Canadian Blizzard Driving in the Focus

You took you’re WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? That’s the reaction I get when I tell people in Texas about how I drove the Trans-Canada highway in the middle of a blizzard during my trip to Winnipeg. Due to poorly engineered roads in Texas and the fact that Texans aren’t accustomed to extended amounts of time with inclement weather, they are amazed when I explain how I can drive my Focus around in winter weather.

I mean they will actually go in the ditch when it rains (I know your Northerners are laughing now), so driving in snow is really out of the question for them. In fact, things shut down at even the threat of snow. They are completely in awe by the fact that I would even dare to attempt to drive in a blizzard, more or less do it in a Ford Focus in the middle of winter in Canada.

Until recently, I didn’t know there were any pics of the actual road conditions. I had written my previous blog entry on going to Winnipeg, but I only had pictures that I took when we were out and about and I was not driving. JP tagged me on a memory with some pictures he took and then posted on Facebook. He then said I could use them in a blog entry, so here I am, finally writing a blog entry about it.

Now the main reason I didn’t have pictures while driving is Canada is that they are insanely more strict with the hands-free laws than the USA. Even without those laws, the road conditions were horrible and I needed full attention to the road. I also did not have a dash cam like I did when I made a trip to the other side of Lake Superior at Copper Harbor, Michigan.

The trip itself was interesting enough. After shoveling all the snow off my grandma’s roof in Wisconsin, JP and I had hit the road a day early to get to Winnipeg before a whiteout blizzard was supposed to hit the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

We definitely had a great time in Winnipeg and were tempted to spend another night until we heard a rumor that there was another blizzard about to hit. After partying and then getting some sleep, we decided to hit up the mall and get some Tim Horton’s for breakfast.

Since we were at the mall, we stopped by HMV. That’s where I got my ABBA greatest hits CD and JP got a Nickelback CD. It was definitely cold, and the wind was starting to blow hard. I put the ABBA CD into the slot and Waterloo started blaring out my speakers. That’s when I pulled out of St. Vital’s shopping center and we were off to Thunder Bay to hopefully beat out the upcoming blizzard.

The snow was also piled up a fair amount due to it being later in the winter.

In fact, snow was piled so high on each side from a winter of plowing, it made a distinctive barrier on the road.

As time went on, the roads and driving conditions became progressively worse.

Eventually, we made it to Ontario!

Before we knew it, it was getting dark. That’s when it started to snow and snowed very hard. Eventually, it got to the point where I was in third gear and doing about 20 mph. The road became completely covered in snow. The only way I could tell I was on the road was the snowbanks on each side! I had to approximate my position in the road to hope I was in the right lane.

A while later, I could feel me pushing a little snow and knew I was pushing my Focus about as much as I could for the conditions. It was getting late and visibility was almost down to nothing. I knew, even if I pushed it, it would be a couple more hours before I hit Thunder Bay. I was already very tired from fighting the storm, and I took some advice from a road sign we had seen earlier and decided to stop at the next town we found along our way.

We ended up in this little town called Ignace. There was this motel called the Northwoods Motor Inn. We checked in and then went over to the restaurant to eat. I had some poutine and a beer (More pictures on my Winnipeg blog entry).

We made it back to the room, and I pretty much passed out from exhaustion. I think I said goodnight to JP and he said I was snoring in under 2 minutes. I guess driving in a blizzard is an effective sleeping pill.

The next morning we woke up, and things were cleared out. It looks like I made a good call, as I counted 3-4 semis in the ditch on the remaining distance to Thunder Bay. I have a feeling the conditions got much worse that night and I would’ve probably been stuck and stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere Canada. The rest of the drive to Thunder Bay and then to Marshfield, Wisconsin was uneventful.

Now when I tell people in Texas this story, they are in complete awe and almost dumbfounded in a way. Even people in Wisconsin think I’m a bit crazy. For me, I used to love driving around in snow storms and I guess I got experienced fast with knowing how to handle the conditions. While the drive was challenging and definitely tiring, it didn’t really phase me as being this super insane thing that some people make it out to be.

I’m happy JP had some pictures that Facebook eventually dug up as a memory because now I can show what it was really like when I did

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