The Epic Drive Thus Far

Blue is what I've done, Red is still upcoming.

Blue is what I’ve done, Red is still upcoming.

I added it up and since leaving home I’ve spent 296.32$CAN on gas. The mileage, I didn’t track. Did have to stop for an oil change in Winnipeg though.

So far it’s been pretty smooth. No flat tires, no car break-ins, no encounters with unsavory types, no collisions… Knock on wood.

I’ve kept with my main goal of “doing cool things in cool places“, but as far as keeping records, well, let’s just say I update Facebook once in awhile so my mom doesn’t think I’ve died a horrible death. Even with forcing myself to take it easy, I still seem keep running from place to place until I collapse from exhaustion.

On a side note, like all trips I do, I’ve been in constant battle with myself, with, on one side, the urge to see every friend ONE MORE TIME and DO ALL THE THINGS, and on the other, an OMG I JUST NEED A FEW HOURS OF PRIVACY. Don’t let it fool you, travelling alone does not mean travelling lonely. Half the time I’m just looking for excuses to lock myself in a bathroom with a book for an hour so I can do nothing and not feel guilty (Disclosure: I am writing these very lines while locked in a bathroom with my laptop and my phone).

Anyway, back to the happy stuff. A detailed recap of everything I’ve done would be super boring and take forever, but for those who are interested in my adventures, or who are planning this kind of journey themselves, here’s a summery of the places I went, the lodgings I found, the food I ate and the fun things I found to do.

Stop: Edmonton

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Where I stayed: HI-Edmonton Hostel (2 nights), Fannon‘s (1 night)
What I remember eating: Food I brought with me, the yummy ethnic food of Edmonton’s Heritage Festival and an amazing homecooked meal at the Fannon household.
What I did: Heritage Days and went to Fannon’s birthday party.
Comments:
I stay in Edmonton all the time, so this was mainly to wish Fannon happy birthday (and return the book I borrowed from him – good book by the way. You should read it.) and meet his newborn son, as well as say goodbye to a former coworker who’d helped me out when I first moved here. My stay happily coincided with Edmonton’s Heritage Days, which is one of my favorite events. Each local ethnic community puts up a tent and sells foods and crafts, presents some samples of their culture and just radiates awesomeness. If you’re in Edmonton, Heritage Days is a must-see. On my way out of the city, I also stopped at Ben‘s. After all those hours in WoW challenge modes together, I was glad to finally have the oppertunity to visit him. I did forget my (horse)riding boots at his place, though. Oops.

Stop: Calgary
Where I stayed: HI-Calgary Hostel (1 night)
What I remember eating: Chicken at Boxwood
What I did: Had supper with Voss and Vid
Comments:
Like Edmonton, I’ve visited Calgary enough times that I was pretty much just there to say hello and goodbye to some friends whom I really don’t get to see enough. If you’re visiting Western Canada, though, stop 3-4 days in Calgary. It has the vibe (and the delicious food!) of any modern city, with some good ol’ fashion cowboy feels. Typically Alberta.

Stop: Regina

The Willow on Wescana.

The Willow on Wescana.

Where I stayed: HI-Regina Hostel (2 nights)
What I remember eating: Soup and bison (or other game…I can’t remember!) burger at the Willow on Wescana.
What I did: Visited the Saskatchewan Legislature Building, rollerbladed in Wescana Centre, explored downtown.
Comments:
Regina isn’t a very big city and I was satisfied after a full day there. Wescana Centre is really lovely and I was super excited to get to take out my rollerblades. The multipurpose path isn’t maintained QUITE well enough for easy blading, but I did manage to skate around most of the park. The hostel was quiet and cosy and I kinda felt bad for the staff. The place is a little run down, but I don’t think they get nearly enough traffic to have the funds to really renovate. Other than the showers hidden in the basement of the hostel (I swear I was terrified of being assaulted each time I took a shower), I really enjoyed the hostel and wished I could do something to help them.

Stop: Winnipeg

What a great view point!

What a great view point!

Where I stayed: Couch surfed with the best host ever! (3 nights)
What I remember eating: Many dishes at Folklorama! Meiji Sushi, Bodegoes at the Stadium.
What I did: The Brazillian, Japanese and Chinese pavillions at Folklorama, shopping at the Forks, touring St Boniface, seeing a Goldeyes (baseball) game, exclusive tour of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Assiniboine Park/Zoo
Comments:
The more I get to know Winnipeg, the more I solidify my belief that Winnipeg is Canada’s most underrated city. (Perhaps because I have yet to see its Winterpeg incarnation!) It seems like there’s always something happening and something new to discover around every corner. The hostel I had stayed at last time had changed ownership and didn’t seem like somewhere I wanted to be anymore, so I decided to try my luck at Couch Surfing…. BEST DECISION EVER! My host was just amazing. I stayed with her for 2 days and 3 nights and she made sure I had a safe and action-packed stay in her city. She worked at the Ballet, so I got a free tour, got to meet many of her coworkers (my little girl within was exstatic about meeting professional ballet dancers and my grown up self was delighted to see some behind the scenes magic), including a world renown choreagrapher. She took me to a baseball game, the local market and to the French district (St Boniface). Once again, Winnipeg was a journey highlight. I’m not really one for long term city life, but I think my love affair with Winnipeg could one day extend to the possibility of me settling there for a few years.

Stop: Itasca State Park, Minnesota

So peaceful!

So peaceful!

Where I stayed: HI-Mississipi Headwaters Hostel (1 Night)
What I remember eating: A can of soup I had brought with me.
What I did: Hiked and took lots of pictures.
Comments:
After the hussle and bussle of cities (and before the hussle and bussle of more cities), I was super happy to turn into Itasca State Park. And while I was expecting some relief, I had no idea how impressed I’d be. I hiked around for a few hours after I got there (saw the starting point of the Mississipi! So cool!), just completely in awe of how beautiful and peaceful it was. And yep, this is coming from the girl who spent the last 3 years hiking Jasper. It’s just a totally different kind of beautiful. After the cliffs and peaks and other Rocky Mountains drama, it was soothing to see Mother Nature take on a more gentle presentation. The hostel was quite exceptional as well. I was the only traveller staying, which was a bonus, but even if the place had been busy, the impeccable rooms, the spacious kitchen, the excellent bathrooms and the lovely manager made me vow to tell everyone about how they should make a trip to Itasca and stay at the hostel.

Stop: Milwaukee

Where I stayed: Oestrus‘ Couch (1 Night)
What I remember eating: Transfer Pizzeria. Stopped at Caleo Coffeehouse in Kenosha on the way out.
What I did: Caught up with the awesome O and hot yoga.
Comments:
Milwaukee is another underated city, although a few wrong turns can bring you into some odd looking neighbourhoods. This time I wasn’t staying long enough to linger (O had to go kick some Magic ass at Gen Con the next day), but we did go to eat at one her favorite places (just in time for their Foodie Week special too!) and got all caught up on our girl talk. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her! After she went to work the next day, I hit up a local hot yoga place for something to do before heading to Chicago. It was glorious! I did a lot better than expected too. Usually I spend half my Bikram classes on my back, on the verge of consciousness. This time I only got really lightheaded 3 times. No almost puking and no blacking out! (One day I’ll reach the point where my hot yoga goals will be to twist myself into barely human shapes. For now, it is still to get through a class without dizzy spells.) After a refreshing shower, I drove to Kenosha, right on the border, to have lunch, drink coffee and plan my next stop (and enjoy my last hour of not stressing over the possibility of my car getting smashed up by thieves).

Stop: Chicago

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Where I stayed: Wrigley Hostel (3 Nights)
What I remember eating: Chicago Food Planet’s Gold Coast and Old Town Food Tour, Joy Yee’s Noodles, Commonweath Tavern
What I did: Food tour, yeaaaaah!!!!! Explored the Gold Coast and Chinatown. Met up with Team Sport guildies Thespius and Jayme at the Commonweath Tavern, then with Red Tear guildy Noldor at Ravina Park for a picnic on the lawn during Don Giovani.
Comments:
Oh how I love Chicago. Like Winnipeg, this was a city I’d visited before and promised myself I’d visit again. I walk into stuff while gaping at the architecture. I eat so much I get sick. I learn a shit ton. I bond with people on the train whenever it jolts and we fall into each others laps. I have the best times with old gaming friends. I always say I’d never live in the US (or in a city), but for Chicago…. I could be convinced. This time around, Chicago Food Planet’s affordable food tours were one of the many discoveries I made. If you’re heading to Chicago, check them out! (Ask for Krista as a guide – she’s fantastic! I want to be her friend so bad it’s not even funny.) Another discovery was Ravinia Park. I was looking for a show that was more….calm… than those I normally go to and stumbled upon Don Giovani, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, at Ravinia Park. Then my former guildy Noldor suggested we meet up so I asked if he wanted to come along. And wow! From now on, this is the official grounds of all gaming meetups! It was perfect – the low key atmosphere, the beautiful music, the picnic setting… I highly recommend it. I also got to hang out with some other guildies whose feelings I probably hurt by not letting them know I was in town (I thought they were going to Gen Con! AND I didn’t want to seem like a creepy stalker). More people that I didn’t realize how much I missed them. Talk of fun friendly game nights was had… Gotta put this together, even if I’m overseas for the near future!

Stop: Malabar Farm, Ohio

IMG_20140816_110604

Where I stayed: HI-Lucas Malabar Hostel (2 Nights)
What I remember eating: The Reuben at the Malabar Farm Restaurant
What I did: Hiked, visited the farm and did some tours.
Comments:
After all the running around Chicago I did, the pastoral setting of Malabar Farm was a great place to recover. I set personal sleeping records (the hostel beds there are SO comfortable!) and spend my full day there leisurely strolling through the farm grounds (instead of blogging like I was supposed to). The farm has a lot more history than I expected: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there, famous author (and kinda of all-around cool guy) Louis Bromfield lived there and ghost hunters flock to catch a glimpse of Ceely Rose.

And then I tackled the 9 hour drive through the rest of Ohio, Pennsylvania and half of New Jersey. But my adventures that point on are for another update.

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2 Responses to The Epic Drive Thus Far

  1. Grimmtooth says:

    I totally agree with you about Chicago. I spent some time there in the 80s and loved the place. I also absolutely loved the people I met there. For all the gruff stereotypes you see on TV, people in Chicago are some of the warmest I know. And of course Chicago is one endpoint of the Great Pizza Debate (Chicago vs New York style), to which I say: more research is required.

    Look forward to the next update. Stay safe!

    • Ophelie says:

      Thanks!

      I found Chicagoans (Chicagolites? Not sure what they’re called!) to very warm too, and courteous. Even on the road: I was dreading driving there but out of all high-density areas I drove through, they were the most polite.

      I need more research too before taking a side in the Great Pizza Debate. I have to say, though, I’m not normally a big fan of pizza, but I looooooved the Chicago Deep Dish pizza I had at Lou Malnati’s with my food tour group!

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