In the summer of 2021, my daughter was offered a new job working as a Forensic Pathologist in Winnipeg. When she mentioned her plans to move west, I was thrilled that she and her family were moving from New Brunswick to Manitoba. Winnipeg is only 3 hours away rather than 24 hours minimum if we were to fly. We hadn’t been able to see our grandkids for over a year and a half, so I volunteered to help with the move. New Brunswick had just opened their border to vaccinated visitors, so I was able to enter the province without any problem. I had arrived a week early to help anyway that I could – mostly just keeping the kids out of Angela’s and Chris’ hair while they packed. I was also called in to do some minor repairs and cleanup. Finally, moving day arrived.
We started our 3200-km journey from Moncton, New Brunswick to Angela and Christopher’s new home in St. Andrews on Tuesday, July 27. Although most of their possessions were travelling by truck (Huge U-Haul crates), we were taking a horse trailer filled with things that couldn’t be sent by U-Haul and also things that would be needed along the way. We were travelling in two SUVs loaded with 4 dogs (3 Great Danes and a Hungarian Vizsla), 3 adults, two kids, and 8 quail (in the trailer). Chris would be driving a Plymouth Voyager and I would be in the Jeep with Angie, the two kids, and Chaucer, one of the Great Danes. Chaucer, a grouchy old dog, had to travel alone since he couldn’t get along with any other dogs, including all three of the others!
The plan was to take five days to drive from Moncton to our home on Lake of the Woods, staying at four campgrounds along the way. On August 1, they were to take possession of their new home located just outside Selkirk, Manitoba. Angela had booked and paid for two camp spots at each of four locations along the way. We intended to leave each morning at 7:00am and arrive at the day’s destination by 4:00pm. (Guess how that turned out??) An early arrival at the campgrounds would give the kids (and adults) a chance to unwind after the day’s travels.
Day 1: Tuesday, July 27
Moncton to Rivière-Ouelle, QC
Our first hitch
After hooking up the trailer to Angela’s Jeep, we left their home at around 10:00am in light rain. I had checked the tires and the trailer connection before we left. The tires on the Jeep were new, having just been replaced by Costco, but the trailer was sitting very low at the trailer hitch. Angela assured me that they had used the trailer before and that the trailer only looked as though it was low because the driveway was uneven. Off we went. The first stop was Sobie’s to get some groceries for the trip. Meanwhile, Chris went to get some dog food for the hounds. I checked the trailer connections again and had concerns since even on the very smooth parking lot, the trailer only had 4 inches of clearance with only about 2 inches of clearance between the pavement and the screw jack. I mentioned my concern again, but was reassured that we would be OK.
Our next stop was McDonalds to get breakfast. Along the way, the trailer dragged bottom on several occasions. In my opinion (which I didn’t manage to stifle!), I mentioned to Angela that we would not make it to Manitoba with the trailer like that (in fact, I doubted that we would make it out of New Brunswick!) Christopher agreed that there was a problem and checked to see whether we could find a raised trailer hitch to help level the ride. After some searching, he found that U-Haul had a hitch insert that raised the trailer 4½ inches. Perfect! We were on our way by 11:30am. (So much for a 7:00am start! It was only the first day and would only get better!)
Dinner and a move-in
We arrived at our first campground at Rivière-Ouelle, located on the St Lawrence River at around 8:00pm. It was a beautiful campground and there was still a fair bit of daylight left, so I mentioned to Angela and Christopher that I would take the kids to the water and the playground while they set up the tents and walked and fed the dogs. The tents were quite large and were connected to the SUVs, which allowed the people to sleep in the tents while the dogs stayed in the SUVs. By the time I returned to campsites 557 and 559, it was sunset. Since we were quite late in getting settled, dinner consisted of hot dogs and potato chips, with dessert of marshmallows. (Yum!)
I opted to have my own tent because I had no desire to sleep with either dogs or kids. My tent, which was recently purchased at Canadian Tire had never been used and ended up being set up in the dark – no instructions! Although there were parts left over, I crawled into my sleeping bag, and was asleep by around 10:00pm. What a day!
Day 2: Wednesday, July 28
Rivière-Ouelle to La Vérendrye Park, QC
In the morning, Chris made us each a “weapons-grade” French-pressed coffee. DELICIOUS! Life was going to be OK! Maybe not! Catastrophe! Killian had been playing with the French-press and ended up dropping it and shattering the glass carafe!! Luckily Angie and Chris had a spare coffee maker made of stainless steel, so no one had to die!
We left the campground at around 10:30am since it was hard to get the kids and dogs moving. After driving through Trois Rivières and skirting Montreal, we arrived at La Vérendrye Park near the Quebec-Ontario border at around 7:00pm. The park is huge, with an area of 12,589 square kilometres. Angela went into the park office to register and found out that our camp spots were located at Larouche another 80 km up the highway! The kids were melting down and it was raining, but off we went.
When it rains…
When we arrived at the campground, the road went down a bit of a hill and had a fairly significant washout. I was driving the Jeep with the trailer and drove very slowly, trying to avoid the washout by skirting the road as much as possible. Nevertheless, the trailer dragged though the gravel, but we arrived at the reserved campsites, which were classified as “rustic” and had no services. I was concerned that we might have a difficult time getting back onto the highway due to the significant slope, a washout, and ongoing rain — but that was “tomorrow’s problem”!
We were adjacent to a lovely lake, with loons calling, but the scenic beauty was marred by the rain and copious amounts of voracious mosquitoes. Apparently, there was an outhouse, which I didn’t find, but which I fortunately didn’t need to use. We set up the tents in the pouring rain. While Angela set up her tents, Chris made spaghetti and barbequed chicken for dinner. After Angela fed the dogs, we fed the kids and ate our meals under mosquito netting. The bugs were also well fed! The rain continued through the night.
Day 3: Thursday, July 29
La Vérendrye to Moonbeam, ON
Let’s go get stones
I was up at 6:00am and packed my gear and waited for everyone else to get moving. Finally, there was some movement by around 7:30am. Angela and I took down the tents in the pouring rain, while Chris made coffee. All the wet stuff was simply pushed into the horse trailer and would be dealt with later. I walked over to the washout to determine the best course of action to get up the road to the highway. It was possible to skirt the washout by driving up a grassy area, but I was afraid that if we jack-knifed the trailer on the slippery grass, we would be in really big trouble since there wasn’t a town for several hundred kilometers in either direction and it would take a tow truck hours to get us out. (Plus, there was no cell phone coverage!)
Angela found a pile of 4 to 6-inch stones and suggested that we fix the washout with these. Perfect! The road was made passable with about 15 minutes of work. I drove the trailer out slowly, while Chris watched the wheels of the Jeep and the trailer. We made it to the highway without any problem. Relief! The kids were fed small boxes of Froot Loops to keep them under control until we could get somewhere for something proper to eat.
A super-sized skirmish
Since we were driving in northern Quebec and Ontario, there wasn’t anything suitable for several hours and the kids were once again “melting down” – needing to be fed! After checking on the Internet, Angela suggested stopping at the McDonalds in Timmons, Ontario. I mentioned that this was about 65 kilometers off the planned route and that we should keep going to make up some time, but I was vetoed! Next stop – Timmons!
The McDonalds was a small restaurant and had no accommodation for a large horse trailer, so the decision was made that Chris would pick up the food in his SUV and that the Jeep and trailer would wait at a parking area, not too far away in town. We all needed to get out to stretch our legs. Angela took Briar, Killian, and Chaucer for a walk up a trail and spotted a medium-sized bear a few hundred feet away – this in the middle of Timmons! They returned to the car to wait for Chris, who arrived shortly after with the food. It was about 2:00pm and this was the first food that the adults had that day – the kids had Froot Loops and Goldfish cheese crackers to keep them well fed. (Nutrition was not really considered.) We all dived into our burgers, chicken McNuggets, etc. The rain had cleared up after we left Quebec and it was now 30°C and sunny. The dogs needed to be walked, so Angela took Chaucer out of the Jeep and kept him on a leash. She mentioned to Chris to keep the other dogs in his van. Chris was blocking the open driver side window while he ate his Big Mac. As if they had planned it, the other two Great Danes, who each weighed about 170 pounds, jumped through the open window, pushed 150-lb Chris out of the way and attacked Chaucer. Within a few seconds one of the dogs had Chaucer by the throat and the other Great Dane was biting him on the haunches. We three adults each grabbed a Great Dane and broke up the fight while the kids cried in the parking lot. Wow. Lots of excitement! (Despite witnessing the dog fight, Briar kept talking about Chaucer being attacked by a black bear!)
After getting everyone settled and loaded back into the SUVs, we were on our way to the town of Moonbeam, Ontario, which has a population of 1200 people and a sizable campground about 3 km north. As we were driving north, I thought I sensed a strange noise, but with the ambient road noise, I wasn’t sure. We arrived at Twin Lakes Campground at around 7:00pm and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was (especially considering the previous night’s accommodation) and the campground was probably more populated than the town. I volunteered to get pizza for dinner while Angela and Chris dealt with the tents, the dogs, and the kids. On the drive to town, I noticed that the rear left wheel of the Jeep was making a clicking sound. Despite getting out to check on it, I didn’t notice anything unusual when I looked under the car. I returned to the campground after picking up the pizzas, and mentioned that we shouldn’t continue driving until the problem (whatever it was) had been corrected. Chris had a look at the wheel and immediately noticed that two lug nuts were missing. (“Damn, Costco didn’t tighten the nuts properly”, I thought.) On closer inspection, the entire studs were missing! BIG PROBLEM!!
Angela and Chris got onto the Internet and determined that we were located only 20 km from Kapuskasing and that it had two OK Tire dealerships. Lucky break! I volunteered to drive into Kapuskasing the following morning to have someone look at the Jeep. After dinner, we used the shower facilities at the campground to have relaxing hot showers to take the stress off the day. Wonderful! Bedtime was at around 10:00pm as usual. We were all clean, watered, and fed! Survival was a possibility!
Day 4: Friday, July 30
Moonbeam to Kapuskasing to Kakebecka Falls, ON
A snappy retorque
As usual, Chris made us each a “weapons-grade” French-press coffee. I was on the road by around 8:30am to drive to Kapuskasing. Although there was no vibration to go along with the clicking, I was very concerned about the wheel since I had tried to tighten the nuts on the wheel and the first one only spun without getting tight – not a good sign! I didn’t mention anything to Angela or Chris – they had enough to worry about. For the most part, I drove on the shoulder of the road at only 50 km/h. If the wheel was to come off, I didn’t want to be going highway speed! Just east of Kapuskasing, I came on the Val Albert Jeep dealership (Somebody was looking after me!) and pulled in.
I gave my sob story to the guy at the service desk, mentioning that I was driving from New Brunswick to Manitoba with my daughter and her family and that we had a problem! He said that they had a mechanic that could have a look at it immediately. In about 15 minutes, the mechanic came out and said that the problem was even worse than I had indicated. Two of the remaining studs were broken off and the wheel was really only held on by one bolt! He said that the wheel may have been damaged, as possibly was the hub, and perhaps the axle. He was preparing me for the worst. After checking with Angela, I told the service department to do whatever was necessary to get us back on the road. Was I really going to haggle with them at this point? By 11:30am, the repair was done and it turned out that only the studs and nuts on the hub needed to be replaced – total cost $383. All the other wheels were retorqued. Not bad, considering how bad things could have been.
By around noon, we were on our way to Kakebecka Falls Provincial Park, just west of Thunder Bay. Although it was raining and the kids were again having a “meltdown”, the day went rather well. It was dark (again!) by the time we set up the tents and got everyone fed, walked, and settled. Dinner (again!) consisted of hot dogs and chips! I was glad that we had come as far as we had and that we only had about another 6 hours of travel ahead of us.
Day 5: Saturday, July 31
Kakebecka Falls to Lake of the Woods
A happy ending
After coffee and a light breakfast, we headed to the falls to have a look at the spectacle. While Angela and Chris dealt with Killian and the dogs, I took Briar to view the falls. She is really into unicorns, so I told her that unicorns lived behind waterfalls and that if we looked closely, we might see one! (We didn’t!)
In the meantime, Angela had contacted her lawyer about getting the keys to their new house and was told that she needed to come into the lawyer’s office on Tuesday morning.
By around 10:00am, we were on the road. I contacted Joan to let her know that we expected to arrive at around 3:15pm and that she should get our truck out to Highway 17 so that I could pull the trailer up and down the hills of Storm Bay Road with the larger vehicle rather than a Jeep. The original plan was to leave the trailer with the quail at the firehall at the end of Storm Bay Road, pick the trailer up first thing the next morning, and drive to their new home on Sunday, August 1. They had to first see their lawyer and sign some papers before getting the key. Since it was a long weekend, they stayed at our house until Tuesday August 3. Angela and Christopher weren’t getting possession until Tuesday, so there was no way the quail would survive the heat. We all arrived exactly at the indicated time, and got to our house at a decent hour. Joan had dinner all planned and we were able to unwind from our lengthy road trip, for the rest of the evening.
Joan and I drove with Angela, Christopher and their family (and menagerie) to their new home in St. Andrews, just northwest of Selkirk on the Tuesday morning. While we looked after the kids and the dogs, they signed the papers and got the keys to the house. The Travelling Schitt Show was over, and no one was happier than I.
Needless to say, I will not volunteer to do this again – I think!!
Another great contribution by Will Miller to our Celebration of (Retired) Life. Thanks Will!
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