Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

On The Road Again: Part 1 - Toronto to Calgary

I finally decided to hit the road again. At some point I felt my tumultuous time at home in Ontario had expired. At the same time I had some opportunities calling in western Canada.
Our approximate 4 day road trip route - Toronto to Calgary
Luckily I found a cool Kijiji rideshare guy named Simon from Toronto - an outdoors lover and headed west on vacation, up for an unconventional road trip at a quick but flexible pace. We started off in my Toyota Yaris on July 31 from Toronto. We decided to drive through the US as it would be cheaper and quicker, and the scenery less flat (see Prairies).

We aimed for Madison, Wisconsin the first night, but fell short, getting caught in Chicago rush hour. While on a country road, we spotted a school and drove in behind it to stealth (free) camp. However, someone must have spotted us because after setting up our tent and settling in, a flashlight beamed in through the tent!

The flashlight belonged to a cop, who eventually told us to pack up and move to nearby campgrounds. We ended up stealth camping again on a long farm driveway walled in by rows of corn. The next morning we took a few cobs with us!
Simon taking in the cool, crisp morning
Day 2 was a long drive, maybe 12 hours, but was broken up nicely by a refreshing swim in the Black River in Minnesota and a visit to an eccentrically hippie coffee shop. We eventually made it to Minot, North Dakota, where we stayed with a friend of mine who I met in Istanbul many years ago. Sean is a friendly guy with a central US accent, intelligent yet capable of chugging a beer in just a few gulps.
A refreshing dip relative to the famishing heat of the inside of my car - Black River, Minnesota
My friend Sean, from Minot, North Dakota, happy to accommodate me, despite many years after meeting
For Day 3, we aimed for Glacier National Park but, once again, fell short by several hours. Fortunately, we realized that Montana offers free camping spots with a 5 day limit, and we found a sweet campground off a river. The next morning, we took it really easy, with Simon fishing and roasting the corn, and me doing a bit of yoga and meditation, as well as a quick dip in the cool river, to recover a little energy after lots of driving and little sleep.
Sunset from our campsite off the Milk River, Montana
The next morning
Day 4 was, thankfully, a casual day involving the shortest drive, at around 6 hours to Calgary. We stopped by Cypress Hills Provincial Park, southeast of Medicine Hat, Alberta, taking another dip in a lake, which was quite chilly!

Staring into the cold waters of Elk Lake, tentative to jump in
Overall, Simon was a great road trip partner, spontaneous enough to be ready to sleep anywhere, and taking breaks for throwing frisbee and swimming. We never paid for accommodation, gas was cheap (despite the currency disparity), and I managed to dumpster dive to cover more than half my food needs. My best score was outside a Cash-Wise grocery store in North Dakota, where I recovered bananas, cherries, and 3 boxes of mixed salad greens plus a few vegetables.

Some people ask me why drive and not fly? First of all, it's the journey, not the destination! It's a great way to know the landscape. Sharing the journey with someone else can be a good bonding experience. I was able to bring more of my stuff out west (pretty much all my possessions). And it's cheaper than flying - $120 each in gas.

Being on the road and free again was liberating, and the countless hours behind the wheel also provided time to watch the landscape roll by, and for a slow release from pressures building around me during my time at home. It was also a good transition into my next adventure, a cycling trip in the Rockies...

No comments:

Post a Comment