That was basically it. I won’t glamorize the prairies any more than saying their sunsets are on point. It wasn’t that bad, though. Our journey, from East to West— which we set aside 11 days for— only took 4 days.
It started slow and disappointing, as most epic journeys seem to. Day one, we only made it as far as Parry Sound, only an hour and a half chunk of a projected 41 hour drive. At one point we waited for 4 hours in the middle of absolute nowhere and ended up running out of water. It was rough, but we made it, obviously. We slept within 20 feet of a Walmart on some less than awesome rocks.
The next day picked up its pace. We got a ride straight to Sudbury from a guy who had recently put a spike through his foot, then a series of short rides west with relatively short wait times. Still, it’s hard to make a 40 hour drive in 20 minute segments. On top of that, there was a heat warning out for the area. It would have been a lot worse, but a bunch of people were kind enough to bring us fresh cold bottles of water. The day continued that way until we reached Blind River, and after the longest wait of the day we were picked up by Kyle: a young teacher, bound for Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay was a solid 8 or 9 hour drive away. We were finally getting somewhere! We rode with Kyle until the sun went down, then we spent the night at a campsite together. It was an early night because we were all exhausted, but it contained everything a camp night should: fire, beer and an acoustic guitar.
The next morning, we hiked a short distance to see some pictographs.
Then Adrian and Kyle lost their minds and went for an early morning dip in the famously cold Lake Superior.
In the early evening, we parted ways at a gas station just east of Thunder Bay. Adrian and I were quickly befriended by a pair of cute girls selling cleaning solution outside the convenience store. We answered their questions while displaying our WEST sign. They were self-proclaimed “SO CURIOUS!” Total sweethearts.
Shortly after our arrival, they packed up for the day and drove off. Little did we know at the time, a guy named Paul was thinking about pulling into that very gas station to talk to those very girls, who he’d met on his way to Ottawa a month earlier. When he pulled into the parking lot, although he found no cute sales girls, he happened to spot a couple of hitch hikers. “Well… I am going pretty far west,”he thought to himself. And just like that he’d found himself two super cool road trip buddies.
Paul was just about the best ride we could have hoped for. Not only was he going far… He was going fast: doing a solid 150 kph the entire way. During our endless hours together, we ate at a sleazy tavern, stayed in a sleazy motel room, and learned each other’s coffee orders inside and out. Paul is a welder/ heavy metal drummer with a really cool car and a teddy bear that his mom had given him as a companion for the trip. He was very different from us in a lot of ways, but we got along really well. If anything, our differences only made the conversation more interesting.
We arrived in Edmonton after 17 straight hours in the car and went down to the river gorge to share swigs of wine out of the bottle we’d bought for but never opened during Way Home. We felt accomplished. Paul had made it back home to Edmonton, where his old job was waiting for him, and we had made it across the country with a week to spare.
“Fuck it!” we declared, “Let’s go to Jasper!”