We pulled out of the Soo early, in order to beat the rush to… the other Soo. We crossed the St. Mary’s river, and the Canada-US border at 6:45 a.m. No hassles at customs, and we immediately filled the gas tank with cheap fuel. This was one of the big reasons we decided to take the South-of-the-border route. That, and the fact that the north side of Lake Superior makes Newfoundland look overpopulated, and we wanted pit-stop options seeing as we were travelling with a toddler, in winter. (Spoiler alert: The emergency winter driving bag didn’t get used once, so we clearly made the right choice). The southern route was also 100 km shorter than either Canadian route. That’s one less hour Sylvia would need to be strapped into her seat, and that was worth more than cheap fuel and convenient stopping places combined.
We quickly had to adjust to the MILES-per-hour speed limit as well. Thankfully, we had our happy little GPS to do the conversion for us, and constantly update us when the limit dropped to 35 as we drove through towns, and back up to 75 on the Interstates. (FYI: Interstate is just another word for highway!) It was dark as we drove into another time zone, gaining another hour. The secondary road we were on was traffic-free, and we made our very first (and only!) roadside pee stop. Not bad for six days on the road! We drove through four states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and barely eked into North Dakota before stopping for the night in Grand Forks. I was especially proud to have navigated Duluth on my own, while the others slept in the backseat:
We fully expected three more days on the road, but we clocked 1129 km on Day five. Medicine Hat was just one (long) day away!
On Day six, we charted a North-Westerly course, heading for Portal and the Us-Saskatchewan border. We tried to stock up on duty free goods, but we hadn’t been in the States long enough to make it worth our while. We’re pretty sure the customs guy didn’t believe us when we said we had nothing to declare, but that was the truth. Earlier in the day we passed the town of Rugby, famous for being the geographical centre of North America (or so their “Welcome to…” sign would have us believe).
That afternoon, we passed the real highlight of the trip: Rouleau, a.k.a. Dog River, home of Corner Gas and the TV show by the same name. I’m kind of embarrased to admit how excited I was to see it! I wish we had stopped, but Sylvia was sleeping and Medicine Hat was so, so close…. We kept driving, but I could see the grain elevator in my rearview for, oh about 20 km.
Welcome to Saskatchewan:
There’s about 35km of road represented on the GPS in the picture, and it was all as flat and as straight as the display would have you believe. That is some flat country.
Sylvia picked up one really awesome trick/habit on the trip. Whenever something would go right (ie: score flipside crackers at the american grocery store, get really good gas mileage, and every time the GPS would knock another 100 km off our distance to destination) Travis and I would do a little front seat celebration which included a “Whoop whoop!” and a fist bump. Sylvia would stick out her hand (and eventually, her fist) to be included. She’s kept it up since then, and everytime one of us utters the word “awesome!” (more often that you might think) Sylvia rushes over to dole out the fist bumps.
But back to the trip. Southern Saskatchewan is flat, but the driving was swift. Soon, we were sub 100 km to the Hat! We crossed the Alberta border to another round of fist bumps, (and an additional hour on the clock), and before we knew it, we were there. We spent a day and a half visiting family and friends, before heading North to our final destination.
The car got a good all-over cleaning before we left. High-pressure water sluiced away all the road dirt, you’d never say the Sylvia-mobile had just clocked another 1179 km, for a grand road-tripping total of 5634 km!
The true final tally to Drayton Valley would be an additional 591 clicks, for a grand GRAND total of 6225. That’s a lot of going!
Sylvia was a star. An absolute star. We took turns driving and spending some time in the backseat. But even the hours she was awake by herself in the back, she was pleasant. She would let us know whenever we were passing a big rig, and dance along the the music, and eat snacks. We tried to find a pool at least once a day for her to swim in, but she never once screamed to NOT get back in the car. We didn’t have a DVD player, and while I fully expected to have to buy one en route we made it with nothing more than Raffi on endless repeat and the longest running game of peek-a-boo ever. EVER.
Here’s what worked:
– a constant barrage of snacks
– one parent in the back seat to entertain
– duck songs (AKA, Raffi’s Animal Songs album.
– handing her the entire bag of toys and letting her dump it out in her lap
… and what didn’t:
– a constant barrage of the exact same snacks she had yesterday