Transcript: Wending the Rideau Waterway | Apr 09, 2020

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a white shirt and a striped red and pink tie.

A caption on screen reads "Wending the Rideau Waterway. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says THE RIDEAU CANAL IS THE OLDEST, CONTINUOUSLY OPERATING LOCK SYSTEM IN THE WORLD. AND WHILE MANY PEOPLE THINK OF SKATING ON IT IN THE WINTERTIME, IT ACTUALLY FLOWS ALL THE WAY FROM KINGSTON TO THE NATION'S CAPITAL. TOMORROW NIGHT, AND BECAUSE IT'S GOOD FRIDAY, WE'RE PRE-EMPTED FOR THE WORLD BROADCAST PREMIERE OF A FOUR-HOUR SO-CALLED "SLOW CINEMA" DOCUMENTARY. IT'S CALLED "TRIPPING THE IT'S CALLED "TRIPPING THE RIDEAU CANAL."

A slate appears on screen with the title "TVO Original. Tripping the Rideau Canal. Tomorrow 7 PM." It shows a picture of a boat traveling down a canal and another picture of hands holding up a tablet which shows a similar picture of the canal.
A caption below reads "Also streaming at tvo.org/Documentaries."

Steve continues IT TAKES VIEWERS ON A 27-KILOMETRE PORTION OF THAT WATERWAY. AND TO GET US IN A RIDEAU STATE OF MIND, WE'RE JOINED BY SOMEONE WHO WENT THE DISTANCE IN A CANOE. LAURA SMITH JOINS US FROM THE NATION'S CAPITAL.

Laura is in her early thirties, with short, wavy brown hair and side-swept bangs. She's wearing glasses and a black sweater.

Steve continues LAURA, YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE YOU'RE IN A CANOE NOW. YOU'RE ON DRY LAND NOW, AREN'T YOU?

Laura says I AM, YES.

Steve says GLAD TO HEAR IT. TELL ME, HOW FAR IS IT BY CANOE FROM KINGSTON TO OTTAWA?

Laura says IT IS ABOUT 200 KILOMETRES FROM KINGSTON TO OTTAWA BY CANOE.

Steve says DON'T TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY, BUT WHAT WOULD MAKE ANY SANE PERSON WANT TO DO THAT?

The caption changes to "Laura Smith. Canoeing enthusiast."

Laura says YOU KNOW, WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, MY FAMILY WERE AVID CANOERS, MY MOM AND DAD, BOB AND HELEN, HAVE ALWAYS ENJOYED CANOEING. WE HAVE A FAMILY COTTAGE THAT'S JUST NORTHEAST OF HUNTSVILLE, AND MY DAD WOULD TAKE MY BROTHERS AND ME ON CANOE TRIPS WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. WE DID A FAMILY CANOE TRIP ONCE, WHICH WAS QUITE FUN. FAST-FORWARD A FEW DECADES, MY HUSBAND AND I BOUGHT A HOUSE A FEW HUNDRED METRES FROM THE RIDEAU CANAL HERE IN OTTAWA, AND MY DAD STARTED SAYING THESE CRAZY THINGS LIKE, YOU KNOW, WOULDN'T IT BE COOL TO CANOE FROM KINGSTON TO OTTAWA SOME DAY. YOU KNOW, WE WOULD BASICALLY END UP AT YOUR FRONT DOOR.

Steve says NOW, WHEN HE SAID SOMETHING LIKE THAT, DID YOU COME BACK TO HIM AND SAY ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?

A colour picture shows two people inside a canoe, in a waterway, paddling away from the shore.

Laura says THE FIRST FEW TIMES I DID KIND OF ROLL MY EYES LIKE, OH, GREAT, THIS IS A GREAT IDEA, DAD. BUT LAST SUMMER THE STARS ALIGNED AND WE COULD MAKE IT WORK IN OUR CALENDARS, SO WE JUST DECIDED TO DO IT.

Steve says LET'S FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU DECIDED TO DO. FIRST OF ALL, WHO DID YOU GO WITH?

Laura says SO IT WAS JUST MY DAD AND ME IN THE CANOE. WE DECIDED VERY EARLY ON THAT WE WERE NOT GOING TO CAMP ALONG THE WAY. YOU CAN CAMP AT THE LOCK STATIONS, PARKS CANADA ALLOWS YOU TO DO THAT. BUT WE DECIDED JUST WITH THE GEAR AND FOOD AND CLOTHING THAT WAS GOING TO BE MORE LOGISTICS THAN WE WANTED TO THINK ABOUT. SO WE SET ABOUT POURING OVER THE MAP FROM KINGSTON TO OTTAWA TO DECIDE, YOU KNOW, HOW MUCH CAN WE DO IN A DAY. WE DIDN'T TRAIN AT ALL, SO YOU KNOW, RELATIVELY GOOD CANOERS, BUT WITH NO TRAINING, SO WE DECIDED ON 25 KILOMETRES A DAY. AND THEN LOOKED TO, YOU KNOW, FIND GOOD SPOTS AROUND THAT WE COULD STOP AT. AND YOU KNOW, UNFORTUNATELY, THERE AREN'T PLACES TO STAY AT REALLY NICE 25-KILOMETRE INTERVALS, SO AT THIS POINT MY MOM WAS ENLISTED IN THE PROJECT. AND SHE SERVED AS OUR SUPPORT VEHICLE. SHE WOULD COME DROP US OFF EVERY MORNING AND THEN PICK US UP 20 TO 25 KILOMETRES DOWN THE CANAL IN THE AFTERNOON, AND WE WOULD GO AND SPEND THE NIGHT SOMEWHERE NOT TOO FAR, BUT IT WAS NICE TO HAVE A VEHICLE FOR SURE.

Steve says NOW, 25 CLICKS IS... I MEAN, THAT'S NO CHUMP CHANGE THERE. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO PADDLE 25 CLICKS?

A picture shows a man sitting at the end of the canoe as it travels through a waterway with tall stone walls.

Laura says SO WE WEREN'T GOING VERY FAST. WE WOULD USUALLY GET STARTED AROUND 8 A.M., AND WE WOULD TAKE BREAKS AT THE LOCK STATIONS TO HAVE A SNACK AND TALK TO THE LOCK MASTERS A BIT AND SEE THE BIGGER BOATS GOING THROUGH. WE WOULD USUALLY END AROUND 2:30 OR 3:00.

Steve says OH, WELL, THAT'S STILL A PRETTY FULL DAY OF PADDLING. HOW TIRED WERE YOU BY THE END OF THE DAY?

Laura says MM-HM. VERY, VERY TIRED. AND ESPECIALLY AFTER THE FIRST FEW DAYS, QUITE SORE. I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY NEITHER MY DAD NOR I GOT IN A BOAT VERY SOON AFTER WE FINISHED THE TRIP.

Steve says WELL, LET ME ASK ANOTHER DUMB QUESTION. HOW COME YOU DIDN'T TRAIN AHEAD OF TIME?

Laura says UMM, YOU KNOW, WE WENT OUT A BIT. MY HUSBAND AND I HAVE A KAYAK HERE THAT WE TAKE OUT ON THE CANAL AS OFTEN AS WE CAN, AND THEN MY PARENTS WERE AT THE COTTAGE, AND THEY WOULD GO OUT. BUT I THINK WE FIGURED WE COULD DO IT, AND WE DID, SO...

Steve says AND YOU DID DO IT. AND HOW MANY DAYS DID IT TAKE ALL TOLD?

Laura says SO WE DID IT IN EIGHT DAYS. AGAIN, YOU KNOW, ON THE FIRST DAY I TOOK THE TRAIN FROM OTTAWA HERE TO KINGSTON AND MET MY PARENTS, SO IT WAS A TWO-HOUR TRAIN RIDE THERE, AND THEN EIGHT DAYS TO CANOE BACK.

Steve says AND HERE'S THE BIG QUESTION. ARE YOU AND YOUR FATHER STILL ON SPEAKING TERMS?

Laura says WE ARE. WE ARE. I THINK THERE WAS ONE ROUGH MOMENT WHEN WE MISSED A TURN TOWARD THE END OF ONE DAY WHEN WE HAD TO TURN IN TO ONE BAY TO MEET MY MOM, AND WE MISSED IT, SO HAD TO DO A LITTLE BIT OF BACKPADDLING, WHICH NEITHER OF US APPRECIATED. SO I THINK WE WERE BOTH EQUALLY FRUSTRATED.

Steve says NOW GIVEN THAT YOU'RE ONLY GOING IN ONE DIRECTION THE WHOLE TIME, DO YOU ACTUALLY NEED MAPS WHEN YOU'RE IN THE CANOE TO FOLLOW?

Laura says SO WE DID TAKE MAPS. THE CANOE... EXCUSE ME, THE CANAL IS REALLY WELL MARKED. MOSTLY FOR THE BIGGER BOATS THAT HAVE TO HAVE A CERTAIN DEPTH. THERE ARE THESE VERY CLEAR MARKERS THAT ARE ALONG THE CANAL TO MAKE SURE THAT THE BIGGER BOATS STAY IN THE CHANNEL. SO THAT HELPED US TO SORT OF FIGURE OUT WHERE WE WERE AND JUST TO MAKE SURE WE WERE GOING THE RIGHT WAY, BUT IF THE BIGGER BOATS HAD TO GO AROUND A REALLY SHALLOW PART, WE DID NOT HESITATE TO CANOE STRAIGHT THROUGH THAT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR SMALLER BOAT THAT COULD GO IN SHALLOWER WATER.

Steve says THAT WAS THE OTHER THING I WAS GOING TO ASK. THE CANAL WAS DESIGNED FOR MUCH BIGGER VESSELS, NOT CANOES. WERE YOU THE ONLY CANOE THAT YOU SAW WHILE YOU WERE GOING DOWN THE CANAL?

Laura says WE SAW A FEW OTHER PADDLERS, CANOERS AND KAYAKERS. WE DID NOT MEET ANYBODY ELSE WHO WAS GOING FROM END TO END. WE JUST SAW PEOPLE WHO WERE OUT SORT OF FOR AN AFTERNOON OR A DAY PADDLE. WE MET SOME KAYAKERS ON OUR LAST DAY. WE WERE GOING FROM MANOTICK TO OTTAWA, RIGHT TO THE DOWNTOWN, AND MET SOME KAYAKERS ALONG THE WAY TOWARD THE OTTAWA END WHO WERE PRETTY INCREDULOUS AT WHERE WE STARTED THE DAY. SO IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT EVERYONE SETS OUT TO DO.

Steve says NOW DID YOU HAVE ANY CLOSE CALLS WHERE, YOU KNOW, MAYBE A BIG BOAT GOT A LITTLE TOO CLOSE AND IT WAS TOUCH AND GO FOR A BIT?

Laura says NOT TOO MANY CLOSE CALLS. AGAIN, BECAUSE WE ARE SO SMALL AND AGILE, IT WAS PRETTY EASY TO GET OUT OF THE WAY. ALTHOUGH YOU HAVE SOME BIGGER BOATS THAT ARE NICER THAN OTHER ONES THAT SLOW DOWN WHEN THEY GET CLOSE TO YOU SO YOU DON'T GET TOO MUCH OF A WAKE FROM THEM. BUT WE WERE PRETTY LUCKY WITH NEEDING SOME OTHER NICE PEOPLE ON THE CANAL WHEN WE WERE OUT THERE.

Steve says NOW WHEN YOU ARE IN A CANOE FOR SIX HOURS A DAY AND, YOU KNOW, I'M SURE YOUR FATHER IS A VERY FASCINATING PERSON OR I'M SURE YOU ARE TOO, AND THERE'S NO DOUBT LOTS TO TALK ABOUT, BUT COME ON, YOU CAN'T TALK FOR SIX STRAIGHT HOURS, SO WHERE DOES THE MIND WANDER WHEN YOU'RE IN THAT KIND OF SITUATION?

Laura says WELL, IT'S INTERESTING, YOU KNOW. YOU THINK ABOUT... WELL, FIRST OF ALL YOU CAN THINK ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE PLACE AND YOU'RE REMINDED AT EACH OF THE LOCK STATIONS WITH THE HISTORICAL INFORMATION THERE, BUT EVEN ALONG THE WAY, SEEING RUINS OF BRIDGES OR RUINS OF LOCKS THAT USED TO BE, THAT'S ALWAYS NICE TO THINK ABOUT. JUST THE INCREDIBLE WILDLIFE THAT WE SAW. TONS OF HERONS, A DEER, SWANS. I DON'T THINK I'VE EVER SEEN SWANS IN THE WILD BEFORE, BEFORE THIS TRIP. AND THEN PLACES THAT I KNOW VERY WELL. YOU KNOW, ON THE FIRST DAY WE CANOED UNDER THE 401. LIVE IN OTTAWA, MOST OF MY FAMILY IS IN TORONTO. WE DRIVE ON THAT ROAD A LOT. AND JUST TO CANOE UNDER IT AND, YOU KNOW, THE BRIDGE THAT WE WENT UNDER HAD THIS DETAILING ON THE SIDE THAT IT OCCURRED TO ME THE THOUSANDS, MILLIONS OF CARS DRIVING OVER TOP OF US NEVER GET TO SEE. IT'S ONLY FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE ON THE WATER. SO THAT WAS PRETTY NEAT. WE DROVE... EXCUSE ME. WE CANOED RIGHT BY THE OTTAWA AIRPORT AND THEN I... BACK IN THE DAY WAS A STUDENT AT CARLETON. WE CANOED RIGHT BY THE CARLETON CAMPUS. IT WAS VERY COOL JUST TO BE ABLE TO SEE THESE THINGS THAT I KNOW VERY WELL FROM BEING ON LAND, BUT TO SEE THEM FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.

Steve says HMM. LET'S PUT UP A PICTURE RIGHT NOW OF YOU AND YOUR DAD WITH THE PEACE TOWER IN THE BACKGROUND, AND MAYBE YOU CAN GIVE US SOME OF THE BACKGROUND BEHIND THIS SHOT.

In a picture Laura and her father stand in the sun by the canal smiling.

Laura says SURE. SO THIS IS THE VERY END OF THE TRIP. WE MADE IT, FINALLY. IT WAS VERY HOT THAT DAY, BUT WE WERE VERY THANKFUL TO BE THERE. I WILL SAY THAT WHEN I WAS SMALL AND MY DAD AND I WOULD GO ON CANOE TRIPS, WE WOULD ALWAYS FINISH THE TRIP AT THIS LITTLE STORE IN ALGONQUIN PARK, AND WE WOULD GET A COLD DRINK AND JUST CELEBRATE THAT WE HAD FINISHED. BUT THAT WAS SORT OF A TWO OR THREE-DAY TRIP, BUT THIS ONE, WE KEPT THE TRADITION ALIVE AND CANOED A LITTLE BIT PAST WHERE I LIVED, SO WE HAD TO BACKTRACK EVENTUALLY, BUT TO GET DOWNTOWN AND HAVE A NICE COLD DRINK THERE, TO KNOW THAT WE HAD CANOED 200 KILOMETRES WAS A PRETTY GREAT FEELING.

Steve says THAT IS PRETTY FANTASTIC. NOW OF COURSE I WOULD NEVER ASK YOU HOW OLD YOU ARE, BUT HOW OLD'S YOUR DAD?

Laura says MY DAD IS IN HIS LATE 60S. YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE ME DO THE MATH. HE WILL BE 67 THIS YEAR.

Steve says THIS WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A TRICK QUESTION, LAURA.

Laura says HE IS 66 RIGHT NOW.

Steve says 66. WELL, THAT'S A HELL OF A WORKOUT FOR A 66-YEAR-OLD GUY. HOW DID HE FEEL AT THE END OF IT ALL?

Laura says HE WAS ALSO VERY SORE. BUT HE WAS A REAL TROOPER AND DID MOST OF THE STEERING FOR THE TRIP AND MOST OF THE CANOE CARRYING FOR OUR PORTAGES OVER THE LOCKS. HE WAS GREAT.

Steve says SO HE WAS ALWAYS IN THE STERN. YOU NEVER DID THE STERN?

Laura says I DID A BIT OF STERNING. I DID A BIT OF STERNING, BUT MY DAD IS THE EXPERT, SO HE TOOK OVER, ESPECIALLY... WE HAD A FEW WINDY DAYS ON BIG RIDEAU LAKE, WHICH WAS THE BIGGEST BODY OF WATER WE HAD TO GO ACROSS, SO YOU NEED TO LEAVE THAT TO THE EXPERTS.

Steve says HMM. NOW, LAURA, I'VE BEEN DEBATING WITH MYSELF ABOUT HOW MUCH OF A STICKLER I WANT TO BE ABOUT YOUR FORM IN THE CANOE.

Laura says OKAY.

Steve says I HAVE NOTICED IN THE PICTURES OF YOUR DAD AND YOU THAT NOBODY'S GOT THEIR KNEES DOWN, LAURA, AND I...

Laura says NO.

Steve says YOU KNOW, WHAT... OKAY, LAURA, TALK TO ME ABOUT WHY YOUR KNEES ARE UP.

Laura says WELL, WOW, MY DAD... I THINK IT'S BECAUSE HIS LEGS ARE SO LONG THAT HE WOULD HAVE TO SHIFT AROUND A BIT TO FIND A COMFORTABLE POSITION. HE'S QUITE A BIT TALLER THAN I AM, AND ME, I THINK IT'S JUST COMFORT. WHEN YOU'RE THERE FOR SO LONG, THAT WAS THE WAY THAT WE FOUND TO BE MOST COMFORTABLE. THERE WERE A FEW DAYS WHERE WE DIDN'T HAVE LOCK STATIONS THAT OFTEN, THAT FREQUENTLY ON THE TRIP TO STOP AND STRETCH OUR LEGS, SO WE SORT OF TOOK A BREAK FROM PADDLING IN OUR CANOE AND HAD SOME SNACKS AND WATER. BUT OTHERWISE, YOU KNOW, WE COULD GO MAYBE AT LEAST... OR AS MUCH AS... AS MANY AS FOUR HOURS WITHOUT GETTING OUT OF THE CANOE, SO YOU SHIFT AROUND AND FIGURE OUT WHAT'S MOST COMFORTABLE FOR THAT LENGTH OF TIME.

Steve says OKAY. GOOD ANSWER. YOU'RE FORGIVEN.

Laura says THANK YOU.

[Laughter]

Steve says I DON'T... YOU KNOW, I DON'T WANT TO INVADE YOUR PRIVACY TOO MUCH HERE, BUT GIVEN THAT I'VE GOT YOU HERE, THAT'S A LONG TIME FOR ONE PARENT AND ONE CHILD TO SPEND TOGETHER IN, YOU KNOW, WHAT IS AFTER ALL A SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES THAT WOULD ALLOW FOR, YOU KNOW, VERY DEEP AND INTIMATE CONVERSATIONS IF THE TWO PARTICIPANTS WANTED TO. AND I JUST WONDER HOW YOUR RELATIONSHIP, YOU THINK, MAYBE CHANGED WITH YOUR DAD BY THE TIME IT WAS ALL OVER.

Laura says YOU KNOW, MY PARENTS ARE GREAT, AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, I WAS A BIT OF A PILL WHEN I WAS A YOUNGER CHILD, BUT EVER SINCE I'VE BEEN AN ADULT, WE HAVE HAD A GREAT RELATIONSHIP, AND IT WAS JUST SO WONDERFUL TO BE ABLE TO SPEND THAT MUCH TIME. AS AN ADULT NOW I REALLY GET TO SPEND THAT MUCH TIME WITH MY PARENTS, SO IT WAS FUN TO BE WITH MY DAD THAT MUCH, HEAR SOME OF HIS GREAT CANOEING STORIES FROM OTHER TRIPS THAT HE'S BEEN ON. AND THEN BE ABLE TO MEET UP WITH MY MOM LATER IN THE DAY AND BE SORT OF TOURISTS IN EASTERN ONTARIO. FIND NEW ICE CREAM SHOPS AND NEW PUBS AND CHECK OUT LITTLE MUSEUMS AND THINGS. IT WAS REALLY GREAT.

Steve says HMM. NOW YOUR HUSBAND DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN THIS. IS THAT RIGHT?

Laura says HE DID NOT, NOT IN THE BOAT, NO.

Steve says SO, YOU KNOW... WELL, I GUESS I SHOULD ASK. WOULD YOU EVER WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN DOWN THE ROAD, AND IF SO WITH HIM?

Laura says SO I THINK... YOU KNOW, WE HAD A REALLY GOOD TIME, BUT I THINK WE'RE GOING TO CONSIDER THIS BOX CHECKED. WE MIGHT NOT DO THE WHOLE THING AGAIN. IT WAS VERY FAR, AND JUST THE LOGISTICS, HAVING THE THIRD PERSON THERE, BUT THAT ALSO MADE IT A LOT EASIER, YOU KNOW.

Steve says I GUESS THE REALITY OF THIS IS, THOUGH, THAT IF PEOPLE WANTED TO DO THIS KIND OF THING OVER THE SUMMER, I MEAN, WE'RE PROBABLY STILL GOING TO BE WORKING UNDER THE SAME PROTOCOLS AS WE ARE RIGHT NOW, WHICH MEANS PHYSICAL DISTANCING. CAN YOU REALLY DO A TRIP LIKE THIS AND PRACTICE PHYSICAL DISTANCING AT THE SAME TIME?

Laura says WELL, I THINK YOU PROBABLY CAN. WE... KEVIN, MY HUSBAND AND I WERE JUST TALKING THE OTHER DAY ABOUT HOW WE'RE NOW IN APRIL, SO THAT MEANS NEXT MONTH THE CANAL OPENS AND WE'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING OUR LITTLE KAYAK OUT ON THE RIDEAU. THERE AREN'T SO MANY PEOPLE, EVEN IN DOWNTOWN OTTAWA HERE, WHO ARE THERE, SO YOU CAN GET A GOOD DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND THE OTHER BOATS THAT ARE OUT THERE. AND YEAH, GET OUT AND ENJOY THE SUN, ENJOY ANOTHER WAY TO BE ON THE RIDEAU CANAL.

Steve says SO WOULD YOU RECOMMEND DOING THE WHOLE 200 PLUS KILOMETRES THAT YOU DID?

Laura says YOU KNOW, I THINK IT'S GREAT TO BE ABLE TO SAY THAT I'VE DONE IT. SO IF PEOPLE ARE GAME AND THEY KNOW IT'S GOING TO HURT A BIT AT THE END OF IT, I STILL THINK IT'S TOTALLY DOABLE. IT'S A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE.

Steve says NOW REMIND ME AGAIN, WHEN DID YOU ACTUALLY DO THIS?

Laura says WE DID THIS LAST JULY, JULY 2019.

Steve says AND WHAT I WANT TO KNOW NOW IS, JUST FINALLY, HAVE YOU BEEN BACK IN A CANOE SINCE THEN?

Laura says A CANOE? I'M NOT SURE. AS I SAY, WE HAVE OUR KAYAK HERE. I'VE DEFINITELY BEEN BACK IN THE KAYAK, BUT PERHAPS NOT A CANOE. I'M TRYING TO THINK. MAYBE I HAVE... YEAH, MY DAD HAS TOO. WE RECOVERED SUFFICIENTLY.

The caption changes to "Producer: Hilary Clark, @hilarygclark."

Steve says I'M VERY IMPRESSED, I GOTTA SAY, I'M VERY IMPRESSED. WELL, LAURA, IT'S REALLY GOOD OF YOU TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH US HERE ON TVO TONIGHT. IT'S A FOUR-HOUR DOCUMENTARY, WHICH FRANKLY I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE. SO THANKS SO MUCH, AND IT'S GREAT TO MEET YOU.

Laura says MY PLEASURE. NICE TO MEET YOU TOO, STEVE.

Watch: Wending the Rideau Waterway