I mentioned to editor Menzies that I’d do a survey of the 401 rest stops from Toronto to Montreal when I get a run that way, and he wondered, “Don’t you have a job to do, and schedules to keep?” I replied, “There’s not so many of them out there, James. Most of them are still closed. You have to almost drive to Kingston before you can get into one, and that place is a nightmare for trucks.”
I’ve never been able to write a happy story about Ontario’s 400 series rest stops. The remodeling process has been a debacle from the get go–and nothing’s really changed. But I’ve sought to provide balanced journalism and printed meaningless interviews and platitudes from the government press people about how great these new service plazas are going to be, and that irks me. However, superb indoor washrooms are now open at a few locations and you can buy chocolate bars and bungie cord from a few CTC kiosks. That’s progress I suppose.
So here’s the skinny on my brief survey, starting by running Eastbound to Montreal:
Don’t even think of going in the Newcastle (454 km) site because you can’t. Concrete barriers in place and it’s a field of rubble in there anyway.
Next one is (was) is the top of Wooler Hill, at the 519km marker, so-called Trenton East. Formerly a McDonald’s/Shell on two levels that never worked that well. Now the skeleton of a new one is arising, praise allah, but don’t come in here unless you’re an LCV with an emergency (hey that rhymes). It’s marked “LCV emergency parking only” and Oppie has been enforcing it at times.
So then we come to the Odessa Esso and Tim’s (519), just this side of Kingston, maybe the last original Jetson Family model with the spaceship roof that used to be so popular on the turnpike (Newcastle and Woodstock were of this genus, I can’t believe I’m getting nostalgic for that old-time 60s architecture that was sub-par to begin with–these weren’t designed by Frank Lloyd Wright). But don’t go in here, either. It’s too easy to get blocked in. Very limited parking, a narrow passageway around the back, and the front gets filled up after 10 pm fast. I still see LCVs in here, on both ramps and in front of the pumps.
At the 679 we’ve got Mallorytown and it’s shut right down and barricaded. No stopping, no nothing.
Morrisburg at the 758 has several acres of parking for trucks. The CTC kiosk and pumps are open here, but bathrooms are still in portables. This site gets top ranking for parking but I’m not sure if LCVs can come in here, it’s twisty in the parking lot.
On the Quebec side, a beautiful new Tim’s and fuel bar has just opened up on Highway 20, just across the border. This has been badly needed and a good place to stop before heading over the scales and into the heart of New France. Parking looks minimally adequate. Brand new facility I watched sprout over the winter, very welcome indeed.
Westbound running back to Toronto.
Just after you leave La Belle Province,. at the 826 we now have one of Ontario’s first On Route facilities. No fast food but the bathrooms are open, as is the CTC gas bar and kiosk. All the trucks are staying out front and there’s virtually no parking or room out the back. I suspect that there’s no room out back because of piles of contaminated soil and french fries and oil drippings from when this was a Wendy’s/Shell/KFC.
Next one is Morrisburg westbound at the 762 which is completely closed. It was on a curve and I don’t think it will reopen there. No stopping or parking.
Mallorytown (679), west of Brockville, has got some ad hoc parking and washrooms in portables Some of the parking spots out front don’t look too wide, and not much room in the lot, better keep moving.
And don’t bother stopping at the Westbound Odessa (670)..it’s barricaded and haunted, only cops are brave enough to go in there.
But Wooler Hill westbound at the 520 is open (hooray). Trucks are still using the shoulders of both ramps, because construction has got most of the parking spaces fenced off. CTC pumps, snacks and indoor washrooms. Never liked the water in this place. The coffee invariably gave me cramps. No food yet, pity, only in Ontario.
The 445 is one of the first of the old-school sites and has stayed open throughout. Tims and Wendys. This comes just before you hit the scales at Bowmanville. Parking is not adequate though–not over night. And even after it was reconfigured years ago, I recall having to run over a curb to get around a 53 in an angle spot around the back. It was poorly designed and sits beside a lagoon so I don’t think there’s any more room to expand. Trucks on the ramps and along the shoulders in the early AM.
So enjoy your Ontario On Route rest stops. I haven’t been the other way to Windsor in a long time, but it doesn’t sound any better. Most drivers have learned to do without them and take their brakes off-highway–I’m one of those.
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs