Posted tagged ‘Thunder Bay’

Junior Bears’ Big Weekend Road Trip

April 26, 2015

Weekend Road Trip

1.  Blind River

Frozen Lake Huron.

Bear Lake Huron

They have this stupid windmill located on the lake shore.  Of all the times we’ve been here, not once, have we ever seen it working.   Ever.

Bear Stupid Windmill

2.  Katherine Cove

Frozen Lake Superior.  Junior sees two Great Lakes in one day.

Bear Catherine Cove

A Mom with her kids was on the beach.   Her five year old son wanted a photo of his toy with Junior.  It was some kind of dragon that spat our a plastic flame, from a McDonalds Happy Meal.

I asked the kid what the toys’ name was.  He said it didn’t have one.

I suggested “Clem”, but the kid shook his head “No”.

Then I suggested THUN-DAR and he agreed.

So here is Junior with THUN-DAR.

Bear Thundar

3.  Old Woman Bay

This is last view of the lake you get from the highway, until you get to Marathon, another 200 km further down the road.

Bear Old Womans Bay

4.   Pebble Beach, Marathon

Of course there’s a sign telling you not take any rocks with you.

Bear Marathon Ontario


5.  Rossport

There is absolutely nothing here except some houses     Not even so much as a convenience store.

Bear Rossport

Bear Rossport alke

6   Thunder Bay

This was the furthest west we could reasonably go for the weekend, and still get back to work on time for Monday

Bear Thunder Bay

It was the first town with traffic lights since we left Sault St. Marie.

Bear Traffic Lghts

7. Terry Fox Memorial, Thunder Bay

He ran the equivalent of a Marathon every day, from St. Johns Newfoundland to here.

Bear Terry Fox

8  Beardmore

This is the only thing the town had going for it:  a giant snowman.

Junior was pleased that he was sitting in the “BEAR” letters”.

Bear Beadmore

9.  Geraldton

Sunday morning, at 11:00 AM.

This was one of the “bigger” towns in the area.  So we tried to find a single restaurant that was open.   With no success.

Where do people here go to eat?   There wasn’t even a truck stop.

Bear Geraldton

Bear Geraldton Downtown

10.  Hearst

Big Critters.  Junior made some friends.

Bear Hearst

Junior Moose

Since Thunder Bay, this was the longest stretch of paved road (500 km) we have ever seen without a single McDonalds or Tim Hortons.

500 km mcds

There was also the biggest log pile we have  ever seen.

Bear Log PileBear Log Pile 2

11.  Moonbeam

Everything is always better, when you got UFO’s.

Bear Moonbeam

12.  Giant Polar Bear 

In downtown Cochrane.

Please note:  DO NOT CLIMB.

Bear Cochrane

13.  49th  Parallel

This is just about the saddest road-side attraction I have ever seen.

Beaer 49th Parallel

Bear Plaque

14    Giant Bison

His name is apparently “Earl”.    Maybe being next to Earlton has something to do with it.

Bear Earl the Buffolo

All in all, we drove more ~ 2700 km.

If this had been the UK, we’d have driven a big chunk of the entire country.

Driving UK


Friar’s Travel Guide to Northern Ontario

September 1, 2009

First, let’s get things straight.   Northern Ontario (or “The North”)  starts at North Bay, and includes anything north or west, thereof.

Anything south of this boundary is considered “Toronto” and is worthy of scorn.   (Feel free to make fun of Toronto at any opportunity, it’s highly encouraged up here.).  In fact, making fun of Toronto is encouraged everywhere else in Canada, too.

And never mind cities like Ottawa or Pembroke.   Even though they’re pretty much the same latitude as North Bay, they are NOT “The North”.

Never mind why…they just AREN’T.

Local Customs
Common courtesy dictates that in The North, you must wear a baseball cap.   It’s proper to say “youse” a lot.

And (unlike Toronto) a beer belly is not something to be ashamed of. Rather, it’s a status symbol.  Younger apprentices will have a small paunch.  The seasoned veteran will proudly sport a huge gut, which is a badge of honor.  Here’s a man that’s spent many a fine weekend fishing/hunting/drinking with the boys.

Women tend to be tough as nails (they have to be, to put up with their yahoo men).   A Northern woman will think nothing of opening a beer bottle with her teeth, while standing on shore, fishing next to her man.

The ladies tend to be have 1980’s feathered hairstyle, with lots of blue eyeshadow.    Young girls get pregnant at age 20.   Preferably more than once.  After which, they’ll become waitresses at the local restaurant, where they’ll finish off their careers.    Older women in their 50’s tend to become round in shape.  Possibly to conserve body heat during those cold winter months.

The difference between Northerners who live there, and the Toronto yuppies who come up to vacation, is that Northerners do everything “Motorized”.     Motor boat, versus canoe.    Snow-mobile, versus cross country skiing.     4-Wheeler, versus walking.

The only way to earn a living up here is mining, or logging.    So every town has some kind of “Mill”, where everyone works.   The Mill is the region’s sole source of economy.

Unfortunately, a lot of “Mills” are shutting down, and businesses arent’ doing well.   Things are rough here. You can pick up a house for $30,000 in some of these towns, if you want to move here.


Folks make extra pocket money selling wild blueberries off the side of the road.    Definitely worth stopping and buying some.  These aren’t store-bought farm berries from the States.  These are wild-blueberries hand-picked picked in the bush, bursting with flavor.

Don’t be thrown off by the signs, though.   Ontario Bylaw 15-C1 dictates that “blueberry” must always be misspelled.


Lots of huntin’ and fishin’ up here.    Obviously.    Whether you got your Moose Tag or not is a frequent topic of conversation.

So Vegans or members of Peta might consider staying south of Huntsville, for their own Safety.

Distances don’t mean anything up here.  Driving 60 miles to the next town is the equivalent of going to the corner store for a pack of smokes.  Hornepayne, HearstWawaKapuskasing…just neighbors down the street.  They’ll probably have a cousin there.

Talk to someone from Manitouwadge about a good fishing lake 300 miles away, and he’ll know about it.  In fact, he’s probably been to that lake and fished for walleye.  Along with everyone else within a 100 radius trying to do the same thing.

Because the main fish to catch here is WALLEYE.    Everyone wants walleye.   All other fish is considered junk (with the exception of trout, which is reluctantly deemed an “acceptable” alternative).

Never mind that the lake a mile down the road is full of pike, and nobody’s fishing there.

Never mind that the other fish taste just as good and are more fun to catch.


You want WALLEYE and you’d kill your grandmother to have one.

Which you’ll then fry up for shore lunch (the fish, I mean).   With a fire you started with gasoline.

Getting Around
Unlike the States, which is criss-crossed with major Inter-States,  21-st Century Canada  still does NOT have a continuous 4-lane highway.    Sure, we have sections here and there, but not in too many places.  Especially in The North, where it’s essentially single-lane for at least 1000 miles.

So good luck getting around cities like Sudbury, where you have to stop every 2 miles for a traffic light.   And the same railroad track that crosses the highway multiple times.   This is especially fun when a train comes by.     Get to know that 18 wheeler in front of you…because you’ll be following him for the next 30 minutes.

Oh, and in North Bay, there are six traffic lights.   You will get at least FIVE of them red (with the advanced green against you).   Always.   Just accept it.

At least this is the Trans-Canada Highway (our one major east-west artery through which all commerce and trade passes).

But hey, at least we built it.  Canadians have been able to drive across Ontario since 1960. (Seriously, I’m not kidding..that’s when they completed the last section of road).

There are only three types of vehicles on the road:   Pick-up trucks, 18 wheelers, and those Freaking Land Yachts (those slow RV’s driven by seniors as they inch their way across Canada).   Who hold up the traffic for all the rest of the us.

North of the Soo, things start emptying out.   If you want tunes, you might be lucky to get some American radio station from the Upper Peninsula.   But often, the only damned thing you’ll be able to get is the CBC.   So enjoy listening to some pony-tailed tortured intellectuals read poetry while you drive between Marathon and Rossport.

If you drive at night, watch out for Moose.    Seriously, these huge fuckers love to cross the road at dusk, right in front of you.   If you’re not in a rush, try follow a truck.  At least he can act as a line-backer, and clear the road of any potential Bullwinkles who might smash into your windshield.

And don’t expect to find too many McDonalds.    There aren’t any in the 400 mile stretch on the North Shore of Superior.   (There are at least two A&W’s that I know of, though).    Just no Rotten Ronnies.


If you’re low on gas, look for the “Esso” and “Shell” signs.   Don’t trust signs advertising for a “Gas Bar” in the next small villages.  You don’t know how old that sign is…you might be in a town where The Mill has shut down, and you’ll be disappointed with deserted gas-pumps with grass growing out of the pavement.

Heading north of Superior, you might come across a sign saying “Arctic Watershed”.   (There’s one halfway between Sudbury and Timmins).    I always think this is pretty cool.  Which means, that you’ve crossed the drainage boundary.   The lakes and rivers at that point no longer will drain into the Great Lakes, but will now drain into Hudson’s Bay. (At least, I take their word for it).

If you’re driving across the country, and you’ve reached Thunder Bay, don’t count your chickens just yet.    You aint ‘done with Ontario.   You still have another 5-6 hours of trees and lakes before you hit the Manitoba border.  (Ontario is one Big-Ass province).

One Final Note
Be aware of the “500 series” of highways on the map.    Normally, around Toronto, these tertiary highways are paved scenic back-roads.

But up here, should you decide to take a scenic detour, you might find yourself committed to driving the next 90 minutes with gravel and trees.


And when they say “No gas for 80 km”, they MEAN it.

Feeling Superior

June 20, 2009

There’s something about Lake Superior that gets to me.   Especially the North Shore.


I don’t know what it is.  Superior doesn’t have any spectacular snow-capped peaks like the Rockies.  There aren’t any dramatic icefields or fjords like you find in Alaska.

Superior is just a big body of water, surrounded by lots of forest and rock.  Occasionally punctuated by a few towns trying to eke out a living out of the Canadian Shield.

Still, there’s something about the Lake that gets to me.

Part of it is the the sheer SIZE.  It’s not so much as a lake, but an inland sea, cutting a big chuck of the continent in two.  It takes a good 7-8 hours to drive from Sault. Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay (if you push it).

Imagine explaining this to someone from Australia:  a freshwater lake so big that it takes a good part of a DAY to drive past.

North Shore Superiour Quick Study

And the water is cold.  REALLY cold.    It could be late May, stinking hot and 80 degrees.  But as you drive around the Lake, you’ll get pockets of fog and suddenly feel the air cool like it came out of a giant refrigerator.

That’s Superior…reminding you of her presence.

(As for swimming…don’t even GO there!)

Another thing I like is the remoteness.   There are no huge cities and urban sprawl out here, like on the lower Great Lakes.  Even today, in the 21st century, Superiour still has huge tracts of roadless shoreline that you can’t get to except by boat.  If you can arrange to be dropped off, you can hike there for miles, and get a sense of how things looked like before Europeans arrived.

As for roads, the Trans-Canada Highway is still mostly single-lane.   In fact,  Lake Superior was one of the most difficult places to build the highway.  The connection between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie didn’t get completed until 1960.

Just think, men were already starting to venture into space, but there were still sections in Northern Ontario that weren’t’ connected by road yet.

Autumn Shore

Superior is the unofficial dividing line between the crowded South and the still relatively unspoiled North.   When people talk about “North of Superior”, there’s a bit of reverence in their voice.

“North of Superior” evokes images of still-existing patches of virgin forest, loons swimming in pristine lakes and pinkish granite rock.  Not to mention fishing lodges only accessible by bush plane where you’re guaranteed to catch some whoppers.

Even the forests change as you around the lake.  The friendly maple trees and majestic white pine start to disappear, and give way to the haunting black spruce and scraggly birch trees of the Boreal Forest.    Reminding you that you’re a long way from home…and don’t get LOST in these woods, as the nearest help might be miles away.


Pukaskwa Shore_B

Sometimes, Superior can be a darling.  At the right time of year, she’ll say “Come on in, the water’s fine“.

Batchawana Ba

(And late summer, there ARE a few places where you can swim without hypothermia).

Some of the most refreshing swims you’ve ever had, that make you shiver, not with cold, but with sheer ecstasy as the blue-green water seeps into your armpits and between your toes.

And giardia be damned, sometimes you just want to stick your head under water and gulp in the cool, cool sweetness.


But on other days, Superior can be a bitch.   The sky will turn grey, the winds will pick up, and suddenly she’ll turn on you.

Don’t MESS with me!“, she warns.



And you don’t.   Because she WILL mess with you, if you’re not careful.

Just ask the hundreds of boats that she’s shipwrecked.  Or unfortunate kayakers stranded on a remote island for three days because it was too rough to head back to shore.

Superior Shore_B

Two Trees on Lake Superior

But what I like best about Superior, is that it’s one of the few places on the planet where I can get my head right.

Whenever life gets to be too much,  I’ll make a special road trip, and sit on the shore.

I’ll stare at the infinity of the horizon, and feel the chest-thumping crashing and pounding of the waves.  And just take in the sheer POWER of it all.


Neys Provincial Park

And all the crap…the job, family issues, financial problems…it all melts away.

None of that means a damned thing out here.   Superior dosen’t care.   She’ll wash it away, and empty your mind.

It’s just you and the Lake.

And when you’re in this state of mind, if you listen carefully,  she’ll talk to you.

“Don’t worry, Friar.  It’s all right.   Everything’s going to be all right…”

And hearing that, alone, is worth the 10 hour drive.

At least for me, it is.