Having a few weeks between the treatments we decided to go on a long break… a trip from Winnipeg to the Maritimes. The plan was that there is no plan — we go as much a day as we can, we stop where we like the place, visit some friends and relatives on the way and do whatever is fun. No rush, no pressure, not running as the truck drivers because we don’t have to be anywhere on a fix schedule… just a relaxed, nice trip to enjoy it. So, on the 15th of August we left Winnipeg, leaving the house and our cat, Vilmos, in the good hands of our friend Craig.
Day #1. Winnipeg — Thunder Bay
It seems you can never leave as early as planned: there are always some last minute things to do, to pack and so on. Anyway, close to noon we were on our way toward East, driving on the Transcanada Highway. We knew that the first two days we have to have some kind of plan to arrive at a populated area where we can find a hotel or motel because there are quite long stratches of the road where there is nothing just the wilderness. The tentative goal was Thunder Bay.
It is always just a “tentative” goal because we like to stop if there is a scenic view, we wanted to have breaks for having a coffee or a snack, plus we both need some streching and exercise. The week before leaving I had to go twice to see a physiotherapist with my low back, and hist most important recommendation was “don’t sit”. Or, at least, not for long.
There we are at our very first stop, admiring the chained bench that I used for my exercises. Especially, till Kenora the road is very familiar to us, we used to go for short vacations and trips to the Lake of Woods area. Unfortunately, it got already late when we arrived to Thunder Bay and started to find a hotel.
My wife always has the Tourbooks from CAA which contains a big list of recommended accomodations, rating them by diamonds. According to her, the good places start at 3 diamonds. The problem is when you arrive to a place where there are no 3 diamonds accomodations… Then you have to go around even if it is 10 pm (22:00 for those that can count up to 24), and try to pick the best available hotel or motel. OK, we were kind of picky but there was a reason for that: with my back pain I didn’t want to haul the suitcases on stairs, so we wanted first (ground) floor, preferably with a parking lot right in the front of the door or, in case of higher buildings, to have elevator and trolley for the luggage.
Guess what? Most 2 storey motels/hotels have none. And not in one place that we “researched” has anybody ever offered help with the luggage (which, for places priced over $100 should be mandatory… or at least, expected!). In this way Travelodge, Comfort Inn, Best Western was cut quickly from the list in Thunder Bay. They all behaved as if they were making us a favour by, eventually, renting a room.
Next stop was the Valhalla Inn: not very fancy and older than all of the above – but excellent service. Whatever extra request we hade (as, for example, keeping our ice “batteries” in their freezer) they were eager to offer every help to accomodate them. We’ve got even a late, last minute dinner in their restaurant. All in all, in was a pleasant finish for the day.
Day #2. Thunder Bay — Wawa
Whenever I had to drive on the Hwy#1 in this area, I always went from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay (or viceversa) and had never stop anywhere in between. Well, maybe for peeing and for gas…
In the morning, after a good, large breakfast we started on one of the most beautiful portions of our trip: the North shore of Lake Superior. We had quite frequent stops, took pictures, discovered amazing little places, like Rossport, where we will definitely return on our way home and just had fun. Oh, we saw depressing places, too, like Marathon… [I might write later about why we found this town "built on paper", according to its own motto, so unwelcoming]
Anyway, with stops in Rossport, Terrace Bay, Marathon, White River, at different scenic lookouts and with road constructions and lane reductions everywhere(!), the time went fast — and before Wawa a torrential rain started. It was already late afternoon, raining, getting darker… and everywhere signs of moose crossing danger on the road, so I decided there would be no driving till Sault Ste Marie and we should look for shelter in Wawa.
The woman was freaked out by this possibility but I refised to drive further. So, again, the hunt for a decent place started. We turned off from Hwy#17 and entered the town. There sin’t much to see, just motels on both sides of the road. Didn’t get excited by any of them. When in need for a washroom I entered the local tourist information center and asked the young girl there “which is the best motel in the town”. First she was confused by the question but then she recommended the Best Northern on the highway. It really is a neat place, unfortunately it was full. However, the owner/manager (with an accent for which we guessed Polish) was very helpful and recommended the newly renovated Mystic Isle just across the road. We were right in our guessing: both places are owned by Polish people and the whole “Wawa experiment” turned out to be of of the most pleasant evenings so far. The room was nice, clean and cute and the service excellent as you’d expect in a relaxed, familiy-run place. We returned for dinner to the Best Northern’s restuarant and were amazed by the quality of the food and service. They even had some “Hungarian” dish on their menu (and it was very tasty) and I didn’t tell them until I finished eating it that there is no such meal anywhere in Hungarian populated lands… I had a feeling they already knew it.
Don’t miss Wawa, if you are in the “neighbourhood”.
Day #3. Wawa — North Bay
A relatively smooth ride (except the lane closures and zillion stops due to road constructions) through Sault Ste Marie — only a short gas stop — and till North Bay. After Sault Ste Marie we had an echte German lunch/meal at the Bavarian Inn of Bruce Mines: Wurst, Kohl, Kartoffel. Good family restaurant. Worth to try it.
In North Bay we opted for a Comfort Inn motel: could park the car almost on the doorstep… Nothing special, just a place to sleep for one night. However, the White Owl Bistro is a good place to have a dinner. It has a beautful little patio on the lakeshore. Too bad it was a bit windy but the food was excellent.