Rewind day 8: The art of the brick

Our campsite was right on the Ottawa River.

We left the Rockies days ago, but there is still ash on every surface of the car.

On the way home we stopped at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. The special exhibit was The Art of the Brick. It featured art made from LEGO bricks.

The regular exhibit included a whole section on Canadian travel and the TransCanada Highway. It’s like they knew we were coming!

They also have a wheel you can spin to see what Canadian adventure you should try next.

I spun it twice.

Oh my!

We had gelato and bagels for dinner and headed home.

Some stats:

  • Woodchuck: 1
  • Deer: 3
  • Total distance: 11,598.9 km

Rewind day 7: My new favourite restaurant is in Sudbury

Wait, what? I know, I know, but let’s stick to a linear narrative for now.

We woke up at my favourite campground.

It was so pretty I looked up real estate prices and leaned that you can buy a cabin around here for $ 70,000. Just saying.

The light is so pretty.

Then we drove on, stopping for dinner in Sudbury. On this trip we ate in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Calgary. But my favourite meal of the whole trip was at Ripe Restaurant in Sudbury.

The kids menu had homemade gnocchi. I ate wild mushroom and fontina gnocchi. It was so good I forgot to photograph it. All you get is vanilla crème brûlée. Sorry!

We got to the next campground, on the Ottawa River, after dark, got the kids to bed and lit a fire.

I may have stolen my kids’ last juice box to mix a drink.

You could see the last shooting stars from the Perseids and every single star in the sky.

Some stats:

  • Brown herons: 2
  • Eagle: 1
  • Hawk: 1
  • Chipmunk: 1
  • Total distance: 11,105 km

Rewind day 6: Driving around Lake Superior always takes longer than you think it will

We woke up at a campground in Northeastern Ontario and had breakfast.

Then we headed on to Thunder Bay.

We made a quick stop at the Terry Fox Memorial just outside of town.

Then we drove around Lake Superior. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, by surface area – which is all that matters when you have to drive around it.

We made good time getting to Wawa.

But we had left too late. So we had to drive through Lake Superior Provincial Park in the dark, with mist and big clumps of fog rolling in.

Luckily, we had all that Rocky Mountain forest fire driving experience, so there was that.

We arrived at the next park much later than we had hoped, set up our tent, and fell asleep in our clothes.

Some stats:

  • Eagles: 3
  • Moose: 1
  • Total distance: 10 500

Rewind Day 5: The bugs of Northern Ontario

We left Brandon bright and early.

We stopped in Portage-la-Prairie for a break and found a flock of pelicans.

We visited the Canadian Mint.

We stopped at the longitudinal centre of Canada.

We saw another house on the back of a truck on the TransCanada highway. Must be a prairie thing.

Then we crossed from the forests of Manitoba to rocky Northwestern Ontario.

We stopped at a quiet rest stop to celebrate kid No 2’s birthday with cake and a picnic dinner.

We got to our campsite late. Nothing like setting up your tent in Northern Ontario in the dark because turning on the car lights attracts swarms of bugs. Those bugs were vicious. Hitchcock and his birds have nothing on these bugs.

It was just in time for a campfire. No fire bans here. And we spotted a few shooting stars from the Perseid meteor shower before bed.

Some stats:

  • Crop duster: 1
  • Deer: 2
  • RV in a ditch: 1
  • Pelicans: 1 flock
  • Total distance: 9600 km

Day 4: Wheat Kings and pretty things

It’s hard to make good time when you are driving behind a line painting truck.

But that’s the middle of the story.

We woke up at Sandbar Lake Provincial Park in Northwestern Ontario. It was beautiful and the bugs and frogs had mostly disappeared.

Sandbar Lake

We packed up our tent and went down to the beach where we hunted for seashells. There was a flock of American Black ducks in the middle of the lake.

Looking for seashells

Then we set off for Manitoba. After a while, the treeline switched from Boreal forest to Manitoba woodlands. When we passed the 7-11, we knew we were close. But then, we got stuck behind a line-painting truck on the single-lane highway.

We crossed the provincial border and stopped by Fort Whyte Alive! in Winnipeg to see their herd of bison. They also had an outdoor prairie dog coterie. And though not part of the official display, we also found a family of Canada geese.

Canadian geese in Winnipeg
The bison herd at Fort Whyte Alive!
Prairie broom

Outside of Winnipeg, a fawn ran out in front of our car, but luckily we missed it and it missed us. Phew!

A bit past Winnipeg

And we chased the sunset in under a big prairie sky.

Sunset in Manitoba

Some stats:

  • Eagle: 1
  • Raven: 1
  • Flock of black ducks: 1
  • Lakeside shells: a handful
  • Near-deer collision: 1
  • Herd of bison: 1
  • Prairie dogs: 1 coterie
  • Salamander: 1
  • Baby Canadian geese: 1 gaggle
  • Total distance: 2759
Prairie sunset

Day 3: Muskeg, a beaver crossing the road, and a plague of frogs

The black flies of Northern Ontario will eat you through your jeans.

But that’s the end of day 3, let’s start this story at the beginning.

We woke up at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, which is spectacular!

First, breakfast.

Camping breakfast

Then swimming in Lake Superior. It was cold, but Pacific Ocean cold, not glacier stream cold. My kids had never been to a real beach before and they loved it.

Swimming in Lake Superior
Playing on the beach

Then we set off for the Canadian Shield.

Heading north

We made our last major stop at Wawa, or as their signage says, “Wawa Wow!”

The giant Wawa goose
Mining display in Wawa
Hmmm. What’s that up ahead?

We had a long way to drive and we needed to make good time. But as soon as we hit the muskeg we hit a torrential downpour, then fog, then a beaver crossing the road. There were some delays.


We eventually got past Thunder Bay, then on to Ignace and the Sandbar Lake Provincial Park.

This park was pretty and very quiet. We set up the tent about 10 m from the lake in the drizzle.

The thing about camping by wetlands in the Boreal forest after a rainstorm is that the rain is followed by a plague of frogs. There were two types, the regular brown kind, and spring peeper tree frogs. They were everywhere.

There was one casualty, but I’ve refrained from posting photos until the next of kin are notified.

One of very many frogs

Also there were black flies. They bit right through my jeans. Ouch. Many parts of me are still sore.

Sunset at Sandbar Lake

Two reasons to keep the tent zipped up tight. The sunset was great though. And we fell asleep to the sounds of a pair of loons singing to each other.

You’ll have to imagine loons singing in the background

Some stats:

  • Helicopter landings viewed: 2
  • Giant goose: 1
  • “Wawa wow” signs: too many to count
  • Baby deer in the Boreal forest: 1
  • Eagles: 2
  • Falcon: 1
  • Beaver crossing the road: 1
  • Frogs: an infinite number
  • Singing loons: 2
  • Underground mines: 1
  • Total distance: 2059 km

Day 2: Howareyanow, goodnyou, notsobad

In Central Ontario everyone has the Letterkenny accent, pertnear.

We woke up at Driftwood Bay Provincial Park. It’s right on the Ottawa River just at the Quebec-Ontario border.

I guess that makes us “big city slams”.

The park ranger had the accent. The staff at Timmy’s had the accent.

A lot of the kids I went to high school with would be right at home at Modeans (the fictional Letterkenny bar), drinking brews with the boys of Letterkenny.

But, they don’t have the accent.

Ottawa River

Driftwood Bay

Next, we headed upcountry. Letterkenny is filmed in Sudbury, but we didn’t have time to stop there. We just saw the smokestacks.

Sudbury smokestack – one of the smaller ones.

Local menu: Buffet breakfast weekends holidays and tournaments

It’s important to get yer priorities straight. Those are some good central Ontario priorities right there.

Canola Fields in Central Ontario

We ate a picnic lunch near Matawa. Pit toilets with 5-year-olds. Yay!

And we arrived in Sault-Sainte-Marie for dinner, and at Lake Superior just after.

I was here. Lake Superior.

We stayed at Pancake Bay Provincial Park. It was very kid-friendly and our campsite was right across from the water and beside the playground.

Sunset on Lake Superior
Sunset on Lake Superior

We arrived just in time for a sunset. I gots’ta say, that’s what I appreciates abouts ya, Ontario. Then stars.

After the kids went to sleep

Our campsite was about 10m from the water so we could hear the waves as we fell asleep.

Tomorrow, Northern Ontario. Pitter patter.

Some stats:

  • Pit mines: 1
  • Super tall smoke stacks: 3
  • Amish horse-drawn carriages: 3
  • Total km: 1174

Day 1: The first stars

Well we got everything for 6 people the car and you can still see out the back window. I’d say that’s a win.

Somewhere between Montreal and Ottawa

We crossed the Quebec-Ontario border before dinner. But we had left a bit late and only got to the campground at around 10.

Sunset in Ontario

We saw our first stars from the car, just as the tree line started changing from Southern Ontario to Central Ontario.

Somewhere past Petawawa

My older kids have been camping with their scout group but this was a first for my 5-year-old.

We stayed at Driftwood Bay Provincial Park. There were lots of empty sites so it was pretty quiet. Also, they have laundry which is a bit posh for camping. And chipmunks.

We had the whole site set up in about 20 minutes, in the dark. (I will blog about how much I love my tent soon. )

Then bed. It was a clear night and you could see the stars through the roof of the tent.

Driftwood Bay on the Ottawa River

There were some pretty big mosquitoes. Not everyone was ok with that.

Kid #3: Where are we going next?

Me: North Bay.

Kid # 3: Do they have hotels there?

Total distance so far: 570 km

Four pairs of boots