Browsing "Quebec"
Jan 2, 2009 -


In my (albeited limited) world view, Vancouver is the Los Angeles of Canada, the dark, nasty, don’t get off at the wrong exit or risk a violent death, city, the Gotham of Tim Burton or Chris Nolan. I’m not that timid. I’ve survived Chicago’s South Side, New York’s Washington Park at midnight, Ottawa’s Market after dark, riding the Montreal métro with skinheads, playing chicken with Hells Angels in Gatineau, getting lost in downtown Baltimore, even wandering around the bad parts of Calgary (Calgary has bad parts?). Hell, I’ve even survived a trip to Los Angeles… and that’s what’s not helping the Vancouver situation!

Surprised? 😀

Like with Los Angeles, I know there is a lot to see and do in Vancouver, but, like with Los Angeles, getting around is the issue. In LA, I was advised to not walk around, drive unless I knew where I was going, or take public transportation. I think this left taxis? I wound up driving straight to my hotel on Sunset Boulevard and walking between it and the famous Hollywood sites like the Kodak theatre (even though I’d been advised to not even walk those twenty or so blocks). After less than a day there, I was so exhausted from being on my guard all the time that I just left without going beyond Hollywood (nasty place) when I would have enjoyed doing a studio tour or even just visiting the Griffith Observatory. Looking back, I realise that I would have needed a native guide.

Same thing with Vancouver, it seems, and especially Surrey! Surrey gets a very bad rap; you wouldn’t believe the number of people who told me not to go to Surrey and to especially not be out in Surrey after dark! Last night, I did go out, taking two main streets to go to Walmart and back. Tonight, I’d like to go to a movie, but I have no idea which theatre is in an okay part of town. I’ll need to speak with the very friendly camphost here and ask her what her recommendations are.

Also like in Los Angeles, traffic is absolutely terrible here, maybe even worse than Toronto, but, of course, not nearly as bad as Montreal (because no place in the US or Canada has traffic worse than Montreal).

So, I’m here and really excited and happy to be here but shocked to discover that here is just as scary as I expected it to be!

At least, the RV park is a lovely, non-threatening, bubble. 😀

My first order of the day for tomorrow, then, is to have a chat with the camphost, descarify myself, and come up with one activity for each of  Saturday and Sunday that will get me comfortable with this city!

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Alberta, British Columbia, California, Campgrounds, Canada, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ontario, Personal, Quebec, Scary Stuff, Travel, USA    8 Comments
Sep 30, 2008 -

Easy Decisions and Provincial Differences

The park where I’m staying runs through the winter, but with only a small section of its sites open. When I pulled in last week, they didn’t have a spot in their winterized section available, so they put me in their ‘about to be closed’ section and told me I’d probably have to move today. Bummer. Today, I went to confirm that I was moving and where to. They said I could stay on my site if I didn’t mind… not having running water. Okay, run this by me again. I can pack up and move for two days or I can stay here, with sewer and 30A power, and my full tank of water? Ooooh, now that’s a toughie. This was pretty much my confirmation that this park attracts a higher end clientele; the manager couldn’t believe that it’s no hardship to live off my fresh water tank for two days! What’s nice is that I now have no immediate neighbours.

As for provincial differences, I ran out of beer this week as I finished the 12 pack I’d bought my first day on the road. I decided to replenish my supply and looked forward to seeing how beer is sold in Alberta. In Quebec, you can buy liquor at any grocery store or convenience store, or go to a liquor (SAQ) store to get higher end items. In Ontario, you go to the liquor (LCBO) store to get wine, spirits, and fine beers, and you go to the beer store for beer. I’m exceedingly fond of that system. Sure, the beer stores can sometimes be in out of the way places, but it offers every single kind of beer imaginable in one aisle. Kind of like the M&M meat shop of the alcohol world. At any rate, I didn’t really register where to buy beer in Manitoba or Saskatchewan. Parked in front of a Safeway grocery store today, I noticed that it had a separate entrance with ‘liquour and spirits’ written over the top. I imagined that it might be an LCBO-type setup, but figured that they might have some beers. I went in and found a proper beer cooler, with a decent selection. So, I guess that Alberta is similar to Quebec, in that you can get your beer at the grocery store, but in a special section of its own.

Well, I’m off to get creative with my battery compartment. An update about that will follow, provided my coach doesn’t blow up (*winks at Croft*).

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Alberta, Campgrounds, Canada, Law and Government, Ontario, Quebec, Travel    No Comments
Sep 9, 2008 -

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

When last our heroine updated her blog, she was parked at the Canadian Tire in Val D’Or. She has done more than 900km since then… and not all of them have been above ground.

Not much happened on Saturday. I wound up boondocking outside the visitor’s centre at the eastern edge of the city where I was told overnighting was ‘tolerated’, but I’d have to move to pay site or the Walmart for the next night. The only pay site in town was 15$ and that didn’t include hookups or, at least, a view, so guess where I spent my second night in Val D’Or? 🙂

At any rate, the sole purpose of my visit to Val D’Or was to see the gold mine at a complex they call the Cité de l’or. Other than outdoor sports, there isn’t much to see or do in Val D’or. I therefore wouldn’t recommend making a detour there just to see the mine, but if you just happen to be going by, then, please, don’t miss it and pay the 40 bucks for the full tour!

A vein of gold does not look like what you’d expect as it is black and white. The white is quartz and the black is tourmaline. This is extracted and then processed to get the gold flakes inside. It takes about 5,000 tonnes of ore from this mine to get a single oz of gold.

There was nothing but wilderness around the mine site, so a village had to be built to house all the workers and their families. Imagine a whole neighbourhood of log cabins.

The old mining village is just adorable and is a historic site, so current owners face strict regulations as to how much they can change the houses.

These houses offered excellent accommodation for the miners with running water, heating, telephones, and electricity. Miners were considered rich. They made about 35$ a week while a living wage was about 5$ per week! This is how they could afford such luxuries and pay the rent of 50$ per year for these houses.

Before my tour of the mine, I walked through the village and was accosted by a withered wraith of a man who used to work at the mine! He spent about twenty minutes sharing his life story. I thought it would be a tale of woe, but not at all. He loved his time at the mine, saying that the work was hard, but that conditions were good and safe, and that unlike coal mining it wasn’t that bad for the health as there was no dust. His job was to take core samples that would be analysed to determine which way the mine should be further excavated. When he retired from mining, he used his knowledge to found his own diamond drilling company with more than 150 employees. Meeting him proved to me that there are no accidents in life. I was sure my mine tour was at 1PM, but it was at 1:30. I therefore had time to kill, time enough to make an encounter that completely change how I felt down there, 300ft below the surface….

I really don’t like enclosed spaces, so the hour and a bit we were underground was just enough for me. When we got back into the shuttle for the drive back up, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I can’t imagine spending a whole day in such a place, including a lunch break spent in a room that was literally carved out of the rock face.

After the tour, I went to pick up Miranda at the Sears where I’d received permission to park her for the day, then we moved to Walmart. The store was closed, so I just set up for the night and treated myself to dinner since I couldn’t get anything working at home. 🙂

Sunday, I pushed off ludicrously early (around 7) and felt my mood change as quickly as did the kilometres beneath me.

I passed this very cool sign mid-morning:

entering the Arctic watershed

entering the Arctic watershed

The weather was (and is) gross, not motivating me to try to find a boondocking spot on Crown land as I’d thought I might, so I decided to make a push for the Walmart in Kapuskasing:

Seeking a Walmart in the wilderness

Seeking a Walmart in the wilderness

(I was just amused that I was driving through the wilderness looking for a Walmart).

I passed some very interesting towns, such as Swastika and Moonbeam, where I had to take a picture:

yes, we're still on Earth (and staying there)

yes, we're still on Earth (and staying there)

When I got to Kapuskasing (and was done with the whole dumping thing), I went to the Walmart figuring that it would be closed for the evening. Nope, it’s open 7 to 8 seven days a week!!! So, I went in to ask for permission to stay overnight. The manager replied “Of course!” in a very friendly manner. I knew I would have a good night there: I had permission to stay and the OPP had a station literally across the street. Can’t get any safer than that! I wound up sleeping the sleep of the proverbial dead and woke up this morning at 5:30 feeling very odd because I haven’t slept that many hours straight through since I was a teenager!

Today was another big push as there is just about nothing between Kapuskasing and Thunder Bay. I was very glad to find this park. It’s nothing special and not a place where you can set up your hibachi or awning, but it’s perfectly adequate for a one night stopover. Tomorrow, I’m going no further than the Walmart in Thunder Bay! I have this site until noon and I plan to take advantage of that to get caught up on my housekeeping.

If there is one thing I will remember the most about my first days on the road it is that the world is not nearly as hostile a place as some people would try to make me believe. There has been at least one person per day who helped me in a way that might have seemed small to them, but which made me feel like I am not alone on this vast and open road.

Tomorrow is Thunder Bay. Wednesday will be my last night on the Shield. Thursday I’ll hit the Prairies. And then I’ll slow down properly as I’ll be hitting new things.

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. Good lives, I’m discovering, have no shortage of bad days, but they are measured by the sum of the whole.

I’m impossibly happy, in good spirits, comfortable in my rig, grateful that my cats have taken to this life as well as their mom, and have discovered that it’s easy to be a morning person if your day is going to be filled with adventure.

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Boondocking/Dry camping, Campgrounds, Canada, Cats, Driving, Itineraries, Nice Folks, Ontario, Personal, Quebec, Social, Technical, Travel    1 Comment