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Wrapping things up

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.

West Acres Mall in Fargo

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!



Hitting the mall

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!

Nice mall!

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”.

Tempting, but I decided against it.

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.

Ali did not find this nearly as attractive as I did.

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!).

At the LEGO store.

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!

Am I the only one that thinks this is creepy?

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.

Our least, for now.

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!


My birthday, again

Day 21: Guelph, ON. 4,338.9 km.

Our day (the 15th; late post again!) started bright and early, with Ali telling my “Happy birthday!” at 3:00 AM, when Kailynn woke us up by crawling in bed with us (something we were told to expect while Erica was gone). Ali got up at around 7:00 to send the older boys off to school, and when they were gone, she went back to bed and I got up and watched Davin and Kailynn (and fed them breakfast).

Then it was mostly just another day around the house. I cleaned out the car in preparation for the drive home, and measured it to see how (and if) our cabinet would fit in it (turns out, it should fit no problem, with room to spare).

After the boys came home, we watched Despicable Me 2 (because it was my birthday), and Ali and Kailynn ran out to Walmart for a bit of shopping. We had spaghetti for supper, I went downstairs and played Mario Kart with the boys for a bit, and then when Erica got home, I got to open presents!

Mom's home!

Kailynn picked the card.

Everyone wants to see

Hey Pamela, look what *I* got!

I got spoiled with tea for our new Keurig, a widget for brewing loose tea by the cup, and a gorgeous Doctor Who graphic novel collection (from Ali, who knows what I like!). Then it was bedtime for the boys, and, before long, for us.

Auntie Ali has been busy these last few days. I think it's time to bring her somewhere quiet. (Photo credit: Davin)


Happy birthday to me!

Day 18: Guelph, ON. 4,306.6 km.

Well, here we are, in Guelph again for a few days. It's nice to be able to sit somewhere and “relax” (as much as possible in a house with five kids!) before starting the (casually-paced) trip back to Winnipeg.

Today (Sunday, that is…these late posts are becoming a habit!) was simple. We got up fairly late (I actually forgot it was Sunday!), went to church, and then afterwards, Trevor, Kelly, Lars, Owen, and Arlene came from Strathroy for an (early) birthday party for me!

We had had a bit of a discussion about what cake I wanted; first we were going to buy one, then Erica was going to make one, then I got asked what I wanted, and then Kailynn suggested “Sean's cake” — a trifle — which is what we ended up having. (“Sean's cake”, because that's what Sean had for his birthday…and that only happened because Kailynn destroyed the cake that Erica had made for him!) It was delicious, and huge; we only ate about half of it…and Lars had four helpings!

Singing Happy Birthday

Mmm, trifle!

By the time everything was wrapped up and we went to bed, I was too tired to load up my photos and put a blog post together, so that's why this is late.

It was a wild party.

But it was a nice evening — thanks to Ali, Erica, Owen, and Trevor for planning it, preparing dinner and dessert, and/or making the trip to Guelph!


Catching up

This is a blog post from the past! I'm writing it in bits and pieces and don't know when I'll get internet access to post it, but here goes:

On Friday, Ali and I said goodbye to Guelph and drove to Hamilton, and, ultimately, Brantford, where we're staying with Ali's friend Rachel. Ali used to live in Hamilton/Ancaster, so she's somewhat familiar with the area, and so she started doing some of the driving. We didn't do anything super-exciting…a little quick shopping at the mall, then homemade pizza for supper, and some visiting with Rachel and her friend Conrad. I did get to see a bunch of old pictures of Ali hanging out with her friends from Carman, all before I knew her. Kind of weird!

Pizza toppings, tastefully arranged!

On Saturday, we slept in, took Rachel out for breakfast at a little diner place that's practically next door to her house, and then Ali and I went to a flea market (bought nothing), visited Dundurn Castle (bought admission), and went to the mall again (bought some clothes).

Upstairs in Dundurn Castle

Dundurn Castle isn't a castle; it's really just a big old maison that the locals called a castle. It's all restored to what it would have looked like around 1830-1850, and you get a tour of a big chunk of it, seeing where the family lived, where the servants lived, and getting a feel for what life was like. It was pretty interesting, and the first “tourist” thing we've done on this trip!

The great big dining room, all decked out for Christmas dinner

Dundurn trivia: the guy who built this place was the great-great-great-grandfather of Camilla Parker Bowles!

Saturday evening, Rachel's sisters and a couple of friends (including, confusingly, one named Rachel!) came to visit. I went and lied down super early (around, oh, 9:00 or so?) because I was weirdly tired, and wasn't feeling social at ALL and figured I'd just get cranky if I tried to stay up.

Sunday started warm (-1° C) and snowy. We went to church, and went for a drive to see some of Ali's old haunts, like the houses she lived in in Hamilton (and some of the ice storm damage as well). Then we had dinner with Rachel's parents/family, which was nice. We knew bad weather was coming so we were thinking about getting a head start on our drive to Montreal, but after the snow and freezing rain, the consensus was, better wait till morning and play it by ear.

So, here we are: Monday morning, in a Starbucks, getting a quick bite and wifi for the first time in a few days, so I can post this post :-). It sounds like the highways are slow and messy but certainly driveable, so we're hoping to make it to Montreal today. We'll keep an eye on the roads, though, and if we have to stop somewhere along the way, we will.