Maddie on the Move

“Let’s go on a road trip” is the best six words you can say to me. It’s no secret I love driving. I think it all started when I was a baby. My parents used to drive me around the block a few times to get me to fall asleep. From there, my mum and I bonded over getting up super early and driving along Lake Ontario to catch the sunrise. As I grew older, I was bounced around by car between my father’s home in Ontario and my mother’s house where ever we were living at the time. Like most 16 year olds, I got my licence as soon as I could, and started making the journeys by myself from Pennsylvania (where I was living at the time) to Ontario and back. One of the defining moments of my independent adolescence was my solo cross-country road trip. When I was 17, during the summer I graduated from high school, I drove by myself from Ontario down to Pennsylvania and then to Las Vegas, Nevada. Because it’s me though, I had to take the long way through Idaho to spend time with a very close friend. I quickly learnt there is so much freedom in hitting the road.

This is me with my first car, Betsy. This is the car I drove to Las Vegas when I was 17.

My driving habits haven’t changed much since my transition, but the cars have changed. In 2019 just after my surgery, Megan and I bought a MINI Cooper convertible. It was love at first sight with that car. A few years before our purchase, we came across an event called MINI Takes the States. Imagine hundreds of MINIs driving a predetermined course together over five days. We were awestruck by the sense of community MINI owners had, and we just knew we had to have one.

Finn, my first MINI Cooper, seen here along California Highway 1.

We quickly started racking up the miles, and by October 2020, I completed my goal I set in 2013 to visit every county in California. One of the most healing road trips I did while living in California was heading out across the high desert to Utah. I wanted to finally confront my feelings of the LDS (Mormon) church, so I drove to Salt Lake City to pray in Temple Square and say good-bye to the church one last time.

The emptiness of Utah and Nevada made me feel so small in a big world. I really grew to love the peace and calm of the desert.

When Megan and I separated, we decided it wasn’t practical for me to take our MINI with me back to Canada. There were a lot of taxes to pay, and I had to make some modifications on the car itself to legally import it. I survived in Ottawa for about a month before I decided I needed a car. I went right to MINI Ottawa and bought Margot, my new-to-me MINI Cooper S. Her previous owner was an older lady from Québec who loved birds, so I felt we were kindred spirits and knew this was the car for me.

Margot at MINI Takes the States 2022 that kicked off in Vermont. About 700 MINIs attended this year’s event.

Margot was so much more accessible than a therapist during COVID times so I immediately bonded with her. She was my go-to place to clear my head and feel free to be myself. I could just put on my favourite Spotify playlist or podcast and be outside in my own bubble for hours at a time. I also made instant friends in my new home with several MINI enthusiast organizations, including the Ottawa MINI Group, the Toronto MINI Club and Club MINI de la Capitale, in Québec.

Rock Dunder, near Kingston, Ontario.

My favourite activity on weekends would be to go get lost in the woods of Québec. I discovered so many fun dirt, gravel and logging back roads in La Belle Province to disappear from the stress of city life. I also really enjoyed exploring the vastness of Ontario. One weekend in October 2021, I decided to head out on Highway 17 (the Trans Canada Highway) to see the fall colours, and I made it all the way to Sault Ste. Marie before I decided I should probably turn around. It was my first time travelling in Northern Ontario. I found beautiful places closer to home too. I took my first hike in Algonquin Provincial Park. I followed the Rideau Canal from Ottawa down toward Kingston and found this gorgeous, secluded spot called Rock Dunder.

In April 2022, I was homesick for the ocean, so I decided to drive to New Brunswick for the Easter long weekend. I got more than I bargained for when the car broke down right in the drive-through lane of a McDonald’s restaurant in Edmundston. I ended up spending a few extra days down east with a rental car, and eventually made it to the Bay of Fundy. It was a little stressful because the repairs were much more expensive than anticipated, and I also ended up having to produce a live newscast from a Tim Hortons location, as it was the only place I could find wifi. However, it all worked out. I had a surprise reconnection with family who hadn’t seen me since before I transitioned, and I was able to stop in for a visit with friends in New England on the way back home.

Chasing thunderstorms as I drove across New Brunswick.

As I write this, I’ve driven about 80,000 kilometres (about 50,000 miles) with Margot, double the amount she had when I bought her just 18 months ago. I’ve continued my penchant for driving in my new home in Michigan. I immediately joined three MINI Cooper groups. My map tracker shows I’ve explored just over 50 per cent of the Mitten (lower peninsula) in about four months.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Leelanau County, Michigan.

I’ve found so many unique places in Michigan and I’ve really fallen in love with the state. My favourite trip so far was driving the length of the well-known Michigan State Highway 22 (M-22) on the Leelanau Peninsula. I’m also already planning a road trip to Florida in January 2023.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to drive in five provinces and 45 US states, plus England, France, Iceland, Ireland (and Northern Ireland), Italy and San Marino. For me, the best way to see the world is from behind my steering wheel.


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