One Last Trip

With the winter season imminent, the 2015 road trip season was coming to an end.  We had driven to the west coast and driven to the east coast.  I had thought about driving to the north border of Ontario, but with my little car it was an expedition beyond my abilities.   And so we turned our attention elsewhere.  Pelee Island is the farthest point south in Canada and so that was where I wanted to go.  In an uncharacteristic moment of forethought, I researched the island.  Ferries had to be reserved in advance and with an upcoming quail hunt, most spots were taken as were all dog-friendly accommodations.  So we did the next best thing and drove to Pelee Point instead.  It may not be the farthest point south but was as south as we could go.

On October 20, 2015 we left home and put some serious road under the tires by the time we arrived at Pelee Point National Park.  It was warm and sunny that day and the wind blew tirelessly over the waters of Lake Erie.

We walked the trails and the beaches until we arrived at the tip…

For a little while we just sat and watched the waves roll in.  Even the dogs seemed to be mesmerized by the constant buffeting of the waves.  Reluctantly we left the shore and made the slow trek back to the car.  The trails were all well-cleared and level so the walk was easy.

After we left, we stopped at the Pelee Island Winery and I bought a bottle of prosseco.  It seemed appropriate to have a bottle of bubbly.  I then stopped at a farmers market and bought a cherry pie.

I had toyed with the idea of staying in a hotel for the night but decided against it and continued back home.

It wasn’t my usual road trip: I didn’t keep track of my mileage.  I had a very set destination.  There were no side trips and I didn’t really keep track of anything.  This was a drive for the sake of driving kind of trip.  I thought of it as a way to end the season.

And now dear reader, the question that I get asked all the time: Why?  Why drive across vast distances with three dogs in a little car?  Why not fly somewhere and really explore a place?

It’s more than just the destination.  I enjoy the journey.  I like watching the terrain change around me; sometimes it’s so subtle you don’t really see it and other times it’s amazingly abrupt.  I like the freedom of going where I want to go and when I want to do it, eating different foods, and listening to how dialects change as the distance increases.

And if I flew, forget about taking the dogs.  Yes they can be a bit of extra work but I think they’re worth it.  They are some of the best company anyone could hope for and I am so lucky that they enjoy the road as much as I do.

But there’s something more than that; something more profound.  Our time on this world is short and theirs is even shorter.  I feel that the reason why our pets don’t live as long us is because they give so much of themselves they just run out of life sooner.  All they want is to be together as one big pack.  Their whole existence revolves around their alpha, which just happens to be me.  How could I not include them in the biggest moments of my life?

Then when I look at them, I don’t always see them but their stories: Jack with his eyes slowly becoming as grey as his muzzle and his gait becoming more stilted as the days pass.

Piper: her young body bearing the marks and scars of illness and injury with every day a step closer to a surgery I don’t even want to think about.

And Leo: sometimes I still see the terrified little dog shaking in fear and confusion as he stood guard against something he could not comprehend.

That is why I do what I do.  As I experience all these adventures, who better to have them with than my dogs? I want to know that when that inevitable and terrible day comes, I’ll be able to hold them close so the only thing they hear is my voice and whisper in their ear: “Hey pup.  We had a good run.  I showed you the world.  And when we meet again, the whole pack will be waiting.  The car will be ready, the tank will always be full, and there won’t be a leash in sight.  And then little one, and then the adventures we will have.”

Maine

September 13, 2015

Our last day in Alma started out rainy so nix the last few trails. We had a nice breakfast at the Octopus Garden again. And Kelly’s Bake Shop was finally open so I picked up some of their famous sticky buns and some peanut butter balls. So tasty. And I know how tasty they were because a few didn’t make it out of the parking lot.  Then we hit the road.

I had seen McCabes all over the maritimes but they were all closed. Until today. Finally happened by one that was open. The ice cream was good. Not great. Meh.

With Yelp as my guide we left the highway for a coffee shop. It wasn’t open. But a seafood stop called the Clam Digger was. That was the best lobster roll that we had up to this point. Yes we. By this time dear reader, it should not be surprising at all that the dogs would be sharing with me.  Back on the highway.

As we were getting close to Maine I began to see signs for a chocolate museum. How do I not stop?  It turned out the museum is just an outlet for Ganong Chocolates which was so disappointing. It’s not like I could really do a tour or spend any serious time there, but I had wanted to grab something either for my nephews or my friend Liz who was taking care of my cats while I was out galavanting.  At least we finally found a good coffee shop down the road.

The trip across the border was the easiest so far. I was still left a bumbling fool.  And it was the most unassuming border crossing I had seen.  Some of the toll booths I had gone through were more imposing.

As I was driving down the highway, I looked to my left and see a guy walking past what looks like some apple trees with something white at his feet. At first I think dog. No. Cat? Nope. Chicken. We was walking through his orchard and a chicken was walking with him! If I hadn’t been on the interstate I would have filmed it.

Not long after that, we’re driving along and there’s a guy standing on the the side of the road. I thought he was going to cross but he wasn’t looking in either direction.  Standing perfectly still. Wearing a baseball cap and dark sunglasses. And he had such an ashen look to his skin I thought “Holy crap. I’m seeing a real-life Weekend at Bernies!” If there had been anyone else around I probably would have driven off the road.

As we were passing through Wayne, Maine (ha) I saw a sign for Tubby’s which had ice cream AND lobster rolls. An immediate U-turn. And it was by far the BEST lobster roll I have ever had. You could get one for $12 or two for $20.  I regretted not getting two but then I would be full and unable to follow it with peanut butter ice cream. Wait…who am I kidding?  I would have run laps around the town to make room if I had to.  The menu had a Bow Wow Dish listed.  I had to ask.  It turns out a Bow Wow Dish is a small cup of vanilla ice cream with a dog cookie on top.  I was finally able to get the pups their own treats.

We were heading to the White Mountains expecting clear skies. I even checked the weather apps and it looked like it would be clear.  Then as we kept going, the skies opened. So another hotel room.

We drove into Gorham and had a room at Northern Peaks Motel.  No issues until I locked us out of the room when I stepped outside.  I had to hang my head in shame as I went to the front desk to ask to be let back in.

New Hampshire

September 14, 2015
Well it rained all night last night and well into the morning. Needless to say I got very little sleep. And sharing a twin bed with three dogs; it’s like a real life version of Tetris.

We stopped at a cute cafe just down the street and I ordered a Wake Me Up. It’s a latte…with six shots of espresso. It took a little bit to kick in but all of a sudden I could feel my skin vibrating and I thought I could hear in colours. That’s normal right?

Just as we were leaving Gorham there was a break in the rain and we got a chance to do some hiking in the White Mountains. The terrain wasn’t particularly difficult but the rain had made the rocky ground slick. We had a small stream to cross which made Jack very nervous but he was a brave boy and he jumped over with with a lot of encouragement.

The rain didn’t hold off for long and we had to head back much sooner than I wanted to. When we came to the same stream, Leo jumped over with no problem. Piper tried to find an alternate route but after going up and down the stream, she jumped over at the same spot. Jack hesitated again. Well Leo being the irritating little brother that he is, started hopping back and forth, nipping at Jack’s back legs, and started yanking on his leash. Which is hilarious on it’s own.  But then as Leo is trying to pull Jack closer to the edge, he loses traction and slides into the water.  It’s a shallow stream so I wasn’t worried about him but I did almost fell in myself because I was laughing so hard.  Jack found his courage after that and hopped over.

So when we got back to the car I decided to head home. It was a bit earlier than I wanted to but with so little time left before I had to be home and the satellite showing a massive storm front,  it was too late to start driving around the rain.

The crossing into Quebec was low key and all but there’s me still tongue tied. Hell if I was a border guard I’d be like “Ya nothing to declare? Pull over”.

We stopped in Kingston for some fancy pizza. Kingston is pretty but after the unbelievable hospitality of both coasts, it’s really hard to compete with that. The only city that made me more tense was Whistler.  Walking around downtown Kingston with three dogs is obviously not something that people see often.

We were back in the car heading for home and as I was driving along, I felt something touching at the back of my right elbow.  It couldn’t see anything in the dark and it was bothering me that I couldn’t figure out what it was so during a brief pause, I snapped a photo.  The next time I stopped I looked at the picture…

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Well that’s terrifying.

We got home just before 10:00 pm after driving 4732.3 km over the course of eight days.

I’d like to say the cats were happy to see us. I’d like to. It took over an hour for any of them to acknowledge that I was home and that was Martini doing happy feet on my belly as I lay on the couch.

In the span of one month, the four of us drove from one side of the country to the other.  Are we done yet?  Far from it…

 

The Bay of Fundy

September 12, 2015

Today we did something I have never done on a road trip: we stayed put. I mean I thought about moving on after a few hikes. I thought about camping in the park. The weather was just too nice for a few trails, especially after the almost non-stop rain that we had been dealing with. And the ground was waterlogged so camping with the mutts would be a bit unpleasant. I looked at hotels down the road and decided nope. We stay.

But before all that thinking about moving on and stuff, we went for a walk on the bay.  Not along the edge or anything.  We scaled down the rocks and wandered around in the mud.  Now I don’t remember seeing signs not to move around on the flats but since we were the only ones out there, we didn’t stray far out.

After wiping off muddy feet, we had breakfast at “The Octopus’s Garden” down the road from the hotel.  Pancakes of course.  I certainly amused a few people when they saw me sharing little nibbles with the dogs.

Then to the park.  We hiked for almost 12 hours!! The only time we stopped was to run into Alma for lunch. There was a trailer as soon as you get back into town so that was where we stopped.  Seafood, of course, before we went back to the trails.

I didn’t expect to see much in the way of wildlife during the day but I had thought that maybe, just maybe, as dusk approached I would see one of those moose I kept hearing about.  We did see a couple of rabbits. Ohhhhhhh then as we’re heading back into town and it’s almost completely dark and the only light was from my headlights, I saw a pale shape in the middle of the road. At first I couldn’t see what it was or where it was going but as I got closer I saw that it’s a coyote. A bloody coyote eating something in the middle of the road. And you know what that little bastard does? Trots at my car!!! So I rolled my window down and just start talking at it: “are you really coming at my car? Who do you think you are?” If a coyote could look confused I’m pretty sure I saw what that looked like. Then I had Piper try to push herself through the glass to get at it. Let’s face it… I’m the mouth and she’s the muscle. I’m glad she hasn’t figured out how to undo her harness.  The kicker is that we have coyotes back home in southern Ontario.  I drive to the Atlantic Ocean and the only wildlife I see is a coyote.  Not a whale or seal or dolphin or even a moose.  No.  A coyote.  I spent the short drive back to the hotel muttering to myself.

I had reserved a room in the middle of our hiking so I had to check in again with the same gentleman who had been there when I checked in and out that morning.  He seemed surprised to see me again.  I just shrugged and shook my head.  What could I say?

After unpacking in our new room, I decided to try a different place for dinner.  Alma is so small that you could basically walk from one end to the other in under an hour and this restaurant was almost directly across from the hotel.  I walked in and asked if I could sit on the patio while the dogs were outside the fence.  My jaw almost dropped when the server said I could bring them onto the patio.  Say whaaaaaaaaaaat?  So there I am on the patio and there are people on the other side of the glass inside the restaurant who are getting quite a show as they watch me and the dogs eating.  Yes the dogs had a few bites too. What can I say: they have refined palates.  I felt like we were on display at a zoo.

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Leo sat there the entire time.

After gorging ourselves on so much food we practically rolled back to our room, we quickly passed out, pleasantly exhausted from a wonderful day.

To the Bay

September 11, 2015

The east coast had next to no rain this year.  And then I showed up. The rain started over night and pretty much continued all day.  I made my own sunshine with a fantastic cup of coffee and a decent cranberry lemon scone at one of the coolest shops I have ever stopped at called “Downstreet Coffee Company”.  I loved every bit of it: from the decor to the layout to the outstanding americano.  If I hadn’t had some four-legged critters with me, I would have hung out there for hours.

A short drive away in Port Hood I found a stretch of beach where we were able to have a walk during a brief break in the rain.

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Enjoying a chance to run on the beach.

With the dogs temporarily tuckered out, we continued on and stopped at Sandeannies Bake Shop and Tea Room. It was disappointing as far as baked goods but a really good grilled cheese with bacon. Yaaaaa.

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So simple. So tasty.

And the rain continued. So much for camping….again. So we got a room in Alma just off the Bay of Fundy. Just off as in I can look out the back and see the bay.  And Fundy National Park is next to the town.  I can almost see the gate from the road outside the hotel; it really is that close.

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The Bay of Fundy at low tide.

Once everyone was settled, the next thing to take care of was dinner.  The only delivery option is pizza. With the plethora of seafood options? I don’t think so.

So I went to a nearby restaurant/convenience store. Interesting combo. I picked up SO MUCH FOOD. Scallops and shrimp. Lobster roll with wedges and coleslaw. A drumstick pie.

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So. Much. FOOD!

Oh and Alma is under a boil water advisory because they’ve had so little water it affected the reservoir. Until I showed up of course.  Glad I could bring the rain with me.  But hey the rain is supposed to end over night so we can play in the bay tomorrow.

Until then, I’ll make sure we’re well rested.

Along the Cabot Trail

September 10, 2015

We had a leisurely wake up this morning. A nice long walk on the beach. And out we go.

We stopped at a few of the hiking spots off the trail. One hike was a bit longer than I planned when I missed a turn in the trail. Ooooops.  At least I didn’t have to worry about spooking bears with Jack huffing and puffing along.  There were quite a few signs warning about bear activity.  The funny thing was that everyone I spoke to were more concerned about the moose.  In fact, they made a point of telling me to be off the roads after dark because of the moose.

Once I had loaded the dogs back into the car, we went for lunch. And to make sure that Jack was properly re-fueled, we had lobster for lunch. Yes I wrote that. We had lobster.

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Talk about a lunch!

After lunch we stopped and had coffee at the Frog Pond Cafe. Well I had coffee and the dogs socialized with everyone around.  And there may have been a second coffee at the Dancing Goat Cafe.

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A great little spot for coffee.

Now as we were driving I saw signs that piqued my interest. Signs for Glenora Distillery. Well now how do I not stop? Let’s just say the 14 year old scotch is quite lovely and a bottle somehow made it into my car.

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I did not expect to find this.

The rest of the day was punctuated by stops to hike whenever there was a break in the weather.  Much like the Rocky Mountains, if I had stopped at every beach and scenic overlook, well, it would have taken us a very long time to get anywhere.  The rugged beauty is so different from the Rockies and yet they are both amazing places to see.

Unfortunately as we continued on the weather reports were not getting any more encouraging so we checked into the Margaree River View Inn.

So now the next issue is food. Nothing close enough to deliver. Do we leave to get something? Nooooooooo I have a trunk full of supplies. So coffee maker oatmeal it is. Macgyver ain’t got nothin’ on me.

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I don’t know why Leo always claims the pillow.

A Change of Plans

September 9, 2015

Wednesday we set out for the ferry to go to Newfoundland. You can’t really see in the photo above but the starting mileage is 2063.6.  My plan had been to take the ferry over to Newfoundland and then make our way to Cape Spear, which is the furthest point east that you can drive to in Canada. I had thought that since we had gone as far west as we could drive, we might as well go east.  I didn’t think this would be complicated.

I pulled up to the booth and the conversation goes something like this:
Me: “When does the next ferry leave?”
Booth: “You don’t have a reservation do you?”
Me: “Nope” innocent smile
Booth: “The next one leaves at 11:30 and then there’s one at 11:30 tonight”
I look at the clock and it’s just after 6:30 am. Ok I can waste five hours.
Me: “How long is the ferry ride?”
Booth: “It’s about six hours”
Wow
Me: “Okaaaaaaay”
Booth: “Will the dogs be staying in the car or do you have kennels for them?”
Uh oh.
Me: “I can’t stay in the car once the boat starts can I?”
Booth: “No and the dogs can’t go in the passenger areas because of allergies. But we had an expert in and they said that after that long the dogs get comfortable staying in the car. Or you could rent kennels for them and visit them in the pet area”
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa my dogs. In kennels. In a boat. Away from me. For six hours.  I don’t think so. And then do that again to leave. Ain’t gonna happen.  I did not drive them this far to do that to them; it would not be fair.

So we leave and after a brief stroll we have a new plan: The Cabot Trail.  It’s funny because I had been talking to my brother not to long before I left and he had mentioned visiting the trail.  There I was in Nova Scotia with a sudden upheaval of plans and the opportunity magically presented itself.

I stopped and bought some pancakes and bacon as we were leaving Sydney Mine and a short drive down the road I found a place to sit and eat them.  It seems like we always have pancakes and bacon in some of the strangest places and this time I sat on a section of dock that had been pulled onto the bank and we watched boats bobbing in the water as we ate.

The Cabot trail is definitely worth seeing if you’re out that way and we made a lot of stops.

And now, dear reader, I have a small confession to make: before I left for this trip I went out and bought a new camera so I was taking every chance to play with it.  This made every stop that much longer. Oohhhhhhh rocks. Take a picture. And another. And another. Oh dogs. Click click click click click. Yes I have a problem.

I stopped at the “Bean Barn Cafe” and had my first seafood chowder ever.  It was so delicious I ate it without stopping.  Or breathing.  I don’t think I even shared it with the dogs.  We left with a coffee in hand to continue with our hiking.

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I had my first seafood chowder here. It was amazing.

As the day passed, the rain came and went and the weather forecast sounded like more rain was on the way. I was on the fence about camping or not so I stopped at a campground that is also known for oysters. I had never had oysters so I decided that I could check this place out at the same time. I had the oysters. I kept moving.

A bit further down the road, I stopped at “The Rusty Anchor”. I made a bit of a deal with the staff: I’ll sit on the patio and my dogs will sit outside the patio. That way I could enjoy a real meal instead of having to pack one up to go.

The server came out and started gushing over Leo because she has a Boston too. I’m just tucking into a lobster roll (I’m in the Maritimes so I’m eating seafood every chance I get) and a man comes out asking if he can visit with my boxer. Sure why not? Talk about a small world. He lives less than an hour from me and his boxer is from the same breeder as Piper. He went back in and just as I’m about to dive headfirst into some monster chocolate cheesecake, to console myself for not going to Newfoundland of course, his wife came out and she got her dog fix in as well. She recommended a motel just around the corner. I was beat and the sky was looking ominous so I went to check it out.

The hideous pink colour was off putting but I was able look past that. And yes dogs are allowed. Wahooooo

We got settled in and went for a little walk around the motel. The place is literally right on the ocean so we walked along the beach and visited with people for a while then went back to the room.  The motel has a fire pit that they light up for guests and everyone sits and mingles and I had been planning to go but as soon as I sat down for a few minutes, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere for the rest of the night.

Through Quebec

September 8, 2015

Day two on our trip east. I had wonderful sleep at the hotel. Now breakfast posed a bit of a challenge. See, you have to sign paperwork saying you won’t leave the dogs alone in the room. And when I checked in, they were quite emphatic about that. So running to grab food to load up my plate was a rather hurried affair. And there were staff cleaning the room beside mine and saw me come in from our pre-breakfast walk with three dogs. Cue the Mission: Impossible theme music. I’m not normally that worried but the nice man at the front had been making such a big deal about it that I didn’t want to cause any troubles, especially for him.

We checked out and hit the road. Nothing really exciting to see until I saw a road sign that had me extremely confused for a place called, and I’m not making this up, “Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha!”  At first I thought it was a joke (get it?) but then I realized that it was a real place.  I thought about stopping but my curiosity was not quite piqued enough until….

I’m driving down the highway and I look to my left and by the time I register “fromagerie” I’m way past. No way. Not on my watch. I took the next exit and made my way back. Fromagerie de Detour. How appropriate: a cheese shop that I had to detour for. I sampled and tasted and left with more cheese than I planned. Partly because the girl at the counter gave me a small wheel of amazing Brie. If you’re in the area, you have to go.

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Well worth the detour.

And then we’re into New Brunswick. In Edmonston we stumbled across Cafe Lotus Bleu, and I start talking with the owner (I think). We chat and chat and chat and she sends me on my way with a date square along with my order. It’s. Still. Warm. Normally I’m not a huge date square fan but she talked about it so much I had to eat it right away.  I sat out front and enjoyed the square with my coffee. I had to share too. Leo loved it.

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Apparently Leo loves date squares.

From there we headed toward Moncton. I had thought maybe to stop there but then I decided against it. We did stop at the best dog park I have ever been to in Centennial Park. The main section is huge with a few smaller fenced in areas. Definitely worth stopping at if you’re passing through.

With rain in the forecast I decided against tenting. We kept driving and driving and finally we got to the ferry in Sydney Mine to go into Newfoundland. Or rather we got close. I wanted to be there first thing so rather than get another room, we had a snooze in the car. I did take a photo of Piper draped across my lap but it was too dark to really post.  At least this time the temperature stayed much more comfortable than that one night we slept in the car in Montana.

But Not For Long…

September 7, 2015

What’s a girl to do when she has a vacation so soon after a western cross country road trip? Go on another one of course. I mean, why unpack everything?  We were home just long enough to clean the tent, do the laundry, and re-stock our food supplies.

Standard road trip rules would apply:

  1.  NO CHAIN RESTAURANTS
  2. Stop when we want to
  3. Stop where we want to
  4. Don’t plan too far ahead
  5. Listen to the radio until there is no signal
  6. Road trip bottle is Jura Superstition.

And so began Road Trip 2015 – East Edition.

We rolled out at 5:00 am and soon found ourselves driving toward the rising sun. We had to stop in Prescott, which is close to the Quebec border, to fill up the gas tank and, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a coffee shop not too far away. We enjoyed one of the best americano’s I have ever had with an aljour. Imagine two shortbread cookies sandwiching dulce de leche and drizzled with chocolate. Not too shabby. We sat by the St. Lawrence River and relaxed for a few minutes before we left and continued east on the 401.

I checked the weather a few times and heard that thunderstorms were coming our way. So much for the tent tonight. We checked into Hotel Dauphin in Quebec City just before 3:00 pm. It was a very nice hotel and the gentleman that checked me in was extremely polite and helpful.  We went into our room and after making sure everyone had a nice long drink of water, I did a quick bit of searching and found a park not too far away. We went to walk to the car aaannnnnnnndddd rain.  Not a little rain but a lot of rain; the kind where you can barely see what’s on the other side of the parking lot. The rain subsided after a brief deluge, and I decided to take our chances and drive to the park.

It was a nice urban park on the side of the St. Charles River and the rain held off for a while. And then we stumbled upon an honest to goodness dog park. With a fence. And dogs. Lots of dogs.

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Posing in Quebec City.

I knew that Jack and Leo would be no problem. Piper? Well Ms. Piper does not always play well with others. We hung out in the entry section for a bit as almost a dozen dogs mobbed the fence. They had a happy vibe. Piper seemed chill. Ok let’s give this a shot.

I was so proud of my girl. She ran and sniffed and ran some more. Jack went and found a couple sitting on a bench and hung out with them. And Leo kept trying to hump a pitbull. I had a couple of dogs hang out with me so a good time was had by all.  After a while Piper and Leo were sniffing less and walking with me more so I figured they were ready to leave. Jack tends to conserve his energy (which is a nice way of saying he can be lazy) so he was ready to go when we were.

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You can just make out my dogs are at the far side of the park. Nice to know they trust me around other dogs.

We were just about at the car when the skies opened up again. The rain was so heavy that I could barely see the front of the car as we navigated the streets back to the hotel.  I couldn’t even see the road signs at some points and had to rely on the GPS telling me when to turn.

Once we were safely back at the room the next mission was to find food. With it being Labour Day the options were limited. And Yelp, while it is an awesome app is not always accurate with some things: like whether a restaurant delivers. And then the language barrier when I called a few places. After wasting who knows how long, I finally just loaded everyone back into the car and started driving.

And driving and driving and driving.  Just as I was about to admit defeat there, like a beacon calling to me from the darkness, I saw a sign. Royale Pizza. Well don’t mind if I do.

Pizza safely secured in the car and back to the hotel we went. Wow. One of the best pizzas I have ever had. And that is saying a lot dear reader.  If you have been reading some of the past posts you will have noticed that I have eaten quite a lot of pizza.  It was worth the wait. Especially with a little swig of Jura.  With full stomaches we were soon asleep.

Nature Challenge: Day 7

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Is it any wonder we stayed until the sun almost set?

This photo was taken on Schooners Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park just outside of Tofino, British Columbia.  This was the farthest point west that we could drive to in Canada and we had somehow managed to wander our way there.

This is the last of seven posts in response to becomingduetsch  7-Day Nature Photo Challenge Series.

The rule for 7-Day Nature Photo Challenge is simple. Just post your favorite nature photo and nominate another blogger every day, for 7 days.  I nominate roamwildandfree.com who’s posts of nomadic life have me itching to hit the road again.