What do you get when you live in Ottawa, but you want to live in Vancouver? A roady to beat all roadies, of course!
I was lucky in that a good friend of mine (and future roommate) from Ottawa had recently moved to Vancouver, but had left her car behind. Bam- transportation aquired. This car (a Toyota Yaris) also happens to be great on gas- something to think about if you plan on road tripping across the country like I did!
Something else I had to think about was campgrounds. Because we were going in early May, many sites were not yet open. Because of this I had to kind of plan where we would stay ahead of time because I had to ensure they’d be open.
I left Ottawa on Saturday, April 29th 2017. Yes, in the middle of my whirlwind fairytale of a move across the entire country, my retainer broke, and so I had to make a pit stop in my home town of Kitchener so my dad could work his dentist magic. #Reality just had to step in and give me a quick check. (I took it as a sign that God wanted me to see my parents one last time before I left. Whatever God).
The evening of Sunday the 30th I drove into Toronto to sleep at my cousin’s place so we could leave early in the morning. May 1 we were off! Here is the map of where we went:
May 1: We drove from Toronto through Sudbury, and just past Sault St. Marie. It took 8-9ish hours (this was about a month ago.. my memory is not great.. these details may not be incredibly accurate) including breaks (I had previously traded a bunch of my unwanted belongings for Timmys’ gift cards on Bunz so a lot of our pit stops were at Tims’). We arrived at Blueberry Hill Motel and Campground (~$30) around 5 (after stopping in at Walmart to pick up some supplies and food). Car 2 (two of my best friends, coming in from Ottawa) arrived about an hour later. We enjoyed frozen pizzas and hot dogs cooked over the campfire. The weather was… less than ideal …rainy and low single digits. It was a bit of a chilly night.
May 2: Up early for another long day! We left Blueberry Hill around 7 for our longest day of the trip- 14-15 hours to Kenora (including breaks, honestly we just wanted to get out of Ontario ASAP). We were nervous after driving through actual snow, and consequent truck crashes every now and again. We arrived safely at Anicinabe RV Park and Campground (~$25) just after Car 2, before sundown. We were pleasantly greeted with a lack of running water (read: bathrooms). After an unsuccessful quick search of nearby motels (all booked or hella chedda) we settled on toughing it out (read: driving to MacDonalds anytime we needed to use the washroom). It was okay, better than we initially thought it would be- I ate 15 chicken mcnuggets and a medium fry for dinner, for example- could be worse, right? Our site was very picturesquely surrounded by a lake, off of which were a few cute little docks where we went to take some ~*artsy*~ photos. Additionally, the deer were super tame and hung around our site all evening! We thought we out-drove the rain but it did catch up during the night, making for a second wet and chilly night.
Pretending to be peacefully looking into the water at Aaron Provincial Park while internally freaking out because I had just accidentally thrown back a family’s dinner worth of fish (I thought it was quite heroic until the man confronted us and I’d realized what I’d done).
May 3: My cousin and I decided to drive through Winnipeg on our way to Riding Mountain National Park. We grabbed lunch at Forks Market (2-3 hours from Kenora) where a Japanese place caught our eye. I ordered chicken curry while she got the equivalent of chicken katsu (I forget what it was actually called). The stores were your typical tourist boutiques, but I love gift shops. After a 3-4 hour drive out of Winnipeg we arrived in Riding Mountain National Park where Car 2 was awaiting our arrival (they opted out of stopping in Winnipeg). We reserved an O-Tentic (~$90) which is essentially a cross between a tent and a yurt (read: who cares about the weather because it don’t matta!) We spent the evening walking around Clear Lake (which was still semi-frozen despite the warmer temperatures) and into town. For dinner we roasted corn on the cob and sausages, and then showered at the indoor, heated facilities (Sometimes paying a lil extra is worth it!) We talked and played games around the table inside before falling asleep to a raging fire in the wood stove (again…sometimes paying more is worth it!) in one of 3 beds (2 super large queen/ king ish, 1 smaller single/ double ish).
May 4: We had a leisurely start to the day as we were in no rush. The weather was great (overall it gradually got warmer as we drove west) so we spent the morning walking around the gorgeous lake again, before heading to Regina (Car 2 would stay for another night before meeting us on May 5). The drive was extremely boring, but not too long, about 5 hours with breaks. We reserved an Air BnB (~$70 for a small, single storie house) within walking distance to downtown. Turns out it didn’t matter because Regina, even the downtown core, is the most boring city one could chose to spend their time. Even the mall (which took up a whole 15 minutes) was lacking. The only positives were a full kitchen and bathroom, and an actual bed. We made bacon wrapped chicken with broccoli for dinner, because #health, you know?
May 5: From Regina, we headed to Grasslands National Park. The roads were really rough, as the pavement was torn up (I assume it’s because of the heavy farm machinery?) We were almost there when a big truck sped by us on a small country road, kicked up some gravel and chipped our windhield in 3 places. We were in the middle of nowhere and coming up on a weekend. Boo. After 4ish hours total, we came up on a 22km gravel road which would lead to the campground. 30-45 minutes later we pulled up. Car 2 arrived about an hour later. The campground (less than $20/ night) was super unique- completely flat and grassy, unlike campgrounds in Ontario which are mostly surrounded by forest. This made for an incredibly windy time putting the tent up! There were bison and prairie dogs everywhere, and lots of hiking trails. We soon discovered a super pretty lookout only a 5 minute walk from our site, where we watched the sunset. We sat around the campfire drinking and eating sandwiches and smores before taking some long exposure photos using sparklers! The nice weather continued all night so we got to sleep, sans fly, under the stars. One down side- hella mosquitos.
May 6: The morning was another leisurely one- no big rush. We backtracked the 22km of gravel road, with our chipped windshield, and were on our way. Headed to Calgary (while Car 2 stayed behind another night and would meet us later in Vancouver), we were lucky to have family to stay with! After 7ish hours we pulled up and immediately showered and lounged in our REAL bed. It was so great to catch up with 2 (out of 3) of our second cousins, and aunt. She also made the most delicious meal for us, and took us for ice cream for dessert. It was nice exploring an actual city, with interesting things and people (*cough cough* Regina).
May 7: We slept gloriously but woke up early to get on the road. My aunt took us for breakfast at a local diner before we left around 9. We planned to camp in Golden, BC (between Banff and Glacier National Parks), but instantly decided that driving straight to Vancouver would be better (we were tired of driving, and each other, by this time!) We did stop in the town of Banff (remember- I love gift shops!) and Lake Louise but kept trucking after not too long. Driving through the mountains wasn’t as hard as we had anticipated but it was longish (don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and I plan to return soon!) We arrived at my sister’s place around 10:30, after 12-13 hours of driving plus breaks (we couldn’t not stop in, even though it was late and a Sunday). After visiting for a second we headed down to Ladner (15-20 minutes south) where we were greeted by my roommate and her boyfriend. Finally I was home!
The super lucky thing for me was that I was splitting costs with people. The gas money was split 3 ways- between me, my cousin, and the car owner. All accommodations were split at least 2 ways- between me and my cousin- and many were split 4 ways, between us and Car 2. It was also super important for me to split the driving with someone! I get tired very quickly when driving. I would highly recommend travelling with at least 1 friend to make the trip easier (although you must chose wisely as you are together for a long period!)
Looking back, my favourite spots were definitely the National Parks, and not just because we had a Parks Pass for Canada150! Both places were beautiful with amazing weather (Grasslands was about 30°C!) and company. Riding Mountain has the most adorable little town along the lake (which will be even more adorable once all the shops are open for the season), and the O-Tentic was awesome too, not to mention the fabulous showers. Grasslands has breathtaking views and wildlife. I’ve never been anywhere like it. Oh! And it doesn’t hurt that both had wifi! Gotta check the ‘Gram you know?
My biggest regret from the trip was not being able to stop longer in Banff/ Jasper/ Glacier/ Yoho National Parks. I desperately wanted to but also knew we’d be arriving pretty late, and didn’t want to stretch that out much longer. I do however live much closer now and plan to go back soon!
I’m not the most adventurous or outdoorsy person by any means at all, but I would hundo p do that all again.