Driving from from Toronto to Regina

In October, I moved from Toronto to Regina for a new job. Here’s how the drive to the city went.

The drive

I had never before attempted a drive of this length, so I was a bit worried. In the end, it turned out to be a fine experience. I saw a decent chunk of the country, and it was nice having some time to myself. There were some boring parts, but they weren’t as bad I thought they would be. Probably the best tip I could give anyone going on this journey, especially solo as I did, is to not pay attention to how many more kilometres are left; just keep going.

Based off what I read online, along with what a friend who completed the drive told me, the general route for people travelling solo is:

Toronto to Wawa, Ont. — 910 km, nine hours and 46 mins

Wawa to Dryden, Ont. — 812 km, eight hours and 50 mins

Dryden to Regina — 933 km, nine hours and 23 mins

Those times don’t include any stopping. There is a slightly quicker journey through the United States, but I wasn’t keen on having to buy health insurance, buy extra car insurance coverage, and having to pass through border security with a room’s worth of stuff crammed in a Honda CRV (I’m one of those people who always gets searched at airports, so). With those extra steps included, that journey would actually require more time than the Canadian route, I suspect.

The route I took:

Toronto to Wawa — 910 km, nine hours and 46 mins

Wawa to Brandon, Man. — 1,385 km, 14 hours and 46 mins

Brandon to Regina — 362 km, three hours and 33 mins

I find that my body generally works better in long durations for this kind of thing. I can work for 18 hours straight, but then I need 12 straight hours of sleep at some point in the week. It doesn’t work for everyone.

Toronto to Wawa — 910 km, nine hours 46 mins

The day was Oct. 17, 2013. My drive didn’t start off on a good foot because I couldn’t sleep the night before (I got about two hours). Still, I wanted to stick to my plan. The journey out of Toronto wasn’t difficult because I left after the morning rush hour. I was in the boonies (of sorts) relatively quickly after driving past Canada’s Wonderland. Once I passed Barrie, there were few buildings taller than three storyes visible for hours. Overall, the road conditions were fine. I was a bit annoyed at having to occasionally wait at bridges for up to five minutes due to one lane being closed for construction.

Before this trip, I didn’t know how gorgeous Ontario is. I struggled to keep my eyes on the road as I passed what looked like untouched lakes that perfectly reflected the surrounding trees and sky. I felt like I was driving past postcard covers for the first leg of the journey. The mountains were beautiful yet occasionally a little creepy. It got dark outside fast, and snaking around the mountains felt like the opening scene of a movie (you know, that cliché overhead shot a lone car being driven by the main character heading to some secluded mansion in a forest). I came across one car on the other lane about once every 10 minutes at night. I was a little tired once I was an hour away from Wawa.

When I was far away from cities and towns, the only times I saw lampposts and other stationary sources of light were at intersections, gas stations, and the like. Speaking of gas stations, it was a challenge to find the 24-hour variety and, when not driving in or near communities, finding any at all was difficult. Running out of gas was a big worry, so I made sure to fill up by the 50 per cent mark during the day, and even sooner at night.

What I found floating in the toilet in my "non-smoking room."
A toilet at a Wawa, Ont., motel pictured on Oct. 17, 2013. (Steve Silva)

I chose an externally well-lit Wawa motel in the hopes that that would deter any potential thieves. I brought my valuables inside my room, but my car was still packed with things, mainly the kind that I could replace relatively inexpensively. I was worried that someone would try to break in. I could survive without my nearly decade-old vacuum and my two bathroom mats, but I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of dealing with broken glass everywhere. I’ve read that it can sometimes be wise to leave the doors unlocked to alleviate that. I see the logic: The thief breaks in, maybe messes things up, finds nothing of value, and leaves sans breaking any windows. Then again, maybe the thief will actually be so incensed that there was nothing worthy of taking, they smash a window. Anyway, I found a cigarette butt in my non-smoking room’s toilet, and that was the extent of my issues, thankfully.

I didn’t pay attention to this too much, but I did lose cellphone reception several times (on Rogers’ network) while driving, though it generally only lasted for about five minutes at its worst. Getting a decent radio station signal was tricky in many parts of the journey, but there was generally at least one station always available. I found it quaint that so many of the stations I listened to were named after animals (The Bear, The Moose, etc.). I didn’t expect to get bored of music so fast, but I did, so I downloaded a bunch of CBC Radio’s “The Irrelevant Show” podcast episodes when I stopped at my first motel; the show got me through the rest of the journey. Also, Google Maps’ directions were accurate.

Wawa to Brandon — 1,385 km, 14 hours and 46 mins

Minus more of those occasional bridge construction waits, this leg of the journey was uneventful. As I crept closer to Manitoba, the number of scenic views got more sparse.

Before I left Toronto, I checked online for other people’s experiences completing this leg of the journey. I kept reading warnings about hitting moose and deer. I made sure to keep that in mind throughout the entire drive. The animals can come out of nowhere, and hitting a moose can kill you. There were many signs that warned drivers of particular moose/other animal hot spots. Thankfully, I did not see any large animals except for the fenced-in farm variety during the drive.

(Update: I drove back from Regina to Toronto in 2015 on the same route. I drove from Brandon to Toronto on May 31 and June 1. I saw many moose in Ontario during the day and especially during the night. They were difficult to see from a distance, even on a clear night, and they had no problem walking onto the road as my car approached. I witnessed one driver sideswipe a moose. I drove well below the speed limit during many parts of that drive. I now understand why people warn others so much about taking care not to hit a moose.)

It was dark by the time I crossed the Ontario-Manitoba border about 11 hours later, and I felt fine to continue. The further I drove, the far less tightly the trees hugged the highways; that was helpful because it let more moonlight in.

I reached Brandon by about 10 or 11 p.m., and I was still good to continue the rest of the way to Regina, about a four-hour drive away. I called my new landlord to see if he wouldn’t mind leaving the key somewhere for me to move in when I got there. Alas, he wasn’t able to accommodate that. Subsequently, I called it a night and searched for a place to stay. I was fooled into thinking that finding a place wouldn’t be difficult in Brandon because there were many motels and hotels on that stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway, but I was only able to find one place that had a room available.

Brandon to Regina — 362 km, three hours and 33 mins

It was obvious from the previous night that the rest of the journey would feature plain after plain after plain, but I guess the darkness of night masked the true extent of that. Meandering around Ontario’s mountains one day, and being able to see the tip of the CN Tower from the flatness of Saskatchewan and Manitoba the next day was a bit of a visual shock. (OK, I’m exaggerating.)

Eventually, the Trans-Canada Highway turned into Regina’s Victoria Avenue East, which is kind of the city’s equivalent to Toronto’s Bloor Street, and the traffic got significantly busier.

On Oct. 19, that was that: I made it to Regina.

Regina observations

I’ve lived here for more than three months now, and there are some notable differences regarding what it’s like living in Regina than in Toronto.

I found that most of Toronto’s roads that I used were cleared of snow within a day or two. Here, it feels as if the roads, including many parking lots, are completely coated starting in November — and they stay that way. There is one road that I started using in November every couple of days or so, and I’ve never not seen it coated in ice at least an inch thick. A friend of mine told me that people drive much slower in Regina than in Toronto, an observation which seems to have anecdotal merit.

When I lived in New York City, I thought that my friends there complained too much about snow and such. “Try experiencing a Toronto winter,” I, the know-it-all, told them. Having now experienced much of a Regina winter, I’ve come to realize that I knew nothing.

Nothing.

I still don’t think anyone truly “handles” an outdoor temperature (with windchill) of -50 C, but Saskatchewanians do. Those temperatures bring the requisite flight cancellations, water main breaks, and such, yet people here just go on with their lives. Somehow.

Subsequently, my new temperature tolerance entails:

-50 C — I’ll make my grocery run a quick affair.

-30 C — Nothing out of the ordinary.

-2 C — Practically t-shirt weather.

Many things are less expensive in Regina than in Toronto. With a few exceptions, every major store chain has a presence in the city. Also, there are a lot more things sold by the government here, including home insurance, car insurance, and cellphone, cable, and internet plans.

Lastly, it took me a while to accept that everything is nearby in Regina by car, like 10 minutes or so away pretty much anywhere you’re at. I fault the Torontonian in me for thinking that I have to leave an hour early for everything. That said, there are regularly-used train tracks that cut through the middle of the city. Trains crossing those tracks have delayed my trips by up to 30 minutes before.

2 thoughts on “Driving from from Toronto to Regina”

  1. Hi, thank you for sharing your story here.
    I am about to go to Regina from Toronto for work, too. And I am also planning to drive there. Your story gave me an idea of how it is like for the drive as well as the road conditions in Regina in winter, to get me a bit more prepared.

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