Well, hello everyone. I'm now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will be for about a month. I'm working out here for the same boss I had the over a number of summers for my last few co-op terms in Saskatoon. He's moved out here to take over as Dean of Science at Dalhousie University.
If you would like to read about the trip out here (a long drive), I've retro-dated a series of entries from earlier July.
The last week or so has been a blur of unpacking many, many teapots. But things are settling in. One of these days, there may even be mirrors I can shave in front of . . . how vain I've become.
And if you want to know what things were like just before I left Saskatoon, here is a shot from the final barbeque at the house where I lived for the last year:
Ottawa, ON - Halifax, NS (via Montreal, PQ and Fredericton, NB)
This turned out to be the final day of what was originally billed as a five day journey (yes, the journal entry title is still correct).
I did not get a great look at Montreal in the morning as I was speeding along its freeways around 6am. There were a lot of cars out already, but traffic flow was still smooth at that hour of the morning.
The approach into Quebec City brought upon our only major separation. AT one point, the highway diverges into three, with the left branch heading to the bridge into the city, the central one being for through traffic, and the right one going somewhere else. An abbreviated conversation (the co-pilots were sleeping) over the walkie-talkies assured me that we wanted the middle branch. I was in the lead, with the truck behind in the leftmost lane. I was in a lane that split at the junction, and waited as long as possible to see what would happen behind me. At the last moment, I decided to keep to the left so that we wouldn't get split up, since it looked like the truck was blocked from the middle lanes and wouldn't make it in time. Of course, just as I was past the point of no return, the truck bolted for the middle lane and made it . . . we had a few seconds of walkie-talkie contact before we were out of range, and they headed out on the highway and I crossed the bridge into Quebec City.
To solve this sort of problem, you should plan in advance what to do, like stopping at a certain exit or something. We had no such plan, but we did have cell phones, and after a brief excursion into the city, I found the other bridge back and we met up at a later exit.
There are also moose in Quebec. But the signs are different. I didn't manage to get a picture, but there, the silhouette is of a moose that is kind of standing there, maybe walking slowly towards you, and there is no demonizing caption. He looks much friendlier than Night Danger, sort of a "hey, how's it going" kind of moose.
There is quite a nice highway system in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, at least if you are going through all the major cities. They also have the most sensible moose signs, I think, with a non-menacing silhoutte, and a red and white caption saying "ATTENTION!". It conveys the significance of the safety issue while not making you fear for your life should you have to pull over at night and forget to lock your doors.
We rolled into Halifax around 11pm local time (we lost one more hour by entering the Atlantic time zone). There were mattresses and a couple sheets available even though most things were still packed in boxes (the movers had only arrived the previous day).
The total travel time for the trip was about:
11 hours for Day 1
14 hours for Day 2
15 hours for Day 3
17 hours for Day 4
So you can make it in four days at about 14 hours a day. Your time may vary according to how fast you are willing to drive (the truck was kept under 110km/h) and how much construction you encounter.
Sault St. Marie, ON - Ottawa, ON (via North Bay, ON)
After heading almost straight South for several hundred kilometres to get to Sault St. Marie and finally having made it around Lake Superior (which is massive), we were ready to bend East again.
You may have heard about the bugs in Northern Ontario. From what I could tell, everything you hear is true. Getting out of the car on the side of the road is a dangerous proposition. There are all manner of bugs that swarm you, including these huge horseflies.
It is also moose country. There are warning signs (I'll post those soon), featuring a vicious looking silhouette of a moose in full charge, with the caption "NIGHT DANGER". The sign reminded me of the signs in the Rockies that are a white silhouette of a deer with the caption "ATTENTION". My grandparents used to have a joke about how there was this white deer running around whose name was Attention, who was clearly quite famous since his picture was up everywhere. A similar kind of story entered my mind with this scary-looking moose; he's all black, and when night falls, watch out for Night Danger.
We were delayed a couple hours or so as a result of various construction sites along the main highway. A note for those of you taking walkie-talkies out on this kind of trip: do pay attention to the signs that ask you to turn them off in certain areas, as they may inadvertently set off blasting caps or something (Michal, please).
A further delay occured when we had our first (and as it turned out, only) bit of trouble with the old truck. It turns out you can get it stuck in first gear if you are not careful (not that this thing is exactly a delicate machine). We were driving up a hill as part of a small convoy of one-way traffic through one of the construction zones, and had to pull over on the gravel shoulder to check it out. After twenty minutes or so, involving some cursing and Brian burning himself on the exhaust pipes underneath the truck, my boss took a turn and managed to wrench the gear loose, and we were on our way.
Just past Ottawa (speaking of which, you can tell they've put a lot of money into the roads and other infrastructure around there . . . must be nice having all that federal money), we stopped at a diner where the waitress addressed us in French and then, when we started ordering in English, switched over to perfect English (slight accent). Not something that happens in all parts of Canada.
Soon after eating (it was already quite late), we ended up at the French motel near the Quebec border. The alram was set for 5am so that we could beat rush hour in Montreal early the next morning.
Kenora, ON - Sault St. Marie, ON (via Thunder Bay, ON)
As I mentioned, the terrain is pretty much the same through all of the Canadian Shield. It's quite pretty, though . . . you get a feel for why some people think of Canada as a vast wilderness.
We had a pair of walkie-talkies to communicate between the two vehicles. I can heartily recommend this idea to anyone attempting a similar trip. You can even buy more of the same units and set them to the same frequency if you have more than two cars (we encountered someone with the same walkie-talkies at one point, which led to some confusion, since we weren't expecting to hear a woman's voice on the line).
We didn't quite make it to Sault St. Marie (or "The Sault", pronounced "The Soo", in the local slang, or at least that's what my boss called it). At about 10pm, still a couple hours out, I notcied that our car needed gas. You wouldn't think this would be a problem, but you reach a point where there just aren't any places to stop for a long time. Not being experienced with this particular car (the only time I've ever run out of gas, the gas gauge on the the car lied and was still above empty when the car died), I took the precaution of coasting down the big hills around Lake Superior. This probably didn't help much, but it made me feel a bit better, and there wasn't really much else to do.
Fortunately, when it looked like we were in trouble, we came upon a little motel where we learned that we could get gas in the morning just a couple miles away. Relieved (at least I was - no stopping for gas meant no stopping for bathroom breaks), we stayed in a hunting lodge there that had only been open for a couple weeks. It was pretty well-equipped for such a place, with most appliances you might want in a kitchen as well as a living room to lounge in.
Saskatoon, SK - Kenora, ON (via Winnipeg, MB)
We rolled out of Saskatoon a little late . . . around 9am. The (lofty) goal for the day would be Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The driving crew consisted of my boss and his son Brian in an old (27 years?) Dodge truck and myself and Bryce in a 1991 Toyota Corolla. Both have manual transmissions. The truck used to have its gear shift on the steering column, but had been altered after numerous problems; the gear shift had been ripped out of the steering column and attached to the gear through a hole in the floor, giving a rough approximation of where a gear shift usually goes on a standard. Since Bryce had just learned to drive stick in the last week or so, I took the first shift (ha ha) so he wouldn't have to deal with any city driving, and we both avoided driving the truck on account of its peculiar setup.
The Moosomin 500 of the previous weekend was good practice for the early stage of the drive (in fact, we took the same route through Moosomin to get to Manitoba). It is flat leaving Saskatoon, then it gets to very gently sloped prairie as you go South a bit. But it's more or less flat all the way to Winnipeg.
Winnipeg was the biggest city by far that we would hit on this first day. But as it has a road all the way around it, we didn't see too much. Just as the perimeter road joins up with the Trans-Canada highway on the East side, there's a truck stop named Salisbury House where we stopped for supper.
The Salisbury House features pretty common truck stop/roadside diner fare. Imagine one of those big, laminated menus, with all-day breakfast and such. Except everywhere that you would see the word "burger", substitute the word "Nip". As in, "Our Famous Nips" and "Chili Cheese Nip" and the formidable "Mr. Big Nip" which had three or four patties. This was a little bewildering to us . . . for some reason I think Evan might have told me about this, but I'm not sure. Anyway, Brian (who happens to be half-Japanese) insisted that we call him Mr. Big Nip for the remainder of the trip.
You hit the Canadian Shield pretty soon after heading East out of Winnipeg. The terrain shift would be the last for quite a while. Basically lots of trees, rocks and hills.
Due to our late start, we only made it to Kenora by about midnight. The other tricky thing is that we'd crossed into another time zone, making it a loss of two hours. We stopped for the night at a little motel that provided small, clean rooms where you get your own mini-fridge.
Tomorrow, we head out for Halifax. I will be working out there for about a month before flying back to the prairies.
While I've driven the route from Saskatoon to Vancouver many times, I have yet to take a drive out to the other coast.
This will be the first part of my two-part drive across Canada; in August, I complete the trip by driving from Saskatoon to Vancouver. Not the route most would take, but it's all I've got.
Which reminds me . . . I should probably get the parking brake fixed on my car now that it will be encountering some sort of elevation again in BC.
I've had a chance to talk or computer chat with a number of you, but I don't know who's gotten which details, so here's an idea of what I'll be up to for the next little while.
My job this summer takes me to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We're leaving this weekend and I'll be staying for four or five weeks. I'm sort of a moving assistant to get my boss installed at his new position at Dalhousie, and in particular I'm making sure he has a smooth transition with all his various computer files and projects. I'm also working on programming for web based math courses, which some of you may remember as my old job for this same boss.
Then later in August I fly back to Saskatoon, finish up any necessary business (maybe play in a soccer game or two), and take my car and remaining stuff (computer and clothes, pretty much) out to BC to see the crew out there and drop off said stuff with my parents.
In September, I'm heading to France. My brother is working at one of the universities in Bordeaux, and our plan is to live together and get in some traveling when he's got time off. As for me, I'll see if I can find any tutoring work. I've learned that English is basically required as part of a degree in math there; ideally I'd be able to tutor some math in English, which is of course my specialty.
The first scheduled event for my time in Europe is a math conference in Geneva in mid-September. It's all about the mathematician Sturm (this year is the 200th annniversary of his birth), and includes both a history component as well as a number of talks about Sturm-Liouville theory (the area which provided the topic for my thesis).
Once Bri is gone at Christmas, I'll be on my own. Possible destinations include Thailand (I'll have a couple friends there) or Australia, once I've got Europe out of my system (and spent enough money).
One concurrent plan for the next few months is to look at what might be a good place to go for a PhD. I'm planning to start such a program the fall after I return (that would be September 2004, I guess).
Sunday found me on an excursion to a farm near Moosomin, Saskatchewan. A friend of mine who is leaving town right away was dropping off his car at his grandparents' farm, so he enlisted four of us to go with him, taking another car so we could all drive back together. In this case, the 500 refers to kilometres instead of laps, since that's about the distance from Saskatoon to this place.
One of our group was very excited to acquire a Saskatchewan Wheat Pool hat at the farm. Apparently these are now hard to come by. We are interested to see how this look will serve him in Halifax (more to follow on that one).