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Jeff and Shelley Cyre, with their kids Wyatt, Riley and Evan, pack for their upcoming cross-Canada trip in Calgary on May 10, 2017. (Todd Korol)
Jeff and Shelley Cyre, with their kids Wyatt, Riley and Evan, pack for their upcoming cross-Canada trip in Calgary on May 10, 2017. (Todd Korol)

Five questions with Jeff Cyre, the Calgary man who's driving his family across the country for Canada 150 Add to ...

So how many times have you seen National Lampoon’s Vacation and pictured yourself as Clark Griswold behind the wheel?

Yeah, the Griswolds. They were going to California [to take in the Walley World theme park]. They had a big old station wagon. We don’t have one …We’re a camping family and we’ve been doing this for about six or seven years whereby we’ve been camping all over Alberta and B.C. We typically go for a week. Then two, three years ago, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be really cool to take the kids across the country?” because my parents had done it when I was 10 and [Cyre’s wife] Shelley was from the East Coast, so it made sense to check it out. We didn’t have the time then because that trip would take months. Ultimately, that’s what we hashed out in January [when Cyre was laid off]. We sat down and it was, “Okay, try to get a job until May 1 because camping in the winter time is not a good way to start.” So I did a whole bunch of job applications until May and I got close, but not close enough. It was the whole family [that voted to go]. We asked the kids, “Are you ready to do this – leave school, not see your friends for four months, stay in a little trailer?” And they were on board.

Have you and your kids – all under the age of 9 – compiled a list of things you want to see and do?

Part of the adventure is the kids know when they go to different sites they really don’t know what to expect, but we make the best of it. We kind of preplanned so we know where we’re going in terms of campgrounds and what’s available but, ultimately, we have to be flexible. We can hike it, bike it or do whatever. Each one of us talked about what we’ll be doing – a lobster boil or if it’s some lake time or seeing the tall ships on the St. Lawrence River. Obviously, July 1 is a given. That’s a huge one [being in Ottawa for the national celebration]. We have family in Ontario we’re going to hit up.

You mentioned your parents taking a long driving trip when you were 10. What do you recall from that?

We had rented a camper. I just remember sitting above my parents driving – you know, campers had those little overhangs? – watching everything go by, the signs, the cars, the towns, the signs in French. That stands out. The other was Montreal, the forts and the culture. Those two [memories] were very distinctive. It’s something I’m really looking forward to showing my kids as well … We are going to spend some of our retirement money to do this [Jeff is 40; Shelley is 41]. We thought about it, “What does it mean? Does it mean working three or six months when I’m 55?” That’s nothing. You’ve got to take advantage of young kids because they’re going to absorb it, they’re going to love it – and they’re small enough to go in a little trailer. The dog? He’s a giant Schnauzer, 90 pounds [named Midas Touch]. His travelling and sleeping quarters will actually be in the back of the SUV on the colder nights. On the hot nights, we’re going to have him outside. He doesn’t come into the camper.

Your website has been up for weeks and drawing attention. What are people writing to you about?

We got e-mails from all over the country. One family is up in the Yukon and is going to Ottawa for July 1 and they’re, “Holy smokes, let’s meet up.” There is someone out of B.C. who is driving their Chevy Bolt across for July 1. They said, “Thank you for doing this. It’s going to be great. Hopefully we see you on July 1.” Canadians are doing it or they’ve thought about making it happen. I love it. I feel the spirit of exploration is a part of it.

Parents everywhere want to know what happens when one of the kids asks, “Are we there yet?” when you’ve barely left Calgary?

Mom’s got a great line for that. She just says, “When the car stops rolling and dad gets out that’s when we’re there.” They do say it, but it’s brief.

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