On a roll around Lake Superior

Well, I couldn’t move on from Wawa without some additional story lines about the Bates Motel (real name changed for obvious reasons). Sadly, the kindness of the owner’s uncle who checked us in, couldn’t overcome the abysmal room. Over the years, we’ve stayed in a few places that we considered ‘poor’, but this was truly gruesome.

Our journey rolled over to 3,000 kms earlier today since we left NS

Okay, we could overcome the eye-watering smell of disinfectant as they’re obviously trying their best to keep everything sanitized during Covid-19. However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the carpet wasn’t one on which you’d want to walk in bare feet, every item of furniture in the room was mismatched and had seen better days to the point where it all looked grubby (and was), the toilet seat was hanging on by one bolt, and you had to look carefully to find the white towel that was the least grey! All in all, a somewhat unpleasant experience, and although the bed was passably comfortable, we both woke up with stiff necks from thin, lumpy pillows.

View of the northern end of Lake Superior from the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout

It was, however, a last-resort reservation as this town is hugely popular for hunters looking to pot Canada geese – illustrated by the giant-size models of geese dotted around the town, some on rooftops – and when I called places for a reservation this was the only available room. Que sera – we’ve arrived at a fabulous Comfort Inn for tonight in Dryden, ON – where, if you’ll excuse my feline metaphor once again – we have a room in which you could swing at least 10 cats — compared to last night’s one extremely small kitty.

And the last word on Wawa…. A few miles after leaving town on the Trans-Canada our car started sounding a little rough, the timing was up the creek, it was over-revving, and we were concerned that it might be the fuel pump. So nursed her along the highway as far as Thunder Bay, when we were down to a quarter tank. So, Peter pulls into a garage, fills up, drives out…. Nothing! Timing perfect, engine quiet, so our guess is that we pumped a bad lot of fuel in Wawa. Crap! All’s well that ends well.

Although it shouldn’t have surprised us this much farther north, but when the alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m. we noticed it was much darker than previous mornings. Plus, when we hit the road, it was under an unbelievably leaden sky, with layers of grey cloud, and even some short bursts of drizzle. Thankfully, by mid morning it had started to clear, and we drove into blue sky, but cooler temperatures than yesterday’s 29 degrees, which was most welcome, especially for the dogs when we stopped for regular leg stretches.

The Terry Fox Memorial statue

Now, to add some levity to today’s journey, as we approached a town called Nipigon, we passed two signs: the first announced that it was home to the smallest Canadian Tire store in Canada. (For non Canadians, Canadian Tire – or as it’s more commonly known, ‘Crappy Tire’ – is a bit like Walmart on steroids, but without the food.) The second sign, to quote: ‘The largest sex shop in Canada, and water pipe emporium’. Without providing my own op ed, we had to wonder what this says about the people of Nipigon. Obviously, too little to keep them occupied during the long winter months on the storm-tossed shores of Lake Superior.

Yes, we followed Lake Superior all day, so it’s probably worth some useful info: With a surface area of nearly 128,000 square kilometres, Belgium would fit into Lake Superior seven times, the Netherlands nearly four times, Switzerland three times (this one’s for you Sonja and Collette).

Terry Fox Memorial Statue

On November 10, 1975, SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a 222-foot ore carrier, sank in a vicious Lake Superior storm with the loss of the entire crew. She was the largest ship plying the North American Great Lakes, and remains the largest to have sunk there.

One last word about this legendary Lake, for anyone who’s read Longfellow’s ‘Hiawatha’ poem, he refers to ‘Gitche Gumee’ – the shining big-sea water – that is deemed to refer to Lake Superior.

And so, to a very defining moment from today – the Terry Fox Memorial just outside Thunder Bay. We weren’t aware of it until we approached and saw the signs, and decided a detour was necessary. As it happens, a beautifully serene drive rises to a parking lot with an information office (closed due to coronavirus), and a scenic look-out in Terry Fox’s name, topped by a bronze statue. Ironically, I haven’t been able to find the height of it recorded in the usual sources, but my guess is around 20 feet. The park is several kilometres from where he was forced to end his run in 1980, but is a truly inspirational place because of the associated history. And rather than me relating the story here, I urge anyone who doesn’t know the story to Google Terry Fox and read it in full for yourselves. It’s well worth it.

So, we’re safely ensconced for tonight, and one more hotel room booked for tomorrow in Regina – a short 758 km run into Calgary on Tuesday.

Until tomorrow

Me and the tribe

10 Replies to “On a roll around Lake Superior

  1. If you listened to Canadian folksinger, Gordon Lightfoot, you would know the story of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald!

    1. Yep – have heard it, but don’t remember it. We used to have an old GL LP, but didn’t replace it with a CD, so I think we’ll have to download it with iTunes now. xx

  2. As always I love your traveling reports, Jean, and this one in particular, having driven across the country and back in 2014. Wawa did NOT look like a great place to stay we thought, as we had an unfriendly encounter in the grocery store. It is however the only place on a big stretch of road. Northern Ontario goes on forever! Happy travels to the end.

    1. We’ve thought about you and Tom during our road trip, knowing you’d make the coast-to-coast drive some years ago. Wawa was the strangest place, but the first town of any size with accommodation after Sault-Ste-Marie – which wasn’t a good stopping place in our schedule. At the very least Wawa gave me something to write about… Hope you’re staying fit and well, and I always enjoy seeing your FB posts with the horses. Sending warmest wishes your way… Jean

  3. Hello Jean and Peter. Have been following regularly. Thanks for the interesting travelogue. Just a note re Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot wrote a haunting song that still gives me goose bumps – ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’. Damn – I just got bumps again just typing the name.
    Happy travelling. Wendy P.

    1. Hi Wendy, Great to hear from you. Another good friend also reminded me about GL’s song. Many years ago, in the days of vinyl, we had an LP of GL that was never replaced with a CD, but Peter then told me he’d downloaded a number of GL tracks onto his iPhone, including ‘The Wreck of the EF’, which we’ve just been listening to. Yes, goosebumps time. Hope you’re both keeping fit and well during these strange times. Abrazos – Jean

  4. Yep, Lightfoot’s classic Edmund Fitzgerald, captures all the moods and spirit of Lake Superior. My favourite place….Old Woman’s Cove, where my pup Zuni had his first swim at 10 weeks old, after we picked him up just outside Sault Ste. Marie, at Echo Bay. Never forget its aquamarine waters, and those rock cliffs. Enjoy the rest of your venture!

    1. It’s certainly been ‘another’ adventure. I recall passing the turn-off to Old Woman’s Cove and thinking what a lovely name, but sadly didn’t get to see it up close and personal. I confess that we’re both now feeling that we’re coming ‘home’. Unlike NS where we were always treated as being ‘from away’, Calgary was our first Canadian home town as new immigrants, and reconnecting with friends we’ve kept in touch with has been like picking up where we left off nearly 20 years ago. That speaks of true friendship. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Is Millarville Market up and running (with safe distancing), or has it fallen by the wayside during coronavirus? xx

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