U-hauling It Across Canada

June 7th Andria and I departed Ottawa in a 14-ft Uhaul truck, complete with 6 wheels, Mother’s Attic and lots and lots of stuff.

We noticed the licence plate fittingly – since I’m a Canuck and Andria’s from the States – had both Canadian and American flags. We decided this was a something of a two-nation frienship tour across northern Ontario and the Prairies… and since we had only intermittent radio signals and no CD player or Ipod hook-up, this eventually led to a discussion about relations between our two great countries.
After Tim Horton’s coffee and some Timbits, the conversation continued to Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, an Albertan group who has chronicled one of our famous cross-border kerfuffles, The War of 1812, in song form. With a chorus of “And the White House burned, burned, burned…” you know you’ve got a hit! (Check out the link above to see them bravely performing the song live in Seattle!)

As we bopped along northern Ontario another song by the Three Dead Trolls came to mind – The Toronto Song (aka “Ontario Sucks). Being from Ontario and having lived all over this fine nation of ours, I find this hilarious… Another Alberta group, the Arrogant Worms, have also tapped into the zeitgeist of our country at the turn of the 20th Century with songs like “Trees and Rocks,” “Canada’s Really Big.” and the “Mountie Song.”

We made a few friends along the way, including this large moose in Sault-Ste-Marie (The Soo) and I got to revisit my ol’ pal the Goose in Wawa.

As this picture shows, though, Canadians may not deserve their reputation for friendliness.
Observe how one northern Ontario town deals with its homelessness problem (just kidding!)

Manitoba to Edmonton is a bit of a blur to me of gas-ups and pit stops, but there are some things that stick out in my memory:
  • the new Earl’s in Winnipeg has scrumptious edamame and a soup/salad combo. One great thing about living in the West is we’ve got ’em all over the place! (Don’t worry, Andria, there’s one in Denver too!).
  • the small town in Saskatchewan (that narrows it down!) with unpaved streets and roads that led nowhere… weird…
  • CBC Radio sounds like home, although NPR rocks too! Especially hearing K’Naan and the Young Artists for Haiti singing ‘Wavin’ Flag’… I was captivated by one female vocalist at the end and it turns out it’s Nikki Yanofsky, a 16-year-old jazz singer from Montreal. Incroyable!

We arrived in Edmonton completely done with driving and U-hauling. Initially we’d thought of going for a hike in and around Jasper before Andria flew home, but after 5 solid days of bum in seat the last thing we wanted was to be back in a moving vehicle for any length of time. Instead, we went to Elk Island National Park, a 30-minute hop east of town. While we saw Bison on the edges of the park (from the road) once we were on the trail Riker was the biggest fauna we encountered.

We also traded the regular touristy things for lounging, laundry, and good food. We revisited the Cora’s franchise (they drop the “Chez” in English Canada), which opened in Edmonton right before we moved here; my fave Indian buffet spot, Maurya Palace on 34th Ave; and Brewsters, my new favourite brewpub, where we ate and had a sampling of beers. So far Farmer’s Tan White Ale and Gunther’s Hefeweizen top my summer sipping list…but the Blackfoot Blueberry and River City Raspberry Wheat Ales are pretty tasty too…

Unfortunately I couldn’t convince Andria to pull up her Wyoming roots and move to Edmonton, but I think the beers and breakfasts (among other things) might woo her back for visits!

Canadian Book Tour: Part 1

I’m currently sitting in the Regina International Airport (Saskatchewan, Canada) awaiting a flight to Calgary, to make my last stop on this first book tour.

I wasn’t supposed to be in an airport this trip. On May 19th I loaded my luggage and dog, Riker, into the back of my Honda Element. After a four-day solo drive and a pick-up of 10 cartons of books, I arrived in Montpellier in the Laurentians north of Montreal. What was supposed to be a quiet time to regroup and visit with family ended up zooming by. The next thing I knew, I was off to my talk in Montreal the 27th, had my book launch and talk in Ottawa the 28th, and attended the Laurentian reunion the 29th.

Early June 2nd, I piled my stuff, Riker, and my husband Doug (who had flown up from Wyoming) back into the Element and we headed off on the Trans-Canada highway. Unlike the American interstates, this highway carves its way through the Canadian backcountry in single-laned, pot-holed glory. The speed limit is 90kmh (roughly 55 mph).

By noon on June 2nd we made our first stop in North Bay, Ontario at the Discovery North Bay centre. After I did my “superman routine” (changing out of travelling clothes into more authorial gear in the bathroom) local journalist and writer Doug Mackey joined me for a small but enthusiastic group talk on history and our books, and Laurentian pilot Brad Mackie and his family stopped by for a visit.

Then we hopped back in the car and headed to Sudbury with some trepidation. You see, the last time we were in Sudbury in 2005, Doug had a minor fender bender with a taxi at the gas station. We don’t tend to have the best luck there, and this time was no exception. While we had an event scheduled at a local indie shop, One More Bookstore, and we’d all done our best to advertize, the turnout was a little underwhelming. We did have a chance to get to know the owners and left with a bunch of Timbits for the next day’s drive, though.

Me with One More Bookstore (Sudbury) owner, Denis Dupuis

Day 2 (June 3rd) started with us feeling a little unsure of what the day might bring. We loaded everything and everyone back into the car and drove off for Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (known as The Soo) where I had a signing scheduled at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. My spirits lifted significantly when I saw they had an announcement out front indicating an author signing (me!). We took the dog for a walk, ate our sandwiches at the picnic tables out front, and I impressed the pants off Doug when I guessed correctly that the aircraft out front was a Beech 18 on wheel-skis!

Our time at the Soo went wonderfully. We had a steady stream of folks come in to chat, buy books, and even a member of the local media came by for some photos and an interview. I also made some great contacts with people at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

By 3:30pm we were back on the road headed for Wawa, Ont. Wawa’s most famous for its huge Canada Goose, which is possibly the most photographed statue in Canada (other than the huge Nickel in Sudbury). After being stopped for speeding by the friendly neighbourhood Wawa police (we were let off with a warning) we spent a couple of hours at the local library chatting with people and selling books. Then we headed to the Northern Lights Motel along the Trans-Canada where humorous, personal touches abound. We couldn’t stay long to enjoy them, though, as we were off to a major bookstore signing in Thunder Bay early the next morning….

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.