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3 Kids & a Road Trip North

A two-week move from Connecticut to Alberta

By Alison McBainPublished 20 days ago Updated 20 days ago 6 min read
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All photos in this story are by the author. This pic is in front of my kids' school in Alberta.

August 1, 2022

The car was packed and my three daughters were (more or less) resigned to spending the next two weeks on the road. We were moving from Connecticut in the USA to Alberta in Canada.

Packed car! Ready to go.

So, not only were we moving from one coast to the other, but we were moving to another country. And, in order to get the kids familiar with the country we were moving to, we were heading straight north to Montreal and then taking the long trek around the Great Lakes to get to our new home.

I come from the era of the road trip. When I was younger, it was a fun, cheap way to travel. Just pack up a car and go. And while I've done a few short trips with my kids, I'd never before taken them on a trip like this.

First off: the border crossing. Unfortunately, we didn't have all the right paperwork filed, so it took some time for them to let us into the country. It seemed like an inauspicious moments, especially since the customs agent was either really grumpy or perhaps had dealt with too many people like us that day. Eventually, he let us through, but it was a deflating experience. Thank goodness we were close to our destination for the night - we could retreat to the hotel in Montreal and lick our wounds from nearly having our trip stopped before it even started.

After spending the night at a cheapish hotel, we did some sightseeing. The kids really enjoyed the Biodome in Montreal, which has several different climates represented with animals and plants from places like the Amazon rainforest.

From left to right: the kids resting near some fabulous wall art after walking around the city, the glass ceiling of the Biodome, and the Amazon rain forest exhibit at the Biodome (if you look closely, you can see my daughters behind the waterfall).

After the Montreal sightseeing, we hopped in the car and made it to Toronto with only a minimum of complaining. My kids hadn't yet gotten to the, "Are we there yet?" stage of things, so I was holding my breath. I'd packed a lot of games and toys in anticipation of long stretches on the road, and so far it seemed to be working.

We got to Toronto in plenty of time to stop at the Museum of Illusions, which was a small place but a lot of fun for the kids and engaged all the senses. We were happy to spend a couple days exploring the city.

My youngest daughter at the Museum of Illusions.

The next day, the castle of Casa Loma was top of the list for us to see: we climbed all over that castle, from ascending windy, creaky stairs to the top of the turrets, to descending into the tunnels underneath where smuggling used to occur back in Prohibition days.

Left to right: my daughters outside of Casa Loma, and inside Casa Loma.

After that, we hit the road to go around the Great Lakes. I'm a planner, so I'd booked everything in advance, including looking up fun places to stop. We learned about inuksuit, which are stone people associated with the Inuit and considered "helpers." We saw many of them by the side of the road as we were driving.

From left to right: an Inuksuk, the open road.

Along the way, we made a pit stop at Wawa in Ontario, which had a giant goose statue. What's more Canadian than a huge ass goose?

The Wawa Goose, which is 28 feet tall, 22 feet long, and has a wingspan of 20 feet.

Our next overnight stay was one of our favorites of the whole trip, and it was in a small town called Terrace Bay. The hotel was the nicest place we stayed in for the two weeks, and there was a restaurant attached to it where we had dinner that night.

But what made it truly special was heading down to the beach at Lake Superior and enjoying the sunrise over a lake that's so large that it looks like an ocean. And then we stopped at Aguasabon Falls on the way out of town, which was a lovely little walk to see a truly majestic waterfall. Although the one drawback is we DID get eaten alive by mosquitos.

From left to right: sunrise over Lake Superior, Aguasabon Falls.

We overnighted at Thunder Bay, and there were stretches of road that were empty for miles and miles, with just beautiful scenery for as far as the eye could see.

On the way to Thunder Bay.

Right outside of Thunder Bay was a great place to step into the past: an open-air museum called Founders’ Museum and Pioneer Village.

From left to right: my daughters in an old train car, me wedged into the gate of Pioneer Village.

We spent several hours there because it had a bit of everything. Great blast from the past, and you could wander into each of the buildings in the "village," including an entire "general store" that had things that were popular from over a hundred years ago. One of the kids' (and my) favorites was they had an entire collection of old racing cars and carts in the "garage" near the rear of the museum/village.

Cars and carts as far as the eye can see!

We had one last overnight in Ontario before heading into the next province, and that was in the town of Dryden. Or, as the kids called it, "stinky Dryden." There's a paper mill right in town, and the smell of the place is... not pleasant. We did NOT spend a lot of time outdoors there.

Outside an art center in Dryden, but wearing masks: much too stinky otherwise!

We crossed out of Ontario (finally!) and reached the capital city of Winnipeg. We spent a couple days there to visit with family, as well as explore. Manitoba is prairie and farm country, and the landscape is much, much different than Ontario.

Manitoba farm country.

I'd never been there before, although my aunt had lived in Winnipeg all of her adult life. It'd been a few years since I'd seen most of my extended family from that city, so it was lovely to spend some time with them. We went to the zoo:

From left to right: my aunt and kids looking at the polar bear, the polar bear looking back.

And played some games at a local cafe:

Taking a break from the road to play some board games.

And generally had a wonderful visit with my aunt, great aunt, and cousins.

But the road waits for no family, and we were soon on our way again. We were only a couple provinces away from our new home. By that night, we'd crossed over into Saskatchewan, so we were only ONE province away. And we started seeing something that would be a common sight in this land of farms: grain elevators and silos.

From left to right: a grain elevator, and Mac, the giant moose at Moose Jaw.

Rather than stay in a big city again, we skirted the city of Regina and stayed the night in Moose Jaw. And, of course, we had to stop by and see Mac the Moose, the tallest moose statue in the world, standing at 32 feet. There's actually a fun story where Norway had built a taller moose statue, so there was a push to give Mac bigger antlers so he could regain his title as tallest moose. And the town did it - at the base of the statue, you can still see the old antlers lying on the ground, which they replaced with the new, taller ones.

Also in Saskatchewan, in the city of Saskatoon, was another fun pit stop along the way at a recycling center. Sounds weird, right? But it was very cool - artists had used old metal scraps to form artwork, such as this huge t-rex. (You can see my daughters' heads below and to the right, to give you an idea of how tall it is.)

T-rex made out of metal scraps.

We spent one final night on the border between Saskatchewan and Alberta in the city of Lloydminster, and then we were on our way to our new home!

I like to joke that Alberta is the Texas of the north - it has two things: oil and cows. It's the energy capital of Canada, and so the best way to describe it in a picture is a field with gigantic power lines:

Alberta - home sweet home.

When we arrived at our new home, there was a surprise waiting for us, left by my aunt and uncle:

From left to right: a goodie basket left by my aunt & uncle for us, and our furniture arriving three weeks later.

My girls now felt truly acclimatized to the country we were going to be living in, since they now had three lovely Canadian flags of their very own.

But finally arriving at our new home wasn't without its own problems, since all our things didn't show up for three more weeks. So we spent almost the first month at home "camping" at our own place with only what we'd brought on the road with us. We slept in sleeping bags and used a foldout table and chairs borrowed from my aunt and uncle.

But that's another story - the trip getting there was a blast!

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About the Creator

Alison McBain

Alison McBain writes fiction & poetry, edits & reviews books, and pens a webcomic called “Toddler Times.” In her free time, she drinks gallons of coffee & pretends to be a pool shark at her local pub. More: http://www.alisonmcbain.com/

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