It was a very beautiful thing to see the sky open up as I approached Brandon on my third day on the road. I had been telling my Mom and Dad all summer how I loved Bridge Street. “The only thing,” I told them, “is that I can’t breath the air here. The humidity is distressing. I can’t breath!” As I approached Brandon, I knew that it was not just the air. It was the sky. I love the sky when it opens up.
At this point, I was determined to drive home in four days, not five. With such resolve, I hardly considered doddling or picture-taking, so all of that was done on ‘the fly’. I made a few brief notes on a pad of paper that sat at my side. I did see some amazing things along the way. In fact, I would describe myself as having been very ‘in-tune’ with the world. Leaving Thunder Bay, I experienced the first rainfall of an entire summer of driving. I was happy that it was happening through a construction zone where everything was slowed down anyway. I took it easy. As I drove, leaving Lake Superior behind, I loved thinking about the trip I had made with my son two years earlier…and felt blessed that I have driven both the north and south routes of this amazing Great Lake.
Looking through my rear view mirror from Thunder Bay
sun streaming through clouds at sun rise, deep dark ahead Upsula heavy rain
heavy heavy rain HEAVY WIDE LOAD AHEAD!!!!
another sip of coffee and another Vinyl Cafe Story
smell of pulp and paper, the air changes
Podcasts: The Vinyl Cafe music provided by Craig Cardiff and I am in love with his music now.
Miles and Miles of Stuart McLean stories
Historical Plaques several places along the way
Portages: Thunder Bay, Kenora area-google when I get home.
The thing about taking the northern route around Lake Superior, going West, is that for so much of the drive, the lake is visible. When I drove east, I couldn’t crank my head around to see the vistas and enjoy the water. Going west, as I traveled downhill, there was a vast expanse of water on the horizon and it seemed surrealistically HIGH, deep turquoise ribbon pushing up against the sky. It was like looking at the mountains on one of those days when they are giants on the horizon. Rolling at 90 kms an hour down any of these hills, tall rock cliffs edging either side of the highway, made photography an impossibility. And now, writing about the beauty of it is equally frustrating. I pulled over and snapped this shot on one of the short flat places on that second morning. I had been in awe of the light, rock and water for about one hundred kilometers by this time.
They’ve built a bypass so that the highway no longer cuts through Sudbury. They’ve done a lot of cosmetic work to help people forget what Sudbury once looked like. During my University years, I took the train east to visit my parents and the Sudbury area, for miles, looked like a moonscape. I remember crying when I saw it. I was born in Sudbury, or rather, Falconbridge.
1986 Visiting the Big Nickle With My Daughter
I was growing tired by this time and needed to get to Sault Ste. Marie. In my heart, I really wanted to visit my friend, Johanne. She and I sat for three years of Sundays in the sixth row side-by-side, while attending Mass at St. Albert the Great Parish in Calgary. She had spent a couple of years taking care of her daughter’s children in Calgary and finally was able to return home to Sudbury. I had hoped to see her on this trip. She had become such a special person in my life.
Instead, I drove around Sudbury and hoped that I had enough gas to make the next small town. It worked out. I had tears as I saw the stack and the rock and all of the new vegetation. The cry came from the story of my beginnings, thinking about Mom and Dad in those early days in the RCAF. I actually spoke out loud during these tears. I don’t know if Max was listening or not. It really didn’t matter. I simply had to articulate what I was feeling. I felt a little piece of my ‘story’ deeply, as I drove that evening. I knew I was getting tired and would have to stop soon. This was the last time I cried on my first day of driving.
The drive along the Georgian Bay, heading north, was absolutely beautiful! Cottage country! Every third vehicle was topped with a red canoe. I, all of a sudden, wanted a red canoe! The vehicles on the road represented vacations and family and the last week at the lake! The views were spectacular. From the beginning, to the left and right of me was farmland, sprawling colour…barns of every sort, tall corn, dairy cows…everything was pastoral and heart-warming; to the end, rugged coastlines, rock, lush trees showing early encounters with cool air. Autumn was evidenced. My window was rolled down to let it all in.
At Parry Sound, I first saw the Westward sign for the 400. I didn’t pull over when I cried…I just drove as I cried. I don’t know that that is a safe thing to do, but I thought it best not to pull over when everyone was moving along so fast. These tears were the sort that just fall down your cheeks in a stream. I hadn’t much of an idea where they came from. I didn’t think about them until later.
My thoughts, at the time, were about military moves and the east-west migration that my family found itself taking. Going west meant leaving Ontario behind.
I didn’t take any photographs that first day of driving. What was to archive? I wasn’t a tourist. I didn’t feel the way I felt driving east. Max needed to pee and I needed to sort out why I had taken the exit on Thickson Road instead of going south to the next one. I figured quickly that it didn’t really matter. Pulling off of the 401 and anticipating going north, somehow brought emotions up for me. This cry was a weepy private shedding of a few tears…it was nothing dramatic, just enough that I had to remove my glasses because my eye lashes had mucked my lenses up. The 401 and the Tim Horton’s parking lots of Canada hold no real intimacy. I hoped that the secondary road would be kinder.
A rough-looking guy, once asked, pointed north and told me just to drive through Whitby, I’d get onto the right highway. I felt his directions a tad sketchy, but followed them anyway.
Leaving home is never easy. All of my readers know that. This year, leaving Bridge Street… and my parents… was heart-breaking. I tried the all-business approach to my packing up and sorting things (I still managed to leave one back pack behind), but beneath the surface I was again and again choking, choking in rooms by myself, while walking Max and Budster in the park across the street, on the elevator and in the parking lot. By choking, I don’t mean crying tears. I don’t know if you know what I mean. It was a feeling so deep that it hurt my chest, but no sound came out and no tears were released.
When I last looked up at the balcony…Mom, cozy in her morning robe and Dad, tears in his eyes, I had to pull into my cave of a van and cry. In my life I have been faulted for my emotions about things. But this moment was one I will never forget, for its connection to my life…for the feeling of ‘leaving’ and the longing for connection. I am home now and I will update my blog with a few significant happenings along the way.