Great Lakes & Great Views | Leaving Ontario

To say that Ontario is massive is nothing short of an under statement. Even people who live there don’t really realize how big the Province truly is.

I started the “Three Ocean Expedition” from Toronto and headed west towards the Pacific Ocean. The first major milestone was getting out of Ontario and reaching Winnipeg, Manitoba…it took three days!

Okay, if you go by the numbers, reaching Winnipeg takes 24hrs of driving from Toronto, but when you include fuel stops, the occasional stretch, and of course time to sleep…it took three days. Hell it took an hour just getting out of Toronto!

The first proper stop was in Sudbury famously known for it’s “Big Nickel”. Sudbury became (and still is) famous for it’s Nickel mines and the Big Nickel is a popular tourist destination. So of course I stopped there also and out the drone up to get a better look at the area. Check out my Instagram page for the video by searching for “@goforadv”.

The first stop for the night was Lake Superior Provincial Park. Lake Superior is the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world and is considered an in-land sea because of it’s size and it’s famously harsh weather conditions. Many ships and sailors have been lost on Lake Superior, the most well known is the Edmond Fitzgerald and her crew.

The next night was a stop in Thunder Bay but only after many hours of slogging through some torrential rain. Umm…I hate to say it but the most interesting thing about the place is the view of a distant peninsula that the Indigenous people called the “Sleeping Giant” because that’s what they saw. Of course as luck would have it, the fog and overcast conditions didn’t reveal much on this day.

Driving along Sleeping Giant

Fortunately though, I had taken a long detour prior to getting to Thunder Bay and actually drove out on the Sleeping Giant. This turned out to be a great opportunity to get some photos and video (from the ground and from the sky) as this was the one moment when there was a break in the weather.

It was another long day on the road but after a good night sleep, I was ready to push on into Manitoba and to visit a city that I haven’t been to in a very long time…Winnipeg.

It was very exciting to finally reach the border with Manitoba but it dawned on me again just how massive and beautiful Ontario really is. Once you clear the farm lands of Southern Ontario, you find yourself in an ocean of trees. You can literally drive for days and despite the changes in elevation and terrain, you are still in a vast ocean of green.

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100W Foldable Solar Panels

100W Foldable Panels

When going “off-grid” for even just a couple of days, having a source of power (like a battery bank or generator) is important. Eventually though, that source needs to be topped up. Now in the case of a generator, it’s just a matter of adding more fuel, but if you’re using a battery bank of some sort, it will need recharging. This is easy while driving as the power is provided from the vehicle’s electrical system. Although if you are stationary for a couple of days, solar panels are the way to go.

Most solar panels are large and flat and that’s usually ok if you have space for them but if you don’t, then you should consider a folding panel system like this one. This 100W foldable panel can be easily found on Amazon for a very reasonable price (when compared to the solid panel competition).

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Moving on from Cancer and Living the Dream

For over 10 years I’ve been thinking about, dreaming about, traveling more and seeing more of my own country. I live in the second largest country in the world and I’ve really only explored a small bit of it. I kept putting it off though. Just one excuse after another. Not enough money this year, timing is bad, whatever. It was always some valid reason that stopped it from happening. Not anymore.

Two years ago today, during the height of a global pandemic, I walked into the Princess Margaret Hospital alone for a surgery that would alter my life forever but ultimately save it. Two months prior I had been diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer of the tongue and it was spreading fast. The surgery was far more invasive than expected with over 80% of my tongue removed, along with all the lymph nodes in my neck/jaw area, and a few teeth, and after two weeks recovering in hospital, I was sent home and told to come back a couple weeks later for intensive radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

Fast forward to today. I’m cancer free (at least for now) and although my quality of life has changed dramatically, I am alive and starting the trip of a lifetime to check off several bucket list items. I am departing Toronto early on June 24th (the 2yr anniversary of the surgery) and heading west to the Pacific Ocean, then north to the Arctic Ocean, then to the east coast to the Atlantic rounding out all three Canadian oceans. I will be on the road for about two months and will have traveled about 25,000km (over 15,500 miles) by the time I’m done.

I encourage you to follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Just search @goforadv and you’ll find me.

Also, If you could find it in your heart to pitch in for some gas, it would be much appreciated! Help fuel the dream at GoFundMe.

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GOLABS Power Station

Nowadays, going completely “off-grid” while camping doesn’t really happen anymore. We still want our phones, cameras, and even laptops charged up at all times. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I ain’t judging…I’m the same way!

The easiest and cheapest way to do this, is to get a power bank/power generator. Now gas powered generators have been used for decades for RV, motorhomes, and camper trailers but they are big, noisy, and stinky. The newer, cheaper option is a small battery bank of some sort but there are many popping up on the market with various capacities. They can range from 150W for under $200 up to 2000W for thousands of dollars.

I would suggest that if you are only 1-2 people needing to keep your phones, cameras and a laptop charged up, you can get by with a smaller unit. Especially if you are only off-grid for a couple of nights.

This 300W unit from GOLABS is what I could afford at the time and while I’m driving, it’s kept charged up from my van via a 12V adapter. Although more is always better, but they take up a lot more space in your vehicle, this 300W unit is so far suitable for my needs. I also paired it with a 100W solar panel to extend my power needs, which is working great.

Once again, you can find these on Amazon and the prices do range. The Jackery brand seems to be the best but they do come with a hefty price tag. The GOLABS brands are much more affordable, although their capacity is limited to the lower range (1000W and up doesn’t seem available at the time of writing this).

Again though, if you are only going off-grid for a few nights and only need to charge a few mobile phones, a camera or two, and a laptop or tablet, you should be fine with a 500W unit or less. My 300W unit when paired with 100W of solar panels has so far gotten me by just fine.

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Garmin inReach Mini 2

In the world of emergency personal location devices, the inReach products by Garmin are game changers. The Mini 2 is quite an improvement over the previous model but not as capable, or as expensive, as the more advanced inReach products. This is more focused on short two-way messages via satellite between the user and their contacts.

Garmin Explore

You can pair the device to your phone via Bluetooth and add your desired contacts to the device. You can also use your phone to create your messages and once you hit send, the Mini 2 will send the message. The neat thing about the system, unlike SPOT devices or EPIRB devices, the inReach Mini 2 is two-way, so whomever you reach out to can reply. You can send messages to a specific person, or you can use one of the Quick Messages that sends out a pre-made message to a list of people that is predetermined via the web portal. There is a huge amount of customization with pre-made messages, recipient lists, sending locations or not, updates to Twitter, and a Facebook page that you manage. It can also send updates to a map interface showing the location where your last message was sent from or a nearly real-time track of where you are and have been along your route.

This can be especially handy if you are on a back country hiking or canoe trip and something go wrong. And it’s when things go wrong when devices like this are really needed. Up until now, I’ve been talking about adding some piece of mind to friends and family, staying in contact with them and sharing your location online. Although it’s also a device that you really want to have in an emergency when someone is seriously injured or ill. It has a well protected SOS button tucked away from being accidentally pressed, but once it is pressed, a signal goes out to emergency responders and help is on the way almost anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that the more remote you are, the longer it will take for help to reach you but they are coming.

Now that level of insurance needs to be paid for prior to being needed but it’s worth it.

Garmin offers a number of packages ranging from just a few messages a month up to an unlimited package that includes weather. Depending on how remote you’re going to be, for how long, and how many messages you want to send back and forth, must all be considered when choosing a package and for how long. You can choose a yearly plan or a more costly monthly plan which can be cancelled once your trip is over. So if you’re only going to use the device for a couple trips a year, I would suggest the monthly plan because it will be cheaper overall. If you are a ongoing traveller, the annual package is probably a better choice.

I decided that this would be a wise choice for me for the 3C Expedition Road Trip around Canada and I went with the Expedition package on a monthly plan and the GEOS membership should I need to call in emergency services while I’m really remote in Northern Canada.

Hopefully I won’t need the SOS button, but the two-way messaging will come in very handy when mobile phone services become absent in remote areas, of which there will be many.

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