Ode to the road

Although Google maps and CAA triptiks suggest the best route from Dryden to Toronto is through the States, in the spirit of this road trip, that’s just wrong. What’s more, I don’t want to leave the country during an election that might actually shift a few bums in seats, so I keep to highway 17 and tune into Cross Country Checkup to satisfy a patriotic curiosity.

The loop around Superior doesn’t disappoint. The towns here have that bleak bipolar impermanency of places that exist to extract a resource: trees, gold, or uranium. But they’re surrounded by a timeless geography that’s quintessentially Canadian. Majestic and expansive. In every direction are huge swaths of evergreen forests above soft pine needle carpets and strings of dark blue lakes with sandy beaches. And granite. I’m off-grid for longer than 48 hours, so the word no longer conjures kitchen countertops but massive exposed rock face, blown open for the TransCanada.

I take the highway south along Georgian Bay. The odometer says we’ve traveled close to 5,400 kms. I’m feeling a gratitude that’s bigger than this huge country for everyone who’s helped me make this trip, and to everyone I’ve met over the past three weeks.

To all the thousands of people who climb atop high ground along the highways and create a gallery of sculptures — talismans for the highway — I salute you. And on election night, here’s to you Canada.

Till phase two, hopefully in the fall.

May 2011

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