Friday, September 23, 2011

Trekking Eastward across Canada

Sept. 19-22, Crossing Canada
The crossing into Ontario took us from the U.S. Sault Ste. Marie to its Canadian sister city—Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario situated on Lake Huron.  A short trip across the bridge linking to the two cities takes you to Canadian Customs. We were unsure whether to take the Auto lane or the Truck lane. Even thought I had read not to consider ourselves a truck in Canada, we were worried about the clearance going in the Auto lanes.  So we went into the truck one and no one was there on the other side—no booth, no people around to check us.  I saw two men sitting on a brick wall wearing custom agent uniforms so I got out of the motorhome and asked them where we should check in. They asked me how many people were in the motorhome and kiddingly asked me if we were hiding anyone or carrying firearms. I said no to both questions and they waved us on—not even checking our driver’s licenses.  We laughed to ourselves and headed down the road.
Our main itinerary for crossing Canada was to see Montreal on the way to Maine.  There were several interesting looking islands to our south on Lake Huron as we headed across Ontario but we chose not to investigate as we were focused on the urban experiences awaiting us in Montreal, a good French meal for starters.
One of the challenges in traveling through Canada which we had not considered was the use of our phones and internet as roaming charges would apply.  Just before leaving the U.S., Vic decided to join the world of smart phones and bought an I-Phone.  We checked with Verizon about traveling through Canada and they strongly encouraged us to turn off the data roaming plan and not use the MiFi.  The challenge then became how to use the Navigation program on my phone which we had relied on for most of the trip.  We ended up buying a one month international data plan so we would have internet access on my phone for finding campgrounds and using the navigation system.  Text messages are fine on the phones, so we told our family and friends no phone calls until we reached the U.S again.  Another technology challenge would be using the DISH satellite system. I called them and they said it simply wouldn’t work in Canada. They were right.
Our first Canadian campground was in a place called Sturgeon Falls. It looked like a resort town on the internet, but turned out to be more of an industrial working class tonw. The campground was at least ten miles down a narrow road—not big rig friendly, but we made it.  Most of the residents were long term (read trailers and mobile homes) but we managed to get a pull through close to a view of the lake.  I am starting to realize that it’s best to have different criteria for an overnight stop vs. camping. vs.  a home base from which to play tourist in the area.  We don’t need all the amenities of a resort for an overnight stay.  Close to the highway with a pull through where we don’t have to unhitch is ideal.  Wehave so much to learn about campgrounds and their many variables!
Our campground site overlooking Lake Huron
 in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario (with Rico checking things out)
Our second day of Canadian travel took us to a farm that converted its land to camping sites—something sweet about the pastoral setting. Met a Canadian couple who had spent most of the summer in  Newfoundland and Nova Scotia They encouraged us to go the Bay of Fundy and a place called Gaspe.  The only challenge would be that campgrounds were starting to close Oct. 1st so they said to be prepared to do some boondocking.  They also said not to miss Quebec City which they found to be more accessible and more European feeling than Montreal.
Vic (holding my purse--not his)
at one of the confusing
Montreal street corners.
We booked two nights at a Good Sam campground called Camping Alouette about 20 miles outside of Montreal. We discovered that Alouette was a popular summer place for many long term residents but this park was more high end, with those long term residents adding beautiful patios, outdoor fireplaces, etc.   Our main agenda here was to go into the city.  The weather was in the low 70s so we felt okay leaving the dogs in their crates in the motorhome while we ventured into the city.  The recommendation for doing so was to park at a metro station outside the city and take the metro.  We had a map of the historic district and decided to take the metro to the last stop in that area.  Only problem was our map wasn’t to scale and we ended up two or three miles from where we wanted to be—but we didn’t discover this until we had walked for at least an hour looking for the old part of town.  It was rather exhausting and frustrating as even when I used my phone for navigation or we asked for directions, we couldn’t seem to find Rue Paul.  We persevered and finally did find this historic area of Montreal.  By this time we had worked up quite an appetite, but instead of finding  lunch at a French bistro we ended up in a Spanish one, but the food was fantastic—saffron risotto with andouille sausage and artichokes for me; sausage rotini for Vic.  We did manage to see some of the Notre Dame replica and a few other impressive buildings in the area but we were too tired to go on an official tour.  The big surprise was the size of the city (it had been 25 years since I was last here) and the realization that one could spend several days just in the historic area to take in the main attractions. We decided to move on.

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