For 17 months my adventures were limited to daily walks in Toronto and one July weekend with family at Canada’s Wonderland. While it was great to spend that time with family—and survive three potentially heart-stopping runs on the Yukon Striker roller coaster—an overnight stay in the burbs didn’t exactly quench my thirst for travel. I don’t know if it was a reaction to the second shot of Pfizer but by early July I had a burning desire to take a road trip. I wasn’t too picky about the destination, I just wanted to get out of Dodge. And everything fell into place in early August when I was approved as a driver for the Toronto-based auto relocation service Canada DriveAway, otherwise known as HitTheRoad.ca.
There were two ways to ride out the end of the pandemic: Sit in my Toronto loft and watch even more cat videos on YouTube or drive other people’s cars across Canada and see some spectacular scenery through a windshield. When it’s cat videos vs. the Rocky Mountains, the Rockies win every time. Even the endless rocks and trees of Northern Ontario and the long, flat stretches across the prairies have a lot of appeal when you’ve been cooped up this long.
So on August 10 I took the 6 a.m. bus from Toronto’s Union Station to Kitchener where I got an Uber to a small town in the heart of Ontario’s Mennonite country. By mid morning I was behind the wheel of a Subaru Legacy and on my way to Prince George, British Columbia.
The agreement with HitTheRoad.ca stipulated that I had seven days to make the trip and an extra 400 km to allow for a few side trips and/or scenic routes. There aren’t many options to deviate from the Trans-Canada in Northern Ontario so I spent about eight hours per day at the wheel and made numerous roadside stops plus overnights in Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay before arriving in Winnipeg which is the halfway point. The thought of exploring a good-sized city seemed like a plan while I was counting rocks, trees and roadkill on the Canadian Shield but once I was actually in ‘The Peg’ I decided that extra time in Vancouver was preferable. So on I went.
I pulled into Prince George around noon on the sixth day and I was on a flight to Vancouver about 90 minutes later. By late-afternoon I was sipping wine on a patio overlooking Vancouver’s English Bay which just might be the only place in the world where you can toss crumbs to a Canada Goose while sitting under live, thriving palm trees.
After 3 days in Vancouver I was mere seconds away from booking a flight back home when I got another text from the car relocation company. “Want to leave tomorrow and drive a 2020 Toyota Tundra to Whitehorse?” My response: “You think an Instagram whore like me can pass up a chance to drive through towns named Woodpecker AND Stoner?” That drive may not be a dream trip for some people but for me it was perfect: completely spontaneous and a little off the beaten track.
After 3 days in Whitehorse I was dreaming of another week in Vancouver when I got yet another text. There was a vehicle in Vancouver that needed to be in Toronto but wouldn’t be ready to go for another week. Once again, just what I was looking for. I was able to spend another seven days “chilling” in Vancouver AND I snagged a free ride home.
Over the 30 days that I was away from home I drove the Trans-Canada Highway, Yellowhead Highway, Sea To Sky Highway, Stewart-Cassiar Highway, Coquihalla Highway, a portion of the famed Alaska Highway, Highways 400 and 401, and Highway 97 which at over 2000 km is Canada’s longest continuously numbered route. I put 11,625 kilometres on other people’s vehicles, got reimbursed for gas, and was paid for two of the three trips which were classified as “expedited deliveries.”
I enjoyed layovers in Whitehorse and Vancouver and I even snuck in a day with family in Moose Jaw. I don’t need to see another Tim Horton’s drive-thru for a while but I’m glad they exist in a pandemic. Ditto for ApplePay (contactless payments) which I found to be available at all but a few gas stations in northern BC.
I don’t know how many more swings through Western Canada are in my future but I can see myself doing a Toronto > Florida or possibly Toronto > Los Angeles run before April 2022 when I hope to kick off my second round-the-world adventure. Until then, here are a few more pics from the Toronto > Prince George, Vancouver > Whitehorse, and Vancouver > Toronto road trips.