After leaving Camp 30 in Bowmanville, we headed out onto the (HWY) 401 just to get stuck in hours of traffic. Traffic itself I have no problem with, it is the easily frustrated, road rage filled others that distress me.
All lanes were full and in park mode. We even turned our vehicle off to wait. Behind us an 18 wheeler pulled onto the shoulder to try to pass traffic. There was simply not enough room for him to be pulling an illegal move usually saved for small cars and motorcycles.
After he came (LITERALLY) within one inch of smashing into us, I stuck my head out the window to remind him what he was doing;
“What the hell is wrong with you? Not only are you doing something dangerous and illegal, but you are far too big to be acting so recklessly. Are you trying to hit us or force us to smash into other lanes of traffic? Get back in your lane you idiot.”
Surprisingly, he listened and pulled back in behind us while hanging his head in shame. He nearly did force us to veer into traffic to avoid him, but usually yelling at someone with road rage only causes more road rage.
Thankfully he (and everyone else within hearing distance), stayed where he (they) belonged until we passed through the traffic hours later.
That wouldn’t be our only shocking incident though.
We turned on the the (HWY) 400 toward Barrie. It was already getting late, and we were far behind our caravan – almost a day behind after our Camp 30 exploration and multiple hour, accident based traffic jam.
As we drove, I noticed a skydiver who appeared to be wildly out of control. He was being pulled up into jet streams, his chute was not completely opened and he was directly over a dense neighbourhood.
It just didn’t look right – and it didn’t feel right either.
That evening, we would find out (on the news) that the parachutist was in fact out of control, and sadly he plummeted to his death in someones back yard.
Normally I am fascinated by abandoned buildings, but perhaps because this is my home province, or maybe because I have so many fond memories of holidaying in Northern Ontario, the decay saddened me.
This area was barren to start with. Now, decades after my first visits as a child, it has even further degraded. Abandoned motel/hotels, restaurants and gas stations litter the route.
If you lived up here, it would be a significant drive to access services, and surely even farther to find work.
We wondered to ourselves – where do people grocery shop?
We stopped in Parry Sound for the night and found ourselves in a terribly overpriced pubic hair filled ‘Comfort Inn’. Though we complained about the state of the room, it didn’t seem to matter much to the attendee. I would have expected a clean bathroom for nearly $200 CAD per night!
Apparently we had arrived during ‘peak season’, when the hotel prices nearly double to take advantage of the coming tourists. Though Parry Sound is beautiful, we left un-rested and disappointed.
We headed back out onto the highway, and after a few hours of driving, I noticed a speeding logging truck behind us.
I have had bad experiences with logging trucks in the past. Two have spilled their load in front of me while driving recklessly, another one lost a log, while careening dangerously fast through the mountains, that missed our front windshield by about four inches.
I had long since learned my logging truck lesson and prefer to give them a wide berth. I will actually stop and pull over to waste some time so they are a distance in front of my path.
This logging truck was no different – speeding and passing slower vehicles (including us – and we were doing 10 km per hour over the limit). I felt immediately like this was a disaster waiting to happen and took the above photo. After which I turned to my husband and demanded he pull over so we could be enough behind him that his imminent crash wouldn’t affect us.
We only pulled over for about two minutes, not long enough for my liking, but we still had not caught up with our group and didn’t want to lose much time.
We had barely made it back on the road when we were stopped. The logging truck had flipped, not even a kilometre ahead, and spilled his load all over the Trans Canada Highway. It had just happened, authorities had not yet arrived.
It was estimated that it would take 5 or more hours to clean up the log jam, no one seemed to know for sure if the driver was going to survive.
We sat in the line of traffic feeling a bit stunned – me because I saw it coming and wished I could have prevented the tragedy, my husband because he knew I saw it coming!
A local behind us came to our window and asked us if we had seen the accident, and if we knew how to get around it. We didn’t know there was a way to get around it. In many of these remote locations in Northern Ontario, the Trans Canada is the ONLY route through.
She asked us if we could take our vehicle on a rough dirt/gravel road that she knew of, the only way around the accident. We trepidatious-ly agreed, and thanked her for offering us help.
She wasn’t kidding about the state of the road she led us down. We rode most of the way blindly, being suffocated by the dust that permeated our car. But we made it past the accident, and for that we were grateful.
We were happy to breathe the clean air again when we reached the main road and its blue skies.
Though referred to as ‘Northern Ontario’, this region is not actually located in what would geographically be considered north. More like a little bit west and very south.
The area is littered with Christian signs pronouncing love for Jesus, and plenty of French.
Fully French signs – without English lined the Highway. Remarkably, I had forgotten the historically French roots that ‘established’ the region. Though there are not many people left, at one time French settlers worked this difficult marshy, rocky land.
It is primarily the French and some English speaking relatives (along with a few Aboriginal people), that remain and the (few) local establishments reflect this – as do the road signs. Thankfully I have a decent handle on the complex language, and can interact in the local dialect when need be.
Though naturally beautiful, I can hardly imagine living here, with the distinct lack of services, and long stretches between communities.
By the looks of it, life here would be hard to maintain, work difficult to find, and necessary resources at a great distance – if available at all.
We still had 16 or 17 hours of driving ahead of us before we were out of Ontario and into Winnipeg. Our fingers were crossed in hopes that we would not come into contact with any more trauma.
Many additional photos in the slideshow.