Note: I wrote this post as an email to my parents so you will have to forgive the informal tone (not that I ever really use a formal tone on this blog) and the occasional in-jokes.
I am now in Thunder Bay and am staying at a B&B called McVicar Manor – see: http://www.bbcanada.com/3918.html. It is a nice spot and the proprietors seem quite friendly. Tomorrow I will have breakfast and then head out to Sault Ste. Marie and then on to Hamilton before I finally arrive in New Haven. The trip has been pretty great thus far but driving for over 8 hours a day is beginning to take its toll. Today I drove through MB & Northern ON and am now perched on the Shores of the “Big Lake they call Gitche Gumee”. I kept humming The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as I drove into town but for the most part my entertainment has come in the form of books on tape. Yesterday I finished a full-cast BBC version of the Lord of the Rings as I streaked through the Prairies from Saskatoon to Winnipeg (note: I started it in Calgary… the drive isn’t THAT long) and today I started Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I have of course read both of these books but there is something eminently comforting about listening to them on tape – soft British voices washing over me as I allow my car to drive itself across Canada (three cheers for Cruise Control).
I always thought that when I took this trip (more of an inevitability in my life than an option), I would stop at small family restaurants and odd little gift shops along the way. Not so. Probably a big part of my adherence to A&W and Subway is explained by the solitary nature of my trip and my desire to get where I am going as fast as humanly possible with as little mucking about along the way (but also my grand fear of speeding tickets & thus rather reasonable raw driving speed). Another explanation could be that after several long road trips in Malawi over the past 2 summers, I am still taken with the novelty of being able to eat a burger and fries on the road (though I do miss the samosas that I would regularly purchase from buckets at the low-low price of 50MK. Whatever the case, I am not being overly adventurous and my biggest food moments thus far have been the meals that I have shared with friends along the way – homemade humus in Revelstoke, buffalo steaks and morning bacon in Saskatoon, and homemade Indian food in Winnipeg.
Aside from food-related experiences, I have seen some pretty cool things on this trip (though the following list may expose me for the hard-core nerd that I am).
1. The longitudinal center of North America just East of the geographical center of North America (that is, Winnipeg).
2. The Canadian flag flying proud all across our Nation’s “heartland” and particularly in the rural acreages outside Saskatoon.
3. A series of quaint little prairie towns with slogans like: “A Nice Place Near a Dam”, “A Modern Prairie Town”, and “The Little Town That Did” (okay that last one is in BC).
4. More Timmy-Hos than you could ever imagine.
5. A circus or fair convoy that seems to have been crossing my path every 500km or so from Calgary to Manitoba’s border with Ontario.
6. Many signs warning of Moose & Deer crossings but no actual wildlife aside from a few cows and wombats (note: by wombats I mean sheep. My brother would get it!)
Sights and eats and stays aside, I am both very excited and very nervous to be drawing nearer to my final destination which feels more than ever like the end of one phase of my life and the beginning of another. I find it hard to believe that less than 2500km now stand between me and Yale. When I think about the hours of work and stress and frustration and failure and eventually of success that have brought me here, my trip to Thunder Bay feels like it has taken me 5 years, not 5 days. That being said, as I entered Ontario today, I noticed a sign informing me that from that point onwards, all streams ran into the Atlantic Ocean and I couldn’t help but feel the metaphor of floating downstream after a long struggle upwards was appropriate. This is the most exciting time of my young life and perhaps the least challenging. This is a time for enjoyment and excitement and it is a time for me to enjoy the slow and lazy drift down stream before I have to once again take up my paddle and push forward into my future.