

May 21:

As we left Iroquois Falls, we did get a photo of Sully and TaJ with Guy-Paul Trefall, the local log chopping icon. This is the first of many such photos that will populate this blog as we travel.

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We filled our propane tank in Iroquois Falls and a good thing too. The tech said we had less than 1 pound in the tank when he put it on the scale. We had used 19 pounds of propane in 6 days, heating our trailer. We headed north on Highway 11, heading through Cochrane, Smooth Rock Falls, and Kapuskasing, on our way to our destination, Hearst Ontario. Along the way we had to stop for a photo in Moonbeam:

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A four hour drive with excellent highway conditions. Instead of Fushimi Lake Provincial Park, we targeted an RV park for our two night stop: Veilleux Camping and Marina, just north of the town. We stopped at the visitor centre and got this lovely picture of the town's moose:

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The visitor centre is quite the building. While there we got a tour of the structure. It was built in 2012 and is a totally modern structure. All of the materials used came from local sources and the building is energy efficient. Solar panels, a wind turbine and solar hot water heaters on the roof. The building has a rain water collection system that is used for all outdoor watering. The place has geothermal, in floor heating.

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We got situated at the campground and went for a long walk along the backroads near the campground. We got in over 5 k before returning to have our first outdoor beer of the season. It was sunny and +18 C today. We feel like the weather may have made a turn for the better!

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We spent the morning of May 22 exploring the area around Hearst. We drove out to Fushimi Lake Provincial Park to have a look at the place we would have camped. The road in was pretty rugged gravel, and with TaJ having more than her share of gravel roads in her past, we are glad we didn't take her out there. We did Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories in 2017 and had to replace her axle last year, so there will not be much gravel road travel for us this year.

We learned that Fushimi Lake is quite popular with Japanese tourists. The lake and the county were named after a visit by a Japanese prince in 1907. The Japanese are very fond of the northern lights, which are regularly visible in this area and they journey here to see them. It is said to be good luck to conceive a baby under the glow of the aurora!

We returned to Hearst and went for a long town walk along their riverfront trail. Another 5 k of good walking in for us. We had some poutine at a local meat market. Hearst is quite the place...home to the smallest French language university in Canada...100 students. Many of these students come from countries in Africa and are introduced not only to higher education, but to a Canadian winter. We were told that some students that arrived this winter were greeted by -55 C on arrival. What a shock that must have been to someone used to the weather in Equatorial Africa!

Hearst is also home to a very large saw mill. This is the crane carrying the raw logs from the sort yard to the mill:

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Sadly, it began to rain in the mid afternoon, quenching our joy at the change in the weather. At least it is a bit warmer with the rain. We move on tomorrow to Geraldon, Ontario for another 2 night stop.

May 23: We drove through pouring rain to Geraldton, another northern community. We passed through 210 kilometers of virtually nothing, but trees and lakes. Geraldton is a dismal small town that had its heyday back in the 1960's when there were 10 operating gold mines in the vicinity. A fellow we met on street said that at its prime, the town had 8 bars open, and on Saturday night you could not cross the street for the traffic. All the mines shut down in the 1970's and the town had gradually faded from its former glory.

A new mine has been proposed and is expected to get operating in the next year or so, which would bring many new jobs to the area.

We camped at Wild Goose Lake Campground, about 25 kilometers west of town. The campground itself was quite nice, but we were the only people there. The wi-fi was very poor. We set up camp, once again in the rain and settled in for the night. Another cold one...will it never warm up?

May 24: We woke to sun, at least and the temperature promised to get into the mid teens. The weather this spring has been about 5-6 degrees C below the 20 year average. Tied onto a very cold winter and there is not much happening. There is snow in the woods and the trees have not yet leafed out.

We did a 5 k hike on the nature trail at Geraldton. It is built on the tailing pile from one of the old gold mines. We returned to the campground and enjoyed a bit of warmth outdoors for part of the afternoon, but by evening it was raining again. This photo is of one of the old mines that surrounded the town:

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May 25: We broke camp in the rain and headed on towards Thunder Bay. Here is a picture of what it looked like on the road:

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We had planned a hike along the Palisades, a cliff feature that provides spectacular views, however, when we got to the parking lot, the rain began anew, dashing our plans for a strenous hike. We arrived at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, about 30 k west of Thunder Bay in the mid afternoon. We set up our camp in pretty decent weather. It was +18 C, the warmest temperature we have seen since leaving home 17 days ago. We hope things will continue to improve.

We did a good walk around the campground, and chatted with some Americans up for the Memorial Day weekend and met a couple fro BC heading toward Nova Scotia. We are about 1/2 way across the country here in Thunder Bay.

May 26: We planned to meet up with Wilma Kempe. Wilma and Jenny had spent 6 months together touring Europe in 1974/75 and had kept in touch ever since. Wilma was going to be in town to go to a Quilt Festival at the local fairgrounds. We met up with her around 10:00am

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Now, going to a quilt show is a bit like going to an art gallery. I embraced the experience and went through the entire 120 quilts on display with Jenny and Wilma. Some are good, some, no so hot, but I did find these two, with a trailer theme.

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We have two more days here to enjoy the city. We stopped at the Sleeping Giant Brewery to pick up some craft beer and did a bit of grocery shopping. We expect to spend much of the next two days exploring the area and getting in as much exercise as we can. We move on mid week towards Kenora and Winnipeg.

Our time on the road is always good. While we can complain about the weather, there is nothing we can do about it. We are having an excellent time, and know that better weather is ahead for us.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 08:29 Archived in Canada Tagged hearst thunder_bay geraldton highway_11 Comments (3)

Week 2 on the Road

The journey west continues, through Northern Quebec and Ontario.

semi-overcast 9 °C
View TaJ 2019 on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

We are at Camerons Beach Campground near Iroquois Falls, Ontario and have traveled 2,700 kilometers since leaving our home in Millville, Nova Scotia on May 8.

We started this week at Camping Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec. We were the first paying customers of the season at this 408 site campground. When we contacted them a few weeks ago they kindly consented to let us stay while they opened the campground for the upcoming summer. On our first night, the washrooms and showers were not open.

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The campground is about a 50/50 split of long term seasonal campers and travelers. Many of the sites have permanent trailers, with attached decks and outbuildings. Many of the owners were in getting prepared for summer. Each trailer had a ladder in place up to the roof. By the piles of snow beside many of them it was apparent that someone had a good business going shoveling snow off the roofs during the winter.

During our first full day there a work crew was opening and cleaning the entire campground. A street sweeping crew was busily scraping up the 2 inch layer of sand and small gravel used on the roads up here. We actually thought the roads through the campground were gravel, that is how deep the stuff was!

The manager of the campground described the winter of 2018-19 as a winter and a half. Cold, heavy snow. In our travels about the area we saw numerous collapsed garages where the snow load proved to be too much for the structures. The area around the campground is a maze of snow shoeing and cross country skiing trails that are heavily used all winter. In the summer, the same trails are used for hiking and biking. The area around Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts is full of ski resorts. The many lakes provide summer entertainment. The town has full services and many B&B's and small hotels provide accommodation.

Like all days so far, our first full day started off cold, but showed the promise of sunshine and moderate temperatures. The campground is 3 kilometers from the town centre and we set off on foot to explore, and get in some exercise. We had a great 4 hour walk through the area and stopped for coffee at a local coffee shop. We stopped into Canadian Tire to check if the screen tent we wanted was on sale this week. Sure enough, there it was, marked down from $275 to $161. We will pick one up when we come back with the car on our way out of town. We also need to refill our propane tank.

By the time we got back to TaJ, our GPS watches showed we had walked 12 kilometers. Enough exercise for the day! We hung out, had a good supper and watched a dvd. As we dropped off to sleep the rain began to fall.

We woke on Tuesday to steady rain, which did not let up all day. We had planned to go hike at Mont Tremblant, but were quickly dissuaded from doing that. When life gives you lemons, well, it is time to do laundry, and read. Which is exactly what we did...a full day of doing very little. We are plowing through books on our Kobo e-readers. We download the books from the Halifax Library.

We did get our screen tent though. Although it has been cold and not very nice up to this point in our trip, it will get buggy. After all, this is Canada and bug season here is not one to be trifled with. Jenny and I have had issues with screen tents before, in fact, we bought this exact model a few years ago. It ripped on our first raising and we returned it and survived without one in 2017. Buying the tent at Canadian Tire was a must. If we need to return it, there are 1702 sites across the country that will honour the one year warranty. Our screen house is a Coleman 15 x 13 foot model that will easily fit over a campground picnic table:

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It says easy up...yeah sure, we believe! We also have this handy screen hat that Jenny is modeling:

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Wednesday: We left Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts heading north to Val-D'or Quebec, a mining town of 35,000. It was 5 C and raining all the 350 kilometers we drove. We arrived mid afternoon and found a site at this campground. Once again, today is day one of its season:

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Camping Sagittaire is a cooperative campground on Lake Lemoyne. It has about 200 mostly seasonal sites, but they have 20 or so sites for travelers like us. The washrooms are not open today and might not be tomorrow but we will make do. It is 3 C when we arrive and pouring rain. We set up as the rain turns to a snowy sleety sort of mess. Chilled right through, we fire up the heater in TaJ and settle in with a couple of beers while we wonder about our sanity of traveling this early in the season. On the drive up here we passed several lakes that still had ice in them.

Thursday: We woke to a temperature of -1 C, but at least it hadn't snowed overnight. It warmed up a bit during the day and we did a nice tour of Val-D'or. There is not much here to hold us, since almost all hiking trails are still packed with snow and ice. We will move on Friday to Iroquois Falls, Ontario. The Victoria Day weekend is upon us and it is the beginning of camping season here in the north. All campgrounds are pretty full, so it should be interesting to see how people cope.

Friday: We woke to rain, and hooking up TaJ in the rain is not the most fun thing to do. Emptying the grey and black water tanks, hooking up to Sully. By the time that is done I am frozen solid. Jenny has been working away getting the interior ready to travel. But, we are like a well oiled machine and do a final check to make sure we have got all the essentials out of the way before we pull out.

Our destination is Iroquois Falls, and the Camerons Beach Campground. We will stay for 4 nights and attempt to get in much more outdoor time. When the weather cooperates, we spend about 40% of our time outdoors. So far on this trip it has been way too much time inside the tiny space of our R-pod trailer, which measures about 125 square feet. But we are where we want to be, on the road, so all is well and we know the good weather will eventually get here.

The roads in the north in pretty good shape, but there are a number of potholes and bumps to avoid with a trailer on the back. Luckily they are well marked so we can slow down and get our trailer over them without damage.

Camerons Beach Campround is quite nice. On still frozen Big Nellie Lake. We arrive mid afternoon and get set up overlooking the lake.

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Another cold night, with the temperature dropping to -2 by morning. Saturday, May 18 promises to be sunny and a relatively balmy 13 degrees C. We decide to use the day to visit nearby Timmins Ontario, a city of about 45,000 and a hub of the mining industry here in Northern Ontario. Basically, the whole reason for being up here in the north is mining raw materials from the ground, or logging the vast forests. The people who live here like it. They are a hearty lot, that is for sure.

Saturday sees many of the seasonal campers at Camerons Beach to prepare for the summer. There is activity at virtually every site, as they de-winterize and clean up their campsites. Children abound. Despite the frozen lake, at least two teenagers go into the water, although not for long!

Timmins is a typical northern city. Bustling with action as the main shopping centre of the local area the city is busy. Jenny and I start our tour with a 2.5 k walk around Gillies Lake, the most popular walking trail in the city. It is busy with lots of people getting out for their first walk of the spring.

After our walk, we check out two local micro breweries. We prefer to try local beer whenever possible. It gives us a change from the offerings of the big breweries. We bought 10 cans of various brews to enjoy as we travel. There are no micro breweries between here and Thunder Bay, so we have plenty of time before our next brewery visits.

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On our way back to the campground, we came upon Guy-Paul Treefall, a 20 foot statue of a logger at the visitor centre for Iroquois Falls. We will pull TaJ here for a photo on Tuesday when we head on to our next destination.

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As this blog is written it is late on Sunday morning. While in Timmins yesterday we picked up the weekend editions of the Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star to read. One of my favourite things to do while travelling is to read the weekend papers from the closest big city to catch up on the news of the day. Even though it was sunny, I was forced to wear my toque to get the job done this morning.

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Although this is only Sunday we will publish this blog today. Rain begins this afternoon and continues throughout tomorrow, so we will do what we can, but we expect to be reading and watching DVD's for quite a bit of the time. We continue east on Tuesday, with a planned 3 day stop at Fushimi Lake Provincial Park and then a longish run into Thunder Bay Ontario on Friday

Our next blog entry will come from Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, west of Thunder Bay on Monday, May 28

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 09:30 Archived in Canada Tagged sainte-agathe-des-monts camerons_beach_campground timmins iroquois_falls val-d'or micro_breweries Comments (2)

Week 1 on the Road

Camping_Transit Levis_QC Old_Quebec_City Sainte_Agathe_des_Monts

sunny 12 °C
View TaJ 2019 on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

Current Location: Camping Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec. We have traveled 1,725 kilometers since leaving home May 8.

Our first stop on the was west was the Walmart Parking lot in Fredericton, New Brunswick, about 575 kilometers from home. We had a leisurely start to our first day, driving just 6 1/2 hours. Day 2 was a further 600 kilometers to Camping Transit, a decent sized campground in Levis QC. The campground has a free shuttle to the Levis - Quebec City ferry and this will give us a different approach to visit the old walled city of Quebec.

Last week, the Saint John River was in full flood mode and the Trans Canada Highway was closed for most of a week. Even when we passed, the river looked more like a lake and we got this shot of the flooded land. What a tough end to this winter for the people along its banks.

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In lots of places here there is still snow on the ground:

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We did some grocery shopping and settled in for our first night. The forecast is for rain on Friday and we plan to take it pretty easy.

Well, it did rain quite a bit overnight and there are rainfall warnings for the entire day. We are leaving our Quebec City walking tour for Saturday, but we want to see the Parc des Chutes de-la-Chaudiere. The weather lightened up for a bit in the early afternoon and we did get in a 3 kilometer hike along the banks of the river to the Falls. It was wet and wild, but really nice to get in a full walk on a day that looked pretty bad. By the time we got back to TaJ in the mid afternoon it was pouring rain and we settled in for an afternoon of reading and relaxing.

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Saturday, May 11, we woke to the sight of the sun coming up. After 36 hours of non stop rain it was a pleasure to see it. Our day walking the streets of Old Quebec was underway. Sadly, the weather turned cold, cloudy and blustery before we even left the campground. Camping Transit is a great place to stop. Washrooms were spectacularly clean, although it is early in the season.

The campground provides a free shuttle to the Levis ferry terminal. The owner told us that next weekend he is fully booked as the camping season in Canada really begins to ramp up.

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The Levis/Quebec City ferry is a great way to get into the old city. It costs $7 return per person and the ride is jut 10 minutes or so. The ferry runs every half hour.

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We spent three hours walking the city before lunch. In order to warm up, we did a 1 hour power walk around the citadel. Here is a typical street scene:

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We stopped for lunch at La Chic Shack, a pretty darn good little restaurant. We shared a Venison Burger and a Mushroom Poutine;

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We took a bit of time to rest in the Notre Dame Cathedral. Lovely interior:

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The weather was so foul that we returned to the campground early. Since we were the only people who had taken advantage of the free shuttle from the campground we called them for an early pick-up. Normally, they would have come at 4:30pm, but we got them to pick us up early. Even with the early return, our GPS watches said we had gotten in over 12 kilometers of walking in total for the day!

Sunday, May 12: After a cold night(-1 C) we woke to full sunshine for our departure from Levis. We headed out at 10:00am and followed the St. Lawrence River towards Montreal before turning north to the Laurentian Mountains. There were signs of flooding everywhere. We passed through many kilometers of water out of the banks of the rivers.

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We arrived at the campground in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts in the early afternoon on Sunday. The campground is closed at this point and we are the only paying travelers in a 408 site campground. About one half of the sites are seasonal. The only washroom open is the one at the main building although they expect to open all the washrooms by Monday afternoon. The campground opens for the season on Friday of this week. Many of the owners of the seasonal sites are here prepping their trailers. There is still snow on the ground around many of the buildings. Spring is barely at the early stages of arrival.

We made a great pasta dish for supper Sunday evening and had French toast and bacon for breakfast this morning. Life is good on the road. As long as we have coffee and a good heater in the TaJ-ma-Haul we are content to be on the road. We will be doing some hiking here for the next two days before moving on to Northern Quebec later in the week.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 07:16 Archived in Canada Tagged quebec_city camping_transit sainte-agathe-des-monts Comments (2)

Preparations and Route Planning

Ottawa River Flooding, Packing (and repacking), Plans for the first 30 days,

sunny 20 °C

Trip Preparations:

It has been a long winter here in Nova Scotia, one of the coldest in recent years. TaJ (our 2017 R-pod) has been tucked away in the side yard for the winter. It was six months exactly since we winterized her. We store the mattress in the house and completely drain the water lines. Finally, we split open a 25 pound bag of lump charcoal and leave that open on the bed to help absorb odors.

Once closed up we just leave the trailer alone and go about surviving a Canadian winter. Our house is super cozy and we have a wood stove that makes sitting down with a cup of coffee and a good book an excellent winter survival strategy

We took the cover off on April 10, and set to work. We have owned trailers for several years and are quite familiar with all the routine items required to get the trailer ready for the road. We had the wheel bearings on TaJ repacked (they needed it) and purchased a tire pressure monitoring system for the trailer. This allows us to see the tire pressures and temperatures of our trailer axle. We dealt with a myriad of small issues that come up every year, like purifying the water system, and checking all the seams on our fiberglass trailer. We had one area around a roof vent that needed to be resealed this year.

If you recall from blog entry #1 we are going to do everything in our power to lighten the load this time around. We hoped to cut about 600 pounds out of the 1400 pound of'stuff' we took along on our last trip. Well,we did it, we weighed everything, cut out what we thought we could live without and ended up at 800 pounds, divided with 350 pounds in Sully, and 450 pounds, split 275 pounds in the front of TaJ and 175 pounds in the rear of the trailer.

Here is a photo of our clothes closet where we made up these racks to hold all our clothes.

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Food is a big item to consider as we hit the road. Given that we travel on a limited budget, we tend to eat almost all meals at the trailer and we have a number of regular recipes that we use. We stock a lot of the essentials in used peanut butter jars. They are light weight, re-usable and are pretty well spill proof. As you can see from this picture, Jenny goes wild with the label maker so we can easily see what is in each jar. They stack very nicely in the pantry as well. We carry a Rubbermaid tub with a number of canned goods, crackers, etc. As we travel along the way we shop for each planned stay.

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Route Planning

We are headed out on a 5 month trip around Canada. Our ultimate destination in Vancouver Island. Once we have spent time there, we will catch the ferry north to Prince Rupert to begin our homeward journey.

Sully (our 2016 Honda Pilot) has gotten an oil change, a wheel alignment and a systems check and is good to go for the first 6,000 kilometer leg.

For the blog we will be break our trip into 5 parts. The blog entry covers the plan for the first month on the road. At the beginning of each part we will post a map of the planned route.

Our trip is starting very early in the camping season in Canada. In much of this first month's travel it is quite likely that we will encounter evening frosts. In the northern areas of Quebec and Ontario there is still snow on the ground, but it is rapidly melting. We will also be heading into the early stages of bug season. We have not had great success with 'easy up' screen tents but will try again this year to find one that is truly easy up and does the job. Ticks are also an issue here in Canada and we will have to be on the lookout for those little beasts as well.

We travel without making camping reservations except during peak season. Our original route was going to take us to Ottawa, ON and then to follow the Ottawa River into Northern Ontario. Unfortunately, the Ottawa River has been flooding the city of Ottawa, parts of Montreal and many other smaller communities on the way north. This changed our plans and we are now heading deep into Northern Quebec on our way west. Even though the flooding is now subsiding, these communities are focused on clean-up and not tourism.

One of our stops, Camping Sainte Agathe, in Quebec, does not open until May 16, but they have agreed to provide us with a site 4 days early, on May 12. It certainly helps having a location to stop, with full services. We also made a reservation at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, near Thunder Bay, as we arrive there on the Victoria Day weekend, the traditional start of camping season in much of Canada.

The map also allows our family and friends to know where we are supposed to be along our route. Just in case we disappear along the way. Writing a weekly entry to the blog also lets people know we are OK and not in a ditch somewhere.

And away we go

We leave tomorrow, May 8, and will spend our first night on the road at the Walmart in Edmundston, New Brunswick. It is about 800 kilometers from home and will take us about 11 hours, with stops to get there. We consider New Brunswick to be a local destination just a few hours from where we live. When not going cross country we spend a lot of time there. Besides, it is always nice to get in a good first day.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 10:14 Archived in Canada Tagged packing_up route_planning Comments (7)

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