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Author Topic: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Parts 1, 2 and 3  (Read 3274 times)

tdindy88

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My 2016 Trip to Canada - Parts 1, 2 and 3
« on: October 05, 2016, 07:41:05 PM »

Now updated with Parts 2 and 3 at the bottom of this post.

I am not positive if this is the best board for this but since it also involves finished road trips I'll try it here. The following is about my trip to Canada last June. Most of this is just narrative but I have a few (of many) pictures in here. I should warn you that I am a writer sometimes so this is probably longer than it should be but I wanted to tell my story. Mostly on highways and some travel observations. This first post covers the first three days of my trip along Ontario Highway 401, in Montreal and in Ottawa.

I had first visited Canada during Labor Day Weekend in 1997 as a kid. We came in across the Peace Bridge in Buffalo and visited Niagara Falls before spending a day in Toronto. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least, but I can’t remember much about what exactly happened. All I seem to remember is seeing Niagara Falls, riding the subways in Toronto and eating pizza from McDonalds. Yes those were weird times, but when we crossed the Ambassador Bridge back over into the U.S. on Labor Day 1997 it wouldn’t be for another 14 years before I’d reentered the country. Why a trip wasn’t done during those years is beyond me, beside the fact that I couldn’t drive until 2004. My father loves Canada and had taken many trips to most of the country but just didn’t consider another one, until 2011. I have to say that watching the Olympics in 2010 finally got the two of us to consider a return trip to the Great White North. It was March of 2011 when we were finally ready, a three-day trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto. I was so looking forward to visiting this country again, a new experience even if it treaded new ground. We went up through Windsor and hit a brick wall. We couldn’t be allowed in the country. Though I won’t say what it was about, my father was inadmissible from entering the country over something that border officials wouldn’t have cared about before new passport restrictions were placed. He honestly didn’t know and the two of us were sent back into the States with a warning. He could not come back into the country without some special process….but I was okay.

I had never seen my father so dejected in my life, after the three hours we spent in customs in Windsor, we salvaged the trip by heading to Niagara Falls the long way via Sandusky, Cleveland, Erie and Buffalo, seeing the Falls from the American side with snow on the ground and cold 20-degree temperatures. We drove as far north as the Lake Ontario shoreline where we could see the skyline. He was depressed, the country he had loved had rejected him, he had memories and fun experiences there, but now he couldn’t come back there. We made our return trip through Pittsburgh before heading back to Indy. After that, any idea of a trip to Canada was out of the question. I did make it back to Windsor later in June that year however, as part of a two-day trip to lower Michigan I parked my car on the Detroit side and took the Tunnel bus over into Canada. After clearing customs I spent a couple of hours taking some pictures of Downtown Windsor and Detroit and getting a little Canadian money, a Canadian flag and an Ontario road map before heading back into America. My first independent excursion into Canada had been a success, but it was merely a whiff of what I had wanted to do earlier that year. It would be another five years before I finally decided to take that next step and commit to a trip into the country, by myself and seeing the places I had remembered back in 1997. Long story short, I spent those years getting a job and getting a new car (not by choice though) and the idea of a trip was in my head, but I never thought about acting on it. Successful independent road trips to Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan (twice,) Missouri and Southern California (via plane and while staying with friends) finally gave me the confidence of perhaps traveling internationally by myself. I got the idea this past Spring and gathered my plan, what was originally a four-day trip became a week-long vacation and I had no regrets afterwards. You can see my “Possible Trip to Canada” thread for details on the planning.

Everything set; I set out from Indianapolis in my 2009 Pontiac G6 early Saturday morning on June 25th. Leaving after 1:30 in the morning I drove north of I-69 to Fort Wayne before taking I-469 around to US 24 and taking the four-lane highway northeast to Toledo. Ohio nicely had closed off one potential ramp from I-475 to I-75 on the south side and on the north side closed off I-75 north to Michigan. Thankfully since it was after 5:00 in the morning traffic was light for the detours. After a gas stop south of Detroit and made sure my passport card and travel information was ready and made way for the Ambassador Bridge. Despite all the warnings I had seen about the long lines to get into Canada through customs, I was the only car there coming off the Ambassador Bridge, it was after 6:00 on a sunny Saturday morning which I had timed perfectly. The woman at the border was quite friendly thankfully and after asking the usual questions about my plan I was given my card back and allowed to enter. The weight of getting into another foreign country was now off of me as I had been allowed in. Had my father been with me, he would have been detained. Having made it into Canada I briefly stop by the riverfront to get a few pictures of the Ambassador Bridge and Downtown Detroit with the sun rising over the skyline. Afterwards, since I had already been to Windsor’s town centre I took some roads to get to the furthest western end of Highway 401 off of Ojibway Parkway and went east. There I saw the newest part of the 401, very nice and quiet that morning. Along this highway I found myself originally going 100 kilometres per hour before ending up around 115, gauging just how the rest of the traffic was moving. As it had been expressed on this board that speed limit is way too low and no one was going at that speed.



Heading east my first stop was the Ontario information centre along the 401 near Tilbury. There I took I had Tim Hortons for the first time, fitting for my first real trip into Canada. After getting some maps from the ONRoute service area, which was very nice as far as rest areas go, I was on my head northeast toward London. The 401 predictably was a boring trek from Windsor to London, four lanes through land that was no different than what you’d fine in Michigan or Wisconsin. Here I got to experience the different construction cones they use up here and the orange paint on the roads, all stuff I’ve heard about here but never seen. It was nice to finally make it to London, there I stopped at a bank to convert the rest of my cash and check out the city centre for a few minutes before heading back to the 401 and continue east to Toronto. The highway got busier as it was six lanes eastward from London. There was some construction around Cambridge along the route and the highway got even busier even for a Saturday morning, now close to noon on a clear and sunny day. While I did have a phone plan set up to use Canada’s networks for my phone it was not fully working that first day, this meant I had to rely on one of Toronto’s radio news stations to let me know about the traffic. 680AM did that for me and despite never driving in Toronto before I was able to understand the traffic reports when it relayed to different highways around the GTA. I was amused that they also included a secondary traffic report for those going to “cottage country.”  I view is as a point of pride that I can navigate myself through places I have never been before, as long as I properly research before the trip which I had. Along the 401 I came across two backups heading east, one near Mississauga due to construction and the other past the 427. After traffic cleared up I got into the express lanes and find myself driving along the majesty of the great 401 highway through Toronto.



The 401 through Toronto was everything I could imagine and certainly a drive I enjoyed, a trip through the urban core of Canada’s great city. Listening to my satellite radio I was making great time driving east through the GTA and since I was coming back to Toronto in a few days I was merely passing through, clinching every kilometre of the 401 from Windsor to Quebec. Traffic coming going west seemed to be more backed up, I can believe it how the 401 is a congested highway but there was a reason I decided to drive through around noon on a Saturday. The whole experience of driving around Toronto really reminded me of driving around Los Angeles, with the traffic on the freeways in non-peak hours. Even if Toronto is often compared to New York and Chicago I saw a lot of L.A. passing through the GTA. Within an hour’s time I had passed through the concrete jungle of the Golden Horseshoe and came across a new highway, open for only a week when I passed there I jumped on the opportunity to drive on the new 412 tollway (with no tolls being collected at the time.) A highway I had seen mentioned on this board as under construction, another country away from me and now I was driving on it, along with a stretch of the 407 tollway as I turned around at an exit near the 412 to have lunch before heading back to the 412 and onto the 401. My understanding as that with the 412 and the 407 one can now bypass the congestion along the 401 through Toronto, if not for the rather high toll along said roadway.



Heading east from the 412 I passed through Oshawa along the 401 and I can only imagine what that stretch of roadway is like during rush hour. Six lanes put into a pretty small space, I can’t even fathom the express-collector system making it that far, hell adding a lane will certainly require all new bridges. I stopped at a small park off the highway to look at Lake Ontario for a little bit before heading back east. The highway remained six lanes a bit further than even I thought (I thought it would end at 35/115 but it was six lanes as far as Cobourg.) In Cobourg I saw a sign with a more traditional exit tab. One thing I had noticed in Ontario was putting exit numbers on their signs approaching the exit itself, but at the actual exit there was no tab, only an exit sign in the gore. I guess I get the idea as to why, but it was still jarring to see it that way. The drive for the rest of the day was along the four-lane 401 along the northern shore of Lake Ontario and through the city of Kingston, which was a neat town that I should have spent a little more time exploring. From there I went east along the 401 toward Brockville passing by the Thousand Islands National Park, where I stopped to look at some of the islands in the St. Lawrence River, a river I had never seen before this day. Driving further away from Toronto the speeds got faster as I found myself doing over 120 kph more along with the flow of traffic, which was passing me regardless. After a long day of driving, beginning at 1:30 out of Indianapolis I made it to my overnight stop in Brockville after 7:30 in the evening.



After a good rest in Brockville I continued on the 401 the next morning. With it being Sunday the drive across far eastern Ontario was quiet and boring with speeds easily at a comfortable 120 kph. Once I passed the exit for the 416 highway north to Ottawa the bilingual signage began. While in Ontario I continued to notice the “provincial” system of control cities along the highways with Cornwall used as a control point. Other than a few mileage signs indicating Montreal I did not notice anything for Quebec in Ontario. Crossing into Quebec I stopped at the service area (smaller than the ones in Ontario but not bad at all) and got a couple of Quebec maps for myself and my dad (at a price of $4,50 each.) From there I noticed the change. I couldn’t see much to compare Quebec’s highways with Ontario’s. Autoroute 20 with Ontario’s 401, in fact I’d say the 20 was smoother to drive on. Quebec’s signs were different for sure, exit tabs located within the sign itself, much more Clearview font and an inclusion of airports on some of their larger signage at freeway junctions. I spent the next two hours driving along the highways in the Montreal area in a routing that included Autoroutes 20 (including the non-freeway part,) 13, 15, 20, 25 and 40. Driving the freeways around Montreal was a neat experience, I understood enough of the French and gauged an idea of what some of the words meaning. With some context I could tell when the electronic signs were referring to closed exits and lane restrictions on some of the St. Lawrence bridges. And despite it still being Sunday morning, there was still traffic especially along Autoroute 40 across the heart of Montreal. Still, it was a pretty cool drive, Montreal’s freeways are certainly different and I will definitely add that they could use some TLC. My drive also took me over the Champlain Bridge and LaFontaine Tunnel.





I finally arrived the location of my hotel but since it was only after noon I couldn’t check in, so I parked my car in a nearby garage where it remained until the next morning and got myself to the Metro station to check out central Montreal. I am not sure what I was really expecting when in Montreal but it turned out to be a neat city in my opinion. While I can certainly see the fact that the system looked to have dated decor, the metro system was neat to ride on. Once I got a one-day pass I had no problem getting on the train the rest of the day. The all-French announcements and majority French-speaking I heard from the masses helped to remind me that this was a different part of Canada and North American in general. And that’s why I ended up wanting to go to Montreal to see something different.  On the train, once I got a hang of what “next station” was in French I was guessing to myself out announcer on the train would pronounce the next station name. Over the course of the next few hours I explored Old Montreal (a cool old-timey district which I’m guessing is only a fraction of what Quebec City is like) the Notre Dame basilica, Central Station, Place Ville Marie, Rue Saint-Catherine and the Underground City. I had been told about Toronto’s PATH system but I found that Montreal had an equally as cool system of underground passageways connecting most downtown buildings with the metro system. As someone who studies urban planning I found the numerous connections between buildings and the transportation system. After checking into my hotel I headed back out to climb up to the top of Mont-Royal to check out the view of the city and explore a little bit more of the downtown area. It was an interesting city to visit in my opinion and my only regret was that I didn’t give the city a little bit more of my time. And I had no problem speaking only English (though I would say bonjour and merci here and there, I do like to be nice.)



I am also interested in weather, so I was intrigued to call back home to learn of a single line of storms moving through Indianapolis Sunday evening. That very same line had extended as far north as Ontario and Quebec and was closing in on Ottawa. By Monday morning that line was passing through Montreal. That gave me an extra hour to spend at the hotel waiting the rain so that I can head west and still take pictures in drier conditions. Leaving Montreal I noticed something else about Quebec’s highways, they were not afraid to label other provincial (and international) highways and destination. The split at Autoroutes 40 and 30 the signs referenced Highways 401 and 417 to Toronto and Ottawa respectively, still a good 30 kilometres into Quebec. The roads were a little wet but there was no rain driving to Ottawa. There I got to see the signs for the Trans-Canada highway for the first time as I noticed that the bulk of the traffic along the highway consisted of Quebec drivers and not Ontario, even near Ottawa. If I understand it right, Highway 417 and Autoroute 40 offer the best connection between Montreal and Gatineau, Quebec. Luckily for me this was a short driving day as I was only going from Montreal to Ottawa. After driving through mainly fields for two hours I entered the capital city of Ottawa and drove along the Queensway west across the city before getting off on the west side of the city to take the MacDonald Parkway east back toward the city centre, stopping along the Ottawa River to get some pictures of the scenery. By this point the sun had finally come out through the clouds. Although I was prepared for this, I was still amazed at how bilingual the capital of Canada was. Of course I wasn’t surprised but they really went all the way on making sure the two official languages were signed everywhere.



In Ottawa this was the week of the summit between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Along some of the roadways in downtown were Canadian and Mexican flags on the light poles. I believe the Mexican president was in town this particular day, I’m guessing, since Obama wasn’t going to be here for another two days. As an American it was certainly interesting to see light poles with the flags of the two countries bordering you. I first stopped on the Quebec side to get some views of Parliament before heading over toward my hotel which was just east of downtown. Arriving early again I spent the next few hours walking west through downtown to see Parliament and the surrounding neighborhood around downtown. Visiting the capital of another country was a cool experience to me. It wasn’t really that crowded but certainly was eye-opening to see how they had their city set up. Several spots had the flags of all the provinces there which I thought was cool and I got to see where they are building a new light rail through the city with some underground stops downtown. There was certainly a more Canadian feel to the city with dashes of British in there. They were already setting up the stage for Canada Day at Parliament so I couldn’t get what I felt was a classic shot of the Parliament building but the fact that I was able to walk up practically to the front of the building was nice. I drove a little bit in the evening along the parkway that ran past Rideau Hall and east along the shore where I got a few more pictures of the Quebec shoreline to the north. My hotel that night was the only one I would consider okay (not bad but not great either,) but it did allow for me to rest as I got ready for my next long drive the next day, taking the long way to Toronto.



That's it for now, I'll share the rest later.


« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 07:46:22 PM by tdindy88 »
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SignGeek101

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Re: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Part 1
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2016, 12:29:29 AM »

Along this highway I found myself originally going 100 kilometres per hour before ending up around 115, gauging just how the rest of the traffic was moving. As it had been expressed on this board that speed limit is way too low and no one was going at that speed.
110-120 is pretty typical. Anyone who has driven in Ontario knows the 100 signs are a big joke.

I was amused that they also included a secondary traffic report for those going to “cottage country.”  I view is as a point of pride that I can navigate myself through places I have never been before, as long as I properly research before the trip which I had. Along the 401 I came across two backups heading east, one near Mississauga due to construction.

Cottage country refers to anything north of Barrie (specifically ON 400). The construction project are (unsurprisingly widening projects). Express/Collector setup is being extended west to the Credit River (though I think it will be extended to the 407 in the coming years).

I noticed something else about Quebec’s highways, they were not afraid to label other provincial (and international) highways and destination. The split at Autoroutes 40 and 30 the signs referenced Highways 401 and 417 to Toronto and Ottawa respectively, still a good 30 kilometres into Quebec.

Quebec has the Ontario, US (2 and 3 digit), 2 digit Interstate shields, and the TCH 2 (New Brunswick) in its library. Here is the only 3 digit US Hwy shield in the country (as far as I know).

https://goo.gl/maps/VCM5e4WGYvx

Fugazi

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Re: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Part 1
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2016, 08:43:39 PM »

Here is the only 3 digit US Hwy shield in the country (as far as I know).

https://goo.gl/maps/VCM5e4WGYvx
And it's posted 140 km from the border.
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tdindy88

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Re: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Part 1
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2016, 05:46:39 PM »

A couple of notes, I was familar with what "cottage country" was, I was just amused that the region got its own traffic report and I figured the construction was widening. It seemed that the whole stretch from Cambridge east into the city should be widened from the traffic I saw on a Saturday. As for the sign in Quebec, this is what I was referring to with the different shields and destinations.



Normally I think the way I see it signed would be "to" 417 or "to" 401 but I got the idea. I did also see the interstate shields coming down from the Champlain Bridge that directed you toward New York and Vermont.

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AsphaltPlanet

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Re: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Part 1
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2016, 06:37:23 PM »

^ I always like approaching this interchange on my way home.  Coming from Montreal these are the options to get home for me.  It's either A-20 to the 401, or more typically A-40 to the 417 and Highway 7 through Ottawa.
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tdindy88

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Re: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Part 2
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2016, 07:12:54 PM »

So I am not clogging up space, I'll post the remainder of the trip up here. Starting with the next two days of my trip across the interior of southern Ontario and down toward Niagara.

Tuesday, June 28th saw me drive across what I consider the interior of Southern Ontario. Leaving Ottawa I had breakfast and fueled up my car in Arnprior before heading west along Highway 17 for a few miles to Renfrew. That two lane highway, part of the Trans-Canada Highway was quite busy for a two-lane road; I can see expansion of the four-lane freeway out that direction. I think that is planned, isn’t it? Out from Renfrew I drove west on Highway 60 across rural Ontario in the direction of Huntsville. When I embarked on this trip I was originally going to take 416 down to 401 and head back to Toronto this way, but looking at the map I thought it over some more and added this extra day to make a trek across some rural areas of the province, seeing some scenery along part of the Canadian Shield toward the Georgian Bay shoreline. This day was the only day that for a significant portion I was on two lane highways instead of freeways going through cities. That front that had moved through on Sunday had cooled things down in this region of Ontario, Renfrew and Nipissing regions. It was mainly cloudy with temperatures getting as low as 14 degrees Celsius, not making it higher that 20 for most of the day. The road was quiet with only a couple of constructions zones for repaving. I drove through Algonquin Provincial Park and got to see more of the forests of southern Ontario, definitely a change of pace from the agricultural fields along the 401 in the southwestern part of the province. From there I continued on to Huntsville and via a couple of highways further west to Parry Sound.






From Parry Sound I went north a few kilometres to the end of the 400 freeway at which point I turned around and drove south to Toronto. Highway 400 was a cool freeway drive for a lot of the distance. Early on, as I expected, there were plenty of rock cuts as the highway was cutting through the shield. I know this highway is supposed to eventually reach Sudbury connecting that city with the GTA. Interesting here too I did notice some vehicles with plates from other provinces. In Ottawa I saw cars with plates from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Along this highway I was seeing cars from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. I love seeing geography change as I move along a highway and Highway 400 was a nice example of that. Originally it was rural, rock cuts and forests out by Parry Sound. As the highway got near Barrie I could see more fields and once the highway met up with Highway 11 the traffic picked up. Oddly, the south from Barrie south toward Toronto was more interesting, six very busy lanes of Highway 400 across land that slowly changed to more that resembling of the Toronto area. Traffic was heavier going north since it was now afternoon but going south was busy as well. Going with the traffic and going downhill I briefly saw my odometer go all the way to its limit at 140 kilometres per hour. I braked a little after that. I can see the freeway in need for some love in spots, some older style bridges with the Ontario coat of arms was nice and the barrier in the median in some spots was jarring to see, clearly Ontario highway standards are different from that of the interstate, despite the 400-series highways being treated as freeways.




I made a stop at the last service area before entering Toronto and waited close to an hour for traffic to “clear up” around Toronto. It was one of the older style service areas, but I had read that three of them were allowed to remain as they are and not get updated to the more modern ONRoute centres. The sun had gone in and out of the clouds as a few pop up showers were still hanging around the area, this would lead to a rainbow I saw near my hotel in Toronto that evening. Eventually I continued on the 400 and saw as the land use quickly shifted from rural to urban in very short order, part of the Greenbelt I understand. Still, I hit traffic nonetheless as the 400 approached to the 401, a nice welcome back to the Greater Toronto Area. Eventually I took the 401 to the 427 where I road toward the location of my hotel on the far western edge of Toronto. With some leftover daylight after checking into my hotel (where I would stay for four nights) I drove the 427 back north to the 401 and took the 401 west to the 403 to drive through Mississauga all the way toward the QEW freeway. That way I could clinch the 403 when I took the rest of the highway home on Saturday. Driving east back into the city I stopped at Colonel Samuel Smith Park on the shores of Lake Ontario to get my first real good look at the Toronto skyline as the sun set on the city just ready to light up. Following that I got dinner at KFC, where I had fired chicken and French fries (something I can’t get back home) and made my way back to my hotel to get ready for sleep.

In front of me along the 427 freeway was literally the only vehicle I saw in Toronto with Indiana license plates.


Wednesday morning got me back in my car as I left my hotel for the QEW freeway en route toward Niagara Falls. Admittedly this was more of a tourist day seeing this famous attraction but there were still highways for me to see. I remember vaguely going up the QEW from Niagara to Toronto back during the original 1997 trip but as with much of that trip I don’t remember every detail. Here I got to ride along the freeway heading in the opposite direction. Even heading outwards from Toronto there was still plenty of traffic, more of that Southern California feel that I referred back to, where those freeways would be busy in multiple directions. Traffic was heaviest where the 403 freeway met up with the QEW where I saw some construction heading southwest toward Burlington; new HOV lanes which I understand are fairly new for Ontario. Still, it was better than traffic heading toward Toronto.




Hugging the end of Lake Ontario I rode up the Burlington Bay Skyway, which was one part of the trip from Niagara to Toronto I do recall from the 90s, only we were passing underneath the truss bridge part. Southbound lanes follow a more ordinary bridge. After breakfast nearby in Hamilton I continued along the QEW all the way to Fort Erie to the last possible exit before returning to the USA. Not yet, I thought about entering my home country. I stopped at a nearby park to the south to view Lake Erie before beginning up the Niagara Parkway toward Niagara Falls. Here I found myself retracing a path that my family was on back in 1997. That day we entered Canada from the Peace Bridge and drove up Niagara Parkway north toward the Falls. The drive was very nice for a Wednesday morning. It was a little cloudy toward Lake Erie but heading further north toward the Falls it got sunnier. Pretty soon I was back at the Niagara Falls, for my third visit with the other two being 1997 and 2011. I won’t go into too many details about the Falls, only that the Canadian side does have the best view, but everyone knows that.




I remember Niagara Falls, New York being fairly dead when we were last there; the park was nice but quiet. It was also cold with snow on the ground, seeing the Falls drop with snow along the river was actually a cool scene, but seeing the Falls here from the Ontario side made me re-appreciate a view I had remembered from back in 1997. For the first time since entering Canada I was among many tourists, even in the middle of the week, I figured that stopping during the holiday weekend wouldn’t have been good. Parking near the Falls too I finally got to see plenty of different plates that weren’t Ontario or Quebec. With the exception of a car I saw on the 401 on my first day I was the only Indiana vehicle everywhere I went. I actually didn’t see any Indiana plates at the Falls but I’m sure a few were there. The city of Niagara Falls was what I’d expect from a tourist town, which is why I mainly stuck to the river to get the views of the natural attraction. It was also cool to get reception on my phone from my home carrier being just across the border from the U.S. Up to this point in Canada I was bouncing back and forth between providers; I got service from all three of the major carriers at various points of the trip. After spending about three hours at the Falls I got back on Niagara Parkway and continued north toward the Whirlpool, the Brock Memorial and Niagara-on-the-Lake.



I stopped at the Brock Memorial column at the site of one of the War of 1812 battles; this was near the border crossing at Queenston Heights. After climbing up the steps of this column I was greeted with a nice view from the top, in a very claustrophobic space, of Toronto to the north and Niagara Falls to the south along with the Niagara Escarpment and Niagara River. This brief visit reminded me of why I did this trip, first to get some views of the overall geography of the places I was visiting, and to get a little bit of history that weren’t painted through an American lenses. Seeing Americans viewed as an invading force at this battle is an interesting way to view things, and from the Canadian perspective quite correct. It was interesting elsewhere in the country to see memorials to battles involving Canada in South Africa at the beginning of the 20th Century, as well as involvement in World Wars I and II and the Korean War, all involving the full dates of those wars, Canadians were involved from the beginning in all those wars. Not included among the memorials, the Vietnam War, I know, you weren’t involved. After the memorial I continued north toward the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where I stopped on the riverfront near the mouth of the Niagara River into Lake Ontario to get some views of the American side and the Toronto skyline. In 2011, my father and I had to compromise on not seeing Toronto by driving to this same point on the other side of the river (at Fort Niagara) to at least get the opportunity to see Toronto. Another time where I felt bad for him, he should have been with me on this trip, the commentary of Canada from his eyes would have added more to the trip.



I thought this was a cool shot from a gas station off the QEW west of Niagara Falls, my car underneath the Maple Leaf flag.


Of course, he would have to be able to handle my choice of routes and my times. Most days I was up by 6:00 and on the road by 7:00, driving from place to place until after 8:00 each day. When I take my trips, I utilize the whole thing and pack as much in as I can. It was after 4:00 when I departed from Niagara-on-the-Lake and began my return trip back to Toronto. Unlike in the morning where I took the QEW to Niagara, I wasn’t taking the freeway the whole time. After getting around a construction site, and filling up my car for the last time this trip (aside from a small $10 fill-up on Saturday.) Eventually I got myself through a tunnel underneath the Welland Canal and onto a short segment of the 406 freeway as the highway went through St. Catherines. Back on the QEW I drove west to Hamilton where I then took the Red Hill Valley Parkway and the Lincoln Alexander Parkway around the city of Hamilton, where traffic was surprisingly heavy going around the city. After making it around the city I got back to the 403 and went into the city of Hamilton where I went to a park on top of the Escarpment overlooking the city. After spending a little time in Hamilton I was back on the 403 to one more spot, a beach along the edge of Lake Ontario where I got to one more view of the lake before taking the QEW back into Toronto. That evening I had some ribs and fries from Swiss Chalet before retiring for the evening at my hotel. My car was about to get a well-deserved break from driving as I was finally going to head into Toronto for a day in the city.


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SignGeek101

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Re: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Parts 1 and 2
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2016, 09:10:00 PM »

The pictures from ON 60 take me back a bit. I haven't been down there in years now. I used to camp in Algonquin park, and it was quite nice.

Ontario has been working on overpasses over ON 400 for awhile now. The guardrail type median has also been replaced in parts with Jersey Barrier (called Ontario Tall Wall in Ontario because of its slightly different stature). ON 400 will soon extend all the way north to Sudbury; there is construction ongoing near French River right now. The 400 series and Autoroutes are not Interstate standard, but they are probably as close as they get in Canada. Perhaps some of the newer freeways such as the Anthony Henday in Edmonton may be closer.

tdindy88

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Re: My 2016 Trip to Canada - Parts 1 and 2
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2016, 07:45:40 PM »

I saw some of the replacement of the barriers along stretches of the 400, I assume it's going to be like that all the way from Toronto to Barrie. I also wonder if any widening will happen as well, that highway I think could easily be eight lanes. During the trip I did have to remind myself that there is no such thing as interstate highway standards up here, that's why they are all provincial highways.

Anyway, I have the last couple of days of my trip. This is all primarily in Toronto and features more pictures of buildings and such than highways. The trip wasn't all about clinching roadways after all. I will admit that this probably belongs more on a Skyscraper City forum than here, but it was a road trip, so yeah.

The next day, Thursday, June 30th, my car got to sit at the parking lot of my hotel for the entire day. My hotel was across the street from a bus stop and that bus took me directly to one of Toronto’s subway stations. One of the things I had been told by my father was how much he liked the subway there. The system was set up so that buses would connect with the subway stops to allow for a seamless transition and this morning I got to experience just that. After paying my fare on board the bus when stepping on I didn’t have to pay anything else the rest of that morning and got to ride the subway all the way to Union Station in Downtown Toronto. On this clear blue-skied morning my first stop was perhaps the city’s most famous attraction, the CN Tower. As I was telling someone there, this was a visit 19 years in the making. During the Labor Day 1997 trip my family was planning on going up the tower, but it was a Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend and the lines were long to go up so he forgoed it, thinking that we’d get the chance a few years later to make it to the top. Well, 19 years later in 2016 I finally got to go up to the top. Since it was still in the morning, there were no lines and my visit was flawless (I planned it that way.) At the top, the view was great, a perfect morning to look out and see all of the GTA and even across Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls (the skyline not the actual waterfall.) It was worth it. After getting a souvenir statue of the CN Tower, one of my goals while in Canada, I walked around the area gazed at the numerous high rises of Toronto’s growing skyline. I don’t remember everything about the city from 1997, but none of this was here. This was the modern Toronto. While my previous days had involved a lot of pictures of highways and such, today was about buildings and development.




I finally made got myself down to the waterfront where I boarded a ferry boat for the Toronto Islands. In this case, I wasn’t interested in going onto the actual island myself, although it wouldn’t have been a bad idea. My main intent was to get what I would consider a “classic” shot of Toronto’s skyline on the lake. And despite the crowded ferry boat I had no shortage of picture opportunities. It also provided for a nice ride altogether with the breeze of the water hitting me. It was here when I realized it, I was in Toronto. Taking the boat back I got back onto land and began walking around toward the north, past the Air Canada Centre and underneath the Gardiner Expressway, again just ogling over all the different high rises. Condominiums soon turned into office skyscrapers as I entered the financial district for all of Canada. After a short return trip to Union Station to explore the great hall and the concourses around there I began walking up Bay Street toward City Hall, another building I had remembered from the ’97 trip. Things from that trip were now slowly coming back to me as I looked at the classic curved buildings that formed another symbol of the city. And along the reflection pond in front, the large letters spelling out the name of the city, among the newest of Toronto’s symbols. Originally meant for the 2015 Pan-American Games the letters as I understand turned out a success and have stayed into the next year. Nearby was the Eaton Centre, a large shopping mall that I vaguely remembered from the ’97 Trip. Now I was walking through it again, thinking to myself “I’ve been here.” Finally I ended up on Yonge-Dundas Square, a part of the city I don’t remember. With giant billboards and television screens around I got the impression that this was Toronto’s way of duplicating Times Square. Having been to the real Times Square, it wasn’t the same at all, but for Toronto I envisioned it as yet another town square for the city.







The weather that day was nice, temperatures in the mid-20s and sunny. Therefore I rarely used the underground pedestrian network that I had remembered a little bit to get around, walking above ground was much nicer. Although I won’t bore people with the details, I spent the rest of the afternoon taking the subway and streetcar around downtown and walking around the Downtown area in more detail. Starting in Yorkville off of Bloor Street I walked down Bay Street back toward Dundas, took a streetcar down that way to Spadina, Spadina down to King Street, King Street east past Yonge and back again toward Yonge, exploring different districts. This was the urban planner in me today, walking around seeing the many buildings and developments and getting pictures of much of the city. I finally ended up heading north back on “Line 1” past the Ontario Provincial buildings and north toward Casa Loma, another attraction I remembered from before. Having been in the castle before I just stayed outside but again I wanted to retrace my steps from ’97. Interested in development along Yonge Street I spent the evening hours heading north along the subway toward Eglington and finally toward North York to see the high rise development up close. It was neat to see these nodes of development several kilometres away from the city center. North York was neat to see as well, all these high rises up against Yonge Street, it felt like another downtown. And several blocks away from the main street you were back to seeing single-family homes. This is want I wanted to see, the development throughout the city, not just the main tourist attractions. I had never seen a city like Toronto with the exception of Chicago and New York and even Chicago was lacking in some of the developments I had seen in Toronto. Having dinner in North York and road the subway for the next hour back south toward Bloor Street and westward back toward the subway station where I could board the bus back to my hotel. A very good day spent in the city with no mileage on my car at all.







The next day was July 1, Canada Day. One of the reasons I had ultimately timed my trip for this particular week was to be able to spend a holiday in Canada. July 1st also brought a new system of rain into Toronto and since I had forgotten my rain jacket at home that was a little bit of a problem. Using the holiday, the first part of my day was to drive along the Gardiner and Don Valley Expressways through the city, getting pictures along the way and then heading up Highway 404 to Markham. From there I would take Highway 7 (or old Highway 7) along the path of the 407 toll road westward through Richmond Hill and Vaughan all the way to Brampton, before taking Hurontario Street southward to Mississauga and to the lakefront before coming home. With the rain coming closer to Toronto I had to leave even earlier in the morning to make my trip, driving along the expressways through Toronto I was racing against the clock. Luckily it was a holiday and traffic along those roadways was very light. If I’ve learned something here, it’s that Canadians do take their holidays seriously.  The reason for this two-and-a-half hour drive this Friday morning was to see the other two main expressways in Toronto and to explore a little bit of Toronto’s suburbs. As a person from Indianapolis who is used to only dense development downtown and nowhere else really, it was neat to see all this built-up high rise development in other parts of the GTA, these separate city centres forming way out away from the city proper. I also got to see some of the bus corridor developments around Markham and later around Mississauga. With the rain approaching I didn’t have much time to physically stop anywhere but I saw plenty to let me see how large and vast the Greater Toronto Area truly is.






I saw signs for a Canada Day parade in Port Credit and was almost tempted to stay but with a large area of rain on our footstep I wasn’t even sure if the parade would happen. So I went back to the Colonel Smith Park in Toronto to get another shot of the skyline as the rain started coming it, a view of the city skyline under cloudy and rainy conditions. And with that I went back to my hotel. For the first time since arriving in Canada I stayed in my room for several hours during a decent chunk of my day. I took a nap and spent some time on my computer as the rain moved through the area. The rain came about an hour earlier than predicted which meant it also left earlier too allowing for skies to start clearing up after 1:00 or so. I got lunch at Pizza Pizza and went back to my room to watch a few of the Canada Day festivities out of Ottawa with the Prime Minister and Governor-General speaking. As the weather started clearing, I decided to clean out my car since I was leaving to go back home the next day, which I believe turned out to be a very good idea. I wanted as clean of a car as possible for the return trip home. After doing a few more housekeeping things I set back out one more time to Colonel Smith Park to get another shot of the Toronto skyline, this time with the sun and clouds back out. Despite a rainy start to the holiday the weather was clearing out for a very nice evening. I drove then to the Kipling subway station, parked for free and picked up a few tokens to ride the train back into the city.



Arriving back in Downtown Toronto just before 6:00 I rode the Spadina streetcar down toward the waterfront. While most of the streetcars looked a bit older this line had all modern trains that didn’t travel with the traffic, making it a pretty effective ride down the street. I rode a streetcar the previous day along Queen Street and ended up getting off because traffic was so heavy that the streetcar was hardly moving. I made better time walking the remaining distance. Back to the evening of July 1, I walked some more for the next hour, past some of the new developments in the CityPlace district before crossing over the railroad tracks on Bathurst. From there, it was more walking up Bathurst to Dundas and then east down Dundas through Chinatown all the way back to Yonge Street. And when I say “walking” I mean walking and seeing, all the different buildings, the atmosphere, just everything around the neighborhoods. Chinatown was interesting to walk through, I know there’s multiple Chinatowns in the city, but this one really did feel foreign to me. Arriving back at Young-Dundas Square I spent a little time watching a small concert they had, for the first time really I was seeing people spend Canada Day. As the skies were getting clearer the temperature was going down as well, once the sun had set it started getting a tad chilly but I managed alright. I eventually got myself back to Nathan Phillips Square to see the large Toronto sign once more, this time being lit up and red and white to celebrate the holiday. They had their own festival going on there to provide a different scene. As I saw it, they were celebrating Canada Day in different capacities. My dad had always believed this to be the main city square for Toronto, like our Monument Circle back in Indianapolis, but I was trying to point out to him that I believed that Toronto had several city squares, several areas for congregation. By 10:00 I was walking to the Harbourfront to see some actual fireworks for the holiday.





I remember the 4th of July in Washington, DC and how crowded that was. Thankfully Toronto wasn’t that crowded, mostly. Other than the crowds at the two squares earlier I walked around with no problem, only leaving the Harbourfront Centre did I experience heavy pedestrian traffic. From what I understood the official Toronto Canada Day celebration was up in North York. The biggest firework show was over in Ashbridge’s Bay Park. All of that said, the fireworks at the Harbourfront Centre were still impressive. Despite lasting about 15 minutes I would say that they packed in more in their show than Indianapolis did during the half-hour long 4th of July fireworks a few days later. An interesting observation from Toronto that day, not once did I hear “O Canada” or any specifically Canadian song, the music was just upbeat, even during the fireworks, happy music for celebration, but nothing that was specifically patriotic. Contrast to the 4th of July in Indy where you heard most of your standard American patriotic songs, songs associated with the holiday. It was my observation that Canada wasn’t that gun-ho about the patriotism, proud to be Canadian but they don’t have to remind you during their own fireworks. People in general were just having a good time. The fireworks were good and well worth the experience of celebrating the Canadian national holiday in the country. After walking with a sea of humanity northward toward Union Station I was able to board the train with relative ease (a big contrast to spending two plus hours at the Metro Center station in Washington after the 4th of July.) And with that I took the train back to Kipling and then drove to the hotel. My Canada Trip was basically complete; it was time for some sleep before a long eight-hour trip back to Indianapolis.




Since I was back in bed after 1:00 I had set my alarm for 6:00, I ended up getting up after 7:00 in the morning. Already a little late I quickly ran out of my hotel and got onto the QEW toward Hamilton. Thankfully this Saturday morning I made great time. With the exception of a short gas stop near London I made it to Sarnia in 2 ½ hours following a path along the QEW, Highways 403, 401 and then 402. With that I had clinched the 400, 401, 402, 403, 412 and QEW on my trip. After a quick stop in Sarnia to view the Blue Water Bridge and Lake Huron I finally crossed the border back. Arriving back in the U.S., the border official was a little bit harsher, asking if I had met anyone up there since I was by myself and checking my trunk and my back seat. Again, I had things positioned neatly in my car so they could have a quick look. Despite the slightly-less upbeat inspection check, he was quick to hand me back my passport card and wish me a nice day. I did some picture taking along the newly rebuilt stretch of I-94/I-69 in Port Huron first before turning around and heading west along I-69. From there my trip home was pretty straightforward, follow Interstate 69 all the way back to Indianapolis, stopping only for gas in Port Huron, lunch in Lansing and a couple of more restroom stops between there and Indy. I’m sure I had clocked I about 2,000 miles the whole time and over 4,000 pictures, but I can say that it was a very interesting and enjoyable trip.




I’ll have one more post here to share my final thoughts on the highways and transportation I saw up there with maybe a few more highway pics since I didn’t have too many in these past few posts. Thanks
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