Week 11 - Vermillion Bay, Thunder Bay, Wawa and Sudbury

Ontario is so bloody big! It's almost unbelievable but when you look at a map, the trek that we've done from the West Coast, the halfway point is pretty much Vermillion Bay (or the Western border of Ontario). Driving through Ontario alone takes nearly as long as the other 4 provinces combined....Almost anyways. The hardest part about Ontario driving is the complete desolation. Beautiful countryside, but the stretch between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie is nearly 800 kms with a handful of gas stations and a couple of truck stop motels....and you'd be lucky to catch them open after November 1st. We actually ran out of gas this week, due to unexpected gas station closures that Google lied about, but more about that later.


We had a quick and cold revisit to Vermillion Bay. I was worried for the girls that we'd be in a one-man Ontario town for Halloween, but the weather dictated that we'd be back with friends just on time to have tricks and treats with friends. Man was it the coldest Halloween I've ever experienced! Our travel days were sunny thankfully, but for Halloween, we stayed put and it was a good thing we had. The weather was awful. It was the type of blizzard we'd see in February in Ottawa. Wet snow pellets coming from every direction with howling winds. If there's one thing that I will remember about Vermillion Bay for sure, it's the wind. It was present and fierce both times we visited. We were able to stay and stretch out in the cabin again, but like the trailer, there was no plumbing, and heat from the stove was only temporary. When we woke up in the morning, it was just 3 degrees inside the cabin. Our boots had actually froze to the kitchen floor!


When it was time to leave and spend a couple of days in Thunder Bay, we were more than ready for a hotel. We reserved a room at an old courthouse, recently turned hotel. However, its real courthouse purpose was returned temporarily while we were there. A murder trial of a First Nations woman, which was supposed to be held elsewhere, was rescheduled for our Courthouse Hotel due to a fire in the city's active courthouse. The young woman was killed after a man threw a metal trailer hitch at her from a moving vehicle. Awful! The murder trial was taking place just beneath our room while we were there and continues today, I believe.


From Thunder Bay we followed Hwy 1, keeping the enormous Lake Superior on our right, toward the small town of Wawa. Driving through, Wawa appears to have little other than a couple of large geese statues, but just outside in the village of Michipicoten, there's some real raw Ontario beauty. Apparently I had visited this area before about 25 years ago when my brother and I attempted a 75 km coastal hike of Lake Superior. I hadn't even realized this! This trip however, we stayed in a quaint Air B and B that was overstuffed with glass trinkets ready for the girls to break. We escaped with no damage thankfully.


When we left Wawa with a half tank of gas, we checked to make sure we had enough gas to make it to the next gas station. However, when we pulled up, we were surprised to see the "closed for the season" sign. Not a worry though, Google informed us that there was another gas station 20 kms further. Thank goodness since we were down to about 40kms left. But you know where this story is going! The next one was closed as well, and it was now a certainty that we'd run out of gas! Sault Ste. Marie was our next option and a good 100 km away still. We watched the kms of gas on the dash run out one kilometre at a time, until a reading was no longer available. I decided to pull over at a junk yard, the first sign of life I saw. It had a flashing neon light in the the window that also said "Bakery." We asked the man that was walking around the lot if he had a canister of gas and it turns out that he did. We gave him $25 in cash for it (the fact that I actually had cash on me was odd in itself) and we were on our way. It was the most painless run-out-of-gas experience I've ever had....and I've had a few. There was no waiting for Good Sam or walking multiple kms with a can of gas like I was expecting to do. We were very lucky.


From Wawa we headed to Sudbury. Once passed the Sault with Lake Superior farther away, it was like flipping a switch. The Northern winter had ended and we were back to Autumn. There were leaves on the trees again and the temperature jumped from -1 to plus 13 degrees. Now normally when I visit Sudbury, it's for its proximity to my favourite Provincial Park, Kilarney. This time we were in the thick of the city in a yucky, but best that we could find, Holiday Inn. Not how I prefer to travel, but it was all we had access to. No campgrounds were open and no Air B and Bs were available. The height of my home sickness happened in Sudbury lol. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Maybe it was the hotel, or maybe the fact that we had been surrounded by multiple days of 5-7 hours drives, but I had hit my wall. It took me 75 days to get there, but I had finally had it! The following day we had a healthy 6 hour stint to Colborne where family were waiting our arrival. That brings us to now. We begin our last week of our adventure here where we will explore Prince Edward County and Northumberland before making our trek home. More to report next Saturday.




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