CAA Member and author Clint Cannon revisits the history of the Trans-Canada Highway.
The beauty of road trips is often found not at the destination, but in the journey itself. For Manitoba author Clint Cannon, travelling the eastern portion of Canada's Trans-Canada Highway was a particularly fond memory. The trip also became the catalyst for Exploring the Old Trans-Canada East, a book combining nostalgia and modern-day adventure along our iconic national roadway.
After reading an article in CAA Manitoba Magazine about J. Clark Saunders' book, Exploring Old Highway No. 1 West: Canada's Route 66, Cannon immediately purchased it. He devoured the tales of a time before the highway became today's seamless ribbon of pavement. In the book, Saunders challenges would-be writers to tell the other half of the story about the eastern stretch of highway. Cannon immediately realized he was that writer.
"I still have road maps and photos from trips I took with my parents and brothers—as far back as 1959," Cannon says, adding that he obtained Saunders' blessing before embarking on his writing journey.
In four trips over two years, the writer logged 16,000 kilometres on both the current concrete, as well as some mostly forgotten stretches of the original routes. "You really have to get back onto those old roads to see small places and points of interest," he says, pointing to hidden gems like the Lone Pine Motel in Ignace, the amethyst mines east of Thunder Bay and Ernie's Coffee Shop in Sault Ste. Marie.
In addition to these and other backroad discoveries, Cannon also visited bucket-list sights, including the Terry Fox Memorial, Confederation Bridge, Joggins Fossil Cliffs and Quebec City.
Cannon's book is a practical travel guide complemented by trips down memory lane. But he notes how a third theme emerged: people. The author reconnected with his centenarian Aunt Minnie, 90-year-old Uncle Rufus and dozens of cousins across the country. He also met new characters who likewise share his passion for roads less travelled.