If you are going to go to Canada in an RV on a weekend without reservations, don’t go through downtown Toronto (for obvious reasons), and don’t do it during “long weekend” when every Canadian is also driving to campsites north of the city. We know this, of course, because our brief tour through southern Ontario started this way, and tested our limits.
We crossed over Niagara’s Rainbow Bridge in about 45 minutes without any problems. Just over the border, the main road, Queen Elizabeth Way, is dotted with wineries and other fruit farms but otherwise has nothing but the occasional factory or other industrial-looking site. We sped along easily, confident that we would make it to the outskirts of Toronto so we could park the Woodebago, unhook the toad, and drive downtown. But the outskirts fooled us and we promptly found our super-sized selves in the middle of the city.
If you are ever in need of Toronto-based party/special event/linens, please consider Chair-man Mills, because these guys saved us when we were stuck on a narrow street.
Merci to all of the good people of Toronto (especially those in Koreatown and Little Italy) for allowing us to traverse your city in what was clearly inappropriate transportation. We drove slowly and tried to be polite, but there was really no way to not get in the way. Pedestrians, bicyclists, other cars and even the trolley that runs down the center street were patient and mostly friendly. The only unfriendly guy was the parking attendant across from the Hockey Hall of Fame (we were so close!), who was very clear that we were not welcome and needed to exit his parking lot and exit the city. We were near the expressway so it might have been an easy escape. Except that it was “long weekend” and a late afternoon on a Friday so we were in for a hurt of traffic. On the bright side, it was an excellent opportunity to use our handy Rand McNally map–the paper kind!–since we had no cell service despite our attempts to add it before we crossed over. Plenty of traffic also meant plenty of time to troubleshoot with Verizon, who we had decided to pay $25 for 1 GB of Canadian service (since we don’t already pay them enough). Turns out if you have nothing else to do but wait on the phone and redial every time you get disconnected or misdirected, you can eventually find someone to solve your problem.
Hours later, with phone issues resolved, we found our way to our first dry camping night (free, no hookups) at Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve. We thought we’d never get there but by 8pm (still plenty of light) we pulled in and parked on a big flat rock. Then it was just peace and quiet and a gorgeous sunset. We’d gone to the grocery before so we had enough for tacos (with limited cheese), fresh corn and a bowl of grapes for dinner. Then we went out to see the sky, and met local photographer Wesley Liikane who had a camera so big we thought it was a telescope and who shared with us some of the most amazing photographs he’s taken of wolves, moose, owls, the moon and the northern lights. We settled back into the Woodebago for a perfect night and it was…
…until it wasn’t. A group of teens decided to pull up and party right next to us, yelling and cursing and starting a big bonfire that kept us up for hours.
We woke up very tired. No power meant no coffee so we headed out hoping we wouldn’t have to go too far before we took a break. We were in luck and found a great pit stop with gas, a newspaper, coffee and freshly baked muffins to recharge. We also found the roads and scenery to be much more beautiful up here. Now driving along the Georgian Bay, there are lakes and hillsides and ridges with piled rock sculptures, or inuksuks, everywhere. Like Maine, there are signs for fresh wild blueberries and wildlife crossing. There are also signs for the many First Nations up here–at least a few signs were in English/French/Ojibway (welcome/bienvenue/aaniin).
By midday, we’d made it to Parry Sound. Who needs Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame when you can visit the birthplace of Bobby Orr and play the game on his home turf.
Admittedly, some of us were less impressed and wanted to leave.
But we discovered the Festival of Sound is also held in the same building, so we sneaked a peek in to see the amazing auditorium. We could never have managed the jazz performance planned for that night but it was lovely to see the room.
We lunched at Parry’s finest, Mr. Chips, which is like the Thrasher’s Fries of the Georgian Bay, with french fries served in big paper cups with vinegar and ketchup on the side table next to the truck.
Parry Sound is a delightful little town on the water so we spent most of the day here, walking around and visiting the local used book stores. We’ve yet to crack a book since there’s a lot less down time than we expected in these first weeks, but we bought some more books anyway. There’s always space in the shower.
On toward Sudbury for our second night without a place to stay. A momentous night for us, as we joined the ranks of the Walmart parking lot campers. It was quite nice, actually. Met more friendly RVers and stocked up on some basic provisions. Not exactly the Canadian vista we imagined for that night but we slept well. And the kids got to try O’Henry and Bounty bars so they now think Canada is the best place on earth.