Karaoke, antiques and friendly people: Ontario couple loved time in Sask. during cross-country road trip

Nancy (left) and Ivan Cohen (right) became friends with Ted Keleman after they invited him to join them at a Karaoke night in Regina. (Submitted by Ivan Cohen - image credit)
Nancy (left) and Ivan Cohen (right) became friends with Ted Keleman after they invited him to join them at a Karaoke night in Regina. (Submitted by Ivan Cohen - image credit)

Meeting the locals, visiting antique shops and singing some karaoke is what Ivan and Nancy Cohen aim to do at each stop on their trip of a lifetime across Canada.

The couple from Strathroy, Ont., have dreamt of driving from their home to Vancouver Island, B.C., for years, but when Ivan landed in the ICU last year after getting sick, that propelled their desire to tick the trip off their bucket list.

"I said I will not wait any longer, people wait too long, I know that as a [retired] cancer nurse" Nancy said.

Nancy Cohen with a quilt she bought at an antique store in Indian Head.
Nancy Cohen with a quilt she bought at an antique store in Indian Head.

Nancy Cohen with a quilt she bought at an antique store in Indian Head. (Submitted by Ivan Cohen)

"We don't know exactly where we're going, we have a few [planned] stops, but other than that it's just an adventure, stop when we want to and when we're too tired we find a place to camp."

The Cohens aren't doing a typical road trip where they drive for hours on end and eat lots of fast food. The most they drive in a single day is 400 kilometres, and they try to eat at local establishments whenever they can.

Ivan (right) and Nancy Cohen (middle) spent hours talking antiques with "Old George" (left) at his home.
Ivan (right) and Nancy Cohen (middle) spent hours talking antiques with "Old George" (left) at his home.

Ivan (right) and Nancy Cohen (middle) spent hours talking antiques with Old George (left) at his home. (Submitted by Ivan Cohen)

The couple recently made their way through Saskatchewan. They said meeting friendly people from the province has been one of the highlights of their trip.

"We're going to have to have so many memories after this trip, and we're only a third of the way through our trip at this point," Ivan said. "It's just been phenomenal, the warmth of the people out here is amazing."

The couple shares a love for antique goods. Ivan — who has spent 30 years working in telecommunications — has already collected three old phones during the road trip to add to his collection of 90 back home. Meanwhile, Nancy likes to collect old medicine equipment and quilts.

A stop that stood out during their time in Saskatchewan was Old George's Hidden Village Antiques & Art in Whitewood. The Cohens spent hours talking with Old George on top of admiring his extensive collection of antiques at his museum and inside his home.

"He really is an historian. He could tell the history of this house, where these antiques came from," Nancy said,

"He invited us to sit in his living room and we sat there and he just wanted to tell us about everything and every piece of antiques. He's an amazing, amazing person."

Ivan Cohen with grain elevator shaped bird feeder.
Ivan Cohen with grain elevator shaped bird feeder.

Ivan Cohen with a gifted grain elevator-shaped bird feeder. (Submitted by Ivan Cohen)

The Cohens are also big karaoke enthusiasts. They perform regularly at the Sweet Onion Bistro back home in Ontario.

Some of their favourite songs to sing together are Summer Nights and Whiskey Lullabies, but their favourite moment of their three karaoke nights in Regina came when they hit it off with a man sitting alone at the Hungarian Cultural and Social Club.

"To reflect one thing about how nice the people are here, I don't think if I was in a karaoke bar in Toronto and there was a single person sitting by themselves that I would [have asked them to] come out and join us," Ivan said.

"But out here it's just the right thing to do."

The invitation led to a new friendship with Ted Keleman. Keleman joined the Cohens the next night for some more karaoke at the Serbian Club. He also brought the couple a gift: a beautiful bird feeder shaped like a grain elevator.

The Cohens are passionate about antiques. So much so that the couple decided to buy a homestead in Strathroy that had the municipalities last, old barn.
The Cohens are passionate about antiques. So much so that the couple decided to buy a homestead in Strathroy that had the municipalities last, old barn.

The Cohens are passionate about antiques. So much so that the couple decided to buy a homestead in Strathroy that had the municipalities last, old barn. (Ivan Cohen/Submitted to CBC News)

"We [had] talked about the photos of grain elevators we'd taken, he insisted on giving it to us, and wouldn't accept anything for it," Ivan said.

Instead of knocking down the barn from the early 1900s, the Cohens decided to invest in returning it to its former glory.
Instead of knocking down the barn from the early 1900s, the Cohens decided to invest in returning it to its former glory.

Instead of knocking down the barn from the early 1900s, the Cohens decided to invest in returning it to its former glory. (Ivan Cohen/Submitted to CBC News)

"He'd mentioned he'd been to church twice that day. Once to sing at a funeral, the other to sing something else. So my wife insisted on giving him $20 and said 'if you don't want to keep it, light a candle in the church for my late mom.'"

The Cohens are currently in Alberta. They are looking forward to attending the Calgary Stampede for the first time and seeing Ivan's brother's new grandbabies in Vancouver.

But since they loved their time in Saskatchewan so much, the Cohens plan to make stops in Regina and other areas of the province on the way back home to Ontario.

"It's funny in Ontario people would say to us 'just hurry up and get across the Prairies because there's nothing to see,'" Nancy said.

"I don't agree with that because the Prairies are beautiful."