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Portage la Prairie, another Whiteout and Niagara Falls

So... Why Canada in the dead of winter?

The number one reason is because we can. Our goal was to enter Canada, which we did with no plan from there. The plan evolved as we drove. Canada is in my blood and I have wanted to return to Canada for over 30 years. My first visit was via ferry from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia. I can still close my eyes and see how beautiful and fresh it looked to me at the time. How is it in my blood? My paternal grandparents were born in Canada. During this leg of our unplanned trip we will visit Kitchener (previously known as Berlin) where my grandmother was born. Currently, there is no plan to visit Newfoundland during the dead of winter, which is where my grandfather was born. We'll save that for warmer temps.

Fun fact, Canada is a big reason that Coca Cola started selling their iconic beverage year 'round. If they can enjoy it during the winter why can't everyone? This is one of several coca cola references we came across during our trek across Canada...

This was in Portage la Prairie just west of Winnipeg. Portage la Prairie has a crescent shaped lake that seems to be a central focus of the town. The summer activities must be over the top in this town. The Island Park nestled inside the crescent of the lake was filled with activity centers, a campground and tons of other things to do. One of the arenas was open for hockey.

However, as we walked and drove around we saw where they had also cleared many temporary hockey rinks on the lake itself. I briefly considered strolling out onto the frozen lake - but I'm known to have trust issues.

We tucked into a small parking lot on Island Park and had a very quiet evening.

During our travels I was asked what we do to entertain ourselves once we park. Our accommodations are very small. the actual open floor space is about 6 1/2 feet long by about 3 feet wide. This allows space for yoga, push-ups and sit-ups. However, that doesn't take up much of our time. We do enjoy cards, chess and backgammon as well as Netflix, Prime and Apple TV.

We decided to visit Winnipeg next, since it was the next city going east. We found a decent parking spot downtown, paid the meter and walked about a block before realizing the wind and cold were more brutal than I had expected. I took a few pictures and we headed back to the van. May very well be time for a better pair of gloves. Living in a van is not always smooth and simple.

How's that for architecture!? It houses the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. I'm sure there was plenty more to see in Winnipeg but the traffic was bad and there are plenty of other places to go. We continued east, crossed the longitudinal center of Canada and stopped in Kenora for the night. Very cute town.

Throughout our journey so far we had found local restaurants to be a highlight of the day. Sometimes the food was good, other times the food was great, but chatting with the locals was awesome. In Ontario, however, there is an indoor dining ban. This changes things up a bit, the last indoor dining ban we had experienced was during warmer weather.

After Kenora came Thunder Bay, Wawa and a breathtaking drive along the north shore of Lake Superior. This part reminded me of heading south along California Hwy 1 in Northern California, minus the snow and frozen water of course.

We encountered more sub-zero temps and soon mastered when to boil water for tea or coffee and how to manage our power in order to use our block heater in the morning. Keep in mind, when we stop we are not plugging in at a campground. We are generally in a parking lot on a side street in a quiet community. We rarely choose big cities for overnight stops.

As we neared Toronto we encountered another whiteout snow storm and decided to get a hotel room in order to shower and do laundry in Barrie.

The next morning we drove to Kitchener. Not knowing where my grandmother was actually born, we just toured around and headed to Niagara Falls.

When the pandemic started in 2020 we made a similar journey across the US and visited Niagara Falls. We took the Maiden of the Mist boat ride in order to see the Horseshoe Falls. This was a highlight of that trip and we felt at the time that we really saw the falls in all their glory. Once we arrived on the Canadian side we realized that was not the case. Niagara, the town, is set up to attract families, couples, and tourists of all kinds. As we got closer, we were at the top of an ice covered hill that lead straight to the falls.

We drove along the falls and parked in a pay lot and walked through the visitor center to be greeted with large old photos and a history timeline of how the power station was built. Once outside we both were in total shock at the sight. Horseshoe Falls was front and center in all its glory. There truly are no words to describe this experience. This is an absolute must see! Here are our pictures and videos. Enjoy and plan your trip to Niagara.


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