Trans Canada Highway Trip - July 15-19, 2015

These are the pictures from the first part of our 2015 summer trip, which covers the ride up through the Thousand Islands area to Ottawa, then across the Trans Canada Highway all the way to Minnesota. Pictures were taken with taken with my Fujifilm Finepix HS50, my iPad Air 2, and Cathy's iPhone cameras. The pictures are linked from within the text description below. Many are roads and signs, but there's a lot of scenery and people, too.

July 15: Amsterdam, New York, to Gatineau, Québec

We started [Picture] from Amsterdam before 10 AM and headed west on the Thruway [3 Dog Pictures]. We turned north at Syracuse and made it to the Watertown area with no delays. We got lunch there at Moe's and Sonic then made a short driving tour of the Watertown area, including a ride on the relatively new I-781. We continued up I-81, and decided to check out the New York side of the Thousand Islands region a bit on a perfect warm and sunny day. We visited Keewaydin State Park where we took a short hike by the river and got a little playground break [12 Scenery Pictures][13 People Pictures]. We continued a little further for a stop in Alexandria Bay, getting a chance to see Boldt Castle [4 Scenery Pictures][3 People Pictures]. That was it for New York, so back to I-81 and the Thousand Island bridges across to Canada. The customs delay wasn't bad, but there was a tour bus trying to get through the cars only lanes that caused some confusion. Other than enjoying the views of the Thousand Islands from the bridges, we didn't make any further stops on the Canada side until Ottawa. We got a pizza to go from Boston Pizza, then (eventually) were able to find some street parking to have a walk around the Parliament and Rideau Canal area [7 Pictures][7 People Pictures]. We fought some construction on the bridge across to Québec and easily found our hotel for the night in Gatineau. [92 Pictures from the Roads]

July 16: Gatineau, Québec to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

This was a long travel day, so there wasn't as much time for sightseeing as we'd have liked. First stop was an ATM to get some Canadian cash for the next few days. We again fought a little traffic to get back into Ontario. Once back across, we took the MacDonald Parkway along the Ottawa River, which was very nice. That brought us to Highway 417, which allowed us to make a little good time on an otherwise slow day. We passed by the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators [Picture]. Just before the freeway section ended, we stopped to fill up in Arnprior. Good thing we made the stop, because our longest delay of the day came in a long one-way alternating traffic construction zone just to the west as we got onto Route 17. That cost us at least a half hour. Construction zones, campers, trucks, a convoy of school buses [Picture], and other slow moving vehicles were the theme of the day. There were sections of nice scenery, but unfortunately much of this day's section of Highway 17 seems to be just far enough away from rivers and lakes that you don't get a good look. We picked up some lunch in Petawawa [Picture], and passed through some small towns like Mattawa [Picture]. Stops the remainder of the day were in North Bay [2 Pictures] for a quick dog walk in the downtown area, Sudbury for gas and a grocery store, and near Espanola for a pit stop and driver switch. The terrain got a bit more interesting with the Canadian Shield becoming more apparent near Sudbury [2 Pictures]. We got into Sault Ste. Marie later than hoped and planned, but still by 9 PM. It had gotten cloudy after a completely sun-filled ride all day, but was still plenty light. Even at 10 PM, it was still not completely dark. We checked into our hotel and were happy to discover that a Rotary community festival was underway just next door, and we were able to get a late dinner there [2 Pictures]. [64 Pictures from the Roads]

July 17: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to Thunder Bay, Ontario

We woke [2 Pictures] to a cloudy morning with some drizzle. We decided to take a short walk by the St. Mary's River near the hotel. This was nice, but then the rain started coming down more steadily [13 Pictures][1 People Picture]. We dried up back in the hotel, checked out, and took a short driving tour of more of Sault Ste. Marie. I had hoped to have time to cross into Michigan briefly (missing the northernmost piece of I-75 to the border) but we have another pretty long travel day ahead and didn't want to risk delays at the border crossings. Some day. After a gas stop, we were on our way out of Sault Ste. Marie before 10, and began the very scenic ride north along the eastern shore of Lake Superior [3 Pictures]. We decided not to do much stopping on this part of the ride, since the weather started cool and wet. We did make brief stops at a lookout over Alona Bay [6 Pictures][1 Dog Picture], and at a small campground just north of the mouth of the Montreal River [3 Pictures]. It was still drizzly and cloudy as we entered Lake Superior Provincial Park, but the scenery was very nice. Our next stop was at the Scenic High Falls on the Magpie River, just south of Wawa, where we got to check out the impressive waterfall and provide the local mosquitos with some delicious blood [13 Pictures, 1 Movie][24 People and Dog Pictures]. A short ride further into Wawa got us lunch and some wireless Internet at the local Subway [5 Pictures]. From Wawa, the weather was not quite as wet, but it was colder and foggy in places. Temperatures at times fell close to 50 degrees. Scenery was more difficult to appreciate with the weather in this stretch. The highlight of the more inland segment through here was the Winnie the Pooh park in White River [4 Pictures][3 People Pictures and 1 Movie]. Just west of White River, we passed a huge quarry that seemed worth a few pictures from the road [3 Pictures]. We decided to top off the tank in Marathon, but a power outage left the pumps useless. So we continued on and were able to fill up in Terrace Bay. The mosquitos were still very interested in us at that stop. That, combined with the drizzle and fog, convinced us not to stay and check out any more of Terrace Bay. Just a bit further west, we thought it might be worth a look at Aguasabon Falls, but the mosquitos swarmed the car as soon as we stopped [Short Movie Hosted on YouTube], and we decided not even to open a window. The weather broke further west, giving excellent views of Nipigon Bay [12 Pictures]. This area also marked the northernmost point of our trip, just above of 49 degrees north. It's Katie's furthest north ever, and my furthest north in North America since near the end of the 2001 Alaska Marine Highway journey to Bellingham, and furthest north overall since Copenhagen in 2004. As we curved back more in a southwesterly direction, we passed through more rain, but the temperature climbed consistently. When we broke through into the sun, it was much warmer, and about 80 degrees when we arrived in Thunder Bay. We checked in, grabbed some fast food takeout back to the room (Pizza Hut and A&W) and called it a night. This far north and this far west in the time zone in mid-July, it took until after 9:30 PM to get significantly dark, and as this is being written after 10:30 PM, it's still a bit dusky. [39 Roads Pictures][2 More Dog Pictures].

July 18: Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Plymouth, Minnesota

With a shorter travel day planned and a time zone change coming up, we were able to get a later start and take more time to do and see things along the way. In Thunder Bay, the morning was foggy and cool, but we decided to drive down to the Lakefront area anyway for a little biking and dog walking [13 Pictures][5 People Pictures, 1 Movie]. It's a nice area, and it wold have been nice to get some views out over the lake, but not on this morning. After a grocery store stop, we were finally on our way out of Thunder Bay around 11 EDT. It was a quick and easy ride to the border and a very easy clearance of customs. Almost immediately after the border is the entrance to the Grand Portage State Park, where we made the fairly short hike to see the High Falls on the Pigeon River. Well worth the walk! [15 Pictures][4 People Pictures]. Next stop was a short ride into but no stop in Grand Portage. About 20 miles further south, we picked one of the many turnouts to the shore of Lake Superior and spent a half hour on the pebbly beach in a light fog [2 Pictures][12 People and Dog Pictures]. We found an excellent lunch at Hughie's Tacos in Grand Marais, and ate it on the beach on the harbor there [6 Pictures][4 People Pictures]. Next stop was at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park for a short walk to see views of the Split Rock Lighthouse [8 Pictures][10 People Pictures]. Another very nice stop. There are also a few pictures of some of the tunnels from our great ride down MN 61 [3 Pictures]. We wrapped up the day with a side trip (that took longer than we hoped) into Superior, Wisconsin [Picture], for dinner at a Culver's, then on down I-35 to the Twin Cities area for the night in Plymouth. The end of the ride was a bit frustrating, as the construction project on I-494 on the west side of the Twin Cities area seems to have removed all traces of exit numbers or road numbers from the construction signs. Then a seemingly unnecessary "no right turn" just off the exit forced us into a few minutes of detour. Even with the shorter total travel time, the extra time doing things meant we didn't arrive until 9:30 PM CDT. [37 Pictures from the Road]

July 19: Plymouth, Minnesota, to Papillon, Nebraska

We were ready to go at 9:30 from the hotel in Plymouth [4 People Pictures]. It would have been nice to check out some of the Twin Cities areas but after the last few days, we wanted to make sure we didn't get in too late. Our morning ride was pretty easy and speedier than expected, out US 169 to Mankato, then Minnesota 60 toward Iowa. With just a few stops: rest area near St. James, gas and lunch in Worthington, and another rest stop south of Sioux City, it was a quick and easy day. We arrived in Papillion at 5, and our trip continues with [the next report]. [80 Roads, Scenes, and Signs Pictures] - Mon Jul 27 08:32:41 EDT 2015