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(the 2014 segment of the Cottage Diary
which began way back in 2001)

Driving East, via Northern Michigan

Off Again, in Driving Rain!
(Sunday, June 29, 2014)

Yet again, Heather and I are on the road.  This time it is for a comparatively “normal” adventure: our annual trek from Winnipeg to our shack (a.k.a. “cottage”) in the Province of Quebec.  A mere 2,223 km journey, according to Google™, if you cut through the U.S.A. – which we have done.

I actually presided and preached at St. Margaret’s this morning, then we went home, finished packing up for two months away, and set out by about 3:00 PM.  Now it’s almost midnight, but we made it to our first stop: Duluth, Minnesota.  It’s a mere 649 km into the trip, but a good start.

What made this trip notable was the weather: we left Winnipeg in the middle of what can only be described as a weather bomb.  In my 49 years living on the prairies I have never – ever – experienced rain as heavy and continuous as what was happening when we drove out of the city.  And widespread!  It really didn’t let up until we were past Grand Forks. 1  Although a friend of mine says that she “likes weather with character,” and I do, too, this was actually frightening.  If the agricultural heartland of the continent should have all crops drowned....

Let no one tell me that nothing significant is happening to our climate.

Stopping at the Red Top Inn
(Monday, June 30, 2014)
Most of the day today, Heather and I were driving through the U.S.A., just south of Lake Superior.  Only occasionally, however, could we actually see this greatest of all Great Lakes; our route mostly took us through endless forest and the occasional town.  But we drove in brilliant sunshine and in 32°C heat (what a contrast to yesterday’s drenching), crossing back into Canada just after 7:00 PM local time, at Sault Ste Marie.  We stopped for dinner; then drove another hour, and settled into the Red Top Inn, in Iron Bridge, Ontario.  We had booked it online this morning, and our room was ready for us.  1,443 kilometres are done.  Only 780 left to go.
description of photo
Canada Day special: a tiny flag

Patriotism on a Plate
(Tuesday, July 1, 2014 – Canada Day)
This morning we went for breakfast in the little restaurant connected to our motel.  The co-owner – a European chef – prepared the meal.  When it was served, our elegant fare included an observance of Canada Day: a tiny Canadian flag stuck into a strawberry, festooned each of our plates.  This pleased us a lot.

We drove the rest of the day with those little flags sticking up on the inside of the car’s windows.

A Change of Plans
(Tuesday, July 1, 2014 – in the town of Hudson, Québec)
By mid-afternoon, we were driving along the Trans Canada highway East of North Bay, nearing the upper reaches of the Ottawa River.

After spending quite a while in thought, I said to Heather,

“I think we should take another motel tonight – in Hawkesbury.”    (Hawkesbury is the nearest major town to our cottage, and it’s where we generally get our groceries, hardware, and other cottage supplies.)
“Because it’s Canada Day.”
“Not a single grocery store will be open.  We won’t be able to get any food supplies today.” 2
“Of course!  Oh dear.”
“And, even if we could get groceries, we’ll be getting there as night falls, which will make it difficult for me to launch the boat.  Staying in a motel will allow us to shop first thing in the morning, and get to the lake with plenty of daylight in which to do all that cottage-opening stuff.”

Heather considered this for a bit, but then she had a better idea.  Moments later she was dialling a number on my cellphone.

“Hi,” she said when someone answered, “What are you guys doing for Canada Day?”
If Heather really loves the person she’s calling, she rarely identifies herself.  The other party will either recognize her instantly, or else temporize until they figure out who the heck this is...

In this case, they recognized her, and obviously said, “Where are you?”

“We’re just East of North Bay, approaching Mattawa.  We were thinking of coming to see you tonight...”

Then, after a pause, she exclaimed, “Really!?  ...dinner too?  ... but we won’t be there until 8:00 or 8:30 PM!  ...awww, you guys are so wonderful!”

And so it was arranged that we would have a brief overnight visit with our lifelong friends, John and Karen Bradley, who live about twenty minutes from Hawkesbury.

As we pulled into their driveway, to a royal welcome I should add, my cellphone rang.  It was Ken, my neighbour at the lake.  He wanted me to know that he had launched my boat for me, and had charged up the battery for its electric motor.  My boat will be waiting for us, ready to go, when we arrive.

We are blessed with amazing friends.  Due to the good offices of John, and Karen, and Ken, half the stress of arriving at the lake has been lifted from our shoulders.

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The Journey East is Done, but... uh-oh
(Wednesday, July 2, 2014)
The final stage of getting to the cottage went flawlessly, thanks to our friends.  We bought our groceries, made our way to the lake, loaded our boat (that had so kindly been made ready for us), and went across to our cottage.

We couldn’t land at our own dock, mind you, because the movement of the ice last winter has shifted it radically.  Currently unsupported at one corner, it will dump you in the water if you try to stand on it.  My neighbour, Ken, warned me that this is the case, and suggested that I use his dock until I can fix my own.

So we unloaded the boat a short way down the lake, and lugged suitcases and groceries through the forest to our cottage (it took several trips), and began making the place liveable.

Heather unpacked and set up the kitchen, while I went under the house to start the water pump.

Uh-oh.  Another problem.  The pump won’t pump.  Watertight seals in the mechanism have cracked and disintegrated.  They’re easy to replace, but I have to drive into town to get new ones, and I can’t do that until tomorrow.  For now I must haul water up to the cottage from the lake, in buckets.

Which I did, and with many of my chores done, I was able to take a break, and sit down.

Maybe I could go online and check my email...?

And that was when I made the worst discovery so far on this trip.

The only way to go online at the lake is via a small attachment that I insert in the USB port on my computer and then connect to the cottage telephone line.  The attachment is an old-fashioned “dial-up” modem.

And it is not here.  I’ve left it back in Winnipeg accidentally.

I may be able to find one in an electronics store, though the chances are remote, since the device is more or less obsolete.  Besides, there are no electronics stores of the type which might have such a thing, except in one of the nearby big cities – Montreal or Ottawa – and I have no need to go to either place right at the moment.

So it looks like I cannot access the Internet from my cottage for the foreseeable future.  No email.  No FaceBook.  No going online to get information.  And no posting to this blog – unless I go into town for supplies, and access the Internet through public wi-fi at a coffee shop.

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Next: Doing Without...


1  We later learned that two prairie Provinces – Manitoba and Saskatchewan – were so severely impacted by this torrential rain that over sixty communities were placed under a state of emergency due to flooding.
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2  I was wrong about this.  I had forgotten that Canada Day is not officially noticed in the Province of Québec, and so the large grocery store in nearby Grenville, QC, would certainly have been open.  Our overnight hosts reminded me of this, once we had settled down at their place.
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