Who are we

We are a family of 3 who took a break from our routine. Usually we live in Scotland but February to the end of July 2011 we were on the road in North America for 6 months. We are Mark (also known as Dad), Rachel (also known as Mum... and a whole bunch of other names... my usual at-home blog is here) and little h (10/11 years of age during the trip).

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Ontario north to south – the last days on the road

On the road between Thunder Bay and White River

On Tuesday 12th July we finally re-entered Ontario (we left the province back on 12th March when we entered the USA and Michigan). This time we drove along Highway 1 (that for some reason changes into the 17 when you enter Ontario) and passed by Kenora. We didn’t stop there for more than a coffee as we had miles and miles to go but it looked a pretty place and we took a few pictures. Then we followed the 17 past Dryden (not so pretty) and then lots of rocks and lots and lots of water/lakes. We stopped in Upsala for some very, very fine pie and then carried on (and on and on) until we finally got to Thunder Bay. This was the longest drive we did in one day (we started in Richer, Manitoba)… and we were still hardly in Ontario at all by the end of it all! Giant province!

We ended up staying in a hotel downtown in Thunder Bay. It had lovely views of Lake Superior (or the Bay anyway) and the place seemed pretty quiet (until bedtime of course when something like 3 whole soccer teams all arrived in our hallway and slammed their doors in some kind of formation display). The next day we had miles more to go so we set off from Thunder Bay without much more than a quick look round its Finnish/Italian district (Bay and Alcoma – quite charming) and a stop just outside town to see the Terry Fox memorial (details here). Our Ontario photos up to this point are here:

ontario north to south 1

Then it was back onto highway 17 to drive along the north shore of Lake Superior. The views were lovely (when we got them) and we stopped for lunch at a little lakeside village called Rossport (complete with tiny museum and quirkiness aplenty). After that it was driving, driving, driving… and all in sunshine too so at about 5pm we stopped for the day at a place called White River. We’d never heard of White River before but apparently it is the original home of Winnie the Pooh (the original bear… as in the bear that A.A.Milne saw in London Zoo that gave him the idea for the name of his toy bear in the stories). The White River bear was a black one called Winnipeg (named after its owner’s some time home city) and she was given to London Zoo in 1918 (her owner, Harry Colebourn had given her on loan in 1914 when he went to fight in France and he didn’t have the heart to take her back at the end of the war, such was her popularity). This may not seem like a huge tourist attraction of enormous importance but when you travel with an eleven year old these things matter.

We stayed the night in a motel in White River (much quieter than Thunder Bay!), ate more poutine, used more air conditioning… and then the next day, after h had breakfasted on Winnie the Pooh shaped pancakes we set off south towards Sault Ste Marie. The first place we came to on this stretch was Wawa (giant metal goose… the town is named after the goose’s call apparently). We had to stop for a photo with the goose (after all we’ve had giant lumberjack and bull, giant roadrunner, giant crawfish, giant moose, giant elephant… why not a goose too?) and then we drove on down through the Lake Superior Provincial Park and some really stunning scenery. We stopped for lunch at tiny Batchawana Bay (and an Austrian resort’s restaurant… all schnitzel and bratwurst) and then drove on (finally!) to Sault Ste Marie (pronounce the ‘sault’ as ‘soo’). It felt like we’d been in Ontario for weeks already by this point (such huge distances…) - no wonder we’d seen so many helicopters about!

We tried to find the centre of Sault Ste Marie but its little one-way system and the fact that the townspeople were closing the main street off with cones for their annual fair was all conspiring against us somewhat. We did manage to see the waterfront, wave at the USA and Michigan over the St Mary’s river and spot another few landmarks before driving on out of town however. Our photos of the second section of Ontario (south of Thunder Bay to Sault Ste Marie) are here:

Ontario north to south part 2

After Sault Ste Marie we stopped at Bruce Mines on the coast of Lake Huron for a look at the next lake and some dinner (curry, since you ask…). Then we drove a little further on to a lovely little place called Thessalon where we stayed in a lakeside motel with amazing sunset views. We’d visited Lake Huron on our last trip to Canada in 2003 and it was good to see it again – still looking so beautiful too.

On Friday 15th July we drove east along the north coast of Lake Huron until we got to highway 6 and that took us south and onto Manitoulin Island (again we’d visited Manitoulin in 2003 and were keen to take another look). It was an absolutely scorching day so we ate a quick lunch in Little Current (which is pretty little), stared at some pretty boats, got very hot and then drove on south until we passed a place that looked like it had a beach (Manitowaning). It did have a beach (a little one) and it was all very lively down there (swimming lessons, teenage frolicking…) so we joined in with all the other families (mostly locals it seemed) who were desperate for a cool dip on a hot day. It was great fun and we all swam (although in the pics on here you’ll only see me standing in it I did in fact get in and swim too). We also looked at the old ship being restored nearby and the little art exhibition/bookshop alongside – a lovely spot all round.

After that we drove on to the ferry port of South Baymouth where we had booked a motel room for the night (so as not to miss the early ferry!). We ate fish and chips, swatted mosquitos, watched the wildlife on the bay, took photos… oh, and did laundry. I have done laundry in some really beautiful places now.

The next morning (16th July) we got up early and parked up for the first ferry. You park up and then wander off for breakfast in one of the port’s cafés – it’s very civilised. Then we boarded the ship for the crossing over Lake Huron to Tobermory (a trip we’d done in reverse in 2003). Our photos up to leaving South Baymouth and Manitoulin Island are here:

Ontario north to south - part 3

The ferry trip to Tobermory was just as I remembered it – smooth and calm and beautiful – but little Tobermory was a little busier than we last saw it (as this was prime summer season and we were last there in October ’03). It was baking hot again when we got off the ferry so we looked around the little bay for a bit but then had to take refuge in a lovely ice-cream and sweet shop (pretzel cones… unusual…). Then we drove on south only stopping for more food (it never ends!) and another visit to the groundhog statue in Wiarton (Wiarton Willie) – though there it was almost too hot to stand in the sun! We met some friendly folk in Wiarton with a dog named Zoe (our dog’s name) and they gave us some advice on our next leg of the trip (down to the area just west of Toronto). Then it was back in the car again, a stop for baked goods from some Mennonites and then south as far as the city of Guelph for our last night on the road. In Guelph we ate, slept and rose again… all the usual stuff.

On Sunday 17th July we had arranged to meet another writer/blogger for breakfast at her home just north of Guelph and so off we went to Elora to meet Kat Mortensen and husband Kevin (and cats). H had been keen to get to Kat’s since reading about her muppet DVD back on a Xmas post (and her wish was granted – she did watch muppets before lunchtime). Mark and I, on the other hand, chatted with Kat and Kevin about travelling and homes and families and, even at one point, poetry. It was all good.

By lunchtime it was turning into another boiling hot day (by now the TV was talking about a ‘heatwave’) and though we tried to visit some of the local sites (pretty Elora – like a village in Yorkshire or something!) it was just too hot too hang around anywhere in the middle of the day. Because of this we ate more ice-cream (medicinal really) and then drove on through little Ontario towns with names like Fergus and Arthur until we finally got back to our Ontario base of Whitby, east of Toronto. We still had over a week to go till our flight home but plenty of family visits to get in before then. We probably will manage another Ontario post when we leave altogether but for now here are the last of the road trip photos (Tobermory back to Whitby, via Kat’s):

Ontario north to south - part 4


Rachel Fenton said...

Single sessions at the library are not enough to soak up this post! I am sad that Winnie is not British, for some reason - well, maybe sad is too strong a word. But the accent annoys me in the animation when I read the stories with really cool voices.....

Hmn, bear shaped pancakes - in Ontario, land of bears....more random thoughts destroying cognition there...

Gold star for driving that far in one day - I thought Auckland to Welly was good going! Yorkshire to West coast Scotland was rather good, too...but nothing compared to you guys!

Think I'd need a holiday after that.

Sandra Leigh said...

I have truly enjoyed reading about your adventures, especially because for part of your trip you've retraced the steps we took last year -- when we drove the Turtle back to Ontario. Please tell h that she's not the only one who was delighted to find herself in Winnie-the-Pooh's home town.

Sheila MacFarlane said...

I have really enjoyed reading about your travels and seeing the photographs. Each time I feel I have had a mini holiday myself. Will you do a book ?
I look forward to seeing you back home though maybe you willnever now want to stop travelling ?

Rachel Fox said...

People keep saying that R (about having another holiday). Instead we've got a wedding to go to and it's back to work and school for M and h pretty soon. I, on the other hand, intend to walk the dog till her paws drop off.

Sandra - will do. You were still one of our favourite stops!

Sheila - no plans for a book. But I suppose you never know... See you for a walk and catch-up some time soon.


The Bug said...

This has been the most fun! Kat's part of the country is quite beautiful - but really everywhere you've been has been lovely in its own way.

Loved the moon shot particularly this time.

Now I must go explore the concept of medicinal ice cream :)

Rachel Fox said...

I agree. People keep asking us what were our favourite places but really we've enjoyed everywhere in some way or another.

hope said...

MY favorite part is that you shared it with us!

Safe journey back home.

Rachel Fox said...

We are home now. Hoping to get a last post for this blog up soon.