Day 1 – The Long Drive
I had the car packed the night before. When I say packed, I mean packed tight. There wasn’t a square centimetre of airspace in the back end of the SUV. How could there be any room? We had to plan for two weeks on the road in motels, cabins, campsites and the yet unknown. The kids chose to bring fairly large hard shell suitcases to accommodate the numerous artifacts a ten year old boy could find and a fourteen year old girl’s cosmetic requirements demanded. I was just happy the car was packed and the trunk shut. There will be no opening again for 1400 Km.
That was the easy part. The real challenge was getting everyone up at five AM and in the car by six. I felt like a drill sergeant running around the house urging, prodding and nudging everyone along. I was successful. By that, I mean we left at six thirty, which was much earlier than I thought we would actually leave. Nine means ten and that results in ten thirty. My best laid plans are set ambitiously in expectation of failure.
Coffee mugs full, a selection of snacks at hand, we set out for the unknown. It was a nice day, sunny and warm, in our small town outside Ottawa. Quite likely the day would warm up to a sticky thirty one degrees, but we were heading east to the coast. We were edging toward seasonal and away from sauna. The car wound its way through back roads for thirty minutes before reaching the four hundred series Trans Canada highway. By this time, everyone else in the car had fallen asleep, already. This would continue until we reached the outskirts of Montreal.
This is when my stress level rises from happy-go-lucky to high school exam. Entering Montreal is seldom a problem, but the stress gradually rises the deeper into the city you get. My son, bless his automotive soul, eagerly searches for the Lamborghini and Ferrari dealers along the route. I enlist my wife to watch signs and the GPS so I don’t miss an exit. And everything was going swimmingly, until a torrential downpour besieged the city like a curtain. Thankfully the traffic slowed down, which is quite uncharacteristic of Montreal. Now the traffic was moving along swimmingly, but in a more literal sense. The roads were flooded. But as fast as the rain came, it went, and we left the city unscathed with a new resolve to push on east.
Still unstoppable, we set our sights on Quebec City. Any town between Montreal and Quebec was insignificant; simply a blip on the map. Frankly, this leg of the journey was so unremarkable I don’t even recall it. We didn’t even stop the car until we reached Riviere Du Loup, where we gassed up and used facilities. No time to slow down. We hit the road again.
Now, for some odd reason, the GPS led us on a winding back road through the hills toward Edmunston. Quite likely this added thirty minutes to the trip. Along the most rural part of this route, an oncoming car with the windows down approached, the driver yelling something in French that I couldn’t comprehend. I suspected a hazard ahead, and slowed down. Sure enough, around the bend was a motorcycle down, and further along its driver on the ground held by a passerby. Cars had stopped to help and an ambulance ahead was speeding toward the accident. I couldn’t tell what had happened, but I know it’s always bad for a motorcyclist.
It didn’t take long to reach Edmunston, our self proclaimed half way mark. I gassed up again and then bowed to extreme pressure to get lunch. Reluctantly, I headed for McDonalds, where I assumed we could dine quickly and get going again. I believe they screwed up half the orders, and the paltry lunch came to a whopping $25.00. Fast food is not cheap food. As penance for insisting we stop, I insisted my wife take a turn driving. Just as reluctant as I was to stop, my wife was reluctant to drive, but she did so.
I slept a little. I’m not a great passenger. I’m used to being in the driver’s seat. The drive from Edmunston to Fredericton is beautiful. There are lots of scenic lakes and forested hills. The speed ramps up an extra ten kilometres an hour in New Brunswick, giving us a boost. There were lots of moose crossing signs, but with a moose fence the entire corridor, I don’t know how the moose can get to the road. This leg took about three hours and then I was back at the wheel.
At this stage, you really don’t want any adventures; you just want to get there. Even so, it is always exciting to get a first glance at the ocean, even if it is just a salt marsh. Our destination was The Lionstone Inn at Pictou Nova Scotia. I had it all planned out that we would arrive at 8:00 PM, but with the slight slowdowns we were half an hour late. I called the motel to make sure a room would be open for us and the clerk assured me she would be there until 10:00. I was relieved. That was plenty of time. As I checked my phone, the clock read 9:30 and we were still not at Pictou. 9:30? How did that happen? It dawned on me that I had failed to account for a time zone. This was Atlantic time. I checked the GPS and it stated twenty more minutes. This would be tight. Apart from a slight confusion about its location, we made it.
The air was appreciably cooler than Ottawa. The motel room was warm and a bit musty, but typical of an old motel. As quickly as we dropped off our luggage, we trekked out to the mall around the corner to get a couple of foot long subs. I had always disliked Subway because of the smell, but these were very good and reasonably priced. Back at the motel, a couple well earned, cold beers were pulled from the cooler, opened and drunk before falling asleep.
Day one was over. The journey had begun and could only get more exciting from here on out.
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