Sunday, September 07, 2003



DAY 12
Winnipeg/Kenora/Ignace/Thunder Bay

DAY 13
Thunder Bay/Nipigon/White River/Wawa/Lake Superior Provincial Park/Sault St. Marie

DAY 14
Sault St. Marie/Blind River/Sudbury/Parry Sound/Toronto

The home stretch began with a huge breakfast at The Original Pancake House, where we stuffed oursleves with some of the best pancakes we'd ever had. Fast, cheap and delicious. Worth the waddle back to the car.

The retro sign didn't hurt

Continued on through the last stretches of prairie, before returning to a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ari-o. I figured it would take 3-4 days to get back to Toronto - our final overnight stops would be Thunder Bay, the Soo and Sudbury.
The drive to Thunder Bay was uneventful, except for more changes in landscape than expected - even farmland reminiscent of southern Ontario for a brief time. Saw enough inukshuks...

From Kenora to Waubaushene, these were a regular roadside site, usually coupled with graffitti. Must be a way of leaving one's mark on the Trans-Can.

We stopped at an info centre in Ignace around 5pm to book a room in Thunder Bay. When the hotel clerk asked as where we were from, she said it was a good thing we weren't there at that moment - the great blackout of '03 had hit an hour earlier. We flipped on CBC radio and discovered we were in the only part of the province that was still powered. We called Mom to see how things were there. Got into Thunder Bay late, ate at Swiss Chalet, went for a quick dip at the hotel pool, then blew a fuse in the room (probably due to two hair dryers going at once). Once that was fixed, we settled back and watched coverage of the blackout. We watched Channel 4 from Detroit to see what was going on in that neck of the woods - the studio appeared to be using footlights, giving the anchors a weird glow.

Next day, took the car in for a wash. Got most of the grasshopper goo off, but it would require a deeper cleaning later on. Got thirsty in Nipigon, but hit a cursed Mike's Mart (Mac's) - machines weren't working, slush cups kept collapsing, drinks tasted like crap, etc. Took several tries to find a way out of town. Won't be stopping there again.

One odd thing we noticed through northern Ontario...several chain gas stations had restaurants attached to them that carried the same name of those that were at the service stations along the 401 before the fast food chains took over. Never thought about stopping at any, since we remembered Mom saying how bad the old ones were. We kept driving along, munching on super-fresh sourdough bread picked up that morning.

Stopped in White River to make hotel reservations - luckily power was back on in the Soo. We tried calling Mom again to see if she was back, but she wasn't around so we called out Aunt Gladys, who said it wasn't out for long in A'burg. As we left the centre, we couldn't stop laughing at the posters we saw. Outside, things were being set up for a weekend Winnie The Pooh festival, complete with musical acts. Not just any musical headliners like Sync*In, Just Like Pink and Oops, Britney Did It Again.

Stopped for the obligatory pix of the birds in Wawa, then took a dusty road to the beautiful Magpie Falls.

Continued south, through Lake Superior Provincial Park, where we saw a bear cub wandering close to the road. We did not stop to gawk or feed it or other silly things folks are tempted to do. Like the coyote and the cow, we let the bear be.

Made it to the Soo and what turned out to be the final lodgings of the trip, the Ambassador Motel, a cute little family-run place on the way into town I'd picked up a brochure for earlier. Looked like a lot of work had gone into keeping the place fixed up, from the homebuilt indoor pool in the back to the good shape of the sign out front. The billboard says it all.

Looking for food was easy - Hwy 17 going into town is a long strip of large Italian restaurants. Another winner - we said there were no duds on the trip. Even decided to induldge in some vino for this meal.

News reports indicated that some parts of Toronto were still without power. Feeling a bit worried, plus facing the hassle of having to get Saturday night accomodation, I decided that we'd head back to Toronto the next day. The map indicated it wasn't that long a journey, with less driving than we'd done each day since leaving Calgary. Besides, what if we were stuck somewhere without power?

The last day of the trip began with a stop in Blind River, where we couldn't resist singing Neil Young's Long May You Run. Stopped at a Tim Horton's that was tricky to get into, but worth it for oddball doughnuts (strawberry coconut, anyone?). Came across a giant toonie. Stopped in Sudbury to go to Science North, but it was closed due to the blackout (though power was on). Heard on the radio that was power was back up in Toronto except for isolated pockets...including one at Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant. I started to obsess about a large amount of meat in the freezer. Also heard stories about crazy gas station lineups and price hikes. Decided to fill up often to keep the tank topped up, with the last fill in Parry Sound (the only place we were affected by the blackout - the gas station we stopped at had a $30 fill limit).

Drove over to Parry Island to show Amy the ruins I found at Depot Harbour. Think I blew it up too much- I must have seen them previously in late fall or early spring, as you couldn't see the foundations through the trees. Back on 69/400, noticed abandoned/soon-to-be abandoned gas stations and restaurants on the old part of the highway that will soon be replaced by freeway, like an early version of what happened to McLean, TX. Thought about having dinner in Barrie, until I convinced Amy that it wouldn't take long to get back to TO.

Got back to Toronto around 6ish. Dropped stuff off, then headed down to the Annex for some Thai food and a walk around the nabe. Went back home, looked at the digital pix, then collapsed.

That's all folks

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