“12 days, 5 provinces, 5 states, 4780 kilometers and 1 happy family.”
That was my husband’s Facebook post a couple of days ago. I like it. Sums it up well. Couldn’t have said it better myself. But I’m going to share a little more with you about our time away… 🙂
I texted my mum and sister just about every day to give them an update on the trip, and I’m glad I did because I can look back and see what stood out for me each day. And it made me feel like they were sort of with me – I do love to share experiences with loved ones 🙂
One thing that I appreciated every day of our journey – the simplicity of the adventure. We weren’t sure about being available for the trip with moving this summer and selling houses and still looking for a house to buy. In the end, we had to make a choice – to put family first. To step out of the chaos that is life, and sometimes the chaos is louder and busier and crazier than “usual”, and make sure the priority list is still intact, and say THIS is more important than all the rest. I wondered if it was irresponsible to go, then I realized that making memories with loved ones is never irresponsible, and it is, in fact, what matters most.
We chose an east coast road trip because I’ve wanted to do a road trip for years, and seeing a chunk of Canada seemed very fitting for marking the year Canada turned 150. I thought, Let’s show the boys some of Canada – how big it is, how different the scenery can be, how varied the people and places of our country actually are within even a few hours of driving.
There was hardly time to plan – I had mapped out a tentative route just in case we actually got in the car and did this thing. 12 days seemed good to space out a drive of this distance, and we could ferry across the Bay of Fundy and drive back through the US. Two days before we left we decided to just go for it. We looked up places to stay – camping some nights in provincial & national parks, staying in Air BnBs when they were available on such short notice, and cheap bookings at hotels or motels the rest of the nights. We grabbed a few needed supplies, cleaned the house in case there were showings while we were away, packed the car with room to spare, and jumped into the adventure on July 5th…
Day 1 – We drove to Ottawa but stayed just across the Quebec river in Gatineau. We found an Air BnB apartment downtown. I hopped out of the car and onto my bike just before we arrived, and bicycled into Quebec 🙂 This was after getting slightly lost on the insane bicycle routes in downtown Ottawa, but by the time I made it to the BnB the guys had already unpacked the car – so that was a bonus 🙂 We walked around downtown and got some dinner.
Day 2 – We visited Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal, and the Canadian War Museum. All very important items on our to-do list for the trip (which was not a very long list). Parliament Hill because we were in our nation’s capital, Rideau Canal because it’s on the Unesco World Heritage List, and the musuem gave a great overview of Canada’s contributions in fighting for peace on a global scale. Heavy cost – both Josh and I had family members who served in the wars. For me it was my great-grandfather whose grave is found in a soldier’s field in Germany. For Josh it was his grandfather who was just about to head out on his first mission as a belly-gunner when the war ended – thank God. After all the inspiring history lessons of the day we enjoyed the spectacular views as we drove into Mont Tremblant National Park, Then we had to set up for our first night of camping in the rain. Ugh. The weather broke and Josh cooked a one-pot dinner on our camp stove. We ate by lantern light.
Day 3 – We woke up to rain falling on the tents and dismal skies. Packed up early with everything still wet 😦 This day of travel started out with a couple of unexpected stops… first at a convent/monastery of sorts just off the road. Josh saw it and was completely drawn to it. There was an enormous statue of Jesus we could see from the road. Josh asked at the gate if we could look inside, they let us go into the chapel area after first giving us capes and a lace head-covering for me. It was all very ornate yet simple, you could feel the sacredness of the people and what they’d built – all dedicated to living an undistracted life of faith and service to their community. When we stopped in they were putting together boxes of food for locals – MANY boxes – and this is something they do every week – and they’ve done it for decades. All they have they built on site. They were highly creative and completely focused on their mission. It was overwhelming for me after a few minutes, and I headed back to the car to rejoin the boys as Josh chatted with the nuns. Only Josh right? 🙂 Only Josh. The other unexpected stop was at an outlet mall where we found some great deals on a few necessary items for the family. Then we drove to Mont Ste. Anne to another Air BnB place – the only place we’d stop for 2 nights in a row – a beautiful condo nestled in the mountains. We couldn’t believe the deals we got on some of these places on our trip – and this place was a GREAT deal. We bought groceries and settled in for a little while 🙂
Day 4 – We visited Montmorency Falls and rode the cable car to the top. Looked around a bit before heading into Old Quebec. We made it to a few historic spots before the rain hit, and then we still carried on for a little longer. Such a beautiful place, so unique, so quaint, so much history. We took a wrong turn as we were walking back to the car, and down an alleyway I saw Au Petit Hotel. I recognized it as the place my Grade 8 class stayed on our grad trip – WAY back in the day. A treat to be able to show the guys that little piece of MY history.
Day 5 – We left the comfort of the condo and started making our way to New Brunswick. We stopped at a mall that had a ferris wheel, roller coaster, and huge arcade – we had some fun there before carrying on. 2nd night of camping at De La Republique Provincial Park near Edmunston in New Brunswick. Such a peaceful place! The rain held off and we enjoyed a roasted hot dog and smores dinner over the camp fire. Along the way during our trip Josiah made a fun video of back-flipping as we entered each province – Elijah was his videographer.
Day 6 – We drove to Fredericton area and stayed at Riverside Inn. Another jackpot in terms of inexpensive lodging. Beautiful view of the big river, nice room, laundry only $1, and such friendly people! We spontaneously turned off the highway at one point to visit the Hartland Covered Bridge National Historic Site. Pretty cool 🙂 We went to see the new Spider-Man movie that night at the local mall. By this point we were about half way through the trip, everyone was starting to get a little wiped and edgey, and I gave the choice of heading back home to Sudbury before we ventured out any further. I wasn’t convinced that the sort of upcoming family time would be healthy in our current mental/emotional/physical states 🙂 But the guys voted to keep going, and I voted to keep going, so I hoped for the best 🙂 I’m so glad we made it through that day and stayed the course 🙂
Day 7 – We stopped at an outlet mall in Moncton on our way to PEI! I was so excited to be heading across the Confederation Bridge. I hoped PEI was everything I had built it up to be in my mind – and IT WAS! We camped at the Cavendish site of the National Park – right in the heart of Green Gables country 🙂 We weren’t sure about camping here – the winds were at about 70 knots (that’s INSANE for those like me who have no idea of knots and such 😉 ) It was almost impossible to set up the tent – it took all of us holding a corner and spiking it down wherever we could and then reinforcing it with strong rope and spiking some more. We weren’t sure our tent would hold together through the night, but we just really wanted to try. So we did. At least there were no bugs 😉 We were steps from the ocean, and the people were amazing. Friendliest bunch at the campsite. We chatted with everyone. No privacy but as long as I can step into the tent and block out the world for a few minutes, I’m good 🙂 We all slept so well despite the crazy wind, which had died down overnight. Had my first Beaver Tail with fries for dinner since cooking over an open fire seemed a little ridiculous in that wind.
Day 8 – We hung around at the campsite just a little while longer. I ventured out for a long bike ride along the coast and into farmland – it was called the Homestead Trail and I LOVED it – the views were absolutely amazing. Biking into the wind at spots was exhausting but well worth it. When I got back to the campsite the guys had everything packed up and after a quick breakfast of fruit, PB & jam on buns, and hot chocolate – we were off to be tourists for a couple of hours. We visited Green Gables and it was crazy busy, but we still managed to get an idea of the place (for FREE with our Canada 150 Discovery Pass!) and it was really cool (at least I thought so 😉 ) I read up on Lucy Maud Montgomery after that, and it turns out we had alot in common actually – she was a minister’s wife, a writer, she had 3 boys (the second being stillborn), and she suffered from bouts of anxiety/depression in her life. Her life really impacted me and I pondered alot on her for the next couple of days… we can all learn so much from one another… But back to the trip – we drove on to Graves Island Provincial Park in Nova Scotia and camped for the night. No winds here, and no bugs again! This gem of a spot is just off the highway, on an island as promised, with ocean views surrounding it. So quiet, not many campsites, so glad one was available for us when we booked the trip! Peaceful night.
Day 9 – We lingered at the site a little while, I ventured out on another bike ride along the trail around the edges of the park, saw lots of fishing boats on the water. Packed up all our camping gear (that was our last night of camping) and headed out on the road again. We drove through the beautiful scenery of the Unesco World Heritage Site of Old Town Lunenburg (BIG fishing boats and colourful old houses). Then on to our Air BnB for the night – a big old farmhouse near Yarmouth. We sort of crashed here and enjoyed a celebratory dinner of ribs and cake – the sale of our rental house closed that day and we had gotten Josiah’s final grades for school (and he did absolutely amazing 🙂 ) Hard to settle in completely because we knew there was a very early morning coming so we could catch the ferry the next day. But here’s a very cool thing, a God thing – there was a verse printed out and attached to the window frame across from my bed. Can you guess what the verse was? My verse for the year – Be still and know that I am God. Yep, can’t even begin to try to make that a coincidence. I was SO THANKFUL for the reminder.
Day 10 – We woke up early and made it in plenty of time for the CAT ferry across the Bay of Fundy to Portland, Maine. None of us have sea legs, so it turns out 😦 But we made it through the 5.5 hour crossing. We slept, watched the on-board movies, played games, walked around the ship (ugh – I get seasick just thinking about it!) Just before leaving port on the Canadian side there were so many sea lions and herons to see – it was amazing! After the ferry we waited for an hour just off the ship to get through customs. Then we drove for 3 hours to our hotel in the Hartford, Conneticut area. We had a hard time finding a place to eat dinner (we were all not feeling quite well and were sick of fast food) but we settled on Wendy’s near the hotel. As we checked into the hotel we knew there might be issues because management had JUST changed and the hotel was in rough shape. It was a Travelodge, so we thought it would be fine, but it wasn’t. Nothing worked as promised except our beds. I won’t go into it all too much, but we did ask for a refund on our stay, and they didn’t hesitate to give it to us. Folks, it really was THAT bad. So it was quite a day, but we seemed to make it through OK, and I was happy to realize we’d come to a point in the trip that it didn’t really matter what was going on around us, our family could stay tight and keep going through alot. And that is SO GOOD to know as we move into a season of so much change ahead.
Day 11 – We were happy to pack up from the hotel and drive out once again. At this point the trip was mostly about heading back home and taking in what we could along the way. We had been trying to find a place for Josiah to do a little cliff-jumping and hadn’t had any luck with the places we tried. But we tried again this day – heading to a State park that boasted a good spot. And legal too! Just as we walked down the trail to the river to jump, we noticed a crew putting up No Swimming signs. Apparently someone had actually died and another had gotten injured recently. Oh my. We drove through some beautiful scenery of mountains and rivers, stopped at an outlet mall (good places for food courts and stretching your legs a little) and continued on to Utica, New York. We had found a deal on a motel there. It was not what we expected, but it was nice enough and clean, so we stayed. Did some laundry, hit the grocery story, and we settled in for the night.
Day 12 – We drove to the BIG outlet mall in Buffalo – and met my sister there! She had just been at Darien Lake with her family, and we just happened to be at the same mall, on the same day, at the same time – SO COOL! It was a quick visit but I got hugs from my niece and nephew, so it was all good 🙂 Then crossed the border back into Canada and stayed at a motel in Niagara Falls. Greatest deal we got yet, and a nice place with an outdoor pool we enjoyed 🙂 The guys headed down to the falls that night for a ferris wheel ride and some ice cream. I stayed behind – I think I needed to regroup because we were heading home the next day. Needed to wrap my head around the trip ending – it had been so amazing, so much more than I expected, and I didn’t want it to end, but I was OK with it ending because we’d accomplished everything AND MORE that I’d hoped for. Such a successful trip. I was so glad we actually did it. Actually got in the car and just started driving and waited to see what the road brought us. Amazing.
Day 13 – (I just now realized it was actually 13 days!) We headed home! One last stop at Grundy Provincial Park for Josiah to FINALLY get to some cliff jumping – funny how we drove all that way and the only good option was less than an hour from home 🙂 Grundy seemed like a nice place, the weather was beautiful for jumping into the water, Josiah gave us a good show (our family plus some others who were camping there), and Josh managed to overcome his fear and jump off the highest cliff (they call it Kong). We rolled back into Sudbury just before dinnertime. Unpacked the car. Grabbed our last fast-food dinner. Got reacquainted with our house and all that is happening in our “real” lives. Lots to do. Back to it.
SO GLAD we’ll always have the memories of the Canada 150 East Coast Road Trip of 2017.
And now… goofy driving pictures for your viewing pleasure… 🙂