Saskatchewan rest areas

Picnic by the shitter

A rather nice rest stop along the TCH that runs through Saskatchewan. Do you eat your sammiches before, or after?

I have no idea who planned this well-placed little gem of a rest area. It’s on the Trans-Canada Highway running through the vast wasteland known as Saskatchewan. Does anyone but me think that stopping for a picnic beside a shitter is a tad overdoing it? Does one make use of the facilities before you partake of the sandwich, or after?

In any case, it’s certainly more welcoming than what you get while traveling through Northwestern Ontario. There you only get access to a tree–sans flag. Or paper.

Speaking of trees, it is rather nice to see trees by the side of the road with one’s facilities on the bald Prairie. As you can tell by the proudly flying flags, the wind whips across that Prairie faster than you can put it in the rear-view mirror.

No deposit, no return

Closed and forgottenAfter crossing the great expanse of nothing called Manitoba, I was looking forward to taking a much-needed break just inside the Ontario border on Highway 17 – otherwise known as the Trans-Canada. There’s a nice little rest area off the highway, tucked away in tall pines. Tables, washrooms, drinks – all available there.

Okay, there used to be a rest stop there.

The dumbasses in control of those little things that make all the difference when one is traveling the highways and byways in the once and former great Ontar-i-ari-ari-o have decreed the place to be closed. Now one must once again search out the nearest tall – or short (no prejudice here) – tree to urinate, defecate, throw out trash and generally cause and create mayhem.

Welcome to Northwestern Ontario

Isn’t this a pretty picture to behold on your first visit to the grand Province of Ontario? It’s hard to tell who does highway maintenance these days. Probably no one.

For all, it’s a return to the snowplow turnout to make deposits like wild animals roaming the deep, dark woods, huffing and puffing and snuffing out a spot to do our business. The north is given the privilege of contributing billions to the economic life of southern Ontario, while the buffoons governing the province force travelers and citizens all to piss against trees and bury waste in the moss.

The lovely and accommodating snowplow turnout in the north

The lovely and accommodating snowplow turnout complete with shitty diaper in the middle of it all. If you hold it until you get to southern Ontario, you’ll be able to avail yourself of an actual rest area designed for people, not animals.

Too bad, so sad.

But don’t despair, good traveler! If you can wait until you get to southern Ontario to urinate and defecate, you will be warmly welcomed into a rest stop such as this.

More on rest areas in Northwestern Ontario

I was riding through Northwestern Ontario, as I am wont to do on occasion, when I needed a break. As anyone knows who passes through on the only highway that goes anywhere, there’s nowhere to stop and take a break. Well, nowhere, that is, until one comes across a snowplow turnout. You remember those, right? They’re the ones famous for their No Parking signs.

They’re also renowned for urine bottles, beer cans, pizza boxes, trash, junk and other miscellaneous articles that people discard while traveling on the highway to nowhere–otherwise known as Highway 17. Those turnouts are nicely paved though, aren’t they?

A lovely snowplow turnout

The ubiquitous snowplow turnout in Northwestern Ontario, home to urine bottles discarded by truckers, beer cans, pizza boxes and dirty diapers. How attractive.

I could be wrong, but wouldn’t a couple of trash receptacles solve some of the problems surrounding these places? I know it’s a bit much to ask, but how about a porta-potty or two also? Of course, that would require that someone come around occasionally to empty the things, but, hey, welcome to the 21st Century, Ontario.

I know, I know, it’s an added expense for the taxpayers, but given that for decades the provincial government has taken all of the money from Ontario’s resource-rich north to fund Southern Ontario’s flagging economy, it’s only fair that the government should put a little back into the region in the form of garbage cans and shitters.

All the pretty trash

All the pretty trash. That’s the diaper in the middle of the turnout surrounded by the miscellaneous trash from the turnout ditch. Nice.


Rest areas across the prairies

If you thought public rest areas across northern Ontario were just plain silly, you shouldn’t complain, because at least you had a tree to hide behind. Or a snowplow turnaround to litter with your urine deposit.

If only it were so simple on the wind-swept prairie!

It starts on the eastern Manitoba border with Ontario, and ends on the western Manitoba border with Saskatchewan. Two welcome centers, complete with facilities for those who have needs. Open only in the summertime.

That’s it!

Nada. Nothing. Rien.

Piss at your leisure, boys and girls.

Anywhere. Any time. Any place.

Just don’t expect ground cover.

On into Saskatchewan, see above. It’s the same.

Ditto with Alberta.

Oh, sure, there are some brown-signed rest areas, some with porta-potties, to be sure. But by the time you speed by the tiny brown sign announcing same, it’s too late, and you can’t get turned around on the four-lane to hit them, so to speak.

I wonder if the colour of the sign is reflective of how much importance the powers-that-be give to restroom facilities.

Perhaps they don’t give a shit.

Rest areas in Northwestern Ontario

This is an ongoing commentary on the sad spectacle of roadside rest areas in northwestern Ontario. Read more about how badly the area is treated with regard to an inability to take clean, decent and safe bathroom breaks along the isolated miles of the Trans-Canada Highway here, and here. Don’t despair, though. There are plenty of trees and shrubs available, behind which you are free to empty your bladder and evacuate your bowels. Bring your own toilet paper.

An Ontario travel information station in Northwestern Ontario

An Ontario travel information station at the border with Manitoba. Try using the washroom in January. You can’t.


Updated July 2010: Sudbury to Thunder Bay – a distance of 626 miles/1,000 kilometers – has a dearth of rest areas. In fact, that little stretch of two-lane blacktop is renowned for its absence of rest areas.

Oh, sure, it has the very occasional Tourist Centre by the side of the road where supervised evacuation of your bowel is allowed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., mid-May to the end of August, when those buildings are shut down for the winter. After that, boys and girls, it’s entirely up to you to find your own personal tree at a snowplow turnout that hasn’t been shat upon before you got there.

Good luck with that.

Many of the smaller areas that are indicated by a tiny brown and white picnic table sign have wooden toilets, but access to these too is closed off in winter. No matter though. The signs are so small and questionable that even a long-time Ministry of Transportation (MTO) employee (are there any of those left?) would be hard-pressed to pull off into one before passing it by.

A tourist new to the area would have absolutely no idea that a toilet persists in between the trees covering up any sight of the offending wooden outhouse. And before you climb into one of these at night, be aware that there’s no lighting that will allow you to see what you’re stepping in. You might as well use a tree – if you can find one uncontaminated by human waste.

Now then, I know that the excuse for all of the stupidity on the part of Ontario is that it provides local business with a guaranteed supply of customers full of human waste that needs to be cleaned up at the end of every day. Believe me. I know how some of those local businesses clean their latrines, and it’s not pretty. It doesn’t smell good either.

Perhaps Ontario-the-good might want to consider providing some training to these businesses in how to clean a shitter. Such training might provide not only a steady stream of return business (if you’ll pardon the pun) but also gains in the number of people employed.

Updated October 2009: Little did I know when I wrote this post that Ontario, in its infinite wisdom, had closed 20 out of 23 service centres along Highway 400 and 401 in southern Ontario. That’s right, folks, they closed 20. All at once. Re-opening will not occur until 2012. What a fucking joke.

<< uncontrollable laughter >>

Drivers aren’t even allowed to stop on the side of the road on those highways, and in fact, there are no paved shoulders to pull off onto. Imagine that, users of the Interstate system down south.

Consequently, there’s nowhere to piss. Or shit.

The stupidity of Ontario never ceases to amaze me.

*     *     *

There’s a nice little rest area just west of Thunder Bay. It’s the time zone map, complete with trees, tables and toilets. It’s remarkable for the size of the tribute it pays to time zone change. Now, granted, it does delineate the Eastern Time Zone (from whence all things Toronto must by edict emanate), and the Central Time Zone, where nothing ever happens. That in itself makes it remarkable and distinct.

The Arctic watershed boundary

The Arctic watershed boundary

I do know that some years ago, the time zone marker was moved to its present position from a somewhat more easterly location. I’m not sure if Queen’s Park in Toronto, the centre of the known universe, took it upon itself to actually move a time zone, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The display is now on a prominent hill looking southeast to its mecca.

The Arctic watershed plaque

The Arctic watershed plaque

Almost unnoticed is the Arctic Watershed marker. It’s located somewhat east of the time zone map on one of those snowplow turnouts renowned for trash disposal, urine deposits and No Parking signs.

Some distance back in the bush from the Arctic Watershed sign and almost invisible is a plaque detailing the history and area involvement in delineating the territory which eventually became known as Canada.