As usual, it had it’s ups and downs, and family frictions. The kids were great on the ride up. Normally, I don’t like traveling without DH to handle any backseat squabbles and let me concentrate on the road, but there weren’t any. There was no hair pulling, finger poking or snot flinging. To be honest I thought they were asleep for most of the drive. I don’t know what they did to occupy their time.
It struck me how much the highway has changed since I was a child. Once upon a time, it was only two lanes between Sudbury and Hwy 12 where the old Highway 69 merged into Highway 400. My sister and I always felt a sense of relief when we got to that point, because from there it was only about an hour to Toronto and the Yorkdale Mall, our usual destination. The same could be said about The Hungry Bear Restaurant on the French River for the return trip. The road had few passing lanes and it was quite common to see people pulling onto the paved shoulders to let faster drivers pass. Consideration was key to a quiet trip.
Now it’s four lanes between T.Dot and Parry Sound and just south of Estaire to Sudbury. On the stretch of single lane highway, I can see the trees being cut down for the rest of the project from the road and I can’t help but feel sad (not to mention the ecologically trained part of my brain is screaming: “EDGE EFFECT!”). People drive much faster, it’s not unusual to be cut off or get beeped at for going too slow. I’m driving at 110 kph in an 90 kph zone and suddenly I’m an old grandma who should get off the road?
Patience is *not* a virtue along Highway 69.
We now bypass a lot of interesting little towns and attractions along the way. I have to wonder what will happen to the small businesses in towns like Nobel and Pointe au Baril who in part are dependent on travelers stopping on their way to or from their cottage. How many people stopped at the Iroquois Cranberry Growers (south of Bala) or at the Moose Lake Trading Post (north of Pointe au Baril) when the road was a single lane and people were traveling at a sedate 80 kph? Now it’s blink and you miss it and good luck turning around to go back.
While all this is passing through my head, I flash back to a scene from Cars where Lightning and Sally are looking at the interstate from the top of the mountain:
Sally: Yeah. Back then, cars came across the country a whole different way.
Lightning McQueen: How do you mean?
Sally: Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.
People and cars are moving so fast now. It’s no longer fun or relaxing to travel the highways. The familiar twists and turns that comforted me as I get closer to the city where I spent most of my childhood are gone. That sense of ‘coming home’ has changed as the topography of the land has changed. Tension no longer leaves my shoulders as I spy the old Champlain Hotel in French River, knowing that I’m less than 60 km from home; it’s gone, pulled down last fall.
At least that’s what I think until I hear Sprout sigh happily: “I always know I’m close to Grandmaman’s house when I see the signs pointing to Kilarney. When are you and dad going to take us there, mom?”
Plus ça change….