Saturday, July 28, 2012

ONroute a Step Up

ONroute stops along Ontario's famous highway 401 are making travel a little easier for motorists in that province. Earlier this week I stopped at several while driving from Montreal to visit friends at a cottage in deepest Eastern Ontario, then back to Montreal. The rest stops are all equipped with fast food outlets, different ones at different stops, tourist information, fairly clean rest rooms and gas stations. One of the places where I bought gas, near Napanee, even had full service.
None of these items may seem like a big deal to those who live in the U.S. or other more densely populated countries. But Canada is sparsely populated outside the big cities and outside a strip that runs about 200 km. north of the border with the U.S., and finding essential services while travelling by car can be difficult. A few years ago I stopped to get gas at a large station in Renfrew, ON that also included a convenience store, but no washrooms for travellers. Route 417, the main highway from Montreal to Ottawa, has no rest stops and few places to get gas that are easily accessible from the highway. Strange when you consider that Ottawa is the capital and Montreal is one of Canada's largest cities.
The province of Ontario plans to open more ONroute stops along some of their other highways, but I saw no mention of the 417. In any case, things are looking up for those of us who drive frequently between Montreal and Toronto.
My trip was both pleasant, seeing old friends and enjoying the country, and exciting, getting caught in a major storm system that brought visibility to zero and forced me to stop along a tiny provincial road. I pulled off the road as far as I dared, put on my emergency blinkers, hoped that any passing logging truck would see me in time to stop, and cowered in the car until hail let up after a few minutes. When I could move again, ice fog from the hail blanketed the road ahead.
The trip back was not quite so exciting, though heavy rain pelted down for much of the time I was on the 401. Such is summer in Canada.

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