Moving from Toronto to Regina

In October, I moved from Toronto to Regina for a new job. I thought I would share my experience.

The drive

This drive was my biggest worry because I’m not a fan of waiting. In the end, for the most part, I enjoyed the drive. I got to see a decent chunk of the country, and it was nice having some time to myself. There were the boring parts, but that’s inevitable. Probably the best tip I could give anyone doing the drive is to not scroll through your GPS device to see the journey ahead/how far you’ve travelled — it’s a long drive, don’t make it more pronounced by seeing how little you’ve travelled an hour in.

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

Toronto to Wawa — 910 km, 9 hours 46 mins

Wawa to Dryden — 812 km, 8 hours 50 mins

Dryden to Regina — 933 km, 9 hours 23 mins

That’s under 10 hours of driving a day without stopping. There is quicker journey through the United States, but I wasn’t keen on the cost of adding health insurance, and having to pass through border security with a room’s worth of stuff crammed in Honda CRV (I’m one of those people who always get searched at airports, so). 

The route I took:

Toronto to Wawa — 910 km, 9 hours 46 mins

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

Brandon to Regina — 362 km, 3 hours 33 mins

I find that my body works better in long durations for basically everything. I can work for 18 hours straight, but then I need 12 hours of sleep. It doesn’t work for everyone, so I have to stress that the above itinerary is not normal. 

Toronto to Wawa — 910 km, 9 hours 46 mins

My drive didn’t start off on a good foot because I couldn’t sleep the night before (I got less than two hours). Still, I wanted to stick to my plan. The journey out of Toronto wasn’t difficult since I lived in Central Etobicoke, and I left after rush hour. I found it interesting how quickly I was in boonies after driving past Wonderland. Once you pass Barrie, buildings taller than three stories essentially disappear for hours. Overall, I was impressed with how decent the roads were. My only complaint would be having to occasionally wait at bridges for up to 5 minutes due to one lane being closed for construction. 

I never realized how breathtakingly beautiful Ontario is. I struggled to keep my eyes on the road as I passed untouched small lakes that perfectly reflected the surrounding tress and skies. Seriously, I felt like I was driving past postcard covers for the first leg of the journey. The mountains were beautiful yet occasionally scary. I was very tired once I was an hour away from Wawa. It got dark outside fast, and snaking around the mountains felt like a scene out of a horror movie. Thankfully, I caught up with a couple of cars and stayed with them, even if they were a tad slow. Another car behind me eventually joined. I felt we had a tacit agreement to stick together, which was nice. I seemed to come across at least one car once every ten minutes at night, but I was still nervous about being stuck out there alone. 

The drive was especially creepy at night because my car’s headlights were sometimes the only sources of light for tens of kilometres. The only time I saw lampposts were at intersections, gas stations, and the like. Speaking of gas stations, it was a challenge to find 24-hour ones, and, when not driving close to bigger cities/towns, finding any at all was difficult. Running out of gas was a big worry, so I made sure to fill up around the 2/4 mark during the day, and the 3/4 mark (whenever I had the chance) at night.

What I found floating in the toilet in my "non-smoking room."

I find motels are normally hit-or-miss, and Wawa’s offerings kept that standard. I chose a motel with a lot of lights outside since my car had a few valuables inside; still, I moved my TV, computer, and speakers inside my room. There were a few young people who rented out a room next to me to smoke marijuana (they weren’t too loud), and I found a cigarette butt in my non-smoking room’s toilet, but that was the extent of my issues, thankfully.

I didn’t pay attention to this too much, but I did lose cellphone reception a number of times (with Rogers) while driving (I used it as my GPS device), thought it seemed to only last for a maximum of 5 minutes at its worst. Radio station signals were volatile for many parts of the journey, but there’s generally at least one station always available. I found it quaint how so many of the stations I listened to were named after animals (The Bear, The Moose, etc.); oh, Canada. 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” podcasts when I stopped at my first motel; the show got me through the rest of the journey.  

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

I left in the morning and, minus those occasional bridge construction waits, it was smooth sailing.

As I crept closer to Manitoba the next morning, the number of scenic views got more and more sparse; this trend continued for the rest of the journey. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are beautiful provinces, don’t get me wrong, but the stretch of Ontario in this journey is incomparable.

I checked online for other people’s experiences making this journey and kept seeing warnings about hitting moose/deer. I made sure to keep that in mind throughout the drive. The animals can come out of nowhere, and hitting a moose, especially, can kill you. Thankfully, I did not come across any animals except for the fenced-in farm variety during the drive. There are many signs all throughout that warning drivers of particular moose/other animal hotspots.

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

I reached Brandon by around 10-11 p.m. and was still  good to go. Since it was just a 3-4 hour drive to Regina from there, I called my 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 motels were in ample supply in that stretch, but I was only able to find one that had a room available — luckily, on the first floor.

Brandon to Regina — 362 km, 3 hours 33 mins

It was obvious from previous night that the rest of the journey would feature plain after plain after plain, but I guess the darkness of night hid that, slightly. Meandering through Ontario’s mountains one day, and being able to see the tip of the CN Tower from the flatness of Saskatchewan and Manitoba was a bit of shock to the system. I exaggerate a little with the CN Tower thing, but, really, it was remarkable to see for kilometres into the distance again.

Eventually the TCH turned into Victoria Avenue East, which is comparable to Toronto’s Bloor Street, and traffic got significantly busier.

And that was that: I made it to Regina.


Regina observations

I’ve lived in Regina for over than three months now, and there are some notable differences in living here versus Toronto. The main one is snow removal. I found that most of Toronto’s roads I used were cleared within a day or two. Here, it seems like the roads, including many parking lots, are completely coated starting in November and stay that way. There is one road I started using in November every couple of days or so and, well, I’ve never seen it not coated in ice at least an inch thick. A friend of mine told me that Reginans drive much slower than Torontonians do; now I know why. I also find people here are much more considerate at letting others merge onto the highway.

When I lived in New York, I used to think that my American friends there were total weather wimps when they complained about snow (et al.). “You need to experience a Toronto winter,” I criticised… And then I experienced a Regina winter, and I now realize that I was a Toronto weather wimp. I don’t think anyone really ‘handles’ a wind chill of -50 C, but somehow Saskatchewanians do. Temperatures like that bring the requisite flight cancellations, water main breaks, and such, yet people here just go on with their lives. My new tolerance goes like this:

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

-30 C — Nothing out of the ordinary.

-2 C — Practically t-shirt weather. 

It took me a while to realize 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 I have to leave an hour early for everything.

On the consumerism front, it wasn’t that much of a shock. Most of the usual Canadian chain store suspects are in Regina. Here are the exceptions I noticed: Pizza Nova, H&M, Swiss Chalet (one opened here in January).

One Reply to “Moving 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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