Category Archives: travel
Not a whole lot has happened since my previous post but I have time to write now so I might as well get a bit caught up…
Sunday was sick day. I wasn’t feeling well, Dimitri and Xylia had caught whatever bug we had imported from St. Albert, and Ali wasn’t 100% either. So we slept in and stayed home and watched church online (only Kristen and Wyatt actually made it to church). The weather was nicer than the day before but nobody felt like doing anything with it!
Lunch and supper were simple: toast, soup, dry cereal, that sort of thing, since that’s all that people really felt like eating. All in all, a very quiet day. Kind of nice in a way because we could just sit back and visit, but of course it would have been nicer if everyone was healthy!
And this morning, we left! We hit the road a little after 11:00 and made it to Regina around 6:00. We stopped for a bit of shopping before getting to the condo for the night. We’ve had a great trip but we’re looking forward to getting home tomorrow!
It's a wet, wet weekend in Alberta.
We made it to Coaldale on Thursday a little after supper. Eden did ok; she was a bit sick but not too bad. We hauled all our stuff inside (we want to repack for the trip home so we brought everything in), and after saying hi to the kids and visiting for a bit, we went to bed.
Friday, the kids had a day off school. I slept in until 10:00 or so, while Ali played with Eden and the other kids (I assume). I spent some time teaching the three oldest kids how to build a house of cards (or a “card castle”, as they termed it), and then we went to visit Aunt Erna and Uncle John for supper. We had a very nice visit with them and Tristan, and got home just in time for bed. We drove home in the dark and in the rain, so I had a hard time finding the turn into their driveway, but we made it!
This morning, we woke up to a cold rainy day. In fact, it rained all day, and the forecast is for rain tomorrow and Monday too. The kids were bored, not being able to run around outside, but Dimitri and Wyatt got some time outside after I suggested garbage-bag raincoats :). Unfortunately, Ali isn't feeling well, so she spent most of the day in bed. I made more card castles, played with Eden, read books to the kids, and generally took it easy. Later, I drove out to Lethbridge for a little shopping and to pick up pizza for supper — Dimitri came along for the ride, and restrained himself from eating a slice on the drive home!
And now it's dark outside and the rain is still coming steadily. Apparently if they get all the rain that's forecast, it'll be the most rain the area has had all summer…talk about timing!
I left off the last post in Lloydminster, so let's pick it up from there…
As I said before, Eden was getting fussy after around six hours in the car. Even after a 90-minute break she was crying, but was fine as soon as we picked her up. So we rearranged the car a bit, so that Ali could ride in the back, and Eden thought that was fantastic. That got us to Edmonton just after supper, where Eden met Jeremy and Jess…and their two girls, Juliana and Celeste, who were thrilled to see her.
Our trip to Edmonton was relatively slow-paced. Apart from just visiting (and playing board games), we sort of did one thing every day. Sunday was of course church, and then on Monday we visited the Muttart conservatory to look at the flowers. The current “feature” exhibit was a sculpture exhibit from Zimbabwe; you could buy the sculptures too, and I was rather tempted by a set of three small birds, but passed.
On Tuesday we went to West Edmonton Mall with Jess and the girls. The kids went for a ride on the train around the amusement park; the two youngest were free, and needed chaperones, so we ended up with five people on the train and only paid one admission! We didn't have any particular shopping in mind so we just wandered through whatever stores caught our eye. The girls wanted to visit the Disney store, and we bought a Minnie Mouse doll for Eden. Later on we watched the sea lion show (from a distance); Juliana and Celeste really wanted to see it, and we just got there in time. We had cinnamon buns from Cinnzeo (very very good), and walked through an African village exhibit that World Vision had set up (it was kind of neat but seemed to be missing something…perhaps a it would be better without kids, so you could do the audio tour). Then Jess took her girls home, and we did a little more shopping and stayed for supper at Jungle Jim's.
Supper was slow…slow getting seated, slow getting our orders taken, slow getting our food, slow getting the bill, slow paying the bill… Turned out that the restaurant was running short-handed; one person wasn't working that day, one didn't show up, and one quit, so the two remaining staff were handling the work of five! That wouldn't have mattered much except that Eden was bored of sitting in her chair, and we had made plans to take everyone out for ice cream, and we needed to get back to St. Albert in time to do that before the kids went to bed! But we got to the Dairy Queen at exactly the same time as they did, and Juliana (who had insisted on changing into her new “Frozen” hoodie for her frozen treat) had an ice cream cone as big as her head (that may have been a bit my fault for suggesting the chocolate waffle cone). She ate most of it and took the rest home for the freezer (and later admitted she had a small tummy ache).
Wednesday was our quiet day. We went for a walk through the nearby woods and to the park with Jess and the girls (Eden had about a 90-minute nap in her stroller), and in the evening we went to visit Nathan and Tracy, so there were more kids for Eden to play with!
And now it's Thursday, and we're driving to Coaldale. As I write this, we're just driving through Red Deer — don't worry, Ali's driving — and I'll post it wherever I get wifi! Unfortunately, Eden's been sick today…she started throwing up while napping back at the house this morning, and hasn't really kept anything down since. We think she might have a bit of a cold or something, but we really don't know. We were told that Fifth Disease is going around in St. Albert too, so I guess that's a possibility. Hopefully she gets better fast!
Oh man, I'm like five days behind on this. I'll keep this short with lots of pictures, and I'm only going to cover Saskatchewan in this post, I think.
So, Thursday, we packed up the condo and left Regina. We drove through Wadena but didn't stop; we were going straight to Kelvington. We arrived at Aunt Leona's house to find her sitting on the front step! She greeted us with smiles and hugs and welcomed Ali and Eden to the family (or “the club”, as she put it). Turns out she had forgotten we were coming that day and was just outside doing some gardening!
We went inside for a bit of a chat, and Aunt Leona promptly got down on her hands and knees to play with Eden! She assured us that she could get up no problem, because she exercises every day, and then demonstrated that she could touch her toes!
After she got herself ready to go out, we got gas, went for supper in Archerwill, ate, and drove back, with Aunt Leona giving us directions and talking up a storm the entire time. We learned that she didn't think I was “the marrying type” but always thought I was good-looking; that she thinks Pamela maybe looks like grandma (she wasn't sure about that though); that she remembers us being out for a party (their anniversary?) and Lisa announced “I'm hungry!”; and a million other things besides, including which farm belongs to Wendell Clark's dad, and that Wendell ruined his life with too much fighting. All told we had a very enjoyable visit with her and it was clear that she was happy we came out to visit.
We made it to Wadena around 9:00, and since we had told Aunt Joyce 8:30, she was getting worried…but she didn't have my phone number so she couldn't call! We had tea and baking and a bit of a chat; Eden was too tired to be friendly though. It had been a busy day and we were happy to get to bed (we picked the downstairs bedroom; Uncle Eddie watched me set up the pack-and-play and thought it was pretty nifty).
In the morning, Eden and I got up and Ali slept in, and Aunt Joyce and Uncle Eddie played with Eden. They loved her and she had fun with them. Eventually Ali got up and Aunt Joyce could serve the breakfast she had planned for us. Afterwards I spent some time showing Uncle Eddie some of the old family pictures that I have on my iPad, and then we went out for a drive!
On our drive, our first stop was Kelvingrove cemetery (where grandma, grandpa, and Uncle Clarence are buried), and then we went to Uncle Eddie's old farm. His first tractor is still in a field there — he bought it when he was 16 with 10,000 feet of lumber. We also drove past the farms where grandma and grandpa grew up.
Then we drove to Grandpa's old homestead, where my dad and the rest of his family lived. The house is collapsing but still there. We hiked across the field for a visit, even though there were a lot of mosquitoes, and we got our legs scratched up. I found a doorknob in the house's door that I pointed out to Ali; of course, she wants it now as a souvenir and for decoration, but we couldn't get it safely.
The next stop was High Tor church and cemetery, where my great-grandparents (my dad's mom's parents) are buried, along with their daughter Catherine (my great-aunt). Uncle Eddie's brother is buried there as well, so relatives of mine make up a significant percentage of the very small cemetery (I didn't count but I'd guess about 20 headstones).
We stopped for lunch there, but ended up eating in the van because there were an incredible number of mosquitoes! Then Uncle Eddie put flowers on the graves, and we went and checked out the church. It was unlocked, so we went inside to explore a bit. It's a tiny church that recently had some repairs done; it's in better shape than it was the last time I visited.
We kept driving, with Uncle Eddie pointing out where their old church was, where old dance halls were, which farms are owned by which people and how big they are, where post offices and towns used to be, where old roads ran, what routes people took to get places… He had a constant stream of stories and information, and I kind of wish I had a recorder or something to capture it because there's no way I'll remember it all. Every road or corner or place triggered a different memory, it seems…this is where Uncle Orville lost part of his thumb when his mom slammed the car door on it, this is where someone got stuck, this is where he was biking downhill at night as a kid and ran into a herd of cows that were crossing the road…it didn't stop!
Eventually we made it to Porcupine Plain, where grandpa lived after he retired, and we stopped for ice cream, and then we drove to Archerwill for supper. Yes, the same restaurant we'd been to the night before with Aunt Leona…but apparently there aren't really any other decent places to eat around, and it's a very good restaurant so we didn't mind!
Finally we drove out to Rose Valley, to visit Uncle Bill's and Aunt Elsie's graves at the cemetery there, and drive past their old house (which I definitely recognized). Then one last stop at Wadena to visit Robbie and Rachel's graves, and back “home” for the evening.
The next morning we got on the road just before 9:00 for the longest drive of our trip: Wadena to Edmonton. We stopped a couple of times (in Humboldt for gas and the Farmer's Market; in Saskatoon for lunch), just outside Lloydminster for gas again (I was hoping to make Lloydminster but the car had different ideas)…and right around Lloydminster Eden decided that she had had enough of this whole “riding in the car” thing, and we took about a 90 minute break for a walk around town and a little bit of shopping. The last thing we did was stop at Safeway for a snack, and ended up buying the best donuts I've ever eaten…we got there just as freshly-baked trays were being put out, and they were amazing.
And, since Lloydminster is right on the Alberta border, I'll end the post there!
Day 24: Winnipeg, MB. 6,660.4 km.
I guess I can't end this story in Fergus Falls, can I?
Morning started with a quite acceptable breakfast in the hotel, and then I re-packed the car in the frigid cold…it was definitely below -20°C; closer to -25, I think. But I had made a bit of a mess of things while unpacking the previous night, and the extra bags from our shopping in Albertville had clogged the rear window, so I spent a little while rearranging things and then bringing everything from the hotel room to the car.
The car, I should mention, was very reluctant to start. But, start it did, and off we went in the general direction of home…with a few stops on the way.
We stopped in Fargo, to visit Kohl's, Target, and JCPenney. We didn't buy anything at any of them, but the JCPenney turned out to be attached to a very nice mall that we wandered around, and ended up picking some stuff up at The Gap. Then it was a quick lunch at the food court, and out onto the I-29 north to Winnipeg.
Unfortunately, while we were shopping, it got snowy, and there was a lot of blowing snow on the road, combined with less-than-ideal visibility. But traffic was light, and we made decent progress, with the worst problems (again) being caused by snow plows plowing the shoulder. One of them was kicking up so much snow that I couldn't see the road in front of my car, and didn't know if I was going straight, veering left (towards the snowplow), or veering right (towards the guardrail and dropoff on the side of the bridge)! I actually came to a complete stop briefly, and when the snow cleared I had two wheels over the dotted line! We passed that plow safely, as well as another one a little while later.
Then, after two quick stops (gas in Grand Forks; duty-free in Pembina), we were home! A weird feeling, after so long away, but it's nice to be back.
And that's it: over three weeks on the road, over six thousand kilometers driven, and ten different cities slept in. We've had a lot to be thankful for: we visited lots of relatives and friends, had some great experiences, and were safe and healthy the whole time. It was a great trip — the longest either of us have ever been on — and we don't know when (or if) we'll have the chance to take another one like it.
Thanks for reading along with us; I hope you enjoyed it!
Day 23: Fergus Falls, MN. 6,201.5 km.
Wait a minute…Fergus Falls? Where's that? What happened to Rogers?
Well, this morning, Ali and I decided to cancel our third night in the Holiday Inn Express in Rogers, and get a head start on our drive home. See, we were going shopping at the outlet mall in Albertville, and we figured that wouldn't take all day, so rather than drive 20 minutes in the wrong direction to get back to Rogers, we'd just keep going west and stop somewhere else.
So, we packed up, checked out of our hotel, and went shopping!
We got to Albertville right at 10:00, when the stores opened. The outlet mall was alright, but nothing outstanding. We got a good deal on shoes at the Converse store: I got two pairs and Ali got one, and a pair of shoes was the one thing I was really hoping to get. Other than that, we bought some kitchen stuff and clothes at a few different stores. To my surprise, I ended up with more clothes than Ali!
Once we were done shopping, we got gas, stopped at another Caribou Coffee for dark hot chocolate (yum!) and pastries, and then started driving west. We passed St. Cloud, Sauk Center, and Alexandria, and finally pulled off the interstate at Fergus Falls. As it turns out, I chose the wrong exit, so we got a bit of a tour of town as we meandered over to the retail area of town. We stopped at a Target where Ali did some more shopping while I used Target's wifi (thanks, Target!) to look up local hotels. I'm glad I did, because the advice online was that the AmericInn was the best hotel in town, and that's where we are now!
Nice place, but I'm easily bribed by the free cookies and hot chocolate with flavour shots 🙂
Oh, one other thing…it's COLD! It was chilly and windy in Albertville, but the farther west we drove, the colder it got. It's -27°C here; even colder than Winnipeg's -25°C! I'm not looking forward to repacking the car tomorrow morning…with the shopping we did, we need to rearrange some things.
But, if all goes according to plan, tomorrow we'll be sleeping in our own bed!
Day 22: Rogers, MN. 5,905.7 km.
Today (the 18th) was planned as a nice short drive, in daylight. We had breakfast at our hotel in Madison (waffles, mmm!), and only needed to drive about 4.5 hours to Minneapolis (well, Rogers, where our hotel is).
When I checked the weather in the morning (just wondering how warm to dress), though, I found a weather warning: 1-5 inches of snow for the Minneapolis area! Not something we'd want to drive in, so we figured the earlier we got going, the better.
We left the hotel around 9:00, stopped for gas, and headed west on the interstate. Then we saw this:
So, we stopped to buy cheese for dad…unless Ali gets hungry on the drive home and there's nowhere to stop for lunch 🙂
Back on the highway, we had a bit of snow, but nothing treacherous. The pavement was clear and dry; in fact, we passed a few plows that seemed like they were just wasting Wisconsin's money, because there was hardly anything to clear. One of them was even making things worse, by kicking up a huge cloud of snow from the shoulder that was blowing across the road and temporarily reducing visibility to just a few meters.
Halfway to Minneapolis, we stopped at a rest area; Ali wanted some fresh air, and my shoulder was bugging me (for some reason, over the last two days I've gotten a sore neck and shoulder while driving). We ended up taking about a 20 minute break there. They had a TV showing weather maps, and it looked like the weather around Minneapolis was clear, so that was good news!
And, as it turned out, accurate. By the time we got to the city, everything was clear and dry, though there were signs that there had been a fair bit of snow in the recent past. From talking to people later, we learned that it had snowed heavily in the morning, but it was all over and done by the time we got there.
It was early when we arrived — around 2:00 or so — so we decided to go to the Mall Of America before going to our hotel. This was a bit daring, because we didn't have a map or directions to the mall. We navigated on the basis of me knowing that it was in the south end of the city, remembering a highway number from looking at a map way back in the Wisconsin rest stop, and assuming that there would be signs when we got close.
And it worked! There were a few signs, and then we drove for a while without seeing any signs, and then just when we were thinking we might need to pull off the highway and ask for directions, there it was!
Finding parking, though, that was another question. We drove into the first parkade we saw, ended up in a turning lane that forced us to go to a particular level, and drove in circles until we saw someone leaving and took their spot. Then we walked across the walkway to Nordstrom's, entered the mall, looked at a map…and then I said “I don't remember if I locked the car or not”.
So I went back to check, and good thing too, because it was indeed unlocked. By the time I got back (it wasn't long) Ali had a list of stores we might want to check out, and off we went.
There's not much to talk about, though. We went shopping, had supper, walked through a bit of the amusement park, checked out a little bit of the aquarium that we could see for free, and eventually left again for our hotel. We saw some neat stores — Alpaca Connection, the LEGO store, the Victorinox store — and had a nice walk around, but didn't buy much. Before leaving, we stopped at the “eBar” in Nordstrom's for a couple of excellent iced teas and a chat with the barista (?), and browsed around Norsstrom's a bit on the way out ($120 ties!).
One weird thing: at the LEGO store, we overheard a mom talking to a security guard about her missing child: giving a description, asking if she should stay where she last saw him or go searching, etc.. And by her tone of voice and demeanour, she could have been discussing the weather — she was totally calm and almost bored-sounding!
Anyway, after we left the mall, I successfully navigated us back to the interstate, where we could follow our printed-out directions to our hotel. It's in a suburb named Rogers, a little bit northwest of Minneapolis. When I looked at the map, I thought the hotel was in a weird place…the street layout looked residential. And sure enough, our directions took us through an industrial area, into a residential area, with not a hotel in sight!
We retraced our steps, drove to an area where we had seen other hotels, gave up, and I asked for directions at a gas station. The directions were very simple and worked perfectly. It turned out that there are at least two pieces of “135th Ave N” in Rogers, and they're not anywhere near each other, and they're not connected, and our directions took us to the wrong one.
Once we got to the hotel, though, we checked in, found that our room was very nice…and then found that it had no bathtub, which was something I specifically checked for when booking! After talking to the front desk, it turns out they overbooked, so they “upgraded” us. The upgraded room is the same price, and seems to have all the same amenities except no tub, so, not really an upgrade. We might be able to switch rooms tomorrow…we'll see.
And now, we stay put for a few days before the final drive to Winnipeg!
Day 21: Madison, WI. 5,399.5 km.
There's no way to deny it: we're definitely on our way home now. In an approximate mirror image of our day 3 (!) itinerary, we drove from Strathroy into the US, went through Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, and ended the day in a nice suite in Madison, Wisconsin.
We've mastered the art of taking our time to get places, though. We left Strathroy around 8:30, and finished the “7.5 hour” drive about twelve hours later.
We got started a little later than planned, partly because we were visiting with Kelly and Lars, and partly because I had to shovel out the snowbank that the plow left behind our car. First order of business was a proper Ontario breakfast from Tim Horton's, and then, onto the highway! The heavy snow from yesterday had stopped, but soon after we started driving, it started again. So it was slow going to the border…around 70-80 km/h most of the time. On the 70 km drive to the border, we saw five cars in the ditch — four of which were recent enough that people were still with them. The roads were definitely a bit slippery, but we stuck (mostly) to the slow lane and didn't hurry.
Getting across the border into the US was no problem (though the border guard looked into our very full back seat and asked “So…are you guys moving?), and we immediately headed for the first stop of the day: another trip to Hobby Lobby. Ali was inspired by Erica's six-hour (I think?) marathon and wanted another kick at the can :-). It was a good idea, though, because after we finished wandering around (and bought a few small things) and got back to our car, the snow had stopped! Yay!
After that, the roads started to dry up, and before too long they were fairly dry. The temperature dropped, too, from about -2 °C in Strathroy to around -8 °C, so the remaining flurries that we hit during the day didn't make nearly as much of a slushy mess of the roads.
Our third stop was for gas, lunch, and a visit to another craft/hobby store, Jo Ann's Fabrics. We stopped in Kalamazoo, because that was when we needed gas, and we were hungry, and it seemed big enough to have a Jo Ann's, and Darryl liked the name. Unfortunately the city turned out to be a bit dingy, and our lunch was at the sketchiest McDonald's I've ever been to (we didn't even really want McDonald's for lunch, but we needed wifi to look up the store and we knew McDonald's always has it). Jo Ann's, in the end, was also a bit underwhelming…not nearly the selection (or attractiveness) of Hobby Lobby, and not particularly good prices either.
Oh well, it wasn't far out of our way, and we got back on the interstate. And then Ali realized that the various stops and delays and the time change meant that instead of getting to Chicago in early afternoon (as we had hoped), we'd be hitting it bang in the middle of rush hour! Whoops! But there was nothing to do but plunge on and hope that the toll roads we had decided to take would be less busy than the route we had taken on the trip east.
That…sort of worked out. The toll roads were still very busy, but there were way fewer entrances and exits, so traffic flowed quite well most of the time. We didn't have an “I-Pass” for automatic toll payment, so we had to pull out a few times to pay with cash (total cost, $10.90, in six stops). And then, after we passed Chicago, we found out that some of the exits from the tollroute don't accept cash! Since exits from the tollroute are few and far between, we would have been in a bit of trouble if we needed one of those exits, but happily, we just drove along the highway, passed through a final, normal, cash-accepting tollbooth, entered Wisconsin and it turned into a normal highway, no tolls required.
By then it was getting late, and we were hungry, but we were also looking forward to just getting to our hotel and not driving any farther, so we decided to suck it up and go nonstop to Madison. After we found our hotel, we ordered supper at a nearby Pizza Hut, checked into our hotel, and then I picked up our food and we ate at the coffee table in our suite (which even has a balcony!).
And now, we're beat. Good night, everyone…tomorrow's a much shorter drive!