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Tag Archives: Driving

“N” is for North

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Still blogging A to Z…are you with me?

Because of Canada’s location on the globe, “north” is not a direction many of us travel in. We’ll scuttle side to side, east to west, as we explore our own country. Further east (or west) if we’re interested in travelling abroad. Or we’ll look south for destinations – the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, and so on. The fact is, that for most Canadians, although there’s still a lot of ground to the north, there’s not always much that attracts.

Those of us down here in the southern part of Ontario, however, find ourselves in a unique position. Not only is much of our own country “up north”, 27 American states are at least partly, if not entirely, north of us. And north is a pretty cool place to go.

I have summered in Northern Ontario. I have wintered in Northern Ontario. Note that the nice things I’m about to say relate to summer – I can think of no good reason to go north in the winter. (ice fishing sounds boring, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are hard work, and snowmobiling is too dangerous for me.) Plus, it’s cold- mind-numbingly, frost-bitingly cold, and the snowbanks grow higher than your head by Christmas.

But Northern Ontario in the summer? Ah, now you’re talking. The landscape is truly awe-inspiring. Rock that’s prehistoric, majestic pines towering overhead, blue sky untouched by smog. Lakes so clear…I was eleven the first time I swam in a lake up north; I could actually see my feet through the water. I was amazed.

The Trans-Canada Highway winds around and through this scene; depending on where you’re at, you can sometimes drive an hour or more without seeing another car. And it’s quiet. Even the “cities” are quiet, most of them being about the size of a suburb here in the south. People may still hurry, but there’s an intensity that’s pleasantly absent from the pace. It’s one of the few places I’ve been where an hour seems to take an hour, no more and no less, and it’s just right. And when night falls, the stars are a sight to behold. There’s no humidity. You can’t help but relax.

There are mosquitos though, and black flies. Consider yourself warned.

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“M” is for Maps

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Moving right along…I may not finish the A to Z Challenge today, but I will finish!

I love maps, particularly road maps. I love unfolding them on the living room floor, or the hood of the car, or a picnic table at a rest stop, and discovering not only how to get from Point A to Point B, but also what else I might see along the way.

I credit my mother for my love of maps. During a family trip when I was about 10, I was given the task of navigating from the passenger seat. I had to figure out how to get that little Chevette from Windsor,Ontario to Emo, Ontario. Was it quicker to go through Michigan to the Soo, or cut across the UP and come back into Ontario north of Duluth. How many days would it take? Where were the rest stops and interesting little towns located?

Putting me in charge of the map sure cut down on the “When are we gonna get there?” All I had to do was look at the map!

No one uses maps anymore. Most people plug an address into a GPS, and follow the computerized directions. Or they “Google map” something, and only ever see that tiny little portion of the terrain that immediately surrounds them. And yet, when I think about the things that can be discovered using a map! Some of the most interesting side trips might only be 40 miles out of your way, but you’ll never know it because the GPS just gets you where you’re going. I worry about an entire generation growing up with very little concept of where they are in relation to anything else, like, say, Lake Huron.

We’ve never had GPS, so that’s one of the reasons we still use a map. And a Google map you printed at home won’t do you much good if you need to take a sudden detour, or missed your turn and want to get back on track without backtracking. So we always make sure we’ve got a good map along with us. And I’ve tried to make sure the kids grow up knowing how to use a map too!

I also like things like attractions maps, etc. You can’t always rely on staff to give you accurate directions (though you mostly can!) I remember one time at DisneyWorld, a fellow traveller regaling us with the story of a Cast Member giving him directions to the Pirates of the Carribean attraction. The CM had a map laid out before her – she gave verbal directions, and placed her finger on the map to show the visitor where he should go. The visitor gently pointed out that that was Space Mountain. (WDW lovers will know that Space Mountain is on the opposite side of the Magic Kingdom from Pirates) Good thing one of them could read the map!

Do you still use paper maps, or do you rely on GPS?

Where it always feels like Christmas

If you live in Southeast Michigan or Southwestern Ontario, and need an extra boost to get you into the Christmas mood this year, I know just the place -Frankenmuth, Michigan!

Frankenmuth is a Bavarian-style village located not far from Flint, Michigan. It offers shopping, dining, accomodation and recreation – and of course, those famous chicken dinners! I never used to understand why everyone got so excited about the chicken dinner – until I had one myself. OMG, the food -awesome!

The town always has a Christmas-y feel, especially at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Larger than a single football field, the store is wall-to-wall ornaments, trees, decor, cards, wrap and more. It’s even located at 25 Christmas Lane, and at this time of year they pull out all the stops.

Just next door to Bronners is Zehnders Hotel & Splash Village. Offering family suites, an indoor water park and even family-oreinted movies in the lobby, we found it a great place to stay. There are always a variety of packages and special rates available. Zehnder’s also offers a free shuttle for guests into town, to their flagship restaurant, where you can have – you guessed it – their chicken dinner. Once you’ve landed at the restaurant, the rest of the downtown shops are an easy walking distance.

Even if you can’t get there before the holiday, be sure to check it out as an easy getaway!

Here comes the rain again

It’s raining again, which is, sadly, becoming more normal than snow during the winters in these parts. I see all these rom-coms and sob-fests of US Thanksgiving homecomings, yada yada, and there’s always this white fluffy blanket of snow. And I think, where do these people live? I’m in Canada and the marigolds and roses still have their blooms.

But rain’s got me thinking about a particular travel challenge. Everyone feels more enthusiastic and adventurous when the sun is shining, or the weather’s co-operating. But how do you cope with the rain? Let’s face it, walking, using public transportation, and especially any outdoor sightseeing, just suck in the rain.

I saw a Samantha Brown travel video a while ago, she was in Munich IIRC, and she mentioned remembering to bring along her umbrella. It was just your basic, collapsible, telescoping umbrella. Folded down to a size where she could fit it in her shoulder bag. I was surprised by how insubstantial it looked.

And there’s the problem. I purchased an umbrella this year that I’m happy with, as a public transit user. It’s lovely, black with red polka dots, makes a bit of a statement, and most importantly, keeps me relatively dry. But it’s not telescoping- folded, it’s still two feet long, and there’s no strap on the handle for hanging, so it’s a bit of a pain to put it somewhere when I arrive, wherever somewhere happens to be.

But those little collapsible “travel” umbrellas, the ones like Samantha Brown had in the video? I don’t get it. I’ve never had one last more than two rainfalls before it breaks – the wind gets under it, the flimsy little hinge on the rib breaks, you name it. It becomes useless faster than you can say “It’s supposed to clear after lunch.”

So, give me some hints here. How do you cope with the rain when you’re wandering the world? Imagine you aren’t driving, and your budget will only withstand so many taxi rides. And do you believe Samantha Brown really gets by with such a flimsy umbrella?

Wonder-full places

The Bay of Fundy has not made the short list for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

It’s too bad; as I’ve been learning this year in Cultural Heritage Tourism, it would have been good for the region – and the country – if we were able to lay claim to a Wonder of the World.

However, Canada is home to 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites – that’s pretty impressive! Looking at the list, I’m sorry to say I’ve only had the privilege of visiting two of them; I’ve seen the Rideau Canal a couple of times, and drove through the Rockies several years ago. It was a lovely afternoon spent wandering in Banff, Alberta. I even got to horseback ride!

Note: If you go to Banff, bring money. Lots of money. Buying a sweatshirt to cope with the unseasonably cold August days that year would have cost more than my entire souvenir budget.

Here are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Canada can lay claim to:

I’ll have to make it my mission – or one of my goals -to get to more on the list. How many have you visited, and what did you think of them?

Groovy

New “vintage” VW vans cost $44,700 – Sympatico.ca Autos.

How’d you like to don the tye-dye, grow your hair long and tool from coast-to-coast in this gem?

Surely there’s a little piece of everyone’s heart that dreams – or has dreamt – of leaving the everyday chaos behind and hitting the highway for an extended road trip. A lot have even done it, whether it was decades ago in an orginal VW bus, or more recently in a Fifth Wheel RV. But at $44k, I’ll have to add this hip set of wheels to the maybe-when-I-win-the-lottery list.