Day 0, May 30, 2019: Packed the car, a Subaru Crosstrek, for the drive to Winnipeg Manitoba along the Trans Canada. I would then fly to Calgary and join with around 200 other men for the XCC 4th Musketeer event in the Alberta Rockies.
Lion’s Head, Ontario Canada
Day 1: Stopped for a couple of days at Lion’s Head, Ontario to visit family. Stayed at “Beach Motel”: standard and spartan accommodations; not exactly modern; clean; wifi spotty; room layout a bit awkward. Very “cottage-type” rustic room. That said, the sliding doors at the back open to the waterfront and a beautiful sunrise.
Sidenote: Seafood City in Mississauga is a must-stop for expatriate Filipinos and those curious as to what a Filipino grocery and food court might look/feel/sound like. Prepared food is excellent, fresh and authentic. The grocery area is huge and well-stocked. We were particularly impressed with the fish section.
Tobermory – the Chi-Cheemaun
Day 3: Day 2 was family time. On Day 3, we headed north to Tobermory in the Bruce Peninsula to catch the ferry to South Beymouth on Manitoulin Island. This saved us 2 hours on the way to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. Chi-cheemaun is Ojibway for “big canoe.” It rather looked like a whale with a wide open mouth, gulping all the vehicles that dare enter its innards.
Day 3: Maybe it was the weekend? We found Sault Ste-Marie to be a really quiet town. We arrived at around 4 PM and driving along its main street, we became very hopeful that there was going to be much to see. Additionally, we checked in at “Sleep Inn” by the waterfront across a park. Expectantly, we walked to the river, the Ste Mary’s, bisected longitudinally by the Canada-US border. A huge and long container ship was sailing west to the Great Lakes. The tour boat is tiny in comparison. Across the river is the USA!
Sidenote: By 5 PM, the town was essentially empty. It was weird to us, coming from Montreal that stays alive through the night every night. We asked the hotel desk for restaurant ideas. For steaks, the diner at Quality Inn was first on the list (!). We were suspicious. We opted for Italian, drove through empty streets, found the place. The still empty tables had all been reserved! No space for us, no sir! The hostess, feigning pity, offered the bar; I wouldn’t have any of it. We were encouraged to try the Thai restaurant next door. We were hungry so we went and entered the joint, wary of the thick iron bars encasing the wide picture window looking out on the sidewalk. There were just 2 other diners. The food was good, service friendly and attentive (well, there were only 4 of us total in a room with 20 tables). The mango salad was particularly refreshing. Two more diners came in as we were walking out. The city was still empty as we stepped outside.
Feeling uneasy, we just went back to “Sleep In” and did exactly what the hotel name said.
Day 4: Driving along the shores of Lake Superior. Photos don’t do justice to the magnificence of this great body of water, making up 10% of all the fresh water in the world. This is what a road trip is all about, this is what makes it all worthwhile.
Two restaurants highly recommended to us:
The Prospector Steak House. Generous servings. Moderately priced. I had a New York sirloin, Grace a rib-eye, both ordered rare. Perfectly prepared. The sirloin could have been juicier, but it is after all, a sirloin. The rib-eye could have been trimmed a bit better, but a minor flaw. The home-made dinner rolls were fresh, aromatic, tender and hard to resist, particularly with the whipped garlic butter.
Hoito. Since 1918, serving delicious and affordable Finnish-inspired food. We went in for breakfast, the minute it opened at 9 AM. The Finnish pancakes and strawberry sauce were simply delicious. No need for maple syrup. They were like crepes. Mine was filled with a perfectly prepared omelet augmented with sausages and bacon. Even the coffee was excellent, a far cry from what we had been tolerating at the hotels. Highly recommended.
Winnipeg – with family
Day 5 and 6: Rest and preparation time for the flight to Calgary, and the XCC 4th Musketeer event!
The XCC, June 6-9
Day 7 and beyond: Aside from visiting family in Winnipeg, the XCC 4th Musketeer was the other primary reason for this roadtrip. I flew to Calgary and drove with a couple of other guys to the launch point somewhere close to Longview Alberta on Highway 40, Forestry Trunk Road, 1661 m elevation. We joined up with close to 200 other men at the launch point. At nightfall, we began our trek to higher elevations at the continental divide.
The ascents and descents were extremely challenging.
We climbed over a thousand feet and above the treeline into the snow-covered slopes. Morning calisthenics limbered us up for each day’s trek.
XCC was indeed a character-changing journey, one that I would do again if given the opportunity. The lessons I learned far outweighed the pain.