Great Lakes Road Trip: Reflections..

So after a day or two at home, chance to reflect on our trip.

It was different to our usual road trips in that we drove through both the USA and Canada, going through border controls six times in all, four in the car and two on foot (at Niagara Falls). Each time was a different experience, the worst being Thunder Bay coming back into the USA where we got a real going over, our itinerary was thoroughly read, our Egyptian stamps in our passports questioned, and fruit confiscated, much to Amr distress!

We visited after a very severe and late winter, lakes were still iced in Canada and most outdoors sites were still closed which restricted our activity considerably. However it was interesting to see the change of seasons, the feeling of wilderness as we drove miles and miles without seeing any sign of other humans, and seeing three, yes three, mousse en route. We spoke to a number of people about our sightings and all confirmed that we were very lucky as sightings are rare these days, something to do with the increase in deer population and the ticks they bring wiping out the mousse.

Using self catering accommodation at the early part of our trip helped considerably to keeping the budget under control, and meant we could get some (reasonably) healthy food instead of high carb, high fat, high calorie burgers burgers burgers!!

Our first task soon after arrival is always to purchase a polystyrene box from the dollar shop to use as a cool box, cooled by empty water bottles frozen overnight in the room. This trip it wasn’t actually needed as the temperatures were so low, but still kept cheese and salad chilled en route. Another purchase is a couple of cheap plates, bowls and forks for ‘in-room picnics’ which again helps with budget and slightly healthier eating.

Whilst we have met many Canadians on our travels who very much do not like being mistaken for Americans, we generally felt more welcome in the USA than Canada. With the exception of Lower Michigan, a more unfriendly state we have yet to visit. No matter where we stopped in this part of the state people were miserable unfriendly and unwelcoming. I can understand why those in Upper Michigan have a desire to join Wisconsin!

Being members of rewards clubs like IHG and Choice Hotels means we collect points as we go, and at this time of year they usually have ‘accelerators’ on offer, so we can use up the accumulated points for free nights later in the trip, again helping with the budget.

Having said that using using motels is such a different experience to hotels, checking them out well with research on the net however is vital! Wherever though, the welcome is warm, the service friendly and the rooms huge. So much more personal than hotels which can tend to look the same wherever you stay. Some can be very economical, others not so much, some offer breakfast but in the main not.

Free breakfast is another way to control the budget, however if they don’t offer it, MacDonalds is a good deal for breakfast! Egg McMuffin and coffee, fill in the survey online and get you next one buy one get one free, $7 for breakfast for two not to be scoffed at, so throughout the trip huge saving can be made!

You’ll note there is an emphasis on controlling the budget, when the trip is six weeks we set a budget which we try to keep to, this means splurges one day mean frugal the next and part of the fun is seeing how close we can get to our budget! Needless to say on this trip, despite actually being quite good most way through, it was blown by we got to Maine and lobster shacks!

Whilst we had planned (using roadtrippers.com) and booked most of our accommodation in advance, again we changed plans as we progressed. Actually finding that some hotels were cheaper than when we had booked in advance, so in one case we actually cancelled the advance booking we had and rebooked at the current price and saved $30. Whilst some areas, like the Canadian side of Lake Superior where accommodation is sparse booking ahead is sensible, in future I intend to have a plan of where to stay but to book ‘on the go’. In popular areas prebooking, but always with free cancellation so we can change our route/plans without penalty.

So we covered, all of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario, Lake Eerie, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan along with hundreds of other smaller lakes, all with names but impossible to record all of them. We stayed on the largest island on a lake in the world (Manitoulin Island) on the largest lake in the world (Lake Superior). We stayed by Glen Lake in Michigan and Lake Placid/Mirror Lake in New York State. We walked around Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine. We watched innumerable waterfalls with their full rivers and waters plunging over the edge, starting with Niagara Falls and perhaps our favourite Kakabeka Falls near Thunder Bay Canada.

We drove 5,070 miles

We walked 82 kilometers

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