Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Photo Update

I finally got my BC photos and the second album of Ontario photos posted, the links are on the main page. I still have to convert all my Quebec photos which are all RAW, so I'm doing my best to get those to you quickly. Hope you're having a good week!!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The First Few Days

Well, it's been a fantastic first few days back home. First of all, we arrived on Thursday afternoon and the kids were so excited to be here. They kept saying "I can't believe we're here!" and then on the way to my parent's Bridger said he was so excited he felt like he might cry. We enjoyed our first evening with my family for dinner and then we've just been spending quality time with them and friends. We are staying at Barton's parent's place because they have moved themselves around a bit to give us space that will be our own. We will go back and forth a bit but this will be home base. They are still on the road coming home from Manitoba so we won't actually see them until Wednesday or Thursday.

Today was an exciting day for wildlife! We saw a coyote run through the backyard, and then a pet rabbit on the loose in the front... it's a good thing they didn't cross paths!

Mattea learned a new trick today! She was playing in the grass and doing her usual crouch/squat when she decided to stand right up on her own! She had this wide sumo stance which was quite funny but was then able to stand quite a while, even while flapping her arms and clapping. It's only a matter of time...

The first thing I'm noticing (other than the large trees and RULES everywhere for everything!) is how much easier it is to be outside. No wind, no bugs, no cold. You can always just step out with your lunch and enjoy it outside - of course it helps that both of our parents have amazing outside areas! The kids also just come and go and run around and bike in the cul-de-sac. Nice.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Travelling Thiessens' Anthem

Loving Arms
From "The Story of Harmelodia" by The Rheostatics
Performed by Sarah Harmer, written by Dave Merritt

It takes a trip, a step away from your own home
To see more clearly what otherwise you wouldn't know,
Like what makes a seed--sewn in garden fabric--grow.

Leave it up to the sun to shine, the rain to fall around.
Leave it up to the earth to lie down and lay the ground
For something like love.

It takes a trip, a step away from what you know
To trace your family back as far as time can go,
To see what made it and will forever let it grow.

Leave it up to the loving arms to carry it along.
Leave it up to the beauty of love that's travelled on.
It didn't go it alone.

Leave it up to the smallest pieces everything is made of.
They didn't go it alone.
They hang on with loving arms.
Leave it up to the loving arms.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


More details to come but just wanted to announce that we have arrived! We are safe and sound at home in BC!!!!!!

I hope those last few notes made sense, they were edited on the go and I'll have more pics to come. I realized that if you are getting these updates through Facebook or email you may not be getting the photo links. Just so you know, they're on the main page of the blog.

Ok, more later including an odometre counter!


I cannot believe that today is our last day of driving! It has gone so quickly! And it’s funny how a 5 hour day of driving seems so short to us now! We’re so close to home and will leave after an early breakfast.

We pulled a VERY long day yesterday. We left our Saskatchewan campsite yesterday at 8:45 and arrived in Revelstoke at 12, 1am in the previous time zone. So that was very long. We stopped a few times, so it wasn’t all driving but still… we are staying at the Powder Inn in Revelstoke.

I also just can’t believe how well this trip had gone, I was not nearly optimistic enough about it before leaving. It has been so fun and so shockingly easy. If our success in this trip inspires even just one person to do it, I will be so happy. I have decided that it is absolutely necessary for everyone to do this in their lifetime, but, you need to do it for the purpose of experiencing it, not getting to a destination on a time frame - there’s so much to see and we have missed so much.
We have done a lot of travel as a family, but nothing like this, but look how we’ve lived to tell the tale! I am so happy that Barton and I can take a trip like this without biting each other’s heads off and I love it that the kids have been talking, playing, singing, making up games and asking a million and one questions… exactly why they don’t have video games in the car.

Well, it’s time to shower everyone to remove the layer of grime from yesterday’s confinement and eat and GO!!!!!

Alberta and BC - July 2

We camped at a fantastic little campground in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, just west of Swift Current. It was cheap with clean bathrooms and nice level sites. We had a great sleep, did not get caught in thunder showers and were packed up and on the road by 8:45. We needed to stop at the next grocery store for breakfast food … so we ate in Medicine Hat. Oops. For future reference, there isn’t a lot on that stretch of highway… BUT now we’re 9 provinces down, 1 to go!!!!

We ate breakfast in a park in Medicine Hat (at lunchtime) before ploughing through the rest of Alberta. Once again, I’m sorry. Do not be offended. It’s interesting how when you get this far, all you want to do is get to the end, you know that feeling? Like the last hour of a flight?
Unfortunately, that means that the Maritimes will most likely get the same treatment on our way home. We did take a one hour pit-stop in Canmore, Alberta where we stopped to see some friends and stretch our legs in our park there. We were so very excited to hit the mountains just before Canmore! It’s so beautiful and we could feel that we were that much closer to home.

Canmore is a stunning little spot if you’ve never been… We drove through Banff and Lake Louise before FINALLY crossing the border into BC with many a cheer and whoop! We were greeted close to the border by an elk which was so nice of you, you really shouldn’t have! We (again) tried to find food and maps etc but it seems as though small towns like to shut down early another thing to keep in mind for next time. We ended up in Golden for supper at 9pm our time, switched back to 8 of course. We’ve been searching around for a camp that was recommended to us but we can’t find it anywhere. We tried all the hotels and motels and every single place (even the dingy ones) were booked full. Maybe it’s the fall of Canada Day and Independence Day this week, but thanks to whatever event is causing people to book up Golden BC, we’re on our way to Revelstoke!

Unfortunately we will miss Roger’s Pass, passing it in the dark but the outline of the mountains is still visible in the night sky. It’s darn dark out here though.

Okay, so we just passed a sign that says we should changed our clocks back. Oops, apparently you don’t change your clocks as soon as you cross the border into BC which would explain why everything wass closed… but still, we’ve noticed that a lot along the way (even where we’re NOT near a time change zone!)

We just hit a huge chunk of tire in the middle of the road, but it looks as though the van is ok. Yikes, breaking down here would not be good.

There’s Rogers Pass!

Into Saskatchewan - July 1

Getting to this point in our trip was pretty major and had the realization that we had really only 3 or 4 days left of travel. I knew that Ontario would be a long stretch and because I’ve done the BC-Man route before, I figured once we were on that road it would go very quickly. For such a short amount of time you really don’t need much, so we did a serious repacking, keeping only one small bag out for me and the kids. It’s now much more easily accessible and there’s less stuff to fuss over at each stop.

if I knew then what I know now about this trip, I would have packed so differently. Isn’t that always the way? When we went to Florida I had each of the kids pack a backpack which was a mistake because it was just too many bags to worry about. So this time, I put all of our stuff into one bag and this too has been a mistake. I thought of it last minute, that pulling the hockey bag down from the roof top box might be a pain, but we stuck with it unsure of what was the best system. Now I realize that one small bag per two people would have been best. I did do a few smart things though, I packed one hockey bag full of stuff that we are not opening or touching until we get to our final destination; nicer clothes or other items I knew we wouldn’t need. That bag is at the very bottom of the trunk. Also when we were in Florida, I bought a bunch of nylon drawstring swim bags for $5 at the Nike store. They were very useful as swim bags and are now even more useful. One is a jammie bag, so that at the very least, it is easy enough for a quick night stop to pull it out and I’m not scrounging around in the dark trying to find everyone’s night wear. Another one is an underwear bag, in which each member of the family has a large Ziploc with clean underwear in it. This bag is only for removing underwear to wear and I am the only one allowed to put underwear back in. This is working well, because you know how dirty underwear inevitably gets mixed back in and then who knows what everyone is wearing? The final drawstring bag is for dirty laundry. Luckily we’ve been staying with people along the way and have been able to do laundry so we only need to have one small bag to get us from place to place. But that way, anything wet or dirty can just be put in there to deal with later.

Ziplocs are definitely my friend. One for plastic cutlery, one for baby wipes, another for the first aid items in my ‘car kit’ etc. To go with the drawstring bags we have two toiletries bags with tooth brushes, contact stuff etc so that quite literally, if it’s a quick stop we can pull out that and the jammie bag and that’s all we need.We discovered that used Gatorade bottles, the ones with the closable squirt tops, make great bottles for skim-milk-powdered-milk. Squirt it over your cereal and away you go. If you reuse them for water (yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that…) they are good for refilling bottles etc because of the squirt feature. The new ‘cereal bowls’ that General Mills put out are good for cereal on the go. I wouldn’t normally buy those because they are expensive compared to buying boxes of cereal for at home. Consequently, they are cheap compared to breakfast out! Plus you can rinse and reuse the bowls for dividing other snacks later. We also have a cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter and that has been fantastic. It fits between our two front seats so it also doubles as an arm rest, cutting board or tray as well as laptop stand for watching movies. I’m not sure who designed the cooler but they put stretchy cords across the top so that’s where our information booklets and maps go. Thank you Canadian Tire! Also, to put in the cooler, water or Gatorade bottles work really well for freezing and using as ice packs. By the time you’ve exhausted your water bottles they’ll be melted enough to use. Just for your info, Gatorade expands considerably more than water when frozen! Take a big swig before freezing.

Back to the travels…

After repacking and doing some laundry we got away late, just before noon, and burned off the rest of Manitoba before getting to the Saskatchewan border. We wanted to make it to at least Regina if not further that day. When discussing our trip with others, we noticed that most people made the comment that all of the drive would be interesting except The Prairies. I happen to think that the prairies are quite beautiful. Considering most of the other times I’ve driven through Manitoba it’s been brown, it was lusciously green and lovely. It’s also so much less stressful driving here, the road is dead straight, little traffic and not a lot of danger, resulting in no tense shoulders watching for moose, no fog and much less fatigue. We did of course see countless road-kill, officially seeing many more dead deer than alive.

I hate to say this, but we completely burned off Saskatchewan. I’m really sorry, this is not for any reason other than time. I had wanted to see family in Saskatoon and stomp around their grounds but time is not allowing. It is looking more and more like we’ll be heading back this way so we will prioritize this part of the county for our return trip. I would like to say though that the long fields and pockets of farms and trees are so peaceful, we really did enjoy the drive through. It’s also fun to count trains and watch hawks chase little birds and vice versa. We actually saw a little bird riding a hawk, no lie.

Steinbach and Winnipeg - June 30

The following day we all headed out to the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach, to explore some family history and enjoy the yummy food. Having spent 4 years in Newfoundland with very little Mennonite culture it felt really good to be there. The village is gorgeous and the weather was amazing. We learned lots and ate lots! After that we headed back, played around, hit up the water park and then got ready to go visit my oldest, bestest friend’s parents for dinner. I must say that we have pretty lousy timing; we were early in our itinerary - but so was the grandchild they were expecting! Even in their excitement, fatigue and special family togetherness, they threw together an impromptu pizza dinner with all the other kids and grandkids. Thanks so much! It was so wonderful to visit with them all - I don’t think I’ve been there since I was just a year or two older than Riley is now. Once we were back and had put the kids to bed we went over and spent some time with Becky before turning in.

Dryden to Winnipeg - June 29

We found a warm place to lay our heads and even go for a swim at the Best Western in Dryden. Definitely not the ‘best’ western but hey, we can’t complain right? We left there in the am after breakfast and a swim. The landscape changed again dramatically after Dryden, tapering into rolling hills and then very flat plains. It was very green though, and quite beautiful. We crossed the border into Manitoba and I was very excited to have a flood of good memories from many childhood summers spent there. Falcon Lake, Bird’s Hill Park, Portage Place, The Forks etc. We went straight to Barton’s sister’s house where she and his parents were working hard renovating and gardening. It was another hot day and the kids were very excited to hear that the following day, the park across the street would open their water park for the summer. We brought down the kids bikes and they went for a bike around the neighbourhood and along the Red River. We ate dinner at the house where my inlaws were staying and stayed the night there with them. It’s a beautiful house with a yard that slopes down to the Red River, where you can watch paddle wheelers and motor boats go past. After dinner, a few of Becky’s friends joined us for dessert and it was really great to meet some of her friends and we feel very reassured that while she’s far away from family, she’s in very kind and loving hands.